An Encounter with Anxiety

I don’t really have any fears. I’m not afraid of the really common stuff like spiders, heights or flying. The one thing I know that I am afraid of, though, is my anxiety. It makes me irrationally afraid of the stupidest things. I’ve struggled with this for a few years now, but I still don’t seem to have my head wrapped around it. I never quite know if whether what I’m upset over merits the fear or if I’m just being ridiculous.

My first day out in the city brought with it an encounter which has left me riddled with fear, and I don’t know whether or not it’s valid.

Last Saturday was my first day in Melbourne that I wasn’t jet-lagged or working in the hospital, so I decided to go to the Melbourne Museum. As a museum-regular I’ve worked out a way to get around museums and enjoy it without becoming too exhausted. I borrowed a wheelchair, put my backpack on it and pushed it around for support. All was going well, and so I decided to have a little lunch break. Since I was in the middle of the museum, there weren’t many seats available, and so I just moved my bag over and took a seat in the wheelchair.

Not too soon after that, I was approached by a man. He crouched down beside me, and introduced himself as a managing director of the museum, he then flashed a card at me – literally, flashed, so I couldn’t really read it. He seemed skittish, and I decided that I did not ┬álike the situation at all. He said to me “I’d like to show you around the museum”, I declined and told him that I was okay by myself, but he insisted and just took hold of the wheelchair and began pushing me away.

I had already been anxious since the beginning of the encounter, but this was when I began to panic. Anxiety is one thing, but the feeling of a panic attack is just the worst. When I panic, I feel frozen; like my blood stops running, like my lungs stop breathing and like there is a hand around my throat, stopping the words from coming out of my mouth. The scariest thing about the situation was that he was pushing the wheelchair; he was completely in control of me.

As we headed out of the exhibition, he put his hand on my neck, my back and my shoulder. As if I hadn’t been aware that he was not an actual staff member, this act of complete inappropriateness just sent a shiver through my spine. Heading towards the main lobby of the museum the man stopped to ask for directions from a staff member. I grabbed his hand and began to cry, still unable to actually say anything and ask for help. He did seem concerned, and he bared with me until I was able to say that I didn’t know the man who was pushing me. The staff member asked the man is he knew me, and he had the audacity to lie and say yes. Thankfully, the staff member was totally on the ball and knew that this was a weird situation, and told him to just leave.

I’d ┬ásay it took me a solid three or four hours to calm down from that panic attack – one of the worst ones I’ve ever had. Luckily, the staff members at the museum were so lovely, and kept me company until I felt okay again.

But it has been a while and I still feel so on edge about it, and I just can’t decide whether it is valid or not. In my heart, I want to believe that people have good intentions and that this man was only out to help me, but in my mind I know that this isn’t true at all, and people can be twisted. But that’s the problem: my mind is an anxious thing, I just don’t know if I should trust it.

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