There once was a fearful spelunker
gulping gin in his bunker, he'd hunker
When he finally felt braveI guess he should have got drunker.
He got lost in a cave
He got lost in a cave
A cave for the prompt this week. Oh no! My heart sinks when we're traveling and I hear a cave is coming up. In my youth, my heart would beat rapidly with excitement! And then decades ago in Roitan, Honduras I had a traumatic experience - a scuba diving accident which left me with immobilizing claustrophobia. It started immediately after the accident and was so severe, I could barely sit in my car, stand in a line or sit in an office. For three weeks I walked around in a state of near panic. I had to get treated or I guess die - do you eventually die of anxiety? Fortunately I was directed to a great psychiatrist who straightened me out in three sessions! Is that a world record? Once she walked me through my trauma, explained the post traumatic stress and the obvious link to the claustrophobia, something clicked back into place in my brain and I was able to cope with almost everything - except caves.
Caves. At the word, my throat clamped shut, hands sweat, mouth dried, heart pounded. Caves!! The dark, dankness...the walls closing in. Trapped! Bad, bad things happen in caves and dark small places. Echoey sounds, dripping things, slippery floors, sliminess, cave-ins. Bats, bogey men, spider webs, slithery things, terror, dragons, zombies, vampires. Sweat ran down my back and I'd shudder at the very thought of having to enter one.
Traveling around as I have in my life it's been inevitable that a cave (or tunnel or underground something) is on every travel agenda. Most people love them, but I've had to content myself with sitting outside watching everyone's coats and bags, usually buying a guide book or post cards or a photo book of the place to get an idea of how the place looked, while waiting for my companions to emerge. Explaining about the claustrophobia was almost the worst part. Unless you've experienced it or some kind of panic attack, you'll never understand it because it's totally irrational. People think you're weak or nuts or both.
Not surprisingly, I have no photos of caves around....the following are borrowed
Of all the caves I sat out, Lascaux in the Dordogne, France is the one I most regret...those beautiful paintings 17000 years old. They've now had to close the caves to protect the paintings and you can only visit a cave replica.
The Postojna caves in Slovenia were another miss along with the Monastery Cave in Kiev and of course, the catacombs in Paris and Rome, the Waitomo Glowworm caves in New Zealand. The Kuchi tunnels in Saigon were a welcome miss. The Elephant cave in Bali I could manage because it's so tiny and you're in and out in a minute. The entrance is appropriately through the mouth of a demon.
|Elephant Cave sacred-sites.org|
Now for the happy ending. I'm not going to attempt to explain the whole thing. The short version is that we were in Vietnam a decade ago, cruising on a junk in Halong Bay, one of the most beautiful places in the world.
I got stuck in a situation where either I went through a cave or simply got left behind - the rescue would have been mortifying. Forced into the cave, with no choice but to go forward, I did it. The rational finally trumped the irrational; the fear of crushing embarrassment trumped the terror. And guess what? The world didn't end; I didn't drop dead of a heart attack and once I saw the light at the end of the tunnel, literally, I was completely thrilled with myself.
Caves no longer terrorize me. I have an ever-fading memory of the cave anxiety that's etched on my brain, but it's a minor distraction. I sit no more at the entrance to caves with a little knot of fellow claustrophobics (I was never alone) but boldly march forward and enjoy the slithery sights.
Hold your own damn coats!
Steel yourself, stifle that phobia and head on over to Sepia Saturday for more fascinating stories.