WARNING: Long post ahead. Seriously, it’s like a book. You might want to read it in increments. Or you can skip all the words and look at the pictures at the end. I babble for a long time at the beginning. I literally use all the words.
About three months ago, one of my brothers-in-law sent an email to three of my sisters and me asking if we’d be available for a surprise 40th birthday party for his wife, my sister, Ginny on May 30th. My sisters, who all live within driving distance of Pittsburgh or just outside of Pittsburgh, immediately responded yes.
As someone who hates to fly and has avoided it for over a decade, this email caused me great anxiety. Here I was, just a month or so post-breakdown, being asked to face easily one of my greatest fears.
I emailed my brother-in-law and told him that my ability to attend would depend on my mental health and The Good One’s school schedule, because if he had anything important during that time, then I wouldn’t be able to come.
In my heart of hearts, I was kind of hoping that he’d have 5th-grade graduation or some other big event that he wouldn’t want me to miss so that I would have a legitimate reason to miss the birthday party other than just being a big-ass chicken.
By early April, I had started to feel really good. Hopeful. Happy. I had started facing some fears (see previous post on fear of showering and the fear of my underwear cutting off my circulation) and was seeing general improvement.
The surprise party for my sister was always in the back of my mind. Sometimes I’d imagine myself getting on the plane, enjoying the solitude, surprising my sister and being the biggest hero of all time for flying there. As if I were Superman.
Yes, I have delusions of grandeur. You may call me Walter Mitty.
So in mid-April I sat in my therapist’s office and when she asked me how I was doing, I went into a 20-minute monologue about how I wanted to fly home for the party but I was afraid to and if I talked about it then Irony would smack me in the head and I’d plummet to the earth in a fiery mess of steel because I tempted Fate by facing my fear when The Universe really wanted me to live in my “safe” little box and that all of the people who had the misfortune of being on the plane with me would die horrible deaths because they were unfortunate enough to be on the plane with the woman who chose to face her fears and pissed off Fate.
That’s what you call the ranting of a crazy woman.
My therapist looked at me with sympathy and a little bit of confusion and then said, “Do you really think that you control the destinies of all of the people who happen to be on a plane with you?”
Bitch hit me with reason and sound logic.
I truly believed that if I relaxed and allowed myself to envision flying and having a good time at the party, then God would somehow say, “Ha-ha! You faced your fears and now I’m going to get you when you’re least expecting it.” Sometimes I say “Fate,” or “The Universe,” but in all honesty, I believe in God. And when I verbalized my fear that somehow God was just waiting to “get me,” it occurred to me that the God that I was imagining was kind of a jerk.
No, I did not just call God a jerk. This is what my skewed fears allowed me to believe about God.
And even if you don’t believe in God or Fate or The Universe or anything, bear with me. The lesson I learned is really universal.
Anyway, as I said out loud all of the things that were bouncing through my brain, I realized the ridiculousness of much of it. God isn’t waiting for me to achieve mental health so that he can trick me. The fate of 200 people does not hinge on me facing a fear.
Have you ever watched the Veggie Tales movie The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything? One of the pirates has a list of all the things he’s afraid of. Every time he encounters a new fear he says, “That’s going on the list.” I was that pirate. My list was getting longer and longer. I hated who I was becoming. I tried to tell myself that I was just quirky. That my quirks made me endearing.
They did not make me endearing. They made me kind of sad.
Two years ago when my father-in-law died, some of his brothers and sisters didn’t come to the funeral because they were afraid to fly. I was becoming that person. If I had received a call about a family emergency, I truly didn’t know if I could get on an airplane. And I hated that about myself.
My therapist said, “You can do this. Look how far you’ve come. Look at all of the fears you’ve faced and have conquered. You may not love flying, but you can get on that plane and be there for your sister’s party. Do you think that you can book your ticket before your next appointment?”
I said, “I contemplated waiting until the day before the flight to buy the ticket so that I don’t have anxiety and nightmares for the next month and a half.”
She said, “Why not book the ticket now when it doesn’t cost $1,000, and then if the day comes and you have too much anxiety, then you don’t get on the plane and are only out $300.”
Bitch was being reasonable again.
I said, “Okay. I’m going to do this. I can do this.”
