When I was a child, my father asked me to help work under the trailer (we once called home), to wrap water pipes and stuff new insulation in preparation of the upcoming winter. A tight crawl space where the both of us had difficulties maneuvering. We laughed at the predicament and tried to make light of it, but the end result of the chore was me eventually developing a fear of small spaces.
Spiders and their thick webs brushing my cheeks and arms. Bugs dropping onto the back of my neck. The noises and scurrying of unseen critters hiding in the darkness just out of sight. The feeling of brittle and old insulation particles falling from the framework, covering my skin like dried and stringy wisps of cotton candy. Forced to military crawl to shimmy forward to the next area.
Since that day in the crawlspace, when forced into small or congested areas, I get antsy. I find it hard to breathe. I sweat and look for escapes. Crowds bother me, unless it’s an event I enjoy such as a Comic Con or a laid back concert in a wide open field. I shake, feel dizzy and have to leave the situation as soon as possible. I don’t shop the malls during the holidays, and if I do, it’s late at night when there’s less people. When at a restaurant, I tend to be away from the walls and windows and closer to the open floor. At movie theaters, I prefer an aisle seat if at all possible and in most cases, I’m the first person to find the emergency exits in a room.
Conquering my fear of heights was easy after awhile. I forced myself to embrace the height and realized it wasn’t necessarily a fear of heights I was dealing with, but a fear of falling. Once I came to that realization, it became a matter of caution and thinking it through to ensure I wouldn’t fall. I merely changed my thinking. The fear of high places eventually disappeared. The Appalachian Trail hike was the cure.
I can’t force myself into small spaces to alleviate that fear. I’ve tried. I’ve searched for that cure. The more I try, the more it overwhelms me and I’m inclined to step back and avoid it. I can’t help it.
An item on my bucket list, is to one day experience a deprivation tank. Even if only for a few minutes. Floating in body temperature salt water, in a dark sound proof booth, or with light music coming from speakers built inside. Something relaxing and soothing. Weightless. The only thing you can see, eyes open or closed, is whatever the mind produces.
Having an esoteric out of the box conversation with a close friend, she mentioned wanting to try one out with me.
Despite my eventual goal to one day give the tank a try, at this moment along the path, I’m hesitant. Somewhere deep inside, a small fraction of fear still resides. I’m hoping someday I can work up the full courage.
Fear is such a buzzkill.
When I left the Old Life and started anew, it was with very few personal possessions. Shelby the mutt, a backpack, and a duffle bag. The “Safe-house,” or as some have come to know it, “the Island,” was an emptied, two story, five bedroom unused home on the fringes of town in which I started fresh. No bed, couch, table or chairs. Just me and the things I brought with me coming into the New Life. Once crossing the threshold and before even unpacking my books, trinkets, and clothes I collapsed on the hardwood floor and slept for more than twelve hours.
I had more than enough room to do whatever I pleased. Space was no longer a worry in my world.
Once lifting my head from the puddle of drool, and beginning the process of re-nesting, the new fear I was stricken with, was being alone. I had burned so many bridges getting to this point, I was surprised people even wanted to talk to me. I wasn’t easy to get along with. Obstinate. Harsh, defiant, and I spoke my mind even if it hurt others; not caring about the outcome or people’s feelings. Becoming alone and the fear that accompanied it, was self induced.
My irrational fear of small spaces developed early in childhood, and stuck with me. My monophobia was because I constructed it from scratch, and allowed that new fear to resonate. Having both phobias simultaneously was a nightmare. Not wanting to be around groups of people, yet scared to be alone? (shudder) I don’t wish it on my worst enemy. It’s debilitating.
Over the last six years, I’ve managed to conquer most of my childhood and self induced fears. Roller coasters. Deep ocean water. I’m working hard on my fear of planes and I believe most of the trivial phobias are long gone. We all have demons to face and destroy. Mine just took a little longer than I wanted.
Six months into the new life, the options for apartments and new places to live were next to impossible. The room I was occupying at my family’s home was shrinking. In fact, for a time, the entire home seemed to decrease in size. I felt surrounded and maneuvering my living space was becoming cramped and all I wanted to do was pace and escape, and that night when my eyes fluttered closed in bed I returned to Joe’s neck of the woods.
I’ve only screamed out loud twice in my life.
In southern Maine, on the interstate, I had one hundred miles left to drive before returning home. I stopped at a tollbooth to pay my toll and asked the attendant a question. To this day I wonder if I had asked a second question, or never asked one at all, if I would have missed hitting the deer that night. When the buck jumped the guardrail and his face was glowing in the headlight, I screamed my most manly scream I could muster and the deer destroyed the vehicle. The impact could have been avoided if I had one single extra second.
The second time I’ve audibly screamed, was seeing Joe again. My dream scream was loud enough it cut and traveled through the veil separating the realms of dreaming and being awake. I can’t recall the exact sound, but it was loud enough to where my family had to wake me up.
When I opened my eyes, I was on the roof of the refuge. Not outside sitting on the shingles, looking around and taking in the sights, breathing in fresh air and listening to the rustle of leaves in the wind. No, no, no. That would be a pleasant experience. Instead, I was lying on the roof inside the refuge, the crossbeams just out of arms reach, and to my right was the chain to the chandelier. The room was lit up by the light fixture dangling not far from me among the timbers and sitting cross legged on the floor below was Joe, playing a solo card game across the carpet.
Wrapping my paralyzed body from feet, to tight around my throat, was a bright red sleeping bag. Only my head was visible. I couldn’t move, other than turning my face side to side.
He looked up as if he was startled to see me up there and the playing cards returned to his hand. Once the whole deck was back to his palm he swore out loud, “Damn it! Now I have to start all over again. You ruined everything, Jeremy. I hate it when you people make me start over. You’re going to have to be patient. It’s going to get dark in here. Damn it all to hell!”
My attention was drawn back to the chandelier as the lights dimmed and the structural timbers moved around the roof to either side of me. Joseph entered the kitchen, the door swung closed behind him and the timbers along the ceiling moved slowly closer. The light had fully extinguished, the room became pitch black and I could feel the pressure of the wooden beams pressing into my chest, arms, stomach and boxing me inside a coffin. I couldn’t see the timbers anymore, but I knew what was happening.
Once the final beam was placed, I let out a blood curdling scream that I was certain Joe couldn’t hear. My cry for escape fell on deaf ears and the light never came back on. I was stuck, trapped and helpless, inside a thick wooden coffin.
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