Paris: The socially anxious goes on holiday part 1

A holiday is that little bit of what I like to call unreality or pinch-me-I’m-dreaming syndrome. Perhaps, because my anxious little busy body does not go on holiday very often. In definition out of the country much.

You’re supposed to get excited about holidays, right? That is the normal thing to feel. You know that normal wash of jittery happiness. Where others would be drawing up a list of fun outings my brain would be soaking in a film of all the things that would go wrong. I felt truly terrified of being the only family member that did French GCSE. Which meant that I would be speaking. A weight was on my shoulders. All those French words had ebbed out my head the past few years and my social anxiety scared the living day lights out of me. This sense of doom steamed towards me.

But, I squashed my stuff in my half of the suitcase. Checked my bag far to many times that I couldn’t even recite and in the grey wash of the day felt a storm on the horizon not a beautiful sunset.

I headed for Paris.

Check in emotional baggage

I had arrived. Flown as the captain specifically needed to voice 5 miles or whatever in the air. Still filled with nerves from when my brain made me think I was going to choke on the sweet I barricaded between my teeth and lips.

Paris by now inked in darkness. All sights and sounds muted. I walked along the glass corridor into the Parisian airport, suitcase trailed. Slapped by the realization of another world and of a different language existing. Apparent in the signage and dotted French words and a not so distant cafe named Brioche or something or other which displayed baguettes and golden pastries. French accents and sentences stirred the new air.

I was a time traveler. I had entered into the future by only one hour, but still I was this anxious person I didn’t want to be.

You are in the big world now

We met our Taxi driver. It was like a film scene or a classic film character. The French driver stood holding his tablet with my family’s name, wearing a flat cap. It was a weird feeling. Surreal. And as he drove us to the hotel I couldn’t help but shrink into my skin as he talked. His English was enviously brilliant and his charm smile worthy. But, all I could do was fear of having to speak. That I felt obligated to answer his friendly questions. Whatever, language I always have this expectation to please others or having to speak although I really don’t want to. And the fact we had to spend 40 minutes of this, my heart throbbed.

But in the darkness there was Paris. Although she wore a cloak there was something truly beautiful, lit with artificial light. And although she scared me. Despite how tired I was and only got an hour and a half sleep that night in that moment Paris had my heart.


I wanted to share with you my journey to Paris like week. Before I went, I searched the Internet for any accounts or help for travelling abroad when you have social anxiety. But, nothing. So the next few post will document my experience and what I have learned to help you.



12 Common Misconceptions of Anxiety and Mental Health


1. The Fix-it talk

The hey get yourself together, grow up and stop crying and get on with it shebang. Yep you know it, seen it, been in it. Probably have the postcard. Yes the fix-it talk is the steam inducing, heart slopping conversation or rather phrase that sums up the modern view of getting on with it.

It’s the whole prit stick routine. Just, sellotape that piece there and stick that back together there. As good as new… oh apart from the sellotape and the dripping glue seeping from all the cracks. Yep it just looks like one of those Harrod’s things… can you hear the sarcasm? Its like Woody of Toy Story when his arm got ripped. Or a jigsaw puzzle that’s had a few pieces nicked by the dog.

But, seriously people. Even piecing a jigsaw can take time – I’m talking about the ones with the 1000s of pieces here. You need to think where will things fit, where things go. It takes a while before you can really see the big picture.

In these modern fix it or get a new one times. The misconception is that you can snap out of anxiety or depression or other mental health problems, but that is not reality. In fact almost 1 in 5 people feel anxious all of the time or a lot of the time.

2. The you are just’s…

You are just… [insert adjective here]shy, pessimistic, sad and the list goes on. 
For anxiety it’s that your ‘just’ anxious or ‘just’ shy. This misconception I feel just dismisses mental health, because the phrase itself warrants a flippant response that includes some thrown in lazy hand gesture.
I suppose it rubs us up the wrong way, because it lacks empathy or the sympathy we want from others. It almost makes us sound as if our personality asked for a double helping of shyness.
The misconception is because, people themselves may have not felt the same way. I suppose the misconception lies between personality and mental health. If you have social anxiety, doesn’t make you shy. It means that you have a fear of social situations. A shy person can be a shy person but not experience the fear and symptoms of social anxiety. They can be accepting of their shyness. If this makes any sense?

