How I Anxiously Traveled 2,000 miles.
Buckle up and prepare for turbulence this one is going to be an informal doozy.
In March, I traveled from California to Nashville on a plane. Yea yeah so what. However, I had NOT set foot on an airplane since pre-COVID (that was a short hour flight and I did panic lol.) As you can imagine, I had a lovely extra set of 3 years to wallow in my claustrophobia and fear of being far from home. Considering several years ago I would have horrible anxiety leaving out the front door, this is a pretty big accomplishment. So. How did I do it?
First and foremost, I prepped a sh*t ton. I'm talking months in advance. I'm talking before plane tickets were purchased and it was even a thing. I told my therapist when I was thinking of doing this trip and we began my homework to prepare for the trip. This first consisted of listing out my irrational thoughts and finding counters for all of them. For example, "what if I get sick out there and I'm a thousand miles from my home and I can't get back!!" *record noise rewind* "Okay. But..they have doctors out there.." My therapist literally made me pull up a map and look at all of the urgent cares and hospitals that were in the area haha. We did a ton of work listing out my excitement and focusing on that instead of my fears. I also had a silly anxiousness of leaving my dog. He has bad separation anxiety and I have bad separation anxiety and we're probably the worst (best) pair ever. I felt so guilty for leaving him and had to do work on rationalizing he will be fine and dandy with his sister for a few days.
Next came the desensitization to planes. Interestingly, I did some Virtual Reality where I virtually sat in airports and on planes. My therapist also connected me with another patient of hers who was in the same predicament and had an upcoming flight and we were able to go to an aviation museum together and sit in planes. We also went to the airport one day, parked, and just walked around the terminals.
On the actual plane ride, I had my comfort Xanax in tow and sour candy to distract me. (I did not take Xanax on the flight back home, hurray!)
It wasn't all sunshine and rainbows. There were definitely bouts of over-stimulation especially where I went, but it was pertinent for me to set my foot down and tell anxiety it was not going to stop me. It could stay and come along for the ride if it was that desperate, but my bus wasn't stopping. I had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see one of my admired musicians. When I got there, big-time anxiety crept in. It'd been a long day, it was hot and we had been walking in the heat for a while, I'd had a lot of stimulation in the recent days, I was 2,200 miles from home, I was in a completely different environment, and it was (at first) an uncomfortably awkward atmosphere of sticking out like a sore thumb amongst the other people there. Heart pounding, feeling lightheaded, tingly sensations, getting super antsy, I had all alarms in my body screaming at me to bolt out and go back to the comfort of my hotel room. My partner usually realizes when I'm internally freaking out because I go silent haha; and he asked if I wanted to ditch. First off, he is the literal best because it was also a musician he was excited to see and he was 100% completely cool with us leaving and hanging out in the hotel all day. The relief of the pressure to preform makes a world of difference. Just simply having that pressure removed is major. Second, I knew I couldn't let my dumb anxiety win. As much as I wanted to go, I told my anxiety to suck it and come along for the ride then cause I'm staying put. Feel the fear and do it anyway.
And that is the story about how I ALMOST missed seeing a fave musician I traveled miles to see but didn't let anxiety take that away.
It really hit me on/after this trip that a large part of my problem traveling before was who I traveled with. Living in fear of ruining the trip and being berated was like squeezing gasoline onto my campfire. Traveling with a partner who was willing to drop everything could literally make me cry lol. On the way to Nashville, we had a layover in Seattle and I was catastrophizing in my head that I would freak out on the plane ride there and then not be able to get on the second plane to Nashville. And you know what he said in response to that completely irrational fear? "Okay so then we have a vacation in Seattle". What! Music to my ears. Of course, I wasn't going to let my anxiety control that, but I can't even describe the weights lifted off of my chest.
When the trip was getting close, my partner kept talking about how excited he was to go and my anxiousness started to set in. What if I freak out? What if I can't go? What if I ruin this for you? And his response: "If you tell me you want to cancel this whole trip I literally will not care." Ugh. The Best.
Long story short, if you have a travel buddy, don't settle for one that is going to make your anxiety worse. It's night and day.