My NYC trip is coming up 2 weeks from Friday and I’m in full-plan mode in order to try to reduce as many risks of panic attacks as possible while I’m on this once-in-a-lifetime trip.
If you suffer from any kind of anxiety disorder where you have what some might consider “unreasonable” quantities of fear/anxiety around “normal” tasks…then you will read the rest of this post and nod in understanding. If you don’t? You’re going to be really irritated with me. And trust me. I know this because there are a lot of people in my real world life who don’t have anxiety disorders and who have been really irritated with me the last few weeks.
First…let me remind you my specific brand of anxiety. In general…it’s really situations of the Unknown that can push me down a spiral. I worry about making mistakes because I am unfamiliar. In my regular life, when the new and unfamiliar is rare, this means I ask a lot of questions and google a lot of situations when this comes up. If I’m going to a new doctor I Google Earth the parking lot to easy my mind about possible parking problems. If I’m going to a new restaurant I familiarize myself with the menu online so I know they have something that I can eat.
This fear of the unfamiliar in general is partnered with some very specific situational triggers. I don’t like crowds. I don’t like noise. I don’t like driving if there’s traffic or on-the-spot decision making like in yields or left-hand turns. I don’t like being enclosed (this relates to crowded rooms, planes, or subways).
All if this is 100% survivable with little intervention in my daily life. I avoid a lot of the triggers and in my hometown and my personal points of interest, rarely am I surrounded by too much of the Unknown.
But 2 weeks from Friday I head to New York City. I went once in 2009 but it was a short work trip and there was a car service that picked me up, took me everywhere, and then back to the airport. There was no exploring and definitely no decision making. Everything was planned for me and I didn’t venture outside the plan.
Sometimes I actually forget I even went, to be honest.
My wonderful husband surprised me with this trip and I am beyond thrilled and excited about the specific things we’ll be doing while we’re there. But it’s the “in between” stuff that stresses me out. First, it’s an entire 9 days of unknowns. Nothing about New York City is like ANYTHING I’m familiar with. So there’s a blanket of anxiety just draped over everything. But then there’s the specific triggers…crowds we may face, subways we may have to use, noises and lights that may be too much in and around the places we are going/staying.
I can do some things to alleviate the general fear of the unknown: Plan and Research. That’s what I’ve been doing for the last week. A lot of planning and researching. I’ve got articles flagged in my email, maps and guides favorited on my phone. I have pages upon pages of information in my bullet journal…everything from hours of operation to all of the museums we want to go to, to the neighborhoods that are reportedly less safe at night. I’ve read 500 articles about for First Time Travelers to NYC. I’ve bought handiwipes (if you need to clean up on the go when you’re out all day) and rollerball perfumes (to apply to wrists and keep in your purse incase you need to cleanse your nose of bad smells) and collapsible water bottles and tiny umbrellas and daybags suited for travel and avoiding pickpockets and…well…you get the point.
And yesterday? Was the most important preparation step of all. An appointment with my doctor.
I explained how I’ve not needed medication for my depression or anxiety for over a year now, that my day-to-day mental health has become manageable. BUT…this trip and it’s fullness of triggers worried me because I didn’t want to ruin it by either A) having a panic attack in the middle of Times Square or B) refusing to leave the room for fear of the world outside.
So, she did what a great doctor does. She gave me several tips to cope with on-the-spot panic…and she gave me an Rx for Xanax just in case. The great tips were:
- Look into the Red Bus tours around the city because they’re hop on/hop off and a much more open way to travel around AND they’re fun and informative.
- If I’m in a crowd or starting to panic, put my headphones in and let Donnie do the leading/thinking. Try to drown out the stimuli that may be causing me panic.
- Look at the situation from the outside. She said, “Pretend like you’re writing a movie script or a comedy routine…or maybe pretend like you have a blog…” I mean…that seems a little crazy but I’ll try…
I am so very excited and I just know this is probably the one and only time we every make this trip and so I want to get as much out of it as possible. I want to be present at all moments so I can really savor this time with my husband (our first trip without kids that did not involve family or a race) and really enjoy the art and culture that NYC has to offer me. I want to close my eyes and absorb the history when I visit Trinity Cemetery and Eliza Schuyler’s grave…or the Ellis Island Museum. I want to leave the city with the love I know it deserves and so I’m doing everything I can to alleviate the anxiety before it starts, and to build an arsenal of tools (medicinal and non) for the moments when I can’t stop it.