The Nightmare Cruise (2/22/06, Journal 5, page 82)

I was the most mentally healthy I had ever been in my entire life. Five years had passed since I had my first anxiety attack. I had been to years of therapy and I was finally off anti-anxiety medication. I started working as an Elementary Math Academic Intervention Services (AIS) teacher and began grad school. Things were finally looking up. I was living the life I wanted to live, the life I was in control of.
My best friend invited me on a cruise with her whole family. I had never been on a cruise before and thought it was a fantastic way to spend Winter break. It was such a great idea that my sister and her boyfriend decided to tag along.
I still recall the feeling on the ship as we sailed away from Port. I was a liberating feeling. I could feel the wind on my skin and it was an exhilarating. As the sun set, I can still remember looking out into the ocean and not being able to see any land. We were alone in the ocean. Only water and a beautiful endless sky to look at. Although it sounds scary writing about it today, I thought it was the coolest view I had ever seen. There were so many things to do on the ship and I wanted to do EVERYTHING. Life was good on the cruise…for about 2 days.
I believe it was the 2nd or 3rd night we partied like rockstars. We went to a club on the ship and drank the night away. What a great night! But the next morning was painful. Hangovers are triggers for me. I know that now. I kinda sorta knew it then but it was easy to sleep it off when I was in my comfort zone of my own bed. When I was feeling nauseous on the ship, it was a very uneasy feeling and I slowly started to lose control. I remember laying out in the sun on the pool deck and just not feeling right. I decided to go back to my room and try to sleep it off. I fell asleep for a little while but the second I woke up, the anxiety set it. If you never experienced an anxiety attack, it is very difficult to try to imagine the feeling. It was an immediate “oh shit” moment. The wave of heat penetrated through my body. I knew there was no going back. I tried so hard to fight it. I jumped out of bed and found my sister right away to tell her I felt off. She has experienced the same anxiety that I have so it’s easy to talk to her and she helps me tremendously. She tried to distract me by suggesting we go play Bingo. I love Bingo. What a great way to keep my mind occupied. The only thing was, as I said before, there was no going back now. The anxiety set in and it was there to stay. I knew right then there would not be a single moment on the cruise that I wouldn’t be thinking “anxiety, anxiety, anxiety.” We played Bingo anyway. It was in a huge room and I couldn’t concentrate. I felt the room getting smaller and closing in on me. I had to leave. I’ll never forget breaking down when I walked out of the room. I could not believe this was happening to me. I was so mad! How come nobody told me anxiety could come back?! It was like I had relapsed! Life was so not fair!
The anxiety hit me almost harder than it did the first time. I had worked so hard to get better and in an instant it was gone. Years of work right down the drain. I was left feeling hopeless and wanted so bad to talk to my mom. She always made me feel better at my worst anxious times. In 2006, wifi didn’t exist on cruises. There was only a computer station that offered internet for a pretty penny. I didn’t care how much it cost but I signed on to the internet and was able to get a hold of my younger sister through AIM (instant messenger). I was able to speak to my mom via a computer and I was at least thankful for that. She suggested I take my sister’s Xanex. I had never taken a Xanex before but I knew I needed one and as soon as possible. I was giving up hope faster than I could imagine. My sister brought me to where the health services area was or whatever that place is called and I asked if it was okay if I took my sister’s Xanex. They said it was alright and just like that I popped a pill. Nothing. I popped another. Nothing. I’m pretty sure I took 3 or 4 that day and still nothing soothed me. Let’s just say this was the beginning of an extremely long recovery that I am still working through today. My journal entry of this experience shows no clear sign of the torture I endured on that day. I felt hopeless but I guess at the same time, I felt hopeful that if I recovered from anxiety once maybe it would be easy to get over again. I was wrong. Here is my journal entry on that cruise and a few that followed after.

Hi, today is 2/22/06. I’m on my cruise now. I had a major anxiety attack and now the cruise is rough. I’m ok now and thats all I want to say about that. I have to be a strong person in the next 3 days! I also may need some meds. God-please give me serenity!

Hi, today is 2/25/06- I think. Anyway, I’m on the plane on the way home. What else is new- I’m nervous and scared. I feel like crying. I can’t wait till this is all over. I don’t think I’ll ever get over anxiety and depression. I can’t wait to see Shapira [psychologist]. I hope this all ends.

Hi-today is 2/28/06. Well, today was 10x better than yesterday. Yesterday I freaked out at school but I calmed myself down. I’m proud of myself. I’m a little depressed now but I made an appointment to get meds. My life must change again. It’s tough knowing the past 6 years have been so hard, but I have no choice to push on and stay strong. I’ll tell ya, it’s very hard- extremely hard. So hard I feel I can’t do it, but I must. I promised myself I wouldn’t kill myself and there’s no other choice but to stay strong, especially for Breanne. I love my sisters. I hope one day I go away and like it. =) Ok- Goodnight. SERENITY TONIGHT!

hi-today is 3/2/06. Very sick of this anxiety. It is getting better but I’m still nervous to relax. I just keep telling myself it will get better. I wanted to cry yesterday and I spoke to Margot. I just want so bad to enjoy life and stop thinking. I just pray that my life here on earth is happy. I’m going back on meds. I hate it but I think it will help. Thank God I haven’t needed Xanex again. I’ve been eating but I’m not very hungry. I miss wanting food and wanting to relax and take a nap. I think it’s time for a cry. I have to stay strong- Rachel did. I’m moving out so soon and I’m nervous b/c I want to enjoy it and I’m afraid I’ll have anxiety. God please give me strength!

hello, today is 3/18/05. I’m just depressed and anxious. I have very negative feelings like I don’t want to live or I want to kill myself. It’s so scary. I just feel like other people get upset but they just get over it and don’t think about suicide. Rachel helps me very much. She said that she was worse. I feel pretty bad now. I just want to be able to sit down and relax without thinking negative thoughts. Going through this is so f*cking hard. I just hope one day I’ll get over it. I just feel like the past 6 years I wasn’t entirely happy and that I never really understood life. I wish I did. That’s what gets me nervous. I don’t understand anything. I want to be able to look outside, take a deep breathe and smile. Please God help me!

I leave for Florida on April 19 and board the ship the next morning. It’s only a 3 night cruise stopping at a port every day. I’m nervous as all hell. The last two weeks were full of anxiety and some days were filled with very negative thoughts but as I’ve said before…the show must go on. I must push though. I have a very good support system so hopefully I will be ok. I’ll keep ya updated. Please pray for me!