Anxiety

Anxiety came into my life after a certain flight. Southwest into MDW.

We were below 10,000 feet. The sterile cockpit light was on. A man took his son to the forward lav. How dare he? Doesn't he know he shouldn't get up? On his way back, with his young son walking in front of him, our plane dropped. I grabbed my armrest. He grabbed onto his son, and they made their way back to their seat, clutching seat backs until they tucked into their row.

When I say the plane dropped, I mean dropped. I don't know how much. But, I do know that the engines powered up, and it seemed like we climbed back up a bit to regain the altitude we lost. Or at least that is my interpretation of the event.

The plane landed without incident. Steve never told me what could have been the cause, despite my effort to get an answer. His friend, however, told me it was probably wind sheer.

Now, I'm HYPER aware of engine noises. Sitting in front of the wing sounds different then sitting behind (obviously when the engines are on the wing). When climbing I HATE when the engines get quiet. I hate when they power up and power down. I hate changes in engine sounds.

My remedy? Ativan, beer, and headphones that blast into my tender eardrums. My latest flight song is Migos, Fight Night. I close my eyes, bob my head to the music, and try to detach from all the noises around me.

I always joked how ironic and funny it was that I'm a pilot wife and yet I'm an anxious flier. Now, I realize that anxiety is no joke.

The next anxiety issue happened about four years ago while at my sister's house. We just celebrated her son's birthday with a great dinner, cake, and strong coffee. I mentioned the strong coffee because after it took effect in my system, it started to triggers some PVCs (premature ventricular contractions). Basically, it's when you heart fires too early, so it stops, and then does a strong kickstart beat to try to get things reset.

So, there I was, sitting at the dining room table quietly reading a magazine, when I started to feel this thumping in my chest. I checked my pulse, and sure as shit my heart was stopping, and then having a strong kick-start beat. That pattern lasted at least fifteen seconds.

I thought I was dying.

I told my sister that I thought I was dying.

I then proceeded to have a full blown panic attack. My first ever. I was lying on the floor in her front room, right under the open window, trying to have the February cold help me. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.

Steve came home at some point. He had been bowling with the kids. My panic attack was coming to an end.

So, now I have anxiety about my damn PVCs. I've been to multiple doctors (no cardiologist, yet), had a couple EKGs, and everyone says they are benign and normal. That episode really opened the doors to my anxiety really becoming a thing in my life.

I get anxious with certain phone calls. I get anxious when I'm at the lake on my in-laws boat.

We are in the market for our own boat now, and I worry that my anxiety will get the better of me.


**

For the past year I've been having this "weird, head-spacey" issue. Sometimes I feel off balance. Sometimes I feel like I need to be propped up or hold onto something if I'm standing. Sometimes I feel like my breath is taken away. Sometimes I get this whole body tingling sensation. It was random to start, but come late Fall it became more and more of an issue. I even started to take my Ativan on my "bad days."

So, I went to a therapist. I'm actually on a new therapist since my first one took a leave for a bit. Thank the good Lord for therapy! I'm still working on techniques and strategy to get myself out of this damn anxiety cycle. It's a process.

I have bad days, even weeks. I've avoided situations because of anxiety. I've cried because of anxiety. It's frustrating. In fact, my last therapy session was me in full-on tears for a good 30 minutes because I'm so frustrated. I'm not totally myself, and I want to be. I've always had a strong body, a healthy body, and this anxiety is making me feel weak. I feel like my body is failing me, and I hate that.

It's impacted my mood as of late. I haven't been happy-go-lucky. I've been waiting for the other shoe to drop for me to have another "head-spacey" thing. My mind is constantly chattering. Mind chatter sucks. It's exhausting. I'm exhausted.

I've started to meditate, which is teaching me about mindfulness and being present. It's helping me guide any unproductive thoughts out of my head. I like it so far. Exercise is something else I need to do more of. I walk Niko about 2 miles daily, but I need to kick it up. But, I tried spinning the other weekend...and the whole damn time I was worried that I was going to have a heart attack. I was a fucking collegiate athlete, and now I struggle riding a fucking bike. The struggle is real. Yoga is always a good thing for me...I just need to go to the studio more.

