Just your everyday morning commute. On Anxiety

I don’t have agoraphobia. That is not one of my mental health issues. I, in fact, don’t have many phobias, except maybe a little bit of germaphobia, but really I think that is just good hygiene. But I mention agoraphobia specifically so that people know that the feeling I get during my morning walk from the train station to my office in downtown Chicago isn’t fear of leaving the house, but actually just a general dislike for crowds. It is actually much more than dislike, but I can’t think of the right word for it. It is a walk that forces me to be surrounded by thousands of other people, all of whom make me uncomfortable. Uncomfortable also isn’t the right word, but again I can’t think of what is the right word for what I feel. The walk also typically has a lot of pigeons. But the pigeons don’t bother me. Wildlife generally doesn’t bother me. Except bees and wasps, I am afraid of them, which is apparently called apiphobia, but that is a whole other tangent.

I thought about deleting that paragraph and starting over, but if this is site is about what it is like living with mental illness then I should include the random tangents my mind goes on. Sometimes my thoughts lack anything resembling cohesion. Anyway, back to the morning walk through the crowded streets of downtown Chicago at rush hour. I feel my fists and my jaw clench, my jaw tighten, my pulse quicken, and my anxiety spike. I am sure I am not the first and won’t be the last person who reacts negatively to a crowded commute, but I react the way I do because I feel anxiety about the walk, not annoyance. I feel as though everyone I pass is looking at me, judging me. I feel that I am constantly in their way.

Crowds are never easy for me. Generally I can push my anxiety away for events that really excite me, such as seeing my favorite sports teams or a musical act I enjoy. But just walking to work isn’t any of those things. Illogical thoughts flitter through my head, such as just shoving people out of the way, one after the other, until eventually nobody is near me. But I logically know that they aren’t doing anything wrong, I know it is not their fault, and so instead it must be my fault. And so I clench my fists and my jaw and my heart quickens and I feel claustrophobic even though I can see the sky. Also I don’t have claustrophobia. Or many phobias. Just anxiety about crowds, including the crowd surrounding me on my walk to work. But now my secret is out. And maybe that will help me breath easier on those walks to work. Now if only I could find a way to relax around bees…

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