“When I die, Dublin will be written on my heart” -James Joyce.
I was born in Dublin 23 years ago. I’ve lived here my entire life. It’s a city with great character and bundles of history. There are so many places around the county that hold a special place in my heart, from Dún Laoghaire to the Irish Museum of Modern Art, and from my Nanny’s house to Smock Alley Theatre.
Unfortunately, the city itself has turned into one of my least favourite places. My anxiety disorder makes trips to the Big Smoke a complete and utter nightmare. I hop on the bus full of hope for the adventure ahead, but by the time it pulls up on Dame Street I am flooded with waves of panic and overcome with a feeling of dread. Anxiety is defined as ‘a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome’. Symptoms range from difficulty concentrating to headaches, and from nausea to constantly feeling on edge.
I’ve learned to live with my disorder, but I still struggle in the city. However, I don’t want my anxiety to get in the way of me living my life, so I’ve found a few little tricks that help me when I’m feeling extremely anxious in the city centre, and hopefully they can help someone else who is struggling too.
It’s simple but so effective. I know sticking on Spotify isn’t going to cure your anxiety disorder, but it can help a lot, so give it a chance. I find that listening to quiet, soothing sounds can help calm your heart rate and breathing. I listen to Ben Howard, Birdy and Tom Odell when I’m walking around Dublin. Focusing on the music also distracts you from worrying. Slow music can help reduce stress levels which will ease both your body and mind when your anxiety rears it’s ugly head.
My friends have been an incredible help to me. They’ve supported me when I’ve had panic attacks, reassured me when I felt stressed and understood that sometimes the city can be too much for me. If you speak to your friends in an open and honest way about your anxiety disorder you will feel a lot better. They will take t into account when you’re making plans. Your friends will make sure that you’re okay and will always keep an eye on you. Talking about mental health is difficult, because a lot of people can be dismissive, but your friends will understand and do their very best to help in whatever way they can. Knowing you have your friends support will help make outings to the city easier, and ten times more enjoyable.
This has been the most helpful trick for me so far. Planning your trip into the city will ease your mind and will help you stay focused. Pick out the cafe beforehand if you’re meeting a friend for coffee. Decide what shops you need to visit on your journey into town. Sticking to a schedule will keep your anxiety at bay because you will feel in control of the situation. Chanel your inner Monica Geller, but maybe leave your label maker at home if you’re heading out for cocktails with the girls.