On Friday I had to go to London for work reasons. I was going to a plush hotel and a posh dinner, something most people would see as a treat. It wasn’t for me. It was completely the opposite.
I hate going to London – I find it incredibly stressful. To me it’s dirty, full of people pushing into my personal space and there are millions of unknown stains. All of this contributes to my OCD spiralling out of control leading up to, during and for a time, after the visit. I try and avoid London as much as possible. It takes something really special to get me there and then that makes going through the torment of thoughts more worthwhile. The work do I had to attend wasn’t one of these really special things so I found the whole things incredibly difficult.
I had to travel down by train – another thing I have issues about. I got myself into quite a state whilst I was waiting to get on board the build up of the train & what was to come later caused me to start panicking – my breathing got quicker and shallower, my heart was racing and my hands visibly shaking. I ended up buying a newspaper to sit on for the journey. Usually I don’t have to do this, I’m with friends which means I’m forced into doing the ‘normal’ thing and my family somehow get me through it. This time I was on my own and being bombarded with so many of my fears all at once that I opted for an easy way out to avoid a complete meltdown. I met a colleague once we got to London so had to face the tubes with her. Yes you’ve guess it – another real problem for me & one that resulted in me experiencing my first major panic attack a few years ago on arriving home.
The hotel seemed plush enough on first view but for anyone that’s read my blog ‘Why Holidays Aren’t So Restful‘ will know how I feel about staying away from home. As I wasn’t sharing a room I was able to deal with this in my own way, using as little of the hotel things as possible and living out of my suitcase. Having already faced 3 of my greatest troubling scenarios, I still had to face dinner. Fortunately this wasn’t as stressful as it could have been and everything seemed relatively clean (which was amazing) and I soon got carried off in the fun of the dinner and entertainment, though the thoughts were still running in the background of my mind.
It was back in my room when I began to really struggle again. It was 2am and I was tired having used up a lot of adrenalin making it this far. I checked both sides of the bed and although there were no major marks in them to completely freak me out, but there were marks (probably oil from washing machines) & they were enough. There was also a door that linked through to the next room. My side of the door was not lockable at all and opened on to what looked like a blank door – no handles, no locks. In my head the controls were all on the other side meaning anyone could come into my room at any time. I made the decision to stay up all night. But I got cold and really tired (again exhausted from the anxiety) – I knew I wasn’t going to be able to stay away. I then had a brainwave and pushed some furniture in front of the door and plucked up enough courage to lie on the bed and get some sleep.
It seems strange and may sound melodramatic to others to talk of ‘plucking up courage’ to sleep in a hotel bed, especially when my colleague next door was relaxing in a bubble bath! But for me, that’s what it’s like. I have to fight my irrational, bad thoughts which I know aren’t founded in any logic but they fight straight back. It’s Ali vs Foreman in ‘Rumble in the Jungle’.
I shared some of my fears on Twitter before and during the trip and found some amazing support and some great ideas on h0w to cope better. This was the first trip when I’ve actually been able to express the thoughts going through my head with anyone. Usually I just say ‘it’s difficult’ for me. Talking about my OCD is helpful – if not in actually ‘fixing’ me, but sharing the experience making me feel less alone. I took up some of the advice – things like allowing a bit more time, so I could pause before each step and regroup and I had my ipod with me full of stories and music to help keep me distracted.
Now out the otherside I’m still mentally exhausted from the trial (getting less than 5hours sleep didn’t help) but I’m patting myself on the back for getting through it. It won’t necessarily make the next time any easier, but I can at least remind myself if I’ve done it once, I can do it again.
One of my favourite quotes for getting through times like this is ‘this too shall pass’. I know that whatever dark moment I am in, time still ticks on, the world still revolves around the sun and I’ll get out into the light again.