“Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.” ISAIAH 41:10 

Due to childhood traumas, I had an extreme, irrational fear of travel. It started as a toddler traveling to my grandparents’ home for Christmas, only to develop a tear in my lungs from pneumonia. The doctor said I was within an hour of dying when arriving at the hospital, as oxygen flooded my body. They isolated me inside an oxygen bubble for a week. I remember feeling abandoned, difficulty breathing, fear, and hallucinating. 

Fast forward a year or so, and we arrived home from vacation to a flooded house. Because I was the youngest child and my parents didn’t think it wise for me to be there during the home-gutting and repair, I was sent to live elsewhere. I found myself in another state with my developmentally delayed grandmother and drug-addicted uncle. This move felt abrupt and out of my control. For this, and other reasons, I began to dread both holidays and travel. Emotional toxicity of fear and dread birthed a breeding ground for holiday and travel dramas to come. Our emotions are often a precursor to our experiences.  

Later, well into my forties, a promotion at work and a side job for an NFL Hall of Famer made travel a recurring experience, sometimes weekly. I loved both of my jobs, but each trip left me sobbing for nearly a day afterwards with extreme emotions of fear and despair. Not given to sobbing or despair as a lifestyle, I made the connection between travel and my emotions and went to a therapist.  The therapist identified the root, then encouraged me to feel and release my emotions rather than judge or stuff them. He then suggested that I create new mental “travel-is-good” grooves in my brain. If I didn’t, I would stay stuck in a chemical addiction of fear linked to travel. 

I started slowly with a weekend getaway alone. If I went alone, there would be less pressure from outside schedules. This offered greater emotional space to process what I felt. Exposure therapy grew from a weekend alone to weeklong trips alone, and later with others. Yet because some grooves are so deep, I had to show myself grace by allowing buffers on future work trips too. He suggested going in a day early as well as scheduling nothing for the day I returned. This gave emotional margin to feel rather than stuff what I felt due to the demands of a schedule. Stuffing only leads to an inevitable explosion. Taking action on his advice changed my life, freeing me to work well and enjoy holidays and travel. 

Jesus, thank You for helpful strategies and wisdom to live a full and enjoyable life not paralyzed by fear. Amen. 

This is an excerpt from It’s All Good: 90 Devotions to Embrace Your Now by Heather Haira devotional now available on DaySpring.com. Shop all books, journals, and devotions from DaySpring here.