Last year, I joined a professional organization affiliated with the new career I’ve chosen/am trying to get into. I went to a few meetings before I took a certification test – which I passed the first time – and kind of enjoyed it. Well, as much as I enjoy any situation when I’m in a room with a bunch of strangers for 2 hours. For the next 3 months, circumstances kept me from going back. A had her honor band rehearsals, a concert, and there was a meeting for the high school in there somewhere.
This week, unfortunately, I didn’t have an excuse. I didn’t really want to go, but I felt like I had to go. Social anxiety and I are old friends, and it was kicking in in a major way. But I really did need to be out and around people. So I took a deep breath, got into the car, and headed into town.
The drive up there has always been a little weird, for personal reasons. About 6 years ago now, I think, I went to the hospital for an outpatient program (essentially treatment at a mental health hospital without staying overnight). The same hospital where I go for business meetings now, as well as where I went for my certification exam. Yep, even down to the same floor. The first time I went, I found myself making the turn at the elevator when I should have been walking in the other direction.
The meeting was interesting. The best class I’ve ever had has been anatomy and physiology, and some of the talk showed a procedure that’s being used on Parkinson’s patients (including some of the surgery and radiology/MRI scans). It was really great, and I realized that I missed going there. Just the feeling like I was a “professional”, the same as everybody else in the room, was pretty powerful, no matter how wrong that might be in reality.
When I was driving home, it was pretty clear to me how much I’ve changed since I went to the hospital for the first time. I am a much different person now than I was then. Not always doing well – certainly not the past few months – but much different. Instead of reaching for somebody to help me out of the giant black hole, I can figure out ways to pull myself out. Not right away sometimes, but it’s better.