Story of Courage – Episode 2

This month’s episode

Story of Courage: In conversation with Suze Cooper about anxiety.

Courage and anxiety sit side by side.

In this episode of Right Time Write Now, host Nicola McDonald explores her own fear of traveling and what it took for her to take a life-changing trip to Australia.

She also speaks with friend and fellow creative Suze Cooper about how travel-related panic attacks have impacted her life.

Find out more about your courage by following this month’s writing prompts and spending time considering where this emotion has shown up for you.

Over six monthly episodes Right Time Write Now encourages you to explore writing to reveal the joy of being human. Write 1250 words after each episode and complete your own novelette by the time the series ends.
Nicola McDonald is a creative coach and author of “Plain Janey” and “In Search of the Christmas Spirit”.

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This series is produced by Big Tent Media.

Transcript – Episode 2 Story of Courage

Welcome to Right Time Write Now, a monthly podcast helping you to write yourself into a better place. My name is Nicola McDonald. I’m a creative coach and writer. And each month I will be coaching you through a writing exercise to reveal the joy of being human. Ready to get curious and creative? Let’s get started.

Hello, welcome to Episode Two of Right Time Write Now. For all of you who tuned into the last episode, I’m very happy to welcome you back. For everyone who is new to my podcast thank you for tuning in. And I hope you stay a while. So how this works, I began my last episode looking at the joy experienced having taken an adventure, a long time in the making. And achieving the desired and unexpected happiness that came from saying yes. Your task was to write about your moment of joy in around 1250 words. If you haven’t completed the writing exercise and need more time, you can always go back to Episode 1 and return here when you are done.

This week, I’m looking at the emotional intensity I experienced getting into my joyful place, being with my sister in Australia. When this episode has finished, you can get to work on your chapter. During these exercises, I would ask that you let go of the idea of perfection. I would like you to know this is not about perfect grammar or spelling. It’s not even about perfect sentence structure. Writing is a cathartic process. It’s about releasing words spilling emotions upon pages. It may take some time as you contemplate emotions which surface and which you address. So please don’t get in the way of your creativity before the words hit the page. You have a month between each podcast to write. And this exercise today may challenge you more. It’s much easier to write about joy, than face the tyrant that is the anxiety, that blocked, that kept you away from the particular joy that you talked about in the last episode, in your last chapter. Write first and edit later. If you need time to think about what I say or ask, remember to use that pause button and take the time you need.

As mentioned in my previous episode, I still enjoy the intimacy of pen and notepad. But in a digital age, you may find it easier to grab whatever device you have to hand to write. At the end of this series Right Time Write Now, if you have managed the 1250 words, you will have written the length of a novelette. A novelette is between 7,500 to 19,000 words. But my word count is a guide here. It is more important that you have a beginning, a middle and an end for each of your chapters. Remember, you are not being tested. It’s about you and for you. Perhaps your adventure was spontaneous or opportune or like mine a long brew. As I did in my last episode, I will begin by sharing my story then give you some pointers to help you on your way. I’m also very excited today as I have the pleasure of chatting with my friend, entrepreneur and audio specialist Suze from Big Tent Media, a little later. Remember, pause me anytime if you need time to think or feel inspired to jot something down. Well, let’s get started.

The story for this episode, I Chose Courage. Chapter Two.

Would you like to come to Australia and we can discuss the project? are the words my sister uttered. It has been three decades since her migration. Reasons for not flying had been plentiful over this period. However, in that moment, I could only think of one obstacle, but as a resourceful person I knew that with some thought and juggling, I would overcome the question of financing it. My decision felt like an easy yes. And so it rushed from my lips. I was going on an adventure. I was going to visit my sister. I’m going to walk a mile in her shoes, or at least beside her and we will grow something special. Then the phone call ended. And anxiety didn’t miss a beat. It grabbed me by the throat and squeezed. I could hear my heart pounding in my ears. In through the nose and out through the mouth on the count of three. I breathed and my heart kept beating in time, didn’t stand still and I had said yes to a trip alone. I had said yes to getting on a plane, just one I told myself, no changing. I definitely didn’t want to have to change.
The time moved on and the direct flight I had monitored had passed me by. By the time finances were available the direct flights had doubled or tripled in price in some instances. And the ones requiring a change were rocketing. A change at Singapore Changi Airport it was. But what if? What if? What if? Anxiety screamed, wouldn’t you rather stay here? Stay safe? They may not let you in. You might be delayed, miss your interconnecting flight. All of those people, so many people. Claustrophobic. What if I didn’t go, we could discuss the project from home? No! I think I pressed the button to submit my flight booking or was it my husband, after I checked it so many times over so many days over too many hours, that I will never recover.

