Holidays. Downtime that everyone looks forward to, right?
Wrong. Travelling and sharing spaces are two of the major triggers for my anxiety, so holidays have now become something I dread. I haven't been abroad in years, due to the sheer terror brought on by the thought of spending at least two hours cooped up in a tin can, 35000ft in the air. This week is no exception. On Thursday, I will be travelling up to the Peak District with my (long-suffering) girlfriend for some peace and quiet, up in the wonderful heights of central England. We booked it earlier in the year, in a fleeting moment of a excitement about finally getting a few days away together.
It's much like the christening example I gave in Part III. The 'normal' side of me, the side I share with virtually every other person on the planet, was excited. The prospect of some much needed time away in the Great Outdoors, with the one person that does actually make me happy, was something I just couldn't say no to. But then, as soon as I had hit the 'Pay Now' button, I was struck by this sensation of ominous doom. That, is what anxiety feels like. The weight of what I had just committed to came crashing down on me like a ton of bricks. A 4 hour drive each way, going somewhere I'd never been before, total lack of control - a living nightmare.
The week has been a short and arduous one. Despite only being in work for two days, and taking part in an amazing talkshow - there has been only one thought on my mind. That ever so brief trip at the end of the week. It's been eating away at the back of my mind for a while now, like a pitch black hole moving gradually closer to swallowing me up. Of course, the logical mind knows nothing bad will happen on this mundane drive - but try telling the black hole that. It grows slowly as the date of travel gets nearer, devouring every single thought of possible enjoyment I might get out of the trip. At this point, it's almost as if I'm resigned to the fact that it's going to be a terrible trip, rife with anxiety and the lack of desire to get out and make the most of it...
The day of the trip came, and it was a difficult one. No matter how I tried to distract myself, I kept on coming back and worrying about the trip. I don't even know why I was worrying - it wasn't even a long drive really! I did all I could to keep myself preoccupied; went to the gym, cleaned the house from top to bottom, went to spend some time with Archie - but I still found myself clock watching. As ridiculous as it sounds, it almost felt as if counting down to a jail sentence, the last moments of freedom.
Anxiety can be a self-feeding spiral of despair. The more you worry, the worse it becomes. The worse it becomes, the more you worry. Friends and family will remind you again and again that there's nothing to worry about, but once that anxious thought has taken root, it's very hard to rip out.
We spent a couple of days hiking and I loved it. Being outdoors, away from all the stresses of day to day life, was a welcome relief. Whilst I did cave in to my anxiety on more than one occasion, I did manage to battle my way through a fear of heights, wandering across some gorge cliffs to enjoy some truly beautiful views. I was a shaking mess, but it was worth it. I even managed to pop the question to my better half and, strangely enough, that was the least anxiety-inducing moment of the entire trip!
Jerry's Regal's Final Thoughts
One of the most crucial things to remember as an anxiety sufferer is that anxiety will always peak. If you sit and endure it for long enough, your body's 'alarm system' will eventually deactivate, you will feel better and return to being relatively calm. It's something that got me through the highs of hiking, and the lows of travel. The fight or flight adrenaline rush will only ever last a few minutes at max - so if you can wait it out, find your happy place and brave the coming storm, the anxiety will reduce on the other side. Your body simply cannot maintain that state of heightened tension.
I managed the trip and back, conquered some fells and managed to find myself coming home with a fiancée. Anxiety or not, it was a pretty good trip. Always find the positives.