Anxiety is awful. It goes beyond the psychological and emotional to seep into your physical body. What makes it worse is that sometimes you don't know what triggered it or why it's happening. It just pops up out of no where and tries to ruin your day or week or even month. And no, it's not just "stress," just like depression isn't just "feeling sad." Stress is temporary and in response to a specific situation, anxiety is an ongoing mental health concern that can sometimes escalate to anxiety attacks and often requires medication.
I've struggled with anxiety for years; I don't really remember a time when I didn't have it. I've figured out ways to cope and mitigate the effects it has on me and for the most part I have it under control, but sometimes it still gets the best of me. That happened this morning.
I woke up early to go to the Moravian Karst - a series of caves just outside of Brno. But as I began getting ready, that feeling of impending doom began to crawl through my body without warning or reason. It didn't take long for it to turn into a full blown anxiety attack.
I did everything I could manage to try and calm myself down, but nothing seemed to be working. One thing I've learned over the years about panic attacks is that they can't last forever. I knew it would subside, even if riding it out would be miserable.
When it did subside and I managed to get myself together enough to decide what to do next, I realised it was too late to make it to the caves and back in time for my train this evening to Bratislava that I had already paid for. I was filled with anger and disappointment. I had really wanted to see the caves and was frustrated that anxiety had once again ruined my day.
But then I realised two things. First, I didn't have to let one bout of anxiety ruin my entire day. I'm in an amazing city and can find other things to do. Second, taking care of my mental health is critically important if I'm going to be travelling for the next year. If I had pushed through the anxiety and gone anyway, it might have been fine, but it also could have made things a lot worse and wound up having long term consequences for my mental health. I want to do everything I can every single day of this trip because there's just so much to do in the world, but I know that's not possible and taking a day or two to relax and focus on my mental health is okay. After all, this year is about focusing on me. Anxiety is going to happen, PTSD flashbacks are going to happen, depression is going to happen. That's just part of living with those mental illnesses that I've learned to accept. It's taken me years to gain the skills needed to keep them under control and this year of travel is going to put them to the test so I need to be prepared for days like this to happen occasionally.
Feeling better about my initial plans going down the drain (plus, I can always come back to Brno), I finished getting ready and check out of my hostel. They didn't have left luggage facilities and while there were a few places they suggested, all of them would mean paying. So I slung my backpack on and headed out.
Still feeling slightly uneasy after my anxiety attack earlier, I decided to take it easy and make no plan but just go where I feel like going at any given moment. After grabbing some coffee, I made my way back to Špilberk park. It was drizzling out - but I'd rather have that than the heat of yesterday.
I absolutely loved the views of Brno that Špilberk park provides. It's very reminiscent of Prague, but without nearly as many people. Brno in general is that way, giving you all the wonderful things about Czech culture, architecture, and history but none of the crowds.
After wrestling with my camera to get a good shot of me with my trans flag (disadvantage of basically no one being around is that you can't ask someone to take your picture), I realised that a year of mostly solo travel will mean lots of moments like this. I considered getting a small and cheap travel tripod before leaving, but decided not to for space and weight reasons. But after this frustration, and an hour of walking around with all my stuff on this morning - including a decent number of hills - and feeling pretty good about the size and weight, I thought it couldn't hurt to take a look at a few to see what I could find. So after grabbing a late lunch, I made my way to a camera store. I found a decent tripod for less than $25 that fits perfectly into my backpack and weighs close to nothing. It's far from a good tripod, but for self-portrait purposes and some occasional tough night shots, it should do the trick.
At this point it was time to make my way to the train station. The main station in Brno is under construction so I had to go to Brno Brno-Židenice station, which is a little further out. I decided to walk because I had time and it was nice out. Along the way I passed the Muzeum Loutek, which translates to puppet museum. And it was shaped like (half) a ship.
I also passed over a small river, the first natural body of water I've seen in Brno. There are definitely more on the outskirst of the city, but so often city centres are right on water fronts, but that's not the case for Brno.
I was getting very hot at this point - the clouds and rain from earlier had completely disappeared. Thankfully the train station wasn't much further and before I knew it I was on the train to Slovakia.
The train ride is really when it hit me that this adventure is happening. In Brno it just felt like another short weekend get away. But no, it was only a small part of a long and exciting journey that will be filled with unknown experiences.
Upon arrival at the train station in Bratislava, I pulled up the directions my hostel at included in the confirmation email and started making my way there. I took a look at Google maps as well to confirm it was the quickest way to go. But Google maps apparently doesn't know all the public transportation routes in Bratislava because it was trying to have me get back on the train had just gotten off to take it to the next station, then walk 30 minutes. I went with the instructions the hostel sent and I was there in 15 minutes for only €0.90.
Now I'm sitting on my bed sweating like nobody's business and getting geared up for tomorrow.