Mumma Goes Abroad

‘The Week Before’, 12th September 2017 – Time: 2250

I’m currently lying in bed, wide awake, whilst listening to the howling wind and heavy rain splattering against our bedroom window. I can’t help but focus on the fact that this time next week I’ll be in Nice with Carla, a very close friend. I can imagine that I’ll be doing the exact same thing as I am right now…lying in bed and writing, but with a belly full of lovely French food! However, the difference is I won’t have my Hubby lying next to me and I won’t have the sound of the baby monitor humming in my ear. I also won’t have a Harry to comfort during the night…it’s going to be very strange.

Although I am really looking forward to this trip, the Mum guilt and anxiety is slowly beginning to kick in. The heart-wrenching pain I’m feeling about leaving Harry for four days is absolutely terrifying. Can I do this? Will I cope? Will Harry and Ry cope? Will they miss me? Am I doing the right thing?

I’ve only ever travelled abroad with Ry or my family so this will be my first holiday away with a friend. Whilst it’s extremely exciting, it is also completely out of my comfort zone and a fear that’s always haunted me. Even before the days of Harry, the idea of leaving my home comforts scared me. My anxiety is 100% to blame for this. It always got the better of me, and because of this, I’ve missed out on many opportunities in the past. So, this time I’m pushing myself and I’m going for it!

If you’ve read my previous blog posts, you will be familiar with my anxiety struggles and my passion for mental health. Even though my anxiety has improved a lot since Harry has come into my life, there are still many issues I battle with every single day. I did struggle post-natally for the first six months but thankfully, that soon lifted. Over the years I’ve discovered strategies to manage my attacks and have finally found the courage to open up about my experiences. At long last, I’ve learnt to accept myself and welcome those anxious quirks. I’ve also learnt to be patient with my mind. The mind that continuously worries about future events that never happen. The mind that also constantly flicks from one movie to another, and the mind that makes me question everything.

I know this disorder will never go away, but I am determined to embrace this part of me. I want to continue to transform my experiences into something productive and share my struggles to help others. I want to fight and conquer my fears and do the things I never thought I’d be able to do.

Fortunately, this trip has entered into my life at the perfect time, where I am currently the happiest and healthiest I have felt in years. As my anxiety affects me both physically and mentally, it can make me feel quite unwell at times which in turn, hugely affects my confidence. This has improved massively though, and as a result, has led me to reach this wonderful and positive stage in my life. A place where I’ve finally gained the strength to overcome an opportunity as big as this trip away. I’m ready to achieve this, and I’m ready for some much needed ‘me’ time. But most of all, I’m ready to kick my anxieties big fat butt! So, welcome to my new chapter…Mumma goes abroad!

 

‘The Night Before’, 18th September 2017 – Time: 2148

I may have just re-packed my case for the fifth time this week, but who cares? I’m finally ready and prepped for my trip away! I was hoping for an early night but for some reason, my suspicious mind seems to feel the need to keep checking on my passports whereabouts every two minutes. I know it’s neatly stored in my hand-luggage. I know this because I’ve seen it there. I was the one that put it there! But no, my mind seems to think my evil passport has found the ability to grow a pair of legs and is capable of both leaping out of my hand-luggage and running away. I do hope it realises how pathetic it’s being soon because I really must get some sleep.

My parents are also going away this week for their Anniversary and are fortunately staying just outside of Bristol for a few days. This is perfect as our flight is from Bristol airport, so I’ll be able to join them on their road trip tomorrow morning. We are leaving pretty early, which means I may not be able to see Harry before I leave. I honestly can’t count the number of times I kissed and told him I loved him at bedtime this evening. It was like I was never going to see him again. So, at least by leaving with my parents tomorrow morning it’ll keep me nicely distracted. I’m looking forward to spending some quality time with them and having a catch-up too.

You’d think writing a blog would be a great way to wind down, but I am still very much wide awake with a mind that is in full swing and a Mum guilt that is on top form tonight. I am also currently being held hostage by Wilson. I usually welcome his lovely cat cuddles but he is lying so close to me that I can feel his whiskers tickling my cheeks. His purr is also so loud that it’s vibrating through my chest and I can feel his yellow eyes staring right through me…I think he knows!!

