Stolen Freedom Returns – Growing Up
I have had anxiety for almost all of my life. Crowds have always been a huge source of anxiety for
me, even as a child. I vividly remember having panic attacks at large events, crowded stores, and
busy places from a very young age. I think, initially, my fear of crowds did originate from my
blindness. As a kid, I never learned how to use a cane, and really relied on my listening-skills to get
around. Everywhere I went, I would listen to any auditory clues around me to get a better sense of
my environment. Beeps from a check-out lane, humming from machines like water fountains or
refrigerators, the sound of a door opening and closing, chairs being scooted in and out… I paid
special attention to the subtle sound changes that occur when passing a large object, or walking
alongside walls and buildings. I would also use auditory clues from people around me like the sound
of footsteps or people chatting to get a better idea of my surroundings.
In a crowd, all of those auditory clues get distorted. There are too many people and too much
commotion to notice those subtle sound changes. It can get too loud to hear and adequately rely on
the noises in the environment. It can be pretty disorienting! I also just didn’t like the feeling of
people surrounding me.
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When I was 14 years old, I started learning how to use a cane. It was so refreshing to have another
tool that I could use to gather information about the places I went! During my high school years, I
worked really hard to develop good cane skills. I felt my confidence grow a lot more as a cane user. It
was so much easier to navigate around school, stores, and neighborhoods. Navigating crowds
became a bit easier, but the anxiety still remained.