Claustrophobia: No I am not afraid

Claustrophobia - an abnormal dread of being in closed or narrow spaces. I do not have claustrophobia, and I'm grateful.

I come from a fairly large family. Growing up in a household of seven people, sharing a bedroom with a sister and a bathroom with 4 other people meant there was very little privacy for any of us.

I LOVE my privacy and my "quiet" time. These days I call it "mommy time."

When I was a kid, I took great solace in finding the smallest, darkest, most quiet place I could jamb my little bitty body into for as long as possible before someone missed me. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your perspective), nobody ever seemed to miss me...

I especially liked closets. My bedroom closet was convenient, but the doors had slats, so it wasn't very dark.

The hallway closet....well, that was ideal. It wasn't the linen closet - that had too many shelves and the stinky Dial soap in it.

The hallway closet housed the sleeping bags, the old winter coats that were rarely worn, the dress coats, and anything else my mom had no other place for.

It was STUFFED full of soft, squishy, warm and comfy items.

When I needed to get away from my annoying siblings, I'd hang out at the top of the stairway and wait until all was clear.

Then, I quickly and quietly open the door, climb in, close the door and hunker down.

I was wedged deep inside the bowels of the soft squishies and loved it. Really, I was hiding.

I didn't know it at the time, but I was hiding away so that everyone would just leave me alone. It was awesome.

There was no light, so I couldn't read. We didn't have the electronics that are around today, so I had nothing to do, but sit, be still and think.

Often times, I fell asleep. Looking back, I think my family liked it too, because I don't recall a single time anyone came looking for me. Huh. Not sure I want to explore that further.

Anyway, as an adult, I became a paramedic and firefighter.

I really liked my job, but wanted to find a specialty that I could get into.

Hazmat (hazardous materials like methyl-ethyl-bad-stuff, and things that go ka-frigging-boom) was NOT my thing.

Then, I learned about the Technical Rescue Team. Technical Rescue included high angle (ropes, carabiners, ascenders, harnesses, etc.), confined space and trench rescue.

SWEEEEEET! I had found my niche.

Being strapped into a harness, tossing myself over the side of a high structure and zipping down that rope was a real rush.

Training in dark, confined spaces, like plastic tubes and our smoke trailer was a total thrill.

I did a lot of training, but never got to use the skills in a real emergency. That is the only bummer I can think of.

The key to not completely losing your mind when you're in a dark, tight space is learning to control the sense of panic that can crash down on you.

I felt that sense of panic just once. I was in full gear, blacked out mask and crawling through our smoke trailer.

The smoke trailer was set up with several obstacles intended to disrupt our path through the trailer.

Some of the obstacles were small openings where we had to shift our packs off to one side, or take off completely in order to fit through.

I made it through the bulk of the trailer without ever having to take my pack completely off.

(This is one of the advantages of being the smallest person on the department. No, seriously. My boots were a size 4. When I left the department, the chief joked that he was going to hang them from his rear view mirror).

Nearing the end of the trailer, as I was crawling through the last 10-15 feet or so, I got caught on something and came to a complete stop.  Remember, I couldn't see anything, so I only had my heavily gloved hands to help me.

I backed up and was free from whatever grabbed me, then went forward again and dang! Stuck again.

Suddenly, my bell went off. Every SCBA (self-contained breathing apparatus) has a low pressure bell. When the amount of air left in your tank falls below a certain point, your bell will start ringing. It's a safety feature so every firefighter knows when to GET OUT.

OK, so here I am stuck, unable to go forward, unable to figure out why I can't go forward, a partner behind me and now both of our bells are going off.

WHOOSH! In rushed that sense of panic of being trapped. Whoa. I counted to 5, took a deep breath (of my precious air supply that was rapidly dwindling) and decided not to panic.

Still stuck, I sat back on my heels, reached up directly above my head with my hands and swept them out to the sides of the "walls" of the hallway we were in. Ha! I found it!

There was a slack rope hanging at just the right height to catch my air tank as I crawled through the space.  Whew.

I was able to lift it up, crawl under, then I held it for my partner so that he didn't get stuck.

We crawled the rest of the way to the exit, and made it out of the trailer with just enough air in our tanks to see us through.

It was truly a triumphant moment.

Nope, no claustrophobia here. In fact, I think I need to find another closet to hang out in.

Do you think my kids will come looking for me? I think it's worth a try!

Joshua 1:9 (NIV)

9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Psalm 34:4 (NIV)

4 I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.


Do you have any fears that you cannot seem to overcome? What do you think you should be afraid of, but you're not?

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