Solo Survivor

The Journey

After a couple of sleepless nights leading up to the journey, I was a little more anxious than I would have liked. Travelling with PTSD is not fun, but this was something I needed to do. I was packed and ready but still nervous that even though I had checked in they could still change my seat.

Even the seating was a bit of a drama. I checked in on line, but could only find a middle seat from Perth to Dubai. Anxiety went through the roof. Phoned the airline the following morning and they managed to get me in a window seat. I hung up the phone and burst into tears with relief – so thankful for the patience and kindness of the person on the other end phone helping me.

Finally it’s rime to go – my friend has arrived to take me to the airport. They have changed the route to the airport and we are too busy talking so miss the exit. No drama’s – I pull up google maps on my phone and we follow directions to get back on track. We make it in plenty of time and much laughter despite our little detour.

The check-in desk is virtually empty and I do not have to queue. I hand over my luggage and make my way to customs – also virtually empty. 10 minutes after arriving at the airport, I am at the departure gate. I fill up my water bottle and start to breathe again. As I am seated at the back of the plane, I get to board first. This suits me fine – I find my seat and get settled – iPod, headphones, kindle all at the ready, I have some Vicks, snacks and hand-wash nearby too.

The plane takes about an hour to board and finally the doors are closed and we’re ready to go. It feels like there is a vice-grip on my chest – I start doing some of my soothing exercises and survive the take-off without having a panic attack. There is an empty seat beside me and I am thankful for it – I think it is the only empty seat on the plane.

My therapist gave me a tip before I left about using Vicks to mask smells so that would be one less set of triggers to think about. It works well which is a huge relief as the days leading up to the trip had been fraught with flashbacks and nightmares. We arrive in Dubai and I have not had a panic attack for which I am very grateful. I turn my phone on and am met with a bunch of messages of support – my tribe looking after me – so thankful for them.

My knee sets off the security scanners so I get sent to a little room for a pat down – ugh. I survive and make my way to the required departure gate and sit down and start the next set of calming exercises. Again the plane takes over an hour to board but this time it’s a free for all. I decide to stay seated and let the queue die down.

This lady sits next to me saying what a good idea. She seems to sense I am anxious so starts up a conversation. For the next hour we chat about all sorts of things and I am calm by the time the queue has dwindled. She says good-bye as she is travelling business class and enters via a different gate to me. I was stunned – she could have boarded easily any time but chose to sit with me until I was ready. So very thankful to her.

Somewhere along the flight, I lost one of my rings – a family heirloom and was quite upset about it. Not sure if it  was when I tried my hands in the bathroom or somewhere else. One of the stewards went through the bin, piece by piece – no ring. After the meal and clean up, he came to my seat and took things apart and found it. I was so relieved. He gave me a huge smile and a high five.

Birmingham airport was awful. Took an hour and 20 minutes to get through customs. I almost passed out. In the middle of hundreds of people, the lone not moving, my chest closed right up and I was struggling to breathe. I got light headed and had to crouch down before I fell. By this time I had been up about 36 hours with no sleep so was pretty tired too. I tried my best to do some of my grounding exercises and thankfully got through without having a full blown panic attack.

Now that I have made it, I am sure the return journey may be a little easier. I am thankful to the kindness of strangers along the way. I am especially thankful for my tribe who got me ready and were with me along the way.

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