Friday, 6 June 2014

Siderodromophobia - My Phobia of Trains.


From the shaking carriages, through 'mind the gap' and all the way to the platform changes, I hate everything about trains. This isn't your typical complaint as you would hear it from a commuter sick and tired of their journey to work - this is a phobia. 

The bendy section in between the carriages? The intimidating inspectors? The speed of sound that a train flies past the platform I'm standing on because it's not stopping? Every little detail about a seemingly harmless mode of transport makes me shake, rattle and hurl. 

I can't trace my phobia back to one point in my life except for watching the Potters Bar crash on the news. Those images of the derailed train, despite being clearly emotionally attached from me as I had no involved relatives, traumatised me at a young age. To most, this will sound like an irrational fear because most people have competently used trains and survived the journey, and I've often found people calling me foolish because Potters Bar was a one-off. But by this measure, 9/11 was also a one-off, and yet you wouldn't question someone's fear of flying in response to that event, so why question mine?

I got to the point where I would be invited somewhere by friends, realise I would need to catch a train in order to reach the venue, then proceed to turn them down. I'd be found meeting friends at the train station, shaking like a leaf on the bench the furthest away from the tracks, the noises of the incoming trains and the general vibe of the station environment.

This phobia was controlling me and causing too much of an obstruction for me. Call it a cliché but I looked in the mirror and thought, 'you're 21 now, you shouldn't be letting this rule your life', but this was never going to be something I could shake off as easily as that.


Matty booked us tickets for an Architects gig in Kingston, and I knew I'd have to get a train there. I kept putting it off in my mind, but once the day arrived, I wasn't prepared in the slightest. I spent weeks panicking - what happens if I miss the train? What if I buy the wrong ticket and the inspector throws me off? You name an irrational fear, it went through my head.

The day arrived and I stood baffled at the ticket machine, panicking that some time-pressed commuter was waiting anxiously behind me for this useless lump to get her shit together, pressed a few buttons and it was over a lot quicker and less traumatic than I expected. Maybe this wasn't so bad after all?


I realised soon after buying my tickets that I didn't know which platform to go to, and proceeded to complain about it to Matty on the phone, complete with 'oh god I'm going to get on the wrong train and find myself in Brighton before long'. Had I not worked in retail and overcome my other irrational fear of talking to strangers, I wouldn't have spoken to the guard and found my platform just in time before my train rolled out of the station. Thankfully because I'd spent so much time faffing around, I didn't get a chance to freak out about the dangers of the tracks or the incoming trains, I just hopped through the door and ticked off another stress of the journey.

I melted into the nearest seat to the door. Had I just stepped into the first class carriage? Was the inspector waiting to pounce on me and throw me off at the next stop? I could see the other people in the carriage staring at me, and my mind didn't even comprehend my usual complaint that people stare at me for looking unusual, I instantly thought they were judging me for parking my jacksie where I shouldn't. Of course I hadn't, but that didn't stop the devil on my shoulder making the experience as painful as possible for my nerves.


The train started rolling out of the station, carriages shaking just as I had expected, and my palms began their ceremonial sweating festival to mark yet another thing to panic about. I had to do something to distract myself or I'd lose my marbles in front of the entire carriage, so I did what I always do - check the contents of my bag. Rearrange everything in order of importance, reorganise the change in my purse in order of value - it's times like this I love having OCD.

As the stations zoomed past the window, my next worry emerged - would this train even stop at my station? What do I do if it doesn't? I'm used to buses where you have to press a button to signal wanting to get off at a stop, but I know full well a train doesn't work on that system. My stop was fast approaching, and so was my risk of a heart attack. I pictured myself at the station at the end of the line, curling up into a ball and crying, completely lost in a strange place. I'd officially lost my marbles in a matter of minutes.


Thankfully for my sanity, the train slammed its brakes on at the last minute and I was more than ready to get off at my stop. Shaking like a leaf, eyes darting like I'd just murdered someone, I couldn't have got off that train quick enough. Matty found me as far away from the tracks as possible, but thankfully the worst was over for me. Matty kept me company for the rest of our train journeys that day, holding onto me when I found myself struggling for breath when a train sped through the station too fast for my liking. The only thing that kept me going through my train hell was knowing my fiancé was waiting for me on the other side. I don't know where I would've been without him, but I'd probably be at the station at the end of the line, curling up into a ball and crying.

And yes, we got there alive.

Don't get me wrong, I'm still petrified of everything involved with trains, and I certainly wouldn't do it again on my own without risking hyperventilation and passing out on the platform, but I'm one step closer to accepting trains as not entirely murderous vehicles of destruction. Just one step.

Do you have a phobia that you want to overcome?

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1 comment:

  1. I get anxious on trains too as I'm worried about falling underneath and dying, eep! I also have a weird scared-ness of sharks and oceans that I have been trying to overcome so that I can get on a plane without worrying I will crash into the ocean and be eaten... double eep!

    Danniella x
    www.famousinjapan.co.uk

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