I have a question for you all. Over the course of your life has your reactions to things changed? Maybe it is just me but I have noticed as I get older I am changing. For instance, food is beginning to betray me. Ice cream and I used to be best friends. It would be a cold and yummy treat… I would eat it and be happy… now I eat it and less than 10 minutes later my stomach is hurting.
My ability to be in closed spaces is also beginning to wane. This fairly newly minted claustrophobia seems to be in direct correlation with my now established anxiety. An elevator of a decent space is fine if I am alone. Fill it with people and my head is pointing straight up gasping at what little air there is circulating. Hide in the closet? Sure I used to do it often. Now if I go into a small closet my heart starts beating faster. Thank goodness I have a large walk-in! I ask myself constantly… why is this happening? So to figure out what is going on I researched what exactly is claustrophobia and how one develops it.
Claustrophobia is the irrational fear of confined spaces (This link is to the article that I am receiving this information from). It is not just closed spaces but it can be something a small as clothes coming up to your neck (yeah I can’t do it I feel like my breath is being restricted… but I used to wear turtlenecks when I was younger so go figure!) This fear seems to be a double edge sword because as we try to avoid the spaces that trigger it… avoiding them will only increase the fear…
The symptoms of claustrophobia include:
- Panic Attacks- Check
- Anxiety- Check
- Sweating- Don’t think so
- Trembling- Check
- Hot flashes or chills- Hot flashes
- Shortness of breath/difficulty breathing- Check
- A choking sensation- No
- Rapid heartbeat (tachycardia)- Check
- Chest pain or a feeling of tightness in the chest- Check
- A sensation of butterflies in the stomach- Check
- Nausea- Don’t think so
- Headaches and dizziness- Check
- Feeling faint- Check
- Numbness or pins and needles- Don’t think so
- Dry mouth- No
- A need to go to the toilet- Went before
- Ringing in your ears- Check
- Feeling confused or disorientated- Afterwards
In nearly all the articles I read, claustrophobia is something that generally develops from something traumatic that happened in your childhood. Being locked in a closet for a long time or getting lost in a store. You have this underlying fear of not being able to get out which causes the panic and anxiety. I couldn’t relate to this. I used to voluntarily hide out in a closet. Although I do remember on some occasions becoming extremely scared when I got lost in a store and couldn’t find my parent(s). Yet I still don’t feel like that is the root of why I am experiencing these types of panic attacks in my adult years. There is only one real explanation and that is the abuse. This is a topic that is not heavily written on but the correlations are all there… feeling trapped… no escape… my mind is still trying to deprogram itself… or not really trying because I am still discovering all the fun new ways that it has been affected!
Therefore, claustrophobia can be developed later in life not necessarily rooted in childhood. In recent memory I’ve had full on panic attacks about 4 times in little over a year in relation to claustrophobia (I’ve had plenty more for other issues). Two of those instance happened last April when I had to fly for the first time in over 1o years to and from Las Vegas (A trip I am planning to make again this April!) Vacation recap: Things I loved and things I learned! It took less than 30 seconds on the plane for me to start crying and gasping for air.
The other two cases were my attempts at getting a head MRI. The first attempt was a closed MRI. I had to lay down on a machine and a cage was put over my head. Immediately I started to hyperventilate. The technician gave me a button to press if I need to end the test. It was only suppose to be 10 minutes so I made my very best to deal with the panic. As soon as he began to roll me in 5 seconds later I was pressing down on that button like a mad woman screaming to get me out… with only 9 minutes and 55 seconds left!
So I went back to the doctor and told her that a closed MRI was not an option for me so they gave me a referral to an open stand up MRI. Open sounded like it might be able to workout so I agreed and scheduled an appointment. On appointment day I didn’t walk in with the air that I was going to fail again. I wouldn’t be going into a tube and I thought I wouldn’t need the helmet. Boy was I wrong!
I walked into the room and sat down on the chair. Now mind you I have a humongous butt… so image it squeezing into that tight space! I asked the technician how long it would take and he said 28 minutes! The put on the helmet… added a bar in front of me for my arms to rest on and I was out of there in 5 seconds flat! Tears and all crying to the technician about how I really thought this time would work and how I feel like a failure. He told me that some people don’t even get to the chair so I did good. Then he told me that I can reschedule and maybe try bring a sedative.
I was going to forget about the whole ordeal but then thoughts kept popping up telling me “but what if there is something wrong and you don’t find out” or “what are you going to do if down the road you need to have one not by your choice (knock on wood).” At this point I am determined to get this MRI done because now my mind is playing all kinds of tricks on me. So I rescheduled for this past Saturday and I got through it.
How did I solve the problem? I took a Xanax. My sister gave me two of them. One for 15 minutes prior and one right before I go into the test. My boyfriend came with me to keep me company in the room. He kept telling me things like not to move and relax I am doing good… but I couldn’t help fidgeting… it was a tight space! Unfortunately, do to my moving the technician had to stop the test once and restart so it went from 28 minutes to about 45 minutes. I was still nervous. I still cried. Only difference was the Xanax took some of the edge off and made me very drowsy. Towards the middle/end of the test I think I fell asleep. All I know is when I got home I took the best nap ever! Four to five hours of blackout sleep. I don’t even remember dreaming.
My reasoning for the head MRI was to make sure everything in there was okay. I get these really bad migraines and sharp pains on the left side of my head. I used to get punched in the head so I wanted to make sure I didn’t have any internal injuries of some sort causing the pains. I received the phone call two days ago that the test came back negative! Yippie my head is clean! The doctor said that I just have migraines and that is something you can’t see in an MRI. I am relieved there was nothing else wrong. I get scared whenever I hear of people dying after being hit in the head. I had an angel protecting me during those turbulent times.