This Saturday I went to a rugby match at Twickenham. To say this was a big deal for me would be an understatement. I'm a big rugby fan but that's not the (only!) reason why it's a big deal. Getting there, that was a big deal. Fighting my way through the huge crowds of fans, that was a big deal. Sitting in a stadium with 60,000 people, well that was the biggest deal of all! You're probably wondering what it is I'm getting at. Well for the longest time I've had a fear of feeling trapped. Claustrophobia or agoraphobia, I've heard it been called both. It makes it difficult for me to do the simplest of things that other people might not even contemplate as being hard. Going to the cinema or theatre, I have to sit in an aisle seat just so I know I can get up and leave whenever I need to. Sitting in a busy bar or restaurant, it doesn't always trigger my anxiety but when it does all I can think of is that I need to get outside. Long car or train journeys I find panic inducing. I hate queueing for things, just the thought of not being able to leave the line makes my heart race. Airports are a particularly tough place for me, it's the thought that once you're through security that's it. You can't leave (which obviously you can!) or get some fresh air outside and these thoughts make me feel trapped and therefore anxious and panicky. Funnily enough the flying part has never been a problem, maybe it's knowing that I'm on my way somewhere that soothes my mind so I never feel trapped on a plane. Weird I know but it's just how my brain rationalises things.
I've talked briefly before on my blog about being diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety Disorder and this fear I have is just one of the many factors of it. It makes it hard for me to think rationally, especially as the panic overwhelms me. So for me to sit in that stadium, even after I found out that the aisle seat my Dad had very thoughtfully bought for me turned out not to be so was a really effing big thing. I had people sitting all around me and not once did I feel the rising panic of wanting to rush out of there and not being able to. My mind was fully focused on the game and even when I thought about the hundreds of people surrounding me, it didn't bother me one bit! It was the most incredible, freeing feeling to be able to just enjoy where I was and who I was with!
Unfortunately there have been times when my fear and panic have stopped me from doing things I really wanted to do. Ultimately it means too that I have to let people down which is one of the worst things about it. Thankfully though those times are now becoming less and less. I went to a gig in London with my Sister recently. I almost chickened out to start with but she was so understanding and told me to just get on the train and get there first. If I didn't want to go inside the gig then that was fine. She gave me the option to leave if I wanted to and that was the changing factor that made me stay. Finally someone was telling me that I wouldn't be trapped. I could leave whenever I liked. It's what I try to tell myself whenever I feel the anxiety rising now. I give myself the option to leave whereas before I didn't and most of the time, well that desperate need to rush out the door just disappears.
My fear hasn't gone away completely and it probably never will but at least now I know that there are times when I can do things that I once thought impossible. I'm giving it the middle finger so to speak! I'm sure there's plenty of other people out there who experience or have experienced similar things to me too and that's why I thought this was important to talk about. Particularly if it can help people to realise that it's not always going to be as difficult as it is. It may take a while, it has done for me and probably will for you too, but it's possible.
Mind Mental Health Charity - http://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/anxiety-and-panic-attacks/#.VdVTkPlViko
Anxiety UK - https://www.anxietyuk.org.uk/
Anxiety UK Helpline: 08444 775 774