Panic attacks

I’ve been having panic attacks a lot lately. I’ve no doubt that the new job-old job thing has something to do with it. At least I hope it does, because I’ve no other reason for being this freaky. All the same, it’s been driving me nuts.

Just as an example, I’ve booked a holiday in between jobs. Eight days of glorious sunshine, pristine white beach and cocktails… of course there’ll be cocktails. 🙂

My therapist is, of course, delighted that I’ve booked a holiday. One of the very many things she’s taught me is that we deserve holidays; all of us. Another is that a holiday doesn’t have to be a big drama, or a month-long adventure. Short and sweet is just as good, if not sometimes better. Just book something and go – the rest will take care of itself.

Trouble is, I hate flying. I mean, I REALLY HATE FLYING. I tried to do the “book and go” thing – with the cheapest flights I could find. But when it came down to it, I couldn’t do it. When my travel agent told me what row I’d have to sit in on the plane, I freaked. Heart pounding, hyperventilating, palm sweating freaked. Flashes of long queues, squishy seats, the incessant noise, the throngs of people …

I couldn’t do it. This, people, is my worst nightmare.

So, I booked the more expensive seats to give me more space and less squish. So that I won’t have to climb over sixty people to get to the toilet. So that I’ll be close to the exit. Not that I’m all that worried about something bad happening (though I hate turbulence). I just can’t stand that squish.

I learnt a few years ago that these seats – where you pay extra to choose where you sit; where you get to sit closer to the front; where you don’t have to walk half a mile to the toilet; where you have a bit more space; and where you can’t see the hoards behind you as much – these are the seats I need to sit in.

It was a choice, I guess, between unmanageable panic for the next ten days before I even get on that interminable flight … or something slightly more relaxed, with only mild panic playing in the background. Not exactly a relaxing lead up to a holiday, because I still HATE FLYING, but more manageable.

Trouble is, that costs more. So now I feel guilty and stupid. Stupid to panic over such a ridiculous thing. Guilty because it’s costing more, and I wanted to save that money.


21 thoughts on “Panic attacks

  1. Purchasing a more expensive seat is a way of taking care of yourself — just as investing in therapy is a way of doing that, and the vacation itself is a way of doing that.

    I think for me, one way to take some of the charge off these issues is to consider that everyone has them. Not this particular one, maybe, but I guarantee, you, everyone has something they just can’t or don’t want to do, or which isn’t worth doing, or which is worth paying extra to avoid. You don’t know this about them any more than they know you don’t like to fly, when they pass you on the street.

    You are entitled to have fear of flying, and entitled to take care of yourself in a way that mitigates that fear. It’s healthy, and it’s loving and responsible to yourself to take that extra care. Does it cost a little more? Sure — sometimes loving and responsible things do. I know you wouldn’t hesitate at the cost if you had with you a dependent who needed that extra space and therefore needed a more expensive seat … and you’re depending on yourself in this case, in a very real way, to take care of those sensitivities and needs. This is how I’m sometimes able to get out of my own way about this kind of thing: if it would be worth doing for someone I cared about, then it’s worth doing for myself. I’m my own responsibility — as you are yours. And that is why it’s so wonderful to see you taking care of yourself more kindly.

  2. Congratulations on the job! And good luck with the flying. It will be worth it when you get to the beach. But, then, I guess flying home you will undo all that relaxation (which is a bummer).

  3. David said essentially what I was going to say. I hope you’ll be able to stop feeling guilty or stupid about buying the more expensive seats because it’s all part of taking care of yourself. There is nothing stupid about that, or anything to feel guilty for. I think it’s great that you are able to recognize what affects the anxiety the most (the crowd more than the flying itself). By making adjustments based on your knowledge of what will make it easier for you, you are able to make the difference between being so paralyzed that you may choose not to fly, and managing the anxiety enough to be able to go where you want to go. That is awesome!!!

  4. Kerro, I really hope you have a super trip! I hope the less squishy seat does the job for you! It is good you were thinking about it and weren’t shoved into the middle of chaos right before you relaxing trip!

  5. @ Same Sky – I’m sorry you’ve been having panic attacks, too, and that you suffer from this flying thing. May be there’s something in the stars and planets that’s causing all this?

