Trigger Warning: Mental Health / Anxiety / Panic
Waiting rooms are some of the most stressful places on earth for anxious people. The more modern and automatized they become, the worst it gets. You’d think it would be the other way around – not having to talk to other people would be less anxiety-inducing. But that’s only the case if every automated thing goes smoothly, and that rarely happens. If there is a delay, if the clock is stretching beyond the predicted and expected timeline and the automatic panel doesn’t automatically shout the number automatically printed on your automatically issued ticket, anxiety arises.
Is the doctor running late? Did she lose track of time in a consult, or get lost on the highway and ended up drifting down a cliff? Did I get the wrong time or day or month? Or maybe I am on the wrong floor, perhaps I should have gone up to floor number 3 even though the paper the machine spit out says floor number 4? Maybe they canceled the appointment and I missed it. So I check my email, one, two, three times, the inbox, and the junk and spam folders, just in case. Maybe they texted it to me but the text never came through. They could have sent it in those 23 seconds it took me to go through a tunnel and the message got lost in the place where messages go to get lost.
When it’s an hour after the appointment scheduled time I start to worry I got the wrong hospital altogether, 10 more minutes and I’ll start questioning if I’m even in the right city or country or planet at all. By this point, my upper lip starts to get sweaty and my throat is dry. My hands start shaking and my vision is blurry and my glasses are foggy. I take out my earbuds to check whether I’m breathing too loud externally or if it’s only inside my head. I feel the hyperventilation striving to break through my lungs, the anxiety gathering in bumbles of panic that just need to find a way out of me.
I am suddenly too exhausted to keep overthinking.
And yet, somehow, overthinking is all I can do.
Eventually, I accept my fate. I accept that I am in the wrong universe and there was never any appointment at all and I’ll just turn to dust while sitting in this chair.
Perhaps by now, you’re wondering why I’ve spent a whole hour panicking and writing this and pushing myself in and out of an anxiety attack instead of just asking a real non-automated person for help. I don’t wonder anymore. Anxiety is a gloomy monster that I’ve become too accustomed to, and very little amount of reassuring can turn a situation like this one around. But worry not, I go to therapy. That’s precisely where I was when this episode and related attacked took place. And I have my coping mechanisms, and most days are okay and good and I’m happy with a metaphorical sun shining inside my brain. But anxiety doesn’t ever fully go away. Writing myself out of an attack is one of my favorite strategies, and this time I decided to share my experience. I am aware that this is an ever-present feeling in the lives of many people, and I don’t expect my experience will change or remotely affect anyone else’s. However, putting this out there helps, because now it’s not just inside my head, it is a shared experience.