travel anxiety, what it is like to have travel anxiety, general anxiety disorder, mental illness blog, mental health blogger, mental health blogger scotland, lauren evans, this stuff is golden, invisible spaces, summerhall edinburgh, art exhibition, anxiety when travelling,

Travel Anxiety

TW: thoughts of self harm.

I’ve always been afraid about being late. Being late for the bus, being late for a train, being late for an appointment, being late for a social event – anything. I like to be early to avoid being late. I’d rather be twenty minutes early than five minutes late. It makes me panic.

I had a hire car sorted kindly by Historic Environment Scotland so that I could travel to and from Edinburgh for the setting up and opening night of the art exhibition that I am part of.

On the day of the exhibition opening night, a day in which I was also supposed to go and finish up a few little bits for my installation, my travel anxiety flooded me. My thoughts went something like this:

What if there’s traffic on the way there? Where am I going to park? I can’t afford paying for parking, will I have to park far away? If I park far away I’ll have to get a bus or a tram. Getting the tram would mean walking for twenty minutes afterwards so that would mean at least an hour and a half of travelling each way and that is too long. I can’t afford a tram ticket anyway. What about a bus? I don’t know what buses go to the exhibition. Where would I get the bus from? How long would a bus take? Would I have to get more than one bus? I can’t afford more than one bus ticket but I also can’t afford parking. How much petrol would this use? It’s going to take too long. They’ve asked me to pick up one of the other artists to take along with me but I don’t know the area of where they live and it’s going to take ages to get there. It will take even longer to get into Edinburgh. She’ll see me being a worried driver. Would she help me with directions? My phone doesn’t have any data anyway so I will get lost. I’m going to get lost. What if I breakdown on the way there? How would I get in touch with anyone? Would anybody stop to help me? I’d be late for the exhibition and won’t be able to make it to the opening night. I’ve worked on this project for six months and won’t be able to celebrate with everyone. I’m going to look like a fool. I will look like a fool for not getting there because I’m anxious. What if I’m late tonight? What will the traffic be like? It’s a Friday so it will probably be terrible. I can’t drive through Edinburgh city, it’s too busy and I don’t know the roads. I don’t know where to park. I will need to get back quickly to relieve the babysitters. But I don’t want to miss anything. What if we are late and we miss the speeches? It would be too embarrassing to be late. What will my friend do when he sees that we are not there? I’m supposed to meet him there at 6. What shall I tell him? I don’t know what to do. If I don’t go then the organisers will think they have wasted their money on hiring a car for me. I’m so selfish I should never have asked for this hire car. Why did I do this project in the first place? I’m not going to go tonight and I’ll miss it and I’ll never be able to show my face again. I’m so weird why can’t I just do this simple thing like normal people? I’m so stupid. Stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid. I would rather cut myself than deal with this. Maybe I should cut myself so that they see that I can’t go.

what the fuck is wrong with me?

I then had a breakdown over the phone to my mum, blubbering and babbling as tears spilled down my face. The rest of the day was spent mostly being an upset, angry and anxious mess. Then my phone broke, which was just the icing on the cake.

By around 3pm I still didn’t know what I was going to do, if I was going to go at all. But then the babysitters showed up earlier than expected, and something about their presence calmed me down a bit, made me think that my SO and I could indeed go to the opening night, that we could make one positive thing happen at the end of a truly horrible day.

I showered and got ready whilst my SO showed the babysitters around and got everything else sorted.

We left at around 4.30 pm (the opening night started at 6pm and on a good day it would take around an hour or so to get to the gallery) and instantly my terrible mood came back with a vengeance. I went the wrong way twice and came to the conclusion that 1) I was stupid and 2) we should have just stayed at home because we were obviously going to be too late.

We then hit traffic, a horrendous amount of traffic. There was no where to turn off or turn around so we just had to keep going. Once through the traffic, I felt that if we were to turn around now, I would be embarrassed to show my face to the babysitters (who are an extension of my SO’s family) and be extremely disappointed in myself, so we kept going.

We eventually got there at around 6.30pm, found somewhere close by that was free parking. I thought we had missed the speeches but thankfully we hadn’t missed anything. Not even Nicola Sturgeon’s brief appearance at the gallery..

It turned out to be a great evening. I was somewhat high off the fact that I hadn’t eaten all day (apart from breakfast and a gluten free cake bar from Costa).

When we arrived home we were both drained. Not just from lack of food but from the anxiety that had been wiping us out emotionally and physically. I’m just glad that travel anxiety didn’t win this time.


If you want to see the exhibition, “Invisible Spaces” is open at Summerhall in Edinburgh until late December, and it’s free! Or check out my instagram to see little sneak peeks of it. 

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