Want to know how a claustrophobe feels?
It starts with a chilling sensation of fear. Then you feel your lungs tightening. You struggle to draw air through your nose and you start to gasp through your mouth. When you are able to breath, it becomes erratic and challenging. Then heart rate and intensity increases, you feel as if you’re getting a heart attack. You panic. There is a sensation of blacking out, then it starts to get dizzy. Then the cold sweat starts to break out. You fight an inner Goliath, wrestling to keep in control. People talk to you, but you struggle to respond. When you can respond, you snap at them and tell them to shut-up.
If there was an emergency button on the train, you’ll head towards it. If there was someone in your way you’ll want to punch him, to shove him aside so you get out. A strange aggression develops.
The worst part of it, you know inside that this is merely a panic attack and there is no logical reason for all this fear, yet you cannot control the fear. You cannot control how your body reacts to the environment. It is no use telling yourself a stalled train will move shortly, you know it! But the panic just grows and grows and grows. Like Mr. Hyde erupting from Dr. Jekyll, you cannot contain it no matter how hard you fought.
This makes everyday tasks a huge pain. Riding lifts is a torture, every single time you wonder if this is the occasion when the lift will stall. Riding the trains is impossible. Not difficult, impossible. If you measure my blood pressure when I’m on a train it’s probably like 300/300 – it feels like an artery will burst. You can’t read a book, you can’t listen to music, you can’t talk, you can’t do anything…the only thing you can do focus on your breathing so that it doesn’t stop. Driving in tunnels in a traffic jam is frightful, I keep to the extreme left so that I can speed off on the road-shoulders when the sensation gets out of control.
And then people think it is a laughing matter. They think that this is just some excuse so that I can justify owning a car. They think that this is not real. “You frighten yourself only lah, where got things to worry?” Fuck’s sakes – you think I don’t know that? It is not at all funny, the fear is imaginary but the physiological effects are real. You just cannot fight it – it is a disease that needs a cure.
I have been to the doctors, but the treatment is far too expensive and time consuming. He’s given me 5 pills to use in case of an emergency…but I’m actually afraid these pills may worsen things, so I’ve never actually taken them. It’s easier to just stay out of a situation, like not take a crowded lift, not drive into tunnels at peak hour and not to take the train. When in travelling, I would rather fork out hundreds of dollars and sit in traffic than to take trains. These are needs that people don’t understand.
That is claustrophobia. It is frightening and it is not at all a joke.
When I don’t take the trains, I’m not trying to be posh. When I don’t get into crowded lifts, places or would rather drive a long route than go through a tunnel, I’m not trying to be difficult. Living in a highly urbanized, crowded city makes this all the more difficult…but you find ways to work around it when you can.
Categories: Slice of My Life