Monday, 19 October 2015

Travelling = Anxiety (2)

This is more or less just a glorified comment on my previous post Travelling=Anxiety.

Today I flew down from Edinburgh to London for a 10am meeting, flight left at 6.40.  In terms of my previous post there were two interesting things about this, since I said in that post that I used to be terrified of flying, and that things like getting tickets at the station might induce unnecessary anxiety.

On the flight down I had a window seat - I usually choose aisle but BA didn't let me have a choice without paying extra. I was idly looking out of the window when I saw two clear vapour trails right at the wing tip, at about 45 degrees to it. Staring a little bit I looked down the vapour trails and there was a plane at the end of it.

It's obviously hard to judge distance in mid air but I would say the other plane was maybe a mile away.  It might have been more, like two miles, but I don't really believe it was 10 miles, for example.  It was obviously at exactly the same height, since the vapour trail overlapped.

All of this was a long way of saying - if my estimate is anything like close to correct - that there was a horrible air traffic mixup and the two planes got way within their normal separation envelope, and we're lucky the two planes didn't crash.

Oddly enough, I recognised this intellectually and it caused me no anxiety at all. I suppose because any disaster that might have happened had very definitely not happened by the time I noticed it.

(It was flight BA2931 from Edinburgh to Gatwick on 19th October 2015, by the way, I might check later if it gets reported.)

The plane was due in at 8.10 and it landed 15 minutes early.  The plan in getting to the meeting was the Gatwick Express, which takes half an hour, followed by a leisurely half hour walk to the meeting.

But having incredible difficulty getting a ticket and thereby missing two trains meant I had 20 minutes for the leisurely half hour walk, and it turned into a hurried 15 minute run. Actually that gave me the chance to run and I enjoy running, so the running itself was no problem.

But the problem was the anxiety of getting a ticket. The concourse at Gatwick train station was madly crowded with four different places to buy tickets, and no clear signage. I ended up queuing in every single one of the possible lines. Yes, I changed three times. Three times I joined a queue and then left it. The third time was a correct choice, it turned out to be a line for prepaid tickets. The other two times were mistakes. Which I half knew at the time but I was too worried about the choice I'd just made that I had to change.

I had two problems. One was the horrible environment, the bad signage and poor staffing of Gatwick station. But actually that was the minor problem. The major problem was exactly the anxiety I talked about in my last post.

Friday, 16 October 2015

Travelling = Anxiety

About a year ago I was on the train on the first leg of a trip to a conference. I was so miserable I started writing the following piece.
Interior, night, bedside lights on. Camera starts on large tv screen. Clock on tv says 3.25am. 
TV is showing Chaplin's "The Kid", the scene with Chaplin hugging the kid.  
Camera pulls back and we see it's a well appointed hotel room.  Pans over windows. It's dark outside and through the windows we can see the lights of a big city 
Text appears on screen saying ... "Toronto, September 2004". 
Camera moves round to bed. 
On the bed a 40 year old man is sobbing uncontrollably.
I never finished the piece.

Spoiler alert: the 40 year old man was me. I was thinking about the time 10 years previously I had gone to a conference and found myself not sleeping and at the same time missing my children terribly.

Not long after I started going to conferences as an academic, I started hating flying. Basically because I was scared and thought I was going to die. I usually enjoyed conferences but I hated getting to them.  In 1996 for example I simply decided to go to no conferences because I hated the travelling so much.

About a month after I sat  on the train writing I went off sick from work with anxiety.

It was some months before I travelled again for work. When I did I felt horrible on the first train trip again. And it was only then that it dawned on me:

Travelling = Anxiety

It's true that I used to be scared of flying, every bump and thump on the flight would make me think we were going down, no matter how calm everybody else on the flight was.

But now I look back that wasn't the problem. It was the gnawing stress of the anxiety.

The last few weeks I've been doing quite a lot of travelling. That is, quite a lot by my standards, which is low by the standards of travelling academics.

But it was when I was on my first trip that I suddenly realised the truth.

Travelling = Anxiety

I can worry about anything and everything, and they make me viscerally anxious. I can't explain it.

Like for example, the machine at the train station might not have recognised my credentials correctly and I might not get my ticket I've prepaid for. I've left plenty of time to get the ticket but let's get anxious about this. The worst that can happen is my whole trip is ruined... oh wait ... the worst that can happen is that I buy an extra ticket and sort out the mess later.  Which would be irritating but fine.

I can worry about anything and everything at any time. But on the trip I do, and worse than that, I just feel anxious which is a very draining feeling. I don't need to be worrying about anything.

Travelling = Anxiety

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Session Seven (or thereabouts)

This is another guest post from Dorothy Donald.

We talk about how I’m doing now. Something has shifted but it’s quite hard to articulate what that is. I don’t feel as if a flash of insight has revealed to me some Great Truth about how to live my life. My life and my career are every bit as messy and precarious as they were before. I’d still think twice before describing myself as ‘happy’ (and if I were to stick my neck out and say it, I’d have to preface it with some hasty, rabbit-warren exposition of what I consider the word to mean and not mean – I am, after all, an academic). But it’s pretty clear that I’m not depressed either.

If I have to put words around what’s different, and Neil seems quite keen that I at least try, I’d say that I’ve developed a practice of talking to myself in a slightly kinder voice. That doesn’t really cover it but it’ll do.

“So where do you think we are with these sessions, Dorothy?”

“I think that we’ve reached some sort of conclusion.”

“Yes. That’s my sense too.”

That was four days ago. Today has (for various, rather dull, entirely unsurprising reasons) been my worst day in weeks if not months.

I suppose the interesting thing will be how I handle tomorrow.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

I've been busy

This is another guest post from Dorothy Donald.

Since I last wrote a post:

I have done lot at work (though I have not been working an 80-hour week and I have, for the most part, refused to feel guilty for that)

I have been exercising regularly

I have made some new friends

I have been on some dates

I have spent time talking with friends and family who are having difficult times of their own and offering as much support as I can

I have rediscovered reading for pleasure

I have levelled with myself about how much sleep I actually need and done my best to get that amount

I have made it all the way through September – shortening days, wind, rain, and all – without sinking. 

I have reached the point where all of the stuff I’ve been doing to distract myself from my depression is starting to look like a normal and healthy life. The fiction I have constructed about being a functioning adult is getting hard to disentangle from reality. My depression hasn’t vanished, but it’s been in the background rather than dominating the landscape.

(My flat is still a mess.)

I go to see Neil again in three days.