Anxiety, Plane Tickets, & Flying Solo


I did something tonight that might not seem like a big deal to most people but was a big deal for me: for the first time in my 20-some years of life, I bought a plane ticket.  By myself.  With no help from my husband or anyone else.  AND I did it WITHOUT HAVING AN ANXIETY ATTACK.

When my husband & I went to Montana last Fall, he bought the plane tickets (actually I paid for them I think, but he did all the work of finding & selecting the flights).  Ditto for when we went to Boston the next month for a wedding.  Furthermore, every other flight I’ve taken in my life was planned by someone else; thus, I was never involved in the tedious process of finding & obtaining tickets.  All I had to do was show up & follow someone else who knew what they were doing.airplane

Not only did I find, select, & buy the plane ticket for this trip by myself, but this will also be my first time flying by myself.  I know for most people my age this whole scenario probably seems like no big deal.  But when you have anxiety like I do, even something as “simple” as buying a plane ticket, particularly for a solo trip, can induce extreme anxiety, the kind that most people associate with taking a major exam or giving a speech.  (Oddly enough, neither of those activities has ever been all that nerve-wracking for me, with the exception of the NCLEX, although I only had major anxiety about that the day I actually took the test).

In any case, as “silly” as it may seem, one of the most beneficial things I’ve learned from a dear, dear friend of mine who is bipolar is that, particularly when you have a mental health issue, even something as “small” as mild anxiety, you have to learn to celebrate even the minor victories.  You have to learn to recognize when you’ve reached a milestone in your recovery, if you will.  I hate to use the word recovery because I don’t believe my anxiety is something I need to or can “recover” from.  It’s not an illness, like the flu or strep throat, mostly because it’s not something that can be cured with a week’s worth of medication with only a small chance of recurring later.  But my anxiety IS a disease that I have to learn to manage, just like many other folks have to learn to manage diabetes or heart disease or any of a myriad of other chronic conditions.hello-my-name-is-anxiety

In my case, I’ve realized that buying a plane ticket by myself for a trip I’ll be taking by myself WITHOUT HAVING AN ANXIETY ATTACK is indeed a victory.  It’s an accomplishment, just as much as is giving a successful speech, acing an exam, winning a game, or any other more commonly recognized achievement.  A year ago, before I started taking Prozac, I can tell you without any doubt that this would not have happened.  So this is progress for me for sure.anxiety meds

As I was telling a friend at work last week, the longer I’ve been in therapy, the more I’ve realized that my anxiety has very deep roots.  In other words, this is something I’ve been struggling with more or less my entire life.  It’s probably the major reason I wasn’t a very happy child.  Don’t get me wrong; I wasn’t depressed or suicidal or anything like that.  But I just never remember experiencing that carefree existence that most children seem to enjoy.  I still feel guilty for that sometimes because my parents were & are wonderful people who did so much to ensure that I had a healthy, happy home.  But I’m slowly beginning to understand that it was my own anxiety that prevented me from fully embracing life for so many years.  And that wasn’t my parents’ fault.  Or mine.  It’s just the way it is.anxiety charlie brown

The trouble is that when anxiety is something you’ve battled for so long, it’s very easy not to realize that it isn’t normalAfter all, the only brain you know is your own!  This is why it took me over 22 years to realize that maybe, just maybe, the constant swirl of anxiety in my brain wasn’t normal.  Better yet that it wasn’t how things HAD to be for me.  I look back now on my college years & I so regret not seeking help sooner.  It’s not that I didn’t have a good time & create lots of wonderful memories.  I absolutely did.  But I also know it could have been much better.  I’m also very aware that on the outside I probably seemed like I had it all together . . . & in a way I did.  I graduated with a 4.0 GPA, I maintained my relationship with my high school boyfriend (now husband), I passed the NCLEX on the first try, & I got married & started my first nursing job within 3 months of graduating from college.  Outwardly, I suppose I was the definition of “put together.”

A very simplified explanation of anxiety . . . but it made me laugh.

A very simplified explanation of anxiety . . . but it made me laugh.

But on the inside my brain was a wreck.  No wonder I struggled with high blood pressure for a while!  My mind, & subsequently my body, was on constant overdrive for so many years.  As my husband describes it, I had this endlessly “chattering squirrel” in my head that was always, always, always thinking, thinking, thinking!  Despite what many people think, having anxiety isn’t just spending too much time pondering the “what ifs?” of life.  It’s so much more than that.  It’s a brain that never stops, that plans everything, & perhaps more than anything just doesn’t know how to shut up & relax.  And a brain that can’t relax is a brain that will eventually burn out.anxiety

This is why I’m so incredibly grateful I took the advice of a friend & sought help: first through therapy & eventually by adding medication (Prozac).  Through a combination of the two, I have come to an even greater appreciation of so many things in life that I’ve always enjoyed but that I can now enjoy even more & thus utilize to further relieve my anxiety: music, books, my relationship with my husband, & so much more.

