Bipolar Travel – Revisited

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Yes!  I made it to San Francisco on Tuesday without as much as an anxiety attack!  No Xanax, no panic, no hypomania.  Who is this person?

It’s been only two months since the Bipolar Boarding post was written (snickering all the while) and four months since starting on med after my diagnosis of Bipolar II.  Can it be? Has the med actually started to work?

I think it has.

There’s been a definite shift in how I approach things.  Using travel is a great example of the change in mindset that’s taking place.  I did not make a packing list.  I figured as long as I had my meds and glasses, anything forgotten could be purchased if necessary.  I did not bring a large carry-on.  No overhead compartment stress! I just brought my laptop and stuffed it under the seat in front of me.  Packing?  I shared a suitcase with my husband. What to do once I got to the city?  I purchased a guidebook and map but decided to play it by ear and do what I feel like doing when I get up in the morning.  There’s definitely a pattern emerging here.

Besides finally figuring out I have to be nice to myself and start learning how to eliminate huge stressors, the big question I’ve tried to sort is whether during prep for the last trip I was sliding into hypomania or suffering from anxiety.  Looking back, it was probably a combination of the two since the meds were still kicking in. I may never know.

Since arriving in SF, I have, however, suffered one major anxiety attack.  Although it was paralyzing and I spent most of yesterday recovering, it has given me yet another chance to fine-tune recognition of anxiety vs the onset of hypomania. Which, believe it or not, is comforting.  The goal is to recognize anxiety and begin to treat it ASAP – with breathing, meditation techniques, med, whatever is available.

Although I realize I’m far from recovered, the moral of the story is three-fold: I’ve experimented and emerged successful from my attempt at eliminating travel stressors, I’m learning to fine-tune recognition of anxiety vs hypomania, and to stick with the med, because once at the right dose, it can start to bring about positive, life-altering changes.

Bipolar Boarding

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Being a bipolar person presents a unique set of challenges when traveling.  I’ve already tackled the joys of packing. Now, let’s address boarding the aircraft.

The single most stressful time at the airport for yours truly is getting in line for the all-important ‘boarding  shuffle.’ Why? The bane of my existence: securing optimum overhead compartment space.

If I travel for business, it is a requirement of my company my laptop never be out of immediate reach or the compartment it is stowed in out of my line of sight. Over the years, along with the escalating severity of my condition, this rule has made me downright paranoid.  Not only during business travel, but securing optimal overhead space during personal travel has become an anxious nightmare as well.

I’m sure some of you are laughing by now (and rightfully so), but I’m also sure some are nodding in solemn agreement.  Bipolarity aside, over the last few years, securing the compartment immediately above your seat has become a blood sport.  Especially for those who insist on stretching to the absolute limit the allowable number and size of carry on items.  Thankfully, my Dear Husband has a frequent flier standing that allows us to pre-board, so yes, as I write this post, my articles are stowed directly above my exit row seat [score!] and within my line of sight. However, the couple with the 5 month old infant who boarded almost-too-late for the transcontinental flight?  Wow. The daggers Mom was throwing when her overhead compartment was already occupied were the stuff of which legends are made. I feel very sorry for her.  Having once been in her position, I truly do.  However, I can say with conviction that the soul crushing anxiety I feel as a bipolar person without their optimum overhead space is nothing compared to what I felt as a new Mom (many years ago) when my diaper bag had to be stowed 3 seats behind me.

Sigh. Such is life as a bipolar traveler.  Time to close the cabin doors & get this flight underway. Thank goodness I have Xanax already on board.