It is easy to be held back from your ambitions, particularly when you are anxious or have mental health problems. The ambitions can seem huge and daunting. This is how I felt about one of my ambitions; to travel to remote places in the Arctic. It seemed impossible at a time when going into my local town was enough of a challenge.
Despite this, I thoroughly enjoyed researching destinations in great detail via books and the internet, all from the safety of my own sofa, of course. I had set my sights on a place in Greenland that would involve three flights and a stop over in the centre of Copenhagen to get there. The thought of all the airports filled me with dread. How would I possibly manage to cope if I had a panic amongst all the people rushing about, the litter, the chaos. Even now I feel anxious thinking about it.
I couldn’t click the button on my computer to book it and commit, because I didn’t feel I’d be able to cope with all the travel involved. Finally it was my Mother who booked the flights for us, although at this stage she did not realise just how ill I was. Once we were on our way to Greenland it became apparent to her, but luckily she was very patient. I couldn’t cope with thinking about how I would get through the whole trip, so we just focussed on dealing with what were were doing and where we were going right at that moment. Breaking it down into these smaller steps made it less daunting and the current goal was always in sight.
It also meant that when things were good, I simply focussed on enjoying them and didn’t think about the difficulties that lie ahead. We had some absolutely fantastic experiences. Nothing compared to being on deck a small boat shrouded in mist with only the crunching of icebergs for company or coming face to face with a musk ox whilst out on a walk.
My Arctic passion continued and there was another place I was desperate to visit; Svalbard, the land of the polar bears. We were now more experienced in coping with my anxiety whilst travelling, although my anxiety levels remained high. However, this time we were to be tested before we had even left home soil.
A syringe lying on the floor at the airport sent my OCD into overdrive. I was in a state of total panic and it must have taken half an hour for my Mother to get me past that spot. We did get past it though and carried on, only looking to the next stage and taking each challenge as it came. What had seemed impossible when I was staring at that syringe, became obtainable and soon enough I was on deck of a boat in the high arctic, just metres from a wild polar bear. Unforgettable.
When you feel like anxiety is holding you back from doing what you want to do, remember that there are strategies you can use. For me personally, that strategy is dealing with one step at a time instead of looking at the whole thing.