I left her office feeling very excited. But by the time I made it to Virginia Slims Man’s office to pick up The Beast, I had convinced myself that if I told him what my therapist and I had talked about that Fate/God/The Universe would play a trick on me, and death by falling from the sky at high rates of speed in a steel sarcophagus would be all but guaranteed.
But in the next minute I had a moment of clarity and reason. Fate/God was not playing a trick on me. I could do this.
Then I was afraid again. I could just lie to my therapist. Tell her I bought the ticket. Fake the whole trip. But she’d ask to see photos. I’d have to get a new therapist. I felt the deception snowballing, and seeing as how I neither wanted to start lying to my therapist nor get a new therapist, I decided to tell my husband what we had talked about.
I told him about the party and my desire to go, and he said, “I think you should do it.”
To say that I had conflicted emotions over the next several weeks would be an understatement. I’d go back and forth between reason and insanity on a nearly minute-by-minute basis.
In the back of my mind I still had hope that The Good One would have a school activity that would prevent me from going. I received his school schedule the last week of April. There was nothing that I couldn’t miss.
I told VSM, and he said that since TGO’s school schedule was free, we’d all go to the party. This both excited me and terrified me. I loved the idea of us all going together, but I didn’t want my husband and children to be tied to my fate.
Anyway, I booked the tickets, and the next week when I saw my therapist, she was so excited for me. We talked about my plans for when I was in Pittsburgh, how I was going to surprise my sister, and we talked about my fears.
She reminded me that it was okay to take an Ativan to relax for the flight and that just because I had a fear did not mean that the fear was reasonable. I always felt that my sense of fear was a God-given sense to keep me safe. She helped me to see that some fear is normal and even good, but the level of anxiety needs to be kept in line with the actual threat of a situation. Flying is safe. There is an entire government agency whose sole purpose is to make flying safe.
False Explanations Appearing Real. A “FEAR” acronym that she gave me to help me realize that just because I think it, doesn’t make it real.
In the meanwhile, I read blogs about how people overcame their fear of flying. I read one comment by one person who said that once they accepted the fact that we all die and sometimes that occurs in accidents, they were able to overcome their fear. That really struck me. We all die. All my adult life I’ve been seeking to keep myself alive. In the process I stopped living.
Accepting the fact that we all die and that I’d rather die in a quick, fiery plane crash than of a prolonged illness somehow gave me freedom. Not to be morbid and certainly not to say that I want to die, but accepting the reality of death helped me to let go.
There was a point not too long ago that typing the above paragraph would have caused me intense anxiety. As if I were tempting God/Fate/The Universe to give me what I “wished” for.
Miraculously, I had very little anxiety in the weeks leading up to the trip. I was excited to see my family. I allowed myself to be excited, to make plans, to talk about the future without the “if I survive” thought always being in the back of my mind.
I did make my sisters promise that if I died, one of them would come down to Texas and harvest my garden. It’s the stupid things, I know.
So on the morning of May 29th, I woke up with some anxiety. I texted my sisters what I was feeling. They reminded me that they were thinking of me and praying for me. I told them that I was going to spend some time picking up dog poop to relax myself.
Then I took half of an Ativan and calmed down a little bit. It was in this slightly medicated stupor that I decided that the best way to handle my anxiety would be to document my trip with selfies that I texted to my sisters throughout the journey.
First, I don’t take selfies. Unless it’s a selfie to show my sisters that I dress like Leonard from The Big Bang Theory.
However, on this day, I was a selfie-taking maniac. I was Kim Kardashian without all of the bikinis and Botox.
I’ve decided to share my journey with you. Ready? It’s a good one.
Attractive, I know. The purpose of this photo was to convey to my sisters the general sense of vomity-ness that I was feeling. Remember that episode of Seinfeld where he was dating that woman who looked okay in some lights and absolutely frightening in other lights? Well, that’s me. You’ll see the extent of my freakishness throughout this post.
Yes, I was a little bit freaked heading into our small, local airport. It has two gates. Only small airplanes land in Tyler, Texas. However, as the price was $100 cheaper per ticket by flying out of Tyler, we decided to fly out of Tyler. Also, in case you’re wondering, yes, I do still have my wisdom teeth. My mouth is abnormally large.
When we checked in at the local airport, we learned that there were four first-class upgrades available for a ridiculously unreasonable price for the second leg of our trip from Dallas to Pittsburgh. My husband has upgraded to first class for $17 before. Anyway, this photo was right after I convinced him that, should we survive the first leg of our trip, we should celebrate by flying first class to Pittsburgh. He agreed, and The Good One and I celebrated.
