Monday, November 26, 2007

Magic Feather

As most of you know, I was diagnosed with a severe physiological anxiety disorder two and a half years ago. It manifested after I was prescribed Wellbutrin to help me quit smoking. Within weeks I was experiencing psychotic episodes, including mania, depression, and an anxiety that literally knocked me off my feet. At times I couldn't walk, I certainly couldn't drive and was eventually forced to take a three month leave of absence from my job. Over the course of that Summer I saw every doctor imaginable, faced every strange diagnosis there is (including a troubling couple of weeks where they thought I had a very rare but very deadly and aggressive cancer) before they diagnosed me with an anxiety disorder. Eventually we were able to manage most of the physical symptoms but because it's physiological and not psychological, my anxiety is not something I can control by deep breathing or visualizing a nice safe place. I can have an attack at any time without notice. I never really thought of myself as an anxious person and didn't even really understand what it was until it happened to me.

My doctors suggested several treatment options, most of which required more drugs that often came with a list of possible side-effects, or even guaranteed ones (like the promise of gaining 50-75 pounds in a year and facing almost certain kidney and liver damage––that one was my favorite), but I preferred to start off with acupuncture at Acupuncture Denver, under the care of Jane Gregorie, the woman I credit with getting me back on my feet. If you've never considered acupuncture I can't sing it's praises highly enough.

Duncan's impact on my life during this time was profound. Only six months old when it began, he was there for me in ways that no one else was able to be. At times my anxiety was so severe I was unable walk and on those days I'd find myself crawling to the bathroom, Duncan at my side, leaning his body against my own to keep me from tipping over. On several occasions, Duncan climbed onto my chest, stared me in the eyes, matched his breathing to mine and managed to calm me down. I don't know how he knew or how it worked, but to this day I credit my dog with saving my sanity.

So what does this have to do with the blog and why should you care? Give me a few more minutes and I'll get there.

Our walks in the park the last few nights have been rather pleasant, despite the runny butt and growling stomach. The early evenings have been warm and the skies have been brilliant and clear. I've been thinking how the days between Thanksgiving and Christmas seems to both lag and fly by at the same time. Christmas is less than a month away and it doesn't seem possible.

I made a doctor appointment today to discuss the impending holiday and how once again I have to face the prospect of making the long drive––a trip I used to love––by myself. It's been two and a half years since my meltdown in Atlanta and since then I have not driven more than an hour and a half by myself. It was only last June that I was able to venture as far as The Springs unsupervised and you would've thought I'd climbed a mountain or something, it was such a big deal. But, according to my doctor, that's how I have to treat such little milestones. I have to convince myself that I'm able to accomplish the things that I used to take for granted. Needless to say, the prospect of driving 8-10 hours to get home has me somewhat concerned. Ken has been with me the last two Christmases but this year he's trying to get back to Michigan which leaves the trip in my hands.

The doctor is going to want to know how I plan to prepare myself so I'm trying to develop a strategy. During the summer of 2005, when it was just a matter of convincing myself I could make it to work, I'd practice driving, first ten minutes alone, then fifteen minutes, then fifteen minutes in heavy traffic. Eventually I was able to do it, but practicing for a 580 miles trip, much of it without the aid of my cell phone, is something else entirely.

So I've done the unthinkable and turned to the most horrendous and unlikely of sources for help and inspiration. Disney.

Does anyone remember the story of Dumbo? It's something I've thought a lot about over the last few years. Dumbo is mocked by his peers for having large ears and after his mother is imprisoned for defending him, he's turned into a circus clown. One night, after accidentally drinking some hooch, he and Timothy, his mouse friend, wake up and discover themselves perched near the top of a tree amid a flock of boisterous crows. Timothy surmises that Dumbo must've flown and the crows, coming to their aid, vow to teach Dumbo to fly by giving him a magic feather. As long as Dumbo has the magic feather he can fly as far and as high as he wants. It's only after he loses it that he learns he didn't need the feather because he could fly on his own the entire time.

