google54a21fefcdb79515.html Randomly Kassiopeia: crowded

Sunday, May 3, 2009


The other day, while attending a business banquet, a co-worker made a rather snide comment regarding my choice to not stand in the buffet line (rather a mob of 300 bodies) waiting to get food. I sat at the table, risking cold and scanty scraps, risking appearing snobbish while sitting alone, until this mob dispersed. To put it simply, I don't like crowds. I really don't like crowds.

I've never liked the feeling of being crowded, closed in. It has taken me almost 25 years to learn to cope with this. Crowds, the feeling of tightness, much too closeness, shared air, touching, the growing amount of noise that come with crowds, is, to put it mildly, overwhelming for me.

My earliest memory of the uneasy sensations of being in crowds was in grade school. I was put into a closet size room with several classmates to work on a project. I do not remember how long I was in the that room, but I do remember how it felt. Stuffy, very warm, dirty. I remember my chest feeling tight, not being able to breath. I remember sweating, the dizziness and nauseousness. I remember bursting into tears.

I don't like crowds. I don't like being crowded. For this, I do not go to the movies on opening night of a new show. I don't go to the supermarket the Saturday on a payday week. I avoid Walmart at all costs, but most certainly on that dreaded Black Friday. If I do voluntarily venture out to a crowded event, such as a concert or amusement park, or semi-voluntarily attend large business meetings or seminars, I do tend to velcro myself, within reasonable & legal personal distance, to the closest being with whom I feel secure. This is often my husband or a good friend.

I've been told my "fear" is in my head, to get over it, to just deal with it. I've been given pills, exercises, and words of wisdom. I've had people make jokes at my expense, been excluded, or just looked at in a worrisome way. But it's not in my head. It envelopes my whole body before it ever reaches the voluntary portions of my brain.

I've learned to control myself well enough to know when to escape. There was a time, in a crowded shopping mall during an impressive sales event, that I collapsed. When I regained consciousness, I was so disoriented that I did not know where I was or how I got there. That was 20 years ago. You see, I feel the mind has a volatile urge to protect itself from the unwanted stimulation and sensations that come in too fast for it to process. If you don't stop or slow it down, the brain is just going to shut everything down and quickly.

For me, the warning signs are the fast breathing, the suffocating sensation, the sweat that beads up on the back of my neck and my upper lip, the ringing in my ears, the dizziness that comes just before I crumble into a pile on the ground. Out of courtesy, I've shared that "I don't like crowds" with others. Not because I really need their sympathy or understanding. It is because of what I don't tell them--what I really want to do before the fast breathing , sweat beads and ringing in my ears set in....

It is the skin crawling off my body sensation when someone else's breath touches me or an unknown body mistakenly brushes by, and the internal compulsion to explode into a super-sonic sprint towards the nearest exit, of which my eyes instinctively spots before my mind instructs it so, with the intent of finding the furthest dark and secluded corner, pressing my back into it making my body one with the wall, shielding my chest with my knees, wrapping my arms tightly around them, burying my face as though doing this makes me like an armadillo shielding itself with armor in an attempt at preventing the massive ocean of tears that inevitably arrives.

No, I don't like crowds. And if you don't mind, I'll wait until the buffet line is gone, better yet, I can eat later (because buffets...well, that's a whole 'nother story).

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