There is a good chance that even if I were traveling for fun and relaxation, I would still have a hard time with it.
I had a hard time driving yesterday. This particular work trip is a few days and a few hours drive from my usual orbit, and I didn’t even make it out of town before I was experiencing severe anxiety, intrusive thoughts about threats and harm, intrusive thoughts about harm to people I’m close to, an overwhelming desire to go back home and never do this again, a need to check out and rest for a few days (i.e. hide in bed), and I was close to starting to flinch at the movements of other drivers.
As I said, that was before I even got out of town.
I don’t know that there is a way to get comfortable with any of that, but I was able to stay on the road while I slowly worked through how I felt and all of the intrusive thoughts. I tend to make a disaster out of pretty much anything, and I was pretty busy making non-existent disasters dangerously close to reality before I got a handle on it. It took about 45 minutes to calm down and get close to neutral.
When I drive, I usually make a mental note of the cities and towns I’ll be passing through and how far apart they are so that I can use them as checkpoints, either to notice how long I experience PTSD symptoms while driving or to give myself a way to celebrate the tremendous accomplishment of making it that far.
I often have to mentally release myself from having to do anything but pay attention to the road (I have to work at being present sometimes, and while I am a very skilled and responsive driver, when I have severe anxiety and am driving I frequently remind myself to stick with where I am and the task at hand rather than mentally run off in a lot of other directions) and just stick with the driving. I have to reality-check myself about the disaster I’m mentally creating, and I often have to intentionally recognize that my over-response to the non-existent conditions created by my brain is just my brain trying to protect me, but that is no longer serving me and may go.
That’s a lot of effort to put into just driving to my destination, and it takes a lot of energy to do all of that and then spend several hours on my feet working late.
It’s why those breaks, the rest, the things that provide familiarity and comfort and why staying hydrated and eating are so important. If you have PTSD and are traveling for work, you have the symptoms you have to manage, your work to manage and if your job is anything like mine you have to keep it all tucked away and be pleasant and outgoing in the performance of your work.
I am very underrated as an actress.
Despite my later than usual bedtime I was up early, so I started the day already low on sleep. I need to make note of that and be careful with it, if not today then tomorrow. I have to have peace and quiet, I have to eat and drink water, I have to have what I need and I have to do my job the absolute best that I can. And I will, because I’ve accepted what is and what I have to work with, and it is plenty enough to do the job well.
And I had probably better do some yoga.