I am going to a baseball game tonight. Since coming back from Iraq, I have generally not had good times at baseball games and not because I am a New York Mets fan. I don’t like crowds and in general the traffic (public trains or the LIE) gets me anxious and I don’t have panic attacks so much as angry attacks.
(I have had exceptions, I saw Endy Chavez make the catch from Row V in Shea. Even though the Metsies lost that was a magical night and I was on a hell of a lot of meds..)
In any case, tonight is an opportunity for me to succeed. I recently completed Prolonged Exposure therapy at the Northport VA. PEt has two parts: imaginal exercises and in vivo exposures.
Imaginal Exposure: To summarize in my own words, you sit with your eyes closed and talk in the first person about really crappy traumatic experiences, record it, listen to it all week, then do it over and over. With each iteration the experience uncovers more thoughtful reflection as well as a greater perspective on the traumatic events. It sucks. Like all therapies related to PTSD, it gets harder before it gets easier.
In Vivo Exposure: Then there are homework assignments for in vivo exposure. This is the fun summary: pick out a mess of things you avoid like the plague, rate them from one (in bed about to fall asleep) to one hundred (In the shit bullets flying). Then go do them.
Avoiding public transit? Go ride the subway. Don’t like war movies anymore? Watch Restrepo… Twice. Hate crowds? Go to a Ballgame!
(When my wife heard that one she rolled her eyes, but I can assure you, this is legit.)
As I was immersed in each homework assignment, I was tasked with keeping tack my feelings and mood. It is sort of like embracing the mental suck. But, as advertised, things get easier and easier.
So, tonight is another opportunity to succeed. Let’s Go Mets!