Has it really only been a little over two months since I wrote this post? Time for a progress report...I feel like there's been A LOT of progress. I'll start with these images.
Here's my friend Herbert sitting on my lap during a session with my therapist. And I took him out of the bag and put him there! Willingly! If you'll recall....Herbert has been in my possession for almost a year, and until the day this picture was taken, I HAD NEVER TOUCHED HIM! The first time my therapist removed him from the bag a year ago I actually cried I was so afraid.
I'm not going to say that taking that first step was easy, but I did it! And then got used to him sitting there.
After his triumphant and long-awaited release from his double-bagged home, I decided to let him be free forever. The bags were recycled, and Herbert now resides on the dashboard of my work truck. Which means we spend a lot of time together. I commute and am also in and out of my truck all day for work. So, needless to say, I've gotten pretty used to having this guy around. (by the way, if you haven't read my previous post...Herbert is a fake rubber snake :)
On the last day of my vacation in May, Brian and I decided to take Sadie to the zoo. And that morning I declared to Brian and Sadie that I would be joining them in viewing the snakes in the Tropical Discovery exhibit. I'd thought about it for days and had mentally prepared myself for this step. I explained to Brian that he might need to be patient with me since my reaction wasn't assured. And I tapped. A lot. All the way to the zoo, in fact. I also reminded myself of what my therapist had been insisting upon...that I start to see more than the "scary" and "sneaky" characteristics of snakes (as I see them). What can I appreciate about them? Their color? The symmetry of their patterned skin? Brian decided that it would be a good idea to start with the snakes to get it out of the way.
So I took some deep breaths, and I walked right up to a big, bright green mamba. And I looked at it very closely. I craned my neck to see if I could spot its head. I read the interesting scientific facts about it. I talked to Brian and Sadie about it. I tapped. And of course I was sweating, shaking, and feeling nauseous. But I kept looking at that snake until I felt o.k. about it. And then I moved on to the next one. And I looked at every single snake in that exhibit...which is a lot! We probably spent over an hour in there. I watched a prairie rattlesnake (which is what we have in my part of Colorado) open and close its jaw repeatedly and talked myself into being amazed at how wide that snake can open its mouth. I spent a lot of time with a skinny pair of 6 foot long African snakes who are known to be very active and mobile and really worked at appreciating how amazing it is how they move their bodies in such a unique way.
And when we left the snake exhibit, Sadie and I sat down in the sunshine. I held my hand to my forehead, neck, heart and stomach (in that order), and as I paused on each of those points, I said these words out loud: "I feel o.k. about those snakes". And then we continued on to have a lovely picnic lunch and enjoy the rest of the zoo.
Brian was very patient with me. He did have to remind me a couple times to watch my language since we were at the zoo with our daughter and surrounded by lots of other children (I tend to curse a lot when I'm scared...). He explained the situation to a couple people who were looking at me strangely. He listened intently to me as I talked through my feelings and processed what I had been through. I know it is very hard for him to understand this phobia, but I am very grateful that he has always respected me enough to never make fun of me for it and has never insisted that I "just get over it".
Next step...watch my therapist handle an actual snake (a small one) in my presence. Oy.