Fear and loathing in (my head)…
4 letters that absolutely ruled my existence.
I have touched on this subject somewhat in the blog, though 40,000ft above the ground seemed like the perfect place to share this story with you. My story of fear, how it is absolutely a part of me and how thankful I am for that.
Although writing from the clouds offers a somewhat romantic notion, this is not in fact why I regard its’ relevance here.
For 7 years I did not board a flight. The sheer thought of the idea sent me running for the hills. In fact the varied and complicated tactics that I employed to escape such a situation is quite the story in itself!
Fear of flying?
Was that it?
Not even close.
When I was 16, the urgent need to escape particular situations began to increasingly take over my life as I knew it.
Over the years this would be displayed in some incredibly colourful ways though initially it was demonstrated in getting off the bus way before my stop as I felt unwell, walking the long way; to anywhere in the hope that less people would go that way and ensuring that wherever I went I was in control as much as humanly possible. Getting my driver’s license in that year made this all a lot easier, both to control and to hide.
No one mentioned anything to me about my behavior and in fact they didn’t for years.
Little by little, my world became smaller. The simple became the complex and by the time I was 17 my world was my bedroom. It is no wonder that I completed my high school education from that same place.
Absolutely everything scared me.
The only time and place I could feel somewhat at ease was in my home, alone and totally absorbed in meaningless television.
I didn’t exercise, ate minimally and when I did, not well and I barely slept.
This lasted for quite some time. It lasted so long that life passed me by. It took me many years to embrace and really accept this part of my journey. Not so much the how or why though the actual “what.” The time I spent isolated and in fear has indeed shaped and provided me with increased gusto to go after what I want, because life is too short!
After withdrawing so much from social activities, friends, families and barely hanging on by a thread keeping a job (by this stage of my life) something had to give. I clearly remember 10 years ago standing in line at a bank to deposit money as part of my job in administration. Without warning the urgency to flee crept up on me. I had to get out, immediately. When I returned to work I felt I needed to cover up what had happened and began to sprout something along the lines of the bank being closed. They knew I was lying and I didn’t care enough to fight it out so I left that day. No-one could know because I didn’t know. What was happening to me??!!
By almost 19 and thanks to my incredible sister for finding a wonderful psychologist, I was in bi-weekly therapy sessions and diagnosed with panic disorder manifesting in agoraphobia (fear of public places), severe anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
As a young kid I remember a few things very clearly about my experiences and myself….
- I was pretty fearless
- I loved adventure (and mischief)
- I felt painfully different to anyone around me
- I felt sad a lot of the time and hid it
- I also felt that I could do anything that I wanted; both back then and looking forward
Reflecting now on the toughest period of my life; which lasted 9 years; I think about what was the most different then as opposed to my kid list…
- I was scared of everything
- I didn’t have the ability to love anything
- I felt painfully different to anyone around me
- I felt sad all of the time and hid it
- On the rare occasion that I thought about the future I could see glimpses of light, of hope
School was tough for me, just as it is for so many others. How I wish we had said that to each other when we were ALL going through it. If only!
Home life was not the simplest and took its’ toll also.
As a kid feeling different led to feeling isolated and spending an increasing amount of time alone. This was not intentional nor planned; it was purely reactive.
Working through the why and how of everything was absolutely tough. Each day I faced these fears a little more utilising cognitive behavioural techniques and working with a wonderful therapist, incredibly supportive mum and sister and a few loving friends who I trusted.
7 years later, at 23 years old I boarded a flight. It was a stupendous moment and something that I will never forget.
At the end of 2008 I vowed that I would push myself even further and go away every NYE. Borne out of having gone through a difficult time wasn’t important now; what a great plan!
By mid-2009 this plan had been tweaked somewhat and I now challenged myself to go overseas every 6 months.
In July 2009 I took off to Bali with a girlfriend for a week.
My first international flight since I was 16 and a HUGE moment for me.
The end of that same year was celebrated with another dear friend on the beaches of Koh Samui, Thailand. Since then I have travelled to countries that I had dreamt of since childhood and in a total twist of fate, held travelling-based sales roles for a number of years.
To me, travelling is a game changer and to have experienced what I have makes my heart sing with joy. There was indeed a time when I could not fathom that it would ever be possible.
The fear-riddled young girl is no longer however as I commented to a good friend recently; anxiety will never leave me. It is intertwined within me and learning how to manage and overcome it is absolutely the proudest achievement of my life. Sitting here typing away en route to Paris it still feels a little like a dream and it is my firm belief that this is a great way to be.
Grateful of the now, reflective of what has been and hopeful of what is yet to come.
The lessons that I learnt in the midst of my panic and anxiety may have taken their time to reveal themselves though they were epic all the same.
I imagine my pride and ego went a lot of the way to keeping this all to myself way back when I really needn’t have. As a kid I was accomplished, intelligent and outwardly happy so the idea of preserving this idea was somewhere in the back of my head no doubt as well.
What utter crap.
None of that really matters and my image was done far worse damage by withdrawing AKA preserving.
So today once more, I am that kid who does what she pleases and knows that the world is her oyster. There are moments where I think how differently things could have gone but they didn’t. Part inner strength, part self-belief and partly thanks to the incredible people around me who truly love and support me.
To anyone out there suffering in silence, don’t. People care about and love you. Know that nothing is forever.
If anyone has any particular comments/questions – feel free! I am an open book and happy to help if I can.
Yours in total health,