Posts Tagged ‘travel’

An anxious girl in Venice

If you are friends with me on Facebook, or follow my Instagram, then you’ll know I went to Venice for a couple of days.  Even if you know me personally you might not be aware that it was a massive deal for me, because for the past few years I’ve been suffering from anxiety at the mere prospect of going anywhere on my own.  I don’t know why, either.  I used to love going places on my own: the cinema, galleries, exhibitions, trips to the seaside, eating out – these were all things that I used to relish doing on my own.  Then suddenly I realised that I didn’t any more.  I realised that I was actively avoiding going to places on my own, and that even going to the corner shop for a bag of crisps was now something that could reduce me to a nervous wreck: pounding heart, tight throat, wobbly legs, verge of tears, the works.

Once I admitted it to myself I started trying to ‘fix’ it.  It’s not gone that well, I occasionally pluck up the nerve to go to a shop but then I’m exhausted for the rest of the day.  Oddly, or perhaps not, I have much less anxiety when I’m out with my dog.  I think because when I’m with him I know that all the attention is fixed on him (which is standard when you own a shiba), even if people are talking to me (because inevitably we’re talking about the dog).  I’ve never liked to be the centre of attention, not in person (although I’ll quite happily stick my neck out and be very vocal online), and I guess I’ve just got used to having him beside me as a shield – which I suppose makes it unsurprising that I’m now doubly anxious without him*.

Anyway…I’m starting to waffle so let’s crack on before I lose my nerve and delete this.


Those are photos you might have seen, and on the face of it I look like a confident woman having a great time abroad.  Social media lets us present the face that we want the world to see.  But what is actually going on behind the scenes?  What do those photos not show?

They don’t show that I was so nervous I almost threw up on my way to Heathrow.

They don’t show that I was so overwhelmed with anxiety that it took me the entirety of my first afternoon in Venice to work up the courage to go into a restaurant and have a proper meal.  I never did pluck up the nerve to go to a coffee bar.

They don’t show all the many shops I didn’t go into, despite very much wanting to, because the shop keeper made eye contact with me and I was suddenly freaked out and had to flee.

They don’t show that I didn’t do any of the urban sketching I had been looking forward to because I was scared of attracting attention and having to deal with talking to people.

A picture is worth a thousand words, but they’re not always accurate.

Before I went I was nervous, obviously, but tried to psyche myself up by planning, planning, planning. Did it help?  Not really but let’s have a look anyway.

I made a list of all the shops I wanted to visit, and although I did make it to some I didn’t make it to all of them (and fled from two even though I’d made it inside the doors).

I made a list of things I wanted to do, and although I did do some I didn’t do all (or even most) of them.

I worked my little socks off learning Italian, and actually I can read and understand it passably well now, but I was so nervous about making mistakes that I panicked a lot and reverted to English, then was too nervous to try switching back to Italian.  At one point I totally lost it and wished the hotel desk clerk ‘bonsoir’ and you could see his confusion given they knew I was a Brit who was hoping to practice her Italian.

I don’t think I saw even a third of the city, I ended up just wandering around the same bits because I kept getting a bit confused with direction (which is very easy to do in Venice and doesn’t have anything to do with anxiety) and then being too nervous to ask anyone for help (which has everything to do with being a bundle of nerves).  But I enjoyed all the bits I saw, and having covered around 20 miles in two days I certainly wasn’t idle.

Now here’s the important bit, which I’m having trouble with and thought writing this post might help with.

The trip was lovely.  No I didn’t get to do/see/eat all the things I had so carefully planned to…but that’s ok. 

Yes I was so nervous a  lot of the time that I wanted to just bolt back to my hotel room and stay there (and in fact just thinking about how I felt then has made me cry while I type this)….but I didn’t, I kept making myself go out even if I did end up just ambling around aimlessly. 

No I didn’t speak Italian as much as I had intended to…but when I did speak it I was understood, and overall I was able to follow what was said.

The trip wasn’t perfect, but if I think about it like that then that’s not going to help.  Bits of it were amazing.  I had some small but important victories in battling my personal demons, and that in and of itself makes the trip a success even if perhaps it didn’t feel that way at first.  I made it all the way to another country by myself**.  I managed to survive for two days all by myself.  That’s a win no matter how you look at it.

So what was the point of this blog post?  To admit that I’m anxious as hell, I think that’s important for me to be able to make progress.  Also, though, to maybe reassure others who also have this kind of anxiety that these things are doable, although it might not feel that way, or turn out exactly as you had hoped.  My anxiety hasn’t miraculously gone away, but I went out and had this holiday regardless of the fact I felt nervous to the point of nausea throughout a lot of it, and I refuse to view it as anything less than a rip-roaring success.

Thanks for reading.


*Before you ask: no, I haven’t seen my GP about this.  I have thought about it but the NHS really is so stretched at the moment that I’d rather the doctors spent their time on other things.  I’m working on it myself, I may go to my doctor eventually if I don’t make any better progress.

**let’s not go into how excruciatingly awkward I was at the airport, but I think you can probably imagine



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I’ve spent a lot of time bookbinding and painting recently so I thought it was time for a change.  This week I decided to repurpose the cardboard from some old shoe boxes to make some pretty book-style storage boxes.  I’m really pleased with how they turned out, and it gave me the opportunity to use some of the gorgeous fabric that I’ve got stashed away.  They’re now available in my Etsy shop.


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…I started a project that I just could not put down.  On Sunday I started working on a new design to print using gocco (after getting very carried away printing cards last week), and I fully intended to work on it over the course of this week, with the aim being to finish it by Sunday.

Well… here’s how my Monday morning went…

I was very hunch-backed by the time I’d finished inking in the last of the design and probably should have called it a day at that point, but I couldn’t help myself and I was dying to see how it would come out on the gocco…

…as you can see, the master screen burned very nicely!  Then, of course, I just had to try printing some cards… and then, once I had the ink on the screen, it made sense to keep printing until I ran out of cards…

I can’t say I’m sorry that I kept on pegging away at this, because I’m incredibly pleased with the results.  The design has come out exactly as I pictured it in my head, and I think it works nicely on the cards.  I think it might also work well as a design for wrapping paper, but that will be a project for another day.

These cards are now available in my Etsy shop, click here to view them.

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Sally over at Diario chose this week’s word, and it’s a great word.  Trouble is that I’ve been run off my feet this week and haven’t had the time to do justice to it!

I’ll fall back on a favourite poem instead, hope you enjoy it.  It’s Faute de Mieux, by Dorothy Parker

Travel, trouble, music, art,
A kiss, a frock, a rhyme-
I never said they feed my heart,
But still they pass my time


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