Content warning ⚠️: claustrophobia, brief mention of s*icidal ideation and self injury, but the self injury isn’t in a “depressed kind of way,” but a result of panic
This post was meant for yesterday!
These dreams go on when I close my eyes
Every second of the night I live another life 🖤
I’m going to share my nightmare while I was asleep but first will give it context by explaining my claustrophobia.
I shared here before about my lifelong struggle with debilitating Claustrophobia, actual diagnosed Claustrophobia, particularly fear of elevators. I have struggled with it since I was a little girl for an unknown reason. I used to run up 20 floors just to avoid getting into elevators, but in some buildings stairs going up are blocked off. Just walking by an elevator or having to go into a building knowing they’re in there, would be enough to experience intense fear. Sometimes being in an elevator I would go into such a panic, I would claw myself up with my fingernails until my skin bled, just out of a sense of not knowing what to do.
When I was young, I mostly could avoid elevators so it wasn’t as much a problem except on school trips and visiting people in hospitals. That was challenging. Also as a college girl, sometimes I had to get into elevators to get to class. I was embarrassed and insecure about my claustrophobia as a young girl. I did not know it’s a disorder or a defined thing. I thought it meant I’m wimpy. I was impressed when other kids could get into elevators and not be scared. I thought they were braver than me. I now know this isn’t true. Claustrophobia is an anxiety disorder and doesn’t mean someone is weak or not brave. As a girl, I used to daydream that I got into elevators with no fear, and I longed to be this brave for real.
I am one of the phobia sufferers who would often face my fear and get into an elevator anyway and just suffer. I wouldn’t have a positive mindset about it. Many phobia sufferers cannot face the fear and will always avoid the source at all costs. It’s a cruel irony, as I have said before, to have to come face to face with the very thing we fear most, to get over it.
I “cured” it myself after trying out professional exposure therapy and seeing it just wasn’t needed for me; I could handle it on my own. I did use the exposure technique but on my own without the help of a therapist any longer. My claustrophobia was so severe and crippling, it would trigger s*icidal episodes. It’s a very powerful breathtaking fear. It’s so powerful, it inspires awe in me to get to experience something so profound. It’s one of the most intense feelings there is, and not everyone gets to experience something so powerful in that way. I don’t like it, but still intrigued by it and thankful for the experience. It reminds me of love even though it’s not pleasant, the intensity of it can be the same, like so strong, it could move mountains.
It got better, but then I suffered a relapse at the end of 2017 after making the mistake of watching the numbers and waiting for the doors to open. It seemed to take a fraction of a second too long, which made me crumble in terror. This is when I began the exposure therapy. When I first got better, it was after getting used to getting into elevators with a dog. Then eventually I could alone. For a while, I would imagine the dog in there with me even when she wasn’t. That helped. I did not have to get into elevators as much anymore so got unaccustomed to it after the relapse. Then I had to again and could not handle it. So I began organized exposure therapy and meditation. The Philadelphia Eagles won the Superbowl in 2018. Their motto leading up to it was Let us prey. I adopted this saying and attitude as my mantra and way of coping with my Claustrophobia. I chose to prey upon the fear instead of allowing the fear to prey upon me.
I’m not cured. I still have it. It’s just dormant. I can still always feel it beneath my surface and know that it can come back. It’s slightly threatening. I know it’s here possibly waiting to be unleashed. This is true even when I’m calm as can be closed inside an elevator. Sometimes this knowing is more intellectual, and other occasions it’s more a feeling with body and emotion. I don’t mind this. I just peacefully coexist with it. I have to keep getting into elevators to keep myself used to it. If I ever stop, it will come back. Some days just for no particular reason, I feel a flare up and avoid them if I can because I know not to push myself; that isn’t the same as having an active phobia and avoiding them when I have to encounter them to get better. But that’s seldom. Also, if I’m anxious about something else or am dehydrated (dehydration gives me anxiety in a physiological way, not anxious thoughts, but just a feeling of anxiety and physical symptoms), my claustrophobia will flare, not a full on relapse, just a flare. The anxiety of dehydration will latch onto thoughts about being stuck in an elevator and manifest as claustrophobia.
My claustrophobia was always present even being inside an elevator with people. But eventually I stopped being afraid as long as people were inside with me or a dog was. The thought of being trapped inside with a dog or other human stopped terrifying me, just being alone did. Even now, I wouldn’t be afraid or only slightly if an elevator wouldn’t open with a dog and me or another human and me. Before, that would have still sent me off the deep end. Even if it locked with just me now, I can handle it, I think, as long as I don’t have a relapse.
Since I was a little girl into adulthood, I have been plagued by recurring nightmares of being stuck in an elevator. In my dreams it’s an old familiar fear, as if I have been stuck in one before, like a knowing feeling, an intimate knowing, like oh this again. This again. Each dream brought with it the same old feeling, like an underlying thread connecting all the dreams together even spanning over years, decades. Like in each dream it was as if I remembered all the dreams before it, not necessarily consciously remembered, but knew on some level that this keeps happening, but in the dreams, it felt more like they were reality than a dream. Almost like I’m stuck in another world where I am sentenced to getting stuck in elevators again and again and again. Like Groundhog day lol Sometimes I would have multiple elevator dreams in one night. The dreams all start out like regular life, I’m going about my day then must get into an elevator then It happens. My worst nightmare.
It happens in all different ways, but it’s all the feeling of absolute dread where I just know. I know I am not getting out of here.
I stopped having them for so long.
Until last night.
No idea why, but last night, I had another elevator nightmare. I can’t remember when I last had one. I’m not anxious, and my claustrophobia isn’t relapsing.