However, it happened, the booking was made and there was no backing out. Three decades of waiting. I was going to Australia. I didn’t want to, but anxiety was certainly making me question everything. It’s a tyrant. What if you lose your passport? What if your phone doesn’t work when you get there? What if they put you in prison because you have the wrong documentation? I had my visa. Thankfully I had that. I’d applied and it came so very quickly that anxiety questioned the validity of it. I almost wanted to apply again in case the first response was wrong. Anxiety feeds fear. I printed out the visa, then I printed it again just in case the original was lost. I had it compartmentalised in my carry on and anxiety said check check check. And I did as I was told at the airport, on the plane, at the airport, on the plane, on the plane, on the plane, on the plane. I checked my passport many times. That expiry date is in the future, isn’t it? That is me in the picture? And my name is clear? I haven’t picked up another by mistake? It is me, my name. And anxiety said check check check. And I did as I was told at the airport, on the plane, at the airport, on the plane, on the plane, on the plane.

Anxiety thrives on doubt. It positively grows into a bully, makes me feel small. I was a child incapable so anxiety would have me believe. Before I left, plans changed. I’d have to board another plane, a domestic flight this time. Perth was six hours away from where my sister lived and she has chickens and dogs and horses. She cannot leave. I booked this domestic flight for almost five hours after arriving in Perth. Just in case I missed a flight through delays. Just in case something happened and left me needing to get help. What if I lost my passport? What if my paperwork was wrong? Had I forgotten something? Anxiety was being mean, a bully. And so I breathed, in through the nose and out through the mouth on a count of three. Anxiety took a backseat. And while anxiety slept, I had the chance to look out of the window, watch the Moon reflect on the wing. It’s beautiful. I saw the lights on the boats as we came into land, read my book, ate food, chatted to fellow passengers, and I watched an image of a plane move across a map showing countries and oceans we were over, had passed, upon the screen in front of me. I was mesmerised and happy while anxiety slept.

At Singapore Changi Airport anxiety was on full alert. What if I got in the wrong queue and walked out of the airport by mistake? I had no visa to visit this country. Anxiety thrived in this moment. It said, if I made a mistake, walked to the wrong gate, I would go to prison. What if I couldn’t read the signs? What if I took a wrong turn, ended up in the wrong part of the airport? What if I miss my connecting flight? One what if came true. I couldn’t use my phone. I couldn’t contact home and anxiety said, I told you so. In through the nose and out through the mouth, on the count of three. I breathed. I breathed. The resourceful self eventually was able to connect to the airport WiFi and anxiety got back in its box. I’d hit a bump, not a block. I sent my text home. Phase one done. The people with no names or faces I feared didn’t come to meet me, didn’t stop me moving forward. They were too busy doing them. I wrote a letter to my husband through asynchronous communication. I told him of my adventure. There were no stamps to be bought at Singapore Changi Airport, so I held on to it for the time being. The words were safe, wrapped in an envelope and I was safe in Singapore Changi Airport.

What if your card doesn’t work? I said, to anxiety, if it doesn’t, I’ll be fine in spite of you. I’ve made it this far. On the plane I was fed and watered. I bought the coffee. Most places were closed that early in the morning, but I stretched my legs and down the aisles of shops and eateries and watched for a notification and direction on where to go next. Just in case while anxiety was making me doubt my own ability to read, I asked the airport ground staff and just like so many before me, found myself in the right spot to move on to the next plane. And the next chapter in my adventure, Perth, Australia. The flight to Australia was delayed. So glad I booked the domestic flight late, I told myself. Twenty minutes after the onward flight was due to leave, I found myself at another window seat as per my booking. I pushed my bag under the seat and made sure my book was in reach. I checked my passport and paperwork and my tickets were all in the allocated slots of the bag, on board. I checked again, again immediately after.

While I was in the air, anxiety had little to say for itself. And so I simply got on and enjoyed the flight. I watched a film but I don’t recall which. I know my book was more interesting to me. It also allowed me to escape reality and dive into a fictitious scenario. By this time, I was also tired, so interaction was minimum, other than the “excuse me”, so I could get out of my seat and make my way to the lavatory. My first observation of Perth Airport was how small it was in comparison to Heathrow and Changi which I had left some seven hours earlier. The queue on the other hand was quite long by the time I had checked the contents of my bag and used the facilities. The flight was long and I felt in desperate need for a shower, not to mention a sleep. In all of my anxieties, what ifs, I hadn’t expected to feel so desperate for a shower.

