Now I cannot say I have mastered travelling alone, I have taken 6 solo plane trips and only 1 truly solo adventure that lasted 3 days. However, it really tested my set ideas on my mental health and my body. I spent the last year having panic attacks in lectures, crying when I ate food and having the wonderful diagnosis of both IBS and vaginismus. In my head, my body was weak and fragile. However, after 6 weeks of CBT and some introspection, I decided it was time to challenge this idea that I was this “petal” of a human being. It was time to test if I would crumble at the first sign of nausea, anxiety, or pain. What better way to do that than go 897.2 miles away (yes I did check) to Berlin, Germany for a 3-day excursion.
I have moved to 7 different houses and 8 different schools, so it’s safe to say I know a little bit about what it is like to move. Now, I don’t blame these events for how I turned out, but there is an argument to suggest they could have moulded me into who I am today. I remember in high school, when I met my first school counsellor, her saying that she was surprised at how high my grades were considering my transitions. I can see where she is coming from because when you move, you miss school, you lose friends, and you must accumulate to new surroundings all over again. But does this affect how we are in the long term? Could I blame my neuroticism on all these moves? Let’s Find Out!
Despite this word sounding like something a doctor made up in the spur of the moment, this disorder is very real and very, very painful. It is argued to be one of the most common female psychosexual dysfunctions, with clinic prevalence rates ranging from 5 to 17%. And sadly, I am part of that percentage. Since being diagnosed, the most common reply I receive when I tell people about Vaginismus is “that sounds made up” and “I’ve never heard of it”. Despite being prevalent in sexual health clinics, there is little talk about it in the general population. So I thought I’d share a little PSA all about Vaginismus, and how it hit my mental health.
It is normal to check your chicken during cooking to make sure it has cooked through. No one wants salmonella right? The problem occurs where you check your chicken again, and again, and again. Then, even when the chicken is cooked, obsessing over whether it is truly cooked while eating it. Here comes the anxiety, the paranoia, to the point where you eat less, or just stop eating altogether. This isn’t just exclusive to food, because you can get sick anywhere, the stomach bug is one hug away! The truth is you can be hygienic, you can eat carefully, but you will never 100% avoid getting ill. Nobody will tell you getting ill is nice, but it is important to focus on how you cope when you do get ill, that helps you fight the fear of getting sick.
Relaxing is something I only want when I can’t have it. Every time exam season came around, I would spend 24/7 studying, wishing I was doing something else. I thought about all the TV shows I would watch and how great it would be to sleep in. Only to find out that when I finally had the time to relax, I wasn’t the least bit interested. I ended up feeling guilty for not being productive, not using my time in some sort of valuable way. I would wake up at 8am, because that’s what productive people do, but for no reason. I got less sleep and had more of the day to spend moping. Something had to change.
I should be learning, I should be working, I should be taking over the world. When what I actually should be doing is relaxing.
I have spent the past year working on feeling better. I muddled my way through the last year of university and was rewarded for my hard work with a first class. I managed to surpass the CBT waitlist, and get a (near) immediate start on therapy. Finally, I was leaving limbo, where I had been trapped in for months. Why then, did the realisation that I might actually be getting better and feeling happier, fill me with the utmost dread. I felt on edge through the whole day, preparing my body for something to ruin my day, to come crashing in to remind me that I was not really happy.
In my head, preparing for a worst-case scenario event seems completely logical. Why end up in a situation unprepared? What’s the harm in having a Mary Poppinsesque bag (besides the fact in real life, its insanely heavy)? I get a great sense of relief when I am prepared, such as when I bring my lunch to work or I brought my charger on a night out with my friends. However, it is never stops there. I can’t just have one backup plan; I need a backup plan for my backup plan. No matter how unlikely the event will be, I need to be ready. Do you start to see the issue?
This has a name, it is known as Catastrophizing, and it is unbelievably exhausting.
As dramatic as the title sounds, going out in public can feel like a daunting task when you have IBS, anxiety, or both! There is the constant fear that you won’t be prepared for the worst case scenario. What if I have a panic attack? What if I need to go to the bathroom? What if I stress myself out so much I simply melt myself out of existence? There’s no shame in these ‘what if’ questions, no matter how unrealistic, and while I am on the journey to stop asking them, in the meantime, I built myself a kit so I always have an answer.
A Food Guide to Calming Anxiety Symptoms
The foods that are mentioned in this post are snacks and small meals that one can quickly grab in a supermarket to fill up. They are quick, with few ingredients, and have provided me with the rare pleasure of eating without anxiety. To me, eating these foods is a form of self-care, they help me calm down, and not obsess about what I am putting in my body. There is so little that can go wrong, even at my most anxious, I cannot panic about these foods.
How can someone be scared of food? It is essential for survival. Being scared of a murderer makes sense, if he finds you, he is going to kill you. Being scared of falling makes sense, if you fall, it’s going to hurt. Food, however, has no emotions, it is not a malicious being ,intent on killing me. The chances of dying from food poisoning are literally, 3,000,000 to 1. You have a higher chance of dying via falling out of bed, than eating food.