We chatted as our cruise director drove Frank, her truck. Talking as we always do about everything and nothing. There are four us and we've known each other for years and years. Old school friends which means we've known each other for over 35 years!
Linda is driving. She is the cruise director and owner of Frank. We tease and say if she goes first we'll never see each other again, any of us, because she coordinates everything. I've got shotgun because I get carsick, and my friends are understanding of that.
Miss Santra is behind me with her Route 44 Sonic drink. She never shows up without one. Usually with two. And rounding out the group is Caroline with her stack of catalogs, magazines, and newspapers to peruse while we drive. She is the fashionista of our bunch looking stylish today in straight jeans with white 3/4 length sleeved knit tunic and a fabulous hat I gave her from Mexico.
We arrive at out destination, park the car, and begin scoping out the town square. We wander into the first antique store (after noting the incredible number of vapor shops!). We each have our different preferences. Caroline loves old postcards. Miss Santra is all about furniture and toys. Linda likes dishes and salt & pepper shakers, and I am drawn to vintage linens and knick knacks.
We're having a good time. I run across an old enamel water dipper like I remember from my childhood. A dipper factors into a dissociative event, but on the whole it brings back positive memories. They all encourage me to buy it and hang in on my new deck. I'm happy that I've turned a potential trigger into a happy moment.
The third store is hot and stuffy. Jam-packed with all kinds of things, and 3 floors to traverse. We are all hot, tired, thirsty, and getting a bit hungry. Caroline has quizzed shop owners and found us a local diner for lunch. I've found a lovely vintage tablecloth to use on the deck, and Linda's found salt & pepper shakers.
We all trek up to the third floor where it is even hotter. It's dark and attic-like, but there is some great stuff up there. As I round the corner from the steps, someone says, "Ooh, look. Old farm equipment."
At that moment I know I should get the hell out of Dodge, but I tell myself I'm fine. I just won't look at any of it. The truth is "I'm fine" is code for "get out now!", but I haven't quite learned to honor that feeling.
I walk the perimeter of the room avoiding the area with the aforementioned objects. I'm doing pretty well (NOT) until I have to walk directly by the wall they are hanging on. Understand, I can't tell you a single item in the collection, but I know the look -- the heavy iron, rusted, and dirty. I know I need out of there. I know my friends won't judge me, but I can't make the move. Finally the fear of coming completely unhinged in this place forces me to announce, "I have to get out of here".
Comments are made as I rush down the steps willing myself out of the store and into fresh air. Willing the panic to subside. Praying that I can deep-breathe this into submission.
I hit the air and breathe deeply, pressing my back against the store front. I see a bench and sit on it, trying to calm my breathing, but still internally berating myself. I'm making a scene. I just want attention. This is all an act. None of this is accurate, but it is what I hear in my head.
My friends appear. They ask questions -- Claustrophobic? Overheated? -- Linda looks at me and says "Bad memory". I nod my head and they kick into full friend mode. What do I need? A cold drink? Yes. Caroline and Miss Santra head off to get something. Linda asks if I want to be alone, and I practically scream, "NO!" She sits with me and I begin to apologize. She reminds me it's okay. I haven't done anything wrong and nobody is mad at me. I keep breathing and trying to quench the tears. I am so, so, so sorry for doing this to them.
The cold drinks arrive and we sit and sip and make plans. One more shop and then lunch. We head back to the car. Passing another shop I see a sign -- Never explain anything. Your friends don't need it, and your enemies won't believe it. -- It's a gift from God or the universe or whatever you want to call it. I comment on it to my friends, and they all agree.
Another trigger averted or at least dealt with. More lessons in coping, healing, and friendship remind me I will be okay when it happens again.
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