I don't necessarily like spiders, snakes, roaches, tomato worms, mice or chipmunks who find their way in your house.  But, I don't have a phobia about any of them.  If need be I can kill them, dispose of them and face them down with only a slightly elevated heart rate.  Put me though, in an enclosed, tight, locked, crowds pushing in on me place and well, I get more than a little uncomfortable.  There is no "if need be" for me in those tight quarters.  Claustrophobia, if there a genetic tie at all to phobias, was evidenced in my maternal great grandfather Warren, and his daughter-my grandmother June.  Both of my grandparents exhibited some times funny signs of claustrophobia in what they would not wear.  My great grandfather, a preacher/evangelist, later in life would prefer to wear wife beater shirts with suspenders and no belt.  He hated the confines of too much constrictive clothing.  Grandma June was the same way.  She would take scissors to the waistbands of her pants and necklines of her shirts to give herself freedom.  I have actually witnessed her tugging and tugging at her clothing in frustration of confinement.  Unfortunately, I am the one of my siblings who has that same trait.  Turtlenecks cannot be worn by me or rarely I should say.  Even if I am in a dressing room trying on clothes if the material is too tight (wouldn't be for normal people) or restrictive I have to get it off fast:)  Sometimes I buy clothes that are a size too big just for the reason that I want to be free and not constrained by tightness.  My sisters I think giggle over that.  I also cannot wear layers and layers of clothes - claustrophobia ensues and I begin stripping some off.  As a kid my claustrophobia was well known within my immediately family.  Of course, my sisters knew my kryptonite and would find ways to see my hysteria come out.  There was a very small closet in our old farm house growing up that was more like a cubby hole where we kept toys, games, stuffed animals...  My sisters would lure me in it and slam the tiny door shut, holding it tight from the outside just to hear me scream loudly in sheer panic.  It was pitch dark in that little cupboard and I had no option of getting out.  Just when I thought the terror was at its peak and I was crying, they would open the door and laugh (before you feel too bad I did horrific things to them also, but that's for another blog).  I refused as a kid to go in a elevator.  No doubt I made a few scenes with my parents in large stores, but absolutely would not get on one.  I remember only once being in an elevator as a kid and can distinctly remember the feeling that swept over me of absolute uncontrollable panic.  Wisely, I just chose not to repeat it - always taking the stairs or the escalator.  My parents would try their best to reason with me, give me logic, explain away my irrational thoughts....but to no avail.  You cannot reason with fear.   In 7th grade I flew in an airplane for the first time.  In O'Hare airport I simply refused to get on the plane with my parents.  Granted it was a DC-10 and it was 1978-79 just after an identical plane crashed killing all on board.  I fled to the airport bathroom where my mom had to almost drag me out.  My dad's solution to my claustrophobia was this statement, "This is the only way there and you WILL get on that plane!".  I got on the plane.  Really maybe that method worked because after that experience I had no fear of claustrophobia on a plane ever again.  In our small town there was a department store that sold everything from clothes, shoes, household items, etc...  It was housed in a downtown building with 3 levels.  As a kid it was a grand place to get to go to.  Times were a bit safer and you could wander through the store.  On that particular day at around 8 years old I went to the 3rd floor to use the bathroom - if that's what you could call it.  Really, it was about the size of the toy closet that my sisters locked me in at home to terrorize me.  You could literally get in and not have much room to even turn around in it.  It, of course, took all my courage to even then shut and lock the door once inside.  After doing my duties I tried to unlock the door but the lock had somehow jammed.  I messed with it a bit before breaking into a sweat and starting to wonder if anyone would find me or when.  Wonder turned to worry, worry to gripping fear and fear rushed straight to all out pandemonium of spirit.  I began to scream at the top of my lungs, while sobbing out of control and hitting the inside of the door with my hands.  I didn't let up.  I kept it up unsure if anyone could hear me.  Quickly my screams became self-propelled and took on a life of their own.  Soon I heard people running up the stairs.  They tried to calm me down through the door - hard to do with a hysterical 8 year old.  They couldn't find a key and I couldn't get it unlocked as it was broken on the inside.  By the time they got the door off its hinges I was a puddle of fear and tears and exhaustion all rolled together.  I can remember looking at everyone's faces and seeing a few small smiles, but no one quite understanding my terror.  Caves are horrible experiences for me.  Being underground in the dark is a smothering sensation for me.  In a cave tour once the guide turned all the lights off and we sat for several minutes in complete and utter darkness.  Your eyes never adjusted to that blackness.  As we snaked our way further into the cave I would fight waves of panic to want to run to the surface to see the sky and breath the air.  I decided right then I could never be a miner.  At the Museum of Science and Industry I went on the submarine and while listening to the tour guide began to picture being a sailor and having to live under the water in that tiny little space.  My heart rate increased and I asked my dad if the tour was almost over.  I made a mental note - don't be a sailor, ever.  In elementary school we did this very cool thing with a huge parachute where all the kids would grab an edge and collectively heave it above our heads and then quickly sit down tucking the edge of the parachute under us as the air gently and softly brought it down around us.  I realized at that time, without knowing the word for it, that I would never participate in a sweat lodge:)  Camping in the boundary waters in a tent that barely held 3 people I realized that I think I would rather chance a bear encounter than sleep in a nylon contraption that I am zipped into with absolutely no wiggle room.  Once while in Chicago coming out of a Cubs game onto the sidewalk the swell of the crowd was so great and edging the entire sidewalk for several blocks were chartered buses picking up groups.  I felt that same panic sweep over me that I could not see the street or move or have space.  The older I got the more I realized what was happening and would use some self-talk to get through those moments of claustrophobia.  I can cope with small spaces if need be, but I still hate clothing that constricts me.  I've thought about becoming a nudist, but that might be an extreme measure to overcome claustrophobia.  What do you think??


  1. so sorry for the cubby hole scars. :) if i chose nudity, everyone else would scramble for a tight closed-in space to spare themselves the sight!

  2. Well Lynn, one question...did God create Adam &
    Eve with clothes? no, indeed He
    did not. So I feel, clearly, that there is your answer.