Battling Anxiety On The Bus

I used to prefer a two mile walk home to taking the bus

By Kelly

I didn’t ride the bus alone until the end of my sophomore year. It was hard for me to even get on a bus if I wasn’t with a friend. I used to prefer a two mile walk home to taking the bus. Even if I was at a bus stop when the bus came, I always backed out at the last second and couldn’t get on.

When I looked at my friends who had been taking the bus alone since middle school, I felt very insecure about my struggle to get on a bus as a high schooler. Knowing that public transportation was much more practical than walking or getting a ride from my parents every time I needed to go somewhere, I decided I wanted to become more comfortable with taking the bus.

I told one of my friends about my situation and after her shock at my daily walk wore off, she decided to help me that day. We walked to the bus stop together and then bus came. I got on, but she didn’t because she didn’t need to take the bus. I panicked a little because I realized this was my first bus ride alone. Luckily, there were students from my high school on the bus. Unluckily, it was packed. In my anxious state, being around a lot of people made me feel even worse and I fought the urge to get off the bus a mile early and just walk the rest of the way home.

But I didn’t, and when I reached my stop, I didn’t trip down the stairs or fall on an elderly person, so there’s that. Go me. This one successful busride didn’t stop my anxiety with public transportation. It’s just not as bad now.

Maybe you’re thinking how can riding a bus be that big of a deal to a teen? Well, my anxiety amped up how self-conscious I felt. It seemed like I was constantly being judged on the bus. I always felt awkward doing the things everyone naturally had no issues with like taking a seat on a crowded bus, pulling the string to request a stop, and even exiting the bus. Worst case scenarios ran through my mind: What if I don’t get off the bus before the doors close? Nearing my stop, I always frantically looked around to make sure I had a quick way to get off the bus.

It wasn’t just that I felt self-conscious; taking the bus can be unpredictable. You never know who can end up sitting next to you and the idea of that makes me nervous. Most people keep to themselves but the possibility of interacting with a stranger in this setting was an anxious thought on my mind.

One day, I was on the bus and a man sat down next to me talking about sriracha and being 1/8 Native American. In that moment I was thinking, “What is my life right now? Please tell me my stop is next.” Now that I look back on it though I realize: it wasn’t an unpleasant experience; even when the man started making random loud sounds. I may have been slightly uncomfortable but it wasn’t unbearable.

I still sometimes have those days where I get anxious and I’m tempted to get off the bus early or I can’t bring myself to request my stop, but taking the bus is no longer the daunting feat it once was for me.

To learn more about our By Teens-For Teens community, visit our website or contact a teen ambassador.