Today on the blog we have a guest post from Charlotte Underwood, talking about travel and anxiety. Charlotte is a mental health advocate and a freelance writer. You can find her on twitter as @CUnderwoodUK or check out her website here.
There is nothing I want more than to travel and to see the world that I have been so humbly created on. I want to be able to dance under waterfalls, put my feet in desert sands, rest in snow enveloped cabins and just to live. When you think about it, life doesn’t have much meaning nowadays, so why shouldn’t life be about exploring the beauty that mother nature has kindly given, at least, while we have a chance anyway (because humans are really taking so much beauty away).
Now, I am 22 so I can’t complain about not having the time or the ‘health’ to travel, it should be so easy to pop on a train or plane and explore this tiny planet, I have so many friends who have done so and not one of them regrets it. In fact, I am the only child in my family who has never left the country (unless you count that school trip to Normandy in Year 7).
The truth is that, despite my dreams, wishes and goals. I am petrified. I am terrified of trains, planes, long car journeys and really, taking my feet off the ground. I believe that I will die, that something bad will happen and I will never make it to or from the destination. And I can tell you, there is nothing more stressful than being so excited for a holiday, only to be convinced that you will die; it takes the joy out of it.
I have generalised anxiety, or so I was told by a therapist when I was 17. So, I get very intense emotions and feelings, usually negative, about pretty much everything. Travel is a big thing for me because my anxiety is always so protective of me, my mind wants to keep me safe from harm but really, more harm is being done because I feel trapped.
But let’s say that I manage to make it to my destination without a scratch, my worry for the travel part will cease but then, then I worry about being in a strange place, where I am at risk of so many things. My mind seems to think that every possible thing, even with a 0.0001% of happening, will happen to me; everything all at once.
It sounds heavy right? To live in such fear when all you want is to be enjoying the moment where you have freed yourself from day to day chores and responsibilities. Anxiety really does make it so hard to unwind on holiday or really, have any time to ‘rest’.
But, it doesn’t mean that if you can relate to me, that life will always be this way.
Trains used to be such a big thing for me, I was worried about not being able to open and close the doors, so I would be trapped and stranded. I would never step foot on a train without my mother, I seemed to think I needed a more adult, adult to save me from my own demise. Yet, a few years ago, I did go on a train all by myself, for the first time and I was terrified. But I made it there and back in one piece, though I will admit the stress of it led me to a whole year where I avoided this situation.
But Nowadays? I’m always on bloody trains, so much so that I am getting sick of them. I am travelling at least 5 times a year on trains, which is such a big deal for me. But though I may wobble or have an anxious moment, I’m not letting it stop me from going to do all the things I have dreamt of since I am a kid. I am not yet ready to get on a plane but for now, the fact I can get on a train already opens up so much for me and my travelling dreams.
So how did I do it? I just kept trying, I found support, I had someone hold my hand and I repeated this until it felt like second nature to me. No matter how fast or slow you are, or what path you choose, you will still make it to your destination, remember that.