I don’t know when it happened but at some point over the last few years the ‘anxiety’ part of my ‘depression and anxiety’ diagnosis became the more prominent issue I was dealing with. Today, I feel like I’ve won a battle against it. The war isn’t over but always celebrate the small wins.
Today I got home from a two week archaeology field school in the Orkney isles. I lived by myself in Kirkwall for two weeks and worked Monday to Friday both weeks at The Cairns archaeological dig on South Ronaldsay. Two weeks where I lived by myself for the first time. Two weeks where I was doing something I’d never done before being on site. Two weeks where I worked with people I’d never met before and two weeks where I was forced to trust strangers day in, day out. And I loved it. I will be honest and say sometimes it was overwhelming. I had an anxiety attack on site. I made myself rather ill last weekend with the feeling of being trapped. But I went out on both Friday nights. Me, the girl who normally loves it when someone cancels plans last minute because I’d been dreading it. I went out to the pub with my new friends and had a great time.
Then today happened and today could have ruined all my hard work. I’m a planner. I plan things to manage my anxiety. My plan was to phone the taxi and leave the place I’d been staying at, at 10am. That’d have got me into the airport about 10.15am and I’d have breakfast and read my book for a couple of hours til my flight left. At 9.30am I phoned a taxi, no answer. I googled another taxi company, no answer. I waited 15 minutes and called both again, no answer. I waited 10 more minutes and tried again, same issue. I needed to check out by 10am at the latest. So I decided I’d take the bus because I had no other option. I made the 15 minute walk to the bus station with my giant suitcase filled with 2 weeks of muddy clothes. I saw the bus arrive and my heart sank. I’d left my laptop in the bus terminal and I was at my bus stance. Never have I ran so fast in my life. I retrieved the laptop and made it back to the bus in time and we were on our way. A minor hiccup but the rest of my plan was still in place.
I checked in at the airport and checked my baggage and went to the cafe. I sat down with my food and relaxed a little. I’d had a blip and I’d dealt with it, I felt good. Then over the tannoy I heard “Could passenger Smith going to Glasgow please make their way to baggage reconciliation”. Odd, but I ignored it.
By 11.15am 5 more people had been called to baggage reconciliation and there was only about 30 folk on my flight. By 12.30pm more than half the Kirkwall to Glasgow flight had been called to baggage reconciliation. The flight should have left at 12.45pm. The board then showed a 20 minute delay. No big deal, what’s 20 minutes? Nothing really.
Then over the tannoy “All passengers travelling to Glasgow please note that your flight has been delayed by approximately one hour. The flight that should have arrived from Glasgow has been redirected to Aberdeen for some reason. We have a replacement aircraft on its way.” Argh! The plan has been well and truly derailed now. But no matter, I’m here so that’s the main thing. Half an hour passes and again over the tannoy we hear “All passengers travelling to Glasgow we regret to inform you there has been a further delay. However the replacement aircraft has been dispatched and we hope to welcome it shortly.” That word “hope” is a dangerous one to someone with anxiety when dealing with real life situations. Hope isn’t a guaranteed thing.
Eventually we go through security as it’s a tiny airport so you don’t go through until your called and my bag is searched. It’s re-xrayed and scanned again. The lady then has me take everything out of my bag and scans it once more. Then she looks at me and asks me what I have hidden in the lining of my bag. I feel my heart racing and my stomach churning. I’ve hidden nothing yet there’s an issue. I suddenly remember there is the smallest vial of perfume in a zip pocket which I point out they hadn’t checked. I’m told to not be “smart” and they take it out and rescan it. Eventually I’m allowed to go.
It’s now 2pm. I’ve been sat in a tiny airport for nearly 4 hours and my nerves are feeling very frayed. The plane arrives and someone comes to the gate and says the plane is going nowhere because it’s overweight and they need at least 2 people to switch to the 5pm Edinburgh flight. Nobody wants to. One man in crutches starts getting very angry. Another man hands the attendant his phone to explain to his wife what is happening because he speaks little English. A couple are getting rowdy because they’ve missed their connecting flight and through all this a tiny little old lady speaks up and says “Well I’ll do it. It makes no difference to me where I end up. I’ll still make it home.” They arrange that a taxi will take her from the airport all the way to her house. A couple of other people then volunteer to also switch and then we are boarding. Surely this is the end of this ordeal.
We are on the flight and seats are all messed up because it’s a smaller aircraft. Crutches man starts screaming at the flight attendant because he wants to sit next to his wife but there’s a “foreigner” in the seat. Remember the man who didn’t speak English and was really quite concerned in the airport? Yup. He’s now the target of this man’s rage. Almost as if his delay is more important than the rest of us even though we’ve all been delayed the same amount of time.
We get in the air and I think well that’s that. Until the time we should be landing and I notice the plane is descending then ascending in a circle. For the next 40 or so minutes it does this. We’ve got to wait for a landing slot. But “Don’t worry,” jokes the captain, “We shouldn’t run out of fuel. I hope!” There’s that word again that fills me with dread even when I know it’s a joke.
Eventually I land at 3.45pm, nearly 2 hours later than scheduled. And I was just contemplating the day. Everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong. And I didn’t have an anxiety attack. I didn’t even feel like one was coming on. I was stressed but that’s hopefully an understandable reaction to a day like today. I had mild anxiety when things were going wrong but I dealt with it.
Today anxiety lost. Today I feel myself starting to creep back up the scoreboard.