I stepped into the queue behind a couple whose luggage had been lost. And in that conversation about Marks and Spencers knickers and old faithful boxer shorts and gifts bought, unable to be delivered, I gave anxiety no oxygen. The couple moved on and anxiety piped up. Suddenly I was blurting out to Boarder Control. “I have to get a connecting flight. I have no idea where to go. It’s this one look, please can you help?” I thrust the ticket at the man forgetting all about the fact that he needed to see my passport first. It wasn’t until I’d been guided through that I realised he hadn’t checked my visa application number. The one I’d printed twice just in case. The one I had checked my bag for over and over and over again. Ten minutes later, I reached the domestic flight terminal and then walked back and sat in the bar back at Terminal One, waiting for the long hours to pass before I could get on the domestic flight for my final destination. I bought a glass of wine and drank water, sent a message home and to my sister and smiled. I was safe and after three decades, I had managed a trip to Australia. Almost there. While I was sitting observing enjoying my drink, another traveller sat close by with a lot more luggage than I had with me. And in spite of our language barriers, I was able to ascertain that he was trying to work out the name of the place in which we sat, so he could pass it on to the people he was meeting. I was happy to help. In my what ifs, I had not worried about the language barriers once I got here.

At the baggage check in for the domestic flight a woman asked if she could jump ahead, tears in her eyes cheeks read. Her flight had been diverted making her late for her connecting flight and she wasn’t permitted to get on, the gates had shut. The flight attendant couldn’t make an exception. Not too long after I went through security again and sat in the lounge waiting for my small plane which was like a bus with wings. It was an entirely different experience. We were greeted by a chirpy flight attendant and said hi to the pilot, stood on the tarmac, where passengers mounted the stairs. People on the flight seemed to know the crew well. I deduced this must be a normal mode of transport for many workers. An experience I’ve never had on our small island. A trolley with courtesy refreshments and snacks was wheeled down the short aisle. It took me by surprise as the flight was so short. I smiled, relaxed. By this time I have to admit anxiety was nowhere to be heard. Tiredness had shut it up. And I think we were both simply experiencing the moment. One and a half hours later I was back in an airport lounge. It was tiny, barely the size of a living room, perhaps a little bigger. Making Perth seem huge and Changi and Heathrow enormous. Then through the glass doors, my suitcase in hand, 23 hours after I’d left home, I spied my sister as she pulled into a carpark space. Sam and Red, her dogs, were in the back. I was safe and exhaustion hit me straight away. We bought fast food. It wasn’t particularly good. And then quietly we drove to her home where the horses stood at the fence to meet us. But at that time the chickens were in their pen sleeping. My amazing experience with Missy, Mottle and friends was yet to come. First it was time to take a quick look around. Then shower time, drink time and sleep time and before all of that, let home know I’m here time.

That night I fell asleep in a meditative state listening to frogs and crickets and this chorus continued each night of my stay. Three decades on, I had made it to my sister in Australia. I looked out on the vast greenery and wonderful scenery, the bright stars as if in a picture postcard, but better. My experience was sensory, full of smells and tastes and views and sounds I was unfamiliar with, and I could touch it. Anxiety was still rumbling in the background, but its flame was losing oxygen. Over a short time anxiety was kicked to the curb respectfully. I acknowledged it was a false friend keeping me safe with imprisoning narrative. Unlike Marley from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, my chains were forged by what ifs. I escaped the shackles I’ve made with the evidence instead. Next time when anxiety wants to stand in my way of adventure, I’ll remember the truth about my travel. I know if something transpires, I can overcome it with intelligence rather than fear. Especially when fear presents as false evidence appearing real. What do you do when anxiety is a bully? Australia’s the physical destination, but my journey was also emotional. I had to go, I had to go alone. I had to remember who I am. And what I am capable of. Alone, you have nobody to hide behind. And so if asked to take the opportunity again, I would most definitely say yes. And if anxiety grabbed me again, I would choose to side with courage.

