Do I know how to write a melodramatic title or what? Wow.
Where to even begin...
Ever since I was a kid, I have been obsessed with Savannah cats. The idea of being able to have something that was part African Serval live in your house was the coolest thing 16-year-old Courtney had ever heard of. Unfortunately the $5,000 price tag was a liiiiiittle much for me to afford at the time. Fast forward about 10 years, and I finally felt like I was ready.
For those of you who don't know me yet, I high key LOVE Facebook Marketplace and Groups on Facebook. One of the groups I belong to is Savannah Cat Rescue. This is a space where people are able to see Savannahs that are looking for homes all over the country. It is beyond difficult to find the perfect match when you want to adopt, and this is especially true when dealing with a "designer" breed. There just aren't many of these cats available regardless of where you live. It took me about 6 months to find a Savannah in California, so when I did I acted quickly. These babies pictured above were available in a small town outside of Lincoln, CA which is about a nine hour drive from where I live.
I never had an issue with a long drive before so I decided to go for it. I reached out to the person that had posted about the cats. He got back to me almost instantly, and we had decided I would pick up Ghost and Storm the day after Thanksgiving. It all happened so fast, but I was excited so I didn't care.
I decided I was going to do the whole trip by myself. It was going to be a long drive, but I didn't want to inconvenience anyone by asking them to come with me. Better yet, I thought I could do it all in one day. The way I saw it, this would be a 9 hour drive each way; 9 plus 9 equals 18 which is less than 24 so technically I could make the trip up and back in a day. Did this plan sound extremely ambitious? Of course it did. Apparently I love a challenge. I always seem to accomplish the goals I set for myself, so I didn't expect this to be any different.
Believe me when I tell you that I was READY for this drive. I had granola bars, Gatorade, water, and all the road trip snacks you could imagine. What could possibly go wrong?
The drive to NorCal wasn't that bad other than the fact that it was hundreds of miles of LITERALLY NOTHING.Once I made it to Lincoln, it was so weird to see people and buildings again. It was almost like training for quarantine and I didn't even know it at the time. My legs felt like jelly, my back was sore, but I'd made it. Maybe it was the adrenaline or maybe I'm just crazy, but even after a 9 hour drive I still felt wide awake after picking up my boys. I got about an hour or 2 into the drive back home when things started to go left.
Other than my granola bars and other snacks, I hadn't eaten a real meal all day. I was feeling funny so I decided to stop at the next exit and grab something to eat from Burger King. I took a few bites of my nuggsts and fries, but I just wasn't hungry.
Something still wasn't right. I called my mom -- who was on the other side of the country -- and immediately broke down crying. I didn't know why I was crying, but I couldn't stop. My mom asked me if I was tired and I said no. Then she told me to take a few minutes to calm down and try to get back on the road since it seemed like I just wanted to drive. A few minutes later, I was back on the freeway. I really thought I was okay, but all of a sudden I started feeling shaky, almost out of body. I didn't feel like I had full control of myself let alone the car, and I started to swerve. It scared me. With no shoulder, pulling over wasn't an option. There was a rest stop a few miles away but it felt like I would never get there. I struggled to keep the car under control for the next 5 minutes until I arrived.
As soon as I parked the car, I started crying hysterically and shaking uncontrollably. Ohhhh sh*t. I was having a panic attack with 2 scared kitties in the backseat more than 6 hours away from Los Angeles. Oh, and it was getting dark. And did I mention it was raining? WHAAAAT THEEEE HECK. It felt like the walls were closing in around me. I was in trouble. Trapped feeling like I would never be able to drive with confidence again. I tried to wait it out, but this continued for over an hour. I legitimately had to call 911.
The paramedics that arrived were literally a godsend, and I will forever be grateful. After helping me to get my heartrate back under control, one of the paramedics offered to drive my car for me while I rode in the ambulance to a nearby hotel. They made sure I was checked in and situated with my cats in the room before leaving. For a moment, I was relieved. I was safe for the night. I didn't have food or a litter box for the cats, so I did my best to make it work. They didn't seem to care for the chicken nuggets I gave them, but it was all I had. I felt so terrible that I put Ghost and Storm in this situation by not being more prepared. These babies were my responsibility for all of a few hours and it felt like I was already failing them.
I called my parents again to let them know that I was okay. After we prayed, we started talking about a bunch of random stuff. Since I have the best parents ever, I'm still on their mobile family plan. They wanted to let me know that we would be switching carriers the next day and my new phone would arrive a few days later. Seemed like a mundane detail in the moment, but I was happy to talk about anything other than the drive.
