I’m supposed to get on an airplane in two weeks. Ever since I made the arrangements for this flight, I have felt more anxious than I have ever felt about flying. And it’s not about the flying specifically, it’s about the fact that someone might throw up on the plane and I’ll be trapped. And/or I might throw up.
Even though I’ve had this anxiety for as long as I can remember, it has never held me back. I’ve never NOT gotten on an airplane because of it. But it’s never been as bad as it is now.
I have told myself that I don’t have to get on the plane. But I don’t want to become that person…that person who doesn’t get on the plane because then I might become that person who never leaves her house.
I have some Xanax but even that doesn’t reassure me. There are moments when I am able to say to myself, “So what? So what if someone throws up?” But mostly, when I think about that happening, I am petrified. And I am not exaggerating.
Yesterday I was talking with my friend Christie* about it. And she asked me, “What will happen if someone throws up?” I started to cry. And she asked me to state my fear. I started to shiver…my insides were quaking…this is usually what happens when I talk about it.
And do you know how many fucking times I have talked about this issue? How many times I’ve written about it? How long has it had its fucking grip on me? I’ve sought counseling. I’ve been hypnotized. I’ve “tapped” on it. And I recently started EMDR. I’ve intellectualized it. I can even explain it. I know why I have this anxiety. But knowing why doesn’t help.
Christie told me that she’d been doing some reading about Early Maladaptive Schemas and suggested I do some reading. Wow. Okay, so now I understand more about the whys but what do I DO?
It was Christie who reminded that our bodies hold emotions if we don’t allow them to flow on through. I wrote about it a while back: “When we can’t or aren’t allowed to move our emotions, they get stuck and can create pain or other issues. Certain physical movements accompanied by vocalizing in certain ways helps get the emotions moving. Imagine children, who use their whole body and their voices when expressing, for example, sadness or anger.”
She asked if I had been practicing. Uh…no. Why not? Why not indeed. As much as I am a proponent of feeling my damned feelings, feeling THIS feeling is HARD!
“Though memories are distributed throughout the body and brain, certain areas of the brain are especially important for the encoding and retrieving of memories. Interestingly, these areas of the brain are particularly rich in receptors for estrogen, progesterone, and GnRH, the hormones that fluctuate the most during the perimenopausal years. Given the heightened activity of these hormones in these areas, it makes sense that memory activation and retrieval would be enhanced during the years immediately surrounding menopause. Hurts and losses we’ve managed to forget or minimize for many years, even decades, may suddenly become overwhelming – even if we thing we should be ‘over’ all that pain from the past.”
Seasonal Affective Disorder, depression, and anxiety are all exacerbated by menopause. The good news is that our midlife brains and bodies are set up to heal our pasts. In fact, I contacted Dr. Northrup on Twitter and asked her if, after menopause, my anxiety would get better. She replied, “Yes. It goes away. As long as you’re willing to look at every aspect of your life and update it!”
And so getting back to my conversation with Christie, she suggested that I stomp around the room, fists, clenched, arms pumping, and that I say everything that I am afraid of. She said that I have to intentionally want to release the fear. Huh. Maybe on some level I haven’t wanted to release it? Maybe I just wanted to wait and see what would happen once the hormones stop jerking off in my body? And how long might that take? It could be another 10 years!
Lastly, she said this: “The most important piece is to not stop the fear once you start to feel it.”
And so, when Christie and I hung up, I got up, went down in the basement and did what she suggested. I had been shivering and shaking inside throughout our conversation and it continued. I’ve felt this way so many times before and had tried to clamp it down, distract myself, and stop it…to stop myself from feeling the fear.
I didn’t know what would happen as I stomped around the basement but I wanted to do the work. And I was amazed at what came out of my mouth:
I am ready to release this fear.
But I am so afraid!
I am afraid of vomit!
I am afraid AFRAID!
What if someone vomits on me?
What if everyone vomits on me?
Who will take care of me?
I can’t take care of myself.
No one will take care of me.
I am so afraid.
If I vomit no one will love me.
If he she you I vomit the world might end.
I want to voice this fear but I am afraid.
I am scared to say it.
(at this point the shivering had stopped by my chest and throat felt tight and constricted…I’ve never felt this before)
Up and out up and out up and out…
(oh isn’t that interesting)
I am so scared.
I don’t want to bad.
I’m scared that I am bad.
My poor body has been forced to hold on to this fear for so long.
It’s okay it’s okay it’s okay it’s okay it’s okay
I am afraid that I am a stupid, silly idiot for having this fear.
(and then fear moved into my jaw and the back of my head)
And so I don’t allow myself to let it go and it’s been there for close to 50 years. My body wants to let it go. It is saying PLEEEEEEASE let it go!!
Christie says emotions are never wrong, but I’ve created a story that I shouldn’t feel this fear. And so now I have to muster all the love and compassion I can and tell myself that it is not only okay to feel it, but a matter of my health and wellbeing to feel it.
And I notice that when I am shivering and shaking it’s not enough…it is me stopping short of allowing myself to really feel it…of allowing it to roll on through my body, from my core, through my chest and throat , into my jaw, and out the back of my head.
* Christie and I met through blogging and we participated on the Ditch The Diet/Intuitive Eating Panel together last year at Fitbloggin ’11 (along with Shauna Reed and Katie Heddleston ). This year Christie and I are doing a similar workshop at Fitbloggin ’12 on Self-Acceptance & Weight Loss, with Shauna and Mara Glatzel . While Christie bills her self as a “hybrid coach/body image/intuitive eating expert extraordinaire” (and she is that), she’s also an expert “feel your feelings” coach.