I spent my first day in Paris dry heaving and watching MTV dubbed in French in my Quartier Latin hotel room. While the rest of my family was out exploring the city, my dad patiently sat with me while I tried to keep down the medicine I picked up from the local pharmacy. What the hell is wrong with me?
This wasn’t the first time my anxiety prevented me from living a normal life. I remember my first panic attack when I was in 4th grade. I came downstairs crying, but I didn’t know why. I was so overcome with anxiety that I didn’t know what to do except for cry.
It came and went over the years, cropping up mostly when I was put in new situations. My anxiety was at its worst the summer before my freshman year of high school, when this trip to Paris occurred.
That summer I went to every type of doctor, getting diagnosed with an ovarian cyst, acid reflux disease and eventually anxiety. I took medication, but I never felt like it worked. My solution was to stop eating whenever I was feeling anxious, which yielded disastrous results. At one point I was less than 100 pounds. I just had to be able to control something, since my anxiety was controlling me.
I more or less got it under control in high school and college, with only a few incidents, including getting sick on my first day in Amsterdam and spending my first day in London sleeping. And many times I would drink to feel less anxious. Another bad idea.
When it comes to traveling, my anxiety is always the worst on the first day. Time zone changes and new environments make that day difficult, so I tend not to eat much. But since I went to Australia, the episodes have been minor.
Only a few people outside my family have seen me in the midst of a panic attack, but once I read Chris of Aussie on the Road’s post about his battle with depression, I knew it was important to talk about it. I briefly talked about it in a post about why I travel. Most people see me traveling constantly and doing crazy things like bungy jumping, but I will always have a problem with anxiety. Like alcoholism, like depression, like eating disorders, anxiety is always there, right below the surface, even when you think you’ve overcome it. It sits there, waiting for you to be at your weakest.
But I’m committed to not letting anxiety get in the way of my love for travel anymore. I just keep moving, not giving anxiety any time to creep up on me as I’m jet lagged and stressed about travel plans. I’m taking steps to become more healthy and cut down on my caffeine intake, which only makes me more jittery and anxious.