I am going to post about something that I have told very few people, and that is my road trip anxiety or anxiety about travelling!
I am writing about it because it is something that has had a massive impact on my life and the life of my family and, as many people do, I thought it was only me, but it isn’t and so posting about it might help others?
In the late 1980s I started to get anxiety attacks, I didn’t realise what was going on and felt I couldn’t ask for help as I worked in a very male dominated environment with military and ex military personnel.
It wasn’t manly to talk about your feelings!
Anyway, I did my best to keep pushing onwards, but my mental health got worse and then;
I was in town with my wife (then my fiancée), I needed the toilet and so we went into a department store and I went into the toilet. It is fair to say that it felt like the world was falling out of my arse and there seemed like there was no end.
I started to feel trapped.
Yes, I could unlock the door anytime, but there was no way I was leaving that cubicle anytime soon, and that sensation of an anxiety attack rushed in and consumed me. It was hot, I was feeling hotter because of the rush of adrenaline surging through my body, and it was hell.
This was before we all carried mobile phones, and so I had no way to communicate with Donna but as it is obvious, it eventually did of course come to an end.
This is when my anxiety turned a full 360°!
As I said, an anxiety or panic attack is adrenaline, it is our fight or flight response kicking in, but for many of us it is triggered even when there is no danger to us.
Adrenaline is powerful, it is released to enable us to either fight for our life or run like we have never run before to escape danger. Our heart beat increases and this helps to push blood round our body faster and get the oxygen to our brain and to our muscles and so of course our rate of breathing increases, and our body also produces more sugar to give us the rush of energy to face or evade that danger.
Now that is fine for when you are eating all that up by fighting or running away, but for many of us who have an anxiety attack, we are doing neither and this adrenaline and the sugar rush is not being used up.
We hyperventilate, we get hot, our heart races faster and faster and it is, well it is at that moment something that consumes you and sends you into your own personal hell.
This also causes a lot of other symptoms
- Stomach pain and Diarrhoea
And many more other very real physical symptoms!
So suddenly my fear of becoming trapped where it all started, that suddenly also became a fear of not getting to a toilet, and in most circumstances that is not a problem.
Until you get stuck in traffic and you are going nowhere, fast!
So I then started to have anxiety about travelling on main A Roads and of course motorways, these were now a source of extreme anxiety and so instead of facing it head on, I avoided them and I lied to people to avoid going on them and that meant avoiding family holidays, days out, travelling to relatives weddings and funerals, I avoided the lot.
If we did go anywhere it was rare and would be at silly o’clock in the morning when I knew the traffic was very low and then returning very late at night for the same reason.
I didn’t tell anyone why, well except for my wife, because it was so damn embarrassing.
So people including family thought I was weird (well I am) and I heard them saying so, but I could not bring myself to tell them the reason why I was having such a rough time and even when I saw a doctor or a therapist, I just said it was anxiety attacks and didn’t mention the toilet anxiety.
The problem is that we think that we are the only person in the whole world that is going through it, we can’t even for a minute begin to imagine that this may be happening to others and especially so before the age of the internet!
Through my work with Disability Horizons TV, I have been invited to an event near Southampton in September. When I was invited I instantly said “No, sorry, I can’t come!“.
It is something that I really want to attend. There will be people that I know through DHTV there and a lot of other people from the disability community, and it will also be a very good networking opportunity!
Since taking CBD for the past few years, my anxiety has lessened. I can now go in a lift (elevator) without even thinking about it, and that is very handy with the whole using a wheelchair thing. Stairs are obviously a no!
But I rarely go out, and so it hasn’t really been given a good road test (pun intended).
Of course, when I became a wheelchair user, at first I felt very trapped.
And so I said “Fuck it!”, I will go and announced to my wife that I would attempt it. Now I have to admit that this has happened before, I have become all brave and then the day arrives and I am a complete mess and I back out!
We looked at hotels near the venue as it is between a 2.5 and 3.5-hour drive and the journey, as well as mentally difficult, it would send my pain levels higher. The route is a major A road, the M25 and the M3, and just looking at the route and the hotels made me get all spiky and feeling like an anxiety attack was there waiting to pounce.
I need to do it, I want to do it, I have to do it.
But even typing this out, I can feel that sensation building!
I am not going!
Partly due to physical health, but I also know that the reason is also this road trip anxiety that I keep giving in to. I wish I was stronger, but I’m not.
Yesterday we went to ASDA, I felt very uncomfortable. Having being at home even more the past year or so has meant that venturing out is even harder than it was before!
So there it is, out in the open, the big dirty secret that I have been keeping for three decades!
- Do you suffer from travel anxiety?
- Does the getting to a toilet in time trigger your anxiety?
I would love it if you could leave a comment and let me know if you do and if you are still struggling or if you managed to beat it!
Are you keeping this secret?