Once upon a time, I decided to attend a women’s conference in London. It was a big decision because I didn’t like public transport. And I don’t like crowds. And in truth, I had also spent most of my career as a woman in STEM in a male dominant environment. But I at some level knew I was looking for my tribe of women. I knew I wanted to tap into my feminine. And at that once upon a time conference, I met a wonderful lady with pink hair, who manated warmth, while her voice and kindness made me feel connected to something. She too had experienced the anxiety I had to be there. And yet here we were anyway. I trusted her and that was big for me. And in that once upon a time conference, we connected on many levels. And since that time, we have periodically popped in and out of each other’s lives. Some years later, she and her specialist skills, her attention to detail, became what I wished for in order to help me express my voice in service and to encourage, have fun and teach you. So it seems only natural that in this episode two, Suze and I discuss how, in spite of our anxieties, we choose courage every day, to move ourselves forward to grow and to evolve. I’d like to introduce you to a wonderful audio specialist and my friend, Suze.

Nicola McDonald 18:35
My whole episode at the moment has been about anxiety. But actually as it turned out, it wasn’t about anxiety at all. It was about courage. So, you and I have known each other how long?

Suze Cooper 18:47
Oh, about six or seven years, I think yeah.

Nicola McDonald 18:50
And we found actually very quickly that we had something in common, didn’t we?

Suze Cooper 18:54
We did. Well, on the day that I met you I’d travelled to a conference in London by myself on a train and arrived into a hallway full of women who were all trying to work out where they needed to go and what they needed to do. And I was trying to find myself a, a quiet space to collect my thoughts having just taken on a journey that was quite difficult for me, just having travelled from my home into London, which is something I don’t find very easy to do. So yeah, I’d grabbed a cup of tea and I just wanted a couple of minutes to collect my thoughts. And I happened upon the table where you were stood at the very back of a hallway. And yeah, I think it was an instant connection, your shoes, my hair. Perfect pairing!

Nicola McDonald 19:41
But also the fact that actually I was in that place because I’d looked for a safe place as well because although my journey wasn’t as long as yours, I wanted to get away from the crowd, which is hard in a conference.

Suze Cooper 19:53
Yes, it is.

Nicola McDonald 19:54
And I happened to find a table where people were sort of moving away from and there we were, the two people looking for a safe space to just take a moment.

Suze Cooper 20:03
Yeah, yeah. And kind of wanting, not wanting to look like I wasn’t approachable, because obviously I was there to make connections and to meet new people. But in that moment, I knew that I just needed to take a second for myself, to take a deep breath, and realise that I’d managed to get there by myself. And I’d put myself in this situation, which was to walk into a room full of people. I’d never been to a conference before. And, yeah, I didn’t know anybody that was there at all. And that that, again, is another, was another big thing for me. I’ve never done anything like that before.

Nicola McDonald 20:37
So actually, while we were off air a moment ago, we were trying to work out the courage part of, so we talk about anxiety, which I’ve talked about all the way through the episode. But actually, what we’re talking about here is courage. And trying to find our triggers. And both of us don’t know in the moment what our trigger is, but something made you go to the conference. So why was the conference, being at the conference, greater than the anxiety that wanted to keep you away? So there’s the courage, so what was it that you went, I’m going to do this?

Suze Cooper 21:11
I think at that time, I was looking for something new. I was going to start a business by myself for the first time. And I wanted to know what that looked like, for women trying to do that and finding their feet in that realm, I guess. You know, I was, I was a mom of two at that point. Now a mom of three. But it was, you know, these women that are at this conference are going to be people who will have juggled those kinds of things that I’m lying here awake at night thinking, how the heck am I going to do that? So I guess I, my need to find kindred spirits and a tribe and wise women was greater than my fear of getting on the train at that point. But it’s literally in the last 10 minutes of you asking me, that I’ve managed to think that through really,

Nicola McDonald 22:13
But I’ve been priming you all morning really, to think about? What was it because it is, because although we are narrative in our head, it’s about the anxiety and that’s the bit we remember, we forget to give ourselves a pat on the back and go, actually, we did have the courage to do this.
So what’s making us do this? So if we go back to the notes that you sent me about what you’re happy to talk about, when did it first start for you?

Suze Cooper 22:42
Well, I was a teenager, I think I must have been 15 or 16. And I’d been out with my friends, which was a usual occurrence on a Saturday, we’d all meet in town, we take the bus journey into town, which was the same bus journey that I took every day into school. But yeah, we’d take the bus journey into town, catch up with one another, have a McDonalds and then get the bus back. It’s what we always did. But on this particular day, someone had passed gum round at the back of the bus and I was merrily chewing on some gum, and I swallowed the gum. And something in me, just flicked. And I was absolutely convinced that I was going to die.

