I didn’t want to go to Warrior fitness camp on the third floor that day.
It was a warm day in New York. The streets full of people. Bumper to bumper cross-town traffic. It was my first time at this new building. This old building.
Twelve minutes until noon. Class starts at noon.
The first thing I noticed is the security guy at the small front desk. He was bored. He seemed not to be paying attention to anything. The shiny gold and mirrored walls didn’t offer much comfort either. It felt cold. Not cold in the weather sense, but uncaring.
I stood, pretending to be talking to someone on the phone. “Yea, I’m just at the elevator but I can talk for a couple minutes before I get in.” I was stalling because I didn’t like these elevators. Something just didn’t seem right about this building. Being stuck in an old elevator on this warm, packed day in New York City was all I could imagine.
So I decided to bail. I’d already paid for the class but this was my first time. I was willing to forgot the $35 in exchange for freedom from the impending stuck elevator and an assured series of severe panic attacks.
Six minutes until noon.
I watched two more groups of people walk into the elevators while I continued to pretend to be talking on my phone. Again, my excuse for not going in the elevator yet. It’s probably important to note that the embarrassment I feel from this fear is crippling. I just want to be seen as ‘normal’.
Three minutes until noon.
A friendly looking guy pressed the up button. This was my last shot to get in the elevator and go to the third floor. I said “gotta go, talk to you later” to my imaginary co-conspirator on the phone and took the requisite four steps into the elevator car. The man pressed three, my floor, and the doors shut.
It was one of the more difficult workouts I’ve had in a long time.
But I feel invincible.
I did something in spite of the overwhelming threat of breathtakingly difficult panic attacks.
Lesson: Living my life in spite of my panic disorder requires courage in the face of fear. Every time. No exceptions. It just has to be this way.
Remember to re-read this post Brian. You’ll probably need this reminder again.
When given a choice, we tend to choose the fastest and easiest path. It's not our fault. Our brain is wired this way. It likes speed and efficiency and rewards us with warm fuzzy feeling when we choose the easy path.
What did you have for dinner last night? Was it what you really wanted or did you choose it because it was quick and easy? You probably felt good when you were off the hook from having to cook the more difficult meal. The one that requires more effort, patience, and time. The one that is easier to screw up. You might have even told yourself "I'll make it tomorrow night instead". You punt.
Men are disturbed not by things, but by the view which they take of them.
The difference between how I felt before attempting to pull the door handle and after was night and day. It was a pretty smooth train ride up until that point. I was elated just being on the New York City subway system, let alone taking the two trains it took to go from the Barclays Center to 125th St. It was a huge step in my exposure therapy. Then I found out that my escape route was locked.
It's not really an escape route. I just tell myself that in an attempt to avoid a panic attack. It's how I cope. I convince myself that I'm not really trapped in a steel and glass tube moving at 35 mph through a dark underground tunnel in one of the world's largest cities. If the train comes to a complete stop somewhere along it's route due to train traffic, I tell myself that I can open the sliding doors, walk into the open walkway between the subway cars, and jump onto the tracks below. These doors are typically left open so that passengers can move between subway cars in emergency situations.