It’s raining heavily and it’s really windy too. It sounds like a storm is happening outside and I wonder if there’ll be lightening and thunder. I might not see it though as I’m currently sat in my sanctuary tepee. The sound of the weather’s making me feel strangely calm, which is useful after the day I’ve had. Nothing has gone right today, diary. I was meant to be brave and go outside and met my friends for a day out shopping.
I got up and ready. I put on wool tights, my black wool skirt and my new fluffy blue jumper. Then I brushed my hair loose and put on make up! I was so happy and bouncing to go. I left way too early. Maybe that was apart of the problem. The bus was late and packed and I was soaking wet. My umbrella’s useless in this kind of weather!
Only a few minutes into the bus ride, I felt the edges of the first wave. People were too close and touching me and I didn’t want them too. The engine was vibrating under my feet so loud and my stomach went all wobbly. I shut my eyes and tried hard to fade into my music. I told myself that it was just nerves about seeing everyone again. I thought about what I’d buy from the shops, what we’d eat and talk about.
The wobbles settled a little, but I could still feel this panic growing with me. When we arrived, the bus emptied fast and I was caught in this tide pool of stampeding bodies. I knew I had to break out because I was being taken in the wrong direction. So, I scuttled to the side and pressed myself into the corner of the bus station. I was like a crab, desperate to avoid what was the incoming tide.
Why I’m thinking so much about the sea and beach today? Perhaps, because I know that helps. Anyway, so I get out of the bus station and on the street. It’s still rain and there are just people with umbrellas everywhere. I decided not to put mine up and just walk quickly to the shopping center. I ignore the people and just focus on where I’m going. That’s always a good technique to use. Then though, whilst I’m waiting for the light to change, someone bumps into the back of me.
I never saw his or her face. They were gone fast, over the road and around the coming cars. Of course, they couldn’t know how this simple act would effect me, but suddenly I felt like the bubble had burst. I become aware of all the people around me. The press of bodies as the crowd waited to cross over, office workers smoking outside their building, the flow of people across the street. I smelt car fumes, cooking food, the dirt of the city center. I felt the cold rain more sharply on my skin, the wind wrapping around my legs and touching my hair.
I couldn’t breath. I couldn’t move. Tears were appearing in the corner of my vision. The feeling of being gripped grew and I felt the urge to run. It wasn’t safe here. There were too many people, too much going on, it was too loud and I needed, NEEDED to be away from here!
The light changed, people crossed and no one noticed me still standing there. I felt them bumping into me with elbows, bags, bellies, whatever, as they all past me by and went on in their own worlds. A car horn blared. I panicked and ran across both sections of the road, not even looking. I think I hit someone with my bag or my hand, but then I was racing to the side door of the shopping center.
I felt better once I was inside. I took a few deep breaths and really calmed myself down. I must have looked like a victim of some kind of attack though. I was standing with my back pressed to the wall, clutching my handbag and umbrella, looking all panicky. Once again though, no one from the passing people stopped even though I must have met eyes with a few of them.
I went to the bookshop. It was the perfect place, even though it was busy. I went into the one section that is always empty- history and art. I placed my stuff down, grabbed the nearest book and sat in a small over stuffed square chair. I took my dripping coat off and ran my hands over the book cover. It felt smooth and cold. Weird how I can recall such things when I come out of an anxiety attack.
I flipped through the pages of the book. It was about Greek art. I looked at the photographs and read the captions. I felt calm. Normal. It was like nothing had just happened to me. After awhile, I got my phone out and made connect with my friends. They came and met me in the shop. There was seven of us all together; me, Bridget, her boyfriend Ryan, Connie, Alex, Tom and his girlfriend Molly.
It felt like a party! Even though there were so many of us, I felt okay because I knew them all. We went for some lunch and I had a really nice jacket potato, cheese and salad. I felt way better after that and the giggly chatter of the girls was pleasing. We did some shopping, well it was more like window shopping and drifting, but it was fun and the conversations were flowing.
Then though, something happened. We were walking down market street. There were people everyone walking or standing in half circle shapes to look at the street entertainers. We were just passing a religious group who were yelling about human sins and God’s wrath, when I felt it. I got this terrible feeling, like something bad was going to happen. I stopped walking and just stood there.
A part of me was totally aware that I should just keep walking, but I couldn’t move. I was struggling to breath and I felt like crying. One of my friends came back to me, I can’t remember who and they were asking if I was okay. I shook my head and looked at the floor. I told myself I was being silly! This was stupid! Why was this happening? Nothing was going to happen. There was no danger. But in that moment it was so real to me that there was nothing else I can do.
More friends came over. I can’t remember what they said, but then Tom had taken my hand was leading me away from everything. We went into a empty shop. A vintage clothes shop were some strange wind chime music was playing and the scent of incense hung heavy in the air. I took deep breaths. My face was wet and I was crying softly. Someone put a tissue in my hand and I felt Tom rubbing my back and saying it was all okay now.
The attack past. I felt so embarrassed. I wiped my face and now that I could think clearly again I thought of something to tell my friends which would make sense. But I couldn’t describe what had happened. I knew it had been real in that moment, but it for everyone else hadn’t actually been real. I was like I had seen a ghost and was trying to declare it. No one was going to believe me.
Tom asked if I was feeling better. I said I was, but needed a drink. Then I told everyone I was sorry and I didn’t know what happened back there and it was silly. They were concerned, but took it well. We walked out of the shop and went to a cafe. I felt better after, but then I decided to go home.
We said goodbye at the bus stop and I left them all to carry on shopping. I did wish I’d stayed though, but to be honest I didn’t want to face their questions and also another attack was too likely. I got home and got sorted. I had a hot bath. God, I needed one after all that being cold and wet. I felt better again, but I still had a niggly feeling.
I can’t help but wonder what my friends thought of it all. I texted Bridget and spoke to her a little. She said it was fine and everyone knew I’d had a panic attack. It was probably those religious zealots, she said. What they were saying about the earth burning and everyone going to hell, ‘my gran is always getting upset by that kind of thing,’ Bridget had added. I also texted Tom and thanked him. He said it was okay, his younger sister also has anxiety and he understood.
Reading that did help. Perhaps, I do feel a bit better now. I’m sure I just heard thunder…Maybe it was a plane. Hard to tell in here. I should get out anyway and go to bed. Tomorrow is another day and I promise to try harder. It’s not silly either. It is a real thing, but it’ll pass with time. I just got to take it easy.