John Lennon's song Imagine has that sing song take on imagining all the obstacles in life that he believes keep us from living in a state of nirvana. I heard it in the car while we drove around today. Pat warned us about Day 3 and she was right. Day 3 was grueling.
Can you imagine that everytime you think about doing a simple task like grocery shopping, enjoying a meal in a restaurant or just sitting outside enjoying the warm breezes are enough to make your heart pound. Enough to make you sweat and shake. Turn your insides to greasy jello. That the very joy of escorting your wife or girlfriend out of the four walls of your house could make you want to cower in fear. Well today, I saw two brave men do their very best to take new skills and attempt to redefine their shrunken world.
The confidence they feel inside the walls of Pat's house is real. So real, in fact, that they believe they will make this work in the outside world. They have visions of returning to their old life of carefree and thoughtless excursions. But once inside the door of the grocery store, the fear turns to anger or paralysis. The task of shopping from a grocery list takes ten times longer than it should and more backtracking than necessary. This new life with a tethered partner requires forethought and planning. Observing the path in front of them and looking for obstacles, distractions, and dangers both imagined and real. All of this while dealing with the lie their brain is telling them about possible attack. Knowing that at any moment a panic attack may set in or a flashback may occur that will hurtle them into the dark. Then it is time to apply the new skills they have learned over the past three days. It's not just about commands, it is about trust. It's about trusting their dogs.
At one point, I watched anger turn into confusion and the inabiity to perform the task at hand. Pat immediately saw what was happening and gently reminded him to stop the task and turn to his partner. And that is where the fear dropped away and the paralysis turned to movement. He dropped to his knees and held his service dog. He rubbed her and loved her and she took his nervousness and panic. She took it onto herself and then shook it off; thus releasing them both from a burden neither has to carry.
There would be more obstacles today beyond that one. More hurdles to go over, around or through. Each day ends though and a new one waits on the other side of the dawn. Another day of putting one foot forward outside of the four walls PTSD builds around these men. But they are no longer going through this alone. They have a willing partner that wants to walk beside them.