    @ David and @ Tamp – I know you’re both right about this being a way to take care of myself. A very good friend said the same thing last night. And if I had a friend or dependent in the same situation, I wouldn’t hesitate. Of course that would be ok. But this is ME we’re talking about!!! I wonder, though, where “taking care” stops and “avoidance” begins. Is buying a more bearable seat to sit in “taking care”? Or is it “avoidance”? Or is “avoidance” just not flying at all?

    @ Paul – Thank you! 🙂 The destination always makes the flying worth it, and with a bit of luck the good seats coming home will enable me to sleep the whole way.

    @ Sanity – Thanks… there’s one thing about PTSD, or probably anxiety in general – I will NEVER be shoved into the middle of chaos if I can help it.

  6. It’s taken me a while to post a comment on this post, and three glasses of wine. I am a fearful flyer as well. I had years of therapy to get over this, but now the only way I can fly is by having rules. My husband knows this, and he deals with it because he knows it’s the only way we can go anywhere together. I used to feel bad about having these flying rules, but now I consider myself a “good enough” flyer. There are certain types of planes I won’t fly in, certain airports I won’t fly into, and I must have an aisle seat. But, you know what, I do it. I go where I need to go. I admire you for recognizing your own personal flying rules and obeying them so that you can get where you want to go too. You are a “good enough” flyer, and that is quite an accomplishment.

  7. @ Harriet – thank you so much for commenting. It’s funny, I thought of you a lot while I was writing this post. 🙂 I have lots of “rules” as well – the aisle seat is absolutely mandatory, and I also won’t fly on certain types of aircraft (mostly small ones). I also have to get to the airport hours ahead of schedule “just in case”. Well done to you for managing this – I take my hat off to you for confronting this and getting to a point where it seems (from your blog) reasonably easy for you to do! I envy you.

    Of course, I say that, but my seat issue still seems silly inside. Doh!

  8. A bit of both, I think, Harriet. Sad that we can’t value and respect ourselves as much as we do other people. And crazy that we confront this message time and time again and STILL it won’t sink in.

  9. IMO, it’s pretty easy to tell the difference between caretaking and avoidance. Caretaking allows you to do what you fear, within a framework and with boundaries that make it tolerable for you. As you continue to practice caretaking, those boundaries usually shift — perhaps incrementally, but they do. However, the bottom line is that you are engaging and doing what you want to do. Avoidance is not doing anything at all due to fear and unwillingness to create that framework and those boundaries that provide enough safety to push your own envelope.

  10. @ David – this reminds me of a conversation I had with the Back Up Therapist, who said something very similar. I asked her if I was just avoiding something (I can’t even remember what, I think it was corporate ladder related) – she said that if you’ve weighed up the pro’s and con’s and decided that thing isn’t for you, then you’re not avoiding.

    If, on the other hand, you desperately want to do the thing but are too paralysed … that’s avoidance.

    I think she used the example of camping (which she and I both loathe). Hell can freeze over before either of us will go camping locally. But, if we were in Africa, and wanted to go on safari but could only do it by camping, then we’ll put up with the camping because what we get in return is worth it. We just might book a 5 star hotel at the end to compensate.

    This is obviously different to the caretaking point, but related… or not, but linked via some circuitous route in my head!! 😉

  11. My t and I just had a similar conversation last night about holidays. I haven’t taken a holiday in years. I think one of the reasons why is my panic. She also said to me that even a short one would be good. I’ve been thinking about it.

    Good for you for looking after yourself even if it cost you extra. I think that it is well worth it. I hope you enjoy your holiday.

  12. Hi Lost in a Maze – I do hope you take a holiday. We all deserve it. 🙂 You don’t have to go on a lifetime’s adventure – what about if you thought about a place that would be calming for you, like the beach is for me? That always helps me because I can focus on the destination rather than the drama of getting there.

  13. I’ve been known to book annual holidays during the week that I would usually be expected to fly somewhere for work, just to avoid small plane flying. So, I totally get the fear.

    I agree with the others… good caretaking of you!! Well done!!!
    I hope you can sit back, get the blankie tucked around you and enjoy the flight.

    Take care,

  14. Hi kerro! I thought i commented on this, but maybe I just read this and thought I said something 🙂 anyway, I never used to fear flying but now I do. I agree with everyone else. Good for you for taking care of yourself and finding a way to feel better about flying. What a great idea about upgrading. And good for you for taking yourself on a vacation at all! You are truly inspiring to me. I hope you have a wonderful time!!!

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