Content Warning: anxiety, social anxiety, fear of crowds, crowd-claustrophobia
I went to Times Square in New York City some time ago, and, the minute I arrived, I knew I would never forget it. Times Square seemed different from the rest of the city. A smoky smell from the abundance of food stands drenched the air, and lights from the large billboards hit my eyes at every angle.
Frighteningly, though, there was a very large crowd around me. It was always crowded no matter where I went in New York City, which had left my palms slightly sweaty. But, in Times Square, everybody’s faces were mere millimeters away from bumping into the person in front of them. It was like a thick sea, and I was drowning in the waves of people. I could barely see the names of stores above the plethora of people around me.
When I was in this crowd, I started thinking about how I was breathing a little too extensively. Could people feel my breath? Could they hear the way I was breathing? All of these thoughts made my breathing quick and short, becoming the onset of my anxiety. Looking at these people—who gave me no room to breathe, no air to take in—I found my heart beating so fast that it felt like every person in the crowd was repeatedly punching me in the chest. I couldn’t find my way out; the crowd was a trap. I began to shake a little, but not too much, for fear I would bump into somebody. The backs of people’s heads also began to blur, and all I could see was one thick gray cloud suffocating me, and I could not distinguish the unique outfits and looks of each of these New Yorkers.
To these ends, I never went back to Times Square. People always tell me I just had a bad experience, but every time I imagine the swarm of people, my hands get a little slippery. Every time I see a billboard, I feel like I’m crushed by a mound of people. Every time I’m in the slightest of crowds, I see Times Square.