Friday night before the big vacation takeoff:
I am feeling excited, shopping for last minute beach towels & sunscreen, packing into the wee hours of the morning. I write little notes for my girls and fight the urge to say things like, “If we don’t make it home, I want you to know. . .” and fill up their journals with memories and dreams for their futures.
I crawl into bed & the anxiety steps things up a bit. Adrenaline becomes my bedmate & I know I’m not going to get much sleep. I remind myself that this is to be expected. I expect to sleep terribly and feel anxious, even panicky. I haven’t flown in almost 3 years & I’m leaving my children behind for a week – something I’ve never done before. Next to my bed is a pad of paper for notes & I write down, “I want this anxiety” – just in case I forget when the alarm goes off. I snuggle up to my man & try to ride the waves while he snoozes with ease. Thank God only one of us runs anxious!
Saturday morning – 4:30am:
I wake up with a real sense of dread. I feel nauseous & panicky. I look down at my “I want this anxiety” note with a smiley face & say “screw that – what a stupid thing to write”! In the shower, I’m weepy and yell out to my husband, “I changed my mind. I don’t want to go. I just want to stay home. I feel terrible.”
It’s so hard in that moment to believe all those coping statements and truths – that flying is much safer than driving; panic always goes away with time; panic & anxiety are uncomfortable, but not dangerous; it’s very likely that I’ll be able to relax into the flight once we get going & if not, I will survive.
The first step is making it out the door. Then, driving to the airport where I take .25 mg of xanax & review my options – “If we get to our first connection & I feel terrible, we can always come home, right?” Walking into the airport feels familiar – it’s been a while, but I’ve done this before. After going through the security lines & randomly having my shoes checked (are my Keens too stinky? I ask) I rush over to the gate attendant, tell her about my flying fear & ask for seats closer to the front. At first she says that the plane is full, but at the last minute I am called up to the desk & the lovely Miss Tina from Delta changes our seating to bulk head. I think I love her.
As they call our flight to begin boarding, Steve & I wait & I take another .25mg. The funny thing about many anxiety superheroes & meds is that we’re actually a little afraid of taking them. From the extremes of — “What if it’s too much & I stop breathing?” to “What if I take it & it doesn’t work?”
Finally we take make our way through the line and warm tears roll down my face as we board the plane. As we buckle up and they seal the doors, I close my eyes and remember where we’re going.