College · mental health · writing

The Fire Station

It was genuinely a good day. It was Friday and I didn’t have class, but I did have work. I was totally okay with that, because it was also payday. I went to work and when I drove back home I stopped at Wing Stop. I was at Wing Stop for a good hour since it was overly packed. But after I got my order I went straight to my apartment. I spent my Friday night in my bedroom eating my food and watching Netflix, since I have absolutely no friends in San Francisco.

My roommate eventually showed up and begins telling me how she wasn’t feeling so well and that she needed to throw up. Keep in mind that I have an issue with throwing up and just a week ago prior to this I had an anxiety attack and had to call the ambulance. Also, my mind likes to play games with me and every time someone says things like “my head hurts”, my head suddenly begins to hurt. So when my roommate was telling me she had the feeling that she needed to throw up, imagine how I felt. I was still okay at this point, trust me. It wasn’t until she started throwing up, when I realized that I needed to get out of there. It was Friday night, approximately 11pm, and I was bringing my car up to the back of my apartment so I could load it with my stuff. While I grabbed my dirty laundry, I began to feel myself getting a little anxiety and my body get cold. I sat down for a quick minute and then quickly got up to start loading my car again.

By the time I was in my car it started to pour rain. My body was frozen at this point, not because I was cold, but for those who have ever experienced anxiety, your body just gets cold. I get on the freeway and I am still fine. Cold, but fine. So to exit San Francisco (and head towards Sacramento), you have to go on the Bay Bridge, and for the first part of the bridge you are under a bridge. I am highly claustrophobic so every time I get on this bridge I have to be talking with someone on the phone to help clear my mind. So at this time I was talking to my boyfriend, and although he loves me and is caring, he was mad. He absolutely hates when I drive home at night especially when I have anxiety. I didn’t have anxiety at that very moment but I had told him that I needed to get out of my apartment, because my anxiety was getting triggered. I got off the Bay Bridge and was now near Berkeley, when my body lost it. I was driving at 12:30am on Saturday in the pouring rain, while my body was freezing, had trembles, and I was now having an anxiety attack. I told my boyfriend what was happening, since I was still talking on the phone with him, and he got mad. He told me that I should’ve listened to him and stayed in my apartment and waited for it to be Saturday morning (9am) for me to go home. The fact that he was now mad at me was making my anxiety get a lot worse. I hung up without letting him say anything, and I took the nearest exit, which was University Ave into Berkeley. At this point I need to pull over because my body couldn’t handle the fact that I was driving. Thankfully there was a gas station so I pull into it and since there was no parking lots I stationed my car at a pump. I call my mom up and tell her the situation, and she yells at me for coming home this late. My body is freaking out so badly that I can’t be seated so I get up and walk out of my car and into the little gas station shop place. I ask for a bathroom and I go in and my nausea is what is most likely triggering my anxiety. My mom tells me to calm down, so I try but it just doesn’t work. I walk out of the bathroom and back into my car and ask my mom to come and get me. I’m at the point where I feel like I am going to pass out and I just need someone to give me a hug. The fact that I was in a city that I didn’t know was making my anxiety a lot more worse. My mom tells me that she can’t come get me because my dad has work in 3 hours and I am 2 hours away. So, I freak out more. I get out of my car and walk into the gas station and talk to the man. I hang up on my mom and tell this man I am having an anxiety attack and then walk out and get into my car again and turn on my heater. I call my mom back up, which is when she is crying. She tells me to stay put and that her and my dad are on their way. I absolutely cannot stand the fact that it’s going to take 2 hours for them to get here, so guess what? My anxiety is making me feel like I can’t feel my legs. I get out of my car and walk back into the gas station shop and this man looked so worried for me. I was still talking with my mom on the phone, when I asked this man to give me a hug. Which he did. He hugged me and told me that I could stay parked in the gas station until I was able to drive. My body was making me very impatient so I couldn’t be in just one spot so I broke out of the hug, told my mom that I had to call the ambulance and she said no but I hung up on her. I called up the ambulance as I walked back to my car, but then got asked for the address, which I was unaware of so I had to go back in to talk to the guy. I was then transferred to someone else on the phone and sat in my car while the ambulance got there. The lady who was talking to me on the phone, tried calming me down while the ambulance got to where I was at. I was told to turn on my emergency lights, so that they knew who it was that needed assisting. In about 5 minutes of calling them, 2 cop cars, a firetruck (later found out was actually a fire engine, i think), and paramedics showed up.

