Oh, hey, I know you.

Did anybody else spend this morning with a ball of hot scratchy anxiety in their chest? No? Just me? Cool.

Let me back up. The dude and I (and the dog) are leaving tomorrow for Florida. We’re going to spend two days driving down, then stay for almost a week, then spend two days driving back. Up until this point I’ve been legitimately excited, which is nice, and I can still feel that under the anxiety. Even through driving is going to take forever, I prefer it for a bunch of reasons:

  1. The dude has been working some crazy hours, so the drive means we’ll have some uninterrupted time together.
  2. It’s way easier to bring the dog! Though she does tend to get carsick so I’ll be manning the garbage bag in the back seat for the first few hours. Which is totally fine because last time it was right there when I needed to throw up. 👍🏻
  3. There’s no pressure of being on a schedule. We can stop when we want and take things at our own pace.
  4. We’re not in public. This is super nice because I’m pretty sure I’ll be very anxious tomorrow, and I would way rather be able to lose my shit in a car with just the dude than on a cramped plane with hundreds of other people.

That last one is really important. I’ve been hoping and hoping that the panic attacks were over – I haven’t had one in over six months – but I’m not sure that’s the case. I think I might have one tomorrow. And that’s ok. I won’t be disappointed if I do because this is the first time I’ve taken a trip in a long time, and the first since ending therapy. I’m bound to have some anxiety because my safety net is gone. I’ve got no one to process it with but myself.

And actually, it’s kind of cool. I’m having normal anxiety symptoms: elevated heart rate, acheyness/tightness in the chest, a feeling of being on edge and having a lot to do. But I can also feel my brain doing all the things it’s been learning and practicing for the last two years: I feel myself noticing the anxiety, going oh, that’s anxiety but not latching onto the feeling (this I learned from Headspace and it is definitely worth doing). I can feel myself reframing; like I said, I’ve really been hoping I wouldn’t have a panic attack tomorrow, but I can feel myself answering my own thoughts and keeping them from racing. That means that the thoughts are there, and there’s potential for them to spiral out of my ability to respond appropriately. And I can feel myself reframing any what ifs that pop up. Yes, most of my memories of being at the dude’s parents’ house in Florida revolve around feeling awful, crying, not being able to eat, etc. It makes sense that I would be scared of that and that it would make me feel anxious. I associate anxiety with that house/town very strongly, so of course knowing I’m going there makes me think about last time and wonder if this time will be as bad.

But here’s the thing – and I owe Bird for reminding me this morning when I texted her and was like so much for not feeling anxious – I’m in a totally different place than I was last time. I’m more stable emotionally and have no questions or doubts about the commitment and respect the dude and I have for each other. I’ve gotten much closer with Bird, and because she knows what all of this is like, I know that there will be someone there who gets it. And I’ve got more endorphins running around my system, which means I’m typically in a better mood. In general, I’m feeling a lot less pressure. I feel like I’m going somewhere where I feel comfortable, and I don’t really have anything to prove, which is drastically different from last time.

It’s so nice. Seriously. It’s kind of really amazing to be sitting here knowing that I’ll feel anxious tomorrow but also knowing that I don’t have to try to hide it or worry about what people think. That kind of makes all of the anxiety symptoms annoying. This morning I was getting ready to go babysit my nephew(PS baby cuddles do wonders for anxiety) and my chest was tense and my heart was racing, and I just thought ugh. This is annoying. Can you either be bad enough so that I totally freak out, or just go away? Which is hilarious to me, because the fact that I felt that way means the intensity is way less than I’m used to. Which in turn is a) cool and b) gives me hope that even if I do have a panic attack tomorrow, it won’t be that bad.

I’m trying really hard to not fall into a false sense of confidence. I’m trying to keep expecting that I’ll have a panic attack tomorrow. I’m trying to prepare for feeling nauseous and tired and scattered. I don’t want to think that I’m not going to have one and then be totally devastated/bewildered when I do; I want to assume I’m going to have one and then be pleasantly surprised (or proved correct, whichever).

I’ll try to update from the road so that you guys can follow what’s happening, but I can’t promise much. I’m hoping that I won’t really be feeling any and I’ll just be having a grand old time in the oppressive Florida weather. And avoiding alligators.

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