anxiety

Seven Minutes by 3.1

Ever since the one under, I’ve never felt so tired, and now that I have all this time off to recover, it doesn't matter how much sleep I get, but I wake up feeling groggy and like I’ve not slept at all. Everybody is telling me that this is all completely normal. Tomorrow morning, I have my first round of counselling, so naturally I’m churning through everything in my brain like a well-played VHS, because I want to be able to say what happened from start to finish all in one hit and then go from there, because I’m guessing that when I sit down the counsellor is going to say something clichéd like, “Tell me what happened,” or, “Start from the beginning,” so I basically just want to go into auto-pilot...

[Sit comfortably in chair. Take a deep breath – say it all in one breath.]

“On Wednesday 5th October 2016, a woman jumped in front of my train at Wembley Park. The train comes to a stop approximately halfway down the platform. The time is 15:07 – I had been on duty for all of 18 minutes and I had been on the train for all of 7 minutes.”

[Breathe.]

Seven whole fucking minutes. For fuck’s sake, I mean really – I sat down last night and said to myself that if I tell it that way, they’re going to think I’m being evasive or not wanting to open up or explore emotions, when really I want to put my first through a wall because I’m so angry. So last night, I sat down on the sofa after S had gone to bed and decided that I was going to write a report about what happened. I wrote this report in one sitting to the tune of around 17,000 words, finishing at around 2am this morning. It has every single possible detail that I can remember, from the sound of my keys jingling in my pocket, to the haunting look a bus driver gave me when he was walking up the stairs at Wembley Park during the emergency detrainment, along with conversations that I had to have and things that had been said whilst I was in the room.

I was thinking about whether or not to change everyone's names and publish my report here, but I figured that most people don't really want to hear about how a British Transport Police officer had to drag me into the Waiting Room on the platform because I was in such a state of distress, never mind the other things. It's just over 17,000 words of fine detail about a 45-minute period of time that cannot and will not change, no matter how or where I write it. Funnily enough, the Trainman’s Report that I emailed to my manager the morning after the incident was only 457 words long – one side of A4 – and that’s a relatively short report from me. He didn’t ask me for one, but I insisted that I send him one anyway (in fact, I was quite insistent, and I said, “I may as well – because when I got home I thought you might ask for a memo anyway, and so I wrote it all down when I got home whilst it was still fresh in my mind.”). When my close friends have asked me to tell them what happened, I generally offer the Trainman’s Report version, as 457 words means that it is a version offered without embellishment, any real detail or emotion; because you see, when I tell the story that way, I don’t really feel anything, but it seems to generate more of a shock-horror reaction from them if I offer them that version than if I were to offer them the 17,000 words.

Anyway, I’m keeping myself open-minded about the whole counselling thing, but I find I'm having to remind myself that the person I will be speaking to will not have all the answers, especially to questions like:

  1. What was The Lady’s name?
  2. How old was The Lady?
  3. Where is The Lady from?
  4. Does The Lady have any family?
  5. Why did she hesitate?

And the big question (that comes in two parts):

Was The Lady’s actions a result of:

a. long-term mental health issues?
b. short-term/recent circumstances?

What a head-fuck. I mean, really. Why would I want to know these things? Well, it’s strange you ask me that, because for whatever reason, I feel that I can't move on without knowing more. Because my Trainman’s Report version of events feels so unfinished – it’s like I need an epilogue that says something along the lines of:

The person involved in the incident was called Mary Maybe, a retired teacher from Surrey. She is 54. She has no children. THE END.

It feels better having that little bit at the end. I don’t like that I don’t know her name. I don’t like that I don’t know anything about her. The Lady has involved me in her decision to take action, knowing full well that when she made eye contact with me at that precise moment in time I was the driver of the train, yet I don’t know a single thing about her. It doesn’t make any sense to me.

After I had written my 17,000-word report last night, I went to bed. I dreamed for the first time in ages. This is a big thing for me, because ever since the incident, I have not been able to have any dreams, and I always find that I wake up feeling very rested after having a dream because my dreams are always so vivid – I used to dream almost every day, so it felt good to wake up this morning, even though I had only been asleep for around 6 hours. I normally remember most of my dreams, and though I can't remember the one I had this morning, it doesn't really matter.

Lots of people have reached out to me since that day. I wrote a letter to say thank you to everyone, even though I haven't been able to respond to every single message. It has been really helpful to hear from members of the #RailwayFamily who have had similar incidents before, because it has helped me put some of the feelings and thoughts into context, as well as the behavioural and cognitive disturbances (because at the moment, I don’t actually realise that I’m getting aggressive or frustrated with someone or something – it comes on quite quickly, and my GP says it's just as a result of being irritable/tired, and a typical post-traumatic response).

