I used to get such bad panic attacks a few years back that my teeth would chatter even through clenched jaws and as my body convulsed like a wet dog pulled from an icy pond. That’s when my husband Mark would literally have to lay his entire 6’4″ body on top of me to stop the shaking as he stroked my sweaty damp hair, kissed my forehead and face, and promised over and over and over again not to get any sicker or die.
Things didn’t quite go accordingly as I steady myself for his birthday today and the anniversary of his death on Thanksgiving. And then of course, there’s one daughter’s birthday tomorrow, Christmas, and then my birthday on New Year’s Eve and the all the holiday cheer that goes on and on and on throughout this most wonderful time of the year.
That’s why I book tickets to Escapeville and take the girls and I away from everyone and everything. Plus it’s a new tradition. Out with the old and in with the new. One year it was Sanibel Island. Another it was to visit a friend in the Dominican Republic. Last year we spent Christmas at Spa Castle in Queens and then went to a movie, The Big Short.
But this year, oh boy! I somehow got it into my little head that we should burn up those American Express travel points by heading to a third world country, get in the cultural groove and ride elephants! Freud might say the elephant part is Freudian now that I’m out from under the weight of grief after finishing my book about sprinkling his ashes on cross country RV trips.
Whatevs Siggy! I say a trip like this would allow the girls and me to kill two peanuts with one stone: escaping the holiday and riding elephants. It doesn’t go deeper than that and don’t even go there about some weird sexual fantasy about wanting to control a wild beast.
I excitedly booked the tickets a few weeks ago, deciding to concentrate on the itinerary after rewriting the book proposal for the 10th time. That was until last night or shall I say very early this morning when I woke up with my teeth chattering even through clenched jaws and my body convulsing like a wet dog pulled from an icy pond.
It was a familiar feeling that soon made me realize I was having a full blown panic attack… the first one since he died… and in my sleep no less!
Vietnam? Why in the world did you book non-refundable tickets to Vietnam? What if you have a panic attack on the trip? Or worse on the 24-hour flight over when you can’t escape the plane? Then what? OMG!
My head and the bed were really spinning now!
You’ve never been to a third world country nor have you even really left the country in more than 20 years for that matter. You live in a little village outside of New York City where your days are as predictable as the dog barking at the mailman. Even your sister jokingly calls you the girl in the plastic bubble.
I quickly went on Google, typing in my symptoms and up came the answer: travel anxiety.
This one website, Nomadic Matt, had pretty good tips:
Yeah but anyone who’s suffered from a panic attack or 10 knows that anxiety leads to irrational thoughts and will forever have you worrying about the worst-case scenario. Sometimes that scenario will actually happen — and you’ll survive it — like Mark’s death. Then you’ll realize you’re far stronger than you thought you were, that the things you were most anxious about don’t always send you down the rabbit hole, and that you’re well equipped to deal with things going wrong.
The best advice came next. Thanks Nomadic Matt!
One question. Does that include going to the gym, Matt? Ha! So basically this guy is concurring with FDR in suggesting that facing your fears is a way of getting over them.
With that, I decided to put myself in uncomfortable or unfamiliar territory over the next month or so and then making myself blog about it.
Who cares if anyone reads it or not? It’s just a way to hold myself accountable to the goal.
Today, Dear Blog, I walked in the woods, A-L-O-N-E, where some flannel shirted freak could jump out and drag my body off even though the trail is dotted with houses.
Stay tuned for my second exposure on Saturday. The place? Are you ready for this? I closed my eyes and pointed to a map, deciding I had to go wherever there was. It landed me on freaking Staten Island of all places. Nothing against Staten Island, but what’s there to do on Staten Island besides try to find Joey Buttafucco’s Auto Body, hit the local landfill and maybe see if the giant Ferris wheel is up and running yet? If so, at least I could face a slight fear of heights at the same time.
So Happy Birthday Mark! I hope you can see me at least trying to fill your shoes. Know that I will always love you even as I continue to move forward in life and that you will always, always, always be in my heart no matter where life takes me without you: the woods, Staten Island or Vietnam baby!