Trust me, there are still days when I struggle with my anxiety.  There are times when the idea of interacting with anyone other than my husband or closest friends seems like torture.  But those days are much fewer & further between now.  And even when they happen, I have the foresight to know they won’t last forever.  And that one bad day doesn’t doom me to a bad week, month, year, or life.bad day quote

I’ve wandered a lot in this post.  But, as I’ve done so many times before, I want to encourage anyone who is struggling with anxiety, depression, or any other mental illness to seek help.  Admitting that you need help is NOT a weakness.  Let me repeat that: needing help is NOT a weakness.  Rather it is the first & perhaps most important step in creating a better, more peaceful life for yourself.MentalHealth-HeadGraphic-250px

Looking back on my childhood, adolescence, & even into college, there were so many signs that the anxiety I faced on a daily basis was not normal.  But they were mostly things that only I knew about (for example, the hours I spent awake at night off & on for years & years thinking about the Holocaust & how horrifying that was) . . . My point is that I didn’t realize how bad things were until I got the courage to ask for help.  And now that I’ve gotten help & my anxiety is so much better managed, I honestly can’t believe I struggled alone in silence for so long.  But I suppose sometimes we have no idea how dark the night is until we see the light of day.  I’ve found that light, & there are days when it is dimmer & days when it is brighter, but I think I am now even more grateful for the light since I know what it was like to live in the dark for so long.

Whatever you're facing, you are not alone.

Whatever you’re facing, you are not alone.

If you’re living in the dark of anxiety, depression, or any other mental illness, please don’t suffer alone.  Get help.  Life CAN be better.  I am living proof.

An Anxiety Update


It’s occurred to me that I’ve never done an update to let my readers know how I’ve been doing since starting Prozac for my anxiety last August.  I wrote a post back in August about how difficult it was to actually agree to take medication for my anxiety & yet how much of a relief it was at the same time (you can read that post here: https://athicketofmusingsblog.com/2014/08/05/slaying-the-anxiety-monster/).  Perhaps the fact that I’ve rarely blogged about my anxiety since then is proof of how effective the medication really has been.  In any case, I’m having a high anxiety day today, & I thought it would be an appropriate time to share my experience with Prozac.anxiety meds

Within a week of starting the Prozac I could tell a real difference in my mind; I just felt a lot more relaxed.  The “endlessly chattering squirrel” in my brain was not banished, but she was quieted a great deal.  And what a relief that was!  I can say with great certainty that handling my husband’s diagnosis of severe sleep apnea last Fall & his subsequent journey into treatment for that would have been far, far more difficult without the Prozac.  As lame as that may sound, I know it is the truth. hello-my-name-is-anxiety

I realize there are some who feel like I have chosen the easy way out by taking medication for my anxiety, & that’s fine.  Maybe it is the easy way out.  But I can assure you that I tried every non-medicinal thing I could think of for the first 25 years of my life (essential oils, therapy, journaling, etc) with only minimal success.  And Prozac has been far from a “quick fix” for me.  If anything, it has just helped to quiet my mind enough that I can actually better utilize my non-medicinal approaches to relieving my anxiety.  For example, since starting Prozac my monthly therapy sessions have become more therapeutic than ever, & I’ve experienced a renewed pleasure & relaxation in writing & music.  Part of me still regrets being “dependent” on a medication to manage my own brain . . . but then I remind myself that this is really no different than being dependent on a medication for blood pressure or any other medical condition, especially if it’s something that you tried to cure with a healthy lifestyle but could not.Anxiety mental health symbol isolated on white. Mental disorder icon design

As I said, I’m having a high-anxiety today, as usual for no particular reason.  It’s just one of those days when I feel more potently my introverted tendencies, when the idea of interacting with anyone other than my husband, closest friends or family, or my dog feels like too great of an effort to bother.  The great news is that with the Prozac these days are much fewer & much further between.  Indeed I can’t even remember the last time I had a day like this.  Trust me, friends, this is great progress for me!

Additionally, over the past 6-9 months I’ve become increasingly more comfortable with the idea of having children in the next year or two.  It may be coincidence of course, but I have to wonder if taking the Prozac & thus gaining better control of my anxiety has influenced this.  If so, I’m certainly not complaining!  The thought of having children is still one that is riddled with lots of questions & a good bit of anxiety simply because it is something I’ve obviously never experienced before & indeed something that for most of my life I was quite sure I never wanted to experience.  However, I no longer feel like I’m completely unsuited to the task.  Like I said, it could just be coincidence, but I can’t help but think the Prozac has something to do with feeling more confident in my potential motherhood.social anxiety party

I’m not really sure where I’m going with this post, but I guess I just want my readers to know that if you’ve struggled with anxiety or depression or any other mental health condition, please don’t feel like taking medication is a weakness.  It isn’t.  If you are able to manage your condition without medication, that’s great, more power to you.  Maybe someday I’ll be there.  Maybe not.  But I’m finally getting to the point that I’m ok with either outcome, whether I take Prozac for the rest of my life or not.  It doesn’t really matter to me.  What matters is that I continue to live a life that is less plagued with anxiety than it was for the first 25 years of my life.  Lastly, to those who have encouraged & supported me on this journey, I can’t thank you enough. anxiety

Also, if you need some inspirational music look (or should I say listen?) no further than this, one of my all-time favorite classical pieces, Pictures at an Exhibition by the great Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DXy50exHjes  This version from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra is simply too beautiful for words.  I was lucky enough to find a CD copy of it at the book/coffee store in my hometown quite a few years ago.

Modest Mussorgsky

Modest Mussorgsky