15 June 2011

Travel Anxiety

L and I are leaving for the beautiful East Coast soon! A dear friend is getting married, and it is also a great excuse to celebrate our SECOND wedding anniversary a bit early. Two years...what what! (Yea, I just said "what what" and raised the roof. Dork.) We are both really excited to see our friends, and also to have a few days to reunite with some old, familiar haunts. We really miss the East!

For the most part, I can't wait to go, but, I'm also feeling some definite anxiety. When my physical health went downhill, my anxiety levels skyrocketed. I could barely function without feeling like I was gonna barf or pass out. I became overwhelmed so easily, and for the first time in my life, felt like I had OCD and agoraphobia and who knows what else. Me? OCD?! (The college-aged Carly laughs hysterically.) But it's true. Everything in my life had to be as predictable as possible. I took comfort in the expected, and was terrified to step outside of my little world. Then I had a bit of a breakdown, but you already know that story.

An important thing I've learned about anxiety is that it doesn't really go away. Sometimes you forget it's there, but it never goes away. I have been so much better these days, but I still have setbacks. Lately, as the trip looms closer, I know I'll have fun once I get there, but getting me there is like Mission Impossible. I'm like a stubborn poodle who knows she's going to the vet and hides under the couch. Except, this is all supposed to be fun.

WTF?

I've broken it down in my head, and I think the plane ride makes me the most anxious. I don't mind shorter plane rides, but longer ones give me anxiety. This is laughable because I practically lived on planes at certain times in my life. In college, LAX to Hartford, CT was as second nature to me as brushing my teeth. Yet, here I am, suddenly scared of flying for absolutely no valid reason.

While I'm on this honesty kick, why not also share my irrational anxiety over leaving my dogs behind, too? I don't enjoy leaving my dogs alone for the day, let alone several days. Arrangements have been made, and they will be well taken care of, but I'm still a total spaz about it. I have like 1,000 pictures and videos on my iPhone of my dogs.

I'm the crazy dog lady.


But, seriously. It's quite hard to be away from them. Don't judge me too much, okay? Okay, judge me if you must. 

Here's how I deal with travel anxiety and anxiety, in general:  

1.) Sloooow down. Deep breaths. 

I try and catch my breath and clear my head for a moment. Maybe take a sip of water or Ginger Ale, if I can. I'll read mindless websites like People.com or play a game on my phone. I like Fruit Ninja and Tiny Wings. Anything that will help distract me from my anxiety. 

2.) Sometimes I'm beyond catching my breath, and feeling panicky, overheated, and scared. 

In these situations, I usually excuse myself from whatever situation is giving me anxiety. I try and get some air or turn the air conditioning on high. Heat makes me wig out more. I've also found that giving myself a shoulder/neck rub helps me calm down. 

3.) If nothing else works, I resort to these little blue pills my doctor prescribed for me. 

They're beta blockers, and they slow my heart down. My heart races when I'm super anxious, and sometimes I get palpitations out of nowhere. Me no likey palpitations. So the pills help slow things down. 

Anyone else out there with travel anxieties? How do you deal with it?


12 comments:

  1. Oh my gosh, we are so alike that it sometimes scares me. I dealt with pretty severe travel anxiety not too long ago. My methods for coping were very similar to yours. The very first thing I do is deep breathing. I found out recently that I had been breathing wrong. Yes, I was taking deep breaths, but they were still too fast. I needed to take very long, slow breaths.

    I had someone explain to me that when you are having anxiety you are creating a lot of adrenaline. When you do deep breathing, the oxygen is actually diluting the adrenaline. For some reason, that image helped me.

    After I do the breathing and calm myself down a bit, I do some soothing self talk. I talk myself through it. I know that my fear is irrational and I try to explain it to myself.

    One of my worst symptoms of anxiety (besides digestion issues, yuck!) is severe nausea. I'm talking gagging over the toilet nausea. I talked to my doctor about it and he prescribed some anti-nausea medication. I haven't had to take it yet, but just knowing it's there helps me.

    I think with each trip that you push yourself to do, the easier the next one is going to be. I had a trip alone that turned out to be crazy with canceled flights, pat downs, delays, etc and that trip is what ended my anxiety. I finally saw that no matter what happened, I could get through it and be fine.

    Good luck and if you need to talk, I'm here for you. You are not alone in this. It's an incredibly difficult thing to face, but it is possible to beat your anxiety!

