Put me in front of a room of 1000 people and I will speak without much fear.
Put me in a crowd of 1000 people and I will crumble and panic and not be able to breath.
I have anxiety.
There are some people in my life that understand this. They guide me out of these situations. Ask how I’m handling it and take action to rectify my distress.
There are other people in my life that have no idea I’m in a panic and feel that I should just “Get over it.”
I have no idea why I am the way I am, but I know that the feelings and symptoms are real. I know that I get scared, feel trapped and have a huge desire to flee. Many times I get tunnel vision or my lips go numb or both. Sometimes I feel like I can’t breathe and the mesh of odor makes me want to vomit.
Yesterday at the celebration of my mother’s life I lived in my very own nightmare. At the end, the minister led me and my husband out of the church. The rest of my family was to follow but for some reason they didn’t come. By the time we got down the stairs, I was getting stopped by a lot of people who all wanted a hug and to touch me in some way. Slowly the room started to fill with people and before I knew it I was completely surrounded and felt panicked. A very good friend of mine must’ve noticed immediately as they came over, asked how I was doing, when I said I need to get outside they helped guide me out of there and into the fresh air away from the crowd. This was my saving grace.
Members of my own family have no idea that I have this anxiety. They don’t have it so they don’t understand it. I’ve been told by a few that it’s all in my head and that I should be able to get over it by using mind over matter. The only problem is that I don’t know when it’s going to hit me or when I’m going to get overcome and so therefore I try to avoid situations where I might get caught up in a crowd. I try to avoid areas where people will be pushing and shoving to get somewhere or do something. I finish all my holiday shopping during the day in November so that I don’t have to deal with the crowds and can breathe free and easy while picking the perfect gift. I do my best to stick to places where I feel safe and where I know I can escape.
It’s very hard having this anxiety because you can’t really explain it to people. If you’ve never had this experience, you don’t know how best to handle it.
Some have suggested therapy.
Some have suggested asking a doctor for drugs.
Some have said that I’m not living a normal life by avoiding these situations.
It hurts me every time someone offers me advice because they just don’t get it. I’d rather be comfortable in my own skin, than to risk ruining something for another person. And so I avoid the large crowds in tight places and sometimes even the small crowds in tight places can be overwhelming.
I remember the first time that I began to have this anxiety. My husband and I were in a store closing sale at one Linen’s and Things. There were so many people there jostling around me and trying to grab things from each other. My husband slipped away from me in the mayhem and I couldn’t see him but was still getting bumped into by random people that I didn’t know and never wanted to. Suddenly my eyes started to get tunnel vision and the only area I could see was in front of me and I was panicked when I realized that it didn’t have the vision of safety, or my husband. I could barely breath, my lips felt numb and I swear I thought they’d be blue. I got all turned around, felt like I was going to be sick and needed to get out but had no idea how to do it until my husband finally found me and I tried to relay what was going on. He was sympathetic, but didn’t quite get it. We get to the car and as I try to catch my breath and clear my head, he agrees that the crowds were nuts. But he didn’t really get it. He didn’t really understand it but he knew something had happened to me.
I was never the same after that.
The anxiety wouldn’t overwhelm me all the time, but it started to get more frequent. Within the past few years I’ve finally been able to take better control of where I go and what I do so that I can avoid these situations. I’ve tried to surround myself with people who get it and get me. I’ve been able to laugh and enjoy myself in more meaningful ways. If you didn’t know me, you wouldn’t know that I have this issue. You may think that I’m fun and full of life, and then be surprised when you find me hiding in a corner at a party. Please know that it isn’t that I’m not having a good time or trying to be anti-social, it just means that I’m doing whatever I can so that I can be comfortable and not in a panic.
Having anxiety is difficult for me yet the only person that I feel really bad for is my husband. He loves going to concerts and festivals and gets energized by a crowd and the shared excitement. More and more I’ve had to turn down his requests to go to such places. I still love him, but the thought of being there in the crowd is very uncomfortable for me. So much so that I’ve occasionally gotten sick beforehand. My love for him has made it that I do try to go sometimes. He really is my best friend and I hate to think that I’m holding him back from something he wants to do. Sometimes I enjoy myself with no anxiety, and other times I feel that I’ve ruined the experience for him because I’ve made him leave before he was ready. Although he tries to assure me that it is okay, I still know that he doesn’t quite understand what I’ve gone through and how it’s made me feel.
Essentially what I’m trying to say is that people with anxiety are humans like the rest of us but for some reason or other have a phobia or an issue in a situation. Treating them badly will not make things easier but understanding and helping them by staying calm can really help them overcome what they are going through. My husband and my friends are usually very good that that and for this I cannot thank them enough.