Escalating Anxiety

My first and last ever panic attack was at the top of a set of escalators, and I have had a fear of them ever since – never going up you must understand, just the descent.

I was in Singapore at the time on a small break between traveling back from Australia. Quite a glamorous location for me. I was traveling back to the UK after another failed romance about to face the friends and family I had told about moving there – gearing myself up to tell them I had failed. Back to my mummy again. We knew it wouldn’t work out – silly dreamer.

In case you haven’t had a panic attack – it isn’t the feeling of panic you get when you wake up after a drunken night and can’t find your phone, or the panic I had experienced for years as a teacher during an inspection. It’s nothing like the panic you know. It’s a feeling of “I know you’ve pretended to be a functioning human for twenty something years but now the game is up – you’ve been found out. You no longer have any control over your limbs, brain or heart rate. Oh – and you’re going to die.”

I watched the steps in their constant momentum going down and down over and over and went to take my step. Something I had done probably a million times before. Then I realised my feet wouldn’t move even though my brain was telling them to. Do you know how confusing that is? Suddenly your body turning around to your brain and saying “umm, no – not today. I’m done doing as I’m told.”

So I stood there – a queue forming behind me, looking down, watching the steps of doom going over and over and over and then I burst out crying.

A kind lady grabbed me and asked if I was ok before I ran off to a toilet and breathed heavily for God knows how long. The escalator carried on, the normal people got on and off and I was left wondering what on earth was going on.

I still have a moment of panic on escalators. If there is ever a woman in front of you who looks like they’re going to step but then doesn’t and gets on the next step instead, delaying your journey by about two seconds – it’s probably me.

I always think escalators are such a great metaphor for anxiety. Everything is continuing in a constant motion and you know your time is next – and it’s up to you to keep moving, take that leap and carry on. If you mess this up – you mess it up for everybody. Do you know how many people are looking at you? Just be normal – it’s easy. Everyone else is doing it. It’s fight or flight time brain – don’t over think it. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.

 

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