By Caitriona McMahon @
My bag was packed and ready to go – and I was prepared for any emergency – but this was the first trip I’d made to Dublin, our capital city – since being diagnosed with acute anxiety disorder a few years ago.
This is a simple trip to most people – it’s only up the road really – but for me, this is much more than that. The thoughts of cancelling or postponing or bringing someone to accompany me all crossed my mind but this was a mountain I had to climb solo.
For most I’m sure taking the bus becomes routine and part of everyday life but for someone like me it’s an entirely different experience. As I write this article, I’m mid journey and almost welded to the front seat having arrived 30 minutes early to ensure I could be close to the exit for fear of disaster striking.
One eye is scanning all round and the other monitoring my phone battery life at 99 per cent every 10 seconds because let’s face it a drop of 1 to 2 per cent could be fatal – or so in my mind, it could.
For those of you that may have seen the sitcom Mr Bean broadcast in the ’90s, you may remember his teeny tiny car.
What you may also remember along with his hilarious physical gestures, was his procedure to open the car. He hid keys all over the place. The key for the petrol cap was in his car boot, the key for the boot was on the tyre and so on .
You see I think our Mr Bean was someone who over-prepared, or maybe he was just like me and had anxiety?
Making a checklist for this trip made me feel a bit Rowan Atkinson’s much loved character, though the very comedy of that – nevertheless made me feel a little better.
Granted I try to not brush my teeth while driving, like Bean, and I certainly try to avoid nudging cars backward, so I can park up.
And I do not go out in my pyjamas – but there are some worrying similarities all the same. This checklist may prove my point!
If Bean had a mobile phone, I am quite sure, just like me, he’d have taken one and held it very close to him for a simple bus journey like this, for fear of an apocalypse, which is understandable considering the distance of the journey.
A phone charger also kept very close, should the battery suddenly die out of the blue, despite the mobile having been charged. Also, who knows I could lose all the coins in my pocket and all nearby payphones may be out of order.
A battery power pack to charge the phone just in case one of the million buildings in Dublin does not have a power socket or my plug could fail.
A full bottle of coke should I faint due to a lack of sugar.
A plastic bag should I suffer an upset stomach, probably due to all that coke – and of course, stomach tablets for nausea.
A change of clothes should there be an unexpected and dramatic change in temperature resulting in my becoming exceptionally uncomfortable.
Sunglasses – because of course, Ireland is known for its unbearably hot summers with wall-to-wall sunshine – which potentially could threaten my eyesight.
A book to read and an adult colouring book and colouring material to of course, ease my nerves on the long journey – which could lead to a full blown panic attack.
A Asthma inhaler – to help me breathe of course.
A bottle of tepid water as cold makes the bladder empty more often and if I had a severe coughing fit, it may just lead to a serious problem.
And deodorant – because well let’s face it …. all the above would make anyone sweat…
You see living with anxiety isn’t like living with just any old partner or friend. It’s tiring, it’s constant and it’s a liar. What to anyone else may seem the smallest of journeys or duties, to someone with anxiety is the impossible.
Anxiety preempts disaster around every corner, paralysing the body and mind. It convinces you every action you take could burn the house down, cause an accident, hurt someone, do something wrong. It is the master of deception.
That said I’ve become quite accustomed to my deceptive friend. Now as I look in my travel bag I laugh because you know what? This is where I am right now and that’s okay. I am on my own journey and I’m doing my best as I get there…
Tomorrow’s bag may not have so much packed in it – and whatever helps me and anyone else with anxiety cope from one day to another, is worth celebrating.
If you are going through something similar please refrain from judging yourself. Trust in yourself you are more than your thoughts.
Lean on others for support, ask questions about what might help you and most of all never lose sight of the courageous person you are for having come all this way and coping. It gets easier from here, there are supports available and you are certainly not alone.
Today’s mountain could be a stepping stone tomorrow…
Caitriona McMahon is the co-founder of the Community Crisis Response Team voluntary suicide intervention team in Limerick.