Metamorphosis (part 2)

Part 2: The disgusting larvae

I didn’t make it 😔 I got about 45 minutes into the drive and felt such overwhelming panic (and freaked out about the traffic), so I turned around and came home. I was about 25 minutes from the beach. I have never really done that before and I am beyond upset and disappointed with myself. I know I have to think about the fact I tried and got halfway, etc, etc…but I just feel like I failed.

Metamorphosis (part 1)

Part 1: The Caterpillar

Covid was one of the best things to happen to me as far as my agoraphobia goes. Nowhere to go, nothing to do…everyone HAD to stay home. For two years, I had the perfect excuse to not go anywhere. There were no vacations, no trips to the city, no concerts at the beach, no day trips, no overnight visits…nowhere to go, nothing to do. For two years, my comfort zone steadily shrank and my anxiety was practically nonexistent. That aspect of quarantine was wonderful. I was stuck at home, newly in love, and so content to just snuggle on the couch with him binging Netflix and Hulu. I still did weekly therapy, focusing on remote teaching, my new relationship, and the death of my exboyfriend. But, inevitably, life has started to go back to “normal” and I am left feeling very not normal. I knew Covid was a causing a huge step back when it came to my agoraphobia, but I don’t think I really grasped how much it negatively affected me. Before Covid, my “comfort zone” was an hour and a half or so. I still got anxious going somewhere new, but it was pretty manageable. I struggled with bigger trips and flying was still a huge obstacle, but I was doing ok. Over the past two years, my comfort zone significantly shrank to being about 25 minutes or so and I don’t like being in the car with other people. I especially am anxious about driving with my boyfriend and his two children. I have spent a lot of time in therapy talking about the need to expand my horizons and widen my comfort zone, but I haven’t actually acted on it. A couple of weeks ago, my friends went on an overnight girls trip to a place about two hours away. Even before Covid this trip was not one I usually went on, but this time I didn’t say no right away. I really did think a lot about going, but the length of the drive, coupled with a night at a bar and sleeping in a hotel was just overwhelming and I did not go. I obsessed over the decision, cried a lot, and was incredibly hard on myself for not being ready to do it. I realized that I had to stop just saying I was going to take drives and push myself and I needed to start just doing it. A couple of days ago, I drove (with my boyfriend) to my parent’s house, which is about 45 minutes away. Even though it is a route I had done hundreds of times in my life, I have only been to my hometown two times in the past two years and I had not driven that distance with my boyfriend before. It was the tiniest of accomplishments, but still was a step in the right direction and it was better than nothing. I decided that I am going to try to drive to the beach tomorrow morning by myself. It is about an hour and fifteen minutes away. I know the only way I am going to get better is to keep pushing myself to drive more often and go a little further each time. I am going to bed tonight telling myself that there is no pressure. If I start driving and can’t make it, I can go home and try another time. So…until tomorrow…

(Too) Close for Comfort

Living through a pandemic was obviously challenging in many different ways, but there were also some things that having to quarantine for a year and a half made easier…for one, my agoraphobia. It was definitely a nice break from having to constantly worry about going places because there was, quite literally, nowhere to go. Reflecting back on it now, I can definitely see how this caused some major setbacks for me. My “comfort area” has drastically narrowed and I have not had to push myself to leave it for a long time. Before COVID, I was okay with driving about two hours from home in most directions, but now I am probably hovering around an hour. I know that now that things are opening back up, I have to start pushing myself to go places, but it is just so hard. It. Is. So. Hard.

This past weekend, my boyfriend and I were discussing going to his mother’s beach house about an hour and a half away. Naturally all of the logistics pushed their way into my head- “it is the first weekend of the summer”, “everyone and their mother is going to be there”, “it will be SO crowded”, “the traffic is going to be a nightmare”. This is the doozy for me every time, the nail in the coffin…the traffic that I will have no control over. And then all the what-ifs start piling on….”what if I get sick?”, “what if I have to go to the bathroom?”, “what if there is an accident and the road is closed?”, “what if I have to go to the hospital?” (mind you, in my 42 years of life, I have gone to the hospital exactly one time for bronchitis).

Years ago, my therapist asked me what the worst part of thinking about flying was for me. Easy…”I can’t get off the plane if I want or need to”. She replied, “WHY would you NEED to get off the plane?” I still have never really had a good answer to that question.

