Can I Laugh My Way Through Panic Attacks?

Yesterday I watched a wonderful Huff Post Live broadcast called Mental Health: Living With Anxiety. Thanks to the moderator and panelists who shared their experiences with phobias and panic attacks. The link to the program is below this post.

Here in my blog, I have begun to write about my own panic attacks on bridges, planes, mountains, and let’s just say, “anything that goes up, high.”

Here in this blog, I can be real smart. I can invent solutions, laugh and make cracks about heads floating up in the sky when we, panic attackers, are having our out of body experiences.

When I am not here in this blog, I am not so smart.

Let’s take Saturday night when my husband, Jerome the Great and Good, and I were heading to a restaurant in Queens.  He was driving and I was giving directions. Missing the access to the main part of the Queensboro Bridge, he drove on to the lower level. In seconds, we entered a rickety, single, OUTSIDE lane, which was once used as a trolley track. We were there with nothing between us, the East River and the rooftops of Manhattan and Queens, but a teeny-weeny, rusty, ripped up fence.

So, during that time, when I was not here in my blog, I did not say funny things.

I did sweat, hyperventilate, clench, pound, moan and pray.

And, in case you were wondering, I cursed; but I did not use the word “doodyhead” like I do here in my blog. Sometimes, “doodyhead” just doesn’t cut it.

I am fortunate that I will still travel on bridges, planes, even an occasional tram up a mountain. But nine times out of ten, it will be a hellish experience for me.

The thing is I keep living to tell about it.

For that, I say thanks to all those others who have shared their own stories and research. Thanks again to Scott Stossel, author of My Age of Anxiety, one of my favorite books, for tweeting and reminding me of the Huffington Post Live broadcast.

Also, thanks to the wonderful moderator and panelists at Huffington Post Live for their insight. The link to the program is below.

And I will continue to make attempts to look at the light side of all my stuff. Believe me, it would be a heck of a lot easier to write about only the dark side, but what fun would that be?

http://live.huffingtonpost.com/r/segment/anxiety-in-america/53eaaa3778c90ab003000010

 

 

Gephyrophobics! Let’s Unite!

Photo Credit: danmachold via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: danmachold via Compfight cc

My name is Rose, and I am a gephyrophobic,  a person who is afraid to drive over bridges.

(Welcome Rose.)

I am worried that the New NYBridge being built in New York to replace my beloved (barf) Tappan Zee Bridge will make me go nuts. I want to connect with others out there who also freak out when driving on a high road, up in the air, over water, without nets. We need representation.

If nothing is done to assuage our fears, when the New NYBridge is finished in 2018, those of us oppressed with panic attacks, may be forced to stay on one side of the Hudson for the rest of our lives!

From my side on the west, Rockland County, I might never be able to drive east to Westchester County and its pricey malls and restaurants. My bridge-fearing friends from Westchester may never come to visit us poor folks in Rockland County, which many Westchester people feel is a vast wilderness, close to the Adirondacks.

I’m suggesting we, gephyrophobics, form a task force designed to address our concerns. First thing I’d suggest is that we change our name to Brobics (bridge+phobics). Catchy, don’t you think?  I have tried to network with Important Bridge People (IBP) so that when they hear the chilling words, “Rosie and The Brobics are coming,” they will quake with fear. Knowing that we have the power to deliver hoards of Brobics for protests, boycotts, and basic acts of civil disobedience, they will immediately address our concerns.

For starters, Important Bridge People, as you convene your task force to listen to our concerns, it would be nice if you could set up that “drive-over” service. That way Brobics from both sides of the Hudson can meet as one group, on terra firma.

Thank you. Fellow Brobics out there, we need to get together and form a slogan and mission statement. All ideas are welcome.

How Scared are You Crossing that Bridge? There’s a Scale for That

If, like me, you’re the type who hates driving over bridges, you can probably relate to the one to ten scale that we, gephyrophobics use to measure our anxiety.

A zero to one self-assessment score means you are calm while driving over the bridge.