Ry is also tucked up in bed next to me and is attempting to complete the daily crossword we usually do together on the iPad. I keep asking him if there’s anything I can do to help before I go away but he’s adamant that he has it all ‘under control’. I know he does and I know Harry is in perfectly good hands. Ry is really looking forward to some quality Father and Son bonding time, so it’s an important and special time for them also. I know they’ll be absolutely fine. It’s just a little scary that’s all.

Ry is also going away in February for a few nights with Carla’s Husband Chris, which means we will all get a mini break away. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity for the both of us and after 18 months of terrible sleepless nights…I do think we both deserve it!

Therefore, to try and distract my racing thoughts, I’ve just spent some time looking up our booking on Air B&B. We will be staying in a one-bed French apartment with a balcony that has a view of the mountains. It looks super cosy, with a fully equipped kitchen and a location that’s close to the port. The temperature is set to be around 23 degrees and our plans so far involve plenty of cafe and bakery stops, a trip to the markets, a spot of shopping, some sightseeing and a chill on the beach.

I’m excited….

 

‘Day One’, – 19th September 2017 – Time: 2215

Bonjour from Nice! We have arrived here safely, and I am currently lying in bed in our apartment…with a belly full of French food. Told you so!

I was lucky to be able to see Harry very briefly this morning, which meant I was able to get in a few extra kisses and squeezes. I did feel pretty sad leaving them all, but on the other hand, I was also feeling ready and excited to start my adventure. The journey to the airport couldn’t have gone any better. I was greeted by Carla in the departures entrance, shortly after getting dropped off by my parents. However, in that short space of time from leaving my parents car to meeting Carla, I did suddenly feel quite vulnerable. I was out of my comfort zone. I was alone. I was unsure, and at one point I struggled to catch my breath. I begged and begged myself not to have an anxiety attack but after taking a few deep breaths, I was fine!

I don’t know if it’s just me that does this but why, oh why do I have to make myself look so suspicious going through security? I just can’t help it. I can’t even look the security staff in the eyes! The process is just so intimidating that I am always totally relieved when I’ve made it through to the other side. But after both successfully getting through without any further and unnecessary searches, we made our way into the departures lounge where we shopped and decided to relax and catch up properly over some lunch.

Our flight went pretty smoothly too. The airport is located very close to the sea, so the views when landing were incredible. We arrived about 4.30pm but were unfortunately welcomed with rain and very grey skies, typical! Therefore, due to the weather and time, we decided to get a taxi from the airport to our apartment which took approximately 15 minutes and cost us 35 euros in total. The taxi ride took us along the whole promenade, a 5k strip of pretty spectacular views.

When we arrived at our apartment, we were kindly met by Claire our Air B&B host. She let us into the building and showed us how to use the tiny lift to the top floor. We only just about managed to squeeze us and our cases in there! During our lift ride, we learnt that Claire is also English but has lived here in Nice since 2003, with her husband and two children. She was extremely friendly and helpful, which has made our stay so far very reassuring.

Our apartment greeted us with clean smells and spotless worktops, with lovely bright rooms, a gorgeous bathroom and a well, fully-equipped kitchen. Our living room and bedroom windows lead to a long balcony, with charming shutters and a lovely view of the mountains. We also look out onto other similar apartments, with some balconies beautifully decorated with plants and flowers, and others decorated with their hanging washing, it reminded me of the film Aladdin.

So far we are extremely impressed. Air B&B apartment link here:

https://www.airbnb.co.uk/rooms/13872583?location=Nice%2C%20France

As the weather was pretty miserable, we decided we didn’t want to venture too far at first. So instead, we planned to go on a small local walk to get some supplies for our apartment. Not too far away, we stumbled across a lovely bakery called ‘ Boulangerie Patisserie La Gourmandise’, selling French sticks and some very yummy cakes. Our first challenge yet was that the gentleman only spoke very little English, which was not a problem as we desperately wanted to try some French-speaking ourselves. We were a little rusty but gave it a good go, although Carla was much better than I. Somehow, we successfully ended up with a French stick, some very yummy looking lemon meringue tarts and some panne au chocolat pastries for the morning. He also very kindly popped in some mini cake freebies too, all because he was impressed that we had given the French language a good go.

