Sunday, August 10, 2008

Just because I have a phobia doesn't necessarily mean I'm nuts!

I've flown through mountain passes in a small plane piloted by my husband. I've taken off by myself in a European city where I didn't speak the language with a map in one hand and a phrasebook in the other and played tourist to my hearts' content. When our kids were little and rattlesnakes were reported in our neighborhood, I didn't hesitate to kill the snake in our backyard with a hoe. I've ridden an elephant. (Not recommended. They have a very bony spine!) I don't consider myself a fearful person.

But a bus ride nearly did me in this morning.

The Orange line on Boston's T was down today and so we boarded a bus to head for church. We were crammed in like cigarettes in a pack. I mean pressed up against total strangers in a way I normally reserve for my family. Or maybe even just my husband. I could feel my fellow riders breathe. The bus jerked and swayed through the traffic and I've always been a little prone to motion sickness anyway. My palms started sweating. I had chest palpitations. My husband traded places with me when he saw my lips go white (he was next to the driver and only marginally less crowded, but more passengers piled on at that stop, so it was a wash.)

Then when I thought it couldn't possibly get worse, someone nearby decided to be silent, but deadly. Profoundly deadly.

When the doors finally opened, people poured out of the bus like freed POW's. I could finally draw a deep breath and the shaking in my chest settled.

But I couldn't bring myself to board the crowded Green Line train.

I've always disliked enclosed spaces. I've even told my husband I want to be cremated since the thought of being in a box under ground seriously gives me the willies. This was the first time my claustrophobia dibilitated me. We had to turn around and go home.

The thing about a phobia is that it makes no sense. In my mind, I know small enclosed spaces are not inherently dangerous. But knowing that does nothing for my sweating palms or the tightness in my chest.

How about you? Is there something you're afraid of that doesn't seem reasonable to others, but the physical stress response hits you just the same? How do you deal with it? Personally, I'm ashamed of running home to feel normal and would love to know how to conquer this particular monkey of mine. Any ideas?


Anonymous said...

I understand completely Emily!
I am a strong woman, I hate to cry and I rarely allow myself to be "weak", so it really bothers me when my phobias get the better of me.
I wish I knew where they came from and how I could get the better of them, but thus far, they still control me.
I am terrified of small spaces, I hate crowds, I can stand anything being near my neck or face that could somehow smother me and I hate germs.
Man, I really sound like a nutcase when I see all the things that I'm scared of lol ;)
There have been times that I just leave a store or a get together at someone’s house...and I don't go back in until a later date, when there are smaller numbers of people.

I really do wonder were these phobias come from.

EmilyBryan said...

I guess if it was rational, we'd be able to deal with it. The whole point, as I understand it, is that something misfires in our brains sending inappropriate "fight or flight" responses screaming through our bodies.

Usually I squeak by if I do my old Lamaze breathing to calm myself, but on that bus, I was trying very hard NOT to breathe at all!