Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Up in the Air

When people travel their mental checklist is fairly straightforward.

Did I bring identification?
Do I have my confirmation numbers?
Did I remember to pack everything I needed?

When I travel, my checklist is much more complex.

Did I remember my Ativan in case I have a panic attack?
I don't take it often, but being around so many unfamiliar people and on an airplane is a prime time to have a panic attack.  If I forget to bring my anti-anxiety medication, the chances of panicking go through the roof; if I remember to bring it, I probably won't have to take it.  Weird, I know.

Did I bring my mouth-guard so I don't risk breaking a tooth?
Because it's happened.  Before I got my mouth-guard (it's a heavy-duty night guard typically used for people who grind their teeth) I didn't realize the damage I was doing to my jaw and teeth.  After fracturing a tooth and nearly having to have a root canal to fix it, the mouth-guard goes with me everywhere. 

Do I have my medical identification problem in case I encounter a problem traveling?
I know it's really weird to say, but I love my medical ID card.   It has a very brief definition of what  Tourette Syndrome is, and in a very tounge-in-cheek manner states "I'm sorry if it bothers you, it bothers me more."  I haven't yet been in a situation where I have needed to use it; however, if I am in a situation where my tics get the best of me and I am incapable of verbalizing what I need (or typically what I don't need), I know I have the ID card to speak for me.

Did I book the right seat on the airplane?
I am very particular about where I sit; it's not so much to help me, I will tic wherever I sit, it is to protect the people around me, who oftentimes do not even know they are in danger.  My right arm tics much more than my left, and so I try and sit in seats where my right arm is not next to people whom I don't know. In order to accomplish this, I either have to sit on the left-hand side of the plane in the aisle seat, or on the right-hand side of the plane in the window seat. Not sitting in one of these 2 locations causes a great deal of discomfort mentally and physically, as I have to wrestle the entire flight with my body to make sure it stays where it is supposed to stay. I have on multiple occasions - before I figured out where was the most appropriate seat - hit people who I didn't know. Not only is this highly embarrassing, it's completely inappropriate behavior from a “normal” person, which I look like until I lose control of my body.
This seating requirement also goes for movies, classes, and anywhere else where I have to standing or seated next to people I don't know.  This makes me an extremely flexible person when traveling or going out. ;)

Did I bring all of my medication in my carry-on?
In addition to being a Touretter, I also have chronic migraines and I do not sleep well.  It is a constant balancing act to keep all three of these conditions in check; if one goes out of whack the others are soon to follow.  For instance, if I don't sleep well for a few nights in a row, I will tic more.  If I tic more I am more likely to induce a migraine.  If I have a migraine I don't sleep well.  (Think a really twisted If you Give a Mouse a Cookie scenario).  For this reason I always have to travel with all of my medications, if I skip some of my pills, even for one night, it can set off a chain reaction.


For me being told I need to be still or quiet (or worse still and quiet) is cruel and unusal punishment.  Traveling, a time when it pays to be still and quiet, is by this definition torture. 

When I traveled back to school this morning it was a very stressful experience.  And in some ways, a much better travel experience compared to other trips.  Tourette's builds and builds inside your body; if I suppress tics all day, they eventually have to come out.  When I'm blocking as hard as I need to to travel by myself, I don't have complete control and my arms and legs jump around a lot.  I crane my neck and clear my throat.  This goes on the entire time I'm in an airport or on an airplane.  I'm not a good travel companion and I am miserable the entire experience.  However, with Tourettes, if I "let the tics out" and have what I call a tic "attack" where I give up on blocking and express everything I need to, I will have much greater success at suppressing tics for the next hour or so.

Unfortunately, this tic attack happened today in the security line.  It was building the whole time I was stuck in line and as soon as they started trying to hurry me through the x-ray line I lost control.  I hate being the slow person in the security line, but today I had no choice.  I lost control of my hands and was clearing my throat and squeaking the whole time.  Fortunately (unfortunately?) I was traveling with my cat - good practice for when I have my service dog - and because of this I got to go through the x-ray instead of having to hold still for the whole body scanner.  The TSA agents did realize there was something wrong and I was asked by one if I was alright. 

See? Totally adorable.

It was very rough not being able to collect my things and put them back where they all belonged to leave the checkpoint and go to my gate, and it was embarrassing squeaking and ticcing and knowing I had everybody's attention within earshot.  Luckily though, that was the worst of it and while the rest of the travel day wasn't fun, it wasn't completely torturous.

Tomorrow starts classes back up again, and even though I will be student-teaching this semester, I have to begin my semester in all-day seminars this week.
See: still, quiet, and cruel and unusual punishment

One more super cute kitty picture for good measure... He's not spoiled.  I swear.

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