Sitting on trains and hiding from limbo.

Why do train rides now scare the hell out of me?


June 5, 2016


I am on a train. I used to love trains. I found trains the perfect place to relax. You are on the train, and there is nothing else you should be doing. The only thing you are supposed to be doing is getting to your destination, and the train is doing all the legwork. Anything you do on the train — reading, writing, staring out the window, napping — is completely guilt free. Nothing else to do and nothing else to be doing. It is a limbo of pressure-less freedom.

Well, I am sat on a train now, and I hate it. Trains scare the shit out of me now. It is something to do with that limbo. Where it used to relax me, now it puts me on edge. All I can ever think about is getting off he train. I count down the minutes until it’s over. I’m not afraid of crashing or of confined spaces or of anything rational. It is an abstract fear of an abstract limbo.

I know exactly when this change happened, but I have no idea why.

It was December 8, 2013. I had been on a four day drink and drugs binge. It was a Sunday and I had been working in a restaurant from 10 till 5. I had had just a couple of hours sleep and I was shattered. When I got home I was in the kitchen with my housemates when I had a weird dizzy spell. It was like coming up after a oversized bomb of MDMA, but not enjoyable. I ignored it and went up to my room to sit back and watch some TV on my laptop before getting an early night. At about 10 o’clock that dizziness came on again. Except this time the room was spinning, I had tunnel vision, my limbs were going numb, I was sweating all over and my heart was pounding. Pounding like fuck. And burning.

I WAS HAVING A FUCKING HEART ATTACK! I stumbled into my housemate’s room and he called 999.

It turned out that I didn’t have a heart attack. I had a panic attack.

I had never experienced anxiety before that night. Since that night I have experienced it every single day. I used to be very calm and rational in potentially frightening situations (this bungee has held hundreds of people today, thousands of people this week, why shouldn’t I jump off this bridge and let it spring me back up; this mugger doesn’t want to kill me, he isn’t going to use that knife, just take you SIM out, hand him your cheap, shitty phone, and walk away). Now I am scared of just being on a train. The rational thoughts are still there (being on this train is no different to being off it. There is no more reason to be anxious on a train than in your bed. Nothing can happen to you. Just relax), but the irrational abstract anxiety begging me to get off the train is much louder.

My anxiety is manageable most of the time now. Only very rarely does it get out of control. Yet I have never worked out why it all changed that night three and a half years ago. The relaxation of limbo has no pressures. No social pressure or pressure to be moving forward (figuratively). You are just sat there with yourself and none of the distractions that the daily routine of life brings with it. When I am in that limbo on a train, how come all I can think about is escape? For me, this is the essence of it all. If I could explain this I could explain everything.

“The next station will be Swindon.”

Well, that’s me. Another train ride where I successfully avoided looking into the eyes of limbo by focusing all my attention on another task (this blog). Time to get off the train. Thank god. Until next time limbo. Hopefully one day, in the not too distant future, we can look into each others eyes again and love each other like we used to.

Originally posted here.