Steve has been supportive. There have been a time or two where he'll get frustrated with me and tell me to take an Ativan. But, that's rare, and happened before this become a real issue for me. He gives me a lot of hugs. He is supportive of my therapy visits. He's been great about getting things set in the house before he leaves on trips. He doesn't express any issues with me not having a perfect house when he gets home, or when I failed to have dinner planned. He takes time to talk to me when he's on the road. And if I'm having a bad day, he often checks-in with me.

**

Both therapists asked about family history of trauma.

Interesting.

Apparently there is talk about the connection of family trauma being passed down through generations.

Well, there certainly is trauma in my family. Poland, WWIII. My maternal grandparents were very much part of the war. My grandmother was forced labor in Germany. I wrote about her in this blog post. My grandfather fought with the Allies. Certainly there was trauma with that.

Perhaps that trauma came down the genetic code to me.

**

I know of other pilot wives that have anxiety. Perhaps it's exacerbated with being married to a pilot? Perhaps it's because I don't take enough time to focus on myself? Who knows. I'm exploring all this. I actually have a new blog post idea swimming around in my head, which is how I don't give myself enough attention. I give most of my attention to the kids and being a solo-parent. I need to work on that. 

I'm putting this out there for a couple reasons. To start, it feels good, therapeutic in a way, to get this all written out. Secondly, I want people to know they aren't alone. If you're reading this and can relate, you are not alone. I know us pilot wives often live the same life, so I know some of my readers can connect with my words. Validation is very powerful.

And lastly, I'm putting this out there because a lot of people have anxiety, like 1 in 3 people. I think a lot of people who know me personally would be surprised to hear all this, but I can be a good faker. Fake it until you make it, right? My point is that a lot pf people deal with this, chances are someone close to you.

I've always been a strong supporter of "couch time" and mental health. I first saw a therapist in college, and then again with Steve, and now with my current therapist. I want to encourage people to seek help if they need it. Don't be afraid. This shit is real, and it impacts real people with real families and real relationships. This blog post isn't intended to be a downer at all. I'm a writer...sometimes I just have to express myself. I will get through this. I will. I have good support around me, and am working on the tools to rise above. It's all good.










Comments

  1. Thank you for sharing this. I've been struggling with anxiety as well for many years and never linked it to being a pilot's wife. It's such an interesting concept. Here's something that I'm wondering as I ponder this new way of looking at this condition..... has anyone noticed a link between anxiety and pilot's daughters?

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    1. Our daughter isn't showing any signs of anxiety, but our son is. At his age, it's more just worry, but I could see it developing into anxiety...which is why I'm very open about my journey. I want them to learn as I learn and navigate through this.

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  2. Weakest generation in history; a bad thought will cause you to get anxiety? My grandparents escaped nazis, lost their parents at 8, raised 8 kids, and joked about all of that during their lifetimes.

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    1. I wouldn't call me weak. In fact, I'm actually a very strong woman to handle and manage all that I do. If you read through my post, you will see that both therapists and medical doctors have asked about past family trauma. There is theory that anxiety can pass through the genes. It's very possible that I earned this honestly.

      That is amazing that your grandparents escaped the nazis and went to lead a full life.

      My grandparents, however, never joked about their war stories. My grandmother only shed tears when she recalled her past.

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  3. Dearest relatable brave Joanna,

    For every you-know-what who drops a nice turd in the comments, there are at least twice more whose days you brighten and whose lives you enrich by your incredible, heartfelt posts.

    Vulnerability requires strength and is not for the weak. The reason why more people can't be as honest and brave as you is because of certain turd droppers who themselves are probably unhappy in life and not strong enough to admit it or ask for help, thus lashing out at those who do dare to share their feelings. Sort of a "how dare you be so open about how you feel and what you need when I spend every day bottling it up and keeping it inside."

    There are studies that show that someone can recieve nine wonderful compliments and one negative comment and yet focus on the negativity instead of the outpouring of love and support. You have so much love and support Joanna because you yourself give so much to everyone around. Since you give and give and give, not just to your family and friends, but also to people you don't know. How many have read your blog and felt better and less lonely just because of your words.

    You have an abundant heart and you're an incredible person. I know you're going to be a very succesful author one day! Cherish yourself with as much care and love as you give others.

    There's was a great discussion about this topic on Oprah called "why you should put yourself first." Here's the link to that 3 minute clip:
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ZhqokZF5OFU

    Sending you much love!!! <3

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    Replies
    1. BEST COMMENT EVER!!! Totally brightened my day! Thank you so much!

      Delete
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