One aspect of my anxiety is traveling, anywhere, by any way. Don’t even get me started on an airplane. This year one of many things I want to overcome is my traveling anxiety, though I know its going to be extremely difficult and brings me to tears just thinking about it, I want to do this for myself. Last June we took a small one night trip to Palm Springs that didn’t go as well as I was hoping for. It left me even more fearful and anxious to travel and I felt let down and disappointed in myself.
This trip was part of a therapy exercise to start getting me more comfortable with traveling and staying in unfamiliar places, i.e., away from home. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but I was hopeful that things have changed. I have become very anxious about traveling, any type of traveling, and any time I’m simply away from the comfort of my home and my routine. I use to do ok years ago, I have traveled to Tennessee, Nebraska, Utah, and when I was a kid we traveled to Brazil, Portugal, Canada, etc. I’m not sure how or why I developed this anxiety but here I am.
We decided to start small, just one night in palm springs, which is only about a 2hr drive from where we live. I was prepared, I had all my belongings from home to bring me comfort like my blanket, iPad, and my dog, had practiced all kinds of coping exercises, and had a plan mapped out in case things did not go well. So we got in the car on a Friday afternoon and started our drive, while I was feeling a little nervous and I could feel the anxiety rising, I felt like I was managing well. Then we hit this certain area in our drive where we were surrounded by mountains and dessert cities. Its like I felt this click go in my head and everything started to go down hill from there. As I struggled to push thru all I wanted to do was go home. I reminded myself that I wasn’t far and I could go home at any time, but I felt like I was so far away and that home wasn’t just around the corner. We arrived at the resort and it was beautiful, it had a Morocco theme thru out the resort and everyone was very friendly. The rooms were spacious and colorful that included a small kitchen and living area with a small patio where we could enjoy our breakfast the next morning.
As we settled in things continued to go down for me and I began to quickly organize all my belongings I brought with me to try and distract myself. I tried to relax and did many of my breathing techniques as well as some coping exercises I had learned. Nothing seemed to help. My heart was racing, my breathing was shallow, lightheadedness, and frequently having to use the restroom. My body was trying to cope. That night was even worse, I couldn’t sleep and when I finally fell asleep it wasn’t for long. I woke up at about 3am, turned to my husband in tears, asking if we could just leave and go home. He tried to encourage me and asked if I could just hold on for a few more hours, then we could have breakfast and head home. As hard as it was I knew I needed to stick it out. I thought to myself, If I could just make it till the morning I will feel better knowing I will be headed home and I can do some shopping at the outlets. Though no part of that sentence ended up bringing me any comfort I continued to try and be hopeful.
We had a few stops planned that Saturday morning before we headed home that I really wanted to visit and enjoy. After leaving the hotel we got straight on the road to head home, I no longer wanted or could bare to stay in Palm Springs any longer. As we drove the outlet signs started to arise to prepare to exit, so I proceeded in doing so, again hopeful that I’d at least be able to do some shopping. Right as we were turning into the parking lot of the shopping area I turned right back around and said out loud, ” I can’t do this, my anxiety is getting worse and worse, and i’m afraid if I step out of this car I will have a panic attack!” So we headed straight home. As we approached familiar territory for me I noticed I was still anxious, It wasn’t coming down, which was even more confusing to me. I thought that once I arrived home all those feelings would go away.
That night at home I had a panic attack, I felt a rush of emotions come over me and I knew I couldn’t hold back anymore. The flood of emotions I had experienced on that small trip came pouring out. As I reflected back on this trip over the next couple of days I felt disappointed in myself, I was discouraged, let down, and kept hearing in my head “you’ll never be able to do anything and will always struggle with anxiety.” That following Monday I had a scheduled session with my therapist to discuss the trip and all that happened. As I began to explain to her tears flooded my face and I said to her “I don’t want to do this anymore, I don’t want to try to travel or go anywhere, I can’t do it, It’s just too hard.” She looked at me and asked “do you want to travel and be able to go to different places regardless of this last experience? What do YOU really want?” I sat and thought for a moment. How easy would it be to just give up and curl up in a ball at home, isolated from everyone and everything. I don’t want to live like that, I was created for a purpose, God doesn’t want me to be afraid and not do anything the rest of my life. “I want to travel, I want to enjoy going to different places with my husband and family. I want to not feel anxious every time I go. I want to just be a normal person and don’t want to think about it so much!” I replied. “Ok! So then we keep going, you keep trying, and it will get better.” she quickly responded.
I was so busy being hard on myself that I didn’t see the bigger picture of things, the accomplishments I had accomplished on this small trip. We constantly get stuck on our failures, fears, and worries that we forget to see the good. I’m sure some may be questioning, “How is this good? You had a horrible time, you did nothing, and it was a waste of time and money.” Yes as some of those statement are true here are the positives that I took from this experience: 1. I did it. Yes it wasn’t the greatest experience/time, but I did it. I drove there, stayed the night, and made it home. I did it! 2. I faced a fear, a traumatic experience that had effected me, I now am facing it step by step. 3. I will overcome this because I want to and I can. 4. I did not allow anxiety to keep me from going. 5. Knowing this road will not be easy, I am closer because I took that first step.
Just taking one small step towards one of many things you want to accomplish is huge and we have to start somewhere. Celebrate those small accomplishments and don’t get caught up in all the negative. If we focus on the bad then not only will we never move forward but we will allow that to take over. Maybe for some it’s to be able to walk into a grocery store or being able to go to work. Nothing is too big or too small to accomplish, just hang in there, and start with one foot forward over that starting line. Let’s not let the anxiety control us and what we truly want in life and deserve. Remember to give yourself some grace in the process. The fact that you are even thinking about it is huge!
Let me know below where you want to start and accomplish. What has anxiety held you back from?
“When we finaly step over the starting line we are one step closer to the finish line!”