My husband has not really had to be involved in my panic attacks because I have some effective coping mechanisms that I usually execute in a quiet corner somewhere and I avoid most things that trigger intense panic. The only time he’s had to deal with my panic, he doesn’t even remember it because my panic is usually quiet and while he guided me through it unknowingly, he has no recollection of the event/day.
However…there are situations that I know will be overwhelming in NYC so I’ve been coaching him a bit. Some of this is just practical experience on my part and some of it is conversation with others who have similar anxieties around travel. I thought I’d share some of my coaching in case any of it resonates with you.
SUBWAYS – This is a combination of several of my panic triggers. Crowds, noises, and enclosed spaces. I told Donnie the times we need to use the subway I’m going to to put my headphones in and he’s the one who is charge. Usually I’m in charge because I’m the planner but I told him for the times we have to use the subway, he has to map everything out, figure out how/when/where to buy our cards and let me hold onto him as we navigate it all. I don’t want conversation. I don’t want questions. I just want to hold his jacket sleeve and he lead the way until we are successfully outside in the fresh air again.
CROWDS – This one may hit me at unpredictable moments so I told him if he sees me put my headphones in or feels me grab onto him and give him some sort of indicator I’m not okay, it’s up to him to either A) pull up a map and find less crowded route to wherever we’re going or B) give me a play-by-play distance report until we’re wherever we’re going. “Five blocks, Kim. Five blocks and we’ll be at the theatre.”
GENERAL – One of the newer things I’ve been talking to him about is commiseration. Saying stuff like, “Oh, god. This crowd is terrible. I can’t wait to get through this either,” will eliminate the shame I feel in the middle of my panic which tends to drop the magnification a bit. “It’s just a crowd! We’ll be out soon!” is not helpful. “There are too many people here, I can’t wait to get to the theatre,” is. It doesn’t seem that different on the outside but on the inside it changes my internal dialog from, “WHY AM I SUCH A BABY?” to “YES. IT IS TERRIBLE. I AM GLAD WE AGREE TO SURVIVE TOGETHER.”