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Pretend like you have a blog…

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

6 thoughts on “Pretend like you have a blog…”

  1. Oh! YouTube is great for this! You can probably find video reviews of your hotel, which will prep you for what the entrance and layout look like, and other venues as well. There are also “walking NYC” videos, where people literally walk the streets, sometimes narrating where they’re going. Kind of reduces the novelty of actually seeing the place, but that’s probably a GOOD thing when there’s anxiety involved. I would recommend trying to find videos of any place you know you’re going, so you don’t have to worry about it being brand-new and overwhelming when you get there.

    Don’t be so hard on yourself. Plan for short “time outs” if you need them, celebrate if you don’t, and don’t forget to HAVE FUN!

  2. Sometimes, I’m shocked at the similarities between your thought processes, anxieties, and internal dialogues and my own. For example, crowds, fear of the unknown, fear of making mistakes, over-planning, asking lots of questions to make sure I know exactly what to expect, googling parking lots, googling restaurant menus, planning every. single. trip. detail. Sensitivity to lights, unexpected/loud noises. Social anxieties. Fear of being awkward. The fears related to saying the wrong thing, or of accidentally offending someone. The tendency to try super duper hard to make sure I’ve formed my arguments and opinions exactly right, after thoroughly researching and considering all sides, then doubting myself upon realizing that I might have made a mistake. Fear of oversharing, yet doing so with absolute authenticity and honesty. I’d love to meet you in person and compare notes sometime πŸ™‚

  3. I google earth places to check out the parking situation all the time! And are there people who don’t look at menus ahead of time? That is… not how I approach life.

    I hope you have an awesome time. NYC is big and loud and crowded but also so much fun and filled with so many cool things to do. I used to go a couple of times a year and I miss that.

  4. Google Maps is a great resource for getting around cities. You tell it where you want to go and if you choose Public transportation, it will tell you all the different buses/trains/etc to use and how many stops you’ll be riding through. Enjoy your adventure and take tons of pictures.

  5. Have a great time in New York! It sounds like you have a reasonable plan in place for managing your anxiety and triggers, and hopefully they won’t be as bad as you’re worried about. I do wish I had some advice for you, but I don’t do much traveling beyond the road trips to visit family and friends who don’t live very far away.

  6. OH, I know coming here can be SO intimidating!! It feels like it’s EVERYTHING ALL THE TIME. But I like to remind people, it’s also a home. So when it feels insane, remember to quote a few of the people around you are just living there every day. Going to work, worrying about dinner, forgetting who is supposed to pick up the kids… πŸ™‚ All the normal stuff. The hop-on/off buses are a PERFECT way to see the city. I hate when people come here and forget to look up. πŸ™‚ That allows you to, tho I would recommend riding the subway agt least once. ALSO – I’ve been here almost 20 years and have never felt unsafe anywhere in Manhattan. Be conscious of your surroundings and you will be FINE in that regard. AND it’s not that smelly hwere this time of year. We are an old city and lack alleyways so in the summer it’s the PITS with the miasma of garbage – but in the fall it’s not so bad. ALSO ( I swear this is the last thing, I’m just so excited you will be here!) – On 48th street between 9&10 Avenues is the most beautiful, lush amazing community garden with beehives and a grape arbor and lots of wonderful benches to sit on in a manageable space that’s quiet and peaceful and lovely and two blocks fro time square. My building overlooks it and when I used to get overwhelmed by the city that garden saved my soul. SO if you’re in the area, I can’t recommend stopping enough for a breath. ANYWAY have the best time. I get it’s way crazy, just take it a bit at a time, remember this is home to tons of people (all of whom will be happy to help you if you ask them nicely – not the ones with headphones on ;)) and I may be biased but it really is one of if not THE greatest city in the world. I hope you love it. I hope my little town treats you right. πŸ™‚

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