My first time taking valium for a flight

Have I mentioned yet that I’m just back from a Florida vacation? Oh, only a couple of hundred times, huh? Well, it was our first vacation in five years and so it was quite the shake up of my routine – both in terms of my eBay business, and also for my mental health.

*I just want to quickly say that this blog post is simply my experience with taking valium for the first time, of course, people can react differently to medication so please discuss any questions you have with your doctor prior to obtaining or using a prescription.*

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Photo by Anastasiia Ostapovych on Unsplash

Why was I considering taking Valium?

On the previous two occasions that I have attempted to board a plane – in 2016 and 2017 – I’ve had panic attacks so severe that I’ve had to do a runner – letting people down that I love and holding up a frigging jumbo jet while my bags were removed. Not my favourite memories ever to be honest.

So that’s probably a decent enough explanation as to why I needed some help to fly this time, and I don’t want to turn this intro into a novel, but I should probably also just point out that I am actually not afraid of flying, like, at all. Yeah, I know, but hear me out. My issue is actually that I suffer from cleithrophobia – which is the fear of being trapped. It’s like a sister to claustrophobia – which is the fear of enclosed spaces. So, I have no fear of take-off or landing, of turbulence, or a worry about terror threats, no, for me, a flight is a nightmare simply because I’m stuck in one space for an extended period of time – it would be just as intense if I was locked in a huge gym hall on the ground, or a bus, or aything like that!

Because the fear for me is of being trapped rather than being on a plane, the panic attacks start much earlier than actually being near a plane, for example, once you go through security in an airport you are “trapped” in the departure lounge, so that’s also a big trigger for me. In fact, just having a holiday booked and knowing I “have” to go is enough to make me feel trapped and triggered (I’ll write a lot more about cleithrophobia at another time, I promise).

Why did I decide to take Valium?

So, I prepared for this holiday in a lot of ways beyond just buying a swimsuit – I began a medititation practice, I started doing yoga again, and I even tried EFT with the help of my mum. I became confident that I could handle most of the journey on my own, like getting through check-in, security and such, but I still just had this gut-wrenching fear that when push came to shove, I would still be unable to board the plane.

I wrestled with the feeling for months, but eventually decided to go and speak to my doctor. In all honesty, I felt like a bit of a failure for having to go and get valium prescribed to go on holiday – I felt like it was “supposed” to be this happy treat and not something that should require pharmacutical intervention, as in, it’s not a “necessary” thing to go on holiday, is it?

My experience with my doctor

My doctor was amazing though, he helped me to see things in a different light by explaining that anxiety is a battle I face every single day, and I deserve to have a holiday, to relax, that it will overall do good for my mental health. He was also very much of the opinion that because of my previous failure to board experiences I was building the experience up in my head and it was weighing on my mind a lot – and that I’d feel a lot better once I’d conquered this fear, even if I needed a little help to do it. He also let me know that people needing sedation to fly is actually fairly common – either in the form of prescribed medication, or a few strong drinks before they board, which I’d never really thought of before!

He gave me some tablets, that were a pretty low dose, explaining that because I’d never been sedated before, I probably wouldn’t need much – but, he enouraged me to test them out before we traveled so that I’d know how they make me feel, and also be able to go back to him if I needed a higher dosage.

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Photo by Anastasiia Ostapovych on Unsplash

 

The actual travel experience

Testing out the valium actually didn’t work super well for me – it allowed me to realise that I didn’t experience any mad side-effects, but I couldn’t tell if they “worked” when it came to sedating me – I think this is because I didn’t try taking them when I was in a super-anxious state, so it was hard to measure the effect because I was already calm when I took them.

However, when it came time to travel, I put a lot of faith in the tablets, not least because my doctor had explained I could take two of the tablets, if one didn’t cut it, so I felt like I had some control over the situation. On the day, I made it through check-in and security with some deep-breathing and focus exercises, I was proud of myself, but, as boarding time approached I could feel the adrenaline flooding through my system and I was losing the ability to think rationally about things – time to take a pill.

I took one pill at this point and I would say it hit me very quickly – within 10-15 minutes – although this was on a completely empty stomach as I’d been unable to eat or drink anything that day because of the anxiety. How did it make me feel? It’s strange because it doesn’t really make me feel anything, it’s more like the abscence of a feeling. Basically, when I take valium I don’t feel drowsy, or drunk or happy, for me, all it does is turn off the adrenaline.

For anyone who has had a panic attack, you know the feeling, where adrenaline is rushing into your system, your heart is racing, your stomach churning, brain running 100 miles an hour – it’s a battle to keep your mind rational. You feel like you’re going to vomit or die and all your internal alarms are going off, yes, you can fight it, and I have, many, many times, but it is exhausting and upsetting and just a constant struggle. So for me, valium just turned off the adrenaline and with it, the physical symptoms.

