What were you thinking? You don’t do well with crowds even when the psych issues are not aggravated. But here you are, in the middle of these ten thousand fairgoers, and you need to keep it together.
Observe your surroundings. Look at the people in the crowd one by one; see them as individuals and know that the throng is not a gigantic entity that will overpower your psyche. Notice their faces, their hair, their clothes…see who’s got a fretful toddler and who forgot the sunscreen this morning. They’ve each got a story like yours, and you are one of them. Really.
Breathe in the human scent, allow the drone of the human hive to resonate through you. Welcome the sound, don’t fear it; relax into a more primitive level of consciousness. Let the strings that tie you to your thinking come loose from their moorings…there…and another. Drift.
Drifting now. Drifting down. Panicked thinking gone, but self going with it…tribeswoman, cavewoman, lower primate…flatworm? Too far, too far down; gaze not tracking, thought almost impossible. Pull up. Pull back. Look around and have a thought about something. Focus on something. Anything. Start making up a story about the first thing you see…but you can’t, you’re not capable of original thought yet. So remember. Drape yourself in every talisman you have, recite poems and list characters and name objects and keep doing it until you are coming back to an idea of yourself as separate.
Look around. Look at them while you remember who you are…what are you? Oh, God, they have no idea, do they? You aren’t one of them, you don’t have any idea how to be one of them, and now you’ve gone too far in the other direction…if you peel off your skin now they would see your true alien form, but they don’t because you are pretending, always pretending. You try to speak their language and interpret the code of gestures but you know you are other.
You want to go home so badly. Wherever that is. Anxiety builds until you want to scream, shriek obscene words, collar strangers and demand they help, and you can’t; you must not…something has to give. That’s when you start to dance with food. The welcome and despised heaviness in your belly gives you a focal point, gives shape to the next hours and days.
You know what to do now. You have a familiar pattern to follow. You’ll plan, or sneak, or regret, or rebel. You can be angry at yourself for your failure instead of thinking about how terrified you are. You can focus on trying to repair the new damage you have caused instead of looking at the other stressors in your life.
How far will you need to go? How sick will you choose to make yourself this time, and how many times will you reach tentatively toward consciousness only to pull back in terror, heart slamming, throat visegripped?
Oh, sweetheart, come back soon.