(This is the fifteenth post in a series called “Anxiety Society,” in which I interview everyday anxiety suffers from all walks of life about their struggles, their triumphs, their coping methods, and more. I believe that the more we openly talk about our mental health, the less of a “thing” it becomes. Conversation can reduce stigma, and my interviewees want to be a part of that.)
She’s been hospitalized six times for mental health emergencies.
She’s a twenty-something NYC-dweller who enjoys jogging in her spare time.
She’s got three diagnoses: borderline personality disorder, bipolar II, and panic disorder with agoraphobia.
She’s also got three lovable dogs.
The one thing that’s clear from the first two parts of City Panicked‘s interview is this: it is not easy to manage a double life. In her outer life, City plays the role of a working professional who commutes, drinks coffee at her desk, and excels at what she does.
But in her hidden latent life, things aren’t nearly as easy: the subway makes her panic, the panic makes her upset, and the “upset” becomes something to obscure from others.
To ease the tension between both lives, she started an anonymous blog.
Summer: Tell me about your blog. Why did you start writing it?
City: I started the blog because I needed an outlet. Honestly, even my closest friends when I start REALLY talking about what goes on in my head, they get uncomfortable. I needed a place where I could share these thoughts that crowd my head and I also hoped that maybe someone else who was feeling the same thing would see it and not feel so alone.
S: How “out” are you with those close friends? Do the major players in your non-anonymous real life know about your struggles?
C: Well, I have two close female friends who know pretty much everything…af
S: What made you decide to share your diagnoses with some, but not others?
C: While I really do wish I could be more open about them a) it could and has put my professional career in jeopardy and b) some days I just want to be “normal.” Being the crazy girl gets exhausting. People look and treat you differently. Either they disappear or you get handled with kid gloves.
S: Is it just those two friends and your boyfriend who know about what you’re dealing with?
C: I have some other friends who know about the anxiety and depression but in a city where it seems like everyone is medicated and seeing a shrink, it is easy to pass off as no big deal.
S: Do you think living in a big city has had any particular impact on your mental state?
C: Oh god yes. Living in NYC has definitely taken a toll on my mental health. It is easy to get overwhelmed and withdraw completely. Add in the ability to order ANYTHING online and have it delivered in a couple of hours and it is the perfect breeding ground for agoraphobia. There are just so many people and so little room and everything seems dirty. I shudder just thinking about it.
S: I almost passed out on an NYC subway during a panic attack. It was horrible and I haven’t gone back since. How do you manage to get to and from your job on the subway? I mean, I know you mentioned the books and the sunglasses, but…how do you manage it mentally? Do you manage it mentally?
C: It has gotten a bit better in that I can now take the subway alone. For a while I couldn’t do that. I also was forced to learn how to handle transfers and commutes longer than 15 minutes when I moved out of Manhattan to Queens. But I don’t want to have to do that anymore. I don’t like 2 hours of my day, which is how long I spend commuting, to be that miserable anymore.
S: And do you ever envision a day when you move elsewhere?
C: I would love to move out of New York City and ideally end up on the West Coast. Let things around me slow down a bit and see if that doesn’t help me and my mental health.
S: I hope it does.
C: Thanks…me too!
(Note: due to a severe episode of anxiety and panic that lasted for three days, City just missed out on what would have been a fun and relaxing weekend at her parents’ house. I am sure she would welcome empathy and/or encouragement on Twitter.)
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Last reviewed: 12 Aug 2012