Across the road from our apartment is a convenient local supermarket, with all of the essentials you need! Our spread tonight couldn’t have been more perfect! It consisted of various types of cheese, our bakery French stick, olives, crackers, red wine, vegetable crisps and grapes. Simple, yet absolutely amazing! Plus one of the cheeses we discovered is the best cheese I think I’ve ever tasted. It was quite difficult to work out the name of it on the packaging, therefore the only information I got was that it’s called ‘St.Laurient’. I think I’ll be heading back for some more soon!

After eating and winding down, the skies suddenly began to clear and so we decided to do a little exploring. We discovered the local port and kept walking along the seafront towards CoCo Beach, a spot that’s renowned for its wonderful sunsets. Fortunately, we were lucky enough to be able to witness the most beautiful sundown. It was the perfect end to a long day!


I’ve just been in touch with Ry. They have both had a lovely day today with my Mother in Law, and I’ve received plenty of pictures and updates which has certainly put my mind at rest. It is now very late and I’m beginning to feel quite tired, therefore I’m off to sleep ready for our busy day tomorrow.

By the way, this bed is pretty comfy too!!

 

‘Day Two’, 20th September 2017 – Time: 2246

Opening the curtains this morning was a completely different view in comparison to yesterdays. The storm clouds over the mountains had been replaced with blue skies. The sun was shining and the air was warm. So as you can imagine, we were eager to get exploring.


After eating our lovely pastries for breakfast, we then set off on our journey where we walked a fair distance from our apartment to the Matisse Museum. It wasn’t long after leaving that I slightly regretted my choice of footwear. However, I was easily distracted by the gorgeous views and beautiful surroundings that I soon forgot about the pain and kept going.

The walk was pretty steep, although the higher we went, the better the views were. I just love the designs of the buildings here, they are all so unique in their own little way.

We soon arrived at the museum where we paid 10 euros each for our tickets. I honestly was expecting it to be much higher than that, and I couldn’t believe that within the price you also got 24-hour access to other museums around Nice.

After causally viewing work that definitely didn’t belong to Matisse, we soon realised that we’d actually entered the wrong building and that we should, in fact, be in the one next door. We were, however standing in the Museum of Archaeology which surprisingly turned out to be very interesting.


After viewing the exhibit and exploring the ancient Roman ruins outside, we finally reached the Matisse Museum; a beautiful large, salmon coloured building set within the same stunning grounds as the Roman baths and located in the Cimiez hills overlooking Nice. Matisse’s exhibition inside didn’t just showcase his artwork but it also focused on his whole life, a true representation of the evolution of his work. Carla had studied his work during her Art degree so she was determined to go. I, on the other hand, didn’t really know much about Matisse prior to our visit but I’m so glad I went. I enjoyed the experience, plus it was a great way to incorporate some culture into our trip.

After our culture fix, it was time to then tend to our rumbling tummies and search for some much-needed food. We opted to find the farmers markets, which again was quite a walk. It’s the norm isn’t it that when you head on a city break, you’ve got to expect some blisters right? I knew we had a lot of walking planned so I honestly thought that I’d chosen the correct footwear today. But on the way to the markets, my feet decided to have a big fall out with my sandals, and guess who won?

I struggled with the pain but I managed to stay positive and troop on. Although, I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to finally see a pharmacy. Those bright green flashing lights were my absolute saviour and after covering my feet in plenty of blister pads and plasters, I was then set for the rest of the day.

We eventually found the farmers markets but were disappointed to find that the stalls only seemed to sell fruit and veg. We were really hoping for some rather exciting French delicacies and so our quest to find some food continued. Although, with the help of Carla’s Pokemon hunting app, it really wasn’t long before we casually stumbled into the heart of Nice. An exciting and buzzing location full of gorgeous shops, restaurants and suddenly, a lot of people.

We decided to eat in a place called Bagel History which was situated close to Nice’s very own Notre-Dame. The food was really tasty, with a lovely atmosphere, friendly staff and very reasonable prices. The interior was really cool too and full of trendy, retro decor. It was a really nice place to chill, to quickly catch up with my boys and to also give my feet a much-needed rest!


