Today I want to tell you a story. I’ll try to keep it brief, but it’s a story that I think has a pretty important message, so stick around to the end if you have the time.
But first, if you haven’t read Day 1 and Day 2 of my Daily Blogging Challenge, feel free to check them out:
Day 1 chats all about why I’m embarking on this Daily Blogging Challenge, and the importance of challenging yourself.
And Day 2 is all about how keeping commitments to yourself can completely change your relationship with…well, yourself (something I’m really working on, and that I’m certain will make a huge difference in my life).
But ok, yes, story time.
So, just over a year ago, in the Summer of 2018, I made my first trip across the ocean to Europe.
To say I was excited doesn’t even begin to cover it.
This was a trip I had been dreaming about for years. All my friends had done it, and finally, I was going to join the ranks of people who had experienced the beauty, culture, and culinary delights of Europe (specifically London, Paris, and Nice).
But wait, we can’t just send me off on my merry way, now can we? There’s got to be a fun plot twist thrown in the mix to keep things interesting…
Interesting is one way to describe this event.
Traumatic is another…
On the way over, on our flight from Detroit to Iceland, I lost consciousness.
It was a red-eye flight, and I had put my head down on my boyfriend’s shoulder to take a much-needed nap.
Almost instantly, I remember lifting my head, and thinking, wow I feel really hot. I woke up my boyfriend, and I told him I was going to faint.
Next thing I know, I open my eyes, I have three flight attendants standing in front of me, and my boyfriend is looking at me like… well, I actually can’t even think of a good comparison because he had never looked at me with that much fear.
As for me…
It’s hard to describe the total panic and complete confusion that overcomes you after fainting, unless you’ve experienced it for yourself. It’s not like waking up from a dream, or taking a little cat nap (I wish). The only way I can think to describe it is it feels like you died…
Dramatic, but that’s truly how it felt.
Not to mention, I distinctly recall the fear of not being able to communicate. My voice just left me. I was so disoriented and mentally gone that the more people asked me if I was okay, the more confused and terrified I got.
Eventually I remember the flight attendant calling for any medical professionals on board.
Meanwhile, I continue to (silently) panic. What in the world just happened? Why can’t I talk? Why do I feel so confused? Am I dying?! Are they going to have to land the plane? How do I get off the plane? I NEED TO GET OFF THIS PLANE!
Long story short: A doctor was on board, he checked me out, and he concluded that I was fine. My blood pressure had likely dropped.
I wish I could say we landed a couple hours later, the incident totally forgotten, but that wouldn’t make for a very interesting story…
About 10 minutes after the doctor left, I then proceeded to vomit for the next 3 hours. At first too dizzy and disoriented to make my way to the bathroom, I had to use those airline barf bags, vomiting publicly with an entire flight of people.
Oh, and let’s not forget that I’m in the middle seat, and I have another person right beside me (poor guy).
So yeah, I’m embarrassed, panicked, weak, confused, disoriented, and ridiculously dizzy.
I can’t even remember when, but eventually, I stopped vomiting.
Upon arriving in Iceland, I slept on a bench in the airport for probably a solid two hours, woke up, got on another flight, landed in London, and was totally fine.
Okay, cool, so why I am I telling this story then?
How fainting on a plane changed me
We were in Europe for close to four weeks.
During this time, I don’t remember ever thinking about the flight. It didn’t phase me. Even when heading home, beyond telling myself I wouldn’t sleep on this flight, I didn’t have any fear over getting back on a plane.
It wasn’t until about a solid 3 months after we were home that I experienced my first panic attack.
I didn’t even know that that was what was happening. I just remember working on my laptop, at a cafe, and having this very distinct feeling wash over me of thinking I was about to faint.
Suddenly the room was spinning, my heart was pounding, and I was pretty certain that the somersaults my stomach was doing was a sign that this was the end for me.
If you’ve ever experienced a panic attack, you probably recognize the feeling. And, if you haven’t, well, I hope you never do.
I managed to get home, ate a chocolate bar because I thought it might have been a blood sugar thing, and soon after, I made a doctor’s appointment.
Again, at this point, I’m not even thinking about panic attacks. I’m legit thinking there’s something medically wrong with me. And, of course, the more I think this, the more panicked I get, and the worse I feel (talk about a vicious cycle).
This cycle continues on for probably close to two months.
My doctor did suspect that my issue was anxiety, but he also ended up sending me for a bunch of tests. I wore a heart rate monitor for a week, I was referred to a cardiologist, and I was given a possible diagnosis of some rare condition, but was then never followed up with after the tests were complete…
Now, of course I’m thankful that I was provided with healthcare, but I also know that the fear of taking all these tests, and feeling like I wasn’t updated fully on what was going on, only made me more anxious.
I had to be the one to call the cardiologist and specifically ask if there was any follow-up they had to do with me. To this day I still don’t really understand why I had to go through the fear of thinking I had this rare condition when I clearly didn’t.
I was just left to sit in my own panic and confusion.
Again, long story short: all of this caused me to develop an anxiety disorder
I would say that I’m just naturally a little more high anxiety than your average individual. I’ve always had an issue with blood, I don’t like being alone at night, and I spend way too much time overthinking mundane tasks.
But it had never affected my life like it was now.
I was constantly worried about fainting. I was always thinking that something was medically wrong with me. And, oh boy, if I thought blood freaked me out before, I was now at a whole new level.
I mean, even the most basic outings, like having dinner with my friends, would send me into a panic for no particular reason.
I hated it, and I was so mad at myself for not being able to get a handle on it (I now recognize that this only probably made things worse).
So how do I handle my anxiety today?
I wish I could tell you that this is a post all about how I conquered my anxiety, but, if I’m being honest, I still struggle with it.
It’s way less extreme than it was at the beginning of the year, but every once in a while, often when I’m stressed, I’ll find that panic start to creep back in.
Of course I now have methods that I use to cope with it, and maybe I’ll write a follow-up post talking about that in the future, but I basically wanted to write this particular post for two reasons:
One, I think it’s important for people to recognize that even if someone doesn’t look like they have much to be anxious about in their life, you never know what life events have happened that are now affecting them in a way that you can’t relate to (like fainting on a plane, for instance).
And two, I think it’s just super important to share our stories about mental health.
So here’s to being just a little more open, honest, and real about those struggles that we all face daily!
Because, trust me, even if it feels like you’re the only person in the whole world who worries about [insert your own personal struggle here], the human brain is a ridiculously complicated organ, and you are absolutely, unequivocally, undeniably NOT alone in your struggle.
Feel free to share this post with anyone you think needs to hear it 🙂