When I have to go outside it takes me some time and effort to make my way out. Some days are easy, where I don’t have to prepare myself. I don’t have to work up to anything. I can pretty much just go. And some days are hard, where I need a lot of time to work through the anxiety. When I need to somehow ease the anxious feeling in my stomach and chest. I need to ease my urge to hide and avoid, and often either slow down or soothe a panic attack. Those are the days I may not make it out but I still try because sometimes the tips work.
When I am outside the anxious feeling doesn’t really go away. It stays in varying degrees of intensity from when I leave my home and it doesn’t ease until I’m back home, and even then it doesn’t totally disappear. The time that I am out I am hyper-aware of my surroundings and how long things are taking. I am aware of the people around me and I am aware of the length of time I will be in any given place because I am almost counting the minutes until I can finally go home again.
I have to be very careful about this state though because if it gets pushed too far, and the anxiety overwhelms me, it can push me into a numb, dissociative state. Where I am on automatic pilot and I am sort of aware of my surroundings but it’s a blur and most of the time I can’t recall where I was or how I got there.
When I’m on the bus I watch the people around me. In part I do it to be aware of who is where, what they are doing, and are they posing any threat to me in any way? But sometimes I find myself almost mesmerized by them. I’m mesmerized by their mundane ways of sitting or standing on the bus. I watch them play on their phones, or read a book, or talk to someone they are travelling with, or just staring out the window, and I find myself feeling envious of them.
These people, just normal people, they get on the bus and choose their place to sit or stand and they settle in for their ride. Without a second thought they are just taking the bus and doing whatever they need to do to pass the time on the ride. And they look normal. They look calm. They look bored. They look complacent. And I envy that.
I envy that these people can just walk onto a bus without sizing up the world they’re entering. I envy that they sit down or stand like they own the place and they aren’t thinking of anyone or anything around them let alone if they’re wondering if something is a threat. They aren’t surveying the scene from moment-to-moment. They don’t look like they’re counting anything at all. They look and act so normal. And then I briefly think of how many thoughts I have had in the short time I’ve been on this bus and how many worries and fears I’ve had and I feel jealous that they sit there like normal, everyday people.
I’ve wondered if anyone has looked at me and thought of me as weird, or thought of me as unworthy to take up space on the bus, or any other kind of thought. I’ve wondered if they are judging me or making assumptions about me. Are they thinking I don’t belong here? Are they thinking I shouldn’t be here? Are they thinking I’m a fraud? Are they thinking I look like a bitch? Are they thinking that they hate me?
It makes me feel like a freak. It makes me feel like I’m a nutcase. And it makes me feel alone.
These people go about their day, seemingly without a care, and they work, and live, and function. They go out. They do things. They talk to people. They interact. And I think of my own day that has been filled with anxiety, panic attacks, fear, worry, and shame, and all that races through my mind from the moment I step outside my door to when I step back inside my door and I can’t help but wonder, “how do they do it?”
How do these people leave their homes so easily? How do these people just walk to their bus stops and subway stations like it’s nothing? How do they get on the transit and they’re only concern is if a seat is available and making sure they catch their stop? How do they manage to just take the bus? How do they manage to be around other people as if it’s nothing? How do they sit there and wait for their stop like it’s no big deal? How do they not worry, and wonder if this will be okay? How do they not worry what others are thinking? How do they not care? How do they not feel anxious if they will be okay? How do they not work to hold themselves up enough so that they don’t pass out? How are they able to sit there so complacent and not have a panic attack? How?
My excursions are plagued by any number of worries, thoughts, anxieties, and emotions, and sometimes it’s bad enough that I can’t even leave the house. But these everyday people, they seem to have none of that. They live and function normally. But how? How are they able to function without a thought? How do they function without anxiety? How do they get up and go about their day without worrying about everything?
I wish I could be an everyday person. I wish I could just go about my day and that’s it.