As I said in my letter:

Everyone is telling me to take my time, but it’s really hard when time doesn’t feel consistent.

That still rings true, but perhaps tomorrow I can start putting some of the clocks right. 

Afternoon tea and overcast by 3.1

Afternoon tea sitting at The Delaunay

Afternoon tea sitting at The Delaunay

After a really intense week both in and out of work, it was a slight relief when my best friend from school got in touch to see if I was free for a catchup. What with her being a doctor and me on the railway, it's often hard to synchronise schedules, but after what seemed like forever (possibly over a year) we finally managed it and she booked us a table down at The Delaunay for an afternoon tea sitting.

My internal organs are regretting this decision. The problem with afternoon tea is that it ought to come with a health warning, especially if your'e going to have it at some fancy European-style café. The quantity is vast, and the food is quite rich, never mind the fact that after a short period of time you would've knocked back gallons of tea. You probably shouldn't visit a street food market and down a pint of cider beforehand either (this is mostly the fault of S – who then attempts to abandon me outside Temple Station having done the gastric damage).

This is essentially what happened to me yesterday, but I tried to offset everything by walking around for nearly two hours afterwards, before walking up to Aldwych from Waterloo. Fast-forward about two hours after the table was booked for 3:15pm and I find myself unable to extract myself from the table booth in the restaurant. I blame my friend mercilessly – "You're supposed to be a doctor!" I choke. She's smaller than me and I watch her attempt to force down the last of a scone, but she eventually admits defeat and puts the fork down. I tell her that I worry about visceral fat and heart disease, and she ponders about the carbohydrates and saturates we have just consumed, before delightfully telling me about what a fatty liver looks like on a MRI scan, followed with, "If I can't see it, I don't worry about it."

Me struggling to look like I'm not worrying about the visceral fat...

Me struggling to look like I'm not worrying about the visceral fat...

The food at The Delaunay was good, albeit different to the more traditional English afternoon teas I have sampled over the years. I find myself nervously flattening the creases out of my dress from time to time during the sitting, because the setting of the place appears very formal, yet the clientele is a mix of theatregoers, tourists, and one or two celebrities. I feel self-conscious because I'm paranoid people are looking at us and wondering how we can afford to be sat here (because we both look quite young still), but the conversation is good and we had a lot to catch up on. I nearly have a stroke when she suggests we have some sort of reunion with other people from school that she is still meeting up with, and I have to explain to her about my anxiety and that if there was some sort of reunion I'd probably have a panic attack...

Eventually, the bill is settled and I am finally able to extract myself from the table booth without disturbing the gastric equilibrium too much. I then remember I've an item left with the cloakroom and as the attendant goes to collect it for me, I notice there is a small recess on the half-door where people have left £1 coins, and I drop my rucksack whilst looking for my purse in order to try and find some change before the cloakroom attendant returns and I have an anxiety attack. Thankfully, all I have is £1 coins, so I save myself the embarrassment of handing over shrapnel like some kind of serf, and my friend returns from the washroom just in time to save me from myself.

It's only when I get outside onto Drury Lane (I decide to prolong the social activity by going to Covent Garden for a bit of browsing and shopping) that I realise I'm all zipped up in a coat, scarf and wellies; I feel cold and uncomfortable. The overcast dictates the mood, and I soon become very aware that very soon things will change and this will be me for the next 6-8 months – a fumbling, clumsy ball of anxiousness. Heading into the heaving crowds of Covent Garden sends my senses into overdrive and in my mind I just want to go home, but at the same time I'm really enjoying the company of my friend that I sort of grin and bear it as we weave through the markets and shops.

On the plus side, I was able to pick up a letterpress print by Russell Frost of Hooksmith Press from the London Transport Museum's shop:

I start to notice it get darker and the crowds in Covent Garden aren't letting up, so when we get out into a less crowded spot by the Royal Opera House I ask my friend what way she's planning to get home (she lives in Stratford) and she replies that she's going to walk to Holborn and get the Central line from there. Technically, I could also go to Holborn and I'd have a choice of two trains to get home, but I notice that choice would take me straight back into the heaving crowds and I just can't do it. So we say goodbye there and I walk back towards Wellington Street to go back to Waterloo.

I spend a while on Waterloo Bridge to calm myself. Fond memories of S wanting to drive through the Strand Underpass as I watch the vehicles and cyclists zoom along the bridge. I can't escape the gloom though.