We all know that writing can be therapeutic, and for me this is more true than I ever realized. As you may have deduced, I have serious social anxiety. I am claustrophobic and germophobic, I have legitimately been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder due to PTSD, and I am a closet introvert. Ultimately I have at least 4 solid reasons why strangers scare the hell out of me. Blogging about the train has forced me to look at things with a certain sense of humor. I have had to come to terms with the fact that even though I am a strong woman, I have anxiety. I have had to accept and confront underlying fears that I didn’t even know were there.
The train has the perfect recipe for a panic attack. It is crowded with loud, sick, crazy, rude, and even a few wonderful people (but that’s like finding that famous red and white striped shirt in a Where’s Waldo book!) I get on the train knowing all of the stories that I have heard about scary or disgusting things happening on public transportation. I am surrounded by people. My facial expressions look VERY much like Elaine from Seinfield when people start coughing around me. It terrifies me. My heart begins to race. I start looking for an exit plan and inch closer to healthy people. I don’t mean to make the most disgusted face humanly possible, but I do.
It isn’t just the germs, though. My mom would tell you that I have always needed my own personal space. I need to breathe my own air. I need to be left alone with my whirlwind of racing thoughts until I can process through them privately before revealing them to others. (Hence the writing- thank God for the backspace key!) I would wear spikes if I thought it would help keep people away. (I am suddenly realizing that I might have been a porcupine in my last life.) I find myself admiring people who come up with creative ways to ensure personal space. I have two new heroes in life. They are the girl with the expandable dress and the girl who fought Swine Flu in 2009 with the Personal Space Protector.
And while you might be tempted to argue the fashion sense of said individuals, it is arguably less alienating than the official Sheldon look, which I completely relate to. Social anxiety is the real deal. It isn’t just about the fact that I don’t want you to give me The Plague. It isn’t just about the reality that I don’t know you and you’re in my space. I might even seem fidgety or dramatic, but the truth is, I can’t breathe!!!! I’m not panicking because I can’t feel my earlobes, I am panicking because I can’t find oxygen, and last I checked, it was still a vital part of my existence.
For me, the key to coping with this inward insanity is a recipe of 2 parts humor, 1 part sarcasm, and 1 part big girl panties (only preferably ones that fit). Somethings I just have to suck it up and get over it. I know this. Somethings, however, I cope with through observing people and finding the humor, or at least finding humorous ways to help you understand what is happening in my head.
Presumably, there are other anxious travelers in the world who feel what I feel and just don’t have the words to express it, or maybe anxiety + sarcasm = remedy, I am not sure. Regardless, that is why I am here, with you, and why you are reading this, and hopefully laughing a little, and maybe, just maybe,even relating a little, too.
I am working from home today, my inner recluse is doing the happy dance. Happy traveling my friends, have a great weekend!