The problem with anxiety and agoraphobia is that I can sit here and have a perfectly logical conversation about it. I am intelligent and well-educated. I have read articles, editorials, self-help books, etc. about these disorders. I can even be my own devil’s advocate (well, really, why WOULD you need to get off?). But, the problem is that once you start feeling those feelings, all logic goes out the window. I can’t control the wave of panic or the sensation that I can’t breathe or my body feeling on fire or any of the other multiple physical reactions that come along with these thoughts. I know it is all about lack of control. I know that. But when it is happening, it is really hard to remember that I don’t need to be in control.

I started dating my boyfriend a few months before quarantining began. It has been a blessing and a curse. It is a blessing because we had so much time alone together to be a couple, to learn about each other, to enjoy each other’s company. Also, we work together and he is my boss, so although it is something that was disclosed to HR, it caused a lot of gossip. It was nice to be able to take a step back from that. Now that things are “normal”, he and I are old news and no one really cares

It has been a curse because he wasn’t exposed to this side of me. Obviously, I told him I have these problems from the beginning. I would never hide that from anyone. But it has been very easy for him to say that it is no big deal, he can handle it, it wouldn’t change anything about how he feels, etc. I believe him that he believes himself when he says these things, but I also know that dealing with this can get old quickly. It is easy to say it is not a big deal until the time he wants me to go somewhere and I can’t do it.

And therein lies the other problem. My boyfriend is the most amazing, patient, understanding, caring man I have ever been with. I am so lucky to be with him. Even through the death of my ex-boyfriend and my grieving process, he has been unwavering in his support. Okay, that is not the problem. The problem is that I feel like I don’t deserve him. It isn’t like I have super low self-esteem, it is more like I feel like I am not worthy of him. He is so normal and I feel like I am so…flawed. He had a pretty normal upbringing and I had an extremely dysfunctional family and an abusive alcoholic father. In some ways, being with my ex was easier because he was more messed up than I was. That sounds mean in light of his recent passing, but it is true. I took care of him, I had my shit together, and even though I had these issues, his issues with addiction and depression dominated our relationship. Now, I feel insecure that when my new boyfriend sees the REAL me, he is going to end things or not love me anymore. I have never really felt like this before (not liking it). I have shared a little bit of this with him and he is so reassuring and sweet and always asks me, “why do you think that?”

I don’t know…why do I need to get off the plane?

Check-in time

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I stayed in a hotel by myself last night.  I felt like such a big girl 😉  This doesn’t feel like a monumental accomplishment, however my anxiety has been pretty bad lately.  In fact, staying at the hotel was a way to ease my travel anxiety.  I attended a two day training about an hour and a half away from my house and I knew there would be traffic on the drive home. I decided to stay overnight in the area to help alleviate the concern of getting stuck in traffic.  I actually was not nervous about staying alone overnight, but I wanted to take a drive to a neighboring, popular town I have never visited.  By the end of the first day of training, which included leaving my house at 6 am, navigating to the location I was unfamiliar with, sitting through the lecture-style format training which was SO boring, finding the hotel and checking in, I was emotionally exhausted.  I admit I took Xanax throughout the day, which I normally try to avoid, but it did help a little.  I was disappointed but decided to nix the drive to the other town and went to a restaurant as close to the hotel as possible.  It is funny- I do not really have as much anxiety about doing things alone. My friend who also suffers from anxiety said she would never be able to stay alone in a hotel overnight and my boyfriend feels really uncomfortable eating in a restaurant by himself.  Those things don’t bother me that much.  After I ate, it was still pretty early and it was post-rush hour traffic and I spontaneously decided to take the drive to the town I wanted to visit and I did! I felt those tingles of anxiety as I drove, but I really tried to fight through it and I did!

It is so easy to look back on this little two day excursion and focus on the negatives and failures.  I felt anxious pretty much the whole time I was in the car.  As soon as I arrived at the training, I wanted to turn around and immediately go home.  I felt disappointed with myself for deciding not to visit the other town. When I did go to the other town, it was raining a bit and so I never parked and explored.  I took more Xanax than I normally would.  “I want to go home” flitted through my brain about 200 times throughout the first day of training.  It is hard not to focus so much on the weaknesses I have and the things I feel like I can’t do.

But I am going to try to focus on the things I did do- the successes.  They may seem minor to other people.  I am sure most people would not congratulate themselves for driving an extra 20 minutes out of their way or staying at a hotel by themselves.  I am not patting myself on the back, but I do feel like I am often way too hard on myself and I need to be a better friend to myself instead of falling into the habit of being my own worst enemy.  I didn’t fly across the country, but I did break out of my comfort zone, so I am going to chalk that up as a win.