Nicola McDonald 23:25
And you’d never had anything like that before?

Suze Cooper 23:27
I’d never really felt that way before. No. So yeah, we’re sat on the back of the bus on a journey that I know, like the back of my hand, with three friends who I’ve spent the last four years in and out of secondary school with, you know, we know each other inside out. And suddenly, it just felt like everything was going to stop and I managed to, from what I remember, I went very inside myself and where we’d all been laughing and joking on the bus suddenly I couldn’t take part in that anymore. And I remember just willing myself to get home and everyone was coming back to my house. Again another common occurrence, my mom’s door’s always open. So you know we walked back from the bus stop and again I remember walking up the steep hill to my house just thinking, just get home, just get home. And I think pretty much as soon as we opened the door, I started to hyperventilate and I started to pull my clothes off. So I pulled off my T shirt. I was too hot I couldn’t bear it and there was part of me saying you’re gonna die you’re gonna die you know that you can’t breathe you can’t get enough air into your body this is it, you know, nothing’s gonna be the same again. There was another part of me that’s going, Suze, all your friends are looking at you and you’re pulling your clothes off in your front room and no one knows what’s happening. This is crazy. And my mom ushered everybody into sort of out we had like a living room and a separate sort of front room as we called it. So she ushered them into there while she sort of dealt with me but even she just didn’t wasn’t sure what was going on, like as far as she was going, I’ve been out with my friends, I’d had a good day out like I would on any other Saturday. Gone out shopping all the rest of it, come back, and instead of being met with me and a load of shopping bags, she was met with me in a complete and utter meltdown. So she did, she she rang a friend, she rang her friend, and she came round and sort of talked me round and talk me down in a way that at that point, I think my mum was obviously so concerned about me, now being a mom, if this was happening to me, I think I’d probably do the same. Like, what do you do? She definitely came down to my level. So like, I was very much, I was sat in the chair by then. And my hands sort of had pins and needles and lack of oxygen kind of thing. I am just totally trying to breathe too quickly. And she sort of knelt down and very calmly kind of said to me, that it was going to be okay, sort of very reassuring. And she made me breathe into the paper bag. And you know, that was to me, that was the moment that distraction became, you know, I’m sure that had a physical effect on me having read into it and looked into it in the years since. But at the same time, it was very much a distraction. And at that point, I remember almost coming round, and looking around, and my friends sort of poking her head around the door and going, are you okay? And me going, I’m really not sure. But being able to actually communicate with people again. And I’ve wondered since in other incidents where I’ve been in panic like that, I think a lot of the dialogue is actually happening in my head. And I’m not actually able to tell people what’s going on for me, or what might help me in that moment or anything like that. And that’s, that’s a very isolating part of having the panic attack.

Nicola McDonald 23:31
So what happened from there then? So that was, that was the time that you can pinpoint that you had. I mean, we’ve been talking about travelling. The other connection we have is that obviously, we both don’t particularly like public transport. I think I’m at a different stage to you now, slightly different. But you can actually go and remember where it began. I can’t. Mine is so long ago, I can’t, I don’t know particularly. And, we have talked about this this morning off air. But I think mine was possibly more connected to time, so that the public transport might not get me there on time. And that’s what I unwrapped while I was writing episode two, is that time became a factor for me. In your case, the chewing gum, has then led to years and years of this, being unable to travel. Is that correct?

Suze Cooper 27:45
Yeah, it feels like that may well be the fact that I was on the bus and took this chewing gum and that I had started to have those feelings having travelled somewhere. I feel like it’s too much of a coincidence for that not to be linked to the issues that have had in the 20/25 years over travelling.

Nicola McDonald 28:06
Interestingly, though, when I think about that scenario that you were in, which was really frightening, it was the chewing gum that caused the scenario. So did you also stop chewing gum?

Suze Cooper 28:20
Yeah, I’ve probably not had gum ever since. And yet buses actually. Now if I was to choose in London, I would get on a bus over a Tube. And I do you know, I kind of navigate my way around, obviously, you need to travel places, you need to go places and I very much put things in place so that I can travel my way.

Nicola McDonald 28:42
So what do you do?

Suze Cooper 28:43
Well, anything from I mean, I’ll pay through the nose for a cab if I have to. If I get there and I really can’t get the tube and I can’t get the bus for whatever reason.

