Adventures of an Agoraphobic: liveblogging from a train

Usually when I write an Adventures of an Agoraphobic post, it’s about travel. This one is still travel themed, but is also a little bit different.

Many people have different ways to cope with their mental health. My Mum was telling me about two people with anxiety that she works with – one of them avoids calling people on the phone at all costs, and the other copes by planning his day down to a tee so he always knows what he’s got to expect. I don’t know what my coping mechanisms are. Probably going everywhere with someone I can trust, or staying in close contact over the phone. Today is different. Today I’m doing a long distance train journey on my own for the first time in two years. No-one to sit with me and no-one to talk to on the phone (well, depending on how good my signal is).

I am an awful daughter, and don’t visit my Dad as much as I should. Not because I don’t want to, but because I’m scared of the journey. I’ve done it a thousand times on my own, but since I started to have problems with my mental health, it’s been near impossible. I’d always wait until Kris could come along with me too. But Kris is at Reading Festival this weekend, so here I am on the train by myself. I’m trying a new coping mechanism – live blogging my journey. So here you go – adventures of an agoraphobic, on a train from Manchester to Durham on Friday the 26th August 2016…

5pm – today has actually gone quite quickly, and I’ve managed to stay calm. I’m surprised and relieved. My anxiety was bad enough that it affected my productivity (still managed to get things done, just about) but not bad enough that I was noticeably anxious. I’ve barely eaten though, which is a pain. When I’m stressed I can’t swallow. I just chew and chew and just end up making myself feel sick. So I had a chicken sandwich in a cheese topped barm for lunch and basically just pulled the cheese off and some of the bread and ate that. I’m a child.

5.52pm – procrastinated as much as possible but ended up at the station 20 minutes early. Train is one minute late so obviously my brain thinks it’s a disaster. Been stood here for 20 minutes and that’s more than enough for me!

5.58pm – all settled in my seat. Laptop out, ready to type. It’s okay in here, if a little warm. There’s a guy in first class (yeah, I splashed out on first class because I thought it’d be quieter and therefore less stressful) who is so pissed because the air con isn’t on and first class has run out of free water. I have a 1l bottle next to me so am low key smug.

6.15pm – why do they have curtains on trains? They look like they’d be a nightmare to close and trains don’t even run at night time so why? Is it so you can shield your eyes from the non-first class plebs on the platform?

6.38pm – I’ve been quite calm so far, not noticeably anxious. It’s bubbling away under the surface, but I’m working hard to try and ignore it. Watched an episode of Parks and Recreation and now I’m trying Bob’s Burgers.

6.52pm – angry air con/bottled water guy keeps getting up and moving seats and it’s stressing me out. Just sit still!

7.02pm – first class on here is okay but the drinks/snacks are lacking. On Megabus Gold you get a guy called Dave in a high-vis vest handing out cake and iron bru. On here there’s hot drinks (no water, much to the distain of the grumpy guy) and biscuits. The oat and raisin biscuits are pretty nice, but they don’t compare to Dave’s offering.

7.05pm – Kris tried to ring but has bad reception so it’s a bloody good thing my anxiety hasn’t flared up too much. No teary phone calls for me.

7.07pm – at York and I just want to get off. When I was leaving Manchester I saw the trains back to mine and back to Kris’ and couldn’t help feeling a longing to get on one of them. I rarely get anxious on my ‘usual’ trains.

7.13pm – the first class trolley got replenished at York so grumpy guy finally has some water. I meanwhile, dropped my phone on the floor and pulled my shoulder trying to pick it up from under the table. Smooth.

7.31pm – I owe most of my calm demeanour this evening to playing Candy Crush Soda on my phone. Also, annoying grumpy guy is sat with his bare feet resting on the seat opposite him. Ew.

7.33pm – there’s a dog getting on the train but not in my carriage and I’m sad. I love it when dogs get on the train.

7.45pm – this is turning into a very boring live blog. I do apologise

7.56pm – time to pack up my laptop and end this post. I suppose I was just so filled with dread before this journey that I didn’t anticipate how far I’ve come. A year ago I couldn’t manage 10 minutes alone on a train without crying. Today I got the train to work on my own, then did just over 2 hours to get to Durham (in fact, I was more anxious on my usual train this morning). Today has been successful, Monday working was a disaster - I felt unwell, I got stuck in the loo, and it got so busy I started to have a panic attack. I managed to burn off the excess adrenaline walking to work, but felt naff for the rest of the day.

Maybe writing does help me? If I just watch something I still get quite restless; I need to engage my brain without stressing it out any more. But now it’s time to get off this train and get home where takeaway awaits. I’m pretty damn chuffed with myself right now (although just wait until I have to get the train to Birmingham and back next month for work, that worries me even more). It doesn’t feel like I’ve beaten my anxiety yet, but I’m definitely getting there!

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