Very recently, I’ve been reconnecting with my best mate, and it’s been brilliant. Ever since he asked me to be best man, it’s as if we’ve both been making a conscious effort to see each other and I’ll be honest, it’s been great.
Earlier this year, we’d decided to have a hiking day, just me and him walking up Mam Tor. In theory it sounded like a really good day out, my favourite area to walk in, and who better to go with than my best mate! However, as we know, anxiety doesn’t always let that happen.
The first arrangement was looming and anxiety had kicked in, and before I couldn’t figure a way out of it – the rain came to save the day and we rearranged for the following two weeks.
As this day came around, anxiety kicked back in and I began to dread it, although I was disappointed because I really wanted to enjoy it. The night before, I checked the weather, ‘black clouds! Yes! Come on rain!’.
As I lay in bed I was thinking everything through, all the negative thoughts, the things that could go wrong and how I could get out of it. These included:
– Anxiety has started making me feel really sick. So while he’s driving, what if I get so anxious I get travel sick
– I can’t drive because I don’t drive with passengers
– What if I get ill while we’re up there?
– If I exercise in the morning I always feel faint, what if it happens
– What if my anxiety causes my IBS to flare and I can’t get to a toilet (graphic but real, soz)
– We can’t do the long route, that’ll be way too hard and I’ll be miles away. I’ve got to find a short route.
All of these things we’re building up to where, as expected, I began to feel a bit sick, stomach aches, IBS and so on – and I was constructing an excuse in my head. ‘Mate I’ll have to cancel, not feeling well this morning, really sorry’. Then I stopped. I didn’t want to cancel. I wanted to go! Why can’t I go?! So I thought ‘OK, I am going on this walk, so what can I do to make it better?’
I’d decided I would drive us there. I was then in control and didn’t have to worry about ‘travel sickness’. Secondly, I made sure I had a good breakfast, to ensure my stomach had a good meal. Third, I had a couple of immodium first thing which I knew would put a stop to anything for at least 24 hours.
I’d laid the foundations to get me there, now the rest was up to me to push myself and fight through my anxiety.
I picked my mate up, told him I’d drive and off we went. We chatted all the way there which completely eradicated any driving anxiety I was feeling, and no sooner had we set off, we were there. We found a parking spot, chucked on our gear and off we went. Although I’d found a short route, I wanted to do the long route, so when my mate asked me which route, I simply replied ‘the long one’ and that was that, off we went.
The climb up was tough, and as expected the exertion began to make me feel ill. Preempting this I’d packed myself two bananas, so I ate one of them and my anxiety and sickness subsided. I had small thoughts of ‘what if I get ill’ or ‘what if I feel faint’ but as we know, that wasn’t going to happen because I was absolutely fine, so I tapped into the tools I’d been taught through CBT to tell myself I knew I was going to be ok, I wasn’t going to feel faint or ill, I was going to be OK.
We ended up walking 7 miles, climbing Mam Tor and back down again, pushing through anxiety all the way. When we got to the bottom, we found a pub and I went to the bar to order dinner.
It was there when I was on my own I could stand there and say ‘I did it! I actually did it!’
I’d not only got myself out of bed, I’d got myself in the car, got myself there, driven my mate for over half an hour, walked for over 2 and a half hours covering 7 miles completely out of my comfort zone and I was now sat in the pub with my best mate having a really good time.
I’d fought through the anxiety, I’d pushed straight past anything my brain was trying to stop me doing and rewarded myself with an amazing day out.
I guess the message from this is: Keep going. You’re far more capable than you ever think you are. Lay the foundations, arm yourself with the right tools to fight anxiety and don’t pressure yourself to get it absolutely right. Give yourself the chance to take positive steps in the right direction. Anxiety isn’t permanent, it’s just there for as long as we allow it to be, and by taking small steps and challenges, we begin to take back control.
If you’re reading this and thinking ‘I wish I was that confident’, believe me when I say I was thinking the exact same thing 3 years ago. Yet now, I know with 95% of situations, I can somehow get myself through it – and I know you can too.
I believe you’re capable. Now for you to believe it too.