Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Where I Stare Fear In The Eye


If you're tired of reading about my various neuroses, for the love of God, turn the page immediately.

If not, read on McDuff.

I don't know who, if any of you, know that I suffer slightly from claustrophobia. I say slightly because I can do so many things comfortably now that used to cause my heart to race.

Riding the metro was still a big no-no for me.  Locked up in a speeding car, rushing through the underground, packed elbow to elbow with a pack of strangers was strangely unappealing to me.

And then I visited Boston. I did not come with a list of mental allergies, so Steve from AnUrbanCottage had no reason to fear my fears.

He took me on the El. Two ways, back and forth. And I survived. More that survived. I thought to myself, I could do this.

And yesterday, running around, first into DC to get a haircut, ride over courtesy of the shop driver, a 5 minute bus ride back to Virginia and then, da dum, the question of how I would get across Arlington for My PT appointment.

I had a date in DC for dinner after PT and I vaguely hoped I would be able to hop on the Metro like any ordinary Jane and ride on in. But could I or would I? A taxi seemed more likely and more expensive.

This was my chance to practice. A very long escalator ride brought me to the very depths of Hell. The train I needed was one more floor down. Well I sure as hell wasn't going back up that escalator, so I rode down to the third circle, took a deep breath and a picture, waited 4 minutes and got on the next train.


10minutes later I disembarked and rode up a much shorter escalator a new woman. Truly. An empowered, emancipated woman, eyes brimming with tears of gratitude and the need to get a Starbucks and text everyone I could that I had just ridden the train.

My friends were amazed. You would have thought I had won an Olympic gold.

And then I rode the train into DC to meet the lawyer/mommy for dinner.

How was the Metro, she asked innocently.

Considering I hadn't ridden it in 20 some years, it was pretty damn good.

How funny to hold on to fears as if they were a security blanket, when maybe we provide our own security and don't need that tattered scrap to sleep with any more.

I was very tired, I was very merry. I had gone back and forth all night on the ferry metro.

Thank you Steve.

 xo jane

32 comments:

  1. Oh boy, this post speaks to me. Last things first: I am so impressed that you were able to sneak Edna St. Vincent Milay in there. I have a recording of that poem and every since I heard her read it, it has haunted me. I found a recording on youtube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mYQkEkB_fhk

    As for phobias...there were years when I couldn't drive across a bridge--not good for someone who lived in the bay area (can't get to or from SF without crossing a bridge) and then had a 2-bridge commute to law school. Worse though was tunnels under water (not good for someone who lived in Brooklyn and went to school/worked in Manhattan--panic setting in when the subway stopped UNDER the East River). I still can't drive through the Lincoln and Holland tunnels. Then there's flying--thank goodness I discovered Ativan. So yeah, I relate. And am proud of you!

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    1. Yea, you really do get it. I had the bridge and tunnel fears years ago but they floated away when i stopped drinking. And elevators, but now I ride them freely.

      Flying? Xanax for me. One mile at a time for our kind.

      Love the reading. It's a poem I often quote to myself when I'm having or recollect having fun.

      xo j

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    2. Dear Jen,
      As a (way) former New Yorker, I can so totally relate! Those tunnels were a horror for me and I was commuting to Manhattan from NJ suburbs on the bus. Nightmare City!" Prior to that, commuted on from Nassau County & one time, the LIRR train
      literally stopped under the East River. I literally thought I would die and at that point, would have preferred it. Goddess Bless the dryland West -- no tunnels needed except for under a few mountain passes; for some reason, those do not freak me out. Jane, thanks for sharing and good on ya" for making such progress.
      Diane from the wide-open
      big skies of Colorado, breathing
      more easily here. :-)

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    3. p.s., sorry for the typos, above. Jen, my worst anxiety in this area is prob.. bridges -- especially the Oakland Bay Bridge! Im OK as a passenger but will not/cannot drive across it. I used to plan entire Bay Area trips around avoiding it, going way out of my way to take that nice low, not as scary baby bridge down in San Mateo!

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  2. Inspiring. Way to let go of that fear, Jane!

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  3. Jane,
    I can totally relate! In fact, my fear of the Bay Bridge surfaced as I read your fear of the metro. I am so proud of you. Way to go, girl!!!! This summer I had to cross the Bay Bridge to go pick up my son from camp (I had no choice, my husband was out of the country). On the way there, I hired a service to drive me across. On the way back, my son said to me "let's do it, Mom." I decided that I needed to conquer this irrational fear. So with trepidation, I agreed to face my fear. The whole time driving over the bridge, my heart was beating very fast and hard. My shoulders were tense and I was sweating. Once I was on the bridge, there was no turning back. I was stuck! That feeling made things even worse! My brave son kept saying, "You can do it. We are almost there." And he was right, I could do it. I CROSSED the BAY BRIDGE! Now, I just have to cross it going in the opposite direction. May be the outlet mall on the other side of the bridge will be enough of a reason to cross THAT bridge soon!
    Christa

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    1. Christa, I remember that day. But I didn't know how you ended it. Yay for you and yay for your son, the great cheerleader.
      So proud of you. I hope you were proud of you too!
      I used to feel a flicker of fear every time a plane flew overhead, now I fly. Not gracefully, not with excitement, but I do it and I get to go different places.

      baby steps.

      xo

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    2. Hi Christa,
      Re: Oakland-Bay Bridge, prob. my biggest phobia of all. Two suggestions: stay in the middle lane & dont allow your eyes to wander to those edges. 2nd, try the detour down the 101 or the 280 to the lowet, less scary bridge from San Mateo to Milpitas, then take that highway North to Oak. & the 880.

