It’s 8:22am and in 1 hour and 38 minutes I can take another Ativan pill.
Then I will wait 20 minutes for its effects to kick in. My heart rate will slow back down, my stomach will no longer twist and turn. And my thoughts will return to their regular, slow pace. And until it begins to work its magic, I will breathe. In my right nostril, out the left. In the left, out the right. Over and over again. I will not able to do anything else.
1 hour and 34 minutes.
The panic comes on despite my protests. Despite all reason and logic. I know that statistically, air travel is safe. And this is not my first time flying – I’ve been hurtling myself through the air at 400 mph from destination to destination since I was a small child. I used to love it. And then I developed this anxiety disorder.
1 hour and 29 minutes.
Before I was diagnosed (and medicated), I had to fight the panic alone. From my early 20′s on, I suffered from fainting spells, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, heart palpitations, and dry mouth when traveling. I would describe my anxiety surrounding flying as just shy of a phobia. But I had people to visit, places to see, and I pushed through each episode, though they left me emotionally and physically drained.
1 hour and 23 minutes.
See, I think that even though air travel is safe, and even though I kind of LOVE seeing the world as a patchwork quilt out my window, there’s a part of my brain that sees the giant metal bird and thinks the math just doesn’t add up. I mean, I understand the science of flight, but that doesn’t make jumbo jets any less miraculous. The idea that I’ll be 5 miles up in the sky triggers a fight or flight response that I simply can’t control.
31 minutes. (I had to go get coffee and donuts.)
Now, armed with cognitive and dialectical behavioral therapies (and mostly with my medications), I can prevent the adrenaline and cortisol from overtaking my brain. And even though nervous butterflies annoy me during takeoff and landing, I feel like I’m finally traveling like a normal person.
So. Here I sit at gate 36. Waiting for a flight. And for more Ativan. Unashamed for needing it.