We’re almost half way into October and I realized I haven’t posted here in quite awhile. My life has been sort of all over the place. I had a big challenge to endure at the end of September – namely, my flight to and from Aruba.
I spoke about this a little in my last post: how I have always loved and looked forward to flying, and how sucky it was for anxiety to creep into that area of my life too. Over the last few years whenever I had to fly, I have been white knuckling it. By that I mean, taking medication, and doing my best to distract myself. Basically hating every minute, and just wanting it to be over with.
Well, the way this particular vacation happened seemed to be the “Perfect Storm” for my anxiety to rear it’s ugly head and make my life absolute and complete hell. As in the 2 weeks leading up to the flight, I was almost in a paralyzed state. The fear was that intense.
I was freaked out, of course, but also had the presence of mind to know I needed to take action, and fast.
Here are all the reasons it was The Perfect Storm:
No one in my nuclear family (husband or daughters) would be joining me. The girls are both in school, and my elderly parents refuse to go anywhere hot in the summer. So they chose the end of September.
My husband couldn’t go. He is again having a very hard time with his job, and is afraid of taking days off. Also, he has been to Aruba 3 times and doesn’t like it there anymore, he thinks it’s boring.
Going on vacation was a proverbial way for me to flip the bird at the Universe and declare that I am refusing to live my life in fear- phobia fear, financial fear, fear of being alone, etc. Also I wanted very much to spend a few days with my parents and sister. My parents are elderly, who knows if this is the last vacation for either of them? Plus I really wanted to spend some quality time with my sister.
Well and then 2 weeks before the flight I became paralyzed with anxiety. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. It was horrible! Such a cruel thing anxiety is, especially when an event like this is looming on the horizon.
I felt guilt, guilt for doing such a selfish, lavish thing, when we are financially strapped. Selfish because I didn’t take my girls anywhere this summer- but that was mostly because I was afraid to be around them with my husband- I didn’t want to lose my shit all over the place in front of them in light of his indiscretions the year before.
So this trip became very big in my head, and I guess that was reason enough for anxious thinking to be triggered.
So here is what I did:
I told you in my last post I purchased a book, called SOAR: The Breakthrough Treatment For Fear Of Flying. Well it was sort of helpful when the flight was months away. It was not so helpful in the weeks leading up to the flight. It was not enough to soothe my fears.
I kept up with my usual things- my morning meditations, my walking. My daily focus on gratitude.
These 2 resources probably would have been enough.
But I still had a nagging little doubt in my mind: What if I get on that plane and just can’t handle it? What if this one does me in and I go completely hysterical and lose it? Because of that nagging little fear, and my decades old anxiety and panic habit, I went to YouTube and searched for fear of flying cures.
I watched a lot of videos, but this one I found astonishing, where a girl was cured of her flying phobia in 7 minutes:
The therapist in the above video is Christopher Paul Jones. I watched dozens of other videos by him. He knows so much about anxiety, and how to get over it! I ended up booking a free consultation with him, and also a paid Skype session. It was not cheap, but it was well worth it.
In the week leading up to my flight, I put the principles he taught me (and teaches for free in his YouTube videos, by the way) to the test.
Tip: go over to his website and sign up for his free audios- here is the link to the sign up page for his “Overcome Fear of Flying” kit.
I faced many of my anxieties…
1. I went on a Ferris wheel.
Now I know what some of you are thinking. What’s the big deal? Well, I haven’t been on a ride in years. To be voluntarily trapped on something that can make me anxious, claustrophobic, and dizzy is not exactly my cup of tea. But I was at the shore on a hot September night, and my husband promised I’d be fine.
So I went on it and just let myself have that experience. It wasn’t too difficult to be honest. Maybe a 3 or 4 on a scale of 1-10. But it was facing a fear nonetheless. I had him take a picture of me on up at the top so I could keep it in my phone to look back on.
I can see how people would think this ride is lame, but I really enjoyed it. What a wonder to see the lights from so far up, to feel so free and alive. It was really nice! I could also see why people could think it was boring! To be able to see that was pretty cool too 🙂
2. I sat in a mandatory work meeting and didn’t sit by the door.
In fact, I sat in one of the the worst possible seats on purpose (from an anxiety perspective). This challenge was an 8 on my anxiety scale. I chose the seat right in front of the presenter, right in the middle of the crowded room.
It felt very empowering to have so many awesome tools to have in me to help. It made me feel confident just walking in.
What a weird and surreal, and pleasant and wonderful thing to be in a meeting and to be there without fear. To sit and be present and to have the absolute luxury to be bored. To feel tired because I’d just had my lunch… To feel regular. No fear whatsoever.
