Empire State of Mindfulness - Part One

Ever since I was a little girl, I had always dreamed of going to New York. Walks through Central Park (@ Maid in Manhattan). Running throughout the city with tons of shopping bags in my hand (@ Confessions of a Shopaholic). Eating on the steps of The Met (@ Gossip Girl). Running with King Tut at the Museum of Natural History (@ Night At the Museum). Posing for pictures in front of the timeless brownstones & going to cool art galleries (@ She’s Gotta Have It). New York was a fantasy...or so I thought.

New York Skyline

My friends and I had been talking about making this trip happen since August 2017 and in April 2018 it would all be happening. I booked the trip in a few different parts back in December. I would fly from California to Virginia, then road trip with my friend, Destini from Virginia to Washington D.C. and spend the night there. Then, from DC we would drive to Long Island, NY to meet our other friend, Nick, and then take a train from Long Island to the Big Apple. There were a lot of factors in this trip, but the one factor that I never had to worry about was my road trip buddy and homegirl for life, Destini. She was always on the ball and helped make planning for this trip go off without a hitch (mostly lol).  We’ll revisit Destini later on, but let me move forward in the planning process.

In the few months between booking the trip and actually going on the trip, I had my traumatic event which triggered the onset of my anxiety and temporary depression. That all happened at the end of January/beginning of March 2018. While I continued planning my trip during February, I still had it in my head that my anxiety was just a short, temporary phase that I would snap out of before my trip in April. But time was running out. Next thing I knew, it was already the beginning of March and my anxiety was still incredibly prevalent, and unfortunately, so was my depression. I was somehow still in the phase of denial and believed that what I was experiencing had a quick fix. It wasn’t until the middle of March where I started to really worry about being able to travel across the country alone and spend a week in a new city, away from my comfort zone.

Two weeks out and I was seriously thinking about canceling my trip. I wouldn’t get a refund on my ticket nor the down payment for the hotel or anything, but that didn’t bother me. What bothered me was the idea of being so far away from anyone who could take care of me if I had an anxiety attack. I feared that I would have an anxiety attack while in the middle of the sky, flying somewhere above Middle America and not be able to get out. I feared fainting in the middle of the airport because my worry and stress would cause me to be lightheaded. My anxiety was convincing me that anything and everything that could possibly go wrong with me while on this trip would go wrong - *cue My Mind’s Playing Tricks on Me* - and there was absolutely nothing I could do about that. I was feeling hopeless.

The Met

Fortunately enough, around that same time, I figured out that my depression was connected to a severe hormone imbalance which was caused by a form of birth control I had implanted in my arm since September 2017. As soon as I found out, I got it removed so I could get my hormone levels back to normal, hopefully before my trip.

Phew, one less thing for me to worry about for this trip and it was a major one.

Next on my Pre-East Coast Trip to-do list was to make the executive decision to NOT cancel my trip and tell my friends (Destini & Nick) what was going on.

So far, throughout my mental health journey, I have learned that I find it easier to be comfortable being in new places and doing new things that may give me anxiety, if I do them with people who know what’s going on with me and know that I have severe anxiety. I find comfort in knowing that the people I’m around have an understanding of what I’m going through and can accept me for as I am now, despite my changed demeanor and willingness to do certain things.

So, at this point, I called up Destini and Nick and had a heart to heart with them about what I was going through; my doubt, why I was having apprehension about this trip, what they can expect from me, and what I would need from them. Expressing my needs was something major for me. It was never any list of demands or Mariah Carey diva conditions like I needed hot tea everywhere I went, but it was more so expressing how they can best support me during this time. In regards to this trip, my needs came in a few forms (in more or less words):

  1. There are certain things that I can’t handle, mentally, and when those arise I will let you know.

  2. I may be anxious during most of the trip, but I know my limits and I’ll let you know when something is too much.

  3. I am genuinely excited to be going on this trip and to be seeing so many new things and having new experiences. I’m really just here to have a good time.

  4. Sometimes I just cry. I don’t know why and usually I’m actually OK, but sometimes the tears just flow. When that happens, just let me just let it out and then we can go on with our day.

  5. If I ever need a moment, I’ll just step aside. Don’t worry if I just go off to be by myself for a little bit. I’ll be back and ready for fun.

  6. I’ll tell you if I’m feeling an anxiety attack coming on. If it happens, just hold my hand, talk to me about something positive and make sure I continue to breathe.

  7. Lastly, emergency contact information and my medical card are located in my wallet. Just in case. :)

Nick and Destini

These were the needs I communicated with my friends (in a less formal fashion of course) before and at the start of our trip. I’m lucky enough that both Destini and Nick affectionately understood my needs and made it known to me, both verbally and in actions, that they were down to support me 100%. That’s more than I could’ve ever asked for.

Alright, so on the real, while talking it out was therapeutic for me and did help me calm some of my nerves, I still had my doubts and fears about getting there. I was looking toward a 9-hour trip each way, with a layover in Baltimore going and a layover in Chicago coming back AND I had to do that alone. Oh, best believe my anxiety was going through the roof. Normally, that would have been no problem for me, but now with my anxiety, that just sounds like a whole lot of time that something can go wrong.

Freaking out, I ended up making an appointment with my doctor and filled her in on my fears. I guess a lot of people have flight anxiety, so she was able to categorize my fear as that and prescribe me Lorazepam. For those of you who don’t know what Lorazepam is, it is essentially a prescription drug you take an hour before your flight which slows down your Central Nervous System, in order to help you relax and stay calm enough for you to go on with your travel. If you want information you can read here, or just ask your doctor at your next visit, which is probably better.

At this point, I was pretty sure my entire checklist is all complete.

Find a solution to my depression ✅

Express my concerns to my friends ✅

Get support from my friends ✅

Figure out a way to stay calm rn route ✅

Pack ✅

One final “cry it out” before I leave ✅

Say a few “Hail Marys” and “Our Fathers” for good luck. 

Now that my to-do list is all checked off, it was finally time to fly to Virginia and travel to the Empire State! ✈️

To be continued...