I want to write this in the hope that someone who has panic or agoraphobia can read this and believe they can live their life.
As I’m sure you’re aware, the London 2012 Olympic Games are on right now. Being a Londoner myself, I was very excited about the games and jumped to buy tickets when they came on sale. I was allocated tickets to the first day of the Equestrian Eventing at Greenwich Park – perfect! I had two tickets, one for me and one for my Mum. Surprised her with them as a present and she was over the moon.
My panic kept poking me though and going: How will you get there? How will you cope with all the crowds? What if you panic, where will you go? Poking and niggling and annoying.
Well, it’s been nearly a year since then and my games day was July 28th. In the few weeks running up to it I began to worry – what if I panic, what if I can’t escape, what if, what if, what if.
We were originally going to get the train but I will put my hands up and say I wussed out of the train. I ended up using a website called Park At My House, where home/landowners can rent out their parking space for the day. I found a lovely man who let me park in his car lot for £10 not 10 minutes from the Park.
Friday night’s ceremony was fantastic, all credit to Danny Boyle for a fantastic show that truly summed up Britain and all it’s wonders. Including Isambard Kingdom Brunel (played by Kenneth Brannagh) was a particularly special moment for me, as I attend Brunel University – named after the great engineer and revolutionary mind. I was very proud to be a ‘Brunelian’ that night.
After the happy ceremony worry started to set in. I began counting the hours till I had to leave and face my fate. I couldn’t back down, I couldn’t wuss out – my Mum was too excited and I couldn’t let her down.
Getting in the car the next morning at 6am, I felt sick and tired – never a good combination for warding off panic. Driving down the motorway, I started to feel a panic attack happening, so I talked to my Mum about anything my brain could think of. Was she excited, what the lineup of riders was, history of Greenwich Park. It faded and I began to feel… hopeful.
Truth be told we got bit lost and ended up in Peckham, which was kind of cool considering I like the TV show Only Fools and Horses. Bit of unintended sightseeing. My Mum got nervous though, she hates being lost. Anything north of the Thames she can navigate with her eyes closed, anything south and she gets panicy.
All of a sudden I started seeing the bold purple signs that have been splashed accross our BBC News reports each day, directions to Greenwich Park. Then I start seeing Games Makers, the British people who volunteered their time to help run the games.
And then I got my first glimpse of Greenwich Park and the Queen’s house there. It was huge and white and beautiful. My reaction to this sight?
I started to cry.
I cried because I’d made it further into London than I ever had before. I cried because I’d made it to Greenwich Park. I cried because I might just get to see this day out and enjoy a historic event. I cried because I might just get to enjoy my day like a normal person.
The venue was incredible, a true credit to the designers and London 2012 organisers. Only hiccup was the degree at which the seating was stacked. It was *very* steep. Took me a while to get used to, and luckily we’d arrived about an hour before the majority of the crowd turned up.
Did I mention our seats were in the middle of the row? No? Oh, well – our seats were in the middle of the row and I survived. Surrounded by thousands of people, including people on all sides of me, I was fine.
Rest of the day panned out quite nicely. We did stand in a queue for an hour for lunch, but weirdly we met a mother and her daughter who lived about 5 minutes from us – out of all the people we could have met!
Best moment of the day other than simply arriving was seeing my childhood hero Mary King ride. Mary King was one of the first, if not the first, name I learnt in riding. I had one of her PC games, which I think was on Windows 95 to show my age! Seeing her ride was a really special moment and I’m so chuffed to have seen it :)
Ride home was nice and quiet and I collapsed as soon as I got home.
One of my best days ever put simply, it was truly brilliant and I’m so glad I got to share it with my amazing Mum.
I hope if you have a panic disorder you can take some hope from this. We’re not doomed to be outcasts, to be housebound or unable to do the things we want. Sure, I still struggle some days to get in my car, but that day, my Olympic day, I won.