Overcoming Anxiety

Last updated: January 2022

If you’ve read some of my other posts, you may know I have sickle cell anemia and anxiety. The thought of having multiple chronic illnesses is enough to make me anxious, but I’m getting a lot better at taking care of myself physically and mentally.

Taking care of our health

I think a lot of people with chronic illnesses, especially sickle cell, may struggle with their mental health but don’t seek help because they’ve got enough on their plate already. I understand and relate to that.

I’m not consistent in taking care of myself. It’s a full-time job between different doctor’s appointments, keeping track of medications, taking care of your physical and mental wellbeing, and working to be better than you were the day before. I get help where I can. My hematologist makes sure I’m getting all the health care I need. My pill bottle helps me remember to take my medications, as long as I remember to fill it. And my therapist helps me work on my mental health goals.

My mental health goals

Two of my biggest goals are setting boundaries and getting over my fear of flying. Setting boundaries has always been a struggle for me because I’m a giver and some people take advantage of that. I’m forever working on saying no when I can’t or simply don’t want to do something, so I don’t stretch myself too thin.

I don’t really get anxiety attacks unless I’m thinking about or getting on a plane. I’ve been working on breathing exercises with my therapist since college to help with this. I always remember what to do but never feel like it helps when I’m on the plane. The same breathing exercises work when I’m feeling anxious in other situations but not on the plane. So, I’ve been avoiding flying for almost 3 years now. I didn’t miss much because of COVID-19 but this past summer I missed a lot because I was too afraid, too anxious to get on the plane. I would have a panic attack just seeing a plane and thinking about getting on one. So, my therapist and I agreed that maybe I would need medications to help me.

Making progress

Today, I got on the plane. Two planes actually. I had a vague memory of what it was like but mainly just all the things I was afraid of. And honestly, it wasn’t as bad as I remembered.

I was still pretty anxious the whole morning and at the beginning of the first flight. But it was a pretty smooth ride and by the end, I was confidently using my breathing techniques. So, the second flight I felt a lot less anxious. I still had my usual stomachache, and my heart would skip a beat with every bump, it was a little bumpier than the first one. And on the way back I was able to enjoy the first ride, though the second one was a bit bumpy. I even managed to fall asleep for a bit, I haven’t been able to do that on a plane since I went to Spain in high school.

I was okay!

So, I got on four planes over three days, and I was okay. I’m really proud of myself for facing this fear I had. I honestly didn’t think I could do it. But lately, I’ve had to face a few of my biggest fears and make some pretty big life changes.

Change and growth are always hard, but wow is it rewarding. I think I’m ready to get back out into the world one breathing exercise at a time. Oh, and I didn’t need the medicine after all.

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