I recently moved to a new area, nearly two hours away from my home. Before I moved I was invited to a friend’s wedding, which would take place seven weeks after I had relocated. She is back where I used to live and so obviously this would mean travelling.
I have suffered with anxiety for as long as I can remember and it is often accompanied with low feelings and depression. I had been settling in well, finding my way around the new city gradually, doing it all at my pace and coping reasonably well. I felt confident to accept the invitation and attend the wedding. However, something familiar started to happen. When I looked more carefully at the invitation, I realised that I would in fact have to travel firstly to the church, close to where I used to live and then for 35 minutes afterwards, to the party venue. Ordinarily this would be trying for me as I’m not a confident driver at all, let alone with the new distance. I used to be confident at driving, but my anxiety crept in at some point and I started to have crippling panic attacks. They were only brief, but I felt as if the road was slipping away and that I would pass out behind the wheel. My hands would become clammy and I would feel like I was going to die. Motorways were my idea of hell.
The poor sleep began, heart palpitations and a feeling of dread every time I thought about it. How could I get out of it now, not that I wanted to! I would love to see her get married, but would she and others understand my problem. I opted for a compromise; I checked out the journey and suggested that I just went to the evening do and stayed overnight. I text her, feeling guilty as if it were all my fault and sadly she was not happy. She told me it was important that I came to the wedding ceremony as it was the best bit and she would disappointed if I didn’t. Shucks…actually, that’s not quite the word that came to mind. I wanted to cry! I felt so angry and very alone that nobody, not even a mate, could ‘get’ my illness, if they even saw it as one. So often people seem to think you can switch it on and off and have no idea of how terrifying and paralysing anxiety is. I can look confident and at parties I can be very bubbly, but it’s usually nerves. In reality I am a secret social phobic and I find social things a mixed bag. Maybe people think because I can look confident that I am making it all up.
A few days before the date I decided to cancel the whole thing. I felt so bad and really judged by the people involved that I felt like I would not be welcome anyway and this put my anxiety through the roof. The journey also looked very tricky, with lots of turns and different roads that are totally unfamiliar to me, with an old car and in the winter season. All sort of pictures went through my mind. I will probably be ostracised forever now and I worry about that. I am trying to make empowered decisions, but I also feel it’s right to see my condition as real, after all you wouldn’t ask a wheelchair-using friend to get up and dance and make some effort, would you? Why should mental disability be treated any different?