This picture is so pretty – love the downtown landscape and yet I can’t enjoy it fully without fear of the cityscape. In making my way through my week of errands I ended up running downtown for a bit yesterday afternoon. No biggie I thought, I won’t be there that long. I wasn’t – maybe 15 minutes or so. For those 15 minutes while sitting on Clark Street in the “Loop” downtown I gradually built up a nice panic attack. I was casually people watching and at first I found it very interesting, looking at the different styles of dress, work uniforms, small groups of colleagues dashing in and out of cabs together. And then I began to see snippets of my former life as a corporate dweller downtown. I saw young, fashionable, tiny women in heels with coffees walking swiftly into offices. I saw the dark suits of old and young men off to business meetings together. The middle aged, tired looking administrative employees coming outside for a cigarette with their business clothes and sneakers. The well dressed women with long dresses…. wearing flip flops, which caused their dresses to drag on the dirty sidewalk. I saw fresh-faced young go-getters madly dashing back to the office with bags of sandwiches and salads. I saw myself. And I grew more and more anxious until I couldn’t separate my reality of safely sitting with my youngest child in the car waiting on DH to return with some office papers, with what I was watching. I became so upset at the thought of dealing with the overly stressful work environment that had suffocated me for so long that the tears came and I couldn’t catch my breath and I began to hyperventilate. Everything happened so quickly I didn’t even think of my anxiety medication sitting in my purse by my feet and I just began to plummet into a world of scary confusion. Memories from my past came hurling back and I couldn’t grab hold of common sense reasoning. I always feel like I’m caught in a spiraling whirlpool during a panic attack, like I’m falling downwards so quickly that I “lose my stomach”. And then the car door opened and DH came back and we began quickly heading back towards my “safety zone” that is my world-contained-in-a-bubble these days. I burst out into tears and began loudly sobbing and he nearly had an accident trying to figure out if I had suddenly hurt myself or was having an anxiety attack or what. After a few minutes I was able to explain what happened. He says it always seems like I have a form of PTSD regarding my former workplace. Truly, it was not very agreeable with my personality. As we drove along the lakefront and I watched the sailboats bobbing in the harbor I began to breathe a little slower and the lists of responsibilities and obligations of my current situation came back to me and I was able to calm down. To feel safe and secure again.
After I came to my senses I was so embarassed. SO embarassed. I am a modern person. I live in a very urban area, I really have to be able to travel downtown when necessary. Cognitively I know how to move about downtown, emotionally I still am quite jumbled about mixing amongst the masses. I have decided that I need to practice in small doses with my current lifestyle. So, I am going to plan some museum playdates for me and the children and some datenights with DH and see if over time, I can’t re-learn the city and its bustling people. There is so much that living close to a large city offers, I would be disgusted with myself to have to miss out on all of that due to my anxiety disorder. Wish me luck.