“GET OUT NOW, YOU’RE NOT SAFE” is the story my mind sometimes loves to entertain in the middle of the night in a hotel room or in a room I am unfamiliar with. An overwhelming feeling of being TRAPPED suffocates me and all rational thinking leaves.
The first time that it happened was 8 years ago on the 7th floor of a hotel room in Los Angeles. I had to escape the room at 3am. As soon as I reached the lobby, I felt safe… but completely DISTRESSED by what had happened and feared returning to the room. It happened a lot since then in various places – on airplanes, in a very crowded funeral parlour with my father’s dead body in the middle of the room, in a crowded tube station and even for a period of time in my own safe bedroom when I lived in Nairobi in 2014. It happens in random places where I feel “TRAPPED”. I feel overcome with panic and an urgent need to “escape the room”.
It has gotten much better than before, I have the tools to work on it and it’s not something that I ever lose sleep over or have ever considered taking any medication for – apart from in the moments of absolute terror where I could knock back ANYTHING to escape what I am feeling, but that’s also my cue to work on me rather than numb it down.. I don’t judge anyone who medicates either, sometimes it’s needed, we all know what’s best for us individually.
I can easily take a flight and actually enjoy it now. Sweaty palms are a thing of the past.
But now and again, it still comes to visit. With all my training and stress reduction techniques, I still sometimes cannot master that powerful mind that feels somehow tricked into believing the story that I’m not safe in that moment.
I observe my mind and know that it’s completely irrational. I breathe deeply, visualize, feel the bedsheets and mattress beneath me, remind myself I am safe… but even so, on the rare occasion where I have done it, leaving the room can bring a great sense of relief and the feeling of safety temporarily returns.
Andrea Perry, author of a book on claustrophobia, says this about it:
“Some theories suggest that fear and panic naturally subside after 30 minutes or so. But they don’t describe the horror of losing the ability to think while bathed in the acid bath of chemicals that the fight-or-flight responses release. We are designed to use adrenaline to run or to resist. Where neither is possible, trauma may be compounded.”
I like this explanation as it reminds me of what my rational mind is sometimes up against “an acid bath of chemicals”.
I will always wake up later in the night or in the morning feeling completely safe – same room, same circumstances, but somehow the mind no longer has interest in feeding that “I’m not safe” story.
One great thing that helps me is remembering that I will feel fine in the morning. “This too shall pass” is a saying I love!
EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) is a powerful technique that helps, especially on planes (google it!). The Work of Byron Katie is also effective.. or putting pen to paper in any way. I once wrote 5 pages of garbage on a plane a few years back just to distract my mind until the anxiousness passed .
If it became debilitating, I would devote more time to working on it and probably buy Andrea Perry’s book. But I haven’t felt the need recently.
What I also like to remind myself of is that if my mind is that powerful to create such terror, my mind also has the power to create really positive and powerful experiences through visualisation.
What has helped me too is to speak more openly about it … without any feelings of shame or “less than”. So many fears like this aren’t spoken about enough. Many people wont understand, many will judge it as ridiculous and why don’t you just pull yourself together and be rational? I get that. I can still feel frustrated with my kids when they “keep the light on because of the monster that might be under the bed” for example.
Accepting it for what it is, working on it if it feels like it’s interfering with your life too much or too frequently and sharing about it openly is my best advice.
I know for a fact that many people experience anxiety in one form or another and it’s just not spoken about enough. There is a stigma attached to it.
Yes it usually means that some trauma or other has been experienced but not always.. or nothing specifically that we can put our finger on. So work through whatever needs to be worked through. I know that for me, it was most prevalent during two particularly stressful times in my life, so awareness and reaching out for support to work through whatever is going on can make all the difference.
But here is the good news too. And it might sound crazy.. but I know it to be true, because my predominant feeling is happiness and fulfillment. We can still lead an EXCEPTIONAL life even if anxiety comes to visit. I know several who do.. especially artists, creators and high-achievers. Resisting it isn’t necessary. The more fully you allow yourself to feel the uncomfortable feelings, the more fully you get to feel the good ones too.
Embrace it all. Do what you need to do and still always remember to HAVE FUN and go after creating the life you want!
If you would like support with coming to terms with any kind of fears or anxiety, no matter how irrational or crazy or shameful it seems, message me. Don’t suffer in silence. This too shall pass. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Comment below if you have experience of what I described above. What did you do to work through it/overcome it.