I remember vividly the first time that I had a panic attack. I was in the toilets at work around 7 years ago. I was 24.
I’d not been able to stop crying for days following a huge family fallout but this was something else, I thought I was having a heart attack.
That was how it started.
My Experience of Anxiety
The doctor told me that each person can only take so much and this was my body telling me it was at its limit and I needed to look after myself. It didn’t get any better.
I persevered for a few weeks at work until one day, tears streaming down my face in the middle of a routine telephone call, my manager pulled me aside and told me to go home.
Off sick from work my anxiety spiralled, I had no idea what was happening to me at the time. Panic attacks increased in frequency to 4 or 5 per day, I’ve never felt so terrified or alone. The worst were the nights.
My brain was on overdrive 24/7 and my thoughts wouldn’t let me sleep, a never ending barrage of self doubt and put downs. And the worst of it was no one really understood, no one really got what was going on in my head.
And I don’t blame them, I was a complete mess and unless you’ve experienced that level of anxiety yourself why would you have a clue.
Embarrassed and afraid I was descending into a dark and dangerous black hole and I had no idea how to stop it.
Thankfully that was a long time ago now and with the support from the people around me and my doctor I pulled myself out of it and I can’t remember the last time I had a panic attack.
Having said that, anxiety has plagued me for years since. I’m not going to go into the ins and out of the medical aspect of it but for those of you unaware let me reassure you that it’s a serious and complex mental health condition that haunts many people.
Anxiety and Medication
Over the years I’ve been on pills, had therapy, read self help books and developed my own personal strategy for dealing with anxiety spikes or worry spirals as the books say. But I’ve never been able to kick it for more than a few weeks.
I would think I’d cracked it then at 3am it would creep in like an unwanted mental poltergeist rearranging my thoughts in my brain into the worst possible outcome.
I’d wake exhausted, the tightness in my chest lasting throughout the day, reminding me it was always there lurking in the shadows no matter how hard I tried to expel its existence from my life.
The near constant thoughts of regret, self doubt and worry dominated my life to the point where I just learnt to live with it.
Some days were much easier than others and I became good at hiding it from most people but it became part of who I was.
That was my life until a few months ago.
I can’t pinpoint exactly when I started sleeping through nights on end without waking up sweating with my heart racing, worrying over something, but it’s happened.
I can’t tell you exactly when my head became quiet for extended periods of time just living in the moment without stressing about the past or future, but it’s happened. Or at least I hope it has.
Travel and Anxiety
This is definitely they longest that I have been anxiety free. Now I can’t be 100% sure of course but I’m pretty sure it’s down to the drastic decision I made to leave my old life and the stresses of it behind and travel the world.
It definitely didn’t happen overnight and to start with my anxiety was running higher than it had been for years but it started to peter off and the more distance I gained the more it petered.
Maybe it’s being away from the pressures society places on you to succeed, maybe it’s because I have more time to just focus on me and being kinder to myself, or maybe I’m just so busy immersing myself in new cultures and new routines that there is no room for anxiety. Maybe it’s a mixture, but who knows because travelling certainly doesn’t come without its stresses at times.
And so I have no way of knowing if this is it or of it will return with vengeance when I least expect it, but for now at least, I’m enjoying my new found peace and happiness.
Do you struggle with anxiety? Have you found anything that works? Do you travel with anxiety? I’d love to hear from you.
Enjoyed this post? Why not follow us on Facebook or Twitter for more regular updates on our adventures, Instagram for our awesome photos & Pinterest for our inspirational travel boards!
Pin Me For Later…
Yorkshire born & bred, Sarah is a professional blogger who loves to travel. Pushing her boundaries with new adventures is her jam, so you likely won’t find her in one place for too long. Also a serious Marmite addict.
Both of us have anxiety as well, in varying forms. Glad to hear how much traveling has helped you! I find travel helps me feel more in control of my own decisions and I second guess myself less and care less about the unwanted opinions of others. You’re def not alone! I’d say my anxiety is manageable now, but there have been times it wasn’t…even while on the road.
Thanks Amy. Glad yours in under control too. Maybe GP’s should start writing prescriptions for travel instead of pills! Sx
I have a lighter version of the same thing. I am constantly worrying, questionning my worth, even being nervous about going to the shop without my bra on. I mean, who the hell cares? I always get relief when I travel, but once I settle, it creeps back. I guess I need to change something more permanent within myself. Btw. I was just thinking these days of writing about anxiety too and then stumbled on your post! 😉
That’s such a coincidence that you were just thinking about covering it too. It really is a bitch. And so invasive! I used to wish I could literally just swap my brain out and get a new one. Sx
Congratulations on your blog. Your story touched me since I am also suffering from panic attacks and anxiety due to a heart issue. I am also traveling the world since one month with my boyfriend. I started my own blog 2 months ago. I share my travel tips, life experiences as a young person suffering from heart disorders, and I interview inspiring people along the way. I wrote a couple of articles on anxiety and fear. Traveling is challenging for me. Being away from home and my doctors isn’t easy to handle emotionally but at the same time traveling is one of my dream. Could be cool to meet you guys on our way. Let’s keep in touch. Here is my twitter: https://twitter.com/an_nethomas Take care. Anne
Hi Anne! Thanks so much for stopping by & glad you enjoyed the post. I’ve just been over on your blog & really enjoyed your writing. I’ll be following along on your adventure for sure. Really inspiring stuff. Absolutely let’s keep in touch. Sx