“Hell is Other People.”

John-Paul Satre

Imagine you’re in a glass chamber. With all the walls clear and a whole crowd just surrounding you and the chamber. The crowd is only made up of eyes though, and they are all trained directly on you. Every motion you make they track. Any word that leaves your mouth they hear, you know they do, and they judge you.

That’s how I feel in crowds. I hate it, but nothing I’ve done has ever gotten rid of that feeling. Not completely. But there are two methods I have adopted that help lessen this incredibly vulnerable sensation.

A favorite combination of mine is the beanie with headphones underneath. This way my auditory experience is something I control. The feeling of eyes is still ever present with this method, but I can focus on my chosen auditory sensation.

My other preferred method is to reward myself with a certain environment or food. I can stand crowds if it is the crowd in a restaurant, or people in a bookstore. Those crowds are not nearly as over powering as those in a bus or sidewalk.

Of course my methods do not work if you cannot control your environment, or if your choice of environment is not respected. I never came up with a method during high school. Headphones and snacks outside the cafeteria were not allowed in high school.

Having control of your environment is something that does not happen much in public places. I cannot control what happens at work any more than I could at high school. But unlike with high school, I cannot ignore people at work. People engage with me, coworkers and clients both. They ask me questions, they share information, they socialize and though I do not want to, though doing so fills me with dread and anxiety that leaves me shaking and in pain, I have to follow the rules of social engagement. Or else risk losing my job. Which in this world means potentially losing my life.

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