Over the weekend, my son and daughter-in-law flew into East Tennessee from the west coast for a two-week visit. I should already be there. Two weeks is a long time. At least, it is for me. I wish I could explain to my family the sense of terror I feel when faced with a trip like this away from my home — my comfort zone. I know it’s irrational; yet despite my best efforts, the panic, anxiety, and fear feel so overwhelming. Trips are
a complete nightmare particularly challenging for me, even if it’s only 2 to 3 hours away (depending on traffic through Knoxville). For the past few weeks, I’ve spent most of my time trying to stay busy and distracted to the point of not being able to focus on any one thing at all because I still found myself obsessing over this upcoming trip.
Of course, the anxiety has only gotten worse as a result rather than lessening.
I need a new strategy. This isn’t working. Visits with family are becoming increasingly more difficult. More often than not, exhaustion leaves me in a semi-catatonic state, sitting, staring at nothing for long periods of time in an attempt to regain control over my thoughts. I’m finding that mindfulness of my thoughts and practicing thought-stopping techniques to try to prevent panic from taking over require 100% of my energy and attention in order to be effective. It feels like an impossible task. I had several severe panic attacks over the weekend because I couldn’t quite manage the countermeasures — the kind of panic attacks that make me feel like I’m going to blow my aorta while gasping for that last suffocated breath. My only relief is in the emotional numbness that sometimes follows one of these episodes; but I’m left drained, disconnected, every time.
“It’s all in your head. Face your fears.” That seems to be the general consensus of everyone on the planet. Talk about unhelpful platitudes. That one’s at the top of my list, yet I continue to do just that every time I leave my home for simple errands and grocery shopping or take one of these trips back to my hometown. It never gets any easier. Don’t let anyone lie to you about that. It really doesn’t.
I haven’t seen my son and daughter-in-law since last June. I really do want to see them, more than anyone else. Whenever I finally force myself to make the drive, I’ll be staying with my mom since I haven’t visited her since last October. Trips like this would be a lot easier if I could spend my time there exploring, staying busy, actually doing something. East Tennessee is remarkably beautiful and full of tourist-y things to do. I love my mom to pieces, but sitting there listening to her clocks tick for hours on end really doesn’t make for a great visit and is part of the reason why I’m dreading this so much. After a few days of that, I’m more than ready to come home! Alas, my mother’s health is not good; and I should not be complaining. I visit for her sanity, not mine.