Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Safest Part of a Plane is NOT the Bathroom

In case you missed my first post, I am a recovering agoraphobic. I have made many strides in my life to get to the point where I can function as a normal human being, although normal is not how most people describe me! The great thing is I can now work, go out with friends, travel, and do things that the "average" person can do without fear. I have an occasional moment of panic from time to time , but I hear that is normal. What isn't normal is how I found myself praying inside of an airplane bathroom, covered in coffee, with bruised ass cheeks. Sounds kinky right? Far from it.

As I mentioned in my previous post I booked a trip to Hawaii. One of the best tips to overcome your fear of flying or in my case the fear of everything is, just book it! I am too cheap to pay for a vacation only to bail out on it. Anyway, I got some good meds to help calm me down for the flights, attended therapy, and felt like I could do this 11-hour flight with no problem. I was able to fly to Hawaii with minimal anxiety, but the flight home would really test my ability to keep cool. The flight from Hawaii to Los Angeles went just fine. We didn't run into any turbulence and it was early enough I was actually able to get some rest. The flight from Los Angeles to DC was the Mr. Hyde of my two flights. The pilot came over the loud speaker and said we had to take an alternate route home because of a storm. No problem; I am just fine with taking the easy way home! Take off was fine and I was feeling good. Of the four flights I had to take to make this vacation a success I had just this last one to get through.

Once in the air, the crew started serving refreshments. I felt good, so I took the risk and got some snacks. I say risk because normally I would never ever eat while in a location I had no control over. Sure, airplanes have bathrooms, but I live in an irrational world and (as I mentioned before) shitting my pants or vomiting on my travel partner was not something I was looking forward to. Also, what happens if I do get sick and then get scared and lose control? Then I would have to be tied to my seat by the air marshal or shot with a rhino tranquilizer just to get me to calm down; I'm a big girl and might be hard to control...IT COULD HAPPEN!!! And all because I had a snack. It was a risk I was willing to take because, well I am taking risks these days. So I ate the sandwich, popped some meds to sleep, had some water, and then took a quick nap. When I woke up I noticed we started experiencing a little turbulence. It made me a little nervous, but the anxiety wasn't too intense at first. A little while later I started to get the nervous grumble in my stomach so I figured I should head to the bathroom just in case the turbulence got worse and shitting my pants became a reality. I was sitting near the front so I had to hike it back to the bathrooms. As I stood up, the pilot made an announcement that everyone needed to take a seat, including the flight attendants - never a good sign. The pilot said we were going to be experiencing turbulence for the next thirty minutes or so. I had already started heading back to the bathroom when the announcement ended and the flight attendant reminded me to take my seat, but by that time there was no time to spare. The nerves, meds, and snacks had created the perfect storm and there was no returning to my seat. I kindly said, "this is an emergency," and proceeded into the restroom. If you have ever had the luxury to use an airplane restroom you know there isn't much room to move around. The turbulence was bad; the kind where you catch air and the plane feels like it is going to fall out of the sky. At one point I caught some air only to be slammed back down on the toilet seat. It was at that moment the flight attendant knocked on the door and with her very best outside voice asked "are you ok in there?" I can only imagine that everyone in the back of the plane heard her checking on me. Great! After being slammed back down, I decided to prop one foot up against the door, one foot against the sink, one hand on the wall, and the other hand I held on to the soap dispenser. Needless to say, I was panicking! I first started praying to make this all stop, "Please God make it stop, please God make it stop!" It didn't went on long enough and violent enough for the overhead storage cabinets in the bathroom to fly open. Now, how many of you have been curious enough to peek inside an airplane bathroom's cabinet? What you'll find is coffee grinds that have now showered down on me. It was everywhere! It was in my hair, in my shirt, all over the floor. At that point I didn't care if the plane kept shaking and dropping; all I wanted to do was get back to my seat. My ass was bruised, my pride was hurt, and I was covered in coffee. If I could just get back to my seat I would be able to pop some more meds and slip off into a drug induced sleep. I dusted myself off, removing all visible signs of coffee in my hair and on my clothes.

I exited the bathroom and pinballed back to my seat, "excuse me, sorry, excuse me, oh I am sorry." Everyone was looking at me knowing I was the one bouncing around in the bathroom and now I am the one slamming into them as I walk down the aisle...perfect! I finally got back to my seat, put my seatbelt on, and popped some pills. My husband just looked at me like he knew things didn't go great for me, but we didn't talk about it. It was that kind of eye contact that said, "I'm not happy, but anything you say right now will only make it worse." He understood. I just wanted to breath, shut my eyes, and forget this ever happened. I drifted off as the turbulence subsided only to be woken up by my husband returning from the bathroom. He took his seat, still unaware of my terrifying experience, and said, "that is the best smelling airline bathroom I have ever been in. There's coffee everywhere, but is smells great."

Friday, August 26, 2011

We're all going to die on this thing!!!!

As of May 2011, I had never been on the metro. I avoided taking any form of public transportation all together. For nearly fifteen years I have been an agoraphobic. Agoraphobia, according to is:

"A type of anxiety disorder in which you avoid situations that you're afraid might cause you to panic."

My definition: "It is possible that if I leave my house I am going to pass out and shit myself and for the finale I will projectile vomit on anyone around me."

The point is, it is quite difficult to be an agoraphobic and someone who really, really wanted to go to Hawaii. The desire to travel had finally outweighed the crazy so I decided to book my trip. I would deal with the shitting myself later; I was going to Hawaii! I had about three months to address this fear of flying and being in a "tight space" for nearly 11 hours. What if I had a panic attack? What if I acted crazy and made an ass out of myself? What if, what if, what if??? So my husband and therapist suggested I start slow. Maybe I should try the metro first and then I can work myself up to being comfortable on a plane. I was going to do it; now was the time. I picked a Sunday when there wouldn't be a lot of people taking the metro into DC. We went to the station and of course my anxiety level was high, but enough to manage. We get on the train, take our seat, and aside from the one homeless person on the train it seemed like it would be an empty car with nothing to worry about. With one minute left to departure, two women, two strollers, and two kids got on the train. "Ok, no worries, it just a bunch of kids and innocent looking mothers." The doors closed and we were off. We were only going to go a few stops and then hop off and ride it back, but we were riding it far enough that we had to go underground. I kept my cool and just tried to enjoy the ride. I was so happy I was riding the metro! Something so easy that thousands of people do every day; I was finally doing it! At that point one of the kids said to his mother, "Are we going to go underground?" The mother said, "we sure are!" It was right then that the worst thing ever happened to this agoraphobic. As the train started to make its decent into the dark tunnel, the little boy started yelling "WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE ON THIS THING, WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE ON THIS THING!" My husband quickly said, "I hope not because I promised my wife that we wouldn't!" It was at that point I realized there was nothing to be afraid of. I have been terrified of the metro for years and the fears of the train all ended by a six year old boy proclaiming, "WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE ON THIS THING!"