Bonjour! Apologies for a quiet week on my part – I was holidaying in Paris! Not only did I have an AMAZING time, but I faced an inevitable travel anxiety too. Now I’m home, I’ve had a clear head space to reflect on the achievements I made and I’d like to share them with you.
I sat in an odd-numbered seat.
This will not seem like a big deal to many people, let alone a note-worthy occurrence. However, due to a never-ending fear of odd numbers inflicted on me by my OCD, it is to me.
Now, for some reason on trains I feel extremely uncomfortable if I’m not sat next to the window. I feel protected on the inside and over-exposed on the outside. So, on the countdown to my trip away, instead of feeling excited about all the incredible things I was going to see and do, I was worrying about what number the window seat would be on the Eurostar. The thought filled me with dread and I honestly considered cancelling the holiday on the 50% chance between odd and even.
However the odds (pardon the pun) were not in my favour and the window seat was of course a bad number. I don’t know if it was the adrenaline and excitement of the holiday or if I was just feeling particularly strong that day that made me do it, but I sat down. My mind was on fire and my Pure-O did kick in and force me to repeat the phrase “nothing bad will happen to my family or myself because I am sat in an odd-numbered seat” 10 times. I also swapped the reservation cards stuck to the top of the seats so I had a good, safe number.
During the 4 hour journey, many awful thoughts and scenarios entered my mind, warning me and trying to frighten me. However, I stayed where I was, put my earphones in and imagined firing even numbers at the thoughts like ammunition. It sounds stupid I know, but it did calm me and reassure me that I still had some control of general safety. A week later and I admit it’s still playing on my mind. I feel like I am waiting anxiously for something awful to happen, but still, I’m really proud of myself for staying in that seat.
A powered through panic attacks.
I had a couple of panic attacks while I was away – some for a reason and others for no specific reason at all.
One of the side-effects of my antidepressants is sudden shortness of breath. It sounds like I’m making excuses for being unfit but I swear I’m not. I get out of breath suddenly sometimes, which causes wheeziness and chest pains. According to my doctor this is a common side effect that can strike sometimes.
We had to walk to the second level of the Eiffel Tower due to lift maintenance. After a couple of flights of stairs I felt like I had just sprinted a marathon. I can tell when it’s an anxiety thing or a side effect because I don’t get hot or sweaty, I just start to shake uncontrollably. I started to panic because I couldn’t breathe and the tears started to fall. It was so embarrassing. I felt like I had an elephant sat on my chest.
You’d think I’d be used to the feeling by now but each time it still scares the shit out of me. Usually I give in to the anxiety and retreat, but this time I soldiered on. My mind would not ruin this holiday and I was bloody determined to make to the top. My anxiety would not stop me. I stopped after every flight of steps but still, I made it. A big, fat middle finger to you anxiety!
Travelling to a land far far away.
Okay, so France is only 20ish miles across the English Channel, but still.
I’m not very good with unfamiliar settings and I hadn’t been abroad since I was young, so it was a given that I was anxious about it. From small factors like driving on the wrong side of the road and language barriers to larger, justified anxieties about terror attacks or getting lost and being unable to return home.
My physical OCD compulsions are more prominent in settings that I am familiar and comfortable with, like home. Whereas my Pure-O OCD is usually stronger in places I am unfamiliar with, so it naturally slipped into 5th gear while I was away. It gave me a sense of God-like power with the belief that it was I that would keep us safe. It was my responsibility. I couldn’t slip up.
When I threw up the night we stayed in London before we left for Paris; was that a warning that I was slacking? The unspeakable Westminster terror attack that occurred as we were about to travel back to London – was that a sign that I had done something wrong? Had I been inaccurate with my compulsions? Had I counted wrong? Was it because I had sat in the odd-numbered train seat? Was there a light switch I didn’t touch?
Yes, I am fully aware none of these thoughts are logical. However, the reason I am sharing them is because despite the constant OCD inflicted doubt and anxiety flooding my brain cells, I still carried on my holiday. I still went up the Eiffel Tower and went on all the rollercoasters at Disneyland. I still wore Minnie Mouse ears every day and embarrassed myself trying to speak French. I took loads of beautiful photos and embraced the culture and the quite frankly terrible public transport. I still ate every Pain Au Chocolat in sight and sulked because I was too short to see the Disney parade clearly.
Despite my mental health and the illnesses I deal with on a daily basis, I still went on holiday, did all the things I wanted to do and had a bloody good time. I was in control, and for that I am so proud of myself.
Are you going on holiday this year? How do you deal with travel anxiety? Share your tips below!