Returning to normality after so long under lockdown is a challenging experience. Especially for someone like me, who sometimes has to work hard to keep anxiety under control. What made it even more of a challenge was travelling abroad on holiday for the first time in nearly two years.
So a couple of weeks ago my wife and I were lucky enough to go abroad for a week. We had to wait until it was both possible and safe to do so. Then after lots of agonising, we took the plunge and booked it. For me at least it turned out to be an almost surreal experience. Now don’t get me wrong I love to travel and in previous years did do quite a lot of it.
Indeed in the past, it was something that made me come to terms with my anxiety. Being outside my comfort zone and having new experiences I took charge of it. And of course, more often than not I would have a wonderful time in the process.
This time was all a bit different. In the run-up to the holiday, at times it felt that all my work in managing my anxiety went straight out of the window. I really found it difficult to look forward to it, even though it was something that was going to be great for us both. I was just constantly worrying. Worrying that the holiday would be cancelled at the last minute, worried the rules would change, preventing us from going.
I also found myself constantly checking the number of covid cases in the holiday resort. I double-checked and triple checked all the things we needed to both leave this country and the one we were entering, weeks before we actually went.
The day prior to our departure, I was convinced that we had overlooked something and would be sent back on the first plane home. It took so much to keep this under control, I did but only just.
Of course, everything was fine. Apart from a few extra checks and having to wear a mask on the plane, there was not much difference from before. It was certainly a relief. However, my anxiety was not done with me yet. Our local airport is quite small and on the day we left, it was not too busy. No more crowds than I was used to saying in the supermarket. Yet we were flying to a busy tourist destination.
The airport when we landed was absolutely heaving. I wasn’t really expecting that I would react to this, but I did, a bit. Not in a major freak out kind of way, more a feeling of being overwhelmed.
I was not used to so many people. It took quite a lot of effort to remain calm. This was not helped by a slightly over officious customs official who decided to shout at me for not moving my hair out of the way when taking my picture.
Getting to the hotel was somewhat of a relief as was the long nap we took afterwards. Feeling refreshed and it being early evening we decided to explore the town. Now if I thought the airport was busy, the town was something else. Packed was not the word. Now I have never really felt anxiety in crowds before. I lived in London for years, been to festivals, megacities and such.
But lockdown clearly had an effect as did the constant repetition of the safety rules. They had been literally seared into my brain. Yes, a lot of people were wearing masks but social distancing was totally out of the window. Again the sense of overwhelm was huge, it took me a good while to get comfortable. Thankfully after a few hours, I was able to.
More challenges the next day
My next challenging moment came the next day with the buffet breakfast. Because of covid rules, the usual self-service approach was out. Now everyone would queue up at the different stations to be served individually. So there I was in a queue, wondering if an unfeasibly large fruit was a peach or a nectarine. My inquisitiveness getting the better of me, I stepped out of line for one second.
Attempting to return I was berated by a host of people for ‘jumping in’. I was all a bit taken aback, so not used to this kind of human interaction. Again before covid, I would have just brushed this off, but it stayed with me for a good while afterwards I am disappointed to say. Mercifully things got better from then on. Facing some of these hitherto scant experienced incidences allowed me to bring my anxiety back under control and enjoy the rest of the week.
Take time to readjust
Though challenging at points our holiday proved to be a good way for us to regain that sense of normality. Albeit like being chucked into the deep end. Up until that point, I don’t think I really realised just how much of an impact covid/lockdown had had on me.
I now understand the shock some people have talked about in the past of doing those everyday things again. I can also appreciate how difficult it must be for some, who are struggling with other mental health-related issues. It’s really not easy. If that is you all I can say is you are not alone and that you should take as much time as you need to readjust.