Sunday, May 31, 2009

Travelogue Part Two - In Flight Adventures

So I'll be honest with you. I was not happy to be sitting on that first plane before 7am in the morning.

As the aircraft sped up to takeoff speed & gradually lifted off the ground, soaring upward towards the clouds, I felt waves of anxiety coursing through my body. I figured that I had two choices: freak out the whole way to the Carribean or do my best to accept that I was going to be 35,000 feet in the air for a few more hours and get as comfortable as possible.

I thought about my tool belt of coping skills and started saying to myself, "I want this anxiety. I want it to get stronger." And, you know what? It was working. I couldn't make the symptoms any stronger than they already were.

Then, I thought about Dave Carbonell's "Rule of Opposites" - doing the opposite of what feels "safe" in an anxiety provoking situation. So, instead of pulling down the shades & pretending I wasn't on a plane, I started looking out the windows. I found that I really do like to see the tree tops, little tiny houses, and the outline of roads. Who lives in those homes & what is their story, I wondered.

Something else that really helped was the Truth Based Technique I read about in David Burn's book. I wrote in my notebook:
*How many times have I gotten so anxious that I ran down the aisle of the plane screaming?
*How many times have planes had to land for me because I absolutely couldn't handle symptoms of anxiety?
*How many times have I curled up in the fetal position under my chair & cried until it was all over?
Ahem, I think we know the answers to all of the above.

There were more moments with waves of fear and extended periods of time where I felt that pit in my stomach , but it was all manageable & my skills came in handy. Before I knew it, we were in Atlanta & preparing to board our second flight.

For our second flight, the longer flight, our seats were in the back of the plane. I'm not sure why the back of the plane is worse, but I kinda feel more claustrophobic back there. Our flight time was 3 hours & 12 minutes (but whose counting) & in my head I felt like a 2.5 hour flight would be so much easier. Isn't it funny how our brains make up rules about what's safe & what's not?

Once we found our seats, we looked at each other at the same time -- we were definitely in the "party" section of the plane. Three babies were in the back with us & some rowdy folks were starting the party early with cocktails. I wondered if some of them were drinking to cope with their own anxiety. A moment before take off, the 5 year old cherub behind me started to giggle & said, "Hey Mom! What if the plane catches on fire & we crash? Wouldn't that be cool?!"

Hey kid - who asked you? Huh?

Finally, we landed in St. Thomas, USVI - just a ferry & a few taxi rides away from our final destination, St. John. The whole plane cheered & clapped at the successful landing. Steve & I stepped off the plane, walked down the roll away staircase out onto the tarmac & just kept grinning. This was going to be a blast.

So, let's recap. What helped?

*Showing up & being willing to try something that creates anxiety
*Paradox/Bring it on mentality/Make the symptoms stronger
(Reid Wilson, Don't Panic - newly revised)
*Truth based techniques (David Burns, When Panic Attacks)
*Rule of Opposites (Dave Carbonell, Panic Attacks Workbook)
*Supportive mate
*Engaging with others/humor
*Being ok if none of these worked

Stay tuned! The next installment will be about our adventures in paradise!


amy said...

Ahhh, you did GOOD! Sounds fairly similar to my plane rides to Mexico in April...I was anxious, but dealt with it just fine, 10x better than I THOUGHT I would.

Believe it or not, I used to be a flight attendant with Delta Airlines...back when I was carefree, spontaneous and SUPER social. I'm still those things, just a lot more apprehensive about it!

Well, can't wait to hear more :) I'm sure you had a BLAST!



Fresh Squeezed Lemons said...

Sorry-I didn't see an email address to contact you, so I hope you don't mind me leaving this comment that has nothing to do with your actual post--congrats, by the way!!

My question is about anxiety and pregnancy. Did you have anticipatory anxiety about getting pregnant? Did you experience worse anxiety once you were pregnant? I have a phobia about getting pregnant. It's not as bad as my other phobias, but obviously it isn't one I can expose myself to right now. Any insight you can offer would be helpful. If you'd like you can email me at

Thanks and good luck!!

Sarah said...

I have been checking back for this...glad to finally read it. Why so long between posts...what do you have three kids or something? ;P

You are so good at capturing the feeling of anxiety and the techniques for beating it!

amy said...

That is SO crazy that FreshlySL asked that question...because I have been trying to find the time and ask you the SAME question!

I don't have children, but hubs and I have been talking about it and will most likely start trying in late summer, early fall. I am very nervous about it! Since I was little I couldn't wait to be a mom... I had the most wonderful mother growing up and all I want to do is pass ALL that love on to my future children.