How calm are you?

You could be eating a liverwurst sandwich with one hand, holding a nice glass of cabernet sauvignon in the other hand, and a tornado could be swirling around you.

A ten self-assessment score means you are very scared while driving over the bridge.

How scared are you?

You’re in that same tornado, but this time:  your sweaty palms separate from your arms; your head exits your body and catapults straight to Neptune; and you feel like your car’s steering wheel is spinning like that nice little girl’s head in The Exorcist.

And, the liverwurst sandwich you ate last night is break-dancing on your left ventricle!

But one thing, at least for me, is true. I still drive over bridges, and after my Ten comes back down to a Zero, I get this crazy idea to write about the experience and maybe help someone else.

Building Bridges: Fun for Phobics

Yesterday I drove on my favorite nightmare, The Tappan Zee Bridge. It occurred to me as I was approaching the bridge that there is no net under it.  That’s when my panic attack started. Things that are up high should have nets under them, don’t you think?

Currently, the building of The New NY Bridge is moving ahead. I see all sorts of exciting elements that are going to be included in this New Tappan Zee Bridge, but meanwhile I’m still riding over the Hudson on the old bridge. Nowhere do I see any kind of net, old used mattress, or, even a shore to shore trampoline.  Something must be done. I hope the master bridge builders will do a study on including a net under the New Tappan Zee Bridge.

Driving across the existing Tap, if you’re brave enough to turn your head, you expect to see nothing but sky and seagulls. Not so. There are these grotesque mechanical monsters with flags on their heads, and they are looking down on you. Yikes. They are bridge cranes and they look diabolical. They make me think of Godzilla, a really bad dude who liked to destroy apartment houses, train trestles and bridges.

One day, I found a solution to the Godzilla problem. As I was driving, I pretended I was Fay Wray and the cranes were King Kongs. King Kong loved Fay, and it was a great love story. Maybe if the cranes, grow some fur, I’ll be less fearful. Now, the part about climbing the Empire State Building? Well, maybe only to the second floor.

Are you nervous driving over bridges?

 

 

Four Women Drive Together for Eleven Years…Over a Bridge


In 1976, we four women going back to work were the outliers. Most of the other mothers were at home, with their children.

We had no cell phones. Between us, however, we did have husbands, bills to pay, monthly periods and nine kids. When we started our carpool, the oldest kid was seven; the youngest, was learning to walk.

We were returning to full time teaching from maternity leave. We did not know each other before we met on that September day in 1976.  I was the oldest at 31, and Ellen was the youngest at 29.

For the next eleven years, our merry carpool crossed the Tappan Zee Bridge from our homes on one side of the Hudson River to the school where we all taught on the other side. On a good day, it would take us 40 minutes. On a bad day, it could take two hours.

On our daily ride, when we weren’t sleeping, sulking or squabbling, we talked to each other. We became friends.

Things change. Our carpool ended in 1987, and then, we all drove to work separately until each of us retired.

I am writing this because I read that The New Tappan Zee Bridge when it is finished in 2018 is going to probably have only electronic tolls. What fun is that? In 1976, when we carpooled, we paid $1.50 to cross and we actually touched the hand of another human being at the toll!

Technology changed. You may be reading this, now, on your phone or pad or whatever. I can’t keep up. You may also have children, husbands, bills and monthly periods, or not, if you’re old like me.

It’s hard to be a working mother. I know. It’s also hard to be a stay-at-home mother. I know that too. Now, because of technology, some of you can do both at the same time.  How’s that for a change? I think it’s for the better, but I am sure there are those of you who will disagree. Let me know.

When they tear the Old Tap down and replace it with the New Tap, it will be a celebratory event.

I, however, will be remembering those eleven years when I rode to work with my friends…

…even that time when one of us, in a snit, drove over the bridge while furiously pounding her hands on the steering wheel, and screaming in exasperation at me, the one with the fear of driving over the edge into the Hudson below.

But, for now, that’s all water under the bridge.