Time Travel: Philly to Phoenix and back in 52 hours

Time travel is real. I did it this past weekend. I went back in time, to a different world, and then into the future. Amazing.

Friday afternoon, I boarded a cramped metal tube and was catapulted through time. After a slightly bumpy ride, we arrived at our destination 3 hours earlier than our time.

A different world! The environment we had left had been a cool, rainy 60 degrees. We exited our capsule to an arid 106 degrees. Instead of waving deciduous trees, newly green with the spring, we saw stunted trees and twisted cacti. Brown, sandy desert replaced my soft green landscape.  Mountains towered on the distance, dwarfing the sprawling intrusion of humanity.

We enjoyed our visit to this other world. Time spent with longtime friends, an exploration of nearby South Mountain with its grand vista overlooking the city, and culminating in a beautiful renewal of vows for my friends celebrating their 21st anniversary.

Although Phoenix is a modern city, the Western landscape evokes the Wild West and time long past. Stone structures on South Mountain brought the old time atmosphere to life. And spending time with a friend you’ve known for 32 years brings the inevitable nostalgia and memories. The past was very present out there.

Sunday morning we climbed into the tiny tube again and reversed course. Aside from a seatmate who had an inflated idea of his own personal space, the ride was pretty smooth. And when we arrived back in the cool (and still rainy) airport, we were 3 hours ahead of where we had started.

We had come back to the future.

For all its discomfort, air travel is truly amazing. To be able to travel 4,600 miles in about 9 hours of flight time in order to visit friends for a single day is a minor miracle. I am a terrible flier who often has panic attacks on the plane (fun!), but I am grateful I live in a time where such speedy travel is possible.

I am, however, waiting eagerly for transporter technology to become a reality…




When A Bridge Phobia Isn’t A Bridge Phobia

My earlier post about my growing fear of heights, particularly bridges, resonated with a lot of people. While I have always believed that this disorientation has a biological cause (since it happened gradually and I didn’t experience it when I was young), I couldn’t be sure. Because when you battle anxiety disorder (or any other mental issue where your mind betrays you on a regular basis), you start to second guess yourself, and wonder if it really is “all in your head.” (I hate that phrase, because even if it is “all in your head” the effects are still devastating and the battle to overcome the demon just as hard if not harder than a physical issue.)

So. I have always thought my problems might be physical, and this past week I went to my eye doctor. Since one of the coping mechanisms that seems to help with the bridge phobia is using the sun visor to cut off a large part of my field of vision, I wondered if it could be eye-related. So I asked the eye doctor. Turns out, she knew all about it from personal experience.

She said there are several biological roots of what I am describing (and that it is surprisingly common). One is an eye condition (which she checked for and I do not have). The others are a brain condition that is basically a migraine that makes you dizzy rather than causing a migraine headache. She has this condition, which manifests as unpredictable episodes, and can be so bad that she will actually fall down while standing perfectly still.

The third biological cause is ear-related. Sometimes it is inner ear, sometimes it originates in the Eustachian tubes. I believe this to be my issue, as my disorientation is highly consistent (not sporadic like hers), altitude seems to play a role, and I know your inner ear changes as you age. My eye doctor told me to see an ENT, and he will do a whole battery of vertigo testing to see what stimuli makes me disoriented, and the results will let them know the cause and point to a treatment.

My eye doctor said treatment can be anything from learning more effective coping mechanisms to physical therapy to medication. It depends on the root cause and the severity of its impact on your life.

I was thrilled to hear that I was NOT imagining this issue, and that there may be a way to rectify it! While I talked mostly about my fear of bridges, I also have trouble driving the highway, especially at night and/or in the rain, when visibility is poor. Also, the disorientation tends to trigger panic attacks, which then intensifies the disorientation, which then magnifies the panic, and so on in a vicious cycle. Finally, if this is an inner ear/Eustachian tube issue, it might explain why I have been having issues while flying. I am not actively afraid of flying, and the first few times I flew I had no problems. Yet over the past few years, as this disorientation has been growing, I have suffered massive panic attacks on almost every flight I took. The only exception was one flight where they must have gotten the cabin pressure just right, because takeoff did not involve all the ear-popping pressure changes one normally feels. And on that one flight, where my ears were not disturbed, I had no panic issues, no disorientation, nothing. Interesting, isn’t it?

Come the New Year, I will be making an ENT appointment. To think that I could once again cross bridges without fear, or not worry about when and where I drive, and fly without shaking the entire flight is almost too much to hope for. But the New Year is all about fresh starts, and this may be a whole new beginning in my life.

For those of you who let me know that you suffer similarly, perhaps this information can be the start of a whole new beginning for you, too.

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