New name, same me

Hi all- the reason I started this blog four years ago was to have a place to openly, anonymously be able to write about my life, my childhood, my feelings, etc.  Recently, someone I am very close to “found out” the name and has access to it, which makes me feel like I have to censure everything I write.  The only option I could think of was to change the name and URL, which I hope keeps my privacy moving forward.

I sometimes forget how important this blog has become to me until it is threatened and then I remember how much it has truly helped me throughout the years…

Much Obliged

When I started this, I made a deal with myself that I would write at least one blog entry a month.  Here it is, 9 pm on the 31st and the only reason I am doing this is because I feel obligated due solely to my desire to not miss a month (which I have never done).  I notice when I am feeling more anxious, which I am right now, I do not feel like writing, I do not want to talk to my mom on the phone, I reluctantly go to therapy.  A couple of weeks ago, I decided to go back on an antidepressant/anxiety medication after years of being off it. It was not an easy decision, but I could feel my anxiety spiraling out of control.  So far, it does not really seem to be helping much.  I know I have to be patient and give it some time and then adjust the dose, etc., but I am anxious about being anxious and feel depressed about being depressed and then I get upset about being upset. It is frustrating because I do not really know what exacerbated it, but I suppose it doesn’t really matter because I need to focus on ways to move forward.  I just really feel like no one understands and it is hard not to feel isolated and alone, which makes me feel even worse.

We are not cleared for take-off…

airport_delays

Many people have a fear of flying…then there’s me.  I actually feel anxious when I see an airplane on television.  I have to close my eyes in order not to watch the flight attendant closing the plane door on the screen.  Strangely, I flew often as a child.  I have flown alone and I have flown internationally.  My fear did not start until I was in my 20s and I had a panic attack on the flight home from my honeymoon (I am now divorced and the irony is really not lost on anyone).  In the years that followed, I flew as seldom as possible and my anxiety grew to include any type of travel.  In recent years, with the help of time and therapy and a supportive boyfriend, I have worked hard on overcoming my fears.  I also was medically hypnotized two summers ago to help conquer my fear of flying, which actually did help a lot.

Regardless of how far I have come, the overwhelming panic still affects me every time I have to fly.  It settles in a few days or a week before and keeps me up at night.  I reason with myself in the dark, telling myself that I have successfully flown before and I know what to expect, even as the electricity of an anxiety attack courses through my body.  I shiver and sweat and try to work through it.  For me, the anticipation of flying is the worst part…that and not being able to control my environment.  I often said that I preferred driving because “I can stop and get out of the car if something happens, but I can’t get out of a plane”, to which my therapist asked, “and why would you have to get out of a plane?” (to which I’ve never had a good answer!)

So this time I felt prepared.  I had the tools from therapy and hypnotherapy and several successful flights to aid me.  I knew the anticipatory anxiety would be there and how to deal with it.  And I had Xanax, something I rarely take in my every day life, but that I use generously on travel days.  The flight was only an hour and a half and the plane was on time.  My boyfriend and I breezed through security and got settled on the plane, as I waited for the Xanax to help me fall asleep (I look ridiculous when I fly, wearing an eye mask and a hoodie pulled over my head).  The plane pushed back from the gate and took its place to taxi out to the runway.  Then we waited and waited…and waited.  Finally the pilot came on and said that all planes were grounded because of a power outage in Washington D.C. I felt myself get hot and the panic start to rise uncontrollably.  I turned to my boyfriend and told him I was going to freak out (poor guy!).  In my head, I could picture myself standing up and running towards the plane door, yelling for them to let me off the plane.  I took a couple more Xanax and then closed my eyes and focused on slowly breathing in and out, in and out, in and out…for three hours.  This was literally my WORST nightmare- being trapped on the plane with no way off and zero control.  It was horrible and terrible and traumatic and yet, I survived.  After three hours of sitting on the plane, we finally took off, so in total I was on the plane for almost five hours.  Even writing this now, two weeks later, I still remember how awful I felt and how scared I was.  If I think about it too much, I actually start to feel anxious about it, even while sitting in my own family room.  But just a short week later, after enjoying a wonderful vacation, I got back on the plane to fly home (thankfully with no issues!).  I am actually really grateful that it happened on the way to our vacation location and that the flight home was easy, because I don’t want to use that experience as an excuse to not fly next time.