“The more you experience something, the more you will realize that nothing bad is going to happen.”
Only bad things do happen. They do. And my anxiety, and my depression stem from bad things that DID in fact happen. Maybe that isn’t true for everyone – or at least it seems doctors and counsellors are trained to respond as if our fears are ungrounded – but it is true for me.
So in spite of the strong anxiety, I did try.
I picked up the phone, with my heart thumping. I dialed the number, and got… a busy signal. For the next hour and a half, I pressed redial on my phone every minute or so, and every time my anxiety increased. So I gave up.
I emailed instead, asking if it was normal for the phone line to be busy for so long. I just can’t do that every time I need to call. Phones are hard to begin with, but when I get up the courage to pick up the phone, I need it to go through. I have been rehearsing what to say in my mind, and am never more ready than in that moment to speak.
The busy signal throws me off, so if someone does answer after, I stumble over my words, and feel like… well, “idiot” is the word that comes into my head over and over, as in, “I am such an…” I should probably work on that. Humiliated, I guess, is how I really feel. Messed up again. Can’t get anything right.
“Their phone line is down this morning, and they haven’t been able to make or receive any calls,” was the reply. Okay. So not typical. I can try again.
They called me when their line was fixed, and I booked the ride a little over a week in advance. With high anxiety, I went down with my husband on his way to work, did what I needed to in town, and waited for the bus to pick me up and take me home. I was an hour early for pick up, but got picked up on time, and was home in 15 minutes.
“Okay,” I said to myself, “maybe I can do this.”
So a couple of weeks later when my son asked to go downtown, I said I would book the bus (this isn’t a fixed route bus, but a direct route bus for people with special needs.)
I was really anxious, because this time I had to not only book the trip, but ask if my son could come with me. I made the call, and they answered right away this time. I mentioned my son, and asked if he could use the tickets (which say on them only to be used by registered handy dart users.) They told me they would put him down as my ‘attendant’ and he would be free. “Is that okay?” I asked, “I could just give another ticket.” “It is perfectly okay,” they responded.
I told them where I wanted to be picked up, and that I already had a ride into town, I just needed to get home. Having OCD on top of my autism, I said it several times to make sure they got it. Then I hung up, feeling good (as if I had just climbed a mountain or something.)
My son and I went down with my husband on his way to work. We did what we needed to do in town, and were 45 minutes early getting outside to wait for the bus. Coming close to pickup time, we walked closer to where the bus would stop (I knew because that is where they picked me up last time.)
A man started smoking beside us. I said, “Uh-oh” as he pulled out his smokes, and I got up and started walking away. Bad smells. Bad. It was hard to get away from, though we were outside. It was as if the smoke followed and circled me, and I couldn’t get away from it. Finally I found a space with ‘clean’ air, and stayed there.
I looked at my watch. It was time. My heart was racing. The bus wasn’t there.
As the minutes ticked by, my anxiety grew to panic. Looking at me, my son laughed a little and said, “this is why you qualify.” (I have had quite a bit of trouble understanding why I qualified for the special bus for handicapped people, and feeling as if I needed to defend my need to use it.)
Finally about 25 minutes after the bus was supposed to be there, my son started to believe it wouldn’t be coming too. “I am going to cry,” I told him. “Go ahead,” he replied. And I did. The tears started falling, and wouldn’t stop – and there I was in a very busy place, with people walking past me every few seconds.
The bus never showed. For this trip, I had arranged pick up at the place where my husband works (I was trying to get used to taking the bus on easier trips, so I wouldn’t be so anxious when I had to book for appointments and such…)
“Just take the van home,” my husband told me. “But I can’t! I am so anxious I can’t think. I can’t drive!” Can’t. I was in full meltdown/shutdown mode. So he waited for a coworker to get back, and then left work to drive me home himself. He is not supposed to leave work like that, but I needed him. Not only could I not function to drive home, but that would have meant having to go out again to pick him up in the evening (bad enough on a regular day, but on that particular day, he had to work late, wasn’t sure when he was finishing, and I was in a bad enough meltdown it wasn’t likely to let up in a matter of hours.)
“Try it and you will see that nothing bad will happen,” they tell me. But bad things do happen. I booked the bus. I did everything right. The bus didn’t show up, and I was stuck. Bad. Bad things do happen to me, and that is why I am so anxious all the time.
The tears kept flowing all that day. My head hurt so bad. The next morning I got up the courage to phone them and find out what happened. “Sorry, it was my fault” the person said, “I wrote down you wanted to be picked up at your house.”
I am not mad, but I do feel powerless, and I am very afraid that if I try again I will be trapped somewhere and have no way home. Bad things happen, they just do. And it isn’t just the bus that didn’t show – but the humiliation of having a public meltdown; of not being able to function to improve the situation; of the fact that despite saying it several times to make sure they got it right, they still didn’t understand what I was saying.
Of being just special needs enough to qualify for the bus – but not special needs enough to have supports in place to ensure these things don’t happen, or that someone is with me to help me deal with them when I can’t. I cried most of the next day, too.
So, so hard to live well in this world.