I’d never had a problem with enclosed spaces before “the incident”.
It was one of the hottest days of the year and we’d just picked my parents up from the train station when I remembered we needed to get a few bits for lunch. As I was heavily pregnant, my husband said he would pop in to the supermarket while we waited in the car.
How nice of him, I thought…
…Until I tried to open the door to let some air in and it wouldn’t budge. None of the doors would open. I’d heard the locks click as he walked away but I’d assumed you could still open them from the inside. Clearly not. It played out in my head like a really bad horror film.
I could feel the panic rise up my body, close around my heart and then make its way up to my throat where it felt like a hand starting to squeeze. I was struggling to breathe. I started to gasp for air.
“Don’t do that,” I told myself. “You’ll use up all the air quicker and then we’ll all die!”
Even writing it now, I can feel my heart speed up.
I was in no danger, it was hot but he wouldn’t be gone long, plus we had water (and cars are not airtight) but I went into meltdown. Full on panic. I called him on his mobile and, nearly in hysterics, demanded he get back to the car RIGHT NOW and open the door before we all suffocated (my parents were perfectly calm sat in the back).
I was just getting ready to break the window with my feet, although being able to lift my feet that high beyond my massive tummy would have been a feat in itself, when he sauntered (and I mean sauntered) back wondering what all the fuss was about with a packet of bacon in his hands.
I was NOT happy but once I had opened the door and let some air in I thought that would be an end to it. Oh no.
Claustrophobia in pregnancy seems quite common, if the Internet is to be believed. At the time, the amateur therapist in me thought I was probably just anxious about impending motherhood or maybe that my body didn’t feel like my own anymore. But I’m not pregnant now – and haven’t been for nearly two years – so why is it still here and, more so, why is it getting worse?
I have to have the keys to the car if ever I am left inside but now I’ve also started to panic in lifts, although not to the same degree as in the car. The other day I walked out of my way to find one with glass sides because I thought it would make it easier. It did, to be fair, but it’s not always going to be possible to find one and, with a buggy, I can’t get down the stairs.
I’ve tried using the trick I learnt from the counselling I had after losing my first pregnancy to think beyond the problem. What will happen if I do get trapped in a lift? THE AIR WILL RUN OUT AND FREYA AND I WILL DIE. Telling myself that won’t happen? Doesn’t help.
On a day to day basis, it’s a not a massive issue. It’s not like I’m desperate to go potholing (which I believe is called spelunking across the pond. Isn’t that a fabulous word?) or actually have to go in a lift that often but I just don’t like it – and I certainly don’t want to pass that fear on to Freya (who has already some how managed to become terrified of spiders).
I’m not too bad if I have someone with me so maybe I am still questioning my parenting skills and ability to protect Freya? (I got my psychology degree from the University of Google).
According to NHS Choices 10% of the UK population have “an irrational fear of confined spaces” – and cars with central locking is on the list as well as lifts. Their advice is quite hopeful:
Claustrophobia can be successfully treated and cured by gradually being exposed to the situation that causes your fear. This is known as desensitisation or self-exposure therapy. You could try this yourself (read some self-help techniques), or with the help of a professional.
So maybe that’s where I start. Instead of avoiding them, I do it more often
until one day I get stuck and die and hope the panic starts to fade?
Have you had experience of claustrophobia, when pregnant or not? Any tips for coping with it?