*This article was written two weeks ago after returning from a holiday*
Today I was to fly home from my honeymoon. I’d spent a glorious week with my new husband and son Bobby in our favourite holiday destination of choice, Noosa, where we frequent annually around this time of year. We’d had the most amazing, relaxing week – despite taking our 18-month-old with us, we also tagged the grandparents along for some much appreciated company… and slight babysitting duties.
I loved my trip but I’m always happy to get home. Back to the comfort of my own four walls and my familiar place, but as I boarded the plane on the Sunshine Coast, my body literally froze at the door. Alarm bells went off in my head, and I received a hot tingle rush from my head right down to my toes.
I couldn’t breathe, and as my husband turned around to ask me what seat number he was in, he immediately knew. Within seconds I had burst into tears and walked straight back off the plane. Ladies and gentleman, I’d like to introduce you to my two worst enemies; anxiety and panic attacks. (Mia Freedman talks about how she manages her anxiety in the video below. Post continues after video.)
I’d always thought I knew what anxiety was. But I was wrong. I think throughout my life I’ve always experienced a slightly, watered-down version of it, but never the real deal. I don’t think you can possibly understand how horrifically terrifying the real deal is until it happens to you. The first panic attack I had was also on a plane.
Having lived all over Australia throughout my life, and being lucky enough to frequently travel on holidays with my family, I’ve never had an issue with flying. I always felt sick and most of the time I’d have a sneaky chunder, but I’ve never been scared.
Last year, upon flying to Noosa, I was completely fine. About an hour in, something weird happened. What triggered it I will never ever be able to explain as I don’t recall thinking any bad thoughts at that time.
It was like I’d taken a bad drug and it kicked in there and then. My heart started to pound, the sweats, the trembling, the hot tingly rush up my legs and into my throat – I was experiencing my first panic attack mid-flight and I not only had no idea what was happening to me, I simply didn’t know what to do to stop it either. (Post continues after gallery.)
My thought process was so irrational that as I stood at the rear of the plane vomiting in multiple bags and hyperventilating, I pictured myself opening that door just to get some air. ‘Just one breath of fresh air is all I need’ I was thinking to myself. And looking back now, I must have been in a terrible place to be thinking so illogically to open the door at 30 thousand feet in the air.
Since that moment, my life was encapsulated with anxiety. Not flying related, but that moment in time triggered something in my brain.
The next 6 months – at least – saw me on strong medication and attending counselling for my anxiety. I would suffer these attacks almost every day for no explainable reason. I succinctly remember hanging out the washing one day – off in my own fairy land – then bang, ‘I’m dying’ I thought, ‘I can’t breathe, I’m going to have a heart attack.’
These spontaneous anxiety attacks were absolutely horrific and I wouldn’t wish them upon my worst enemy.
The issue I found so challenging to deal with when it came to my anxiety, was that NONE of it was explained. There was no cause. My psychologist would question me if I’d experienced any trauma, any heartache, any severe loss – and as I sat there, a healthy 24-year-old woman happily engaged, a thriving baby and a fantastic support network, I began to doubt myself even more. ‘What the hell is wrong with you Sophie?’ I would ask myself. ‘Why are you acting so ridiculous?’
Anxiety also creates many hurdles in the sense that there are generally no answers to any of these questions.
It sent me into a depression where I’d find myself too scared to get out of bed, in case I had a ‘bad’ day. Mind you, what I classified with my counsellor as a ‘good day’ had my anxiety levels sitting around a five – therefore I was never completely free of it.
This part is so hard to write, and I have tears as I type these words. One night I’ll never forget, as I went in to kiss Bobby goodnight, I stood there and watched him sleeping and making his beautiful baby snoring noises that I love so much, I thought to myself ‘I’m going insane. I’m actually going crazy. Will Bobby still love me if I’m crazy? Will he still want me as his mummy if I need help for my whole life?’
The anxiety and subsequent depression led me to think a thought I never thought I would. As I stood there looking over him, I thought to myself… ‘I now understand why people commit suicide.’
I’d lived with this horrible mental illness for months now and although I’d attempted medication and psychological help, I was exhausted. Absolutely exhausted of feeling that way, every single day. And despite never actually contemplating doing it, it has led me to develop a greater understand for those who have because I have now gained a tiny little insight into how they must have been feeling. And that feeling is by far worse than anything I could ever imagine. To be living in such fear, in such depression, in such a deep hole with the feeling of never getting out.
I’ve always been confused as to how someone could give up their own life, but now I have developed so much empathy for these people who must have been in such a terribly dark place. It’s just so heartbreaking.
Nevertheless, I now find myself nearly 12 months on and my anxiety is still evident most days. Some days I’m a 0/10, some days I’m a 3 or 4. Never do I reach a 10 and that’s because I’ve fought against it. I made a stand for it to never defeat me, and although some days I have a scare here and there, or it comes to a night time where I’m forced to take a sleeping tablet to put me to sleep, I’m in a much better place now. Better because of the help I have received and dedication to getting myself better in order to not only benefit myself, but my family too.
I vowed that I wouldn’t let the anxiety stop me from living my life, like it did so many times earlier this year. Therefore, as I burst into tears getting on to the plane, I took a few deep breaths and bit the bullet and boarded.
As my husband and I discuss an Italy trip next year, my throat just about closes over with the thought of being confined on a plane for that long. Although my anxiety may still be present, I will never let the fear of anxiety completely overtake my life again. It may be easier said than done, but you only have one life and I sure as hell am not going to let my irrational brain’s thoughts stop me from living it!!
Do you suffer from anxiety? What are the best remedies you have to ease symptoms?