Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Glutton For Punishment

It's official. We've decided to return to Myrtle Beach again this year. I made the final payment today on a three bedroom oceanfront condo. We decided it was actually cheaper to go to the beach than visit nearby Hershey, PA, which was our original plan. While calculating all the admissions fees for a family of five at the various Hershey Attractions, I realized we would need close to $1,000. And that's just the parks, zoos, and attractions. That doesn't include the lodging and if we wanted to do other spontaneous things, like, oh...say, EAT. At Myrtle Beach, we pretty much just go to the beach every day all day and play in the sand, sun, and surf. Which conveniently enough is free.

Most of you are probably thinking "If this is punishment, bring it on!"

The beach itself is fantastic. I love the beach. Everything about the beach. I crave the beach all year long. I am a child of the water who had the misfortune to be born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, nowhere near the sea. The Mon is great and all, but for swimming? Well. Ick. And we're a little short on beach.

The trouble with being born in Southwestern Pennsylvania is that to reach the ocean, one must either drive very long distances or fly on an airplane. I am not fond of flying on airplanes. Nor is my wallet.

That leaves the Very. Long. Drive.

With three small children. That pee. A lot.

But beyond that, I suffer from panic attacks. I began having these panic attacks when I was about 24 years old right after I plowed my 1989 Pontiac Grand Am into the rear end of someone's Buick on Dravosburg Hill. It wasn't too hard to figure out the trigger for these panic attacks. Every time I traveled down Dravosburg Hill, I had a panic attack. The panic attacks bring on a feeling of not being able to breathe, my arms and legs and face begin to feel strangely numb as if they're being deprived of oxygen and I am certain I will pass out at any moment.

Now the typical advice for someone who suffers a panic attack is to let yourself experience it. Go through the entire panic attack and allow yourself to see that you do not, in fact, die.

The problem with this logic however, is that if I am driving a car at 65 MPH and I pass out, I will, in fact, DIE.

The Dravosburg Hill panic attacks eventually passed (good thing since my son attended Pre-School in Dravosburg three days a week) and I had been pretty much panic attack free until last year on the way to Myrtle Beach.

I had too much caffeine, had been driving way too long already, and as I approached a tunnel somewhere in Virginia, I pulled into the left lane to pass a slow eighteen-wheeler in front of me. I felt confident doing this as there was a big sign at the entrance to the tunnel stating "LEFT LANE NO TRUCKS" Whereupon another eighteen wheeler decided that didn't apply to him and he began to barrel down on my ass at 70 MPH.

I suddenly remembered all about panic attacks.

I got through the tunnel and immediately pulled over on the shoulder of the road much to the surprise of my husband who (quite rightly) pointed out what a stupid place I had chosen to pull over. I explained it was either pull over or pass out and die, and he wisely shut up and got in the driver's seat.

I could not drive the rest of the trip until we reached two lane roads.

Since then, any old highway can set me off. Driving 279 North, which is as familiar to me as the back of my hand, is now a serious challenge. I recently drove Jamie to a birthday party in Monroeville and the Squirrel Hill Tunnels, which are pretty darn tame, set me off so badly I had to fight not to pull over then and there and call Dave to come pick us up. I'm grateful I've managed to avoid the Liberty Tubes since I'm fairly certain the police get cranky when they have to rescue the crazy bitch that parks her car in the middle and refuses to move.

We're leaving June 19th so I think therapy is out of the question. Unless anyone knows of any super-charged ultra turbo head shrinker that can work miracles in 30 days or less (Hey if Domino's can do it 30 minutes or less......), I think I'm going to need to experience better living through chemistry.

Do they make tranquilizers that taste like M&M's?


Norkio said...

Yes, they are called M&Ms. Joking aside, I don't know what to say. I was unable to drive on the freeway after an auto accident for about 6 months, but I can't say I can relate to your panic attacks. See your doctor, see what they say about counseling and drugs.

Judi said...

Make your husband drive---problem solved!
We have been driving to the Outer Banks for many years---we would leave in the middle of the night--carrying the kids out of their beds. I too love the beach and can sit there for hours. It's even better now that I don't have to look after little ones!
As far as I am concerned, a beach vacation is one of the least expensive vacations you can take!
I don't know what to tell you about the panic attacks except to go and get drugs. answer for everything!!!
Get that beach chair out and dusted off!

Jenni V. Baxter said...

Beth, I get the same thing!! I get panic/anxiety attacks for a bout 3 years now. I am on daily medicine, but when every I have to drive a highway or feel one coming on I take a lorazapam. They don't make ya goofy! And they settle you down. I don't leave home with out them! Call me if you want to find out more!

tbsomeday said...

oh mb..i remember that from last year!
this year will be much better--sounds lovely--it's the vacation i would pick :)

Mount Belly Mama said...

I am so sorry about your panic attacks. I learned in massage school that our muscles store memories that trigger a response in our brains. It's almost completely out of our control at times.

For years I would yell at my husband that he was driving "too close to the edge." It was this insane irrational thing I had going on. He would literally have to drive on or over the center lane before I felt like we wouldn't drive off the edge. And it didn't matter that driving off the edge towards a flat field would be safer than driving towards oncoming traffic over the center lane.

Then I learned about muscle and nerve memory and how even though "we" forget, our body doesn't. That was when I realized that my body was reacting to an accident I had been in years earlier where I was in a truck and it almost drove off the edge of a cliff (a bunch of us teenagers being reckless). It didn't happen, but my nervous system stored that memory for a long time.

Now, it's not so bad and when I get that feeling - I just remember that it's my muscle and nerves remembering and ease myself through it. It's been a process of rerouting my nervous system. It also helps knowing that I am not nuts and it's not "all in my head." Knowing all that has made this feeling almost non-existent.

Anyway, sorry for a long post - but your story just reminded me so much of that. And I want you to know you're not nuts. It's your body that is.


Jackie said...

I live faaaar from the ocean as well - I did get to stick my toes in when I was about 10yrs old, but it was too darn cold to go in any further! When I was young we used to live in Wasaga Beach - we spent a lot of time down on the beach in the summer, it was great. We're still not very far (about an hour), but have only been to the beach once in the past umpteen years. I'm hoping to take Abigayle this summer.
I'm not sure what to say about the panic attacks, other than to have your hubby drive when you'll be on the highway. At least if you have an attack while he's driving, no one will get hurt. Have you talked to your doc about drugs before? It may be worth a try, but I have to laugh (I'm sorry) - that reminds me of when I worked for the vet and we prescribed tranq's for pets who got upset when they had to travel!
Hope you have a GREAT vacation!!! And most importantly, hope everyone arrives safely!