We then spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the nearby street and browsing its wonderful selection of both popular and quirky shops. It was so nice to relax and finally go shopping on my own with a friend, and not feel any pressure. Harry isn’t the most restful when out and about shopping, neither is Ry, to be honest. So this for me was pure luxury! We didn’t get too carried away either, but we did manage to purchase a few exciting discoveries.

We were pretty tired after our shopping experience, so we decided to pop back to our apartment for a rest, a freshen up and to refuel on last nights leftovers. We then went for a stroll along the famous promenade to see if we could find a suitable beach spot for our beach experience tomorrow morning. The beaches along the promenade were very pretty but they were also full of large pebbles and didn’t seem to be very clean. Therefore, our mission for the perfect beach for relaxing still continues.

One word of advice for any Mothers leaving their little ones behind….don’t find yourself walking through a park at the busiest time of the day where there are hundreds of kids and prams everywhere! It will play on that guilty conscience of yours and it will make you feel a little sad.

On the other hand, our evening meal tonight was lovely. We went to an Italian restaurant called ‘Cafe La Place’, in the Garibaldi square. I decided to follow in Carla’s vegetarian footsteps so we shared a gorgeous tomato and mozzarella pasta, as well as a very yummy vegetable pizza. We were seated outside, where we were surrounded by a warm and friendly atmosphere with plenty to watch and see. For the second time today, we were very satisfied with the service and food we’d received.


We are now in bed after a long but enjoyable day, winding down ready for tomorrow’s big adventure! I’m actually pretty wide awake and I’m suddenly really missing my boys. Because we have been so busy today I’ve been well distracted, but now that we’ve stopped…all I can think about is them. When I spoke to Ry on FaceTime this evening, he told me that he’d put a picture of me up on our shelf and that Harry would occasionally point to it and say ‘Mum’ at different points throughout the day. That definitely tugged on my heartstrings and guilty Mum conscience! Overall though, Harry has been absolutely fine and has been well entertained today by Ry and his Godfather Dan who’s come to keep them company for a few days. Even though it kills me, I purposely have decided not to FaceTime Harry during this trip because unfortunately, I think it’ll be more cruel than kind.

I am having a little wobble tonight and I’m feeling quite homesick (I blame the park) but I expected that at some point during this trip. I’m just about to stick in my earphones though and switch on one of my reliable YouTube videos for some relaxation. This is my go-to tool if I’m feeling stressed or anxious. It really helps with those racing thoughts you often get at bed-time.

Link here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IofL1jyGMEQ

I’m really hoping it’ll help me chill as I need some sleep for our big day tomorrow.

So here goes…

 

‘Day Three’, 21st September 2017 – Time: 2342

I honestly didn’t think anything could top yesterday, but today has been absolutely incredible. We set off early this morning to find a beach in a nearby town called Villefranche-sur-Mer, a place that’s renowned for its incredible location. We decided to walk as Carla didn’t seem to think it was too far away. She genuinely thought that the beach was ‘just around the bay’….However, let’s just say that I was rather pleased with my sensible footwear decisions today!

After six very long, but beautiful miles later we eventually reached Villefranche-sur-Mer; a quaint little town full of unbelievably breath-taking views! It may have taken us a while to get there but the whole entire walk was just so pretty that it was totally worth it. The town had such a relaxing atmosphere and also offered a variety of sweet little shops and charming restaurants. It really was a lovely contrast in comparison to what we’d been used to over the past couple of days.


The beach itself didn’t let us down either. We discovered a quiet little spot in the corner near some rocks where we peacefully sat and ate our leftover cheese and crackers for lunch. We were so relaxed that we savoured every single second of ray soaking, whilst also listening to the waves lap against the shore. The water was so beautiful and clear that we enjoyed a little paddle and even managed to find lots of sea glass and tiny shells to bring home with us. It was perfect!


We then gradually made our way back through Ville de France’s town where we grabbed an ice cream each and made the crazy decision to walk the 6 miles back to our apartment in Old Town. I’ve no idea what we were thinking but we were grateful to witness the wonderful scenic route one last time.

