one woman's quest to live the life she's imagined all while daring you to do the same

I’m Not Actually Claustrophobic; Only Problem Is, I Think I Am

I adopted Claustrophobia as a kid. It seemed like a decent enough phobia to take on, not too far fetched. I’d been told my mom was Claustrophobic, surely it’s genetic.

I knew I hated that “fun” game where my brothers would smother me with a pillow. It had to be the Claustrophobia.

Soon it was elevators that bothered me, and then tunnels.

I’d work myself up so much I’d be gasping for air by the time of exit.

I had my first real panic attack in college at a bar in Fells Point, Baltimore. It was Halloween, the craziest night of the year, and I was wearing my brother’s sailor’s uniform (winter wools) for the second year in a row. Out in the cool autumn air I was one of the few chicks with any sense, bundled up. But in a jam-packed bar, smoke machine on blast, I was jumping head over crowd, hot, trying to breathe and get the hell outta there.

Claustrophobia confirmed.

More elevators, more tunnels–retelling the story.

My second panic attack happened at work. I was doing my closing side-work at the Metropolitan in Bmore. I took the fruit back to the walk-in fridge, only to find the fridge in disarray. I bent down to organize a few things, and that’s when it happened: Click.

“Haha; you guys are too funny,” I said aloud as I peered out the small square double pain window, expecting Chef Tony’s big dumb grin to fill the frame. Instead, his back was to me heading toward the door with the garbage.

I thought he was taking the joke a bit long, but surely he’d let me out on his way back in.

I waited right by the window, poised and patient.

He walked right by me, never even looked.

I started to knock–then bang. HEY! HEY! I’M IN HERE!

Oh my God, it’s soundproof!

[Insert meltdown].

I could feel my chest get heavy, my breath short.

I tried to joke my way out of it. Well at least I have food.

… That lasted a nanosecond.

I banged and banged for what felt like forever, to no avail.

Finally, Tony realized he had forgotten to check on something in the fridge. I’ve never jumped into a sweaty man’s arms so fast. By this time I was sobbing.

My girlfriend/coworker found us in a solid embrace in the kitchen, me in hysterics.

Claustrophobia confirmed.

More elevators, more tunnels–more retelling the story.

It wasn’t until I was in my early 30’s, right around the time that I started to question EVERYTHING, that I wanted to put this phobia of mine to the test.

I’m not Claustrophobic, I’m just not such a fan of tight spaces.

I stepped into fuller and fuller elevators testing the boundaries.

Tunnels didn’t seem to bother me as much, although I wouldn’t elect to be stuck in a traffic jam in the belly of one.

I sorta forgot for a while that I used to be Claustrophobic until I went on a ropes course adventure one day with my besties. There was four walls of rock climbing that formed a prism with a hollow center and platform on top. And running down the middle of the prism, hanging from the tallest platform, was a snakeskin looking tube net thing called The Rainbow Serpent.

Two ways down: belay down or dive head first into The Rainbow Serpent.

I dove in ready to chase this darn phobia away once and for all. The entry was a little wide and definitely deceiving. About half way down, in what felt like a leg of a pair of Spanx, I started to panic. I wiggled faster; I felt myself get hot; the fear was rising in my chest.

I thought they were gonna have to cut me out of that damn thing.

As I got nearer the ground though the panic dissipated. I wiggled like I’ve never wiggled before. A rebirth out of this appropriately chosen canal.

I crawled out anew. Grateful to have NOT made a scene.

And thank goodness. I wouldn’t have been able to last a week in Hong Kong on those trains, people packed like sardines.

Now I’m not gonna offer to pull any David Blaine stunt and bury myself alive or anything. I’m just done telling the story.

I’m not Claustrophobic. I only thought I was. And thought is a really fucking powerful thing.

I leave you with this: What phobias can you unlearn? What freedom would it give you? Side note: Most of us have a fear of flying, we just don’t let it get in the way of our love of travel;)


Much Love,




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