Getting on the plane
In many ways getting on the plane was like jumping into the hot seat. I was full of fears of every kind imaginable. Intrusive thoughts kept coming at me in rushing waves of anxiety. Would I lose my main suitcase on the way to Spain, or would my hand luggage injure someone trying to get it into, and later out of, an overhead locker? Would I be trapped in a toilet, or even worse, would the plane come crashing down in a war torn country or just simply drop into the ocean with me inside?!
Sitting with the anxiety
Having all these fears, the main principle of OCD cognitive behavioural therapy is to sit with them and think the worst and do nothing until the anxiety gradually fades away. Even talking about the OCD, which I really wanted to do with my mum who was also travelling with me, is thought by the experts to be giving it too much
Moving out of my comfort zone
Being upgraded to first class really helped. Being looked after meant I was able to relax and leave all my worries up in the air as I listened to wonderful music, had a comfortable bed made up and was finely wined and dined. Enjoying this wonderful service, I was able to stop my mind going back in time to my apartment in Australia and to all the related worries of whether I had locked all the doors, switched off all the lights, turned off the gas and all the taps. The added comfort of flying first class stopped me repeating this constant checklist over and over like a broken record in my mind.
The stop over
Once the plane had arrived for stopover in Dubai, a lot of the fears related to the OCD came crowding back. Trying to navigate a huge airport with a different system and language was a real challenge. There were many times I felt lost and afraid. I hung on to my passport like a security blanket, checking it multiple times to make sure it wasn't lost. The high security also meant I had to open up all my hand luggage and dismantling everything I had so carefully packed was very upsetting. As mum and I went round and round in circles trying to find the hotel we were meant to be staying in, both our anxiety levels escalated. Even going on the long escalators and scary lifts was too much, making me wonder if we were ever going to make it. In the end, finding the luxurious hotel and relaxing once again was like winning a prize.
Taking off to Spain from Dubai
After our wonderful stay in the Dubai hotel, I felt a lot more comfortable about getting on a plane again. I felt much more in control. I could comfortably adjust the seat, work the entertainment system and get lost in a book or movie for long periods of time. I also stopped worrying about being trapped in a toilet or about entire meals getting dumped on my lap by the flight attendants. By learning to trust and put myself in their capable and professional hands, I felt on top of the world.
The desire to connect
Arriving in Madrid, well fed and relaxed, it was great to see friends and especially family who I hadn't seen for nearly five years. Seeing both old and new family members and being welcomed by them so readily was very warm and touching. The joy of reconnecting with loved ones and reestablishing old friendships made the trial of traveling with OCD more than worthwhile.