It was quite a long walk back to the apartment but when we finally got there we had a freshen up and caught up with our loved ones at home. We also enjoyed a glass of red wine each and some nibbles on the balcony, taking in the warm sunshine before heading out to find some cake and antique shops.

We didn’t find as many antique shops as we’d hoped today but we did discover an absolute treasure; ‘Caprice Vintage’, located within Old Town at 12, Rue Droite. This beautiful vintage shop was full of good quality labelled and un-labelled clothing, as well as accessories all dating from 1920’s through to the 90’s. I was totally fascinated with the Chanel display and the endless collection of shoes. This shop offered such a unique experience that I felt like I’d been transported into another World. A French vintage World. So, if you love your French chic and retro styles then this place is certainly one to visit!

Follow them on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/CapriceVintageShop/


We also visited a cafe called ‘Deli Bo’, which is one of those places we have walked passed a few times and thought ‘we must try in there’. Carla had discovered from her online research that it was pretty popular, so we sat outside and watched the World go by whilst enjoying an afternoon cream tea. It was a little different to the Cornish kind that I’m used to and it was certainly missing the clotted cream, but it was very tasty none the less. The staff were also extremely pleasant and the atmosphere felt really friendly and relaxed.

They can also be found on Facebook through this link: https://www.facebook.com/D%C3%A9li-Bo-196570080426527/

So, one thing we’ve learnt about Nice is that they’re not very good at accommodating for vegetarians. This evening we spent hours walking the streets and searching for veggie-friendly places on Google, but the only suitable options seemed to be Italian restaurants. We honestly spent so long looking that we decided to return to last nights ‘Cafe La Place’ because we knew what the food was like and we had such a great experience. Unfortunately though, my food tonight didn’t follow suit as my burger was pretty much raw. However, our friendly waiter who looked just like ‘Greyworm’ from Game of Thrones kindly took care of it and sorted a fresh one fairly quickly.


On the way back to our apartment I witnessed even more of what an amazing person Carla is. We walked passed a homeless man sitting on the floor wrapped up with his dog when all of a sudden Carla pulled out 10 euros from her purse and popped it into the man’s pot. You could see from the smile on his face that he was just so grateful. I really was blown away by her kindness.

When we reached the apartment we both decided that we weren’t quite ready for bed yet and that we fancied a final evening stroll along the promenade. We decided to walk up to the large ‘I love Nice’ sign, which overlooked the rest of the lit up promenade. We could also hear the sea roaring in the darkness, crashing against the rocks. It was lovely, but when I suddenly realised what the time was I did start to feel slightly uneasy. As we started to head home, we were approached by a man who at first, had been sat quite a far distance away. For some reason, he started jogging up to us so Carla and I locked arms and quickly stepped up our pace. I’m not sure what he wanted but he eventually gave up, and I’m not sure if that’s because he thought we were rude or because (I can’t believe I’m about to write this…) I ‘let one rip’ in order to try and scare him off! I’m aware it’s gross but I’m telling you, it was my only available weapon. Either way, it worked….

We are now back at the apartment, wrapped up in bed and prepared for our final day tomorrow. I’ve been in touch with home lots today and Harry seems to be pretty content. I really am having such an amazing time but I just can’t wait to see them both tomorrow.

It’s been a long but incredible day and I’m absolutely shattered, therefore I’m off to sleep. Goodnight folks!

 

‘The last day’, 22nd September ‘17 – 2346

As our flight today wasn’t until late afternoon, we decided to get up fairly early, pack our cases, eat breakfast and have our very last final stroll.

One place we were desperate to visit was the waterfall, located up on Castle Hill. To get there meant climbing lots of very steep steps, although the achy legs were totally worth it. I was truly amazed at what this place had to offer and the views were absolutely breath-taking.

We decided to take a stroll around the cemetery, which was the most beautiful, well-kept cemetery I’ve ever had the pleasure to visit. Each grave represented a unique story and didn’t have the dreary, over-grown gravestones like we get here in the UK. It felt like a proper tribute and a place to truly celebrate these people’s lives. It was a really humbling experience.

