Tales from an Anxiety Superhero – Meet Erin!

photo by Erin 2017

Meet Erin!

Erin is one of my dear friends and a founding member of the AG’s (Anxiety Girls), a peer support group I started a few years back to not only talk about anxiety but go out in the world and take it on. You can read about starting your own anxiety support group here! 

Let me introduce you. Erin is a mother, friend, wife, sister, professional, expert crafter, champion of animals, professional, adventurer and all around cool lady. She also has had anxiety and panic for most of her life.

Background:

So, here’s the story. After enjoying a mostly panic free life for many years, Erin experienced debilitating panic attacks on a drive to Bethany Beach, Delaware last summer. She knew the drive would be a challenge, but the resurgence of panic left her reeling. It took the course of the following year from which to recover. Sure, she went to work, managed her family and kept up a normal life (because she’s strong like that), but inside she struggled with daily symptoms. After some counseling and a lot of work, a year later she made that same drive again. This time was filled with dread and panic, which showed up as expected, but she did not let scary symptoms get in her way. She made it all the way to the beach, got to enjoy vacation with her family and felt triumphant. If you have experience with panic, you know that this accomplishment was like completing an Ironman!

After the trip, she was posting beautiful pictures on Instagram and, as people were viewing and adding hearts, she realized she was just portraying one side of the story.

With a huge amount of courage, she wrote the following post and shared her story in hopes it would help someone else.  Maybe that person is you! Here it is – posted with permission.

Erin’s story:

“Few people know this about me, but I have panic disorder. I was always a worried child, but when I turned 20 I started to have panic attacks. I had to leave college at that time to get back on my feet and ever since then I have struggled on and off with my anxiety. After I moved, I started avoiding going places because of fear of panic attacks. And my world got smaller and smaller. I have worked really hard to overcome this and have made huge strides. I was even in almost complete remission for about 4-5 years but then I had a big set back this past summer. So I am kind of starting over. It is a huge accomplishment that I made it here to this beach. I am immensely ashamed of my battle with this, but part of what holds the anxiety to me so intensely is this shame. So I am sharing now and may share more as I keep challenging myself. I hope it is in some way helpful to someone if I share my story. I made it to Bethany Beach, Delaware and didn’t think I could. I am overjoyed that I got to make some more sweet memories with my boys. Thanks for reading.”

Thank you so much for your bravery, Erin!

 

Anxiety Superheroes – The Travel Edition

Pexel photo by: Nikolaj Erema

 

Most of the time we don’t think of anxious people being big adventurers. Media images tell us that agoraphobics stay close to home. People with panic disorder tend to have day jobs with a high degree of control and predictability, right?

Well, these three anxiety superheroes shake up stereotypes and have found a way to be both anxious and adventurous in the world.

*Tim Cahill – founding editor of “Outside Magazine” – has traveled all around the world, set a world record for driving from Southern Argentina to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska in just 23 days, has climbed up El Cap on a single rope, almost died while white water rafting through the Grand Canyon and has also dealt with panic disorder. Check out his story here or in his book, “Hold the Enlightenment“.

*Lauren Juliff – author of the travel blog, “Never Ending Footsteps” bought a one way ticket to Croatia in spite of an anxiety disorder so debilitating that at times she didn’t leave the house for months. Lauren has continued to travel all around the world, journaling her missteps and crazy adventures, while also dealing with panic and anxiety that pop up from time to time. You can read more about her travel and anxiety here.

*Tara Lepore – paleontologist, writer, world traveler, self proclaimed geek and anxiety superhero. Check out her anxiety story and how she faced her fears by climbing to the tippy top of St. Peter’s Basilica!

Tara Lepore of Outbound Adventurer

Are you an anxiety superhero that packs anxiety along for the ride instead of staying home? I’d love to hear about your adventures! And here’s a trio of posts I did a few years back about my travels to St. John – part one, two and three.

Flying this weekend

I took this myself! Photo by anxietygirl.net

So, my sweet 97 year old Grandma just passed away on Sunday and I’ll be boarding a plane tomorrow to fly to her funeral service. She was a strong and gentle soul who gave the best hugs and loved us all unconditionally. Flying kinda terrifies me. But I loved my Grandma & it’s important that I show up to support my Dad and family so I’m doing it anyways.

If you’re someone who experiences anxiety/panic, especially around flying, you know that I’ve been a hot mess of anticipatory anxiety this week. Upset stomach, waves of adrenaline, moments of sheer terror as I imagine being up 35,000 feet in the air.

What’s frustrating is that, just like any anxiety producing situation, it will all be fine no matter what. “Good gracious”, I tell my brain – “All this fuss and distress over a 2 hour plane ride is ridiculous!”

What terrible thing has happened in the past? Sure, I’ve felt waves of panic while on a plane before. The feelings and thoughts are scary when you can’t leave the situation, but they pass. And, really, what are you going to do? To the best of my ability, I ride the waves of adrenaline – I work on allowing the feelings as much as possible – and sometimes I even get bold & ask for more (paradox). After that, I return to what I was doing before. Sometimes I have to do this over and over until the sensations go away, but they always do. Promise. And honestly, on every flight I have a moment where I love looking out the window, admiring the beautiful clouds.

I’ve also felt super anxious before a flight only to feel fairly calm during the whole ride. But in both cases, I’ve lived to tell the tale and the worst thing that happened was I felt scared. I have never gone all Ricky Bobby on a plane or impersonated Kristen Wig in Bridesmaids.

So what am I doing to prepare & cope? I’m not a big meds person, but I always take a little xanax when I fly. My doctor prescribes me just enough to get me there & back. It’s not perfect, but does help relax my body. Maybe someday I’ll choose to fly without meds, but for now I’m totally ok with it.

I’m also watching flight videos to try and quickly desensitize and have skimmed Capt. Tom Bunn’s book about flying without fear. In between I may have sent out a few prayers to God that I wake up with an on/off switch for my amygdala. I just think that was an error in our design.

Maybe the biggest thing I’m doing to cope, however, is committing to showing up tomorrow. When my sweet brother (who loves to fly) picks me up to go to the airport I will get in the car. He’ll drive & I’ll be shaky for a few hours as we head to DC. But along the way we’ll sing, play the license plate game and together we’ll board that damn airplane.

Here’s what I’m carrying on board for some healthy distraction tomorrow. And following are some videos I’ve watched this week to get ready.

My carry on bag of goodies:

*Journal and pen -inside the journal I’ll write myself some reminder notes about how to handle anxiety when it shows up

*Grown up coloring book and pretty pencils

*Laptop with a few movies downloaded, plus Harry Potter on Audible.

*Magazines with pretty pictures

*Knitting – I may knit something mindless or start another one of these cute hats.

*Some homemade Cowgirl Cookies, plus other snacks, gum & mints

*A picture of my family

Some games I like to play on a plane:

*Choose a stranger on the plane and write a quick story about who you think they might be. You know, like  mini-bio or where they’re headed after the plane lands. When I flew with my buddy Allison this past summer we alternated paragraphs, which makes it even more fun.

*Any game that involves the alphabet – an ABC list of names you would never name your baby, a list of places where you’d like to travel, a list of your favorite book characters.

*Who farted? Yeah, this is getting pretty mature. But laughter is the opposite of fear and this is a funny game. Can you tell who may have just farted on the plane?

A few resources I’ve used this week to prepare:

*These videos are great for info & desensitization.

This video is amazing – a Dad who works for Southwest created this video for his son who is on the autism spectrum: