Train rides from Paddington

Frequently, my anxiety and panic attacks inconvenience not only me, but those I love. It’s ironic, in an Alanis Morissette kind of way (ergo; not literally ironic) that when I am required to get somewhere on time, my panic gets worse, causing me to be late. Too many spoons, no knife.

Over the years, I have very nearly, or actually missed trains, buses, planes, and person-driven rides because I freaked out and had to get out, or was unable to even leave the house at the correct time.

One particular event, when my Mum was visiting me in London, we had plans to travel to Bristol by train. We did all the right things, booked cheap seats online then left nice and early to journey to Paddington to catch the National Rail west. The tube that morning was busy. We were travelling with cumbersome suitcases and backpacks, which you will know, if you have ever negotiated a super busy tube and station changes in with heavy suitcases, is awkward.

After a few changes and 40 odd minutes in a fast shooting tin-can filled with sweaty, grumpy Londoners, I started to feel a bit uncomfortable. My discomfort lead to panic which I tried my damnedest to breathe through. The suitcases only made things worse, because I knew that if I needed to escape it would be so much harder hauling heavy shit up so many stairs to find safety and a toilet.

My management attempts didn’t work and I had to get off the train. It’s hard to explain to someone who has never had a panic attack the need to get away. Logically, I can understand why someone would say “Why didn’t you just hold on? Stay on the train. It’s not like you would die.” But in that moment it feels like you might die. Not literally, but in some way deeper, like your brain and body will short circuit & you’ll just be a shell. Like you will implode but look no different from the outside.

The thing is, anxiety lies. It tells you things that aren’t true and because it is so close to your brain and the inside parts of your ears, it becomes very hard to ignore it or logic your way out of the panic.

In this case I got off the tube, left my Mum on the platform, ran up a million stairs, and exploded into the daylight to find a loo in some station or other. I don’t remember which station it was but I remember a labyrinth of tiled halls and fighting to get out. The visceral nature of a panic attack means that my usually good memory for things like stations, history and facts was reduced to the memory of snap shots and feelings. Like I was inhabiting a different part of my brain to normal days.

I calmed myself as quickly as possible and we got back on the tube, but once we got to Paddington we had missed our train by a matter of minutes. I felt so guilty and imagine I cried, but there was nothing I could do.

My lovely Mum had been so organised, yet her plans were brought down by my broken brain. In the wonderful tradition of the British rail, our pre-booked tickets (purchased maybe 24 hours earlier) had cost around £14, but to re-book for the next train, 20 minutes later would cost £90. How such a price hike is justifiable, I am not sure but I imagine some business capitalism dude could tell me (please don’t).

We got to Bristol in the end but not after my Mum’s NZ credit card took a pounding (pun!). With the exchange rate and fees it ended up costing over $200NZ for arriving 3 minutes late. That’s about $60NZ for each minute my panic attack made us late. Anxiety is expensive.


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