Continued from My experience with claustrophobia – Part 1
The next couple of days were a blur. Almost literally so, as I seemed to be looking constantly through a haze.
Thankfully, the weather was clear, so I would get up early and ride my motorbike into the city. This was not all happy sailing though as if I had to slow down or stop in a tunnel, I would feel a wave of panic start to come on.
The elevator at work was difficult but not impossible. As I was arriving so early to work, the lift was generally empty so I could manage. If there was a few people waiting though, I would let them go and hope that I would get them next lift without issue.
Unfortunately, I had to share the matter with my manager. Unfortunately, because she had previously demonstrated her lack of consideration for my mental health issues (a story for another time). I had little choice though as there was a company meeting scheduled for the following day to be held in a conference room. The thought of attending the meeting filled me with dread as I knew the close confines (close in terms of my condition at the time) would set me into panic mode. She agreed, which was a relief. I did not divulge to her at the time that even sitting in her office was causing my head to spin.
Despite the quick fix remedies I had set in place, I still had no workable solution going forward. Traditional therapy to me was not the answer as I needed some sort of solution to allow me to function on a day to day basis immediately. My experience with therapy has always involved numerous costly sessions to achieve any sort of meaningful outcome.
I started to Google anything to do with claustrophobia and treatment. I came across something that I was somewhat cynical about but I felt that I had to try, hypnotherapy. I started calling local hypnotherapists. After a few calls, I secured an appointment the next day with a therapist close to work. The hypnotherapists important credentials for me that day was that she was close to work and she had an appointment available.
The next day I arrived as scheduled for the appointment. Of course there was a lift to negotiate and the waiting room seemed exceedingly small. I was invited into the office, which again was small and I started to panic and sweat once the door was closed behind me. The hypnotherapist was thoughtful, understanding and distracted me to a degree with questions about what had occurred, what was I feeling, etc.
She then asked me to lay back in the chair and close my eyes. It was an interesting experience. She talked calmly and softly for a while and then asked me to put myself mentally into a seat on a train. I note that I was able to respond verbally should I need to. I immediately started to feel uncomfortable and wanted to open my eyes. The therapist obviously sensed my distress as she asked if I wanted to stop. I said I wanted to keep going. She continued by placing scenarios into my head such as the train doors closing, a person sitting next to me and the train stopping between stations. Each situation was very unpleasant but I continued on. While under, she suggested that should I have difficulty in the real world, I press my fingers against my forearm and this will alleviate the claustrophobic sensation.
To be honest, I did not think I was under. I was so aware of what she was saying. However, when she started to count down to one, her voice became very loud and much clearer. I genuinely felt like I was jolted awake, even though I was fully conscious of our conversation with my eyes closed.
I scheduled a follow-up session for the next week and hoped that, by some miracle, the world would be all good again when I left that day. Well, you can always wish.
I noticed no improvement. I managed to get home, with a fog clouding my thoughts. To distract me, I immediately turned on the TV. I started to watch a movie, which was fine until the main character boarded an airplane. I started to feel light-headed and uncomfortable and I had to change the channel. Let’s just say, I was not feeling at the top of the world about what was happening to me.
The weekend came. Though I had a respite from having to put myself into enclosed spaces, my mind was still racing about what challenges would happen the following week, particularly as inclement weather was forecast. This meant that riding the motorbike to work as an option was doubtful.
Sunday came and I challenged myself to ride the train. Sunday is traditionally a quiet day on rail, so I thought it would be the best day to expose myself to rail travel again. I arrived at the station to very few customers. I breathed a sigh of relief but knew the real challenge was ahead of me. The majority of people had clustered in the middle of the platform, so I made my way to the very end of the platform.
The train started to enter the platform. My heart rate started to build and I was sweating. It was a warm day but no way was it hot enough to sweat. I watched intently as the carriage came past. It wasn’t empty but as close to it as I could realistically hope.
The doors opened. I hesitated, thinking I could wait for the next train. I jumped on though, hoping the doors would close quickly before I changed my mind. I sat down quickly and heard the doors close behind me. I was stuck inside the metal tube.
I knew the next station was 2 minutes away (an eternity!) and if I could just hold on, I could get off there. The train started to move and so did a wave of panic that swept across my body. I started to feel queasy and hoped that I wouldn’t pass out or throw up in the next 2 minutes. I pressed my forearm with my fingers as the hypnotherapist suggested. It helped slightly, so I pressed more firmly in hopes it would help more.
I focussed on something outside in the distance and wished the seconds away.
After 30 minutes…or so it felt but really only 2…I arrived at the next station. I stood up quickly and hovered at the door. Maybe I could hang on for one more stop. And so it went, stop after stop. Each one was a mini goal and achievement. I still felt horrendous but the cloud of uncertainty had lifted slightly. I travelled all the way to my normal work stop. Only 21 minutes had passed but it had felt considerably more and I was drained.
Of course, I had to get home but buoyed by my success, I climbed onto a return train and started to tick off the stops again until I reached my destination.
This process continued for the next 2 hours. I would board a train, go to the city and return home. My discomfort eased slightly but I was still on edge constantly and had to concentrate hard on something else so I wouldn’t start to drift off into panic again.
I arrived home. Feeling significantly better than when I had left that morning but still concerned. I had travelled successfully with an almost empty train.
But what about peak hour tomorrow?
To be continued….My experience with claustrophobia – Part 3