I needed a new pair of boots and it was my first day off from my new job so I’d planned a day of perusing the shops on Regent Street and Oxford Street. This was to be my first time properly shopping in London with money in my pocket and I’d been eagerly anticipating visiting the likes of Liberty ever since we moved to London a couple of months previously.
Like most girls, I thoroughly enjoy shopping and especially adore department stores; I love having a mooch around and discovering new things and new brands.
But when Thursday came, instead of waking up full of joy and excitement at my impending shopping spree, I woke up with a paralysing anxiety and feelings of apathy. I felt numb and hopeless and without any inclination to do anything.
My boyfriend Tom left for work and said “see you later” as we’d arranged to meet for lunch, and a fear came over me; I was going to have to face the day as we’d made plans and I didn’t want to let him down.
It sounds ridiculous, but sometimes getting out of bed is the hardest thing in the world. I used to hear people say this and think they were being ridiculous, but now it’s a familiar occurrence in my life. There’s a certain safety to be found in bed; whilst you’re in there nothing can really get to you, you don’t really have to think and you’re in control. Leaving that place is hard, especially when you’re anxious about something or feeling detached from the world.
But I did it. As much as my head was telling me “stay here, you don’t have to do anything today, why put yourself through it?”. I got out of bed, showered, dressed and got on a bus, determined not to let my head beat me, but equally feeling like I had a huge mountain to climb.
Having not lived in London very long, I’m still coming to terms with commuting and the amount of time it takes to get anywhere (especially when you live in East Dulwich). An hour on the overground and tube is the norm now and usually it’s fine; I put my earphones in or open a book and the time soon whiles away, but sometimes every minute spent almost sitting on someone’s lap or stuck under someone’s armpit feels like an eternity. I find myself wanting to flee, I can’t sit still, I get palpitations and thoughts of fainting or collapsing come over me and for those few minutes it’s the worst feeling in the world and I vow to never do it again…..until the next day of course!
I arrived at Piccadilly Circus, the brisk air most welcome and I tried to fill my head with positive thoughts. I reasoned with myself and told myself that I didn’t have to stay out all day, I could do a few bits and pieces, meet Tom then head home and have an afternoon with Netflix. No pressure whatsoever.
Like a magpie I was quickly drawn to Topshop and decided to start there, in I went. Where to start? I thought to myself. Oh, maybe I could have a look at handbags, I need a new handbag. But I’m supposed to be buying boots. Oh look some jeans. Damn none in my size. I’m probably too fat to wear them anyway. Oooh that grey marl sweatshirt is just what I’ve been looking for. But maybe I should hang on, have a look in other shops? And so on. My head quickly became a mine-field and I left.
Let’s try Liberty I thought, that will cheer me up. I’ve seen so many Instagram pictures of the sumptuous surroundings with the beautiful flowers outside and the famous fabrics, it was bound to perk me up. But of course, the same thing happened. I found myself darting from one department to the next not really looking at anything. And then I started looking at the girls who worked behind the beauty counters and on the shop floor and feelings of self-loathing started to encapsulate me. I glanced at myself in one of the mirrors and hated what I saw and decided that all the make-up and beauty products in the world wouldn’t make me look any better as I’m a fat and ugly mess. So once again, I left.
I popped into another couple of shops and just bought things without trying them on and without even really liking them just to feel like I had achieved something. I stood in a queue behind a couple of people and again I felt the need to flee. I felt people were looking at me thinking I’m fat, thinking that I shouldn’t be wearing a leather jacket and that I looked ridiculous in my hat. I wanted to be home with the door locked, in my safe place.
I met Tom for lunch and making conversation was almost too much for me. I felt detached and I knew I was being remote but I felt exhausted and distant. He knew what was going on, he’s seen it enough times to know what the starey-eyes mean. He gave me a reassuring hug and a kiss and told me to go home and in that moment I felt a wave of relief come over me – I didn’t let him down, I got out of bed, I did what I said I would. It might not have been the perfect fun day I had imagined it was going to be but I still did it.
And that’s where I struggle sometimes; doing things because I feel I should, not because I feel like I want to but because I feel I must. 9 times out of 10 when I do this, I feel dreadful and it sets me back for days, but the fear of letting someone down always seems to override the need to be kind to myself.
2 responses to “At Liberty to say…..”
So many relatable moments in this passage. I understand the glazed over eyes and so does my husband, the fear of ‘what could happen’ when you are surrounded by the public in tight and confined spaces or surrounded by the public in not so tight and confined spaces. I appreciate your words and look forward to hearing more of your ventures, good or bad, because in one way or another… they help.
Oh Michelle, what a brave person you truly aware and so very awe inspiring! To do what you’ve done and achieved so far and certainly not in any way easily due to the inner fight you have daily is amazing. I’ve had a bad year and mental health problems I never thought I would have and I recognise those feelings you mention so well but I’m not yet brave enough to admit it to many people outside my very close circle and if I did I know most would actually say to me ‘you don’t look depressed’! I look forward to hearing your journey and hope it will inspire me to ‘come out’ about my anxiety and depression at some point when I feel stronger. x