“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass…It’s about learning to dance in the rain.” Vivian Greene
I have always been an anxious traveller, the worst-case-scenario type of person, the type of person who checks for her passport twenty times before leaving the house, who arrives at the airport four hours in advance and looks for the departure board every thirty seconds even when the flight is not due for another three hours. It’s not something new. I have been like this since I was a child. My children are used to it and learnt to entertain themselves for hours, but some of my friends find it highly irritating.
Lucky for everyone, I was travelling on my own last Friday evening. It was a short flight to France, so there was no reason to feel overly anxious, especially since I do this journey frequently. However, when I woke up on the morning of the flight, I felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest and that butterflies were fluttering in my stomach. I felt ripples of anxiety. My breathing was shallow, my mouth dry, my heart palpitating and my body trembling uncontrollably. It took me by surprise as things had been going well recently and I was looking forward to spend some time with my family.
I guess that PTSD does not vanish suddenly and that I have to expect symptoms to manifest themselves now and then. Fortunately, I am now able to recognise the onset panic attacks and I am better able to minimise their intensity and duration.
I had not eaten anything that morning and all I had consumed was a black coffee, which was a mistake as caffeine can be a trigger for panic attacks as it leads to an increased heart rate. Moreover, dehydration and the drop of sugar levels from lack of food can cause light-headedness which can also intensify anxiety.
First, when I arrived at the airport, I sat down and try to concentrate on my breathing. I have recently discovered that abdominal breathing is very useful in calming me, so I did this for a few minutes and my breathing became more regular. I felt slightly less anxious.
Then, I went to a café to get something to eat and drink. The mechanic of eating grounded me slightly as it took me back to the instant. Therefore the nervous feeling in my stomach lessened slightly.
While I was in the café, I decided to distract myself by writing some haikus for the website I have created with two of my friends (https://postscriptumpoets.wordpress.com/). Writing haikus is very therapeutic as it allows the cathartic release of negative or traumatic experiences. A lot of my haikus are quite sombre, but I also try to write some more cheerful ones!
Here’s an example:
I have now become
Yet another casualty
Of your brutish games
Project a radiant glow
Unto my dull soul
It’s not Shakespeare, but I became so intensely focused in the task that the anxiety disappeared and I felt calm return to me. I spent the next two hours writing haikus and then it was time for boarding.
I am now in France, feeling calm and relaxed enjoying the magnificent views and the beautiful spring flowers.
After the storm, the calm always returns and the sun starts shining again…