Last night after an appointment downtown I decided this was the perfect time for me to finally get my home computer fixed. A year and a half ago when Kate and I moved into our new house, the Mac G5 died. Kate plugged it in, hit the power button, and <zoink!> it shorted out. Being the “Mr. Fix-it” that I am my immediate reaction was to ask her specific questions…which unfortunately Kate didn’t have answers for. From my interview I determined that it sparked when she pressed the power button and the spark came from either the front or back of the computer. Basically…I had nothing to go on. I’ve assembled a few computers in my day and I’m pretty handy with a soldering iron so I began disassembling the tower’s ancillary parts to check the power supply and cooling unit expecting to see a burnt wire, evidence of an arc, or a bulging capacitor. I found nothing. My next step was to disassemble the power supply and bring it to my office to look for a replacement. Next, I let it sit on my shelf for half a year…till last night.
With a box of parts and an empty tower in tow I headed west to the computer store I wanted to work with. The guys who run the shop work for me part-time at my restaurant and have developed some amazing safety and security software so I knew finding the arc and repairing a G5 would be a no-brainer for them. Downside? The shop is on the west side of Wichita. For those of you who are not from Wichita…this is a city divided. I grew up on the east side in the 80’s when there were some clear differences between the two sides. The east side developed rapidly with high-end shops, fine dinning, and luxury gated neighborhoods. The west side developed steadily with big box stores, chain restaurants, and culdesacs on man-made ponds. Today, they are both great places to live but if you’re an east-sider you’ll be damned if you’re driving all the way over to the west side and vise versa for the west-siders driving all the way east. It’s somehow a preposterous idea to us Wichitans though the drive is only about fifteen minutes. When I moved back to Wichita after having been gone for 15 years I looked at the west side and loved the idea of living on a pond with a more rural atmosphere…but my friends flat-out said, “We will never come visit you…no matter what.” So I live just east of Downtown…the great divide.
Last night I hopped on the highway heading west through “rush hour traffic.” Note: This is Wichita “traffic.” I learned to drive in Boston, drove a truck in downtown NYC for a decade, and spent plenty of time sitting practically parked on the super highways of Los Angeles…Wichita aint got nothing I haven’t seen before when it comes to traffic. However, I felt my self tightening up. It was dark, drizzling, and I felt pretty hazy from the head cold I’ve been battling for the past week. Then the thought hit me:
“This is the first time I’ve driven this far west by myself since I had my total meltdown and anxiety attack back in June.”
…and like that…the seed was planted! I started remembering spots on the road where I had pulled over, how I’d stayed in the right lane so I could pull off at any time, and how my brain was locked in a battle between two conflicting thoughts: “I can’t do this” and ” I can do this.” That brain battle escalated back in June till I made it to the airport and handed the keys over to my wife who was flying back home. The following day in June was the spooky day though when the thought-seed grew into a mantra-plant shouting in my ear, “You can’t do this!” “You’ll never drive again!” “Things will never be the same!” “You are going to die.” Then <zoink!> I shorted out, drove home, cried, saw my doctor, took large amounts of anti-anxiety pills, went through months of CBT therapy, became functional again, and for the past two weeks felt normal…till last night.
My brain kept focussing on how I had not driven west alone since June. I kept telling my brain that I’m in a different place now and I drive alone every day. My brain reminded me, “But you never drive west.” I replied, “I drove in Texas all alone and I was fine!” Then my brain was all, “This isn’t Texas!” So I was all, “That’s right…it’s Wichita, and if anything goes wrong I can call Kate!” So my brain hit me below the belt and posed this question, “What if Kate was dead?” Then I felt really alone…driving west along the highway…in my little compact car among trucks…in the dark…and the rain started coming down. I pulled off at my exit and started making my way north along the surface streets…I know all the street names but the businesses were all new to me…it was like a whole new city over there…the west side! I moved this conversation out of my brain and began talking to myself out loud while occasionally glancing at myself in the rear-view mirror. “I don’t need Kate to combat anxiety, I have tools now and I can do it all by myself,” I told my brain who was losing the argument but still in the fight. My brain flooded with adrenaline, the anxiety attack washed over me, I visually saw myself going home and crying again like I did in June, and my self-deprecating brain waited for me to call Kate for help. Instead I took a deep breath, rolled down the window letting the 25 degree air in, visualized a STOP sign to blot out everything, and said my mantra aloud, “This is discomfort…not disaster.” I repeated this a few times till I was just dealing with the feeling of anxiety without fantastical visuals…almost in control. I reminded myself that the feeling of discomfort was physically real but the feeling of being in “danger” was not, plus I reminded myself that adrenaline eventually runs out. I’m in control. My brain reminded me that I would be nothing without Kate’s help. I hushed it and said, “Kate is a member of my support system but the answer to my problems is within myself.” I had won.
I called Kate, told her what was happening, and said I was going to finish my damn errand. My heart still pounding I pulled into the parking lot of the computer store and dropped off my box of parts. I had a nice conversation while the adrenaline slowly began to ebb…I was the only one aware that I was having any anxiety…it was completely internal. Then I went back to my car, took a deep breath, and drove home. The adrenaline stopped, I rolled up my windows, and turned on the windshield defroster since the rain was freezing, making it impossible to see. As the windshield defrosted and I rumbled along the highway heading east <zoink!> my windshield fractured from the shift from extreme cold to heat! Scared the crap out of me. At home it took me a few hours to get my brain to let go of what had happened and just relax. I was ready for bed at 8pm but forced myself to stay up so I’d get a full night’s sleep.
This morning I felt myself doubting my ability to drive to work much as I had after my airport drive in June. I reminded myself that last night I had driven myself home, I had survived my ordeal on my own, and that I had responsibilities to my job, co-workers, and family. So I drove to work without incident and am fine. Probably just needed to write this out to get it out of my brain. Cathartic. It is strange, the weirdest I have felt has been the past two weeks where I felt 99% – 100% anxiety free. I didn’t trust it. I felt like I was expecting a punch but life wouldn’t throw it. There’s some psychological crap to chew on over the weekend!!! <zoink!> Happy Friday!
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