I don’t suffer from anxiety as such, but there are things that make me nervous. Most of the time, those things don’t arise. And if they do, I can deal with them.
But going on holiday means I have to face my fears:
- I’m claustrophobic
- I have a fear of illness, specifically vomiting (emetophobia) in anyone – not just myself
- I have IBS and struggle with certain foods
- I get very hungry and become emotional if I can’t get something to eat quickly
- Insomnia – I wake up very early and need to eat, which is hard if I have to wait for my family to wake for a hotel breakfast
The claustrophobia means I fear flying. Because it’s basically being trapped inside a big metal box in the air, with no possibility of opening a door or a window or getting out. It’s silly, but that’s just how I feel.
My husband wants to go to New York next year. I’d love to experience New York, but the mere mention of it makes my chest tighten. I just couldn’t do it.
But I’m kind of determined. My parents, brother and sister won’t fly at all. And I’m determined to stay that bit stronger and keep doing it and keep facing my fears. I can’t do New York, but I can do Europe.
I really, really wanted to go on holiday this October half-term. We booked to go to Rome months ago. I was looking forward to it – the architecture and the culture, not to mention the warmer weather and getting away from the damp misery of a British October.
I managed flying to Amsterdam last year with no trouble at all, but Rome is a lot further away. It’s a two and a half hour flight. I know that sounds like nothing to most people, but to me that’s almost unbearable. Even a month before we were due to fly, I couldn’t bear to think about it. So I had to hypnotise myself. I use a Paul McKenna download for claustrophobia and it’s remarkably good. It gets my fear down to manageable levels. Once I’d done that a few times, I could at least think about getting on a plane without my chest tightening.
But when I wake up at 10 to 5 (which I do every single flipping day without fail), every irrational fear I’ve ever had about flying comes to me. Terrorism, plane crashes, getting locked in the toilet, my son having an allergic reaction to peanuts, my daughter being sick…
When I’m nervous, drinking water helps calm me down. I hate that I can’t have the crutch of a bottle of water through the whole airport.
I carry snacks with me because I worry the food will be wrong or I’ll get too hungry. I worry that I might feel sick if I eat the wrong sorts of food. My daughter hasn’t felt sick on a plane before, but she does suffer from travel sickness, what if this is the time she is sick? I even struggle with her feeling sick, let alone being sick.
I mask my fears with being upbeat and over-efficient with the kids. If I play at super-mum, maybe I can convince myself and everyone around me that I am super-mum, not a crazed woman riddled with ridiculous fears.
Or I can just read my book and block it all out, leaving my husband to deal with the kids’ questions and their petty arguments.
I worry about germs on the plane, so endlessly sanitise my hands. I need my tissues, my hand sanitiser, my sweets (I suffer badly with my ears), my vaseline for my lips, my book and my bottle of water arranged where I can get at them before I start to relax. I get my Green & Blacks out too, but worry that it will make me feel sick, especially combined with the sweets. Would savoury snacks be better?
I take a very low dose of Diazepam to take the edge off my fear of flying. It’s amazing stuff. Twenty minutes after taking it I feel happier and more relaxed. It’s so slight, but it definitely helps.
And then there’s only a two and a half hour flight to get through. Plus a whole holiday of worrying about finding the right type of food at the right time, avoiding stomach aches and hunger at all times. And then a two and a half hour flight to get home.
But, actually, the flight went really well. We got on the plane last, so I didn’t have the stress of people standing up putting their stuff in the luggage compartments while I was sitting down, which always makes me feel really claustrophobic. The flight was only two hours rather than the two and a half we’d expected and my daughter’s chatter meant I didn’t have time to feel nervous (or time to read a book). I wondered what all those weeks of worrying had been about.
But please don’t mention New York to me…