It was a little walk from the cemetery to the waterfall, with more steep steps to climb. However, once again the views were just phenomenal. The artificial waterfall is absolutely stunning and is a lovely place to stand when you need cooling down. We also discovered a huge park with castle ruins just up from the waterfall. Here you could visit different lookout points that offered some amazing panoramic views of Nice. It was just gorgeous and the perfect end to our trip.


On our final walk back to the apartment, we took a stroll along the Port where we suddenly stumbled upon a few antique shops, full of so many lovely things. I just wish I’d had more money and more room in my luggage. Carla however successfully came away with the sweetest and daintiest hand-painted glass bottle, it was gorgeous and such a lovely keepsake!

Once we were completely packed, we sadly said goodbye to our apartment and took our very last tiny lift ride down to the ground floor. We then walked with our cases to Garibaldi Square and caught the bus for just 6 euros to the airport, which again took us along the whole promenade.

The airport process went fairly straightforward. We got there with plenty of time to spare, which meant we were able to chill and eat some lunch before our flight, plus spend the very last of our euros in the shops and not feel too rushed. We enjoyed a lovely meal in Jamie’s Italian which set us up for the journey home, and we even managed to find a few gifts to bring back for our loved ones.

Luckily our flight was on time and we had a very smooth journey home. We were kindly met by my parents in the departures lounge at Bristol Airport, where we then started our long journey home back to Cornwall. Carla’s Husband Chris picked up Carla from Exeter services on the way, and my parents and I finally got home about 10pm.

I was so grateful to find Ry eagerly waiting for me at the door with a cup of tea, bless him. I was just about to give him the biggest kiss when all of a sudden Wilson appeared down the stairs meowing and swearing at me. Therefore, my attention quickly transferred from Ry to the cat.

“Wilsonnnnnnnnn!!” I called, as I scooped him up in my arms for a cuddle. I then went to look at Ry to say “how cute is this?” but he was stood still, totally unimpressed, with his mouth open staring straight at me.

“You went to the cat before me!”, he said…..

Oops!

I am now in my very own bed with Wilson cuddling into me, Ry doing the usual crossword and Harry sound asleep next to my ear on the monitor. I feel so lucky to be able to call this my home and these guys my family. I can’t wait to see that little boy tomorrow morning!

Although it’s good to be home, I’ve honestly had the best time and I am so proud of myself for achieving this opportunity. I’ve learnt that I can be independent and that I am allowed to do things for myself without feeling guilty. After feeling like I’ve rediscovered myself again, I’ve also learnt that being ‘Cath’, is just as important as being ‘Mummy’.

I want to thank Carla for inviting me on this trip and for helping me to really feel like ‘me’ again. I’m already missing your company this evening. I also want to thank Ry for encouraging me to pursue this opportunity and for being so supportive the whole way through. However last of all, I want to thank all of you who follow and continue to support my blog posts. You’ve encouraged me to develop my passion for writing which has not only helped others but has also kick-started my career as a freelance copywriter. I now feel like life is heading in the right direction!

Goodnight to you all and thank you once again. x
P.S – This is one of my most precious moments. Cuddles with Harry the following morning after arriving home. ‘My happy place’.

Breathe.

I wanted the title of my blog to mean something to me and a word I could connect to. The title ‘Breathe’ keeps me calm and relaxed, it’s a word that has meant a lot to me over the years which has also helped encourage me to write. ‘Breathe’ has saved me in so many situations and as a result has become one of my favourite words. I wanted to share with you what this word means to me and why. Who knows, maybe it could become one of your new best-loved words.

Breathing is an every day, normal human habit. It happens automatically but do we really appreciate the importance of breathing and what effect it has on our health?

When my anxiety journey started I spent many days and nights researching my symptoms, searching for help and looking for answers. The panic attack episodes, the lightheadedness, the dizziness, the shortness of breath, the chest pains, the palpitations, the aches and the pains, the dry mouth, the tiredness, the constant feeling of thinking I may pass out daily, the loss of confidence and the fear and the darkness of anxiety all played a part with a poor connection of breathing.