Nicola McDonald 28:53
And how do you decide you can’t?

Suze Cooper 28:56
It’s the physical sensations

Nicola McDonald 28:58
So you physically can’t?

Suze Cooper 29:00
Yeah, I get kind of physically, perhaps not… I probably can’t remember the last time I went into a full blown panic attack and I probably haven’t done that whole hyperventilation thing as badly as I did that first time, which is quite a normal thing I think for lots of people in panic situations. Lots
of people say, it’s the first one is always the worst. And then what happens afterwards is, you know, never as bad. Even so, I still get… I get sort of tingly hands and my ears get really hot, my heart just starts to pound and pound. And it’s just, I want to escape from that and eventually you get that sort of tinnitus ringing that is just all you can hear in your head and everything is just too much. It’s too loud. It’s too big. It’s too hot. It’s too close. It’s too small. It’s too everything.

Nicola McDonald 29:52
It’s just massive. It snowballs doesn’t it?

Suze Cooper 29:55
It really does and and you know I’ve gone from, I went in the end to replace somewhere between my the GCSE is finishing and the A levels starting where I couldn’t go out of the house, because even just opening the front door, it was too big. But I couldn’t stay indoors, because that felt too small. And at that point that was when we sort of, myself and my mom kind of took action in terms of well, at the end of the summer holidays, you need to get back to school to do your A levels. So we’ve got to get you to a point over the next six weeks where you can go out again, and how do we do that? And we do a little thing. So the first day, I had to open the front door three times throughout the day and look out and spend a minute looking out and we looked out onto a playing field. So you know, there was a lot to look out of across the road from us. And then the next day, I had to walk to the end of the drive and then it was the end of the road and then it was the bus stop and back and then it was the bus stop and can you get on the bus? Or is it the next bus stop. And we did that over six weeks to desensitise, I guess, the different areas that might be causing a problem. And I did go back to school and I did carry on with my A levels. Because otherwise it could very easily have just prevented me from doing anything. So while my mum wasn’t completely aware of what she should do in the first instance, she certainly did all she could in the end to try and work out what it was we could do together to make this feel right. So I could go and do some things again.

Nicola McDonald 31:20
So again, the… the pull to be there, to do your A levels was greater than the desire to stay in and kind of would have been, it would have felt safe, but it actually wouldn’t have served you very well in the long run.

Suze Cooper 31:33
And I’m quite a determined person, I like to finish what I start. So the thought of not doing something, not following something through. I think maybe that might be where my courage lies. The thought of saying, I’m going to do my A levels, but then not doing them or the thought of saying, I’m going to be a journalist, but then not trying it out, or the thought of starting up a business, but then not getting far enough to even know if that would work out for me. I think that’s what pushes me on.

Nicola McDonald 32:10
So you have a kind of wish list of things that you’re going to do. Once you’ve set that in stone, whether that’s in your mind, or on a piece of paper, you’re going to go and do it

Suze Cooper 32:19
I’m quite hell bent on doing the things even. I mean, even now. So you know, I’ve bought a ticket for a conference, in a few months time. And I’m already quite concerned about the journey. It’s a journey I’ve done before. It’s a train journey to Newcastle from King’s Cross in London. I’ve been
to the conference before, there’ll be people there who I know quite well. But that journey to get up there is actually a real sticking point. But I’ve bought the ticket, now I’ve bought the ticket, it would be a waste not to use the ticket. So I have to make myself go through with it and do it.

Nicola McDonald 32:55
But I suppose you could actually say that you could refund the ticket. But the drive to be there is greater. So that you are showing courage. It’s just, I suppose you’re remembering the feelings that it takes to get you there. Rather than the liberation that you feel. I know, we’ve talked about you feeling relief, but it is liberating. And then you learn something afterwards, looking at the whole premise of my stories is about changing your narrative around what you feel. So if we keep telling ourselves that we feel anxiety, and not acknowledging, actually, even though I felt this, I still did this ABCD and all of these count towards the courage it took me to get there. Yes, I’m still going to perhaps feel this kind of anxiety. But my determination and my courage is greater, than…

Suze Cooper 33:52
Rewrite the story. Not make the story the physical feelings of getting on the train, but actually make them the feelings at the other end once it’s done. Or you know, whatever it is that I’ve gone there to do and to get out of it

Nicola McDonald 34:06
And interestingly, the other thing that I know of you is that you, let’s call it have a safety mechanism around travelling, didn’t you? What did you keep with you all the time?

