Travel Thursday – Anxiety

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​As much as I love the idea of traveling, and the actual visiting places, the anxiety associated with the anticipation of planning is one of the most debilitating and horrible things to deal with. It’s something that needs to get done, or the trip itself is a no-go, but starting the planning…

And it isn’t even the actual planning. I love the listmaking, and the reading the tour books, researching what i want to do when I get there. It’s the starting. The monumental decision of putting the money into non-refundable tickets. Hitting that send or buy or submit button takes three times as long as filling out the information on the forms.

In the case of our Ireland trip this summer, it isn’t just buying plane tickets; it’s renting a car. There’s the anxiety of finalizing the search with a credit card number, but there is also the shortness of breath and shaking hands just thinking about driving in the UK again.

After eight years back, I thought I was ready. The memory a cry in the distance, but the closer it gets to reserving a car and planning a route from the airport to the cousins and the cities, and the ferry to Wales, my stomach jumps up into my throat and I feel a choking sensation. I can’t imagine what it will be like to get on the plane with this feeling gnawing at me.

It’s almost unbearable, and there is no earthly reason to feel this way at this moment, weeks in advance of actually having to do it.

My kids are coming, so compiled in all of that stress is the stress of pretending that there is nothing to be anxious about to soothe their own normal, rational fears, so I must hide my own, some irrational fears, but fears all the same.

I feel quite sick writing about it right now.

I vividly remember the white knuckles, the terror of every intersection, every roundabout, reminding myself to breathe, the post-it note on the dashboard telling me to turn into the left lane, always the left lane, thanking G-d at every church passed, the slight sound of scraping as I inched too close to the town wall.

It’s all coming back to me.

Not the feelings a few years later that maybe I could do it again; I got through it once, and it wasn’t that bad, but the anxious screaming IT WAS THAT BAD, PLEASE DON’T MAKE ME!!!

But as with all things, it will be okay.

Between that time and now, I have received many tools to get me through this one little hitch that seems so overwhelming, but I can get through it; I know it.

One of those is a diagnosis and treatment for the elevated anxiety that falls into the not quite normal range of emotion and brain chemistry as well as the same for depression, not entirely unrelated, but the destination will assist in alleviating any extra. I have a therapy session planned for a week prior as well as reconciliation with my priest. Not for anything specific, but you know…anxiety and such.

Another thing was something I heard at one of my first masses, actually it was at my first healing mass, the anointing of the sick. My entire life, no matter how severe, no  matter how stressful, no matter how bad, I would tell myself that it would be okay. I didn’t necessarily believe it, but just saying it to myself did have a calming affect.

At that first anointing, my priest quoted St. Julian of Norwich, subseequently a new found favorite of mine.

All will be well.

All will be well.

In all manner of things,

all will be well.

How perfect, and how needed, then and now.

Yes, I’m still anxious, and som of it will be debilitating, but all will be well.

50-17 – Manchester

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​I thought I was just afraid to fly. I thought I was really afraid to fly. I had a talisman to hold onto from my friend, a bottle of Xanax from my doctor, and even then I wasn’t sure if I’d get on the plane or not. I’m wasn’t worried (and still not for the most part) about the plane crash landing, but the enclosed spaces get me. I want an aisle seat every time, and that doesn’t really help. It gives the illusion that I have an escape route.

Psychology. It’s mind-boggling.

I didn’t find out until about three years later, but that fear of flying wasn’t a fear – it was anxiety in the form of disorder. It was diagnosed when I was diagnosed with depression, but at the time of this transatlantic holiday, I thought I was afraid to fly.

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Fucking Roundabouts

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We recently got a roundabout in town. It took the place of a traffic light that created more trouble than it was worth. The roundabout really helps. Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t know how to use it. It’s a one lane circle with four exits. That whole yield to traffic in the circle thing has them baffled.

Let me tell you a thing, townsfolks – this is the easiest traffic circle, roundabout, devil’s trap you will ever find anywhere in the world. It’s well lit, signs are posted, it is now literally the easiest intersection I have ever encountered.

As some of you remember, a few years ago I went to Wales, and I spent a week driving there. Having never driven on the left side of the road was bad enough, but the fucking roundabouts! Holy mother of Satan! I should warn you now for language. There is no language that is off limits in describing the Welsh roundabout.

It’s a rural country, Wales is. I almost never had a car behind me or was in any traffic to speak of. Unless of course, you are in a roundabout. Then, every fucking driver and his brother are so close up your arse that they should buy you dinner first.

There was one roundabout, just to interrupt; they call them roundabouts. Sounds civilized, doesn’t it? Much like the Scottish version of ‘hills’ which are really fucking mountains. (Look up Craigower Hill if you don’t believe me.) Cunting roundabouts! Traffic circles from Hell! This is no exaggeration. Driving in Hell would not be this bad, and that includes not having air conditioning down there.

As I was saying, there was this one roundabout; one of many really, but this one really stands out. Plenty of traffic; of course I’m the only one who doesn’t know what they’re doing.

First, you enter the roundabout when there’s a lull. There is no fucking lull. It is four lanes of fucking no lull. But wait, there’s more to ‘first’ than meets the eye. When you enter, you of course, enter to the left. The steering wheel is on the right side of the car and you enter from the left when there is a lull.

Good fucking luck.

You enter the circle and you look for your exit.

This fucking roundabout – did I mention that it has four fucking lanes?! This fucking roundabout has signs, but they’re useless. I don’t even see how native Welsh drivers can understand them.

All signs are in both Welsh and English. This isn’t a problem, but one example I’ll share that I ran into more than once is ‘men working’ in Welsh is something like five words. Construction ahead took two signs and that was just for the Welsh portion.

These signs for the circle, in the circle: do they say: Bangor, 10 miles with an arrow pointing the way? No, of course they don’t. They say something ridiculous like A4 with an arrow.

A4?!

Fucking cuntswallop! Is this Bingo?! I didn’t get my Bingo card when I entered the roundabout – who do I see about that?

So I go around again, hoping that the car riding my arse isn’t going to hit me even though I’m going twice the speed limit since I still don’t know if it’s miles or kilometers and I’m hoping for the best. (It’s miles by the way.)

There is a sign detailing all of the exits. There are seven spokes to this roundabout. SEVEN!

Four of them say Bangor. Bangor is about the size of Central Park. Alright, maybe that’s a slight under-estimate, but it’s a smallish college town with basically one road through the whole of it.

Now, the fun begins.

To exit, you need the left most lane. Or do you? When you exit, you are exiting from this four lane monstrosity to a two-way, two-lane, no yellow lines, bordered by ancient or at least medieval stone walls that barely give your side view mirror room to scrape by.

And scrape by I did now and again.

To digress, on a one way street, it’s even worse. And that’s assuming you’re driving the right way; you never know with the GPS piece of conCRAPtion. Modern compact BMW versus thousand year old wall? Scrape the wall. After a thousand years, that wall isn’t coming down. Trust me. Besides if I don’t scrape that wall, I scrape the church on the other side. St. Mary’s. Also about a thousand years old.

And now back to our regularly scheduled rant. Now you hope that this is the only roundabout, but it’s not likely. They like a series of them to keep you on your toes. I think it’s a Darwin test – survival of the fittest. Or the luckiest.

Roundabouts are the reason there’s a church on every corner. If you’re not praying while you’re driving, you’re clearly not stressed enough. Most of my time behind the steering wheel included my white knuckled clutching until the final stop when I could barely uncurl my fingers and heaved a sigh of relief that I was still in one piece.

Often I would burst into tears upon stopping simply at the thought of having to go back the same way, but there was also the release of tension with the tears. And then a deep breath.

For about three weeks when I got back, I needed a sedative to be a passenger in a car that went through a roundabout.

Roundabouts are the devil’s spawn.

Manchester

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Manchester. Last day. The only day it really rained. The hostel is nice enough, but it’s upstairs – third floor – no elevator.

No elevator equals no suitcase; at least as far as I’m concerned. It’s been misty all week, so I left my umbrella in the rental. Of course.

It’s still misting, so it’s not too bad. I have to walk about two blocks to find something for dinner. Piccadilly’s just down there I’m told. Not the circus – that’s in London, but right around the uni.

It’s getting dark and with it comes the rain. It is cold and wet. The kind of wet that soaks through your clothes, through your skin – I imagine my bones rusting. They’re already creaking. I am clearly a tourist. No umbrella.

Little do they know, I always have an umbrella. Just not here.

I wander down the street, the rain slapping me in the face – the hood on my shirt up covering my hair. That’s just for show, though. It’s a jersey knit and I think it’s wetter than the puddles I sidestep.

I slide into a Tesco grabbing a soda and a snack for later – once I’m “home” I can’t go back out. One more night. Had it still been Wales, I wouldn’t want to leave, but Manchester.

Fuck. I hate Manchester. The driving. The roundabouts. The Ring Road. The Ring. The fucking ring. It is a cunting nightmare. That’s no exaggeration. Round and round and round and NO! Dammit! I do not want to go to fucking Leeds! Manchester. MANCHESTER!

I stop a van for hire. Can you get me to Newton St?

Nah. I can get there, but I can’t tell you how.

I burst into tears and I suppress the urge to grab this stranger and cling to him. I half reach out my hand, but stop, wiping away a tear.

He inhales and points to his van. Follow me. I’ll show you where to turn. Thank G-d. Thank you, thank you. I breathe in relief and gratitude that can never be truly expressed. The feeling of holding onto the log or driftwood and then seeing the rescue boat.

It still took two hours because of all the one way streets.

I will never go back there. Never.

At least, I will never drive there again.

I hate Manchester.