I wasn’t suddenly happy about boarding a flight – mentally, I was still really scared, but my body didn’t respond with all the physical stuff, so it meant that I was much more able to control my thoughts to focus on something else, and to speak rationally to myself. In other words, the valium stopped me from having a panic response, and just downgraded the whole experience to “nervousness”, which is a vast improvement.

What happened when it wore off?

My doctor had told me that valium typically lasts 4-6 hours in the system, although it’s a little difficult to say precisely, as different people react to it differently. I decided that since it kicked in super fast for me, I wasn’t going to set a timer or anything to take another one, I was just going to see how it felt.

I think really, my hope was that once it wore off part-way through the flight, I would feel fine and not need to take another one – I think I still felt like I had something to prove, or that I could handle this on my own. As it turned out, I did become aware of the valium wearing off. The restlessness in my legs, the anxious wringing of hands, the increased heart rate and breathing speed, the nausea – could I have talked myself down and done the rest of the flight valium free? Maybe, but I was so exhausted from the days of worry leading up to the flight and so keen to just not have a negative experience with flying that I decided to take another pill. Again, it kicked in quickly (although by this point I did have food in my stomach!) and felt exactly the same as the first time. I think I definitely made the right decision to take another one – not least because we faced big delays when we landed and I needed my mental strength to stay calm and manage those.

So, what about next time I fly?

The news that I had managed to board a plane reached my family and those close to me, who were very proud of me and relieved about the whole thing, however, in conversation with them since coming home, there seems to be a lot of feeling that, “well you’ve overcome that fear now, all sorted”, but, erm, I have to say unfortunately I don’t agree.

We actually already have travel plans booked for next year, and while I do feel more optimistic about it all, including the plane-boarding part, I think I have to remember that I do suffer from cleithrophobia and in a lot of ways the whole airport, long-haul flight situation is the biggest trigger that I can face. Anyone who flies long-haul knows it’s a long day, but to experience intermittent panic attacks on that day just makes it absolutely brutal, and soul-breaking.

Honestly, I feel like next time I fly I would still like to have valium with me – maybe I’ll take it, maybe I won’t, but I want to give myself the option and to give myself back the feeling of control over the day. I really, really don’t want to spend 11 months looking forward to this trip and thinking I’ll be fine with the flight only to have it all come crashing down in the 30 minutes of boarding time – been there, done that, have the nightmares about it.

Yes, ideally in the long run, I won’t have to be sedated everytime I fly, but one flight does not a phobia cure, as they say… probably. I think this is a baby-steps scenario and I feel comfortable with that. I don’t feel ashamed for having to take a sedative, and I don’t feel like I need to prove myself to other people – I’m just going to take this at a pace that feels right for me.

 

 

 

My First Time Putting eBay on Vacation Mode

The run up to going on vacation is always a bit stressful, or it is for me at least, but this time around I faced the new challenge of what to do with my eBay shop while I was away? I actually really stressed about the whole thing, envisioning returning to a bunch of messages from buyers waving pitchforks and torches in my face, but, spoiler alert, I was definitely over thinking it (what a shock).

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Photo by Alesia Kazantceva on Unsplash

What were the options?

We were going away to Florida for two weeks, and at first I definitely toyed with the idea of leaving my shop open and just simply extending the handling times (significantly), and messaging customers when they made a purchase to make sure they understood the situation. The pro’s for this would have been:

  • I wouldn’t have to have downtime where I couldn’t earn money and then additional semi-downtime as eBay re-added my listings and they took time to show up again in search.

I know that some sellers do this, even when they go away for weeks, but for me, the cons on this one just outweighed any benefits:

  • As someone who sells digital items on Etsy and has it stated as such in the images, the title, the description and the checkout process… I can confidently say that people buying things online don’t always read things, so people would definitely still check-out not realising they’d be waiting weeks for their items. This would, of course, lead to a lot of negative customer reactions and a lot of messes to clear up – potentially it could have been solved by manually messaging everyone that bought something but…
  • I didn’t really have reliable wi-fi. The hotel we stayed in had really patchy wi-fi access, and so I mostly relied on checking in on-line from Dennys or Starbucks, this is fine to send a few funny pictures to my family, but not really a great way to run a business, especially because I didn’t want the vacation to be dictated by me HAVING to go somewhere with wifi so I could sit on my phone and work – it wasn’t that kind of trip for us.
  • I probably couldn’t answer questions for potential customers. I don’t know about you, but while I always think I produce a pretty thorough listing for my clothing items, I always seem to get questions about the angle of pockets, or the specific shade of thread used around the cuffs or something else that would be difficult to answer while 4,000 miles away from my stock! Again, I could just have messaged customers to explain this, but that would take time out my holiday too, and also be a frustrating experience for them too, potentially.
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Photo by Alesia Kazantceva on Unsplash

So, in the end, I decided to put my shop into vacation mode, and put an out of office message on.

