Before coming away for a long period of time there was a lot to do in preparation. Some of those things were time consuming and annoying, like clearing our house and repainting, and some of those things were expensive, like getting a year of travel insurance. One of those things though, is still difficult. Being away in various countries means that drugs laws are different everywhere, and that sometimes certain things aren’t available. This, combined with the impossibility of carrying a years’ worth of citalopram in my bag, meant that to come away I had to wean myself off my anxiety medication. Some people don’t like medication for mental illness, but for me (and this is supported fully by Daniel), it totally changed my life. My anxiety impacts my body, and more specifically my stomach, and meant that around once a week prior to being on medication I found it difficult to leave the house due to stomach pains. I’ve been doing pretty well up until now, yes, feeling homesick occasionally, but the last couple of weeks have been very challenging. You may have noticed a lack of regular posts on the blog, and is probably directly linked – I’m exhausted!
And how did it start? With the fall of a gecko. On a night in Vang Vieng, Laos, we were shown into our room and a gecko fell from the ceiling. The woman working there chased it out, and we laughed. But for some reason, that moment planted a seed that has continued to give me sleepless nights and anxiety attacks. I’ve gone from sleeping soundly to searching every room we enter, and sometimes making us change rooms (once at 1am). But the problem is, there are geckos everywhere. They’re undoubtedly in every room. The hotel we stayed at in Kep recently was lovely, and even after changing rooms I eventually realised that there was a gecko under the bed, a gecko behind the air conditioning unit, and a baby gecko just arriving on the wall every now and then. I now know which is female and male, I can see gecko poop a mile off, and wear earplugs just to try and keep out that familiar territorial gecko chirrup. I can no longer judge rooms by stars, I judge them purely on geckos. We have stayed in some truly disgusting places, and I’ve been happy to book many more nights because the room seems to be free from geckos. And the opposite is true – it doesn’t matter how much money you pay, you can’t expect the staff to keep out this little lizardy masters of hiding. But why are they bothering me so much? I have never had a phobia like this one – in fact, I don’t really have any phobias, aside from the usual nervousness of heights and a dislike of moths. As I type, I am checking the walls every now and then for a sudden gecko appearance. So, what’s going on?
Anxiety often latches onto something unusual. While at home, it was usually to do with work. Something as small as typo in an email could keep me up at night, because although the medication stopped my physical pain, nothing really stops my thought process. Here, I don’t have the pressures of work to deal with, and my brain has latched onto something entirely unexpected. Logically, I understand that people see geckos as good. They eat the bugs and creepy crawlies that most people don’t want in their house – heck, they even eat cockroaches and no one wants to do that. I can even concede that with their little round eyes and what looks like a smile, they’re pretty cute. But when I see one, my body goes into panic mode, my heart races, stomach aches, and it’s just an awful way to experience Asia, on edge because of a common creature. I’ve started to call it Shrodinger’s Gecko, because I can’t decide what’s worse – opening my eyes, turning on the light, and seeing a gecko on the wall, or remaining in the darkness and hoping that there isn’t one there. There either is a gecko or there isn’t a gecko – but at all times in my mind, there is now a gecko. Living with anxiety is absolutely exhausting, and when it decides to focus on something you previously didn’t care about – it’s just flipping annoying. Anxiety doesn’t care if you’re travelling, and I look back at myself being stressed out at work with amusement. If only I could get rid of the geckos by deleting my ‘sent’ folder.