I think I may have inherited my nan’s Travel Anxiety.
Until her recent hip replacement, which required her to travel 1.5 hours to the nearest hospital that performs those surgeries, she hadn’t left our little town for around 30 odd years.
I’ve never really enjoyed travelling, but it has only been the last two years where I’ve experienced panic attacks in relation to it. I thought it was only when I travelled alone, but last night seems to prove that it isn’t quite the case.
My travel anxiety isn’t quite like my regular anxiety. I would probably describe my regular anxiety as a constant, mild case of overworrying, about everything. I don’t have regular panic attacks, nor am I confined to my house, or afraid of public transport – I can manage this, and medication helps.
My travel anxiety? Well, that’s a little different.
The best way I can describe it is that it begins with small, lapping waves of worry. Worry that within seconds, becomes actual fear, and inside my body, my chest tightens, my heart beats, then pauses, then double-beats… and then that little wave recedes for a few moments, before repeating itself again – over and over, and building in intensity.
But, and excuse my crassness here, it’s like having sex and getting so close to orgasm that you can touch it…. before it slips away and your partner rolls off, satisfied. In five minutes, it’ll all happen again.
Rather than having a full blown panic attack, all I do is repeat the lead-up to them, over and over.
The first time this happened to me was the day before a trip to Sydney, and it happened at work, and lasted from 10am until around 10pm that night. It was the most exhausting experience. 12 hours on the verge of panic attacks.
Last night, it didn’t begin until I went to bed, and for some time I succumbed to the fear:
Something’s going to happen to the cats, what if something happens to mum or dad while I’m not here, okay, I know I’m being stupid – something can happen to them even if I’m here – oh shit. Oh fuck. One day, my parents are actually going to die. One day my cats are going to die. Oh sweet fucking fuck. No. I just want to die now so I don’t have to feel those feels.
And that’s when I began to get back to my comfort zone – this is my normal bed time anxiety, the kind that happens every night when I close my eyes and try to sleep. I’ve spent more nights than I can remember, crying silently into my pillow because my traitor brain has whispered things to me.
Which is why I managed to reason my way out of last night’s anxietyspiral.
That, and I don’t think you can really call my nightly self-torture “anxiety”.
No. After last night, I think I can safely say that my night-time anxiety is nothing more than a case of bed time being the only time of the day where my brain is unoccupied with work, planning, or imagining stories. It’s just sitting there, trying to be quiet so I can sleep, which is really its only opportunity to remind me of all those things I’ve been putting off, or ignoring in the hope that they’ll disappear.
This is the anxiety I wanted to turn off with medication. I can handle the day stuff – the bullshit worries that people who have had low self-esteem their entire lives tend to have. That’s the stuff the medication is fixing.
It hasn’t fixed the night stuff… but maybe it isn’t supposed to. Those night anxieties are what push me to make life changes that I need to make.
I hate to say it, because I hate the stigma of those with mental illnesses needing to “harden the fuck up”, but I believe, in my case, that may partly be true – I think my anxieties all stem from this indomitable fear of feeling bad things, and unfortunately, those bad feelings aren’t just part of life, they’re part of living, of actively opening yourself up to others and letting them have a piece of your heart to carry around with them forever.
And even though that means I will definitely feel the worst feelings that humans can feel, it’s probably a very small price to pay for all the love and joy that other people bring to my life.
Yeah. I reckon I’ve got this shit covered.