My experience with claustrophobia – Part 3

Continued from My experience with claustrophobia – Part 2

I slept restlessly. I awoke several times secretly hoping some mysterious ailment would claim all the train travellers so I could have an easy trip to work.

The weather was poor, so the train was the only logical option. I got ready and dragged my feet to the station. It was early morning and the crowd wasn’t too bad but I was still feeling overwhelmed. I walked to the end of the platform praying that the carriage on the next train would have seats available. I was watching the entrance to the station. Counting each additional person as an obstacle to my success.  I’m not religious at all but that day I was. Any deity would do, just as long as they got me through the trip.

The train arrived. I jumped on quickly and secured a seat. I was sweating profusely and my heart was thumping. I grabbed my forearm and pressed so firm my finger tips went white. The train doors closed and I was stuck for the next 2 minutes. I closed my eyes and tried to focus on something else.

My suffering increased 2 stops later when someone sat next to me. I didn’t see them as my eyes were firmly closed but I sensed their presence. My stomach was churning and I was feeling light-headed.

Like the day before, I set myself the goal of making it to the next stop. Each stop was a chore but again I made it all the way to work.

The trip home was no less painful and I kept my eyes closed throughout until I reached my destination. I had taken a couple of days off going to the gym, as my mind was so jumbled and I was so exhausted from the train rides.

And so it continued. Each day I struggled to get to and from work on the train but each day I made it. In very, very small increments, I felt it was getting easier. I continued the hypnotherapy but not for long due to the cost and also as I felt my personal exposure therapy was more successful.

There were setbacks though. If a train was overcrowded and I had to stand, I would wait for the next train with disappointment at myself. I was coping but struggling.

For months this is how it went. I realised early on if I listened to music on the train it distracted my thoughts enough to reduce the unpleasant sensations. I still had my eyes closed and had a firm grip on my forearm but the sweating had stopped.

I would like to say that one day, it was all gone. Well, maybe that would happen if they transplanted a new brain in my melon. The initial attack occurred approximately 4 years ago and I still have some residual problems.

To this day, I will always move to the end of the platform for the less populated train carriages. I have the ability to board crowded trains with standing room only but I can’t say I feel overly comfortable.

I still prefer trains that have frequent stops rather than express trains. Mentally, I can manage when I know the time between stops is less than 10 minutes. Ironically, I now work for the railways but in a customer service role rather than as a driver.

I have yet to board a plane. It is a massive obstacle for me. The thought of sitting on a plane with no option to escape for hours on end is a mountain too high for me at the moment. I suppose I could light myself up with Zanax and be zonked out for the duration but that doesn’t appeal to me. With my aim to retire to 5 years to Thailand though, I will have to get on a plane again. It won’t be fun but I know I will do it.

By chance, my friend Brakes for Beauty posted A Fear of Flying as I was in the middle of drafting the final part of this post. Her courage to overcome her fear has made me reconsider my current strategy of avoidance. I am encouraged to follow her example and get myself back on a plane again and open up the world again.

Mental disease is a constant challenge and just when I think I have it figured out, it throws up a curve ball that sits me on my butt. The illogical thinking that accompanies my thoughts is upsetting and frustrating. I’m glad in one way that I recognise that my thoughts are without reason but sometimes I wish I was oblivious.

I used to be a ‘why me?’ victim. Now, I accept that it is a constant companion and I adapt my life accordingly.

I celebrate the days of a peaceful mind.

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