The phone on her nightstand rang, interrupting her morning ritual of negative self talk. She sighed at her reflection and turned on her heel, walking with exaggerated slowness. With luck, she would be too late to answer it.
She wasn’t… “Hello?”
“Sorry. I just… didn’t expect you to answer. Does this mean you’re coming today?”
“Well, I’m up and was getting dressed.”
“You were? Okay! Okay. I’ll let you do that then. Come today, though, Leandra… Promise, okay?”
She didn’t want to promise so she hung up with a “see you soon,” and went back to the mirror.
“Ugh. Why did you have to be so ugly, Leandra?” She brushed her hair, pulling it back from her face and pinning it quickly. She looked tired, she thought, so she brushed on foundation, jotted cover up under her eyes and blushed her cheeks. She added a small amount of mascara and turned quickly away from the mirror. If she looked too hard, she would end up back in bed. Instead, she walked briskly to the door, grabbed her keys and headed down the stairs.
When she reached the parking lot, she stood for a moment before entering the car. Maybe she should go back. She turned back, changed her mind, turned again and walked purposefully to the car, opening the door. She climbed in, closed the door and stuck the key in the ignition. As she turned it, she hoped desperately for the engine to fail, but it purred to life easily. Biting her lip, she put the car in gear.
The phone rang again as she drove the five miles into the city. “Hello?”
“You’re still answering.”
“Are you coming, then? It’s been three weeks, Leandra. Tell me you are coming.”
“I’m trying to but you’re making me nervous.”
“Oh.” Bob paused for a few moments leaving dead air, then spoke more quietly, “Hey. Leandra… Do you want me to meet you in the parking lot?”
“No. Just go in.”
“Okay… Okay. I’m sorry. See you soon?”
She pulled into the parking lot and found a space near the door. It was still early. She was grateful. She could never have managed to come later in the day when the place got crowded. As it was, she’s was fighting a rising sense of panic.
Not fighting, she thought, beginning to hyperventilate, losing. The building swam before her as the world tilted sideways. It’s just a panic attack, she told herself desperately, just a panic attack. She consciously slowed her breathing. As her vision cleared, she focused pointedly at the sign above the door.
“Okay. The sign. The letters are white on a green background… Breathe, Leandra. Focus… Read the sign. Ground yourself. You’re at North Country Behavioral Health. You’re going to go to group. One step at a time. Right now you’re still sitting in the car… Breathe. Everything is okay. Breathe. You have friends here.”
She felt her feet on the floor and the car seat beneath her. She reached her hand out mindfully, placing it on the door handle, allowing herself to concentrate on the curling of her fingers around it. She pulled the handle, noticing the tensing and relaxing of her arm muscles… And then she was out of the car placing one foot carefully in front of the other. She hesitated for the slightest moment at the door, before reaching out to open it. One more step and she was finally inside. She held her breath and crossed the threshold, triumphantly.
Bob was waiting, “Leandra! You made it. I didn’t wait in the parking lot, see?”
“I see that,” She smiled, shyly.
“C’mon. The others are waiting. They’ll be glad to see you. We were worried.”
“I know. I’m sorry. It was just a setback… This time of year, you know? It brings it all back.”
They entered the treatment room together and Marco, the group leader, stood to close the door and get the meeting started. “Leandra, I’m happy you decided to come today. Would you like to speak first?” She nodded, determinedly. “Okay,” Marco smiled and took his place in the circle, “The floor is yours.”
All eyes were on her as she began talking. “Two weeks ago I thought I wanted to die… But I didn’t. I was paralyzed, afraid to leave the house, but I didn’t harm myself. Getting here today was hard…” She trailed off, remembering her panic attack in the car and all the times before it when she had decided not to come, “But I’m here. It took a thousand small decisions but I’m here and committed to my therapy.”
Natolie Webb loves to write about the little moments that make up a life, whether big and life changing or small and comical.