Pre-Leaving Anxiety Syndrome (PLAS)
Originally posted on 11/29/2011
“Our worst misfortunes never happen, and most miseries lie in anticipation.” – Honore de Balzac
I have PLAS. I have had it as long as I can remember. Much like Restless Leg Syndrome, Sweaty Palms Syndrome, or Chinese Restaurant Syndrome, I only find this a laughing matter when the condition is inactive, or when it’s considered as a legitimate medical issue, or when I think about all the PLAS pills that could be sold, or when I realize that I can make up a fake disease with the best of ‘em. So, most of the time it’s nuthin’ but good ‘ol fun. My history with PLAS really became most notable when I entered Motherhood and it definitely got worse when Elliot was diagnosed with autism. My PLAS flares up just about anytime
I’m getting ready to take a trip that requires any kind of prep and it usually starts about 2-3 hours before leaving the house. However, for our recent trip to Disneyland, my PLAS started 3 DAYS prior to departure. And that really sucked. The general symptoms of PLAS may include, but are not limited to, worrying about being late even if there is no schedule, fear of forgetting to pack/bring something important, and irrational/unsubstantiated fears of things going wrong during the trip itself. In extreme cases, PLAS causes bad dreams and negative daytime fantasies (NDFs).
Here are the specifics of my recent PLAS episode before our trip to Disneyland:
PLAS: Three nights before our trip to Disneyland, I had a dream. Rick, Brooklyn and Elliot entered the main gate and I was stuck at the turnstile without a ticket. I couldn’t get Rick’s attention and they didn’t notice I was left behind. Dejected with my head down, I returned to the ticket line alone only to find Orbit wondering around loose and alone.
REALITY: Rick, Brooklyn, Elliot and Orbit waited patiently as I purchased my ticket (they are all annual pass holders, well, not Orbit, cuz he’s free).
PLAS: I had a rush of anxiety when I thought of Orbit struggling to use an escalator to exit the Mickey & Friends Parking Structure. Anxiety does not really allow for free flow of creative solutions, just a relentless cascade of potential problems.
REALITY: Rick asked the parking attendant if we could park on the bottom floor because our dog was unable to use the escalator. This resulted in our parking on Chip n’ Dale Level One. YeeHaw!
PLAS: Where will Orbit go potty if he has to relieve himself in the park? What are the rules for this? What if he has to go when we are not anywhere near a planter box or dirt or somewhere suitable to go? What if he goes on the asphalt - or worse - in a ride line?
REALITY: On our way from Chip N’ Dale Parking Level One to the Tram there was a nice ground cover area where Orbit poop’d and pee’d. Once inside, we got a special “Relief Area” flyer at City Hall. Orbit did his thing only when we entered one of those designated areas.
(yes, I took a picture of Orbit peeing, what a good boy!!!)
PLAS: What if Orbit won’t climb up into the Tram and we cause a scene? REALITY: I held the door open, Brooklyn and Elliot got in, Rick heeled Orbit right onto the Tram and I followed - we were a well-oiled machine!!
PLAS: What if Elliot doesn’t want Orbit with us? We always have fun at Disneyland - it’s a sure thing for our family. BUT this was a big change, not our normal routine. If it doesn’t go well, will one of us have to take Orbit somewhere else and wait the rest of the day out?
REALITY: Elliot LOVED having Orbit with us. He held his leash for most of the day. Elliot went on a ride for the first time without an adult next to him in his car - it was just Orbit and Elliot in a seat together on the Alice in Wonderland ride. And in the dark of the Tiki Room, Elliot kept checking to make sure Orbit was at his feet and held his leash to ensure his presence.
PLAS: What if Orbit refused to get on a ride? Would we have to pick him up? That would delay the ride? And what would people think? And what if some of the rides scare him?
REALITY: Orbit was hesitant sometimes when told to “load up” and get on a ride for the first time, but he always did it. As we got on a ride for the second time, he was like an old pro hopping in right away. He gave 110% working hard all day and was a great friend to Elliot. It was a joy to have him with us. PLAS: What if people come up to Orbit and start to pet him without asking? What will I say to them? What if Elliot doesn’t like the added attention?
REALITY: People were VERY respectful. All parents stopped their kids before they attempted to pet Orbit and either told them “no” or told them to ask first. When they asked we said “yes” and Elliot stood by, watched and waited. We talked to so many more people than on other trips to Disneyland. People inquired about Orbit and then told us about their kids with autism or their dogs at home. People were friendly and kind. Orbit served as an ambassador of autism - like a bridge between autism and the “neurotypical” world. The trip was a huge success in so many ways! We look forward to our next adventure to the Happiest Place on Earth with Orbit. (If you look closely at the picture above, you can see the Mom behind us explaining to her kids about Orbit.)
Reflecting on the effects of PLAS on this occasion and its impact on my life long-term, I feel some level of catharsis has been achieved. I realize I waste invaluable emotional energy worrying about things that never happen -- time that could be spent appreciating all that I have, replacing negative imagery with uplifting visions of the future, and taking away the opportunity of others to poke fun at the symptoms of my PLAS, most notably Rick! So, I will let today’s rambling sink in and serve as treatment on myself. I am not a doctor. I just play one on my blog.