In June 2016, my brother asked me if I would be godfather to his newborn daughter. Of course, I said yes, but there was one snag. I’d have to fly from my home near London to Dublin, where my sister in law is from for the christening. And stand up in front of a crowd at the church with my goddaughter.
A bit of background information.
I was diagnosed with psychosis in 2001 (which involved thinking I was Jesus and that I was telepathic) and picked up serious anxiety in 2004. I was put on an anti-psychotic, clozapine, in 2005 and it clicked with me. Since then I began a consistent recovery and by 2016 my mental health issues were barely there. Traveling from my hometown would bring them back a bit though, and it was certainly a big step to go to Ireland, especially by plane. I had a panic attack the last time I flew in 2004 on the way to see family in America and hadn’t flown since then.
My brother said that as I have such a great relationship with and responsible attitude towards my first niece, two years old at the time, that I was a natural choice as my second niece’s godfather, but I would have to bite the bullet and take a trip to Dublin for the christening for the privilege, and it was/is a true privilege. I think in my brother’s mind the fact that I was able to step out of my comfort zone for the journey showed that I was able and ready to be godfather. I can’t tell you how grateful I am that I went.
Having my mum travel with me was a source of great comfort. We got to Southampton airport, a small airport that is very easy to do business with and were called for the one hour flight after some breakfast and general appreciation of the airport atmosphere. In the present day I am still very afraid of flying despite six short flights in the last two years. For me it’s an uncontrollable sense of vertigo mixed with my increased anxieties when traveling. But I love planes – I think they are awesome, and I love airports.
We got on the bus to take us to the plane, and then we boarded the 90 seater propeller aircraft. My anxieties and fears shot right up, but there was no way I could change my mind now. I felt that there was a good chance that it might not be that bad once we got going, and I was half right. As the engines buzzed and we sped along the runway I was in two minds. Half of me was paralyzed by fear, clasping my mum’s hand and squeezing the armrest. But the other half was quite rational, happy even. I knew that planes are statistically very safe, and that I’d make it through. At the same time, I was also feeling a kind of relaxed anticipation that once the short flight was over I had nothing to fear about the rest of the trip. My general anxieties were gone when at home and minor when I was traveling by any form of transport that didn’t involve the creation of a potential 30 000 foot drop to my death if something went wrong. It was nice to know that after the flight would be three days with much loved family and of course my baby nieces.
The flight was a matter of fear but I began relaxing when we started our descent. We landed and the bad stuff was over. I’d never been to Ireland before and it was nice to see it.
The next day I put on my rarely worn suit and we got to the church. I was gladdened to learn that there was no congregation except two other families with their own children, about forty people in total and it was very informal. The service lasted five minutes and we were only in the church for about 30 minutes. Most of that time I was sat holding my beautiful niece and playing with her sister, as well as taking some photos of the terracotta coloured church. Afterwards, we went to my sister in law’s auntie’s house for a little celebration. We ate, had some drinks and socialised. It was fun. I was staying at a bed and breakfast with my mum and younger brother, which was fun too. Because of my anxieties I had only been away from home overnight once in the last 13 years. I slept very well that night, even though I knew I had to get on a plane the next day. Sometimes I am anxious, in small amounts. I used to be a serious panicker, and the fact that I wasn’t panicking over the prospect of an imminent plane journey the next day shows how far I have come with defeating my anxieties and panic. A person with a panic and serious anxiety disorder would be in a mess knowing that the next day they had to get on a plane. But I wasn’t even thinking about it. I was in the moment enjoying being in Ireland. For me, having moments like this is very special. The realization that my anxieties and my mental illnesses are a thing of the past is rather nice. Doing normal things like 60% of everyone else without being distracted by my internal problems is fantastic.
The next day we flew again, and it was a very similar experience to the outgoing journey, I would guess I was 40% scared and 60% relaxed rather than 50-50 on the first flight, so it was a little better. We landed, got through the airport and took a 25-minute train journey to my hometown. Southampton being a small airport we were through it in a flash. We were at our front door in Basingstoke (my hometown) only two hours after taking off in Dublin.
The success of the trip empowered me to be confident about the next one. A few short months later I flew to Holland for my cousin’s wedding, then in summer 2017, I flew to Tuscany for a three week holiday traveling around beautiful Italy. In many ways, though I still have the fading remnants of mental health problems, I am a very happy man.
For more of my writing please visit

Peter McDonnell is a recoverer from psychosis and anxiety and these are his favourite subjects to write about. He has recently finished a memoir of his experiences with mental health and recovery. He lives in Hampshire in England with his mum, and his dad and two brothers are not far away. He has written for various publications and websites with the hope of spreading a positive message about mental health. He also likes to write about traveling.