We travel to the mall a couple times a week (because the grocery store is there) and every time we go I have a panic attack. The throngs of people never fail to bring up feelings of anxiety and paranoia in me, and it gets so bad, I have an episode.
Yesterday was no different: as soon as I pulled in the parking lot and saw how full it was, I knew I was going to have problems. But, I decided not to say anything to my wife about it because I didn’t want to make her upset or ruin her day.
Once inside, I felt the panic rise up right away, so I tried some activities to take my mind off my growing sense of unease. First, I tried deep breathing: in through the nose, out through the mouth. When that didn’t work, I tried to visualize that I was the only one walking in the mall. But I could still hear the voices, both from the mall-walkers and from inside my head.
I had to get money from the ATM, so I stood at the end of the line and waited for my turn. I knew it was a bad idea right away, because standing there in a cramped space with people pushing in all around me upset me right away. I could feel everyone watching me because I was the only huge white foreigner in sight and the Filipino people don’t feel like staring at someone like they were an alien is in any way rude.
After I got my money, I found my wife and we decided to go grab a bite to eat at McDonalds. I didn’t realize it was lunchtime for the schools around the mall, which was stupid of me, because there were an abnormal amount of teenagers in school uniforms pushing their way through the crowds.
McDonalds was packed with kids, but my wife managed to find a table tucked in the corner. I went to order the food and by the time I got back to the table my wife was already upset. Baby Z was being fussy because of the loud and boisterous kids everywhere, and she wanted to be held. I told my wife I would hold the baby while she ate, but as usual she just snapped at me and told me to eat.
I ate as fast as I could because I knew it would not take long before I was in full on panic mode, and I was right. The combination of my wife being upset and sitting cramped in a little corner with screaming teenagers all around sent me over the edge when I was halfway done with my hamburger.
I closed my eyes and tried to imagine I was somewhere peaceful. I wanted to control the feelings welling up inside me because I didn’t want to trouble my wife any more than she already was. She kept telling me to hurry, so I slammed down the rest of my food and we left.
F was in a better mood as soon as we were out of the restaurant and Baby Z was happily playing in the stroller. I was trying my best not to cry because I didn’t want to embarrass my wife.
We still had to buy groceries, so we headed for the store and I did my best to push down all bad feelings as far as they would go.
The grocery store had a lot of people shopping, but it was nowhere near as bad as being outside in the mall. I don’t know if it was because F saw I was having trouble being in crowds or she was feeling closed-in too, because she hurried us through the store to get what we needed.
Once outside of the mall, I immediately felt better but I also felt a strange feeling of accomplishment that I didn’t freak out completely when we were inside. There were a few times I thought I might run screaming from the building, but somehow I controlled it.
It took the rest of the day and a short nap to recover from that experience. When I woke up I felt fairly good, mostly because I didn’t melt down earlier and upset F’s delicate psyche.
I hope she got everything she needed, because I don’t think I can handle another trip to the mall this week.
So that was how my day went, how was yours? Does anyone feel the same when they have to be around groups of people? Leave a comment and let me know.
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