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  4. I'm extending my hand and giving you a great big High Five!

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  5. You were certainly brave not to say anything as I was dragging you on it but, I know, we were headed to Restoration Hardware! Congratulations for facing it head on.

    I must admit I have somewhat of the same fear. It's especially difficult on a really crowded train and I sometimes have to wait for a packed train or two or three to pass before I can get on the one that isn't elbow to elbow. I do a lit of closed-eyes imagining that I'm an open field.
    The alternative is $500 a month for a downtown parking space.

    The worst part about anxiety is the anticipation of it. And if you can disprove the fear, it does help a little bit.

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    1. I was half horrified and half thrilled. And of course, we were on a mission!

      Thanks for the tip. I didn't know I didn't have to grab the first train that came along.

      What next?

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  6. You get a gold star on the middle of your forehead! (for those of us old enough to remember this from kindergarten and first grade)

    Some of those metro escalator/stairs are steep enough to give a person vertigo.

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    1. Right? It was probably good to start in Rosslyn. Everything else, maybe with the exception of Dupont Circle will seem like a breeze.

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  7. One Olympic Gold coming up! So proud and happy for you. Facing your phobia was wonderful - and doing it by yourself, too! Great that it also brings the instant reward of getting you to places you want to go, so some positive reinforcement.

    For me, it was needles. I finally put on my Big Girl Pants one day and went to get a flu shot ... all alone. The folks in my office we dumbstruck! Well, so was i.

    Let's hear it for Big Girl Pants! xoxo

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    1. Congratulations to you too. Last year was my first flu shot. And I survived. Guess we all have something ( or many somethings in my case).

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  8. Totally can relate, tight spaces from when I got stuck in a full elevator as a kid. Can't breath, panic, the works. Haven't flown in 20 years, if I can't drive, I am not going. Makes for a very limited life that I am now finally working the kinks out. Can now manage the elevator (sort of) , have ridden on tour buses and let others do the driving. Still haven't flown yet, guess I need a really big reason to do it. I am always cheering for others who conquer their fears. WAY TO GO JANE!!!!!

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    1. Thank you! My big reason for resuming flying was when a friend invited myself and partner on a 2 week trip to Italy all expenses paid. I rushed right off to a phobia counselor. She helped me immensely and also suggested the Xanax as a back up. When I got off the plane in Rome, I knew it was all worth it.

      May your day come too.

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  9. Oh, brave girl! I hope that this will be a regular occurrence now that you know you can do it!

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    1. It will be for sure. Can't wait to take myself around the city.

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  10. Oh Jane, it keeps getting better and better. I am so proud of you (kudos to Steve). Just think of all you've conquered in the last year. My girl you are on your way to Paris and an exhilirating ride on the Metro! Mon Dieu!!!!!

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  11. Isn't it odd how the anticipation of something is so often where the fear gets rampant, the actually doing it can go just fine?? Saluting your 'feeling the fear and doing it anyway'. I'm bad with heights and perceived airlessness. I realise that last one makes me sound barmy! :/

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    1. Makes you sound barmy and made me laugh.

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  12. Jane you are so brave... I understand. sending you a hug.. love,Diana

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  13. BRAVO, HURRAY, WELL DONE! Conquerer! (AND you've meet the mysterious, un-photographed Steve!) I am a wimp out in the dark in any big city, my heart races. But I can walk through a wood at night in the countryside no trouble at all.

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  14. I am a huge metro rider .... now ... but used to be terrified of the down escalator, especially at Woodley Park Zoo metro. It was like the one big step across the top would send me down some kind of abyss into a panic. One day the elevators were broken (or something like that) and I walked a huge distance from one station to the next to meet an appointment instead of taking the escalator down and quickly bouncing over one stop. I am not sure how I made the big change but I now take the escalator like a champ and don't sweat it but I am always secretly proud that I overcame my fear. I am proud of you too. :-)

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  15. I am a huge metro rider .... now ... but used to be terrified of the down escalator, especially at Woodley Park Zoo metro. It was like the one big step across the top would send me down some kind of abyss into a panic. One day the elevators were broken (or something like that) and I walked a huge distance from one station to the next to meet an appointment instead of taking the escalator down and quickly bouncing over one stop. I am not sure how I made the big change but I now take the escalator like a champ and don't sweat it but I am always secretly proud that I overcame my fear. I am proud of you too. :-)

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