That Time Packing Caused a Panic Attack
Most of the time travel is incredible and I love my job as a freelance writer in the tech industry. It allows me to work for myself, see incredible places, and meet amazing people while pursuing what I’m passionate about - telling stories and doing what I love most - writing words.
THE NOT SO GREAT PARTS OF A NOMADIC LIFE
One thing people always say to me is how great my life must be as a freelance writer/digital nomad/remote worker and how it sounds like a dream. I wish I could tell them about all the times it’s not that great. The times packing stresses me out, or how there is sometimes money from contracts and other times I'm living on a shoestring budget in between contracts, which makes me anxious.
I guess it's the cool stuff that shows on social media and not the 3 am wake ups for flights, the hustling and selling my services to new strangers and the panic attacks. I'm an extrovert so people think I’ve got things covered and I come off as pretty happy and bubbly most of the time.
What I’ve struggled with my whole life is having ADHD, which can be a daily hardship and most people either don’t know or would be surprised that along with that is the anxiety it causes. There is a lot of forgetting, doing things last minute, and feeling guilty about all of it.
I can’t really turn off my mind - it’s hyperactive all day and all night. Another part of having ADHD is that I was born restless. Some people call it the wanderlust gene. It compels me to constantly travel to new places and meet new people. Well, along with all that excitement is restlessness’ darker twin - anxiety.
EVERYONE LOVES PACKING, RIGHT?!
Picture this - It’s 1 am and I have to pack for a 6 am flight. Which means I have to be at the airport at 4 am to check in, go through security and board - so take off 2 hours. That gives me an hour to drive, park and walk to the terminal - so take off another hour.
To accomplish this I have to be out the door at 3 am sharp - leaving me with 2 hours to shower and pack everything I need to work, hike, dive and go to business meetings.
Why did I leave myself 2 hours to accomplish this you ask? Well, I’ve been meaning to pack since after dinner. I told myself I had a bit more time, and as the hours went by my anxiety got a bit worse and worse. Yes, I had a packing list prepared. Yes, I’ve done this a thousand times. Yes, I’m a seasoned traveller who’s been all over the world. I do this for my job. But, where did I put my passport, hiking boots and reading glasses? Who knows!
I’m running out of time and I better start to go faster…..faster….faster….until BOOM! I’m lying curled up on the floor sobbing and taking in shallow fast breaths.
I’ve tried giving myself more time before, but that just leads to me leaving it all to the last minute still. I can hear my dad’s voice inside my head now as I type this. “Melissa just focus, just pay attention...why can’t you use some self-discipline and time management?”
I’m always letting someone down and they think I just don’t care. That I’m doing it on purpose. I just wish I had some control over it. Well, I don’t and I’m trying to learn how to deal with it better.
IT'S ALL WORTHWHILE
Sometimes anxiety attacks happen. I don’t take medication daily for ADHD or anxiety since the side effects are not worth it for me personally. Having an in-the-moment solution close at hand can be a life-saver, or can just make you feel better knowing it’s there in case. I’ve tried Propranolol which eliminates adrenaline but it didn’t work for me. It does work for other people I know though. I found a benzodiazepine that works for me when an attack is happening.
Overall I think that my lifestyle is worth the stress that goes with travel. I think back to the times other jobs made me feel anxious, or I didn’t feel like I was doing what I love, and it makes me realize how lucky I am!
WHAT I LEARNT FROM THIS EXPERIENCE:
Making a packing list is pretty important. That way even if the stress adds up I can look at it and cross things off. I keep it and use it again for future trips.
Finding a few key things a few days before the trip, and putting them in the same place every time works.
In-the-moment medication can help when panic becomes overwhelming.
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