Today saw me face up to one of my biggest challenges I’ve had since beginning my journey with anxiety, and I thought I’d blog about it in order to put my story out there.
I was told I had to go to an airport, one of the largest in the country, to meet a client and have a tour around. This absolutely terrified me.
As it began to get closer, we were getting details of what was on the agenda. We were to walk around the whole airport, shuttle between terminals and visit multiple locations. Now, all of this was impossible to me. Firstly, I hate the open space, secondly I get anxious at security check in and lastly, I HATE being confined to shuttles/buses/trains. So yea, you can imagine how I was feeling.
As the time got closer, the feelings got worse and it began to take over my body. I felt sick, constantly on edge, palpitations – the lot. I even contemplated cancelling it and saying I couldn’t go, but I didn’t want to do that. I didn’t want to back down yet again – especially as I want to go self employed. I didn’t want anxiety to beat me anymore. So I had to take a stand. I had to fight.
My first thing was to tell my boss. I’ve spoken before about my anxiety and how unapologetic I am. I didn’t ask for anxiety, I don’t want it, so I sure as hell won’t apologise for it. So I walked in, explained that I was anxious but was trying to see it as a positive. He was surprisingly understanding and said he’d support me all the way.
As the day drew to an end, I knew I had to face it ‘tomorrow’, and by this point I was physically a broken man. The ‘what ifs’ had crept in, the ‘oh know what if I pass out’ came back and I was being consumed by irrational over thinking.
I needed help, and quick. So I reached out to my Twitter family, the ones who are always there no matter what, to offer advice from a sympathetic perspective. They offered kindness, quotes, sayings, tools and support. Someone gave me their number to call any time I was having difficulty. One guy recorded me a mindfulness audio which relaxed me enough to allow my body to sleep. And one very special person told me what I needed to hear. That I was a f**king warrior.
After this, I felt much calmer. I jumped in the bath, and thought about all the things they’d said. I tried to remember all the things I’d done in the past that were like this. I went back to my CBT days, to get all of my tools together that I had learnt over the years.
That night, I laid with my girlfriend while she just comforted me, and as wimpy as it sounds, I needed it. I needed to know someone had my back.
That night, I went to bed with my headphones on, trying to get some sleep, listening to my new mindfulness recording. And sleep I did, kinda. I woke at 1:30, 2:30, 3, 4 then 5 before giving in and getting up. Today was the day. I packed my bag, got dressed, slapped some gel in my hair, downed two Imodium for the IBS and off I went. Stomach was in bits, throat was dry, legs were jelly, but off I went.
Journey down there was perfect, no traffic, easy, but when we arrived – BAM, it hit me. This was real and it was about to happen.
I made my way in, legs didn’t feel my own, heart was racing, sweating, then I stopped. I stood there, on the spot, and gathered myself. I remembered the words ‘I’m a f**king warrior’. I lifted my shoulders, stood tall and entered that airport with a stride in my step. If I was going down, it wasn’t without a fight.
While in the airport, anxiety was at a constant 8/10 for around 6 hours or so. I couldn’t escape for a minute as you’re not allowed, I couldn’t just pop to the toilet because we had to be escorted. All of this was my worst nightmare. Escaping is my safety blanket, knowing I can escape means I never do – but knowing I can’t means that’s all I want to do. However there was nothing I could do but grin and bear it. So I carried on.
About half way through the day, I realised I was doing it. I was actually surviving. I hadn’t fainted, died or embarrassed myself and I knew I could actually do this. Then came the shuttle, something I was absolutely dreading, but as we walked to it I began to rationalise it. ‘I hate that I can’t escape? Well I’ve not been able to escape all day and I’ve been OK’. ‘I hate that it will be packed? The airport has been packed all day, and I’ve been fine’. ‘I hate that I’ll be hot and sweaty? Well I’ve been sweating for the last 3 hours and yep, still fine’. I was now not so scared. I knew I could do it. In my heart, I knew I’d got this. So I went on the shuttle. And again. And again. And it was absolutely fine. Actually fairly pleasant and quite fast.
By this point, I knew the day was coming to a close and I’d made it.
We got back to the car, I sat in the seat, closed the door, and internally cheered to myself. I’d faced everything I was terrified about, and conquered it.
I used all of my tools to get me through today, I did breathing exercises, CBT, rationalisation, distraction techniques, the lot, and it got me through, and I want to tell you all that if I can work myself through today then there is nothing you can’t do with the right tools, I promise. I didn’t for one second think I would make it through today, I expected to crumble into a big heap, but that didn’t happen. I just had to be strong, stay focused, and fight anxiety for all its worth and believe I could do it.
When the devil tells you you can’t withstand the storm, stand tall and say:
I am the storm.