Do you find that at certain times you worry more about what people think of you? I’m sure it is a general human condition that from time to time we all experience this, as social beings, but if you suffer from any kind of anxiety disorder, then this can at times become debilitating. Believe me, I speak from experience, so I extend compassion to anyone else who may be suffering from something similar. There aren’t necessarily any ‘quick fixes’, but sometimes it just helps to know that you are not alone – and I can assure you that you are not. At times, our own thoughts and feelings can be so acute, so overwhelming and so difficult to ignore or get on top of, and this impacts upon our neurological responses, and on our behaviour in any given situation. Sometimes we even tell ourselves that we are being ‘ridiculous’, paranoid even, but it doesn’t make the struggle any less real. I find that I resort to self-protective behaviours such as avoidance, isolation, just keeping myself to myself as much as possible. Because there’s enough going on inside of an anxious person than to have to deal with the external world as well. Yet, it is often the case that individuals like myself, and perhaps like you if you can relate to any of this, have so much going on inside of them that they find difficult to regulate, precisely because at some point or another, and most likely during childhood and adolescence while our coping mechanisms were still forming, the external world caused some sort of damage. And so our adult lives have that stressful edge to them, and the smallest of things can send our nervous system into overdrive as our bodies try to determine whether the best response would be to fight, take to flight, or flee the situation. And that’s not our faults if our developing brains have been damaged or are over or underactive in certain ways. People don’t realise how incredibly tough it can be to live in such a way. But that’s not to say there is no hope – there is plenty of hope, so if you are struggling please don’t feel too disheartened. This comes with the proviso, however that it is going to take hard work and practice, and getting ‘back to basics’ on a daily basis – something that I need to work on as well. The basics are calming our nervous system, investing our time in ‘breath work’, in relaxation, calming techniques, observing the world around us using our senses in an intentional way so as to ground ourselves, and working on redressing the negative and fearful thought patterns that our brains have become stuck in. This can be done – simply look up neuroplasticity for inspiration that your brain can change as we create and strengthen new neural connections. It is not easy, my friend, I know…anxiety sometimes feels like a monster we have to fight, but we can and will win if we keep on going; panic attacks are exhausting, and PTSD / C-PTSD can be frightening, confusing, disorienting and painful on so many levels – but we will overcome. If you are struggling today, know that there is hope, for a better, brighter, calmer future….and even a calmer today – maybe not free from stress, anxiety or worry, but as you take time to work on things you may just find that you cope better than you did yesterday. Whatever your situation, and however trapped you might feel, find a place to get away from it all, even if that means going for a walk by yourself before going home from work for example, and begin or continue your training of ‘rewiring’ your body, brain and nervous system. It will take effort and commitment but don’t we owe it to ourselves, regardless of what other people might think? What other people think or might be thinking about us isn’t nearly as important as our health and wellbeing – so let’s get training – like any muscle in the body, we need to keep exercising our minds in order to be mentally healthy, even if that means we start training as if we were an athlete in recovery from a major injury – it might feel that way to you just now but it can get better if you put in the work and build up your support mechanisms. One step at a time, we will get stronger, so take care, walk slowly, breathe a little more deeply, and fill your mind with kind thoughts towards yourself and others. x
Yep, this post is real time, happening right now. I’ve written a lot about mental health and my experiences of anxiety so hopefully writing as it happens will encourage and help someone out there somehow.
What is happening right now? In case you’re wondering how I am typing while experiencing an episode of anxiety, I can touch type and have done for years and therefore it is very natural in terms of ‘muscle memory’ and also somewhat ‘soothing’ in a way to help me through this.
I have been having difficulty with my breathing, those ‘icky’ anxious feelings rising up in my chest, struggling to not ‘zone out’ as dizziness takes over and my head lolls back and forth. Feelings of being trapped, unable to control my body’s responses and do simple things, upset, trying to regain control.
This is clearly not one of my worse ‘episodes’. During those I wouldn’t be able to communicate with you at all or sit and write, but hopefully it illustrates to those who don’t understand anxiety, particularly the clinical Generalised Anxiety Disorder that you might see someone in your life with this condition seemingly ‘functioning’ but actually this ‘invisible illness’ can be hurting them pretty bad at that moment. For those of you who do experience anxiety and wonder if you’re crazy or if you are making it up somehow in your head because you can still ‘do stuff’ ….be encouraged that you may still be functioning, maybe somewhat on ‘autopilot’ even though you are moving through life and getting on with things, that doesn’t negate your heightened state of distress, and the difficult thing is it is not easy to see.
When things have been really bad for me during an anxiety or panic attack or dissociation from PTSD and related symptoms, I struggle to walk, talk and write as words get jumbled and my spelling gets all mixed up. I feel dizzy, distressed and have been physically sick before, both at work and on the way to work, I’ve had to be held by people to be able to walk, I’ve hyperventilated and felt like my mind was going to explode, suffering as if with a nightmare even while awake, with intrusive thoughts and an inability to tolerate multiple conversations, sounds, lights, sensory input of any kind.
Why am I telling you this? Because I am a fighter, and I believe you are too. Even as I am currently, as I write and possibly as you read this, going through an episode of anxiety right now, as my body rocks itself back and forth as I type in an automatic effort to ‘self soothe’, I am reaching out to you. Once upon a time I would be floored, I would be immobile and unable to get control of my distress, and maybe that’s the situation you’re in with anxiety or related conditions in your season of life right now.
