Saturday, February 8, 2014

Anxiety and Driving in the Snowpocalypse

I have been planning on writing a post in which I tell you how I've been struggling a bit lately with anxiety and life changes and am looking for a therapist.

But then the snow happened and so clearly I need to tell you about that first.

BUT! First, a little about the anxiety. Years ago, before I moved to Portland and before I went through therapy the first time, before I cut off contact with my mother, and before I really started finding my own happiness, I used to suffer from what I lovingly call Random Anxiety.

Basically, it was anxiety that would come on with seemingly no trigger or with an illogical trigger, meaning something small that wouldn't make a regular person bat an eyelash would give raise my heart rate, get me all flushed and itchy, and short of breath and often in tears. I've never had a full on panic attack, thank goodness, because those are actually fairly scary and physically debilitating.

I've never had social anxiety, though being around lots of people for extended periods can exhaust me; my issue was more like high stress but I'd feel it even when I wasn't under that much stress.

I never really told anyone about this, except for my therapist (and my doctor before that), because I was so embarrassed to need medication when my mother was (and is) a prescription drug addict. Not that anyone should be embarrassed of needing medication! You do what you need to to survive this life, I say. But I was scared of taking meds, because of that, and so didn't want anyone to know.

The other reason I kept mum was because I worked very hard to display an air of confidence and control and I just didn't want anyone knowing just what a mess I actually felt I was.

Anyway, glossing over the next few years, I went to therapy, figured out my anxiety was triggered by all sorts of emotions I had buried as an abused child, and once I let myself feel, I was able to wean off my medication and learn how to handle stressors and have felt pretty great for years now.

Then the last few months, with some major changes (hello, moving in with my boyfriend!) and stress, and I've found myself having Random Anxiety once again (along with some other issues, which I'll tell you about another day). But, this time around, I knew the signs and what was happening and I've been good at doing the things I learned in therapy to calm myself down. And I've been looking for a new therapist here in Portland to help me work through these issues and get to a healthy place again.

As of yet, I haven't found a therapist.

And then two days ago, Thursday, the Snow with a capital S hit Portland. Snow hardly ever comes to Portland and certainly never this thick. Between the city never being prepared for snow and nobody (including me, the California girl), knowing how to drive in the snow, the whole city shuts down.

At 1pm, the powers that be decided to close the office, but I had an errand to run with a coworker that we couldn't get out of, so we headed to do that first. Everyone was trying to get out of the city (where I was) and the streets were packed.

Took this about 1:30 as I'd sat through 7 or so cycles at this stop light

We spent 2 hours driving 2 miles or so and then I could finally try to make my way home, which was 6 miles away. I was already fairly cabin fevery in my car, hadn't eaten lunch, though I did have some veggies and a nut bar in my purse and a bottle of water (which I was scared to drink because I didn't want to have to pee).

I finally made my way down to what I thought would be the best and easiest route home and came across a little fender bender blocking the only way. We were rerouted the opposite way and then U turned around back going south (the right way), but this placed me several blocks back AND behind some train tracks and of course there was a train and of course the train was going slow because of the snow traffic. I sat in that spot, not moving at all for about a half an hour.

Just sitting
Then I crept, block by block, for several hours, not making much progress, and trying not to lose my mind. I nibbled on my veggies, charged my phone, kept checking facebook, and called my boyfriend a lot to try to stay calm. He also kept offering to come get me and I was like, "Um, unless you have a helicopter, no. Your car would then just get stuck here and then we'd both be stuck in snow traffic."

There was just nowhere else to go. I was stuck there. Occasionally I'd get out and scrape the ice off my windshield wipers and run back in my car soaking wet, so at least there was that.

My anxiety was obviously rising and I'd waver between feeling okay or sardonic about the whole situation and feeling like it was the end of the world and I was going to have to spend the night in my car and freeze to death and goodbye cruel world.

Creeping along

At some point, I had the wherewithal to call my dad, who is a retired firefighter, and he pretty calmly told me I'd be fine and to keep checking in, and gave me a few practical tips. Thanks, dad.

Though, as dramatic as I am and as anxious and trapped as I was feeling, really the worst hadn't hit yet.

At about 5:30pm, I was able to get off the main road and get onto a side road I knew that I could cut over to my original route much further down. And, it was pretty wide open. Harder to drive on, to be sure, because the snow was getting pretty thick (and believe you me, I don't have chains), but at least I was moving!

I made my way out of the city and followed the backroad I knew, driving slowly, and sliding around here and there. When I turned to make my way up the small yet steeper than you'd think hill to get to one of the two main roads to my house (not including the freeway), I promptly got stuck in the snow. Every time I tried to go up, I'd slide back. So I braked and put my hazards on and started crying because I didn't know how to drive in the snow really and my car is so not 4 wheel drive.

Then a cop car pulled up behind me and helped me back up up and go another way. Thanks, random Portland cop who showed up at the right time! Seriously great timing on his part.

I headed toward the other route I knew, which I wasn't super hopeful about because it's a smaller road, but what choice did I have? I called my boyfriend and put him on speaker to keep me calm, because I was pretty much freaking out by this point. It was dark and icy and the snow kept coming and I was definitely scared of not getting home and, since I saw no Tauntauns around, I'd probably freeze to death.

So then, of course, there's quite the windy hill on this other road and I got stuck in the snow yet again. And, this time, every time I try to back up, I slide more and more around so that I'm getting perpendicular to the road. And I'm crying and freaking out. I try to pull over to the side, thinking maybe I can abandon my car on the side and walk to Starbucks or something where my boyfriend, with his  4WD Subaru (the official state car of Oregon), can come rescue me. But it's not working. I can't get to the side because there's too much snow.

Finally, I was able to back up into a side road and turn around and head back where I came. Boyfriend told me to go to a grocery store on that road, where he'd come get me and I could leave my car until the Snowpocalypse had passed.

I get to the grocery store about 6:15pm, sooooo excited to walk around and thought to by some gluten free bread (we were out) and wandered around, stretching my legs, and Boyfriend called, saying he can't get his car up our steep driveway.

And then I really did flip out. He offered to walk to me (what good would that do now?) and I just kept yelling and crying that I'd FIGURE IT OUT! Sigh.

I can't remember how I decided to try to find a route to the freeway, but that's what I would try. I stopped to get gas just in case and backtracked toward downtown, looking for the freeway entrance (I didn't know that route at all) and, again, keeping my boyfriend on speakerphone.

It took a long time, but I slowly found the freeway and crept along with the surprisingly few other cars all the way to my exit and then home, where I found Boyfriend standing in the snow, waiting for me. I wandered inside, cold, tense, and completely exhausted at 7pm. I'd been driving in the snow for 6 hours and it took me 4 to go 6 miles.

Then I spent a half and hour telling everyone who was worried about me that I'd made it home safely. Finally.

It's been snowing steadily since and, except for going out to take tons of photos and play around, I am not going out in that. No way, no how. You couldn't pay me anything to get in a car in the snow again.

Here are some crappy iPhone shots of what it looks like today. Better shots coming soon once I actually finish taking them and then editing.

Pretty sure my plants have died. And our front step is completely gone.

Anyone have a shovel?


This is our driveway. Yup. Promise.

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