It is estimated by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America that approximately 50% of adults with ADHD also have some form of anxiety. I am one of those adults. I have been diagnosed with General Anxiety Disorder by one psychiatrist. Another psychiatrist said I have Social anxiety with associated panic attacks. Honestly, I’ve studied all that I have been diagnosed with and cannot really figure out the difference, if there really is one. I also have Major Depressive Disorder. In other words, I’m a hot mess. But an adorable hot mess.
I mention all this so you will all appreciate why I am calling this past week a success for me. I am very proud of myself for doing something that many people take for granted and do not understand why I am so proud of myself. I have a feeling that there will be a few of you that will rejoice with me because you will understand how much of an accomplishment this is.
I got word that my father was going to have open heart surgery because an important artery, the “widow maker”, was 90% blocked. From the time of diagnosis to surgery was only a few days. My father lives in Kentucky, while I live in Florida. This means I would have to fly. This also means no one would be able to come with me as the kids cannot miss that much school and my husband cannot take off of work for his hot mess of a wife to have her security blanket (him) on a plane trip. I hate plane flights, but I do not fear them. I fear the people who must be maneuvered in order to fly.
My husband was able to get me a direct flight to the Cincinnati airport for my way there. He would not be able to drive me to the airport because of meetings and he told me I could get a uber driver or drive myself. The thought of being in a strangers car induced more fear in me than having to figure out the parking garage of the airport, so I drove myself. Thanks to google maps impressive directions to specifically the long-term parking, I made my way with no troubles. Unfortunately, google maps could not direct me to the way to the airport terminals from the garage. I purposely parked close to the elevators, which made things better, and the elevators were obviously used to dealing with people like me because underneath the numbers for the floors was a brief description of what was on that floor. They also have great maps detailing what paths must be taken to get to my destination.
Naturally, all this detailed information meant I would get lost. Good news is, it was only a brief amount of time in wandering before a kind stranger took pity on me. He helped me maneuver the trams and assisted me in getting to the check in area for my flight. All employees there were sweet and exceptionally helpful. The highest my heart rate got was about 130, so my panic attacks were at a minimum. My flight was uneventful, other than the few minutes of wandering around the parking lot jungle.
The Cincinnati airport was huge, massive, and scary. And I proudly made it through with more kind strangers who obviously took pity on me. This is a kind of pity I am grateful for and will shamelessly admit it. My sisters found me and we made our way to be with our father.
He did great through surgery and the nurses commented on how much younger he seemed than his 79 years. His sense of humor was back in just a day after having his sternum cracked open and it was obvious that the nurses were all going to take good care of him.
My flight back home included a layover in Atlanta. The Atlanta airport, if you have never been there, is pretty much a city on its own. It is huge. When I landed there is was crowded and everything was moving. I attempted to follow the crowd and only found myself up against the wall as the wave of people moved passed me. I notice that another woman was also up against the wall with me and we took comfort in each other’s presence before finding a spot where we could get back into the flow of movement. No one notice me or my need for the pity of strangers. I stopped looking at my smart watch when it showed me that my heart rate was above 150. I followed the signs to where I needed to go for my connecting flight and I had a choice. I could take their underground tram or walk. I figured the tram would be better for my panic, but then noticed that the tram cars were nothing more than human sardine cans. I chose to walk.
The walk was long and they had the moving walkways to make things go faster. I did have a slight problem getting on them, but once I did I was able to follow the flow of people. I felt like I was a duck flying with the geese messing up their perfect formation. I was bumped into, tripped, and shoved away. But, I managed to keep my wits about me and made it to my gate. I desperately wanted to take a seat and wait my hour before my flight boarded, but I had to find the restrooms and then something to eat. I wish I could say that the people around were nice to me, but I cannot. There must be something about crowded places that removes civility from people. No one looked at me as I desperately was trying to find kind eyes to help me. My panic almost took me over, but I was able to keep in control and made it onto my flight without incident.
When the bumpy flight landed me back to my home state I had to maneuver the trams and find my car. Once again, I was able to find nice people to help me maneuver around. I was almost in tears as I was surrounded by people willing to help me.
All these kind strangers have no idea how much they helped me. It’s not like I wear a sign around my neck proclaiming my mental illness. I wish I could say that landing in Atlanta was a pleasant experience, but I cannot. It is, after all, Superbowl weekend and Atlanta is hosting. It was probably a bad weekend to find myself in Atlanta.
All this said, I am proud that I made it without losing myself mentally. Several years ago, I would not have been able to do this and my father would have gone into surgery without his youngest daughter there to support him. However, this is a new me, and I can do these things now!
For many people, this probably seems like a simple task to complete and there will be little appreciation for how difficult this was for me. I tell you my story just in case you are the old me. The me that felt I couldn’t do something like flying alone. I’m here to tell you that you can do it. You can maneuver the airport jungles and make it out alive!
Anxiety inflicts about half of all adult with ADHD. So, I know there is someone out there who needs this story. Just know, I believe in you. You CAN do it!