Bad breathing restricts the blood flow to your brain, causing your nerve cells to become affected. This can cause many symptoms listed above. When we’re anxious we tend to hyperventilate or over-breathe. I did this a lot without even realising at times, I would often feel relaxed even when anxious but I wouldn’t realise it until the symptoms and panic would kick in. This is why I assumed I was seriously ill at the time because I had no idea I was suffering from anxiety. At times I would struggle to breathe which can make you feel like you don’t have enough oxygen in your body when in actual fact you have more than enough – almost too much. However, in order to use this oxygen your body needs a certain amount of carbon dioxide. When hyperventilating the normally carefully controlled levels of carbon dioxide and oxygen get all thrown out of sync. This chemical imbalance starts to affect your nervous system by putting your body on alert and causing a host of horrible symptoms.

I am certain that my poor breathing, alongside my worries, is the beginning part of the cycle that activates my ‘fight or flight response’. This is our body’s primitive, automatic and inborn response which will strike when your body is under stress. This response prepares your body to fight or flee from any possible attack or threat to our survival. When I’m anxious about something I develop the poor breathing and as a result my symptoms increase and so I become even more anxious, causing a soul-destroying vicious cycle. My body automatically detects whats causing me to feel anxious as a threat and will continue to do so until I break the cycle.

For example:

During my driving lessons, I was a confident driver so I had no idea I would be so anxious about driving one day. It must have been because I felt at ease having my instructor with me the whole time, I could still ask questions if I needed to and he had controls on the passenger side which was always my safety net.

I didn’t feel ready when my driving test day approached but I decided to use it as a practice test. I just had no confidence in passing that day, especially first time. When the examiner told me I had passed, I was really rather shocked.  Ryan instantly got me insured on his car so I would occasionally drive but not every day. Suddenly I started to drive less and less until one day I couldn’t even sit in the driver’s seat of a car on my own.

As time went on my fear got worse where I wouldn’t drive without anyone else in the car with me. I would rather get up early and walk 25 minutes to the bus stop in the dark and pouring rain instead of getting in a nice, warm car where I could drive to work singing to the radio. I was unhappy because I hated not knowing how I was going to get to and from work daily, I had no independence and I relied on Ryan a lot. Going to the supermarket for most people is fairly minor but for me, it was a big deal. I would sit and battle with my mind for ages trying to decide whether to go, where I would park, constantly re-thinking the journey over and over in my head but because I would get so worked up I would often give up and decide not to go. So much time wasted with no gain but most of all, I really needed those essentials from the shop.

I am sure the worry of transport and the fear of driving caused the main majority of my anxiety. I felt so ill during this time in my life where my symptoms were at the highest they’ve ever been. I was so unhappy, so low, with no confidence and an absolute nervous wreck. I didn’t realise it at the time that these worries and fears were the cause of all this.

I would dread an opportunity where I would need to drive because it would make me ill and so I would avoid the situation by cancelling or not going. It may have been an opportunity to meet up with friends but it was easier for me to not go so I didn’t have to battle with my symptoms and nerves. Once I made a decision not to go it would instantly make me feel better and relief would suddenly set in but I would also regret it. I was ashamed of myself on losing out on such memories and opportunities, I was letting my anxiety win.

After many weekly trips to the doctors and constantly being told my health is fine but I have anxiety, I finally started to believe them. I decided enough was enough and so I started to seek help through counselling. I sat with a counsellor where we discussed any worries or fears of mine and any situations I would usually avoid. The more I talked, the more and more I realised I was suffering from anxiety and so we attempted to tackle it by using CBT. At this time Ryan bought me a car which made me even more determined to start driving again.

Suddenly the fog became to clear, I followed the CBT guide and decided to tackle small journeys one day/week at a time. The first goal was to sit in the driver’s seat on my own and start the engine, this was the hardest goal. After taking deep breaths in and out I was able to overcome that first hurdle. The next day I was to drive up the road and back. Then to drive a bit further to the nearest roundabout and come back home. I managed these within the first week and so the following week I challenged myself to go to the supermarket. It was hard but I did it. It might have been 8pm at night where there was no traffic and lots of available parking but I still did it. Then within two weeks, I had overcome my first drive to work. I can not even explain the feeling I had when I drove to work for the first time. I have never been so proud of myself. In an instant my confidence grew, I felt independent and free but most of all, I finally didn’t have dripping wet hair or damp trousers and socks from the dreaded walk.

