I cried in front of the English train conductor. Anyone who has ever attempted to express just a mere flutter of emotion in front of an Englishman will know full well that their faces crunch together in a painful grimace and their mouths dry up completely, something can can only be cured by that English breakfast tea that tastes like the dirt you'll find on an abandoned festival lawn after a music festival has ended.
"You can just get on any train and see if you can find a seat," he kept repeating. My train had been cancelled so now all seats were up for grabs. No seat reservations were valid anymore. It was mayhem and chaos and every man for himself at Kings Cross station. None of the brits seemed to care. Keep calm and just pick a bloody seat, mate.
"I need to know for certain that I can get a seat, otherwise I can't," I said and tried to find the right word to use, "function."
"You can probably get a seat," he said.
"I need to be sure that I can get a seat." I said.
A few months before this, I almost cried in front of a baglady in Australia. Isn't that definitely what you call women who work in shops that sell bags? I'd say so.
She tried to sell me a backpack. Which, some would argue, is her job. It is implicit in the word 'baglady', her official title. I explained to her that I needed to find a backpack that had a zipper in the back-bit, somewhere that people standing behind me could not open. Somewhere that I could only reach when I had taken the backpack off. I told her that I knew that this was difficult to find, as I had been looking for months.
She explained to me that they had this red backpack that was very good at being a backpack, it could carry stuff in it and you could wear it on your back and everything. However, it did have a zipper on the front. But apart from that it lived up to all of my demands, apart from of course, the one demand that I had.
I wish people understood social anxiety in the same way as they understand allergies. They understand that if people allergic to nuts have nuts then they go to the special nut-allergy hospital. I assume. I have not researched this article.
I tried to explain to the Australian baglady that I had a psychological allergy to zippers on backpacks. She continued to stuff metaphorical nuts down my throat till it swelled up and I sort-of-snapped and said,
"Look, I really wish I could wear cool backpacks with no zippers. It's just... my head is a bit strange sometimes. So I can't wear backpacks with no zippers. And I can't relax in restaurants if I don't have my back against a wall because I need to know what is behind me at all times. I hide in public bathrooms when I've been in a big crowd of people because it makes me anxious. I have to have the window seat on a plane, on a train and on the bus. Otherwise my breath will get uneasy, my hands will start shaking and... It's not you. It's not the backpack. It's a very cool backpack. But I need to have the zipper against my back, so I know that no one is opening it."
She blinked a few times. The same did the English train conductor after I had explained to him that I could not just take any train, I needed a train with a window seat definitely confirmed.
I wish I would feel about my anxiety how allergic people feel about their allergies. I assume they know it is not their fault. I assume they never feel like a diva or a brat for asking to not get murdered by pasta. I assume they do not feel ashamed, because people understand them - and that they never feel like people are accusing them of making it up.
The English train conductor backed away slowly as he shrugged his shoulders. I missed my train to Scotland. And I am the owner a cool, red backpack that I will never use.
A friend of mine has to walk on the left side of the person he walks next to. Another friend of mine cannot wait for someone in public. She will leave if you are late. A friend of a friend need plants in a room, or she feels uncomfortable. A guy I dated once stayed in his house for a whole year, because he was afraid of going outside.
I need a zipper against my back and I have to sit by the window. No matter how convinced I am that it is out of my control, a diagnosis and nothing to be ashamed of, I cannot imagine being able to look proudly into the eyes of a train conductor or a professional baglady and demand that my needs are met. Because before we all start talking about anxiety and before we all start accepting and understanding it, it will make me feel alone and weird.
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