I thought I’d done with anxiety and panic attacks
— that is, until I went on honeymoon with my lovely new husband. Being locked in a gloomy and mouldy holiday apartment wasn’t how I’d imagined spending my first night. Nor did I expect the wrath of anxiety and panic attacks.
For those of you who don’t already know, I started writing about my journey some six months ago. I only ever intended to write it in four posts. However, it’s become clear that my journey through anxiety and panic attacks was a lot longer and more painful than I remembered. That’s made it difficult to get the words down on paper at times. I’ve taken many breaks and written lots of other posts in between, giving me time to reflect and bounce back a bit stronger each time. Please click here for Parts I, II, III, IV, V , VI, VII and VIII IX if you wish to read the backstory (It might make more sense).
Honeymoon period over even before my honeymoon ended
After wedding-gate and Sunday pub lunch with all the family and close friends, we jetted off on our honeymoon to Corfu. Excitement took over on arrival and our bags were just dropped. We didn’t really take in the apartment, high up on a hill, overlooking stunning turquoise seas. We just headed towards the delicious waft of fresh seafood and the clinking of cocktails glasses in the local tavernas.
As we ate fresh lobster, washed down with champagne and sex on the beach, we got chatting to an older couple at the next table.
Graham and Liz were what we call here in the UK, typical Northerners. His pink belly protruded from his one size too small Liverpool football shirt, which didn’t quite meet his Union Jack shorts. Liz sported a big bleach blonde hairdo and shiny baubles dangled from her earlobes. She wore a Hawaiian print crop top and translucent white leggings thro’ which you could see her black g-string. That left a great view of her dimpled bum and her sunburnt tummy, which looked somewhat like a deflated bouncy castle.
Karaoke and rusty nails
“Ee, come an’ join us at Karaoke, downt road after yer dinner,” burped Graham.
“Aye we will. Cheers pal. We will, eh Love? It’ll be a laugh” Ian hooted in my direction. Did I ever mention, karaoke — I’d rather stick rusty nails in my eyes? Way to go Ian!
Still, I enjoyed a few or five well-deserved cocktails as I listened to Graham shouting above the bathroom singers. He was doing that exaggerated mouth movement thing, as if I was deaf. Then I watched wide-eyed as Liz mounted the stage and, in a voice that would ordinarily cause double-glazed window to shatter, she did her best Tina Turner impression.
After yet another ‘celebratory’ drink with Graham and Liz, it was getting close to midnight and I wanted to leave. Ian didn’t, and I had to sit through more tuneless renditions of I did it my way and Gloria Gaynor’s I will survive, drinking bubbleless coke.
So, I flirted
The climb up that steep hill was bad, and I had to watch as my new husband staggered and cursed all the way up to the apartment. Ian let us in and he turned, roaring “I saw the way you were flirting with that fat bastard; whispering in his f*cking ear. And you were practically sitting on his lap. I mean, could you get any f*cking closer?” he spat. “What you gonna do? Slip back out when I’m asleep. Eh? You dirty f*cking whore.”
Backed up against a damp wall in the dark, I covered my ears and screwed my eyes tight shut as he ranted and banged around. This can’t be happening. Me. Flirting. With Graham? On my honeymoon? What the…. I heard the front door slam shut and the key turn. He’d locked me in.
Mouth dry and heart pounding, I opened my eyes and peered into the darkness, fumbling for a light switch. Nothing. I used my lighter to scan the dim hallway and spotted the fuse box above the front door. And, guess what? He’d only removed and taken the fuse with him. Who, in their right mind does this?
Then I panicked
I felt my way along the grubby walls, found a bedroom and sat huddled on a musty double bed. I squinted — something moved. Oh my word. I’m seeing things – again. I could see eyes, lots of them. They were giant rats, not six feet from me. And then, they meowed.
As my eyesight adjusted I could see there really was eyes, from about a dozen scrawny cats sitting on our balcony, all staring at me. I tried to shoo them away and close the tall bedroom shutters. He’d only secured them back with his shoelaces — and tied in several knots. He knew I was terrified of cats and how afraid I felt alone in the dark.
I’d have burnt the damn laces if my lighter hadn’t run out of gas. I had no choice other than to curl up in a ball on the bed until he returned – around 4 am — paraletic! He attempted to cuddle beside me and I lay there, rigid with fear and I felt my anxiety levels rising. I couldn’t breathe properly and my heart was thumping so loudly, I thought he’d hear it. Disturbing thoughts were racing around in my mind, and I knew I was having a panic attack.
Marriage annulment started to sound good
By seven, the sun was streaming in and, holding my breath, I edged myself from Ian’s grip. I’d found my bags and slipped into a pair of denim shorts and a summer vest over my bikini then crept out, leaving the door slightly ajar, lest I wake him. Taking a stroll down towards the shore, I grabbed a bottle of ice cold water, a coffee and a fresh pastry. Wandering around the coves, I found somewhere Ian wouldn’t see me easily and sat on a flat rock staring out over the emerald green and blue water that was the Ionian Sea.
I should be relaxing in the sunshine with my new hubby but instead, here I was alone and considering having my marriage annulled. I was still in the same place some hours later when Ian turned up looking rather worse for wear and in a foul mood. Not exactly what I was expecting, but hey, no apology needed or offered. Instead it was “What you sitting here for? Who you looking at? Them lads down there eh?” which didn’t warrant a response. What the hell had I done?
I’d married a monster
Unperplexed, he continued “You showing them your tits and fanny, sitting there with your legs wide open, eh?” No matter that I hadn’t even removed my shorts or vest and “the lads down there” were mixed groups of first time snorkelers and divers who were probably more concerned with their breathing apparatus.
I don’t even remember the exact content of the other daily heated discussions, when he talked at me and tormented me throughout the chilly nights in the apartment. He’d nudge me, tweak at my hair, whisper obscenities or try to pull my eyes open any time I got close to sleep. It was like being tortured and stuck a million miles away from the safety of my own home, there was nowhere I could hide.
What I do remember was as we pulled up at my front door Dan, my youngest son, threw himself into both our arms cheering “Welcome home, missed you both.” I could have wept, thinking of the pain it would cause, that I would cause him. My thirteen year old boy was so happy for his mum, thinking I was happy now and that I’d be looked after – for a change. After everything, I think he needed to believe that.
Right, I thought, I’ve made my bed so now I’ve got to lie in it. And I tried, I really did. Even when he applied and got offered a mental health nurse post within the same hospital I worked. And when he started changed his shifts to match mine so we could travel to work and back – together, I tried. And I kept on trying, but it was making me ill.
How many times should a person try, before giving up on a marriage? I’ll continue this series and hope you’ll follow my journey. In the meantime, I’m happy to answer any questions and look forward to your comments, as always.
You might be interest in another post about coping techniques for anxiety and panic attacks, here