So, one of the things that I was really looking forward to when I moved was being closer to London. I like the city a lot – there’s always something going on, and there are so many cool little places to discover. However, I’ve also learned that if I’m not in a good headspace, London is not a good place to be.
So a couple of weeks ago I went to London with my fiancee because we wanted to do some shopping, as well as visit some of the department stores such as Liberty. (Quick aside: if you’re ever visiting London I would definitely recommend department stores such as Liberty, Harrods and Fortnum & Mason.) I’d had a pretty busy day the day before, and early in our day out I started getting quite anxious and worried. We’d scheduled in a couple of stops throughout our day so that I could just take a moment and distance myself from the noise and the crowds, but I was finding that even these stops were making my anxiety worse, because I thought that people were looking at me trying not to panic.
I was also in quite a lot of pain. I’m going to talk more in-depth about my diagnosis of fibromyalgia in an upcoming post, but I definitely feel that my anxiety is exacerbated when I’m in pain. I think this makes quite a lot of sense, as all I wanted was to find a little quiet spot to just curl up and hide, and the pain was stopping me from being able to walk fast (at eventually, at all) to find somewhere where I could do this. I’ve also never felt so physically out of control, which was definitely making my panic worse. My mental health was putting me in quite a vulnerable position, and not being able to physically get away from it, or anyone who might have wanted to steal from me, for example, was a very worrying thought.
This all led to the perfect storm of me panicking, being unable to walk because of the pain, and physically collapsing and bursting into tears on Oxford Street. (For non-UK readers, this is the busiest street in London.) I felt so raw and helpless in a way that I’ve never really felt before. I couldn’t move, and I couldn’t speak. Thank God my fiancee was with me. I don’t actually remember much of what happened, but we were able to find a bench where I could sit and just cry it out. We then got a bus back to our train station instead of taking the Tube, which I think was a great decision. The bus was a lot less crowded, and there was a bus stop very close to where we were, so I didn’t have to walk far. From there, we went home.
So, I’ve got a couple of ideas of how to try to ensure that this doesn’t happen again. Firstly, I’m going to get some noise-cancelling headphones. I’m not sure whether I can afford a proper set of noise-cancelling headphones, but I think that headphones that completely cover my ears will help, even if I’m not necessarily listening to music. It will hopefully give me an auditory distance from the rest of the world. I’m quite sensitive to noise, so hopefully this will make a difference.
I think as well that being more flexible with plans might help as well. When I realised that I was feeling quite anxious, I should have discussed it with my fiancee and decided to either go somewhere less crowded, or at least somewhere where there was more seating so I didn’t collapse. I’m very thankful that it was easy to get home, but it makes me feel very anxious to think that it could have easily been even more of a nightmare situation.
Finally, and I’ll touch on this more in my upcoming post about the ways that physical health can affect mental health, I need to learn to be more in touch with how my body is feeling, not just my mind. This goes from the simple things, such as always keeping painkillers in my bag, to more forward-thinking things, such as doing stretches before I go for a day out. If you have any recommendations for how to help chronic pain conditions such as fibro, or just any general advice for what you do when you’re feeling physically crappy, please let me know.