How to Travel with Severe Anxiety
I’m not a doctor. This is my experience with my anxiety while traveling.
First Things First
If you already know me or have read my previous post, you know I deal with pretty bad anxiety almost every day of my life. In fact, it’s a great day if I don’t get triggered or slightly panicked once a day. It rarely happens, but I’ve figured out ways to manage it and get on with my life.
Leading up to our trip to Italy, I had pretty bad anxiety thinking about all the things that needed to be done. The list was long and seemed to only get longer for no reason (my tire popped 2 weeks before we had to drive my car up to LA to meet my parents at the first leg of our flights). Anyway, I had a doctor appointment the Tuesday before we left that Saturday for an annual checkup as well as to get my Xanax prescription refilled. My dose is so low and I still have the same pills I was prescribed in 2016 when Louie and I traveled to Montreal. I know they weren’t going to do anything for me if I needed them.
I had to go to the doctor before work because I had been so busy that I didn’t have time to miss anything. After my appointment I made my way to my office and only managed to be 30 minutes late. That was one of the biggest tasks I had to get done, but after it was over I actually felt okay about going. Well, besides having to leave Lucy behind. Anyway, it’s not shameful to take medication. I cannot stress that enough. Medication saves lives. Do not write it off if you haven’t tried it to treat your depression or anxiety. You deserve to feel like yourself again.
To make matters worse, I was PMSing during the whole first week of this trip. I have reeeeally bad symptoms so I already didn’t feel great. Going into Chicago was no big deal. It was kinda long but not too bad. I was exhausted from not being able to sleep the previous night but knew I had a 9 hour flight from Chicago to Venice that I needed to sleep the majority through, because we were landing at 11:00am.
I was stressed in Chicago. I was fine physically and I wasn’t worried about missing our connection, but I was stressed about what was to come. Was I going to sleep? What if I start feeling sick? What if my seat gets changed and I have to sit away from everyone? Or, my favorite, what if the plane goes down?
When I got to my seat on the way to Venice, I started to feel this overwhelming feeling that Louie was pissed at me and that this was going to set the mood for the next 12 days of traveling. It was completely illogical and came out of nowhere, but I started crying in my seat. I don’t know if it was the nerves, the overstimulation of everything happening in the plane, or what, but I needed to let something out, and crying seemed the most painless for everyone. Louie comforted me and assured me (obviously) that everything was okay. He asked me if I wanted to take a Xanax. Why not, I thought, so I did. He went back to his seat, our food was delivered to us, and I slept through most of the entire flight.
The first day after we arrived in Venice began our tourist adventures. In the morning Louie and I wandered around the streets and checked out the beautiful canals and unique architecture. I had Google Maps on my phone leading the way, so I wasn’t nervous about that. My heart did race a bit whenever the directions took too long to load, though.
After we went for a walk we had our ride in the gondola. I was pretty excited because I knew I would get a photo for the gram. Well, we stepped on the boat and it was SO sensitive. It didn’t help that it was tipping, and I was sitting in the back so I had a plain view at how lopsided we were. I was pretty terrified. On top of being in an unfamiliar place, having nowhere to escape besides jumping in freezing, dirty canal water, and having 11 days left of the trip, I started to panic. Our gondola ride just started. I squeezed Louie’s hand and he looked at me. I gave him the look that means, “I’m having an panic attack. I’m freaking out”. He knows it. He looked at me in the eyes and told me to just breathe. He breathed with me and held my hand through it. My mom was next to me and also helped by being supportive and letting the attack take its course. My brother and dad were silent which was also nice—not being humiliated in front of everyone on the first day of the trip.
Eventually it subsided and I was able to start enjoying the ride with 5 minutes to spare. Unfortunately Louie or I didn’t have my medication, and we never made that mistake again that trip. After the panic attack subsided, I took the following photo.
One More Time
I only really had one more severe panic attack (thankfully) for the rest of the trip. It was during our time in Capri. We were taking this huge shuttle up to the top of the mountain. It was crowded, smelly, and musty. I was getting claustrophobic and I felt like I couldn’t breathe. To make matters worse, I started feeling this way in the line (more like clump) of people trying to get on to the ONE shuttle there is. I still had to ride to the top of the mountain. No one in our family had water and I couldn’t take the pill dry. I panicked til Louie was able to find me a cup of water at a little snack bar at the top.
I guess my conclusion is, take care of yourself. Take the necessary steps you need in order to make yourself comfortable throughout your vacation. The last thing you want is to be stressed and then feel like you didn’t relax at all during this time you’re in an amazing place. If you have other tips, let me know!