I've decided I need a magic feather, which is where and why you, faithful reader, come in. We both know I've made the trip from Denver to Pocatello countless times. We both know I could do it in my sleep (and may have actually done exactly that on more than one occasion). But there's this little, annoying part of me that thinks I can't, and unfortunately, that part––smaller than Dumbo's Timothy––has, on countless occasions demonstrated his very loud voice. I feel that a solo trip is the last major obstacle toward getting my head and confidence back where they belong. I don't want to leave anything to chance, and being the superstitious and sensitive guy I am, I need your help to get me there.

Duncan will be part of the journey, my ever-faithful traveling companion, but I think I need a little something extra. I need feathers. Which, I hope, you will be able provide. Find me a feather and send it my way. Nothing elaborate, nothing that costs money (unless of course you insist, especially if it's plated in gold). Keep it simple as I plan on keeping the feathers where I can see them. Obviously a peacock or ostrich feather could obstruct my view, causing an accident which would do nothing for the cause. And for God's sake, refrain from plucking them from a living, breathing source. Find one in the dollar store, on the ground, inside your pillow. I don't care, I just want the feathers. And the knowledge that you believe in me.

If you want my address, please send me an email at jcr138 at gmail dot com.

*Once again, I have purloined all the pictures in this post.


Karren said...

We've known each other for a long, long, long time, about 30 years now. Can you believe it. And even though there were times when we were apart for awhile you have always been in my head and in my heart. I know you can do this. I believe in you. Your feather is on the way. Keep passing the open windows. 138

Curt Rogers said...

Thanks, kid. You have no idea how much it means to me.

Kevi said...

I will find a feather today, with the help of Jonah and Elijah. It sounds wonderful. I am so proud of you for doing this. Thank you for letting us be a part of it.

By the way, what is Duncan's fullname? May I suggest that his middle or third name officially be Timothy?

Kelly Medina said...

A very special post indeed. I know you can do this and will be there for you in any way I can. A feather on the way.

Kevi makes a great suggestion regarding the middle name.

Curt Rogers said...

This is not a contest but I wanted to say a heartfelt thank you to my friend Matt Bowman who supplied "ACC's contribution" to my Feather Fund. It was the first feather delivered to me, a goose feather that is striped black and white, small and very soft. Thanks, Matt!

Amber said...

I know you can make this have so much strength and courage hiding behind your fear! I will be thinking of you as you drive and I look forward to celebrating this huge acomplishment upon your return!

I'm looking for a feather!

Ruth said...

Oh Oh Oh I'm so pleased! I have exactly the perfect thing!!! It's on its way....

Lisa said...

Curt - Thank you for sharing your blog, your vulnerability and your beautiful writing. I've had lots of anxiety and depression issues, too, and Wellbutrin nearly sent me over the edge, too, complete with hallucinations. Ain't life grand? It is, though, when we live in the moment simply, as you and Duncan do so well!

I am on a feather hunt for you. I believe strongly in talismans and know this feather collection will work for you.

Curt Rogers said...

Thank you, Lisa! It has been a struggle at times and it certainly taught me that maybe the best answers don't necessarily come from doctors or medicine, but from within ourselves and the peace we can find and make there. The most important lesson I learned from the ordeal was to trust myself, my intuition and my dog. He's never led me wrong.

sketched out said...

Found your post from a link on Kelly's Medina's blog. Thanks for sharing such a personal story. Although it's perhaps a bit too late in the game to send a feather, just want you to know I am rooting for you, I am sending positive thoughts your way!!

You seem to me, to be someone who can do anything he puts his mind to!!

Curt Rogers said...

Thanks for the kind words! Kelly has been a friend for many years and her support on her blog is wonderful.

Your support also touches me. Your feather is your faith in me.

Have a happy holiday!

Greg said...

Wow...I tried the Wellbutrin, too, and quit after just one day. Quitting smoking was NOT worth the evil, horrible toxic things that were happening inside me in just that one day.

Anyway, I'm sorry I was reading for the great Feather call--I would certainly have cornered one of the surly seagulls by the work dumpster and requested he offer me something to send you.

Glad the trip went well--you really can do anything you set your mind to! (But it's easier with a feather!)