“When life is too much, roll with it, baby
Don’t stop and lose your touch, oh no, baby
Hard times knocking on your door
I’ll tell them you ain’t there no more
Get on through it, roll with it, baby
Luck’ll come and then slip away
You’ve gotta move, bring it back to stay
You just roll with it, baby
Come on and just roll with it, baby
You and me, roll with it, baby”
Recently, I chose to do something incredibly brave, to aid in my recovery. Every part of my body was telling me to run. There were all kinds of physical sensations all over my body, unpleasant ones, including light-headedness, fear, dry mouth, trembling sensations in my hands & legs, heart pounding…but some intuition deep inside was telling me to stay. The physical urge to run was much more easy to listen to and I was tempted. But I made up my mind. The intuition deep within is the wise voice, softer, gentler, just a whisper to “stay” next to that loud screaming “RUN” but definitely wiser. And I wont let the voice of fear drown the voice of wisdom.
So I chose to STAY.
I was standing before an elevator, alone, on the 2nd floor of a building. Right next to the elevator is a door to the stairs. I could have easily walked through the doorway to the stairs and walked down in less than a minute, which is what my intense fear was urging me to do.
But I chose to listen to that quiet but strong intuition telling me to empower myself, not my fear. For me to continuously avoid my fear (of small, closed in places, especially alone in elevators), at all costs, is to feed that fear. To give it power.
For me to face my fear, no matter how immense, no matter how suffocating, traumatic, terrible it is, is to loosen its grip on me, release me of its bondage and empower myself.
This is a fear so incredibly powerful, it knocks the wind out of me and weakens my body. I become lightheaded & disoriented and feel as if I may actually die. I have to face it & embrace it to conquer it. A cruel, twisted kind of irony to have to subject myself to the very thing that scares me most, but it is what it is.
I would have taken the stairs in this building anyway as it was only the 2nd floor but I saw this as an opportunity to evolve and I took it.
So I bravely stepped into that elevator and pushed the “1” button with my near trembling finger and watched in dismay as the doors closed on me, completely expunging my sense of control and actual control. The second the doors close, I am no longer in a position to choose. I cannot choose to run, to change my mind and take the stairs as I cant open an elevator on my own.
As the doors close, I instantly wonder if I have made a bad mistake. Maybe I should have run, taking the safe route, the easy way, the stairs. Sometimes, in buildings, we don’t have access to the stairs and I have no choice. But on this occasion, I had a choice and chose to lock myself in a big, mechanical box, alone.
But instead of completely breaking down, I stood strong and focused on my breath, each inhalation & exhalation and I became one with that breath. I felt the fear every few seconds, trying to get the best of me, that impending sense of panic threatening to overtake me, and acknowledged that fear then let it go. I felt it dissipate with each in breath & out breath. And before I knew it, there were the elevator doors wide open, inviting me to walk out into the rest of my day. Simple as that.
See, it’s really not so bad, is it?
But what if….
What if…the doors wouldn’t have opened?
What if…i would have been stuck in there all by myself?!
What if…the elevator malfunctioned and no one knew until way later or ever???
What if…one occasion it just doesn’t open and im stuck in there alone forever?!?!?!
What if….those incessant what ifs…relentless & plaguing…
After the doors close and sometimes even when Im not on an elevator but recently got out of one or will soon have to get inside one or sometimes just thinking about it, these are the thoughts that ensue. These what if’s…
But “what if…” doesn’t matter. What IS, is what does matter. And whatever is just is and that is that. I will breathe and focus and roll with it and endure until it’s over. And it will be over eventually, whatever “it” is.
After stepping off of the elevator, I planned to go right to another elevator and step inside, just to face my fear again.
And while it’s very helpful and wise and necessary to face our phobic fear again and again and again, there is such a thing as “too much, too soon” and “overdoing.” I know the value of breaks and rest and moderation and balance. Preserving energy and choosing wisely is a good thing. Generally, we have to keep facing this fear and not running. But a break when needed is also necessary. I felt that running directly to another elevator would have been more draining and detrimental than good. This may not always be the case but this moment, it was. Deep inside, I knew a rest is what I needed then, not more trauma.
Remember to keep going but also remember to rest when needed. Running, falling, once in a while is ok. Just keep getting back up!
Im not recovered. Not even halfway to recovery. And I may still have relapses and probably will before & even after full recovery. Who knows? But I discovered a place in me with a strong foundation that isn’t easy to be demolished and can be rebuilt even if it is.
Im not sorry to have encountered this struggle. I dont wish it never happened to me and dont necessarily wish it would just go away. Of course, I want this fear to heal and thats why im doing all this work. But i dont mind it. It’s a gift to have this opportunity to get better and have deeper empathy for others in similar situations. I see so much beauty in it.
Just last month, I think, my fear was so frequent, so intense, so debilitating, I became depressed and suicidal. I could hardly hold a toothbrush. I wanted to die just knowing that it’s possible to be trapped in an elevator alone. Just knowing it’s possible. Not even because it may happen. Just because it’s possible. My depression became an entity of its own and was not even just about the fear anymore.
Now here I am. Strong and still standing.
I want to share it because i believe we all have that strength to endure any battle and be even better for it. We all have the strength to see beauty in any struggle and to reach out to others in any way we can, to inspire and uplift, or just listen and understand.
The way to recover is to seize opportunities to practice no matter how difficult it is. It is very, very difficult but worth the struggle, the trauma, the pain, the terror.
Im not posting this to brag. Lol Im posting this because one night I was laying in my bed desperately longing to meet someone. A strong woman with some sort of severe phobia, preferably one similar to my own but any would do. I pined for a woman who faces her worst fear and lives to tell about it. A woman who conquered or conquers that fear. One who chose to rise above and lift others along the way.
I laid in my bed and fantasized and hoped so much to meet this strong, confident woman, either in person, in a book, or online and dreamed of being cloaked in her strength, enveloped in her compassion, lifted by her motivation, and empowered by her story. Inspired by her light.
I wanted to find blogs, books, stories… that chronicle her experiences.
I wanted to find this woman somewhere, anywhere, but couldn’t find her.
Then it hit me….
I can be this woman.
I am this woman.
So here I am, sharing my great fear and hoping to inspire, lift, help empower, and console someone who is struggling.
If you are someone who is struggling with a phobia/anxiety of any sort, maybe a social phobia/anxiety, or fear involving being on an airplane when you have to get on one(I have to get on elevators for work and feel your pain!), insects, or maybe a less common fear like fear of swallowing or fear of dolls, maybe a fear of dogs or noises… or any difficult situation, I embrace you in my love & am cheering you on. We all have different triggers but it’s that terrible, breathtaking panic & fear, outright terror, that we can all relate to.
Keep going. You got this!