The Terror of Being Trapped

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I was Face Timing with my daughter yesterday and she showed me her bed. The covers were tucked so tightly under the mattress you could bounce a quarter off of it. She would have made my grandmother proud. The top section of the covers were folded over and tucked in tightly as well, leaving only the pillows exposed. What she told me next triggered a full-blown anxiety attack. She told me she hasn’t had to make the bed in several days because the covers are tucked so tightly that she just crawls in and out of the top and they never budge. She said she likes being bound in tightly to bed. I don’t. I sleep with the covers very loosely laying over me. In fact, no matter how cold it is (thankfully in Florida it’s usually not very cold) I usually keep at least one foot or sometimes a whole leg out of the covers.

I was really surprised by the level of anxiety I was experiencing at the thought of her straight-jacket bed, so I started to explore it a little bit. I never gave much thought to how I sleep, but I realized at that moment that sleeping like that is my way of taking control of my body. My freedom. I’m keeping an escape route open. The more I thought about it, the more I noticed a theme. Things that make me feel trapped trigger intense anxiety , and sometimes even panic.  I always knew these things were triggers, but I didn’t realize why until now. It was all becoming clear to me that the things I always considered to be oddities and “quirks” are actually rooted in trauma.  Things like:

  • I’ve never wanted to visit Australia or Hawaii because I didn’t like the thought of being “trapped” on an Island, My husband always had a good time laughing about this one!
  • I absolutely cannot wear clothing that comes all the way up to my neck. The thought of wearing a turtleneck makes me panic. But I can’t even wear crew neck tee shirts. I have to have a v-neck or scoop neck or some other style with a neckline low enough so that when I put my chin to my chest I feel skin. Otherwise, I feel like I’m suffocating.
  • Whenever I go to a restaurant, or any public place really, I never choose a spot with my back to the door. It makes me anxious if I can’t see the way out.
  • My fear of flying (which isn’t so bad anymore, I’m happy to report!) is all about being trapped in a cylinder up in the sky with no possibility of escape. It’s not about control of the plane, it’s about control of  my body.
  • The panic I feel about medical procedures like surgery, colonoscopy, and that blasted MRI that I haven’t been able to make myself do. It’s all about the fear I have of being trapped and not able to control what happens to my body.

I’m sure if I go digging deep enough I could find more areas where the terror of being trapped is affecting my every day life. All because of one night 36 years ago, when I was trapped in a pickup truck, pinned under a sweaty little man who reeked of beer. It’s amazing to me how deep the wounds of trauma go, how tightly the threads are woven into the fabric of my being, how firmly the chains are keeping me trapped in the terror of my own mind. Now that these threads have been brought into the light, I hope and pray that I can shred them into dust and leave the terror behind.


He brought them out of darkness, the utter darkness, and broke away their chains. – Psalm 107:14

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