My problem with anxiety has always been the lead up to the event, not the actual event itself. My therapist has always referred to it as “anticipatory anxiety”. The weeks and days before an event cause me such distress and the majority of the time all of my worry and stress is for nothing. But, I cannot seem to control it.
For example, every year my mother, sister and I go to the Philadelphia Flower Show. It is a beautiful and amazing display of fresh flowers, all centered around a common theme. I really enjoy going…however, I live about an hour and 45 min away from Philly. I have driven there many times over the years, for both the flower show and other reasons. Yet, every year, I get myself all worked up over the distance and the drive. My anxiety has been especially bad lately with my father being in and out of the hospital and my sister expecting a baby (which is SUPER exciting, just a very big change). So for the week before the show, I was a nervous wreck and the night before I all but decided I could not go. I took a Xanax before going to sleep (I take them very sparingly) and from 4 am on, I tossed and turned, having anxious thoughts. The approach that works the best for me is to try to be logical- I tell myself that I have done the drive so many times before, that I am in control and in my own car, that I will be with my family, that if something bad happens I can go to a hospital, etc. etc. It helps a bit, but it is hard to stop the actual physical reaction of having those panicky feelings. Once we finally got in the car, I was pretty ok. Once we got to the convention center, I was fine. That is what always happens. I build something up in my head and magnify it so much, it becomes incredibly overwhelming and debilitating. Yet, when I work through it, I almost always feel like afterwards it wasn’t nearly as horrible as I expected and I get mad at myself for getting SO worked up. Yet, like clockwork, when it comes time to go somewhere again, the same thing happens. As much as I have worked through having the problems I have had with agoraphobia and anxiety and I know I have come a long way, it is still extremely frustrating and exhausting and upsetting and always feels like a setback.
I am very glad I went to the flower show. It was as spectacular as ever and was most likely the last memorable and special thing my mom and sister and I will do just the three of us before my niece arrives in May. So, I am happy I didn’t let anxiety win…this time.