Recently my daughter and I went on a vacation. She is suffering from anxiety and depression and PTSD and finds it hard to be in different situations. Especially when we leave the house and have to leave her dogs behind.
The fact that HC is a beautiful 26-year old who from the first glance looks “so normal” it has been hard for us to be in these situations when she has problems with her PTSD. Here is our journey.
Where to go…we have found that going places more local usually play out better but for some reason this year HC decided she wanted to try Florida. We live about a 20-hour drive from there so it was decided we were going to fly. I think she must have been in “a good place” the day we decided to go to Florida and check out Universal Studios.
The issues that we normally try to avoid were all going to be staring us in the face. Large crowds, long lines, unexpected noises, uncertainty, etc. At this point my anxiety is creeping up the scale.
We were so hyper-vigilant in picking flight times (we find later is less crowded) and made sure we checked in early and had all our ducks in a row. Until we didn’t Apparently there is no way to know if one is flying on an HONOR FLIGHT containing 24 WWII Veterans and their families and volunteers. So here we are thinking we are about to load the plane and here comes 24 wheelchairs and 24 Veterans and about 50 others who get to board before they even start loading everyone else.
We are both HUGE fans of honoring our Veterans. HCs grandfather is a Navy Veteran and it was so awesome to see the parade of Veterans go by and the respect they were given but as the time passed HCs anxiety was hitting a place where she was starting to struggle.
Little by little we started to break through the anxiety and were able to board the plane. I always carry some sort of stress buster with me. It can be a tangle or a fidget or a stretchy toy or sometimes even a hairband. Just something to distract her from her mind wandering off too far in the wrong direction.
Once on the plane she started to relax a bit but then came the turbulence…and it never ended. Two hours of fasten your seat belts and no drink service because the flight attendants were not allowed to get up during the flight either. The anxiety hit her so hard we were scrambling for the little bags in the back of the seats for her to use…and that she did.
We finally are on the ground and get off the plane between 10-11pm and figure the airport would be deserted…and it was except for the hundreds of people waving flags and playing bagpipes for the welcome home HONOR VETERANS.
Lesson learned: doesn’t matter how hard you try to plan a stress free vacation…you need to be prepared for anything.
Universal provides an Attraction Assistance Pass (AAP) for guests with autism or other developmental disabilities. … Some guests may bring a note from their medical provider but it is not necessary and most likely won’t be read by the Team Members at Universal.
So this is our story. Recently we debated about going to Universal Studios to check out the Harry Potter Themed activities. We have avoided parks because of my daughters anxiety and PTSD. Between the crowds, loud noises and long lines we were quite certain it would be a disaster.
In order to know if this was going to be a possibility we purchased a 3-day pass and did a trial run. We showed up at the park an hour before it was to close to checkout the environment. We wanted to go talk to guest services and see what exactly that AAP pass was and if it would work for us.
The guest services were very informative and helpful and really were not interested in actual diagnosis but rather what services they could do to help our situation. When we explained HCs issues with crowds and her being prone to panic attacks it was decided she was a perfect fit for the AAP option.
There were going to be four of us at the park the next day so after we all got through the admission process we headed back over to guest services. They scanned all four passes onto the AAP and off we went.
Thirty Minutes or Less
We happened to pick a really decent day to go to the park and numerous of the rides were a 30 minute or less wait. For these attractions we just had to go to the express line and scan her pass and all 4 of us could enter right away. Most of these ended up either walking right on the ride or at the most a 5-10 minute wait. This was perfect for HC and her anxiety and PTSD issues and at no point did we feel bad about skipping the lines. The staff at Universal were very aware and attentive to our needs at every part throughout the day.
More Than Thirty Minutes
When we came upon a wait for an attraction that was longer than the thirty minutes they would take our AAP and write down the time we were to return based upon the wait time. There was one time a wait was over two hours and when we showed our pass they marked down we were to come back to the express line in 60 minutes. This was in Harry Potter Land so we went and got some ButterBeer and walked around a bit and then were able to go in through the express lane without the stress and anxiety of having to wait in line with strangers for two hours (which she could never have made it in that line).
As mentioned earlier there does not seem to be a magic pill she can take or a special time to fly or anyway to predict what we may encounter when we travel.
One must be prepared to improvise when necessary and have some items available for those unexpected stressful moments.
And always research the places you are going to see if they have any type of special arrangements available. You do not need to just be physically or mentally handicapped to use these services. Someone with PTSD has just as much right to use the AAP pass as someone in a wheelchair or some other handicap.
It has taken HC a few times of NOT allowing me to mention her issues and then having a public panic attack before she finally realized that in order for her to enjoy the many things available we will now ask for assistance. Sometimes it is as simple as sitting on the perimeter of a restaurant instead of in the middle.
Having anxiety and depression and PTSD is not a sentence to not be able to go out and enjoy life. You just need to do some recon and prepare ahead of time.
Keep fighting the good fight