Suze Cooper 34:17
So I had a paper bag in my bag. I’ve probably still got one in my bag right now.

Nicola McDonald 34:21
And have you ever used it?

Suze Cooper 34:23
I’ve never used it? No. I’ve had very, you know, various paper bags that have travelled with me on occasion. But there was a time where if I’d left the house without my paper bag or my five flower remedy that would trigger a panic attack, just not having it with me, even though I’ve not used it. And I needed to be kind to myself around that a bit as well because other people didn’t always understand why that was so important to me

Nicola McDonald 34:55
Jumping in there because it seems it is important to you what other people think as well, so it’s kind of looking at it reverse as well, why is it important for you that they understand? Because at the end of the day, it’s you that needs to know why. And if that helps, if that’s a helping strategy, when I used to cope, so I used to do as a child, I used to faint, but I had had an accident as a child. So everybody associated the two in my family was, like, had an accident, faints, makes sense. It’s not until later that I realised the difference, it was actually a reaction to panic or anxiety, even when it didn’t feel like it was much… that my body used to just go down. So vasovagal fainting, that kind of thing. So, but thankfully, I’ve come a long way from that. And like you I, I think the desire to achieve something that I’ve set out to achieve is greater than the anxiety. So it’s when that anxiety becomes confining that we have the issue. So I’ve obviously, I’ve had therapy, and I’ve had coaching to get where I am today. And I will get on a plane again. But what would you recommend to people that are actually going through what you do? What, what support have you had?

Suze Cooper 36:13
Well, I’ve tried some CBT. I’m personally not sure how helpful it’s been, although people on the outside have said to me that they’ve seen a difference in me. So perhaps it’s something that I’ve not necessarily recognised myself. It’s exhausting, because it is, for me, it’s sheer determination that I’ve got one life to live. And if I don’t do these things, then what’s the point really, so I push through it. Like I was saying to you earlier, like, I got off the bus in London, the first time that I travelled after the pandemic, and felt this dread kind of come over me. And I just almost like mentally slapped myself in the face and said, Look, Suze, you’re not going to die today. Just get on with it. Just get on with what you’re doing. Like, don’t let your mind take over the things that you want to do. And I think it is a little bit of that really, it’s a bit of sort of shaking yourself up and, and pulling yourself along. But that is exhausting.

Nicola McDonald 37:13
Yeah, but because otherwise, I suppose what happens is you live in a cage. And when I think about how long it took me to get to Australia, it wasn’t just because I feared getting on the plane. That wasn’t it. There were lots of other aspects. But then in later years, when I could get on there I was… I was doing the what if? What if I don’t have the right paperwork? What if I don’t have the passport? What if I don’t have this? What if they don’t let me in, you know, that kind of thing. And we kind of tell ourselves a story. The actual fact of me getting on that plane, nobody really cared, you know, nobody’s going, we’re gonna pick on you. I was in such a state that actually I am a grown woman, you know, I can book these tickets. I can get on these planes. I can ask questions. I’m really good at asking questions, actually, you know, that kind of thing. So it’s kind of, so I suppose the ad even though I did quite a big journey, just to get over that stage. I suppose we’re at different stages of, let’s say, metaphorically, our journey, but you’re still doing it. And the end result far outweighs the anxiety.

Nicola McDonald 38:26
The side effect of what I’m doing with this podcast has been that I’ve unwrapped quite a bit of stuff. And it’s kind of going, Okay, that wasn’t even my story. You know, I can come go, Oh, I’ve been doing this for years. But that wasn’t even my story. Like one of my stories is that I don’t like water. But actually, that wasn’t my story. I had been hearing stories about people coming a cropper. When I was younger and people used to duck you under. And then I couldn’t breathe. But I blamed the water. But it actually wasn’t the water. It was the people around me pushing me under the water that was the issue. So it’s not the water, I can actually swim. But every year we were… when we’ve been on holiday, and there’s been water around I haven’t gone in. So it’s kind of, I’ve started reframing my story around that. So next time I go, I will go in and at some point, I might actually go in the sea and do cold water swimming as well. I mean, what’s that all about? So what’s next for you, Suze?

Suze Cooper 39:26
So at the moment, it is all about podcast editing and creating podcasts for wonderful people like yourself. So yeah, kind of leaning into stuff that I know, leaning into a nice safe space, which is audio. So I come from a radio presenter background, a broadcast background, and leaning into that so that I can work around a very busy family home life.