But keep practicing, on the good days as well as the bad, strengthen your coping techniques, get so strong so that instead of panic, helplessness, fear and despair and your nervous system, mind and body going ‘haywire’, you will have trained your system’s automatic response to be one that finds a way to get control of your symptoms rather than them controlling you. You will get up, you will keep fighting, you will get a handle on the fight, flight, freeze responses, and like me, the overwhelming feelings of maybe being dizzy, disoriented, confused, overwhelmed, upset, distressed, having palpitations, feeling perhaps like you’ll be sick, being sick, feeling like you might collapse, faint, have a heart attack, maybe even die….you will conquer them….so don’t give up hope, we’re in it together…I can’t believe how far I have come sometime, but I am determined to get so strong that I can help other people, and I know that same fight and resilience is in you too my friend. Never give up. You are capable of amazing things, even with your condition, and even as the symptoms happen in real time. Be blessed. x
Time to go and get a handle on this stuff, first step, breath work to regulate nervous system with deep breathing. Here goes….
If you would like to follow along with my travel series charting my adventures from last month’s journey across Europe, particularly Prague, Budapest & Vienna, then please click on the ‘Travel’ tab on my main menu, and you will find all of my travel related posts there! However, as these are ‘Travel Snaps’, you should be able to enjoy them as stand-alone entries too.
So to summarise, we were previously on the road by coach from Rotterdam to Frankfurt, with a brief stop at Moselle overlooking the Moselle River & Valley (en route to Prague), after which I stayed overnight on Tuesday 15th August 2017 at the NH Hotel in Frankfurt, Germany.
For anyone considering staying at this hotel, and for anyone else who is simply interested, here are a few facts:
- There appears to be 5 NH Hotels in Frankfurt, including one located at Frankfurt Airport, however there may be more that I am not aware of. I am not entirely sure which branch of the hotel I stayed at, however I would imagine that they are all fairly similar in style.
- The Hotels rate themselves as between 4 and 4 and a half stars out of a 5 star ranking.
- They are modern, clean, neat, ‘unfussy’, and offer guests the use of free Wi-Fi, and have all of the usual facilities that you would expect from a modern chain-hotel.
- With regards to price, as my overnight at the NH Hotel was included in the price of a coach tour, I am not able to provide an exact amount, however, prices on the internet seem to range from between £53.00 to £100.00 (GBP) depending on location, with the average cost being around £68.00 (GBP).
My impressions of the hotel were that it was modern, neat, minimalist. I found the staff to be friendly and helpful, and at the evening meal had to request vegetarian food as the driver / tour guide for our coach hadn’t been notified by the travel company of my dietary requirements for some reason. However the staff obliged, and I had a nice healthy and tasty vegetarian option. I found the lobby to be a nice relaxing area, and there was a bar as well which was also quite modern and neat. The breakfast was buffet style with plenty of choice. For one evening and morning in the hotel I didn’t have a lot of time to explore things that one might make use of during a longer stay such as the gym and other facilities, but for an overnight stop it was quite pleasant and very functional.
On a more personal note, at this stage of the coach tour with spending most of the time on the road with brief stops at service stations along the way, I still hadn’t had the opportunity to engage in more than just ‘small talk’ with the other people on the tour. I don’t mind this too much as I am just as happy to be in my own company most of the time as I am to be in good company with others.
So on arrival in the hotel, I unpacked the essentials, showered, got changed into some nice but not too formal evening clothes, and settled in during the hour or so before the evening meal. Being on my own, I was seated at one of the smaller tables for four guests, as opposed to the larger round tables that were there where most others in the group were directed to. I was met by a lovely couple who were semi-retired, but still quite young in their ways. They asked to sit with me, and I was quite happy to have their company. We talked and laughed about our many and varied travel adventures, shared stories about our families and our lives at home, and also chatted about our future travel goals, the films we liked (including a shared love of the Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson film, ‘The Bucket List’ that I watched on my Kindle Fire while on the bus) and other such things. We were joined by the bus driver shortly afterwards, who later turned out to be quite a character and a nice chap to have around, however my first impression of his company was not very pleasant due to the fact that he talked a lot about his friends’ experiences of getting the cane (being beaten) in school to the tune of a classical piece that he was playing to us on the bus. As some of you may know, I have Post Traumatic Stress from being bullied as a child, and the conversation got to the point where I had to mention it, however he continued, and with tears in my eyes I actually had to leave and take some time in the lobby. The couple I had been chatting to urged me to come back after I had a break, and I promised that I would.
I’m writing this, as well as anecdotally, to encourage anyone who suffers from Post Traumatic Stress, anxiety, panic attacks or other such conditions, who may fear traveling whether that be alone or with others. My advice is to just go ahead and do it. You will always find a way to manage, and sometimes you will be surprised at your own resilience and at the kindness of strangers who then become friends. Some of you may also know that I have a relationship with God, so while in the lobby drying my eyes and trying to calm my breathing and settle the ‘flashbacks’ (and at this point I noticed that the lobby was quite tastefully decorated in style with long couches and a black marble counter at reception, as an aside 😉 ) I prayed for God to comfort me, and a few seconds later a lady arrived and sat on the sofa opposite me with her tiny granddaughter, a beautiful baby who was at the stage where she was still too young to speak. Her grandmother spoke to her in German, but despite the language barrier, I was able to smile and wave to her and we made eye contact. It was a lovely moment, and a blessing. I did eventually rejoin the group, and as mentioned previously had a lovely vegetarian meal, with some kind of raspberry cream sorbet for desert.
I chatted with the couple I had met over a drink (a hot chocolate for me) after dinner at the bar, and the husband was inspired by some black and white prints of the Golden Gate Bridge on the walls to tell me about their road trips as a large family through the United States, including to San Fransisco. And so concluded my first night of the holiday on land (as opposed to the overnight on the ferry), and the beginning of some new friendships…
Here are a few pictures that I took of my hotel room while I was there: