Saturday, July 04, 2009

Claustrophobia - A new definition?

(Posted on all my major blogs.)

Ever since the age of 12 or 13, when an uncle of mine taught me the art of relaxation using artificial stress inducement, I have never had a problem of going to sleep. Before my head is settled in the pillow, I am fast asleep. I do not wake up at night and toss and turn. I nod off as soon as the reason for waking up is attended to. I hardly ever dream. Sit in a car with a safe driver, and I can drop off into neverland within a couple of minutes.

I usually wake up fully relaxed, even if the sleep lasted only a few minutes.

I came back from the hospital on Thursday afternoon with my left hand in plaster from the forearm till the tips of my finger. The operation to repair the knuckle of my fourth finger in my left hand had been successful, but it meant that my arm would be in this plaster-cast for 5 weeks. Plenty of painkillers and a course of antibiotic for 5 days, so no real problem of pain.

When I went to bed on Thursday evening, I thought I was going to sleep in my usual fashion. However, when my head hit the pillow, and as recommended, I put my plastered arm in a suitable and comfortable position on a couple of raised pillows, I felt a tremendous and overpowering feeling of restlessness. Sleep was just not coming in the next few minutes. Each passing second was raising an anxiety within me. I was feeling claustrophobic, even though, bodily, I was not in any confined situation.

Then it dawned on me that my mind was reacting to the fact that my left hand had lost its freedom. It was caged, and the stress relaxation technique, which I have used for over 50 years to drop into my slumber, was blocked by an overpowering feeling of fear. My fingers and wrist had lost their freedom. They were confined and this feeling of confinement was causing my mind to say that I was totally confined. And the realisation that I would have to endure this confinement for 5 more weeks was mentally unbearable.

I jumped out of bed, feeling as if I could not stay put down. I walked into the kitchen and expressed my claustrophobic thoughts to Annikki.

She was cool and calm and told me that I should take each day as it came, and the 5 weeks would be over even before I knew it.

I went to the living room and plonked down in front of the tv, but my heart and soul were not into watching any of the programmes. I let tiredness possess me so much so that I allowed my body to react to a mentally created feeling of a body becoming tired. Then when I went to bed, it was not my relaxation that put me to sleep, but a feeling of great tiredness - quite different to my normal situation.

As soon as Annikki came to bed, I put my plastered arm around her, and that claustrophobic feeling suddenly lifted and I dropped quickly into my normal deep slumber.

When I woke up in the morning, although relaxed, I still had that feeling at the back of my mind that I was a caged person. My n degrees of freedom had been severely curtailed. I now understood how anyone who loses any degree of freedom, mental or physical, could suddenly feel claustrophobic.

In all my life I had never experienced this. It was indeed a major revelation to me about the sufferings of my fellow travellers on this earth who had lost their freedom, any part of it.

I will be glad when this hand is uncaged. I will value all the degrees of freedom that I enjoy much much more than I ever have! And I will appreciate the feelings of other men and women, and any animal, who are caged in any form.

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