Our original intention with this blog was to have a “travel” section with nothing travel-worthy at all. We thought of things like, “Depressed girl goes to kitchen for some milk,” or “Anxious girl walks down the street at night.” That kinda thing because making those short distances is a lot for someone with mental health problems.
This stemmed from our pessimistic, satyrical perspective on our depressed lives. We didn’t get out much. We wanted to stay home with our pets, curled around Netflix. We were fine with that — at least I was — but it most likely stemmed from the typical anxious agoraphobic part of ourselves, which isn’t healthy. (Healthy? Who is SHE?)
(This isn’t to say those posts won’t happen, but I need to vent about real shit right now).
Neither Juliette nor I had gone anywhere at the time. Neither of us had traveled outside of the country; the farthest I’ve gone is Florida.
But over the summer, Juliette took an eight-hour flight to London and I a twelve-hour drive to Maine. While I can’t speak for Juliette’s experience — although I know she has insight into how to cope with panic attacks on planes — I can speak to what it meant for me to do a long-ass drive, one I’ve done countless times in my life, and yet, still have anxiety over.
Travel anxiety is a smaller form of agoraphobia. For me, it stems from my fear of being outside my comfort zone. When I’m home, I’m less likely to panic. When I’m away, I feel on the edge of panic. Being in a constant state of movement — being on a train, bus or car — jostles my sense of groundedness.
It also keeps me from doing my calming process to decrease anxiety, which is taking a walk outside to get yellow gatorade (haters say its disgusting). If I’m stuck on a train, I can’t get outside. I’m stuck, so the panic ensues. I get short of breath, my heart races, my hands sweat, and, worst of all, my mind is super foggy.
I first discovered my travel anxiety before a three-hour trip to a wolf sanctuary. My sister, my aunt, and my grandmother, and I were to stay over one night in a tent by the wolves. Damn amazing, ethereal experience. As an animal lover and wolf-enthusiast, I couldn’t pass it up.
But I was almost held back by my fear of long car rides. I wouldn’t have my rocks; I wouldn’t be with my mom or my boyfriend, the two people that know my anxiety. Rather, I felt I’d have to hide if I were to panic.
What else was scary was the idea of panicking and then either not being able to get back to my comfort zone (because I’d have to: 1, tell my non-immediate family I have anxiety. 2, do another 3-hour drive right back home), or, getting back to my comfort zone at the expense of my family’s fun weekend.
Can you tell why I was stressed?
A lot was riding on my mental stability. That was a lot of pressure on myself, which didn’t help. But, long story short, I got through it. I didn’t panic. I had a wonderful time.
Jump to Summer 2018, my family has the opportunity to go to Maine for two weeks. We have a cute family cottage on the ocean where we read, sleep, detox from technology, take walks, and eat. It’s amazing, healthy (who?), relaxing, all the good things. AND, I would get to bring my boyfriend there for the first time. Yay!
Except, not yay, because I had a HUGE car ride between me and those lovely things. Twelve hours was way bigger than three hours (math!) Twelve hours is a lot of time to be sitting and bordering on panic. I had to think about this. I had to think it over otherwise I would die. If I didn’t think it over then I would go and then panic and then be like “why didn’t I think this over.” Blahblahblah!! I OVERTHUNKED IT.
I had to tell myself to chill. I had to force myself to go. Otherwise, I would regret it. And I went, and the car ride consisted of one moment of close panic, but otherwise I was fine. Not great, but fine. And I don’t regret a thing. (Except maybe being away from my cat for so long, but Juliette took care of him).
I was in a constant state of unease. My feet always tingled, like they do when I’m up high (fear of heights). At night, I’d be missing home, my cat, my bed, my stability. I was homesick. I interpreted it INTO my anxiety, and I had to separate that. I had to recognize these negative feelings weren’t causing me to panic.
Since I had a great time, what caused this unease, you might ask?
I had to take a BUS and a TRAIN BACK HOME. NOT A CAR. PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION. FOR 12 HOURS. To say I was on edge would be an understatement.
The bus was fine. It was three hours, they played Dolphin Tale and I sobbed uncontrollably (no joke). But the train was seven hours of movie-less, sleepless, on-the-edge stress. It was awful. Waiting for the train at South Station was even worse. I couldn’t eat or think because I’d be stuck on a train with no way to get out if I were to panic.
It always came back to: if I were to panic.
If I were to panic, my life would be ruined. Essentially, I saw panic attacks as the one way ticket to another fucked up Bridget.
But again, I made it back and I was fine. It always ends up fine. But if I ended up fine every time, why would I keep worrying about these things? After all, worrying is suffering twice.
But that’s anxiety. It doesn’t make sense.
I’m still holding back excitement for future trips because of anxiety. I’m supposed to go to California in January after I graduate. And then! I’m supposed to go on a lovely graduation present trip to Europe from my boyfriends parents. I CAN’T pass that up! No way! I’d be crazy.
Those are long flights. Fear of heights + fear of flying + fear of being out of control = not a good combo. I just wish teleportation was real already.