A Latino man came up to me and asked me what the problem was and I told him that I was having an anxiety attack and I was very scared. He then went over to the passenger seat so that another paramedic could check my heart rate (i think, i’m not sure what was happening, but I had a lot of stickies on me after he disconnected it). They told me that I was hyperventilating and that i needed to calm down. They asked me where I was going to late at night, and I told that I was headed home to Sacramento. At this point, the paramedics really just needed to know if I wanted to go back to the hospital. After telling the paramedic that I attended San Francisco State University, he knew that as a college student I was broke. He told me that it was going to cost around 1-2 thousand dollars to have me ride in an ambulance, depending on my health insurance. I told him that my parents were on their way to pick me up, so they asked if I wanted them to go talk to the man at the gas station about being parked here until my parents got here. I was very scared of being alone, so I was completely honest with them. I told them that I was very afraid of my anxiety coming back as hard as it was when I arrived. At that point, my anxiety had gone from a 10 to a 5 or 6. I was still hyperventilating and was only feeling better because people were there for me. The captain to the fire station, who was a woman, came up to my car and began asking me questions. She said, “do you think you can drive yourself to the hospital and wait there for your parents?” I, of course said no, because I was in no position to drive. She then walked out and started talking to the other paramedics. The paramedic who assisted me first, came up to me and said that the captain was okay with me going back to the fire station with them and waiting for my parents to arrive. Hr then asked me if I was okay to drive to the fire station. I said yes, since he said it was close by. I turned on my car, and my body began to tremble, and I knew I wasn’t going to be able to drive, which luckily the paramedics knew. The fire fighter who arrived with the captain, was told to drive my car for me. The captain explained to me what was going to happen which was, I was going to get driven to the fire station and wait outside for my parents to show up. I wouldn’t be able to go inside because, they are on duty (obviously) and they can’t really let “anybody” in to the station. I said it was fine, even though I was terrified, because I was going to be alone. The captain then told me that there was going to be a police unit driving past the fire station every 15 minutes to check up on me, which made me feel a lot better.

We arrived to the fire station and as soon as we arrived the captain actually ended up letting me go into the station. She told me that it wasn’t allowed, but since she was the captain she could whatever she wanted. She also told me not to tell anybody… so sorry Kelly. Although, she did say that every time they get calls I will have to wait outside in my car, which only ended up happening once. I sat in a room that sort of looked like a living room, which had like 5 recliners and a plasma tv. I watched “Cops” alone, while Kelly worked on paper work and the other guy ate. My anxiety was at about a 4 or 5 at this point, but I still really wanted to be in the comfort of my own home. Kelly then walked into the kitchen, which is when my anxiety shot from a 4 to a 7. Which sucks, because I was already inconveniencing these people. I got up, turned to Kelly and said, “Could you do me a big favor and give me a hug?” She did. She knew my anxiety was acting up, so she tried to clear my mind by giving me a tour of the fire station. Which is where she explained to me the difference of a fire station and a fire truck which I totally forgot. She told me how she also went to SF state but then transferred to another school and how she is also fascinated with photography.

They did get called out for an emergency (obviously) but she gave me her phone number just in case I needed assistance or I got picked up. I had to wait in my car, because I couldn’t be in the fire station, but as soon as she got back I was allowed back in. My parents eventually showed up and that was the end to that night, but not my anxiety.

Due to this even I am now traumatized of gas stations and cannot go to them by myself. If I do my anxiety is triggered and have a panic attack. I wanted to share this story, because anxiety is a mental illness that can’t be seen. The week before this very event I had to call the ambulance, well my roommate did, because my anxiety attack was very high. The paramedics showed up checked my heart rate and that was about it. It’s an illness that can’t be assisted by a call of an ambulance. No matter how many times you call them, you hear the same things. “Are you on medications to try and calm your anxiety?”, “Have you seen your doctor for this?”, “What do you normally do when you have an anxiety attack?”I am also not blaming them, because it’s hard to help someone with a problem that you can’t see.

Where I am going with this is that I have struggled with anxiety for years but it has never come to this point. What I felt at that gas station, the anxiety, the fear, the panic, the frustration, is something that I never want to put myself through again. I told myself that I was never going to get on medications to help treat it, because I am strong enough to over come it. But the truth is that no matter how strong someone is, you can’t push away help. I have learned that I am strong and I will continue to try and beat his mental illness, but I will be receiving some help. I was prescribed medication and I am receiving help. Every day is a battle and although people can’t see it, it’s there. Even though I am on this medication I still have very bad days. I have been taken to the E.R twice while on this medication, have been plugged into IV’s, blood drawn, but it’s just a bad day. I would take one bad day, one trip to the hospital, one sleepless night, one painful needle shot for a life of happiness. I will take every day slowly and try to get back to where I once was.


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