I am now in a much better place with my driving, I can go to places I know but still struggle on occasions with places I don’t know. I’m still training myself and I’m eager to continue to improve.

I really believe the fight or flight response played a huge part in this. My body was telling me to flee the situation because it saw driving as such a threat. This affected my life drastically. My body is now learning to fight and so the driving doesn’t seem like such a huge threat anymore. I still get the odd symptoms but not like I used to. I am in a much happier, brighter place and my anxiety has been particularly well controlled for the last two years. I still get my anxieties and worries but they are more minor so I can normally rationalise with my brain and work through it, mainly through using breathing techniques. I still look back to how cloudy and dark my life was then and I can’t tell you how lucky I feel to have come out the other side. The day I accepted I had anxiety was one of the most courageous and bravest hurdles I’ve overcome. I was able to work at it and challenge myself. I did my own research to try and help understand what is happening to my body and why. I sought help, I spoke to friends and family and I developed techniques to ease my symptoms.

Breathing really helped through this phase in my life. I focused on breathing exercises where you inhale and exhale for a certain amount of time. I also found some amazing videos on YouTube by searching for either breathing exercises or relaxation techniques. Lots of exercise videos on YouTube encourage you to relax in a quiet room by yourself where you listen to the lapping of waves on a beach, birds in the sky and the breeze of the wind on palm trees. Usually, there is a voice over of someone encouraging you to relax each and every part of your body as the video goes on. It really worked for me and is something I would recommend to anyone undergoing any types of stress, anxiety or depression.

When I am focusing on my breathing I imagine that I am inhaling clean, fresh air into my lungs. When exhaling I imagine pushing out all of the toxins, the unwanted waste and symptoms out of my body.

I used these YouTube videos a lot during my pregnancy. I also listened to pregnancy meditation videos and attended pregnancy yoga classes (the best thing ever) and I am absolutely certain the meditation and yoga was my saviour during pregnancy and labour. I breathed my whole way through the labour with the help of some fabulous gas and air. I was calm which is totally the opposite of how I thought I’d be. I was able to listen to instructions from the midwife and hold proper conversations between contractions, although I was constantly apologising for the moo-ing sound effects! I felt like I was there the whole time mentally though which meant I was able to enjoy the experience as much as I could with a clear head.

Breathing has also helped me to keep calm during many other situations that normally cause me to feel anxious, such as:

– Any procedures involving needles on myself. I am able to take blood from others but not quite so willing to be the actual patient!

– Taking off or landing on a plane.

– Dealing with any workload stress.

– Walking into a room full of people. I.e. Doctors surgery or restaurant.

– Taking any exams or tests.

– Spending the night at home on my own.

– Being in the dark.

– Becoming a new Mum and the shock of hardly sleeping. It’s the most beautiful job but life-changing. At times its been challenging and hard but breathing your way through those times can seriously help! I struggled an awful lot post-natally during those first six months, it was a really tough time.

I have never found a cure for my anxiety but what I have found is a coping mechanism which works for me. I have had people say to me ‘just don’t worry’ or ‘get on with it’. I honestly really wish it was that simple. Those that haven’t experienced anxiety before may not fully understand how we feel. So my plan is to open everyone’s eyes to see that anxiety is not as clear as you think, there’s no guidebook or instructions, it’s not written in black and white, it’s hard work and really, really tough. Everyone’s anxieties are different but you need to work at it. You need to try and find your own individual connection and root cause first in order to work on strategies to change the cycle.

To anyone that does suffer from anxiety and to anyone who has similar symptoms to me. I am so sorry, I understand what you are going through, you are not alone and I feel your pain. It will be fine, one day you will find a way through this darkness and life will become brighter. Please just keep working at it, never give up and don’t let it win!

This blog is like therapy in a way for me and a good reminder to just breathe. I hope this is helpful and reaches out to those who need it the most but raises awareness at the same time.

I welcome back any feedback, good or bad and any requests/ideas that you would like to see on any of my future blog posts.

Thank you so much for your time.

Love,

Cath x