Claustrophobia of open spaces

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As long as I can remember, closed cramped spaces have always made me uncomfortable. Pre-school classrooms, “cozy” houses, modular cars, elevator cars… there were no exceptions to it. As I grew older, the obvious panic I used to have I buried under the voice of logic until the only thing left was the deep unexplained discomfort that just appeared on the thought of being in cramped spaces. Even as a kid I always preferred outdoors, large airy spaces and the only time I ever spent indoors was when I was home. Nowhere else could I sit still for long unless I could see the sky or ground outside (I’d scream like a feral cat if you try to put me in the basement back then.)

so it’s easy to understand even in higher studies I chose to work in the field with all the assorted occupational hazards than being cooped in a lab under artificial lights staring down a microscope. (now don’t get me wrong, major breakthrough of biology usually do come from these people working in the labs on things too small to be seen with a naked eye but I’ve done enough lab work in my college days to understand that this was not my cup of tea). My first trip in the wild happened to be also the most liberating one. Up until this point, the wildest places I’ve been to were scrublands and parks gone wild (in the city these passed for forests really) being there after the dark was an adrenaline rush. Have you ever noticed how dark stimulates your imagination? Every stray branch feels like fingers clinging, every thorn a fang digging into your flesh and do I even need to start with the wind?

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In the forest, the true one, however, it’s the quiet that hits you like the jackhammer. On the nights after working, late into the dark, it was always unnerving how the chaos of dozen callers would simply go quiet, almost like clockwork. On the nights like these, we would just walk in the dark, conquistadors in amazon (just with torches and recorders instead of swords and flames) looking for gold we knew waited for us to spot.

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On nights like these, I would let my companions walk a bit ahead and turn off my torch. The sudden darkness would always nearly choke me, gloom closing on all around me. The canopy 20 meters above our heads would be gloomy with the waning moon but down on the floor for all intents and purpose it would be pitch black and I’ll be blind as a mole (I know the saying is a bat but moles are more suitable, believe me.)

in the dark like this, I’d walk a little at first, farther and longer at least until someone would notice the dark and call me out and I’ll have to turn on the lights.

The towering trees all around me were like giants in the dark, waiting …

watching…

little by little, night after night the claustrophobia in me disappeared. The fear of closed spaces faded away, though I am not still comfortable in cramped spaces it takes me longer to start screaming and run away shaking my head.now I don’t expect you to travel all the way to your nearest wilderness to get rid of your fears (though that’s a perfectly fine idea!)

I do however suggest that in order to overcome your fears you first must admit to them. only after accepting your flaws can you start working on overcoming them. afterward, it is all about working to overcome it… baby steps, of course, simpler things. having understanding friends and family does wonders to your improvements though that’s not an essential thing.

it took ten years and three months of nocturnal field work for me to get rid of my fear of darkness and closed spaces, now darkness holds no fear for me (apart from an occasional panther or a group of elephants but that’s another story.)

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