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  2. Seriously, Carly, I could have written this post myself. Once I "got sick" I became the biggest ball of anxiety you've ever seen. I now work from home 2X a week simply b/c I start to get really antsy if I am away from home too much. The same goes for the dogs. I am THAT crazy dog lady that spends half the vacation missing and fretting about the dogs and the other half justifying why I didn't bring them along (um, they have more anxiety than I do and would much much MUCH rather be at home in their own safe space). I actually threw up repeatedly on the trip to Iowa I was so worked up ( and this is after the knock out does of xanax that clearly wasn't powerful enough). I so completely understand what you are going through and truly live it daily - you are not alone!! I do agree with shutterbugwife in that I believe the more trips that are taken, the easier it becomes. At least, I really really hope so :) xo

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  3. I'm not a huge fan of traveling and I HATE leaving my furkid behind (even when it's with My Sailor!). So I feel your pain.

    A few of my tips for coping:
    Find something positive in the moment to focus on. Sometimes, it's the taste and feel of a cup of hot tea in my hands. Other times, it's looking around at the other passengers and making up stories in my mind about where they are coming from or going to.
    When all else fails, I focus on the goal. I KNOW I'll have fun when I get there - just have to go through the invasive searching of my person and my stuff on the way, not to mention fly.
    Focusing on deep breathing helps too. Think yoga style. :) I also pop my own "little blue pill" sometimes on long plane flights - Benadryl! It makes me sleep. :)
    Hang in there!

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  4. I don't have travel anxiety, but I do have general anxiety and I have a perscription for lorazepam. I tried the beta blockers, but I didn't like the way they made me feel. Lorazepam can make me feel a little sleepy, but sometimes that's ok. I do not take them regularly - probably a few times a year.

    No, it never goes away and even when I think I have a handle on it, something will happen that triggers me back to freaking out over nothing. Therapy has helped a lot, though.

    ~AmyC83

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  5. I completely understand your anxiety about traveling. And we've talked a bit about it too! My trip to LA is exactly how you're describing it. I was so afraid to step outside of my predictable world because I think I've become afraid of the uncontrollable pain that could result. I just broke all of my to-dos down into tiny little achievable steps. I wasn't going to a wedding, I was just going to take a shower. Then I was just going to eat lunch. Then just going to wear my outfit. That made it far less overwhelming. Also, I planned it all out so that I'd have time to rest between steps in case anything bad happened. The flight, I have to say, was brutal. LA was easy because it was so short but other flights I've taken recently have been really brutal. I wish I had a good answer for what to do with that. Sending you good thoughts and hope you have lots of fun when you get here! *hugs*

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  6. I sympathize with your anxiety about leaving your animals behind. The hubs and I took a short 2.5 day trip to Seattle for Memorial Day weekend and I was a ball of nerves about him until I got home. Even though I knew he would visited frequently and played with. It sucks. They are your children and you can't imagine anyone taking as good care of them as you can. I understand.

    Have a great time on the east coast. And try to think more about the destination than the journey :o) It might help alleviate some stress.

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  7. I miss reading your blog! I need to stop in more often! I have travel anxiety and have to pop a xanax just to fly to Dc which is just a 30 min flight for me.

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  8. I don't have travel anxiety (I actually feel best when I am out traveling the world!), but I do suffer from generalized anxiety & find that an anxiety attack can happen at any time and it never gets any easier. It is worse for me at different times during the year, namely the fall. I go into a downward spiral every Sept/Oct and cannot figure out how to stop it each year :(
    When we had to leave our dog for over a week a couple of months ago, I ended up CRYING because I was so nervous. I really understand where you're coming from & I hope that all goes well for you on your trip!

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  9. I get really anxious before going on trips, too. It happened before our honeymoon, and again on the trip we just took in April. It seems so silly because vacation *should* be a fun thing, but the anxiety takes over until I'm actually at the destination, enjoying myself. Good luck and have fun on your trip!

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  10. Ohhh my goodness, I FEEL your pain my dear. I have so much travel anxiety, it is kind of ridiculous. Whenever I am scheduled for a plane ride, I stress out about it for at least a week beforehand. The fears, I know, are irrational, yet I get them anyway.

    I just have to say: thank goodness for Xanax. Lots of Xanax.

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  11. Hi Carly! I had a question for you, how
    Well do the beta blockers work for you? I have baaad travel anxiety and wad thinking about trying beta blockers out. Thank you : )

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  12. @Anonymous: Thanks for your question! I have only taken beta blockers a few times over the last couple of years. The idea of having them with me "just in case" I have an episode really helps. In that sense, it's a mental thing.

    My doctor told me that beta blockers take the edge off. It's like having a cocktail before you have to give a big speech. It calms down your jitters, and makes you feel relaxed. For me, they work to slow down my heart. My heart races when I get bad anxiety, and I start to feel overheated and out of control. I have taken one before and after a flight, and they have really helped me to calm down. The only issue is that sometimes I feel drowsy. I also notice that I sleep a lot after I take one. So, if you are going to be on the go for days on end, that is something to consider.

    Good luck with your travel anxiety! Let me know if you have any other questions. :)

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