I wrote this on the bus today. Although I wrote it for me, I half knew I might embrace it enough to publish it.
Writing is one of the strongest coping mechs that I have, but it isn’t suited to a lot of situations and isn’t very easy at all when under pressure (and engulfed by noise)... While this piece does come to a random stop, it did help me while I was writing it.
It probably doesn’t feel particularly personal to anyone reading, but I don’t think I’ve ever felt more vulnerable or exposed by a post. So here it is; unedited and badly written, the ramblings of a very anxious mind:
Bus journey 13/12/2017
I’m going to write this really REALLY slowly, but feel free to read it at whatever pace you would like.
I have already thought out the next 5 paragraphs in the space of about a minute, but I am determined to write this super slowly and ignore the planned rhetoric, in a bid to slooooow my mind down.
I am on a bus.
These are the things that are going well:
- I am on the way home
- I am sat by the emergency exit
- I have people to text
- I’m reasonably warm
These are the things that have triggered my anxiety:
- There is a lot of noise
- I have forgotten my headphones
I realise this isn’t my usual standard of writing, but I am really trying to focus on what I need to say to stay reasonably calm (I’d say that I am 20% or so towards a panic attack, and I’d like to come back down rather than hurtle towards it).
I can taste like a vinegar in my mouth, which is probably the adrenaline and I’m nauseous as hell. Looking down at my phone definitely makes the nausea worse, but it is potentially helping with my anxiety, so I’m just going to have to accept the inevitable vomiting when I get home.
One of the worst parts of this experience has come as a surprise to me. Some twat is playing “Fatman Scoop” on repeat (the same song over and over again) and I know this seems pretty inoffensive, but the combination of that and the high noise level is giving me a headache.
When I am anxious/stressed or down, I am particularly sensitive to noise; particularly music. Usually I would just stick in my headphones and focus on an audio book, but, as I’ve forgotten my headphones, that isn’t an option now.
Very occasionally, I have consciously chosen to forego the headphones in an attempt to condition myself for times like these, but having the choice taken away is very different.
Now the weird thing is that usually if I were having these pre-panic feelings while travelling, I would be able to tell you a specific worry (like a crash/terror attack/aneurism), but today I can’t work it out.
Is it as simple as not having my headphones? Are my coping mechanisms that powerful? If they are is that amazing or scary or both?
When I was a teenager, I remember there being a couple of occasions where someone in our group would play music at the back of the bus. In my wildest dreams, I didn’t imagine that it would have had the effect on one of the passengers that it is having on me right now.
I feel pretty weak and embarrassed to be honest. I’ve zipped up my coat all the way to my nose and I can feel that I have been sat physically curled in a protective position.
The music has stopped and a man with a cockney accent and a high vis jacket is having a very loud telephone conversation with a friend about the bus route. I can’t decide if I like this sound or not, but I feel like I might; it is certainly better than the music, but I still definitely want to vomit.
I’m slowing down again, because I am shaking and, although I know that (for me) this means I have calmed a little and accepted safety, I am very nervous about triggering myself again.
...That’s where I stopped. Partly because it overwhelmed me a little, but I also realised that I was so hyper-focused on my brain and what it was doing that I might miss my stop.
It really has me quite shocked just how powerful the coping mechanisms I have collected over the year are... I know I bang on and on about bloody podcasts and audiobooks, but they really do have a big impact on my life and my mindset and today has just reinforced that to me.
If you don’t have any coping techniques I strongly urge you to explore some of the distractions and options that are out there (let me know if you’d like some suggestions). If you do have some coping strategies/ self care routines, then keep them up; they do make a difference (you just might not see it until you find yourself without them).
Read my Letter to Stephen Fry.
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