I’m of the belief that with anxiety, you occasionally have to launch yourself out of your comfort zone. It’s absolutely terrifying and it doesn’t always end how you’d imagine but sometimes, you walk away feeling incredible! This post was originally written for my Ranting & Raving blog but it shows my fears and concerns before I went on a trip that changed my life…yes, I am fully aware of how cheesy that sounds. Sometimes the truth is cheesier than fiction!
The Mental Preparation
This post won’t discuss the trip itself but more my concerns and fears beforehand. In order to do that, I have to invite inside my little bubble of a life just to highlight how far outside my comfort zone I was about to go. These pieces of information may seem rather random right now but I swear it makes sense in relation to this post. Let me briefly describe to you why I never really go out and experience life to the fullest:
For starters I have awful social anxiety…not that it is remotely limited to social situations but the social aspect is the part that really holds me back. It can sometimes takes me months before I feel comfortable talking to someone in a normal capacity so typical day-to-day situations tend to involve me going out of my way to avoid social interactions with strangers.
For a very long time I was unable to get a job because most jobs involved social interaction and the thought alone made me feel ill. I started having anxiety attacks in exams which soon spread to other situations (to be fair, I was at uni at the time and most of these situations also involved me being hungover so I think it was my mind associating feeling nauseous with certain situations…a conversation for another time, perhaps). Suffice to say that several times while at the cinema I would spend most of the film trying to convince myself that I didn’t need to get up and leave which as a movie lover (possibly addict) was incredibly disappointing. I’d improved a fair bit before this trip which was perhaps how I managed to convince myself to go but I was still a great distance from what would be considered “normal” or what most people would perceive a normal level of social interaction to be. On top of my social issues, I am also one of the fussiest eaters you will ever meet. For as long as I can remember I haven’t eaten any fruit or vegetables which as you can imagine, limits my diet quite a bit. It’s not like I eat everything else either, I basically have the diet of a 15 year old that has been left to fend for himself while his parents take a weekend trip away.
To add to my already limiting characteristics I also have a phobia of spiders but not just your run of the mill phobia, oh no, I am absolutely scared to death of the little bastards. Let’s just say that I’ve fallen out of a lot of trees as a result of this highly irrational fear. You can therefore assume that I will not be visiting Australia any time soon (in fact Antarctica is looking all the more promising). I did at the time understand that Australia really isn’t that far from Thailand and that I was most likely walking into the real world equivalent of the Forbidden Forrest with its nest of extremely large spiders.
Again, I have somewhat improved on this over the last few years but if a spider is bigger than a thumbnail (for example) then chances are I won’t be able to deal with it unless it’s on the floor and I can drop a very heavy book on it. So this should hopefully paint a fairly clear picture as to why I have the time to sit at home writing blog posts about Star Wars, Assassins Creed, drug laws etc…so let’s take a look at where I was about to go.
I’d been working for the 6 months leading up to this trip and had yet to use a single holiday day. As someone who lived in Scotland at the time, I’d never ventured outside of Europe and even my trips out of the UK had been to areas where the lifestyle is pretty much the same e.g. Italy, Rome or Spain. My initial thought was Egypt because out of everywhere in the world, that is where I want to visit the most. I had looked at flights and hotels but quite quickly came to the conclusion that if I went to Egypt alone I just wouldn’t experience everything there was on offer.
I’d probably go look at stuff but not really immerse myself in the culture. Adding a language barrier to social anxiety is like adding fire to a sword. Luckily, a friend of mine was planning a holiday to Thailand and some of the surrounding countries at the time. I’d personally never even considered visiting anywhere near there for a whole host of reasons (primarily the spider issue) but when given the options of going there for three weeks with someone or waiting months, taking time off work and ultimately going nowhere and doing nothing with my time, I felt that the first option was the one that would be most beneficial. So I handed in a holiday form, it got approved and I booked my flights, all in the space of a few days.
I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t considered not going at least 15 times every single day before I left. But you have to understand that I get cold feet with every single decision I make. Committing to any sort of party, event, holiday, anything will be followed by my brain giving me a list of reasons why not going would be the better option. Obviously the biggest ones that come to mind are things like giant spiders (or even just small spiders…really any spiders at all), the language barrier (but even just the social aspect with or without there being a language barrier), and of course the food. I’ve read that places like Bangkok are incredibly sociable cities and that the nightlife is amazing but I can’t imagine that being the case for someone who struggles to start and hold a conversation.
So why was I going? Honestly, I’d hit a sort of “make or break” point in my life where I figured that if I didn’t start pushing myself outside my comfort zone then I never would. No matter what, I knew I was going to struggle with pretty much everything from an anxiety standpoint. I figured it would either push me to evolve or it will snap my psyche and leave me in the foetal position on a foreign continent. One of the biggest comforts (which is also somehow one of the fears) is that I’ll be just under 6,000 miles away from home. I’m going to feel like Sam and Frodo leaving the Shire. Strangely enough, one of the best ways for me to motivate myself in any situation is to relate it to a game or a film.
My Bizarre Motivations
I guess it’s sort of my coping mechanism that also acts as an incentive. Different games/films make me want to do different things, for example: Far Cry 3 makes me want to try skydiving or get a tattoo or explore new cultures; 127 hours makes me want to explore and climb, to find adventure where I can, even if I’m doing it alone; Warrior makes me want to go to the gym…you get the idea.
We will of course ignore the fact that the first two examples have pretty horrific outcomes for those involved and should really be adverts against exploring rather than what I use them for. So in order to prepare myself for this “adventure” I had started playing Far Cry 3 again (which happens to take place on a fictional island based off the coast of Thailand).
So why did I write a blog post about it? I guess the same reason that people talk about their problems: it’s therapeutic. I figured if I shared my fears with random strangers on the internet then in a sense I’ve acknowledged that these fears are indeed real but that they shouldn’t hold me back from enjoying life. I mean we only get one, right? So what if a giant, face-eating spider jumps out of a tree and proceeds to chase me down the road…I should just look at it as life experience or inspiration for my book.
I mean if I stay trapped inside the boring little town where going to the pub to watch football is the highlight of everyone’s week then how would I ever look back on my life with fondness? Another way of looking at it: what if the Animus from Assassin’s Creed becomes a real piece of technology and someone tries to look back on my life (not that I plan on having children but that’s not the point). All they would see is me sitting at home watching films or reading. Would I rather they see that or would I rather they watched as I walk with elephants or visit ancient temples?
I decided that if I survived and made it back to Bonnie Scotland then I’d be sure to update my blog and share my experiences. Luckily, I did survive and it was an unbelievable experience!
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