Riding The Wave- Episode 1
I call it “riding the wave”. What else could you possibly call it? You can’t stop it once it gets started, so you may as well go with the flow with as little resistance as possible. I am now able to recognize the signs. If I’m in public, I know I’ve got about thirty seconds to a minute to either get out of there, or brace myself and try not to show what is happening. It starts with a tingling, and then I get warm and flush. As the heat begins to build up, I often find myself throbbing with an ache that is usually best relieved in the presence of a lover. But I don’t have a lover. And if I did, he certainly couldn’t be with me 24/7. So I cross my legs and breathe deeply. At that point, there is nothing left to do but ride it out. Seriously. If I try to fight it, it just becomes more intense, thus making the entire scene that much more embarrassing. If I ride the wave, it’s over as quickly as it started.
When I can’t hide it, I usually try to play things off by saying that I have muscle cramps from running or some other strenuous exercise. Most people believe me, unless I’ve made some extremely inappropriate noise for the situation. Have you ever tried controlling your facial expression while trying not to sound like the star in Diva Does Absolutely Everyone? And it’s not like I can tell my body not to flip out on me until I’m in the privacy of my home. That’s not when I’m stressed. Make no mistake, riding the wave is a direct result of stress. Apparently, the way I handle things is not to my body’s liking, so it decided that public humiliation was a good way to get my attention.
Now, I have to say that at first my reaction was probably that of everyone else who hears it- that’s not bad, what is there to complain about? But over the last six months, I’ve gone from having one every decade or so to having one a week. And they are continuing to crank up. That’s not so good.
Shit, I’ve got stress just like the next person. I’m a single mother with a 16 year old daughter. Just thinking about the pitfalls out there with boys, sex, drugs, driving, whatever and I’ve got plenty of reason to be afraid. And then I had the audacity to decide to step out of the rat race and open a bookstore in the worst economy since the Great Depression. A BOOKSTORE!? Yes. A bookstore. Basically, I just asked the Universe to give me nothing but a buffet of stress for the time being.
And then you have my mother. She’s 65 and of sound mind. Except for all the meddling that she does in my life. The woman who has not had a man since my dad died ten years ago. The woman who spends more time traveling, with her girlfriends, than she does in her very lush retirement condo. The woman who told me to always be able to take care of myself, and any person I brought into the world because men aren’t always the most reliable sort. That woman. She is constantly hounding me about getting a man. She says she worries about my mental health because I’m alone all the time. Whatever.
Nope, the wave riding has made me ask “what the hell?”- I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing: working hard, taking care of my kid, giving back to the community, and trying to make a difference. At first, I thought it was a physical thing. You know, a tumor or something, that could be cut out and I could go on my merry little way. No tumor. No seizures. No hormone imbalance. No blood poisoning. Dr. Acetta sat me down with a very serious look on his face when he delivered the test results. He gave me the “I’ve known you for years, you are one of my favorite patients” speech. I was waiting for the diagnosis so that we could get to the cure. It never came. Instead, I got this:
“Stephanie, I have to tell you, after all of that testing, we didn’t find any physical cause for your condition. I staffed your case with my colleagues here in the practice, and we unanimously agreed that I should make a psych referral for you.”
This is where my face cracked.
“A psych referral? As in a shrink. Because since you can’t find anything wrong physically, it has to be all in my head?”
“I’m saying that we should maybe look at something psychological as the cause. I have made a referral to a great psychiatrist. Her name is Dr. Lisa Hamilton. She is very good at what she does. She primarily works with women who have experienced trauma, but she is really interested in your case.”
“I see. Well, let me think about it.”
“Don’t think too long Stephanie. The longer you take, the worse things may get.”
He was right. A couple of weeks after my appointment with Dr. Acetta, the episodes started coming more frequently. I finally called and scheduled an appointment with Dr. Hamilton three weeks ago. Since then, I’ve been seeing her every Friday. What I want to figure out is how to get the waves to stop. She wants me to look at my life and figure out what is the below the surface- the root cause of it all. Uh-huh. I’ll keep seeing her until the opening of my store, and then I’m sure that things will return to normal. I’m not going to miss them much. I realize that I really like being in control of my body and what it does. I’ve been pretty lucky, for the most part in that the majority of my “episodes” have been confined to my office and my car. I did have one in a meeting last week. That’s when I came up with the leg cramp from running excuse. It hit me so hard that I doubled over. Fortunately, the discussion was heated, and no one was really paying any attention to me.
The episode in the grocery store was a little different. I had stopped at the store before heading home to pick up a pint of butter pecan ice cream when the wave came over me. I stood there holding the door to the ice cream freezer open for a while. A woman noticed me and came over to ask me if something was wrong. I guess it’s not everyday that you see a woman just standing in front of the Ben and Jerry’s with the freezer door open and her eyes glazed over. I was biting my lip to keep from moaning. I simply nodded my head and relaxed my shoulders as the wave started to recede. She stood there just watching me to be sure I was ok. When it was over, I grabbed the ice cream and hauled ass to the checkout line. I can only imagine what I looked like to that lady. I’m sure I sounded like a wounded animal caught in a trap.
And now, I’m pulling into the parking lot outside of Dr. Hamilton’s office. She ended the last session by giving me homework. I had to make a list of all the things that I am anxious about. I thought it was a dumb idea. That’s what I was there to talk with her about. I didn’t do it. No big deal really. I’m paying her…
Oh shit. Oh damn. Ugh… Wait… I am just putting the Jeep in park when it starts. I squeeze the steering wheel with both hands because there isn’t much else for me to do. Until a couple of months ago, I didn’t know that 90 seconds could be so long. That’s from start to finish, of course. Amazing what the body can do. The sigh that escapes is mixed with pleasure and annoyance. Why can’t this happen when I’m in the Jacuzzi with some jazz playing in the background, or in bed after a busy day, or hell, even in the shower first thing in the morning? Nope, I get hit in grocery stores, meetings, and parking lots. As the wave recedes, I continue to lie back and breathe deeply. I have really got to get this under control.
Once things are over and my breathing has returned to normal, I step out of the Jeep and slam the door. I do a thorough clothes check and adjustment before heading toward the office building. And that is when I notice the man standing on the steps smoking a cigarette. He grins and moves to the side to let me pass. “I could have helped you out with that” he sneers. I don’t even speak as I charge past him and grab the door. That’s what I get for driving the Jeep without the top.