Continuing on my earlier post about my almost thirty-year-old fear of flying.
I'm not sure if this is a feature of other people who have struggled with anxiety - I believe from some conversation with friends that it might be - but what I do when I'm not feeling anxious is to "test" myself; that is, to see if I can make myself feel anxious. Sort of like when you've got a sore spot, maybe you poke at it to see if it still hurts. One thing most psychologists will tell you about anxiety is that people who have ever suffered from it actually have issues with being anxious about the anxiety. For me, this means that when I've been feeling fine, I start to get anxious about the fact that I know eventually I will get anxious again. For me, this has mostly subsided; I had some major anxiety issues in 2007 and 2008, which wrecked some havoc in my life; I had some issues with it last year but started to really try to actually deal with it, and since then - especially in the last few months - have been completely anxiety free, with almost no trace of any feelings related to it, for the first time since 2007. (This of course hasn't taken care of anxieties about real life issues, such as flying.) But because humans often like to make themselves miserable and upset, I started reading about flying phobia horror stories.
I found that it wasn't really bothering me. So I pressed on.
One thing a friend of mine told me about his fear of flying is that he'd get terribly anxious when he went to buy a plane ticket. So I went to the site of an airline and started playing around, putting in flights, making itineraries, reading about what to expect at the airport. And I found that I was only mildly anxious. Not even anxious, really, just a sort of "normal" fear, rational in the sense that I have just never been in the air before. There's some trepidation still there, and I'm sure some anxiety, but the lack of any strong feeling of it was surprising. I also found I felt kind of...giddy? Excited at the idea of even being inside an airport, being on an escalator, hearing the thing that tells me time to board, etc. (What can I say? I'm a big kid sometimes and am easily amused/excited.) The fearful and anxiety-ridden experience I thought I'd barely be able to endure has turned into something that I might even find exciting. And I was really expecting to be strongly anxious and trepidatious about it. I ALWAYS had in the past, even just thinking about flying freaked me out. Let alone actually reading about it or "testing" it (I'd never gotten to the point of even starting to do any of that.) I was even warning people that I'd probably chicken out or end up spending a large amount of money to run to the doctor and hide behind medication.
It's hard to understand. Changes happen, but it is sometimes surprising to suddenly find that I've changed. It's tempting to think that I haven't really changed much at all, and that it will all hit the fan eventually. But that thought/feeling hasn't had much traction with me lately. I always felt very skeptical of people talking about their personality improvements and life changes; seeing it through the lens of my own life, in which I've always felt I was a good person but was far too easily at the whim of an anxious, insecure, impulsive personality, I felt maybe I'd never be able to get rid of that stuff (and my skepticism about someone being able to truly change probably hindered it). I've known that I'd started to finally grow up. Last year was so completely awful in so many ways, and a months long wave of "bad luck" and upset pushed my personality to the limit, and made me start to really have to think about making real changes. In my past, I might find ways to work around it or sweep it under the rug. Events of the recent past didn't allow this. I'd felt "different", especially since the new year, and felt - in that often nebulous, unsure way - that I was actually truly changing, but my resolution to get over my fear of flying has given me a more "real" example of how I might have changed. And also some hope and confidence that I can continue to make positive changes in other parts of my life and improvements to my personality.