I must have taken hundreds, if not thousands, of trips on the London Underground. I’ve endured sweaty mornings on the northern line with my nose wedged into a strangers armpit. I’ve sat through thirty minute spells of being trapped underground between stations, nonchalantly flicking through the Metro, bored, but not distressed. I can’t count the number of times I’ve queued for ages in a hot, boisterous crowd to get onto an escalator and back above ground, without batting an eyelid.
Yet when I’ve been sick with depression a mere seven minute journey on the tube is enough to catapault me into the most extreme stages of hysteria. My mouth turns to sawdust, suddenly it’s like an otter is lodged in my thoat; I can’t breathe, I sweat, shiver, choke and the walls begin closing in. Going underground literally feels like being held underwater.
My ability to join the rest of my city’s rat-race rabble in the daily scramble to get from A to B wasn’t something I ever questioned, until it disappeared. Now I think about those lucky buggers skipping about beneath the pavements, narrowly avoiding getting shoved off the platform by a fellow commuter, or trapping their skull in a closing door, and strange as it might sound I can’t believe how good they have it.
I’m learning that it’s not a right to be able to go about your day without giving a second thought to how you’re going to get through that bus journey without having a meltdown, or how you’ll figure out which platform to change trains at without crying. It’s a privilege. And the ability to navigate your way through mildly stressful situations is something you completely take for granted until it’s gone.
So the next time I descend into the pungent depths of London’s underground transport network and make it through the journey in one piece, I’ll know for sure that I’m kicking depression in the balls. I’ll be ecstatic to once again be just like any other nutter that chooses to leave the comfortable oxygen levels and safety of the world above ground, for an overcrowded, subterranean train that smells like wee.
I can’t bloody wait.