The feeling when you’re too anxious to enter a bus

Dear Helsinki,

I sat in the bus on my way home when I browsed my Facebook timeline. I noted the very few updates I had made in the past year related to great achievements or good feelings: an admission to a university, getting a dream job, happiness that friends had given me. I remember the time when I did not feel shame of sharing sentiments that made me sad, anxious or depressed, but now I am cautious. Of what, you may ask, but it is irrelevant at the moment. When I went through the statuses I had written, I thought to myself I would give everything to be this person. It did take me a split second to realise that it indeed was me who has it all. And yet there is still the gruesomely grey cloud making the sun’s shine shimmer so much that the moon cannot help crying.

I have confessed my depression to you a few times, perhaps reluctantly and often with a scenic detour. However, let me be direct with you once in my life.

Last Sunday I had a panic attack that lasted for five hours. It was the worst experience I have ever endured. Even my broken heart who believes she cannot fall in love with ever again has not caused as much pain as I felt last week. I was sure I was going to die or even worse losing my mind. The entire five hours I just thought that this was the end to my life as I know it.

It started out of nowhere. I was watching television, as usual and preparing myself to go to my parents’ place for dinner when I suddenly started to have difficulties with breathing. It was just a gentle disturbance as if I was having a flue, so I ignored it. However, soon my hands began to tremble and I realised that these were the same symptoms I had experienced a few times last year so I rushed out of the apartment to get fresh air, because I expected being in the city, with people and out in open would ease the anxiety like before. This time it did not work out.

I entered the metro station, looked down to the escalators and my heart started to race. I did not want to go underground, and that difficulty with breathing was no longer gentle but vicious and vehement. I watched people go and I tried to step on the escalator, but backed away instantly. I feared so much that if I went there, I could not come up anymore, I would be stuck, caged, imprisoned and all sorts of crashing thoughts bewildered my mind. But then, attempting to be rational, I thought I have experienced this before and I attempted to overcome the struggle. So I took the step. And I could suddenly see the imaginary doors locking up with monstrous chains laughing at me. I was cornered.

At the platform I waited for the metro apprehensively. I thought I could still escape and go back, but then it arrived and all other passengers entered the wagons without difficult so I followed their lead. This time the doors closed for real. My heart raced faster, as if she wanted to extricate herself from my body that was poisoned with uncontrolled and irrational thoughts. I felt like I was going to die and my heart did not want to go down with me.

I exited in the next stop.
I could not had coped the entire ride, which would had required me to stand in the metro for five minutes more. So when the doors opened, I took the opportunity and left. I was not going to die there, I thought to myself. I was not going to let my heart leave me.

I walked to the bus station, and now I had to consciously concentrate on breathing because otherwise I would not do it. My mind was out of control, my body shivered, my heart was determined to break the world’s sprint record, my head was crumbling, my brains were petrified, I had absolutely no idea what to do or what I was feeling or what was happening but no one around me noticed any difference in my behaviour. I appeared to be normal while explosions mated with nuclear bombs in me. I was certain my heart was about to leave me, and probably for good reasons. I would not be around for much longer anyways, and the thought of it intensified the paranoia flirting with gunshots.

A bus arrived and I watched the people enter it.
I followed, but exited after being inside for two seconds. The bus departed without me.

A second bus arrived and I watched the people enter it.
I did not follow. The thought of sitting in the bus for thirty-minutes escalated the horror I was experiencing. My heart was not giving up on breaking the world record and the moment where I had to heavily gasp for air arrived, I just could not inhale or exhale unless I focused all my energy on keeping myself alive. My head was prepared to detonate. Now I was convinced. If not dying, I was becoming insane.

A third bus arrived and I no longer watched people entering it. I knew I could not do it.

Instead I thought I could perhaps take a train, which would require me to be shorter time in a captivated space. I entered the train a few minutes before the departure and I saw the green light on the door that indicates you can still open it. I thought I can still leave but at the time explosions had finished making love with the nuclear bombs, and my heart was getting tired of all the running. My mind was still crazy, but I imagined I could survive the ten minutes in the train. Then the green light switched off.

And it all started again.

Every time the train stopped at a station, my first instinct was to rush out but I kept looking at other people, listening to their conversations and wondering their stories to keep myself distracted from the panic moulding inside of me. Nevertheless whenever the green light switched off, the gunshots were on again and the world record almost beaten.

Somehow I arrived at my parents’ place. It took me almost two and half hours as opposed to thirty minutes that the journey usually requires. I imagined that I would get better now. I was safe.

I was not. In the end I had to go the hospital, because my panic attack became so overwhelming that I just could not stand still, I could not sit inside, difficulties with breathing amplified and the feeling of falling into a sort of psychosis dwelled in my head. I just could not recover from it on my own. I needed help. I hyperventilated, I was terrified, my mind was no longer mine, I had no control. It all was just too much.

I have had panic attacks before. They started last year and would occur out of nowhere, but I had them under control so to stay. I do not have them often and I think I only had three or four of them before this one. I realised that I started to have them once I had a panic attack just before boarding a place; when the flight attendant announced that the flight is ready for boarding, I started to gasp for air and my mind went out of control. But I managed to calm myself down in time and succeeded to board the plane.

But until the episode I had last week, my panic attacks have not lasted for very long time and therefore did not consider them to be much of a trouble so I ignored them and did not talk about the attacks to anyone. Also there was the question of me wanting to feel better, be better and having additional mental health problems to my existing ones would just cripple the whole process of becoming a healthy, stable and independent person. I was ashamed of having this further problem in my life. So many times I had heard that all this is in my head, I should just try to be happy and enjoy life and it all gets better. While I know it was not true, I desperately wanted to believe I could get healthier without the support of others.

But it is time to be honest, Helsinki.
I have always felt this overwhelming guilt for not doing good while in fact I have all the things I need in life: a good job, great friends, amazing family, studying what I enjoy and TV-shows that make me laugh and yet I have this inability to experience satisfaction in life or moreover in myself.

I realised this week, though, I should not feel ashamed of telling you all this, because this is what happened to me and if you judge me for it, then I guess we should not share our lives with each other. However if you believe now that I am less of a person, then I think you have more issues to deal with than I do. But I know you are different from most of the society. I hope the rest will catch up soon.

Now I am doing better. The nurse at the hospital was kind, understanding and took my concerns seriously. She did not downplay my problems and assured me that someone would contact me from hospital the following day, because I myself was too exhausted to get help anymore. The next day I got medicine for the panic attack that I can use if they happen again and also over next few months I will see a doctor who will monitor my progress. I have tried to get help for several years now, but something has always come in the way. I will not let that happen again.

I get better, darling. Not my own but with the support I have from my friends, family, you. I just need to be honest with everyone and most importantly with myself. I have no reason to be ashamed for what I feel nor should I be afraid to ask help when necessary. As long as I remember this, I will be fine.

I look forward to this new chapter of openness in my life.

Yours,
N

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