Thursday, September 5, 2013

Anxiety at the Airport?

Great trip to Cleveland. Drove with a close friend and loved every minute. Coming home was different because I was flying back from Pittsburgh - alone. When we made the plans I thought I was fine with it, totally ignoring my flight fretfulness and feelings of anxiety when in a new location all by myself. I continued to ignore those feelings right up to the moment I got out of the car and entered the Pittsburgh International Airport. Then I remembered.

It was 1:30PM when I checked my luggage and proceeded into the terminal. I was hungry. I had lunch with me (whole grain wheat free sunflower bread, almond butter, apple) and sat at the food court to eat it - but not before I perused all the fast food counters to check out their various offerings. Chinese, McDonalds, Mexican, Italian, Bakery, Frozen things, more baked foods, candy stands and a coffee bar. I bought a coffee to go with my lunch and stuck with what I brought.

While eating my lunch I watched some other people chowing down on burgers and fries and a single woman traveler eating a salad that was literally covered in a creamy dressing and topped with layers of cheese. I knew that for me, what I had in my hand was the only food I needed. Then I swallowed the last bite and immediately wanted something else.

I recognized I was feeling something other than hunger. Oh it tried to make me think I was simply hungry - starving for something else after a meal that I knew perfectly well was 'enough.' I knew I was feeling something other than hunger. I pulled out my 'feeling cards.' These are cards I made for myself that list adjectives associated with feelings and when I find feelings that describe what I feel at that moment I read the main feeling associate with those adjectives. I was feeling anxiety, uncomfortable, uneasy. It was all related to fear.

On the back of the cards I have a list of actions to take in response to the feelings. Positive responses. Things that have nothing to do with eating. I said the serenity prayer twice. I spent three minutes breathing deeply with my eyes closed. Then I read the suggestion to make a call to someone else who might also be afraid. I called a friend who I knew was also flying that day, from another airport. I have flown with her before. She also has flight fret. She was already in the air so I left her a message that I was thinking of her and wished her a safe landing.

Then I went to the gate and waited for my flight. Sitting there, it suddenly occurred to me: I was not flying alone. I was flying with a whole plane full of people. I started to talk to the person I sat next to at the gate. I learned she was going to visit her grandchildren in Orlando. I learned she was Polish (like me) and she learned I knew about the area where her family lived and I could tell her what was in the area. We learned that where she was 14E I was 14F. What are the chances that I sat down next to the very person who would be sitting next to me on the plane? That was a good sign.

We didn't need to keep up a steady stream of conversation before or during the flight. It was enough to establish a human contact. We became comfortable with each other. I felt relaxed.

I fly listening to music with my iPod. I have a playlist named Songs in Flight. It calms me down. When I got on the plane I realized I did not have my earbuds in my bag. I had mistakenly packed them and put them in the overhead. I was calm enough to not need to rely on the music. Milestone of recovery.

I had packed a protein bar for my afternoon snack and planned to have it when they served the soda and cookies on board. Somehow the protein bar was not in my bag. I laughed and had a quick conversation with the God of my Understanding. "Good one God. I recognize a test when I get one. Okay, I do not need a snack today. I can do it. Bring it on."

They were passing out biscotti and chips. I declined to have anything. I did not have a soda. I did not have a drink. I read my book and enjoyed a smooth flight. We landed early. My husband was there when I came out with my luggage. He had dinner waiting in the crock pot at home: Beef stew.

It was a great trip.


Unknown said...

Mmm beef stew waiting for you. I'm glad you stuck to your plan. I'm eating 600 calories today--as part of a fasting plan--and I don't really like not having my usual snack right now, but it isn't killing me either. :D

PJ Geek said...

Jane, the feeling cards / actions sound like a great tool. Can you do a post about these? show photos? or have you done that already?

Laura said...

Rock star. You got this.

Beef stew + not having to be the one to cook it= amazing

Laura said...

Rock star. You got this.

Beef stew + not having to be the one to cook it= amazing

Vickie said...

I am not sure I knew about your cards. REALLY good self help idea.

In the beginning, I had a very hard time identifying what I felt when things happened. In fact, starting with my therapist, I said - I don't know. A lot.

Funny you had two tests on the same flight - earbuds and snack. Having smoothness with one, lead to smoothness with the second, I think.

My oldest sat down in the only empty seat, front row, in a very full auditorium on his first day of grad school. New school, new state, did not know anyone. His partner (they share an adviser and are working on the same doctorate program) happened to be in the seat next to him. Out of all those people.

Jane Cartelli said...

A post and photos of the cards will be coming next week. I have been trying them out for the past few weeks. Based on my experience, they are working.

Lisa said...

Traveling is HARD. I made okay choices on vacation but not the greatest. and I could NOT wait to get home and eat a ton of veggies!