But last night I had a dream that I was about to get into an elevator. There was a friendly, smiling petite woman already inside holding the doors for me. I remember her so vividly. She was pale skinned and around my age, maybe a bit older, around as tall as me, maybe slightly shorter, and she was slightly thinner than me. She had what may be called strawberry blonde hair, mouth length. She was wearing a navy blue and white striped long sleeved shirt. The stripes were thin. I don’t remember her pants. She wasn’t physically beautiful but not ugly, but she was beautiful on the inside. What some may call mousy or plain in appearance, but she had a cuteness about her, a humble prettiness. She was very sweet and friendly with a gentle air about her.
We both happened to be going to the 14th floor in whatever building it was. I have no idea why we were there. She was delighted and pushed the button for us both. She had a compassionate, warm, welcoming personality, like she never met a stranger, like she may have been open to developing a friendship or at least an acquaintanceship with me, just in that mundane encounter where most wouldn’t even give each other so much as a glance. It was like when she looked at me, she saw me. Not the way strangers around look up and quickly look away. It wasn’t her words that allowed me to know her nature, but her body language, her facial expressions, her energy, her actions, her smile. I remember her warm energy.
We got to the 14th floor, and the elevator sped past and went to the 17th floor and stopped and wouldn’t open. When it went past the 14th, we both knew. We knew It was happening.
It with a capital “I.”
I’m covered in head to toe chills just writing this. The fear and the knowing in the dream were not normal. We were doomed and knew it in a way that people in reality wouldn’t know it. It’s a kind of knowing, a kind of knowing fear that only exists in dreams or nightmares. Sure, real people who are rational may be anxious but wouldn’t already be in despair and *know* they will be stuck forever or die. We did know, and we were in despair. Real people would be thinking like let’s see how to get this fixed or hopefully this opens or what is going on or thinking we have to call for help or wait for someone to let us out…we had no hope and did not have to wonder, we were doomed. There was no one coming to let us out. And we knew. We knew the very split second that elevator sped past floor 14. The woman gasped and said something I can’t remember, and I stood there paralyzed in that old familiar intimate crippling panic. It was happening again. IT.
The elevator just froze there at the 17th floor. I was panicked that we were stuck. Then I suddenly realized we had a bigger problem than just being stuck. I realized being stuck at floor 17 means being stuck in the air, that high up. Just hanging in midair. I imagined it dropping and us falling to our deaths. Suddenly, as if to hear my thoughts and wanting to taunt, it began to go down very quickly. I wasn’t sure if we were dropping to our deaths or it would land safely, but I knew either way, we weren’t getting out of there, and so did she. Suddenly it began dropping faster and making loud noises and lighting up, then it began going back up and then down then back up, the flashing lights getting more and more intense. All the numbers were lighting up. The whole situation felt aggressive, like the elevator was consciously attacking us. Like it was out to get us.
The woman was screaming and had her head down, covering it with her arms in a defensive stance, as if to protect herself against whatever blows were to be coming to her. I wasn’t screaming or doing anything (typical of me in reality also), but my fear very much matched hers. The top of the elevator began to open up, and we both eagerly looked up to see if maybe, just maybe, there was a way to climb up and get out. There wasn’t. We saw something, I can’t remember what, that we both knew meant it was a hopeless situation for us. We looked at each other, her face contorted into a mask of horror and despair and a desperate pleading look. The crashing noises got louder, the lights more flashy, the elevator began to close in on us as we both got into the self defensive position and moved closer to each other, then clinging to each other knowing our end was very near.
Then I woke up.
And that’s that. lol
First thing this morning, I had to get on an elevator by myself for work. And I remembered this dream as the doors were closing on me. So that was fun. lol 😆
I have been having very vivid dreams lately. I always have but not as much as years ago when I was young, and I don’t remember them as much as I used to. But recently I have been having very detailed dreams that I remember. I generally don’t have unpleasant dreams.
I love that my mind made this character up and brought her to life so vividly. She wasn’t anyone I ever knew for real. I’m not sure how true it is, but I read before that our brain doesn’t make up faces, that if we dream a face very clearly, like my situation here, it means we necessarily saw that face before in real life, maybe even decades ago. It may not have been that person in our dream, just their face. So like this woman’s face could have been my 5th grade teacher’s (in fact thinking back, I think they did have a similar face, build, hair style…and she was warm, sweet, friendly, and around that age maybe lol) even if she wasn’t that person/my teacher in my dream. It was so creative of me lol 😂
This is probably strange, but I kind of feel sorry for her. She was so real, and whatever happened to us, I got to wake up, but it was her ending. Not that it was real. But there is a lingering feeling that I got to be the lucky one who escaped because I get to be the real one, flesh and blood, who gets to wake up and continue being. Also, there was a hint of guilt because it’s my brain that created that world and that dire situation for that character. lol I should probably stop now before I sound batsh!t. 😂
Anyone want to share an interesting dream experience/recurring dream/insight on dreams or anything, go ahead! Or even just your most recent dream you can remember, if there’s one. I would love to read! Dreams are so interesting! I’m especially interested in how, like I said, these dreams are like all linked with an underlying thread and how in dream world, we can know things in a way we wouldn’t in reality. Like we just knew we weren’t getting out of that elevator, not in a negative thinking kind of way but true knowing. In reality if the elevator sped past the 14th floor, most people’s initial reaction would probably be confusion. Like WTF or what’s going on. Our initial reaction was knowing. Then panic.
I don’t mind these dreams/nightmares. They are not pleasant but are fascinating. I am more intrigued than disturbed.
I hope you are having a beautiful day or night wherever in the world you are! And sweet dreams tonight lol 😆
Xoxo Kim ❣️