Nicola McDonald 39:51
Are you just working with little old me, small businesses or are you looking for bigger organisations?

Suze Cooper 39:59
Yeah, I mean I’m happy to work with anyone that wants to create audio content. And that runs from being a podcast for a solopreneur all the way through to like a season of podcasts for a nice, big multinational company, if there’s any marketing departments out there looking for an audio person.

Nicola McDonald 40:15
Yeah. So where would they find you?

Suze Cooper 40:16
So our website is And I’m usually about on Twitter, @BigTentSocial. And also on LinkedIn. You can find me Suze Cooper.

Nicola McDonald 40:28
What will you do differently tomorrow that you don’t do today?

Suze Cooper 40:34
Oh, goodness. I mean, every day is a new challenge. Every day brings new what ifs? I guess that’s the point is now I need to

Nicola McDonald 40:43
It’s reframing the what ifs to the positive.

Suze Cooper 40:46
Yeah, what is not what if, that’s a new mantra for me. So I think I’ll continue with that. Living in the truth and the now is probably the lesson. Yeah.

Nicola McDonald 41:04
Take action.

Perhaps you share our anxieties. Perhaps you have others which you have not divulged But you went and found that joy anyway by stepping over your fear. Addressing negative self-talk that has been so much a part of you, addressing emotions that have dictated your beliefs, and been a decider on how you navigate your space is difficult. But you did move forward. Before I dive in, remember, pause me anytime if you need time to think or feel inspired to jot something down.

You might consider the following questions. What was your anxiety or blockage? How did you decide in that moment to change your belief and rewrite your narrative? When did you decide to choose courage? What did you learn in that process about you? What would you do differently? I mentioned last week that words breathe, they are powerful. They can make you laugh and cry, can be a TARDIS, or paint a picture of a future fictitious or otherwise. I would like you to think about your own state of mind before you said yes. How long had you been waiting? Remember, pause me anytime if you need time to think or make notes. I’ll be on the other side when you press play. Perhaps like me you allowed anxiety to dictate like the tyrant it is. Perhaps like me, the more time passed, the bigger the obstacle seemed. Perhaps your story isn’t about courage at all. But the reason has equally kept you from pursuing a something? This is where you get to examine your why across the pages in around 1250 words. Use your words to paint a picture of your emotional state. Imagine your heart beating in your sentences. The slowing down or punchy sentences with inflections, include pauses. Imagine an audience hanging on each word and you want them to feel exactly what you are conveying. By the way, it doesn’t mean you need to share your words at all. It just means that you are becoming focused on ensuring all of the details are captured. So you can remember this moment. Here you are studying a different emotion. And when it is done you realise the reality is you chose courage and told the tyrant to get on its bike. Contemplate, how did reality differ from the stories you had believed when anxiety had its grip on you?

By choosing courage, I had a wealth of experiences beyond my expectations, which I never knew I liked. As before, think about who your audience is. It may be restricted to you or sharing with family friends or a wider reach. Does your voice feel different? In Episode One, Chapter One I wrote as I felt, childlike in my wonderment. In this my feelings were different, more grown up, my voice expressed in its older self. Enjoy expression. If you have a someone you trust, embrace the feedback. It’s okay to disagree with their suggestions, but acknowledge the gift and the time they spent looking from another perspective. Feedback is never wasted. Relax, put on your favourite music and dance. Simply shake your arms and shoulders to release any tension. Then pick up your device of choice and work on your courage.

I leave you with this, Courage. Remember when you were young and life stretched out in front of you? Love as yet was untouched in a romantic sense but you had experienced it. Lessons were still to be learned away from the playground and the classroom. Remember each day how your courage grew as you trusted in you. You knew you would and believed you could and so you did. You took charge of your destiny no matter what another said. Courage is the silent roar in the core and that vision and perspective that goes beyond seeing what is immediately in front of you. It doesn’t go, but sometimes it needs encouragement.

Thank you for listening to this episode of Right Time Write Now. I would like to say thank you to a wonderful audio specialist and entrepreneur Suze from Big Tent Media who has helped make this podcast possible. And a thank you also goes to Emily from Emily Crosby Media who is assisting with the transcripts. If you have enjoyed listening then do tell a friend and consider leaving a rating or review wherever you listen to podcasts. All material in this podcast is the copyright of Nicola McDonald 2022 and must not be distributed without permission.