I finally feel far enough past this that I can talk about it, so here is my story. Two and a half years ago I developed a food intolerance incredibly fast, which would go undiagnosed for six months. In those six months, I had quite a few horrible experiences where I was mid-meal at a restaurant and suddenly stuck in the bathroom being sick. It was embarrassing and scary. At the same time I developed an anxiety towards food. Like a weedy vine, this anxiety spread to many areas of my life, to the point where I could no longer sit in restaurants, be at people’s houses, or be around food without incredible stress and panic attacks. I also had one incident where I was sick on a one hour flight, and that was the end of carefree flying for me!
My next vacation involved a much longer flight which was preceded by a week of panic attacks and crying myself to sleep every night in dreaded anticipation. My lovely husband finally coaxed me onto the flight after many tears at the airport. I loved travelling, and was so sad that my life had come to this. On the way home I remember standing on the tarmac hysterically sobbing, looking up at the plane, knowing this was the only way to get home. I spiraled into depression, devastated that I had so quickly lost the life I had been living and all the things in it that I loved so much. I said goodbye to most foods, friends, socializing, and travel for six months. I couldn’t continue to live like this, not for myself and not for my husband. So in true stubbornness I knew I needed to get my life back.
I looked for jobs overseas and was given the opportunity to work in New York. Unknowingly my future boss asked me to fly over for the interview and I had to lie, saying that I was too busy to take the time off and that we would have to do it all by Skype instead. Lucky for me, I was still given the job. Now, confronted with having to fly to the other side of the world from Sydney to New York in six weeks, I knew I needed help. I booked 8 sessions with a psychologist…the best decision I ever made. We talked a lot about positive thinking and reinforcement, coupled with breathing exercises and relaxation techniques. One particular incident during this time stands out. I was instructed to pack a pretend suitcase and take a trip to the airport. I thought this would be a stupid exercise, as surely knowing that I’m not really flying would evoke nothing. I happily went to the airport and thought I was perfectly fine, until jokingly, my husband and I decided to pick the pretend flight we would take. Looking up at the board of flights and seeing the red flashing ‘boarding’ signal was enough to make my stomach sick. I burst into tears – this was beyond logic. I no longer had control of my body, let alone my mind. I knew I would need to work even harder than ever to overcome this, and I had a deadline to meet.
The therapy helped, the relaxation exercises and positive thought patterns got me to the point where I was still very anxious but not hysterically panicked. My repetitive mantra was that ‘if I stayed calm, my stomach would stay calm’ and to this date I must have repeated it a million times over! I made the flight to New York, I reset my life and now I willingly fly all the time, and every time gets a little easier. I will never truly be rid of the weed that is anxiety, it will be with me the rest of my life – I know that. It is, however, now a dormant seed planted in the back of my brain. I work hard to keep it from sprouting into the giant weedy vine that once tried to smother the strong and carefree tree I was trying to become.
Hi laura, your work is impressive. Wish I can have chat with you to share my ideology.
Thank you for your wonderful comment. I would love for you to share your views so that everyone can read them, it may be helpful to others who share similar experiences. Otherwise you are welcome to contact me through my “contact me” page so that we can converse through email.
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