With my anxiety in high gear, it is easy to let my agoraphobia get out of control, too. Almost all of my anxiety is related to travel and lately my comfort area has been shrinking. I started getting really down on myself and then had to remember that I’ve been here through this before and with determination (and therapy and medication and hypnosis and support and TRYING) things did get better. My boyfriend’s parents are staying with us while they are in town and I am happy to spend time with them because I enjoy their company. However, them being here means doing more things and going more places. One of those things was a party for my boyfriend’s grandfather’s 90th birthday, which was being held about an hour from my house. I immediately didn’t want to go because I felt like it was too far to drive. I even went as far as to get myself an “out”. But this morning I decided that by using that out, I was allowing myself to go down a slippery slope. If I don’t go to one thing, it becomes easier to not go to the next and so on and so on and my comfort area continues to get smaller. So, even though it probably wasn’t a big deal to anyone else, it felt like a teeny tiny victory to me. Any day I work through it and do something, that’s a day that anxiety didn’t win. And I really, really needed a win.
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.
supposed going to fly this weekend. It is my biggest fear ever since I had a panic attack on a plane in 2005. For the past couple of months, I have been doing hypnotherapy to help get over my fear. I guess I won’t really know how much it helps until that day. I am really nervous, but I hate the fact that this fear has had so much power over my life for so long.
It’s all about control (or the lack thereof) and I am starting to realize (sloooowwwwlllyy…) that no matter what I do or how hard I try, there are just things in life that I cannot control. I think once I am able to accept that fully, I will be much happier!!
I am currently in the process of hypnotherapy in order to conquer my fear of flying and traveling. I have mixed feelings about how it is going, but am hopeful that it will help (and I am willing to try anything at this point). I had an interesting conversation with the hypnotherapist this week. I asked him how much of my current issues he thinks could be related to growing up with an alcoholic. Although I have always assumed there was a connection between my problem with anxiety and my childhood, I have never blamed any of my adult problems on what happened to me as a child, but we are shaped by our early experiences. I have explored this connection with my regular therapist (yes, count ’em- two therapists- lol), but I was curious to know another person’s professional opinion.
I found what he said to be really interesting. I know that the fears I have associated with travel really stem from an issue with the lack of control. He said that the connection is that when I was younger and my dad was completely out of control, I developed a coping mechanism to be able to live in the house with him. The hypnotherapist was very complimentary in that he thinks I have achieved a lot of success due to this self and environmental control, but that in this situation with traveling, it is a huge hindrance. That really makes a lot of sense on a very fundamental level. I couldn’t control my dad…his behavior was completely unpredictable. So instead, I tried to control everything else I could and it has now manifested itself in a really unhealthy way.
Anyway, not sure if anyone can relate to this revelation (of sorts) or to this feeling of needing to have control. For the record, I do not think I am controlling of other people, but really just of my surroundings and myself. Also, if anyone has ever been medically hypnotized, I would be very interested in your experience!!