The Passport

Essay

Remember to take keys with you, Kristy might not be home when you get back.

Remember to breathe.

Remember to check the route to the hostel.

Remember to breathe.

Remember to download podcasts for the plane.

Remember to breathe.

Remember to put the boarding pass in your Apple Wallet.

Remember to breathe.

Here’s the thing about me and travel; I want to travel but I would also, really, just rather not. I suffer from generalised anxiety disorder as well as obsessive-compulsive disorder and whenever I leave my comfort zone, these are both sincerely heightened. Even if I’m just going to a different part of Scotland, even if I’m going out for dinner.

Earlier this month, I went to Berlin with my little sister to celebrate her 21st birthday.

The flight is delayed. It’s okay. You’re still safe. If it comes to it, you can get a taxi to the hostel.

Remember to breathe. 

I don’t trust this airline. I don’t think they care about my safety. I could die on this. I still have an hour and forty-five minutes to go. I shouldn’t be on this flight. I knew it. I’ve known.

I don’t want to breathe. I don’t want to be on here. I can’t stop crying. I’d be embarrassed since I’m sat next to strangers but I’m too far gone.

I landed. I didn’t expect that. I’m okay. My sister is okay. We’re going to get a taxi, it’s too late to navigate u-bahns and s-bahns. My phone is fully charged because I was too scared to use it on the flight so I track our taxi’s journey. Oh my god, this is Berlin. This is beautiful. I can’t believe I’m on holiday with my little sister and JUST LOOK AT IT. 

I’m so far from home.

Oh god, I’m so far from home.

Okay, once we’re out of this taxi, I just need to check in and then I can finally, finally sleep. I have had a bagel and a glass of lemonade all day. I’m tired, I’m dehydrated, I just want to forget today even happened.

Can you just provide some photo ID please?

Yes. Of course. 

Where is it?!

No. Oh my god. No. No. I can’t deal with this. 

I left it in the taxi. They’re not going to let me check in. I’ve ruined everything. Will I ever get home?!

Of course, they still let us in. The very kind receptionist offered to call the taxi company and the airport through the night. He took my sister’s ID as enough to cover both of us and I paid for our beds. If nothing else, we had somewhere to stay for 4 nights. This was the kind of catastrophic thinking I employed; are we safe? Can we get home? My desperation for just very basic needs came from a place of paranoid thinking that is hugely fuelled by my anxiety disorder.

Go to sleep. Go to sleep. Stop seeking reassurance, just go to fucking sleep.

I don’t think I rested, I didn’t feel it anyway but because I’d been too anxious to eat or drink the day before, my body gave in and I passed out anyway. This is extremely unhealthy and I don’t recommend it but I was grateful that I’d been too physically weak to stay awake because otherwise, I wouldn’t have slept. My obsessive thinking patterns would have spiraled.

The next day was a haze. I couldn’t really think straight. I was on a comedown from the anxiety that had tortured me the day before but of course, I didn’t have a passport so my anxiety wasn’t any better, really. I fixated pretty hard on this. Fixating is a huge part of my obsessive-compulsive disorder and what would, in reality, be a minor issue becomes something huge. It’s all I can focus on. For me, also, the disorder comes with “magical thinking”. I find myself believing that I can change the course of things. I believed that if I stopped thinking about getting home, even for a second, I never would manage it.

They’re not going to believe you. 

You won’t remember basic things about yourself. 

You won’t be home on time.

I texted my boss, “I don’t know how this works but I might need to take emergency leave. I’m really worried about this and so sorry”. He reassured me that he’d been through this before, and it’s fine. Stay in touch.

His words should have reassured me but they didn’t. Obsess, obsess, obsess.

Just need to get through the next day and then I’ll know.

I’ll know my fate.

My sister was both bemused and concerned. I still wasn’t eating. I couldn’t finish meals. She knew I’d be fine and maybe I did on some level but it didn’t matter. The thoughts had taken over entirely.

I don’t feel real.

My surroundings don’t feel real.

They’re not real. None of this is.

Derealisation.

I can get back to being me, soon. I hope. 

Finally, on the Monday morning, it was time to go to the embassy. I took a photo for the passport. I took another. I took another. I finally settled on one that is maybe the most unflattering photo of me of all time but also, it worked as a passport photo.

What if they arrest me?

How tough will the interrogation be?

We arrived, finally. I signed to say the information I’d provided online was all accurate. I paid £100. That was it. All of that for what took maybe 15 minutes all in. I went back 2 hours later and picked up my emergency passport.

I’m a nightmare.

I’m really not well, oh man.

Remember to breathe.

The rest of our holiday was so very lovely. I learned so much about Germany, about the history and about my little sister. I was still coming down from what was an unbelievably stressful experience so my appetite was minimal and I couldn’t drink. I wanted to be responsible with my brain, as well, so I avoided drinking alcohol for the most part. It was a bit of a shame for me as I really love German beer but I’m proud that I made that decision.

A bus stopped on our street, cars couldn’t move and the bus wasn’t either.

It’s got a bomb on it. That’s why I’ve been so anxious. I knew I’d die here.

Magical thinking again. Charged paranoia.

We got home without any issues and I collapsed onto my bed. Relieved to be there after obsessively telling myself I never would be.

Take it in, remind yourself that your paranoid thoughts have never, ever been right. You’re safe, you’re loved, you’re okay.

I’m glad I can laugh about it all. Because it really is funny, isn’t it? Absurd, sad, scary and honestly, just a little bit funny.

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