Paris

This week I spent four days in Paris staying with an old school friend and thought I might write about some of the things we got up to. I was really nervous about going to Paris because of Coronavirus and because I have bad anxiety when it comes to travelling. Even up to the last minute when I was driving with my mum to St Pancreas I wasn't sure if I would actually get on the train and go. I know so many people would be jealous of the fact I could afford to go and spend four days frivolously wandering by the Seine but for me it was a truly terrifying thought to be in another country away from the home where I felt safe.

My anxiety has pervaded all aspects of my life and is a lot worse because of the current health crisis. Typically my anxiety is focused upon the physiological changes within my body and I monitor my temperature, pulse and breath obsessively. I remember reading an article about health anxiety during Coronavirus at the beginning of the lockdown when I was really struggling to cope. In this a psychotherapist described how anxiety is usually rooted in irrational worries about perceived threats which aren't actually dangerous and made the analogy of someone reacting as if their house was on fire but in fact they'd just burnt the toast and were misreading the situation around them. She went on to say that because of the current health crisis we are experiencing, health anxiety in particular has become more challenging for sufferers to manage because the house actually is on fire! so we can't talk ourselves down from such anxiety because it is founded in genuine fact.

I was also worried (with worrying being clearly such a staple of my life) about wearing a mask on the Eurostar, and Metro, when I arrived in Paris. I'm already quite an easily claustrophobic person and was apprehensive about having to do anything specific as I find if I have to do something my anxiety fixates and magnifies around that particular thing. I was surprised by how relaxed I felt wearing a mask and that I found the experience strangely liberating as I could yawn and twitch my mouth underneath the mask without anyone being able to judge or observe me.

My first day in Paris was the most fun I had the entire trip, and certainly the most fun I've had in months. My friend greeted me warmly and with total sincerity that she wanted me there and I began to relax into the experience. Sitting on her balcony in the Parisian sunshine I felt without anxiety. I speak a lot and think a lot about wanting to feel more normal but the truth is for me my anxiety has become normalised so I actually find it more unsettling not to experience the click and stir of my muscles twitching with adrenaline. Although the bustle of the city was overwhelming I tried to ease into and just let go and to let myself be in this privileged moment. I wasn't actually intending to write so much about my anxiety in this but I do think the whole trip to Paris was really important in terms of forcing me to challenge my anxiety that I'm too weak and not good enough and not safe with myself and that I can't do something. It's easy to tune out to all the self-loathing talk that flurries in your mind and I think I'm certainly guilty of sitting back and letting my thoughts do what they will without interrupting and fact-checking them. I'm rubbish at meditating though I know it's really good for me and to be honest I could make more of an effort to just suck it up and do it.

Having not really spoken about Paris at all I might try and write something more concise and less ramble-y tomorrow about what I did and saw there.

For now I include some pictures to memorialise my trip...





© 2020 by AMBER SIDNEY-WOOLLETT