Flying into Fear, Part 2

Read Part 1 here

What a strange airline it was!

My fear of flying made every flight I took an exhausting process of dread, panic, relief, and guilt. Mental health issues usually require a variety of strategies to overcome. Healing is more art than science, a process of trial and error with fingerprint individuality. For me, therapy on its own wasn’t cutting it.

I’d heard more than once that information doesn’t help the phobic person, that irrationality can’t be countered with facts. That was not the case with me. I sought out information to set my brain grooves aright. I read Patrick Smith’s book Ask the Pilot: Everything You Need to Know About Air Travel, which communicates the science and safety of flight with frankness and humor.

I also started to spend time on the SOAR Fear of Flying forum online, where Captain Tom Bunn puts all manner of fearful flyers at ease with data about planes and the human brain. (In short, planes are a lot more predictable and reliable.) [Read more…]

Flying into Fear, Part 1

PlaneYears ago, I worked with a woman who sold her car after a spider’s nest fell on the roof. Although her husband seemed to have cleared all spiders from the interior, she could not bring herself to open that door. Ever again.

I knew another woman who took anti-anxiety meds regularly on the off chance she’d encounter a snake at her Midwestern office job.

And how can we forget public speaking, all those students who stay home from school on presentation day beset with digestive difficulties as they dread the encroaching next?

Of course, these fears have always seemed irrational to me. By definition, phobias are irrational. Spiders and snakes rarely kill anyone. And public speaking? What’s the worst that can happen? [Read more…]

Taming the Busy Trap

3461156831_79c3049815_zBy Allison Backhous Troy

I’m emerging from one of the busiest seasons of my life.

My wedding and a move from Michigan to Wyoming have filled my summer with enough checklists and tasks to keep me running around until one in the morning, until I finally put myself to bed, the set of tomorrow’s tasks stuttering in my ear while I try to sleep.

I’ve been asked numerous times how I’ve held up under the stress. How I deal with feeling overwhelmed and exhausted and stretched too thin.

And, to be honest, I’ve had to say, “Well, it doesn’t feel too bad, actually. I’m doing fine.”

I have felt fine. I’ve been sleeping regularly and haven’t resorted to a diet of coffee and junk food. Maybe my seeming lack of stress is due to the fact that I got to spread these tasks over my thirteen-month engagement.

Maybe I’ve been channeling some inner peace that makes this series of beginnings and ends more tolerable, serene, easy to handle.

Or, perhaps I’m not as stressed as people think I should be because, in the regular routine of my life, planning this life transition has felt like a vacation. Like a pause in the midst of a usually numbing busyness, one that turns every hour into a blank slate, waiting for tasks to fill it. [Read more…]

Hello, Insomnia, My Old Friend

4539066536_d5b0cb95a8_oIt may have started with the antique grandfather clock in my childhood living room. The mahogany behemoth bonged on the half hour, and whether I was conscious of its waking me or not, the booming rattled my bones: 10:00. 10:30. 11:00. 11:30. Midnight.

Around eighth grade, I began to struggle with falling asleep. As I lay there, I anticipated—dreaded—the half-hour intervals of time. The midnight gongs were the worst: the official passage into the next day, the extended knell of loneliness, the reminder that I was the only person awake in the world. Around then, I would stand in the hallway outside my parents’ room. I knew it was selfish, but I wanted someone, anyone, to join me in my tragic vigil. I rarely even had to say a word. My mom would sense my presence and whisper, “Just close your eyes and lie real still.” It’s like she, too, never slept. [Read more…]

The Two Lists

imageSeven-year old Isaiah found a small desk in the back of our garage and claimed it. “I want to paint it red,” he said. So we prepped it with a hand-sander, and I bought him a can of paint. Familiar with Tom Sawyer and being no fool, he recruited two of his brothers. Determined to let this be Isaiah’s project, I left them to their labor. Soon the desk was drying in the sun, and I was preoccupied with cleaning brushes along with whatever boy flesh I could lay hold of long enough to scrub it with mineral spirits.

Isaiah returned to the scene of the crime to survey his work. It was a damned atrocity. Paint ran haphazardly against the grain, tacky pools of it collected on the surface, and thick rivulets had crawled down the sides and hardened.

“Look at it,” the boy said, his arms spread wide. “It’s beautiful!” [Read more…]


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