Thursday, 30 May 2013

Anxiety - maybe it's because I'm a Londoner?

I’m part of an anxiety recovery group on Facebook, and one of the most recent posts on there was to discuss where we lived and our careers – perhaps in some attempt to link them to our heightened feelings of anxiety.

Interestingly, the types of careers we all had were entirely different.  From occupational therapists, to teachers, accountants, project managers and students, everyone’s stories and their careers varied so much. Just goes to show that anxiety is a disorder that doesn’t discriminate, that can attack those of all ages working in a variety of different occupations.

I was asked to write a post about my thoughts regarding living in London and linking it with anxiety, and whether I feel living in London heightens my anxiety, what things about London aids my anxiety and what doesn’t.

Just as a bit of background information for you all, I have lived in London my whole life. I was born in Leytonstone, and have lived in a small town on the outskirts of Essex and East London called Chingford for the last 21 years of my life. Chingford has strong connections with the centre of London, our train service takes you straight to Liverpool Street and our buses take you to Walthamstow Central (tube stations) and Stratford City (where the Olympics took place).

Living in Chingford is oddly quite comforting as at times, it doesn’t feel like London. For example, this is a part of Chingford - does it look like London to you? Probably not.



I guess weirdly this is what I love about my town, it feels like London in some respects but has the feeling of a community as if we lived somewhere more obscure.
Of course however, to do many things I want to do, for example go to University and go to work, I have to travel, more often than not into the centre of London itself, and that is where my anxiety really hits it's peak.

Unfortunately, East London is not exactly well known for its low crime rates. For example, in Waltham Forest where I am from there were a total of 24,191 crimes from the period of April 2012 - April 2013. Of course, it's not as high as other areas of London for sure, but is certainly higher than places such as Kingston-Upon-Thames, my original University choice, for example.
More often than not, the London news hounds its viewers with the latest stabbing, the latest person to be fatally wounded in a gun attack, the latest person to be killed through gang crime. And it frightens me. My anxiety is triggered by feelings of danger, feelings that I will be unsafe. I don't trust people. I go on buses keeping a watchful eye on every passenger. On trains I become concerned that the man sitting halfway down the carriage is staring at me and has got it in for me. Would I feel this way without the continuous negative news coverage surrounding London, especially East London? I don't know.

Of course, in recent years huge events have occured in London to allow my anxiety to rise. Watching my own city bombed in the 7/7 attacks made me never want to go onto a tube train or go near a bus again. More recently the tragic Woolwich murder of Lee Rigby drove me to the brink of insanity, fearing and fearing who else was out there to commit the same kinds of attacks. The London riots back in 2011 is another prime example, some of which happened not too far from my town in fact. Of course, unfortunately you get criminals everywhere - but hearing about the crimes in London more often than anywhere else makes me feel fear of everything and everyone.

London is a busy city, and I guess I only have to adapt to that, but it's hard. Buses and tubes are busy, shops are manic, and people are often so busy rushing to get to their 9-5 offices that they barge past you without a care in the world. I often experience claustrophobia on tubes and severe anxiety on packed buses with nothing but loudened voices, screaming children, people on their phones shouting, and vice versa. 

On the other hand however, London is my capital city. It's also an incredibly beautiful city which more recently I have felt blessed to have the opportunity to live in. I get to experience the delights of gorgeous market places, Buckingham Palace, the River Thames, Piccadilly Circus, whenever I like. I remember being a 14/15 year old and going to gigs, then venturing to Hyde Park until midnight gazing at the stars with my friends. There's culture, music, diversity, all of which appeals to me, and that's what I love about living here. There are places in London which I have never had the opportunity to experience and would love to, and knowing as a whole how wonderful my city is does ease that terror. The Olympics, held not too far from my town at all (just a bus journey away), I think really brought not just London together as a community, but now that's over are we just back to the hustle and bustle and continuity of every day life as a Londoner? 

Overall, I guess I have a huge love-hate relationship with London in regard to my anxiety. I love my city, but I'm also fed up of living in fear of it, when I know that there's lots out there for me to experience and enjoy.

What are your thoughts? Are you a Londoner yourself with anxiety or does living with anxiety put you off travelling here and why? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

2 comments:

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  2. As a Londoner, I find it really hard to go home. The noise of sirens and the constantly loud shouting always makes me jump and slightly on edge. Its strange because I grew up here and I knew my anxiety wasn't helped when living here. I guess its one of the reasons I find it hard to come back. Also, the tubes are full of pictures of stick thin women and constantly if one is in the city I feel the pressure to be very thin and petite, basing myself on the 'successful' business people around me.

    London is an amazing city, but I don't think it helps my anxiety. At all.

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