It’s often difficult to see progress when it is very gradual or when it’s bidirectional (forward and back). Both of these scenarios have characterized my trauma healing experience thus far: I progress, regress, stall, regress more, progress again, etc. The line of best fit trends a slow positive improvement over time, with the peaks and valleys of various magnitudes forming a dramatic profile about the mean. Given this non-linear and non-harried progress, the triumphs or notable improvements are especially appreciated. I had one of these treasured moments this week.
Because my attack was a home invasion, I’m particularly anxious and weary of anyone ringing the doorbell, knocking, or worse, needing to come inside. This makes visits from servicemen (who have always been men in our case) when Ben isn’t home an anxiety-riddled experience for me. Although I understand rationally that almost all men would never lay a finger on me or intend to hurt me, my uneasiness is nearly inevitable after what I went through. With that said, this week we commissioned a garage door repairman to fix a broken spring and several rollers that had jumped off the track, rendering the door unsafe and inoperable. With the impending snows and recent frosts, we needed this problem fixed soon. Last weekend, after consulting YouTube videos, we tried to tackle it ourselves, but is seemed unsafe and our tools proved inadequate. We turned to Craigslist and hired a professional.
As usual, I was nervous for his arrival. Ben was at work so I was to be overseeing the entire job, from greeting him, to verifying the project was completed to satisfactorily, to paying him. He arrived and the introductions and overview of the problems went fine. Since it was raining and quite cold, I went inside to work, checking on him once about halfway through. I was a little wary that he’d stall and take advantage of the fact that the job was compensated at an hourly rate and take me for the ignorant pawn that I am. On the contrary, he seemed to work efficiently and I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly he was done. Therein lay the reason I imagined I’d be highly uncomfortable and upset: He rang the bell to settle up. Unfortunately, given the driving rain, I had to let him in the house to do so because he wanted to address his findings, wrote out a thorough receipt, and washed his hands. While the doorbell startled me because I expected him to be toiling away for a much longer time, once I let him in the kitchen, I expected my heart rate to skyrocket and my PTSD-fueled anxiety to consume me and render me feeling ill. Instead, I was proudly calm, confident, and pleasant. I listened attentively when he reported about the condition of the other door and made some suggestions. My hand was steady as I made out the check and since his paperwork was taking a while, I even shut the front door, which I had kept open in case an emergency escape was necessary. When he left, I firmly shook his hand and thanked him for his service.
While this all must have appeared like normal, routine behavior and no one would think anything of it, it represented a massive improvement for me. A year or so ago, even probably four months ago, this type of interaction would have been nearly impossible for me, so much so that I probably would have forced it to occur under Ben’s supervision. If I had reluctantly agreed to it, I likely would have had a panic attack or burst into tears.
I must admit, it’s quite empowering to feel capable, mature, and composed enough to handle these sorts of routine homeowner responsibilities that involve interacting with unknown men. It gives me confidence to feel like I’m overcoming some of the crippling anxiety that has resulted from my trauma. The steps may be slow, and some may be backwards, but in aggregate, I’m putting my starting place of brokenness and disability behind me: I’m moving closer to thriving in a place where I have control over my irrational fear brain and my all-consuming anxiety.