Wow, I haven’t felt that in quite a while…

Acute anxiety, that is. You know: When your chest tightens and your breathing rate gets higher and higher and you have a – possibly senseless – desire to be almost anywhere other than where you are. For no apparent reason.

Used to happen to me all the time, for all sorts of reasons, but the one that was practically guaranteed to get me going was…


It’s Senior Day at the Palace of Food, and we got there just behind EVERYBODY ELSE. And I started struggling not to freak right the hell out. Funny: It’s been so long since I felt that, I had a hard time at first figuring out why I was going off the rails.

Happily my shopping list came to my rescue: I got in (apparently) just after the crowd arrived but out just before they all headed for the 2 or 3 open checkout lanes. I practically strolled through the checkout process, and as I decompressed in the parking lot I began to feel … certain characteristic digestive symptoms … which drove me back inside in time to see what I’d have been going through had I shopped another ten minutes or so.

It’s funny: This sort of thing used to happen to me all the time. Frankly you’d have thought that my habit of isolation would have made it so much worse I couldn’t have functioned at all in a crowd, but in fact this was no worse than what I used to go through all the damned time when I lived in cities.

And it’s completely senseless – I can suffer through the pain of injuries and the fear of death, I can hunt and kill animals that would be only too happy to kill me first. I can freeze and burn with no hope of escape, I can seriously wonder where I’ll next lay my head or where my next meal is coming from – and none of that unmans me as much as not being able to find my way out of a crowd that means me no harm at all.

About Joel

You shouldn't ask these questions of a paranoid recluse, you know.
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14 Responses to Wow, I haven’t felt that in quite a while…

  1. polimath says:

    Yep I get it. Had that feeling last year when I was downtown amongst the high rises and homeless people. Felt all closed in and hypersensitive to people around me. Did not feel better until I got to the west end and could see the sky and some green fields in the distance. Not claustrophobic, (boilermaker and scuba diver) but that day I did not want to be there. Also felt like I need a bath, but that’s a story for another time.

  2. bill says:

    I feel it. Half the time I’m ok but the other half at walmart the wife will look at me and say “what is wrong with you?” She don’t get it.

  3. DaveS says:

    It’s funny, when I drove from western Montana to southwest Michigan I experienced a similar sense of anxiety as the amount of people and traffic steadily increased as I got further east. By the time I hit Minneapolis I was in a full-blown “I gotta get out of this place” phase. Chicago just about wrecked me, but I carried on. I did my familial duty and fled back to the mountains and empty spaces.

  4. Mark Matis says:

    Now bill, you just need to get to Walmart at the right time of day. Before 9 AM generally is reasonable. The freaks do not wake up until after noon.

  5. MN Steel says:

    Happens to me occasionally too. Never happened ti me at gun shows or when I used to go to a hockey game, but Walmart and such was hit-or-miss, especially around the refrigeration and freezer pumps that damn near make me deaf.

    Worst it ever happened was about 10 years ago in Wall Drug on the way to the Badlands. So many sweaty people I damn near passed out, my brother-in-law was wondering why I was almost running to get out of there.

  6. Chris says:

    Can’t stand cities, can’t stand crowds. As far as neighbors, even though I have good ones, they need to be another 1000ft away at a minimum

  7. Malatrope says:

    I understand completely. I don’t have it as bad as you do (that pic isn’t even really a crowd…where I used to have to live that would be called “an empty store”) but, like DaveS I get more anxious the further east I drive. The Mississippi is the great divider. The population density increase after you cross the river is palpable.

    I think the urge to live in piled-up, cramped cities is a human psychological pathology. Those people are the crazy ones, not us.

  8. jabrwok says:

    The picture appears to have a city name on the wall. Is that something you’d rather crop out?

  9. Malatrope says:

    What jabrwok said.

    I wanted to add, how do you feel when trapped in traffic? Do the cars give you the same sense of panicky claustrophobia? They do for me, plus the added buzz of knowing that a line of traffic going 75 mph with two-car-length separations is a deathtrap if anybody fucks up…especially if you are in a middle lane and there’s no path out.

  10. bill says:

    Mark Matis, I worked nights for 90% of my life before retiring so early mornings were indeed much better for me. Since retiring a whole new scary freak show world happened.

  11. Joel says:

    The picture appears to have a city name on the wall.

    Dammit! Fixed, thanks.

    that pic isn’t even really a crowd…where I used to have to live that would be called “an empty store”

    😀 Where I live four people in a room is an unusually large crowd.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Wow, I can seriously relate. I have always avoided crowds. When the big international Monet Exhibit was on, a friend arranged an early morning private showing for me, so I could avoid the crowds — long lines waiting to get in. I had tried the last big exhibit and had to scurry out of the place because of all the “used air.” Western Montana is pretty empty, but the wide open high plains of eastern Montana are wonderful: I can see people coming from far off from my archaeology site. And the small town where my field office is located has less than 200 people, little traffic, no stop lights. Now I am back home on the Divide, and it is pretty peaceful here. For empathic people, we need to avoid crowds. Glad you are in a good place for solitude.

  13. Mike says:

    I can’t say that I blame you, Joel, for feeling the way you do. Crowds tend to take on a life of their own when something out of the ordinary happens. All it take is one person to do something stupid to get the great unwashed mass to stampede.

  14. Spud says:

    Anytime I’m away from my compound and tall fences . Since the big crash that broke most of the bones in my lower back and pelvis and one leg . Been pretty much confined to the homestead. It don’t matter though, cuz it took me a long time just to be able ta walk again.
    Sure glad the governor made it legal to carry here without a permit. One less tax. Just gotta worry bout all the unqualified to even own a gun let alone carry…
    Stay away from crowds , words to live by.

To the stake with the heretic!