Today I went to the pools, like I usually do. The lane availability on the website said the outdoor pool would have six lanes available, and I’m usually okay with sharing with someone else if necessary. I know there is usually squad swimming in the evenings, as well as an aquaerobics class on occasion.
But this evening I got to the outdoor pool and there was a cavalcade of people. Squad had their usual four lanes, but in the remaining ones there was a triathlon club as well as the members of the public and the group of 15 or so people waiting to do the aqua class. The triathlon club had around six or seven swimmers in each lane, the water was in constant motion and there seemed to be a nonstop barrage of noise.
I freaked out a little bit. I sat to the side of the pool waiting for 7pm, thinking that perhaps the other swimmers would be done then and the pool would settle down. It did not. If anything, it got louder and more crowded as the stereo blared for the start of the aqua class. The lifeguards took down the signs for two of the general swimming lanes to add more reserved signs, as well as closing another two for the aqua class. There were people finishing up their swims, which I was almost hopeful at, but for each triathlete that emerged from the water another two clustered around those reserved signs seemingly waiting their turn.
I did something I have never done before but that felt like the only option left for me. I left the pool, walked back out to my car and drove back home. On my way I did check the smaller, 25m indoor pool to see how crowded that was. But at that moment in time I think the entire pool could have been empty and I still would have walked away. I go swimming for the fitness aspect, yes, but for me it means so much more to my overall mental health and state of mind. When I am swimming the outside world becomes a blur and I am able to slow down my overthinking brain and just breathe. Literally. I hadn’t swam for over a week because of having been a bit sunburned the last time I went, and mentally I knew that I was overdue; brain all jumbled up, becoming very reactionary and impulsive and just on edge. Seeing the place that is supposed to be my oasis in such turmoil and with so many people put me into almost a blind panic as I walked back to my car.
Yesterday was an overload for me too so I had been looking forward to a swim to put me in a better frame of mind. I went to my first music festival with a friend. I was very apprehensive in the days (hours and minutes really) leading up to it, not at all keen on spending ten hours on a 30 degree day being jostled around by tens of thousands of strangers while straining to see and listen to musicians that I barely knew. But I went, because my friend really wanted to go and I know that sometimes I say no to things before trying them because I am nervous about new experiences, which this definitely was. The day started out fine, the smaller stage was actually really fun and the crowds were far less for the first few hours. Then we went to the main arena.
At first we stayed in the stands (the stone steps at Fremantle Oval) which were weirdly comforting to me because of all the time I have spent there watching the footy. It was an ideal perch to watch both main stages from, and watch the masses of people congregating and bouncing around without having to directly be a part of it. Even watching the bands from the steps was getting a bit much for me though. The bass of the bands and artists was just going right through me and made me feel like my heart was about to burst out of me. I have never (probably never again) been more grateful to Liam Gallagher and the complete lack of bass and treble and all that modern music junk. But then Liam was winding up and the next act was the band my friend had wanted to come to the festival for, and she wanted to go further in to be where all the other people were so she could dance to this band. Perfectly reasonable, right? The further and further in we walked (or really crushed) into the crowd, the more and more I knew that this was the last place in the world I wanted to be in that exact moment. I in fact sent that as an exact message to a couple of friends. It definitely didn’t help that we had been in the sun all day, I had been drinking without eating any food and it was around hour seven of the day. But I was completely miserable while trying not to look so for the sake of my friend. Even when Liam Gallagher finished off his set with Wonderwall and the entirety of the festival sang along in what I’m sure was supposed to be a special moment, all I could manage was token singing along while my eyes darted around and my heart raced.
My friend’s band started and there was a surge of people going the ten metres from one stage to the next, it felt like I had somehow landed on the freeway and there were cars speeding past me while I tried to cross the road in slow motion. There was no way I was about to ruin my friend’s evening with my neuroses though, so I did bob along to the music while wincing and flinching at each shove and bump I felt. As the band played their more well known songs, my friend wanted us to go further in to the actual stage part. I went along with it, because again I wasn’t about to spoil her day, but by then I felt like I was just in a blind panic. I wanted to get out, I was counting down the minutes until the band’s set was up so I could start to hope that it was time to go home. The second my friend said we should go back out (because the band were on their last song) I practically ran back to those stone steps. My friend was going to stay until the end with her cousin, because they had to go home together, so she said I could feel free to leave whenever I wanted. I lasted maybe five minutes before practically skipping to the exit.
I know that realistically I could have leave whenever I wanted to, and my friend certainly isn’t the type to have made me stay or made me feel guilty about leaving. But I’m such a massive people pleaser that I wouldn’t dream of getting in the way of something that one of my friends really wanted to do. She was back in town for the holidays from Melbourne and early on when I asked her what she wanted to do while she was here she said she wanted to go to this festival to see this band, so of course I bought a ticket with her. I figured that I hadn’t been to a festival before so why not, and I’m sure it won’t be as bad as most festivals have appeared to be. And pragmatically it wasn’t a terrible day, I did really enjoy the Valley stage and a few of the bands there.
But then this evening at the pool. I had spent all day at home alone with the intentions of recovery only to emerge to another populous display of humanity. It was too much. I left the pool after sending a snapchat to a friend, and got home ten minutes late. I then came out of the car a whole half an hour later.
Sitting in the car I felt so overwhelmed. Not crying (for once in my life, I know nobody will believe this but it’s true) but just with a rush of something just on edge. My cat was meowing as he always does when I get home. I tried to calm myself down.
I closed my eyes for a moment remembered that I was in a closed garage in a car so wondered about carbon monoxide and then thought about that scene in Sabrina where she starts all the cars in the garage and closes the door because she is so miserable but then remembered that the car was not running so figured that would be okay but then checked my phone and wondered why my friend hadn’t replied to me it had been about twenty minutes by now so I checked snapchat to see and then I looked at another unrelated story about people being so extra and wondered am I being extra with my freaking out about people but then figured that no it was really a lot of people yesterday and today and then my ears started ringing really loudly and it sounded just like the bass and noise yesterday so I worried a lot about that and realised that my ears hadn’t been ringing all day only in that moment so I was really panicking and so I closed my eyes again to try to calm myself down and I must have fallen asleep.
I opened my eyes a good forty minutes after I parked in the garage. Very heavy lidded, like I could have slept in the car for another few hours. I wanted to swim today. I needed to swim today. It’s been an hour and 1700 words since I got out of the car and I have been writing nonstop since then. I do feel calmer having gotten this all out of my head. But I still need to swim.