3. Mental health is a character flaw, a weakness. And like the thespians we are like to act all dramatic. Just for the sake of it!

Mental health is often depicted as the evil villain with the cape in the wind and all. And like all villains we have a big character flaw. The elephant in the room. The misconception is that mental health is a weakness. The other misconception being that we are faking it.
But neither of those things are true. Mental health is only seen as a weakness, because it is the unknown for people who haven’t faced it. Sometimes there is a surrealness to mental health and I think that’s what makes others find it hard to believe. Again because it is hushed like a taboo.  
Here is another fact for you: 450 million people worldwide have mental health problems. So, I think it is time we take the taboo wall down!

4. Innocent till proven guilty.

One doozy of a misconception is that people with anxiety or mental health disorders are all violent or have a flashing sign over our heads saying danger, danger.
Quite frankly this is a major over-generalization. Here is for the whhaacha moment… the majority of violent crimes and homicides are committed by people who don’t have mental health issues. And sadly people with mental health are more likely to be a victim of violence and are more of a risk to themselves than other. For more stats click here .

5. Somehow that we are chained for life and no-one recovers.

With all the labels knocking about like a ball in a squash court, people presume that no one recovers and are forever chained like a prisoner in a cell to their mental illness. 
Wrong. I’m pretty sure if you Google you will find success stories everywhere. Plus the idea of chains is that you can unlock them. It is the job of finding the right key by trying different ones.
But that is a crappy assumption. I am true believer that there is always light at the end of the tunnel.

6. Sudden inability to work or hold down a job.

Lucky for you, I did my homework. I can prove this wrong in a few seconds, just watch.
4 in 10 employed people experience anxiety about their work and on top of that stat is, about a quarter of the population will experience some kind of mental health problem in the course of a year. Take that. Including that we all know it can take years for people to be diagnosed with a mental health issue. 
Plus desserts, and no I am not having a craving. Stressed backwards is desserts. Stress is related to you mental well-being and a lot of people get stressed at work. But, you wouldn’t say they wouldn’t be able to hold down a job, right?
Misconceptions shouldn’t be prejudiced on a minority or presumptions at the end of the day many of us will work on  and not know we have a mental health issue or don’t want to tell everyone about ourselves. The gossips.

7. The sticky stigma that says we ought to be ashamed.

It is said that people who experience anxiety most frequently agree that it is stigmatizing.
This sticky stigma is a web and we are the fly. Mental health is often shhhushed… you can’t talk about that. Awkward. It is a taboo, when physical health isn’t.
It this secretive atmosphere. Like holding a piece of paper tight to your chest so others don’t see. 
We shouldn’t be made to bow our heads in shame, if we are innocent. We are not guilty of anything.
There is nothing to be ashamed of. Just be yourself.

8. If I only had a brain… how we are depicted by society as the stumbling Scarecrow from Oz.

If I only had a brain… I would say how stupid this assumption is. No seriously where can I get one?
A common misconception is that people with mental health problems are dysfunctional and do not have control of themselves. Like the singing Scarecrow without a brain we are limited and unknowing of truths.
ErEr Wrong again. This is further from the truth like how far Dorthy is away from home.

9. Where is the love??

Yep I love that Black Eyed Peas song. For me it rings true.
Where is the love? These misconceptions are due to a lack of love or sympathy. No one should be deprived of love! 
After all love is often the solution.

10. You’re like Casper the ghost. People see you as unfriendly and aloof.

I’m talking about the movie in the 2000s people. In a way we can all relate to Casper. Yep I know he is not real, but the context is.
People ran away from Casper because of his unfriendly ghost exterior. But, when we got to know him as a character we knew all of that wasn’t true. Hence, Casper the friendly ghost.
We are generalised as unfriendly folk, but that’s a myth.

11. For teens its all part of puberty.

1 in 10 young people have a mental health problem. So, we may have mood swings and a roller coaster of ups and downs. However, as this statistic demonstrates that it is not all part of puberty.

12. When you get the feeling you are being treated differently.

When I asked people the question of what the common misconceptions are, this came up. Well in more words.
We have all have had that feeling of being treated differently, because of our mental health. Sometimes in not the nicest of ways.
You will agree that everyone deserves kindness, love and empathy. So no-one should be made to feel different for the wrong reasons or in a way where you feel put down. 
Everyone is equal!

Thanks for all the people who made the comments! You helped me write this article. Thank you.