It’s been a very busy and interesting last week and a half since I last wrote on here. I went up to Seattle and did a couple of book signings, saw family and friends, and since I’ve been back in Portland have been staying busy, and had to say goodbye to my therapist of five years yesterday as she’s moving away. One of the constants throughout this last week and half though is getting notes and messages from people who are reading Southbound and saying such nice things. That’s kind of been the most pleasant experience so far since the book has come out, is that connection with people. I’ve had total strangers, some as old as in their 80’s write and tell me they liked the book or related to something in it. The only real word I can use to describe it is a connective.
See, I’m someone who has kind of become disconnected. I’m someone who isolates. Someone who has hidden away. Some people use the word agoraphobic, but I prefer disconnected. At some point I made the connection in my head that my anxiety was less severe when others weren’t around and I was in the house. I allowed my world to slowly shrink and shrink and shrink until leaving the house at all became a chore. Grocery stores were the worst. I would run in, grab what I needed and pray the line at check out was short. I’d stand there, my hands gripping the railing, hoping my legs wouldn’t give out and internally so irate when the checkout person wanted to make small talk. Just please scan my stuff so I can get out now! I even had Safeway deliver my groceries one day, resigning myself to the possibility of just staying in the house forever. I didn’t go home for Christmas, had dinner on New Years Eve alone at 6pm at Elmers Pancake house.
The funny thing is….I’m not an introvert. At all. My natural habitat is amongst family and friends and I allowed my anxiety to take that away from me. One of the most interesting changes I’ve noticed in myself is the two things I’m probably most scared of…flying and heights…were two of the things I loved most as a child. I’ll never forget when I heard our baseball team had qualified for the 15 year old World Series…I was most excited about two things. I was gonna get to fly to Chicago! And I was gonna get to go to the top of the Sears Tower!!! Now, you couldn’t pay me enough to do either of those things.
So my focus lately has been re-engaging and trying to reconnect. And honestly..it’s working. In January, I couldn’t be anywhere public for more than 5 minutes without having extreme anxiety. Today I was out and about running errands, doing work and talking with people from 7:30am to 3pm! I went to my trainer at the gym, had breakfast, went and did some work for a few hours and talked with tons of people. And magically…even though I was anxious….I felt happier. I’m supposed to be around people. I’m fun and funny and bring joy to people’s lives and they do the same for me.
I think I owe some of this desire to reconnect to Southbound. People have reached out but I’ve also reached out too. I went to my mom’s casino for a book signing and was in the casino for like 90 minutes, surrounded by family and friends and strangers and all that. Now 2 months ago I wouldn’t have lasted 10 minutes in there. Granted after the 90 minutes I had to go sit in my car and do my breathing exercises, but progress is never swift! The next day I had an hour breakfast with a couple of my best friends in the world, visited another friend, went to my dad’s cemetery plot, and then did a one hour book signing at Emerald Downs in the middle of the crowded paddock. I talked with strangers about the book, talked with friends. It was terrifying but it was progress. The anxiety recovery is so much different than the compulsive gambling recovery. Gambling I can make go away. The anxiety will always be there. But the good news is I have the choice to run from it, or just bring it along and not give it the attention and let it dissipate as I spend time around the people, places and things I love. I’m gonna go ahead and work on the latter. Feeling loved and working on being connected once again.
So proud of you, Jason. It’s these little things that really show how much you grow. I so appreciate your honesty. Most people shy away from writing about anxiety issues and I love how you confront them head on in your blog.
Jason ,you are as good a man as I have ever known and I am over the moon proud of you – for so many things. The book, working through your anxiety but most of all, working to become such a terrific race announcer. I hope one day the world will get to hear you. I am blessed to call you friend.