I’m based in the UK, and just used the eBay UK page for the instructions on how to actually go about doing this – here’s the page.

I also made the decision to put my shop into vacation/holiday mode a few days before we actually left. This was to leave time for people to pay (I had been running auctions), and also just to stop any really weird eBay thing happening the night before we flew and me getting in a total panic about it.

The process is pretty straight-forward … unless, like me, you then spend hours trying to write your out of office message!

In case you are not familiar, an out of office response is an email that is automatically sent to someone when they send you a message through eBay. It essentially lets them know that you’re not able to reply to them until X date, because you’re away from work.

For some reason, I got so stressed about writing this message – I guess I kept thinking that if I was a buyer and had a problem with an order and sent a message, only to be told I’d have to wait 3 weeks for a response… I wouldn’t be best pleased.

So, here’s what I wrote that helped me feel better about it all:

Thanks so much for contacting Timorous Eclectic!

I m currently away and I ll be back on Monday June 24th – I will not be able to accept any new orders or respond to any emails until then. All outstanding orders have been dispatched on Monday June 3rd and, where applicable, tracking has been uploaded.

If you are an existing customer and have an issue with your order, I apologise for the inconvenience caused by my being away, but if you send me a message, rest assured I will be in touch on the 24th of June and we can discuss things then. If you are looking to return an item and the return window will end while I m away on holiday, rest assured that you will still be able to return the item when I m back.

Thank you so much for your continued support of Timorous Eclectic and for your understanding of me taking a holiday.

Best wishes,
Kitty

Reading this now, I realise I’ve used the phrase “rest assured” twice in one sentence, but hey, I had edited this so many times that it’s no wonder something like this slipped through the net!

I decided that, for me, it was important to include:

  • Specific dates as to when customers could expect to hear from me
  • What exactly me being “out of office” meant – in my case, no orders, and no emails
  • An apology for any inconvenience caused
  • Reassurance that any return windows etc. that would expire, would still be honored
  • A thanks for understanding and for supporting my small business

I’ve seen people write entire essays, and I’ve seen people write a few words, but this is what felt right for me – because it’s the information I’d want to recieve if I was in the buyer’s shoes.

What happened while I was away?

Erm, nothing.

While I put my out of office response on, and turned my app notifications off during the trip, I would still recieve a copy of any messages to my email and I could check them and reply if I had the chance/if it was urgent.

As it turns out, I got one message from a customer on the morning we were packing to leave for Florida, which I went in and replied to, and then after that… nothing. No messages, no negative feedback and no return requests in the three weeks I shut the shop down!

Don’t get me wrong, I get very few return requests, so I suppose statistically this wasn’t actually unexpected, but I worried about it so much the sigh of relief I let out when I checked my messages for the first time was HUGE.

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What happened when I got back?

We got home on Sunday the 23rd of June at around 2pm after more than 24 hours of travel and literally zero hours of sleep. Knowing this would be the case, I had stated in my eBay message that I would resume work on the 24th, but actually, I ended up lifting vacation mode off pretty much as soon as we got home as I just wanted to get started and get on top of any issues that had arisen.

Because nothing actually had come up that required action I left things alone for the rest of the afternoon, and then right before bed, I sent out “offers to buyers” on every item that I could – 19 in total. I woke up the next morning to one sale. Cash wise, it wasn’t great but I was keen to get the ball rolling again and hopefully just get myself looking nice and active for eBay’s algorithim.

The next day I listed a couple of new items (that I’d drafted before I went away) – again, just trying to get my account back to “normal” in eBay’s eyes. I then decided to start a week long 20% off sale to see if that would also help – having sold nothing for weeks, I was definitely of the mindset I’d rather get some lesser value sales moving in than just continue having nothing happening on my account.

I’m now writing this on the morning of the 27th, and I’ve consistently had one sale a day since I came home. Most of them have been low-value items that I’d already priced low and then became further discounted by the sale, but really, it’s good to move those items out anyway – even if higher value sales would be nicer after weeks of no income!

If, like me, you’re a newer eBay seller and maybe have never had to leave your shop, I hope this post was maybe helpful. Of course, experiences are going to differ quite a bit, but I thought I’d share my own experience – I’d have loved to have found a post like this a few weeks ago!

If you’ve shut your shop before, how did it go? What do you include in an eBay out of office message? Have you ever gone away and just extended handling times?