By the time I went to sleep, I was feeling a lot better. The morning, however, brought the anxiety riiiight back. After a little pep talk, I was ready to get back on the road -- ready to finish what I had started. I would be lying if I said it didn't take a few tries for me to ACTUALLY make it onto the freeway; however, once I did, I felt this rush of accomplishment come over my body. I made it. I'm back on the road! I'm --
I ran right into a giant tumbleweed that had rolled onto the freeway. It scared the sh*t out of me and I immediately pulled over. I got out of the car to see if there was any damage, but everything was fine. As I was pulling this ball of sticks out of the grille of my car, I couldn't help but laugh. I mean what the actual f*ck. A TUMBLEWEED? Those thing are real??? I couldn't believe it.
A million thorns to the hand later and I was back on the road. Somehow I was more confident after my little incident than before. I felt like that had to be rock bottom so it was all up from here!!
BOY WAS I WRONG.
My cell service had been spotty the whole trip, but suddenly my phone wasn't working at all. I stopped at the next gas station and tried to use a landline, YES A LANDLINE, to call my parents to see what was going on. The phone at the gas station didn't work either so I ended up borrowing some random girl's cell phone. My mom blanked my call because it was a number she didn't know, but luckily my dad picked up *lol*. Remember how they were switching our wireless carrier? Well none of us thought about the fact that doing that would cut off my service until I was back in LA and switched to the new phone.
This was bad. I had no GPS and no ability to call anyone for the rest of the drive. As I'm sure you can imagine, I started freaking out. You mean to tell me that I was about to be alone in the middle of nowhere with no ability to contact anyone or even figure out where I am for at least 5 hours? Tell me this doesn't seem like the beginning of a horror film. Luckily it was pretty much a straight shot to LA, so not having any directions to follow wasn't as bad as it could have been.
Although the dark clouds were clearly following me, I had to keep driving. I started to feel like I was getting into a groove as I approached the Grapevine.
SURPRISE! It started snowing. (You really can't make this stuff up.)
A few snowflakes turned into an all out blizzard as I tried my best to navigate the winding road while keeping pace with the flow of traffic. This was probably one of the scariest experiences I've ever had. At this point I was feeling so rundown from everything else that had transpired over the past day. I pulled over frequently to be sick, but eventually I made it to the other side. You have no idea how badly I wanted to cry tears of joy when I saw the sign that said I was less than 50 miles away from LA. Oneeeee slight problem. I didn't know where to go from here and it was getting dark again.
I got off the freeway and ended up at the most random mechanic shop in this super industrial area. There were dim swinging lights and a small back office where this burly man sat. Trust me, I knew I was probably about to get murdered, but it was either this or be stranded -- and then murdered. I felt like someone straight out of the early 2000s using this man's desktop computer to look up directions to my apartment on MapQuest. This right here was true desperation. I took pictures of the computer screen with my phone so that I could follow the instructions to get the rest of the way home. (I guess my phone wasn't COMPLETELY useless after all.)
It was maybe another 30 to 45 minutes when I saw the promise land. There it was. My apartment. I almost couldn't believe my eyes. I parked and deadass kissed the dirty, dirty ground. B*TCH WE MADE IT!!!!
Once again I was on a high. I felt so accomplished. There had been so many obstacles, so many moments where I was truly scared for my own safety -- but it didn't matter now because it was over. The feeling of contentment, like many other things, was fleeting. Due to the trauma I experienced, I was terrified of driving on the freeway. I went months before event attempting it as I was just too scared I would have another moment of panic. I took local roads everywhere even if that doubled the amount of time it would take for me to get to my destination. My anxiety had taken full control and was dictating the way I lived.
Once the pandemic hit, enough was enough. The lasting effect from the drive was the tipping point that made me realize I needed help. The isolation due to the pandemic sealed the deal. I wasn't living anymore, I was just existing. I started going to therapy and it was the best decision I could have made. It took some time, but my therapist gave me tools that made it possible for me to drive on the freeways again. Not only that, but she made me realize that it's okay to ask for help.
It's okay to need other people. So much of what happened could have been avoided if I had someone else with me on that drive. The craziest part is that several people told me they would have gone with me had they known I was doing that. It may seem like a "duh" moment to everyone else, but for me this was really surprising.
At the end of the day, I am okay with the fact that I had to go through all of this in order to get me to take my mental health seriously. Lord, if you're listening I'm good on lessons for a while so feel free to take a little vacay.