How to Have an Anxiety Attack While in a Foreign Country Without Panicking Everyone: A Memoir

Hello World, here I am, one week into my grand European adventure.

Let me tell you, it’s been pretty spectacular so far…up until this afternoon.  But let’s save that for later.

Geneva, as it turns out, is full of beautiful pebbly beaches and works of art.  Between an entire day spent exploring the Conservatoire et Jardin Botaniques de le Villa de Geneve, and the Montreux Jazz Festival, there haven’t been many dull moments.  I’ve been consistently taking leaps and bounds out of my comfort zone and the rewards have been plenty.  For example – on Saturday, I was invited to get on a train and go to a beach and jazz festival an hour and a half from home.  In a foreign country whose language I do not speak.  With a group of strangers.  My inner voice sounded something like this as I contemplated my decision:

AAAAAAAAAAEEEEEEEEEEEKKKKCNAKDJFKLNOOOOOOOOONEVERRRRRRRWHYYY?!

To say that the unknown and first time social interactions make me anxious is only a slight understatement.  The idea of agreeing to socialize with people for an ENTIRE DAY before I’d even met them and, whats more, all WHILST WEARING A SWIMSUIT was mildly terrifying.  I spent the morning with my stomach in knots.  Going over every inch of my bikini zone to make sure there was nary a wayward hair. Carefully picking out an outfit then subsequently changing it 5 times over.  Thinking of possible discussion topics and reviewing the news so I would sound intelligent if that topic arose.
By the time I arrived at the train station, I had underboob sweat slowly dripping its anxious way down my stomach rolls.  In just a few moments I would have to begin ignoring the voice in my head and play it cool.  So I did my thing – took a deep breath, tapped each of the fingers on my left hand to the pad of my thumb while internally counting to ten, and let the breath out.

Anxiety-free-Maysen was ready to go.

I met C and his friend L and as we got chatting I wanted to hit myself over the head.  All that worry and for what? C and L were absolutely charming and going out of their way to make me feel welcome in their little group.  We spent the day jumping into Lake Geneva and picnicking on cheese, bread, olives and Tinto (red wine mixed with Sprite – ridiculously refreshing).

In the evening we meandered our way through the Montreux Jazz Festival (http://www.montreuxjazz.com/).  Imagine a picturesque sunset over a sparkling lake with the sound of melodious jazz playing in the background.  Add a cold beer and you have:
A) my idea of heaven
B) Montreux Jazz

montreux

This place was seriously fantastic. By the time I staggered my way into bed at just past 3am, my heart was full with this odd feeling of content and self-pride.

I had done it.  I went on this perfectly-Swiss adventure.  I made friends, I interacted without being weird and self-deprecating the entire time.  I WORE A SWIMSUIT AROUND STRANGERS (those of you who have never suffered from rock-bottom self-esteem will never understand just how incredible that last one is).

I coasted into Monday morning on a bit of a high.  I felt successful and chic and as though I could conquer the world.

Then today happened.

Today as I was putting a pool float on my charge, I caused an injury.  A pulled elbow, or a Nursemaids Elbow as its often referred to, is a common injury in children under the age of 4.  It is when a ligament slips out of place and gets caught between two bones of the elbow joint. Ligaments in children at this stage are still developing which leaves them vulnerable to this type of injury.  While google and friends assured me that it was in no way my fault, and even though I knew it was in NO WAY intentional, I couldn’t quiet the voice in my head.  And as the day wore on it got louder and louder.

Meanwhile, my charge had made an almost full recovery and was happily playing with his brother.

But the voice wouldn’t accept this.  How could it.  I had caused harm to a child – WHILE HELPING HIM INTO A SAFETY DEVICE.  The irony was most certainly not lost on me.  The lump in my throat grew and grew until I found myself sobbing into my hands in the washroom (crying hysterically without making a sound is a specialty of mine).  I spent the afternoon worrying over the irrational:
– I would lose my job
– I would never work as a nanny again
– I had permanently injured this poor innocent boy
– It was most definitely all my fault

Then the unimaginable happened – it all worked out just fine.  Their father came home, watched a brief youtube tutorial (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tJb5rGOFiTY) and TADA – everything was ok.  Within minutes the boys were enthusiastically enjoying an ice cream on the trampoline.

As I was off the clock and had already filled my quota for (somewhat hysteric) apologies, I fled to my room and did my thing – took a deep breath, tapped each of the fingers on my left hand to the pad of my thumb while internally counting to ten, and let the breath out.  I did it 4 times just to be safe.  Slowly yet surely the knot loosened and I could breathe again.  A full recovery was not to be found, but I rebounded enough to realize how silly I’d been.  That’s consistently been my least favourite part of living with anxiety.  Even in the middle of a full-blown anxiety attack I am keenly aware of how irrational I am being.

I desperately wish I could change how my mind works.

I read somewhere that self-affirmations are highly helpful for sufferers of anxiety and depression (don’t worry, I’ll save the big D for my next post).  Every morning I make my charges repeat the following 3 phrases:
I am STRONG
I am SMART
I am BRAVE

To myself I say:
It’s never the end of the world.
There’s always a solution.
You are interesting and kind and enough.
Leaving visible thigh sweat marks on a bus seat will not actually kill me.

In their own small way, these 4 sentences fill me with enough confidence to go about my day as a normal, functioning member of society (which I assure you, I really truly am). And perhaps someday (preferrably in the near future) I won’t have to constantly remind myself of these things.  For now I remain the same-old-Maysen.  Somewhat loud and obnoxious, and occasionally a giant ball of suffocating anxiety.  I hate my thighs with an undying passion and sincerely wish my hair was 2 sizes smaller.  I cover my smile when I laugh and don’t always know what to say in social situations.  One could say I’m a work in progress.  But progress, slow as it may be, is better than standing still is it not?

 

Your thoughts?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s