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Planes, Trains, + Panic Attacks


I’ve learned a lot about myself throughout this pandemic.


In the beginning, we sounded the alarm and hunkered down early. We stocked up on groceries, bought stuff to make our own hand sanitizer, etc. 


We were a bit like doomsday preppers in all of the concern and prep for germs. And while I used to be a moderate germaphobe, I wasn’t as freaked out about this as I’d have initially thought. Perhaps it was all the preparations and forethought. We were able to feel in control of our thoughts and be proactive instead of reactive. 


I wasn’t too concerned about getting sick myself. I was more concerned about transmitting it to others. Early on I knew a couple of people who passed away from COVID-19. I knew others who were very ill and in the hospital. I was aware of the conditions which could make one more susceptible to it and had people around me I wanted to help keep safe from it. So, out of my love for human life, I willingly opted into the overabundance of caution.


We shifted into solitude and, surprisingly, Jay seemed to have more of a challenge with the loss of community than I did. The idea that we’d be stuck without interaction with our loved ones just wasn’t something he wanted to face. He needed people around, so we found ways to socially distance while still having one couple or another over at different times.


Myself, I was fine without the extra addition. I learned I love my personal time.


I learned how much the moment of freedom in action, thought, and deed was pivotally important to my mental health. I learned my most comfortable moments were one-on-one with friends instead of large groups. If you put me in a room with three to four couples I’d instantly become on-guard and concerned for everyone and their enjoyment. Or I’d mentally shut down and just listen to the conversations while allowing my mind to blank out on everything else. Not really contributing and yet not really absent. I could follow the conversation and join in and then step back out…almost in a protection kind of mode.


I’ve been truly surprised. The depth of understanding has been eye-opening and I find myself struggling to adjust to “normal” life again.


How do I return to pre-pandemic activities while still giving myself the care and nurturing I so desperately need? 


I’ve been telling Jay that travel for us needs to be a grounding and centering experience with purpose. I realize these are things I need so I can enjoy the moments. The idea of travel has always been a romantic thought for me, kind of distant and unattainable. “Yeah, yeah, it will happen. All in good time. Just be patient.”


In the past these were statements I’d use to pacify my belief I wouldn’t ever be able to and it was all just a pipe dream. Now it’s honestly achievable and I find myself bucking against it.


I’ve been a good traveler. I’ve gone to Italy, Greece, and Thailand with other people. And, granted, they were planned and escorted trips, but I went without Jay which felt like I was going by myself. I got to experience independence and freedom. I had to rely on myself to navigate getting from point A to joining the group in a foreign country alone. There were moments I was truly on my own and needed to accomplish a feat that, in the past, would never have happened. My own insecurities and fears kept me safe at home.


We are now both fully vaccinated, so we planned a trip to California. This meant we were flying with all of the stuff that goes with it. Getting to the airport early, security, waiting to board, public bathrooms, getting on the plane, etc., etc., etc. I thought I was ready for it, no big deal…but it was. 


Actually, it was a huge deal.


We got to the airport and all of the signage reminded us we are, very much, still in this pandemic and you have to be careful. I needed the bathroom and I was suddenly watching everyone. Did they wash their hands? So many people wearing masks below their noses or chins. My germaphobia started kicking in and fear crowded the edges of my brain. 


We had to get on the train and I was so grateful it was a small load. We got off at our gate and the train was all of a sudden bombarded with people waiting to board. I was grateful we had been able to socially distance and were getting off before everyone was crammed in together.


We rode the escalator up and I saw even more people half wearing their masks. Some people were even pushing past you as you stood and waited for the escalator to reach the top. My heart started pounding. My breath became shallow and I soon realized I was having a panic attack. Our first foray into travel and “normal” situations and I found myself struggling and wanting to cry.




I had to stop.


I had to breathe.


Jay asked me what was wrong and the first statement out of my mouth was a self-assessment of judgment. I realized my fear had me judging everyone around me who was not following the rules. I was angry and under that cover emotion was my own fear and insecurity. 


Even though I am fully vaccinated, my mind has been so conditioned to the severity of this disease and the gathering of strangers in a very public, uncontrolled space had me fighting through a very visceral reaction. 


After my first self-assessment and recognizing judgment of others I stopped to take a scan of my own state of being. I walked to a place out of the general path of foot traffic, closed my eyes, and just took a few deep breaths. Closing my eyes let me pull my own thoughts and energy into myself. Instead of worrying about what everyone else was doing, I was able to calm my mind and remove my upset. I asked what I was doing and what I needed to be doing for self-care and improvement. What could I do to help the situation and find a little peace?


Would yelling at people wearing their masks wrong make me feel any better? No.


It would likely start a fight that would effectively assist a further decline in my current state. 


I had no control over others. I did have control over myself.


I could breathe. I could argue with the negative talk and make it more positive. I could remind myself of all the healthy things I was doing and that I was OK. And I could remind myself that: 


“It’s ok to not be OK.”


I put in my headphones and played my music. Calm and soothing for my mind and spirit. I tuned in instead of lashing out.


This was a beautiful moment for me. A reminder of how easy it is to slip into the space of judgment. How easy it is to blame someone else for your own discomfort.


I’m grateful for the reminder. I’m grateful for an anxiety attack in the airport and the self-check moment to keep myself clear. 


I pray we can all take that moment to shift our focus. Instead of pointing the finger outwards, that we can pull inward to see what we can do to help ourselves be even better.




Journal Prompts:

  1. Have you ever noticed the same phenomenon? A time when you were fearful and instead of checking in to ask “why” you seek out fault with someone else?
  2. Is there something you can do the next time to help you find peace sooner and keep your relationships healthy?



                                         with love,


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