I had taken another half Ativan at this point. So while I was still a little anxious, I was actually feeling okay. You’ll notice the obnoxiously large headphones on my ears. I needed to drown out the sound of the external rocket boosters and the other airplane parts that I’m assuming fall off of the plane during takeoff. Otherwise, what the hell else is making all of that noise?
The Beast is not even a little afraid of flying. He says he wants to jump out of planes someday. He did, however, enjoy taking part in my selfie marathon.
The flight from Tyler to Dallas takes about 20 minutes. It was kind of nice to have a little flight to dip my toes back into the water.
Our layover in Dallas was about 3 hours. We had dinner. The Beast played at this little play area. And I progressively felt more and more relaxed about flying. Ativan really is a beautiful thing. Here we are enjoying the luxuries of first class. Honestly, you are waited on hand and foot the entire flight. We were given cups of nuts and drinks and food and hot cloths and so much other crap that I almost didn’t have time to think about the fact that we were flying. I only drank water so that I didn’t have some awful Ativan/alcohol reaction that would cause me to attempt to open the cargo bay doors mid-flight. However, I was very relaxed.
Like I said, you eat the entire time you’re in first class. We were like the Clampetts. A bunch of selfie-taking morons documenting every minute of our trip.
Shortly after this, we landed. It felt amazing to have made this trip and I was really looking forward to the party the next day.
Ginny, my famous-in-Pittsburgh sister, is friends with David Conrad. He was on Ghost Whisperer, which I didn’t watch because I’m afraid of stuff like that. Surprise, right? However, I loved him on Relativity and my son and husband love him as a baddie on Marvel: Agents of SHIELD.
That’s David and me. I was grabbing his ass in this picture. Just kidding. Sort of. But seriously, he and I are dating now. Don’t we look so cute? When he walked into the party I screamed. Mostly I was just being goofy, but part of me wanted to throw my size 34-Almost-B bra and completely not-cut-up Hanes underwear at him.
Right after David walked in and I screamed, my younger sister Terri came over to me and said, “You stole my thunder!!” I didn’t realize that she also had a crush on David Conrad. I comforted her in the fact that Sally Wiggin (THE Channel 4 News lady) was on her way up. Terri said, “That’s right. Sally loves me!” (They’ve met before.) However, when Sally walked in, I turned and screamed “SALLY!!!” and stole Terri’s thunder again. I was a thunder-stealer all night long.
Sexy, I know.
My sister’s party was in a private party room at PNC Park in Pittsburgh. The park was empty. It was absolutely beautiful.
That’s my family above. My sister Terri the snortiest (She snort-laughs. It’s awesome), dad Terry, mom Donna, sister Ginny the famousest, sister Stacey the wisest (really just oldest), brother-in-law David the party-throwingest, sister Tammy the youngest, and me the thunder-stealingest. Ginny was absolutely floored that we were there. I waited outside on a balcony at the park and had my mom Facetime me when Ginny walked in. I talked to her for a minute via Facetime, pretending that I couldn’t make it to the party. I told her that The Beast had a surprise he wanted to show her and he pretended to run somewhere in the house to get it. As Ginny watched the screen on my mom’s phone waiting for The Beast to return with her surprise, he and The Good One snuck up behind her and yelled, “Surprise!!” She cried an ugly cry like a big giant baby.
The Beast had a blast at the party. The Good One got to play a game of pool with David Conrad. It was so sweet watching The Good One ask his idol if he would want to be on his team. David was so kind and generous, which is why he and I are now dating. Virginia Slims Man doesn’t mind.
The trip back to Texas went smoothly. We did not upgrade to first class, but there was a whole row of empty seats behind us on the big plane, so I spread out and took a long nap.
I’m so glad I went. I feel like the world has opened up to me now. I would have hated myself forever if I let my fears continue to rule my life. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still odd and on medication and seeing a therapist, but I FLEW!! And I honestly didn’t think I’d ever do that again.
P.S., Please excuse how feely and girly this post is. I promise my next post will be full of the sarcastic snark you’ve come to expect from me.
Also, this post is so stupid long that I did not care to proofread it thoroughly. You’ll survive.