I've NEVER had any doubts that I would be nothing less than a great mother, until this anxiety hit! Now I have those thoughts about not only the pregnancy, but can I handle a child? I KNOW that I can, but during times of anxiety...what then? My hopeful thoughts are that maybe my anxiety will go away! A cyber friend of mine said that she had anxiety UNTIL she had a child, and it has seemed to disappear! NICE! Some days I think I have horrible anxiety, and other days I laugh at that thought!

Anyways, I would love to hear more about your pregnancies (if you're so inclined to be that intimate on here, if not I understand), and motherhood in general!

As always, I love following your posts and look forward to more!



Stormy said...

FSL: My wife studied the child birth process in excruciating detail. She knew everything there is to know. She visited the hospital, met all the obstetricians ahead of time. She is normally very fearful of surgery and dentistry. She is scared to death of getting shots or having blood drawn. Yet, she was very calm during childbirth. In fact, she refused anesthesia. In a funny twist, she was more afraid of anesthesia needles than the pain of childbirth. She said "I can deal with what the nature has intended but I can't deal with needles". It seems like being well-informed helped calm her anxiety. She was a trooper during childbirth. She is still fearful of doctors though. I still go to the dentist with her everytime she has major dental work to be done. During the past 1 year, I went with her 3 times.

Anxiety Girl said...

FreshlySL & Amy:
Wow, the decision to get pregnant & start a family is such a big one, whether you're dealing with anxiety or not. My experience is that I worried alot during my 1st pregnancy about "what if my anxiety gets worse after I become a mother?". After our first daughter arrived, I dealt with normal parenting anxiety, but it did not get worse. In fact, I think motherhood pushed me to start doing exposure. I was still at the point where I didn't drive on the highway much by myself or over bridges. I remember driving out to a playgroup in the west end & I took the backroads b/c I was afraid of driving on the highway. It took me over 30 minutes to get there (vs. 10-15) & I realized that this was ridiculous. I was also kinda embarrassed that I couldn't do this normal, everyday thing. I needed to take action & take back my life. So, for me, having children has been a catalyst for taking on the monster. I don't want my kids growing up & remembering all the things Mom was afraid of. I want them to know that I worked my butt off to face fears & that, if they were fortunate enough to have received the anxiety gene, that I'm there to walk beside them as they work with it, too.

I did have an episode of postpartum anxiety after my 3rd baby & some panic moments during that pregnancy, but, again, having babies has always made know that I had to step up.

One last thought is that my pregnancy & birth experiences really set me up to feel empowered as a mom. Different people make different birthing choices depending on their needs & all births can be beautiful. For me, I connected with the worlds best midwife; had the 1st baby naturally in the hospital & the 2nd two at home. My daughters births are some of the best memories of my life - it's not that often that we can experience that kind of sacredness & intensity. If you're interested, check out the books "Birthing from Within" (Pam England); "Ina May's Guide to Childbirth" (Ina May Gaskin); and "The Birth Book" (Dr. Sears).

Wow - a really long answer - hope that helps! Kristin :)

amy said...


Thank you so much for your response, I appreciate your honesty. What you said certainly brought me comfort. I'm not horribly terrified, just a little more anxious than I ever wanted or thought I would be regarding such an awesome and wonderful experience!

Everyone is different, and what we THINK is the worst case scenerio is probably QUITE different from what the reality of it will be.

I do continue to look forward to that time, and yes it is a big changing! I do believe focusing on your children and their needs (I would imagine) would take the focus off of yourself and your own anxiety??? I do hope so anyways!

Thank you again! God Bless,


Anxiety Girl said...

So, Amy - you used to be a flight attendant? That's so cool! Do you still like flying? I feel like if I did it all the time, it would become second nature. What do you think?

Fresh Squeezed Lemons said...

Sorry it took me so long to write back....thanks for being so candid about your pregnancy/new mothering experiences. it helps so much to hear from someone who has gone through it!! i know a lot of the subject, i read up on it regularly so as to prepare myself for it...i have done really well with my anxiety treatment over the past three weeks, so much so that it feels like a totally different girl asked you those questions :) i have moved on to looking forward to the time when i can get pregnant and deal with that anxiety head on! i have alikened it to just taking that first step and getting on the highway or the elevator or whatever. once it's done, it's done! i've decided that i will be ready when the time comes because i have made up my mind to be's really just been a shift in attitude for me. anyway, thanks soooo much for answering my questions :)

Anxiety Girl said...

Hi Freshly Squeezed Lemons,

Way to go with your awesome anxiety work! Can't wait to hear more about it. And, I'm sure the pregnancy plans will happen at just the right time for both you & your hubby.

Anonymous said...

Interesting story. I wrote a hubpage on panic attacks.I think you should check it out.