I am a claustrophobic who has spent well over five years, if not more, avoiding the tube to avoid panic attacks. I welcome the news that Transport for London has brought out a new Tube Map showing us where tunnels are, though most of it will be away from Central London.
The only way I have managed to get on the tube recently is by heavy anxiety medication which help prevents the palpitations and hyperventilating. They are not completely perfect, but they help and I recommend them. I use a combination of anxiety and high blood pressure tablets. I have also been to a hypnotherapist, an expert ironically, in childbirth hypnotherapy, in Tunbridge Wells and learned breathing and trance techniques (yes, learned some hippie’ techniques. I also make sure I have someone with me I know who knows my condition and I try to take something to distract me, like a book, magazine or even knitting, which is better. However, there is still a risk of me getting one, in front of all these strangers. I try to keep my journeys very short and avoid crowded carriages at all costs.
If there is a choice, I would still go by the bus, cycle or walk. Even with medication, I have to get off after a few stops, if not, the next one before. If there are five stops, I could actually get off twice and then take the bus. It does generally get worse the longer I am using the tube network, particularly if there are a lot of people around, who seem to be ‘ok. I would say that dark tunnels definitely make things worse for me so knowing there where the tunnels are would help. It has been a pain for friends who aren’t claustrophobic.
The new map shows me where the tunnels are. It is a step in the right direction, but I think what will also help, is having less crowding on the tube, training people to have Mental Health First Aid, even having a carriage just for those with mental health anxiety issues, as it can be difficult having a panic attack in front of lots of ‘normal people’, where we can be very vulnerable in our situation as people do not understand or know what to do, but, the best thing is for me, is to be able to get off when I want to, rather than be fined for setting off the emergency alarm. When I have a panic attack, I don’t find that anyone helps me either. I feel an ‘idiot’ even though panic attacks can affect anyone, even geniuses. The bus is my favourite though, so if I can use the bus, and I am not in a hurry I will.
The sheer lack of control is ‘my big thing’ and I feel that I have more ‘control on a bus’. I would add that the priority seats on the tube are also helpful, as sitting down relieves anxiety.
However, if there will be loads more people on the tube train, that will mean that it’ll be more crowded for us claustrophobics! However, the bus is much cheaper than the tube, so it still will be my first choice for short journeys.
Link to Map: Tube Map showing where the Tunnels are https://tfl.gov.uk/maps/track/tube