I am claustrophobic. It all started 37 years ago, when I was confined in an elevator and couldn’t get out. I felt the walls caving in on me and I couldn’t breathe. When I finally got out, I tried to forget about it.

Several years later, I was at an amusement park and went on a submarine ride. I started to feel like I was suffocating and had to get off.

As the years passed, I noticed that whenever I was under any kind of major stress or was exhausted, my claustrophobia symptoms became worse. I once went on a long distance train trip with all 4 of my young children. As the doors closed, I felt a sense of panic. I couldn’t breathe. My teenage daughter (at the time) held my hand and told me everything was going to be fine.

Plane trips became unbearable and to this day, I look for any excuse to travel by car.

I can’t sit in the center of a restaurant booth, movie theater, car or in the center of a any kind of seating. I once had to walk out of an amazing opera (my husband won tickets) because the seats were very close together.

I will walk up 14 flights of stairs if it means avoiding an elevator. When I am forced to go on one, I feel like my heart is going to explode.

When I travel and have to stay in a hotel, I sometimes feel closed in if the room doesn’t have a big window.

When I recently downsized, I searched and found a townhome with high ceilings and lots of windows. It was a challenge to find a smaller place that would not make me feel boxed in.

I have a difficult time having any dental work done because when someone is working on my mouth, I feel like I can’t breathe. I am VERY drug sensitive. The one time I agreed to a mild sedative, I spent the next 8 hours throwing up.

I thought about my claustrophobia today because the media is coming down hard on Paula Deen for not admitting that she was diabetic until several years after her diagnosis. I always thought she was terribly brave, conquering her agoraphobia and building a lucrative business.

I don’t think people should be so judgmental.

They haven’t walked in her shoes.

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