I was so happy to be in that meeting. I was so happy to be participating in life in this way!!
3. I went to a yoga class and didn’t sit by the door.
This is a 4 or 5 on my anxiety scale. Again this is a situation I have left, bolted, exited, from numerous times in my life. But I deliberately sat as far away from the door as possible, right in the front of the class.
I sat there and did the expanded awareness exercise. It was not hard at all to stay there. It was such an enjoyable class!
4. I went to a play.
I went to see Jersey Boys, and sat in a very crowded theater (an anxiety nightmare for me). This is a 8 or 9 on my fear scale. I have been in this situation so many times in the past, always so filled with anxiety. There were at least 2 times in my life I have walked out of plays because I couldn’t take sitting there. These times have always left me defeated, depressed, embarrassed, angry at myself, and angry at God/ the Universe/ fate, etc.
So I went there and fully expected to panic and feel like shit. I was not feeling very confident going in, like I was at the work meeting, and this bothered me. As expected, the fear did start to kick up. But I did the things that Christopher taught me. I expanded my awareness. I tried to focus on having eyes in the back of my head. I moved my eyes left to right, to access both sides of my brain- this is to get out of the emotional (phobic) part of the brain, and into the logical, reasoning part of the brain.
And the fear began to melt. (!!)
Towards the end of the play, because my anxiety is that kind of cruel monster, it tried once more to rear its ugly head, freak me out and make me leave. And once again, I gently swept my eyes left to right. I kept this up. I also did heart breathing. I breathed gratitude, oxygen, and the color blue into my heart. I kept at it, and again, the fear melted away.
And before I knew it, the play was over. I felt so elated and triumphant!
In the weeks leading up to my flight, I also did a lot of highway driving, in the passing lane, went to stores a lot, and went to a social gathering with relatives.
On a little sidenote, I have to mention that during this period of exposure therapy- I had so many moments where I was just balling my eyes out. Such a release, such relief to face a fear, so see that it was nothing. Also a little sadness that I have lives so restricted for so long. But mostly tears of gratitude for these humongous blessings.
**AND THE BIG TEST: I flew alone to Aruba.
The day before my flight, I had my blinders on. I was so fully determined to be ok. I knew I probably wouldn’t need to but I brought all kinds of diversionary things to have with me, just in case, just in case..
I loaded 2 movies on my iPad, I had photos of all my recent triumphs over anxiety- me on the Ferris wheel, me sitting at the crowded play, and a picture of a glorious sunset that God gave me just a few nights before.
^^ This was my sign from the Heavens that I was protected and safe always.^^
When I woke up that morning (way earlier than necessary, as is my habit), I listened to my fear of flying audios- I was able to download them to my computer and then add them to my iTunes, so they were right on my phone.
I even let myself be vulnerable in front of people, something I have never, ever done. In the airport when I was checking my bag, I told the service person how scared I had been. He said, “Oh you’re going to be just fine! Don’t you worry about anything!”
Once I was at my gate, I saw someone who looked like a pilot. I said, “I am so grateful you look so relaxed. I have developed a phobia of flying and just hoping for the best!” He said something really kind and supportive but I can’t remember what it was.
Just putting it out there was such a release.
It was surreal and fine. I went through all the motions and the fear just wasn’t there.
I took pictures to prove to myself how safe I was.
Here was all the leg room I had (I chose an aisle seat of course) The bathroom was directly ahead of me, and the first class cabin was ahead of that:
Here is a picture of the first class cabin ahead of me:
I was so elated and happy on the flight, I delighted in watching the flight attendants, I loved seeing how friendly they were. The people across the aisle from me were nice. The couple sitting to my left were reserved and pretty closed off, but it didn’t bother me thankfully.
I didn’t even mind the parade of people using the restroom in front of me. There were so many people who locked eyes with me and smiled. How wonderful to see that life can be so kind, that people can be so kind.
The flight home was also not a problem. My sister was sitting with me waiting for the bus to pick me up to take me to the airport. She couldn’t tell, but I was actually crying tears of joy and relief. Relief from all this anxiety rubbish. Such a relief to not be afraid. Such a relief to be a full participant in life not held back, not restricted, not living carefully, safely, with every movement calculated and medicated.
All I can say is Thank You Lord. Anxiety is a beast and a liar, it makes you think that horrible things will happen, but it is just a phantom, and nothing more.
I am so grateful for my healing, for my nervous system. I know I made my anxiety with my thoughts. I did it long ago to protect myself.
Today I am learning every day that I am always safe. That I was always safe, I just forgot it. That reality is benevolent.
I had a wonderful vacation. I could not have asked for more.
I wish you peace,