It is February 18, 2011. I would be heading to Sea World today, for a vacation that I had planned before these recent fearful events. I had been on Pexeva for about 1 month and 1 week now, still taking Xanax XR three times per day. Each dose of Xanax, is still four times the dose most people take and pass out on, but not me. I was still waking up several times at night in a panic, unable to breath and shaking. I was also feeling nauseous, sick to my stomach and nervous all the time. I was also doubting that medication was the right choice, but didn’t really have any other options. I would just continue the course.
I had seen my psychiatrist the week before this trip and had mentioned that I was obviously going to cancel my plans. He said “no, you should go. Why wouldn’t you?” I told him that first of all, I felt guilty going on vacation while I was on disability at work! Secondly, trips to a theme park in Orlando are stressful and overwhelming for a “normal” person, how did he think someone with an anxiety disorder, who was also obsessive compulsive, was going to be able to get through it!
I normally make very detailed plans. I come up with an itinerary, down to the attractions we are going to see and in the order we should see them. I plan wardrobe, meals, snacks and activities. God forbid my kids eat something unhealthy on a trip, or worse, we have down time! I will add here, that I am no longer this way, but up to this point in my life, I had been.
My psychiatrist said that I should go and try to keep it simple. He said it would be good to get out of my comfort zone and do something different. So I did. I kept it pretty simple and used my lists from my last vacation for packing and planning meals and snacks. At Sea World, we were just going to walk from one attraction to the next with no plan, God help me. I had already planned on having lunch with Elmo (or maybe it was Grover), so luckily that was set. Off we go!!
I was totally overwhelmed and anxious (of course). I really had to use the restroom so I told my husband to stop at the next service plaza. Once we got there and parked, my kids were asleep. That meant I had to go in by myself. I had seen a movie a long time ago where a woman was abducted from a service plaza and was never found. I never did get over that horrible ending. I kept waiting for closure, for her to be found, alive and well. It never happened. So here I am, at a service plaza, where women get abducted, really having to pee. Naturally, I cannot get out of the car. I am frozen with fear. I start to feel dizzy, my heart speeds up. I can see it beating through my shirt and I am starting to get cold. I feel like I can’t catch my breath. I turned to my husband and said, “I can’t do this”.
Two things to note here: 1. You NEVER wake up the kids once they fall asleep on a road trip. 2. My husband is not a very patient man when we drive to Orlando, to visit a crowded theme park with a five year old and a two year old.
I sat in the car trying to breathe, looking at my husband for a solution to this problem. He said, rather impatiently, “do you have to pee or not?!?” I did. I mean I really did. I started planning a way out of this. Maybe I could pee in a cup? Maybe I could squat down next to the car? Should I just wake up the kids so my husband could come with me? No, none of those options were going to work.
After a moment, I got out of the car and started walking to the doors of the rest stop. I had tunnel vision, like if I was walking towards my death, or like if I had already died and was told I was going to hell. The doors felt like they were getting further and further away as I walked towards them. I wanted to throw up.
When I finally made it to the bathroom, I had to wait in a very long line. The bathroom was crowded and hot. I started looking around. I saw an elderly woman in the bathroom, washing her hands. I saw a woman carrying a baby waiting in line as well. There were little girls walking in, teenage girls walking out and all kinds of women just going about their business. I remember thinking ” they are not afraid to be in here – why can’t I be like that?”
As I observed, my breathing started to normalize. My heart slowed down and I no longer felt like I was having an out of body experience. I was still overthinking everything – breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out, left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot, but I was beginning to feel ok. There was something about looking around at everyone else and seeing how normal and care free they were, that started to calm me. I then knew that I was not going to faint, or die…or be abducted, for that matter. I continued to wait in line just like every other woman in line, except I was a different. I had a larger than life smile on my face because I had just conquered a fear. This was awesome!!
When I finished in the bathroom, I walked out and my family was there waiting for me. My kids had woken up, so my husband decided to come inside the plaza with them. I was so happy when I saw them and was so excited about what had just happened, that I gave them all a BIG hug! To strangers, it probably looked as if I hadn’t seen my family in months and they had just shown up at the rest stop to surprise me! I even had tears of joy, spill out. My husband, who obviously had no idea what was going on, looked at me like I was absolutely crazy. I tried to explain what had just happened – “I was scared, but then the women…and the baby…there was a long line…my breathing….then I was ok!!”
He would never understand and neither would anyone else that did not go through something similar themselves.
I was so excited over this small accomplishment, that I decided to stay and hang out at the service plaza for a while. I didn’t want to leave and forget that I was no longer afraid of being there by myself…
Continue reading my story here: