Anxiety, Grief and Why We All Need To Talk

As I board a bus in Bangkok, I reflect on my experience over the last few days. As I am two thirds of the way into my time here I went to do my Visa extension for my last planned month in Thailand.

I spent most of the time on the 33rd floor by the infinity pool in one of the most beautiful hotels I have stayed in, with an absolutely stunning view across Bangkok, but right when it felt like I should literally be on top of the world, anxiety and loneliness decided to come for a visit.

I went to my Dad’s favourite Rooftop Bar, Lebua and had a few drinks for him, something I was so grateful I was able to do, and an experience which I will cherish, but one that also brought a new wave of grief crashing down on me like a tonne of bricks.

The time in such a huge city completely alone where not many people speak much of your language, really forces you to face emotions, thoughts and feelings head on.

I realised even though I made it out to Thailand alone a couple of months ago, often my body has been in a state of fight or flight, worrying and catastrophising making me question and re-evaluate my thoughts to travel on alone around Asia in three weeks time.

I know there’s a combination of factors for my worries, the PTSD symptoms I am suffering after finding my Dad play a huge part in my worry and anxiety. I have struggled with people leaving the camp even after a short time, as I think it reminds me of the pain of abandonment that links to the recent events back home. And to add to that because Thailand’s Health and Safety regulations aren’t exactly of a high standard, I heard and witnessed the remains of a large crash outside my hotel whilst here that now plays on my mind when travelling around.

Travelling to Bangkok made me aware of the heightened state of anxiety I am living in and with no one to distract me, I found myself worrying constantly. From the bus journey and the roads there, to the lifts I had to get in, whether the taxi drivers were safe and even what would happen if I got ill or died in my hotel room and no one found me. Writing it down now sounds ridiculous, but in these moments I let my mind take over rather than me the observer of my thoughts controlling my mind.

Anxiety has crept into my life like this before in my early twenties after another traumatic experience, but back then I didn’t understand what was happening or how to deal with it and for a very long time it took over my life. That’s why I started Yoga.

So this time round I know the signs. I know why. I know I need to accept it is part of me when I have to face a tough time. I know to get my thoughts on paper as a form of therapy, which is part of the reason for writing this blog. I have the tools and practices to face it head on. Yoga, Mediation, my Therapist, Human Connections and cutting out alcohol for a while so I’m not using it to numb the pain.

There are some days I could do better for the health of my mind, but that is part of the journey and a learning curve. This is one of the toughest times of my life and I need to keep an element of being kind to myself, to encourage myself that I am brave and ultimately come out of this further along my journey to the person I want to be than ever before.

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I am learning that life is a journey, struggles, sickness, death and losing all that is important to you is inevitable. But we don’t want to think or talk about it because it’s hard and bloody scary, but I’ve learnt it’s important to address it, if only to make sure you aren’t left after a death with a lot to sort out and you have no idea where to start.

On the other hand when you think about it all the time, especially post trauma, this is where it starts to take over your life. As I often talk about in my job it’s all about finding the balance.

I’ve learnt once you do open up about your fears and feelings to others, if they are able to be honest too, you very quickly realise on some level we are all very similar. Often we fear putting ourselves out on a stage for the world to see our flaws and vulnerabilities. But when we talk we build relationships with strong connections and we allow others to help us along on our journey.

We think asking for help is a weakness in ourselves, but often not in others and this contributes to the epidemic of mental health issues we are facing now. We are losing connections and the ability to talk.  It is prevalent in men especially and I have experienced male suicides, depression and death in my lifetime from people close to me that maybe could have been prevented.

Especially where I grew up in Carlisle in the North of England, it’s a kind of put up and shut up mentality, just get on with it and get over it. And my dad was often very much one of those people when it came to the way he lived his own life. He taught me and my sister very differently, we could talk to him about anything and he was the best Dad I could have asked for. But for him no help was needed. He helped everyone else. No doctor needed. Except eventually that was his down fall.

It’s time for a change. So the people left behind don’t have to endure the pain of something that could have been prevented.

My Dad was one of the most important people and most influential person in my life, so I know I have to try to re-balance myself and channel the negative into a positive in a way my Dad would have been proud of.

Normally I would have called him to talk through the panic attacks or he would tell me my worrying was completely irrational, he probably would have thought this blog was ridiculous ha!

But now I have to just imagine what he would say.

And I know it would be take the job in Cambodia, stop googling flight safety in Asia and just get on the plane and go experience the world.

Live your life. Stop worrying. Be happy. So that’s what I intend to try to do.

 

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Nicole Andrews