When I was 8 years old, I used to suffer from car sickness. When I was 9, I suffered from train sickness. When I was 10, it was coach sickness. When I was 11, it was plane sickness. When I was 12, it was bicycle sickness. By the time I was 13, it was everything sickness, and I realised there might be something else going on.
Whichever label you choose to give it; travel anxiety, carsickness, agoraphobia, panic disorder…admitting to yourself that you are afraid of travelling is never going to be easy. I know, for myself, between the first pricklings of anxiety and the end result of a full blown panic attack, I usually end working myself up into experiencing what I’ve rather appropriately nicknamed ‘car crash thoughts’. This is where I find that, over a very short space of time, whenever I feel particularly trapped on a form of public transport, that my brain will unhelpfully provide a horribly rapid stream of increasingly panic worthy thoughts, from ‘you’re going to panic and embarrass yourself’ to ‘imagine if you were sat in an exam right now and panicking, you’d definitely fail’ to ‘what if the plane crashes and everyone you love dies but you and you’re left alone forever’ and always ending on that old reliable ‘what if you have a panic attack on your driving test, and crash the car, killing somebody else?’. The car crash thoughts, for me, will always end in an actual mental car crash, and usually the overwhelming urge to run screaming back to the safety of my house and normality and boring everyday life where anxiety can’t quite reach me, which, if you’re stuck in a airport 3000 miles away from home, is a little less realistic than first imagined.
And of course, as any anxiety sufferer will know, what triggers you one day can be ignored the next. I never know when an anxiety attack will strike, and although I can handle the stresses of travelling a lot better now I’m older, there will still be days where the thought of stepping on a train, or a plane, or a boat, or a car can bring on a panic attack at the speed of, well, a train.But there are ways of coping. I understand everyone suffers from anxiety in different ways, and there are always different methods of coping for each individual. But for me, there are a few key mantras, or facts I always like to remind myself of before undertaking any journey that frightens me.
- Anxiety is not a physical force. It can cause physical symptoms yes, but it’s not a preventative wall, or a prison warden, or a restraint. It’s a combination of nerve endings and chemicals and lots of other nasty stuff that cannot, and will not, physically stop you from doing anything unless you let it. It won’t stop your feet from walking, it won’t stop your mouth from talking, it can’t hurt you or kill you or cause bad things to happen around you. By becoming self aware of your own anxious thoughts, and by, essentially, degrading them down into their least potent form, you can hopefully begin to clear your head at a little, and hopefully work towards finding a little calming logic amidst the panic.
- Anxiety is common. 1 in every 6 adults will suffer from an anxiety disorder of some kind. Do you really believe you’re the only one to ever have a panic attack in an airport? Why do you think so many people sit, close mouthed and unobserving on the Underground? 1 in every 6 passenger could be repressing an anxiety attack just like you are now. Don’t ever feel silly, or embarrassed, or weak for your anxiety. Fear is normal, shaking hands aren’t going to be stared at, and you are definitely not alone.
- So what? This is an mantra taught to me by our blogging goddess, Zoe Sugg, in her video ‘Just Say Yes’. Sometimes, when something is really playing on your mind, you do just have to think ‘so what?’. So what if I have a panic attack? I already know that panic can’t physically stop me, so why don’t I just get the panic attack over and done with, and get on the plane anyway? So what if I embarrass myself publicly? I won’t remember these strangers around me, and they won’t remember me. So what if people think I’m crazy? I’m doing what I have to do to complete my journey, why should their opinion matter? So what if I take a little longer in the toilet than my travelling companions? So what if I start crying in the taxi? So what if I check my luggage 2 or 3 or 10 times before boarding the plane? If it’s a choice between freaking out but getting there anyway, or not going at all to save on the hassle…well it’s not really a choice is it?
- It’s a big world. No, I probably won’t see all of it, but I won’t let an idea with no physical form, no protective motive, and no corporeal body stop me from seeing as much of it as I can. I am stronger than my anxiety, and the world is waiting for me to prove it. So let’s do it!
Anxiety is unpleasant, it’s embarrassing, it’s a weakness and it’s a curse. But it can be beaten, worked with, improved upon, and changed into a force for good, rather than evil. All you have to do is climb aboard.
I hope you are all having a lovely week, and are somehow surviving this horrendous heatwave!
Thanks for reading!