Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Paranoia, and Other Useful Emotions

Apply as needed for paranoia.
Not to be used internally.
I read recently that Franklin Delano Roosevelt never liked to be in a room alone. Polio hit him, of course, as most of know. He could stand, with braces, but not being able to walk, he was deathly afraid of being trapped by a fire.

Everyone has fears. I suppose, fragile creatures that we are, everyone has an irrational fear or two. Like FDR, though, I don't think my fear is irrational.

I dislike being trapped. Maybe it's claustrophobia, but if it is, I'm paranoid about claustrophobia.

That's a problem since I'm paralyzed more extensively than FDR. In my wheelchair, I very rarely go where I cannot envisage an escape route. A few years ago the whole family took the elevator to the top of the Sears Tower in Chicago during a vacation. Not me. Elevator fails? Where am I? Waiting at the top of the Sears Tower for folks to tote me down 1,000 feet plus of stairway. And yes, I know there is more than one elevator in the Sears Tower, and the chances of all of them being out of service is slim, but I still didn't go. And yes, I know it's no longer called the Sears Tower, but I could still get trapped at the top no matter what they're calling it now.

Other places I feel trapped ...
  • Any other elevator, even one only going to a second level, elevators being essential for wheelchair users but at who-knows-what psychic peril ...
  • Inside my van, unless the door is open, the lift is down, and there's enough room to get off the lift, this phobia applying even in the coldest or hottest weather when it far more logical to keep the door closed ...
  • In a room with the door closed, if I'm in bed rather than in my wheelchair, and sometimes even when I'm in my chair if the room is small enough ...
  • In bed, even with the door open, unless another person is close enough to hear me yell, which I will do loudly ...
  • In large crowds where it is difficult to maneuver my power chair amongst creatures who are only a suggestion away from mimicking the running with the bulls ...
  • In my imagination, where a narrative thread continues nearly without interruption in which obstacles appear or the wheelchair suffers mechanical failure, each one turning me into an extraordinarily neurotic paperweight ...
Cursory reading of medical literatures notes that this feeling of claustrophobia is exacerbated by dependence upon mechanical ventilation. That's me. Being trapped rarely occurred to me before post-polio syndrome, before I needed a nice little positive pressure machine to keep the motor running.

That's ironic. You're talking to a guy here who spent about three months in an iron lung, lo, those many years ago. There's not much more trapped than being rolled into a large metal barrel with an opening only for your head. Of course, there were folks close by then, although I have no memory of a call button being available. I don't remember any feelings of claustrophobia, though, only generalized fear and constant anger.

There's little to be done for paranoia-claustrophobia, at least in my case. Aversion therapy? No, thank you. Anxiety drugs? Workable, yes, but not the best choice. 

There are other means, I'm sure. The single practical method I've found is carrying a cell phone everywhere, even into bed, even resting it within reach when showering.

It also helps to have family and friends who understand. It helps to be vocal about the fear so that those family and friends comprehend the uncontrollability of the phobia. 

And strangely enough, it helps too to think about the fear, to reason into its heart and ask to comprehend the why of its existence. 
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