StagesWe were planning a delightful outing – a night seeing a show with friends!

The destination was a little theater production house in the suburbs of our fair city, as their website describes:

“Stages St. Louis is the region’s foremost not-for-profit company committed to preserving and advancing the art form of Musical Theatre through excellence in performance and education. . . Stages employs the best musical theatre artists available regionally and nationally for all productions. . .. The theater seats 380. “  

We had great seats as honestly, there is not a bad seat in the house in a small venue such as this. Our tickets had us sitting pretty much in the middle – of all the rows and in the middle of the actual very long row itself.

As the theater filled up (it was a full house) and we chatted with our friends, my mouth began to get very dry. The production began – Smokey Joe’s Café.

I knew what was happening and I couldn’t believe it. I was having a panic attack.

There I was smack dab in the center of 380 people! I was surrounded with no means of escape. I tried to sit forward to ease the stress but that made it worse as now I could easily see the long long filled row of people to my left and to my right blocking my exit.

I prayed. I pleaded with God. I just couldn’t believe or at least didn’t want to accept that there I was – having a panic attack! I tried to focus on the stage but my fears overtook me. Into the second song, I had to leave.

I told my hubby I’d be back at intermission and proceeded to step over and past probably 25 people seated in the dark. I kept saying “excuse me, excuse me, excuse me.” I was horrified at myself!

As soon as I reached and stepped out into the isle, I calmed down. An observant usher lit her tiny flashlight to guide me up the stairs to the back of the room. She looked at me questioningly. I explained that I was claustrophobic and wondered if there was a place in the back I could sit. So the rest of the first half I sat amongst the ushers on high chairs stationed at the back wall enjoying the show.

Meanwhile, Hubby was beginning to panic because he didn’t know why I left and didn’t hear me say I’d be back at intermission. And I didn’t come back! He turned his phone on – a no no in the theater – hoping I’d text him. I didn’t.

At intermission, I went down and told him and our friends what had happened. I was totally embarrassed but they were all gracious and understanding. Hubby wanted to come to the back and sit with me but I said no, as there was only room for me – and the ushers, who I must add were very accommodating!


I really struggle to understand this claustrophobia of mine. I don’t know how or when it began and it seems to be progressing. I don’t know when I actually gave it a name. Hubby says something like this possibly begins with some event in childhood but I cannot recall one. Statistics show 5-7% of the population suffers from this phobia. Yea me! Not!

The first time I remember the experience (and I didn’t know it had a name) was in my early twenties going on a church college event where a massive hay tunnel was built in a big barn. Apparently there was a room inside where all were gathering. I tried but I just could not make myself crawl through the tunnel. I felt like such a sissy!

In St. Louis we have the infamous Arch – a 630 foot tall curved monument. To get to the top, first you go down to the base, stand in line – forever – then enter a tiny capsule (they call it a tram) which (they say) seats 6. I say it seats two, tops! They also say it’s a 4-minute ride up and a 3-minute ride down. That in itself is scary! There are windows in the door of the capsule, er, tram, but they only face into the inner workings of the Arch. There is no daylight until you reach the top. I admit the view from the top is breathtaking and over the years I’ve made the trip many times as all out-of-town company require it. But no more! Now I wait in the gift shop with my guests go up. If they think I’m a sissy, so be it!

I no longer tour caves and I need an open MRI when required.

The worst event was about a year ago. I was at the dentist. She was doing something major – a root canal or something. I always get the “gas” so I felt ok. But then, THEN she slipped some sort of apparatus in my mouth to hold it open. I didn’t see it, didn’t know it was coming or what was happening. I panicked! It’s difficult to communicate with a nose full of gas and a mouth full of who knows what! But she could tell I was upset. She’s trying to guess: pain, sick, claustrophobic? Oh baby, she nailed it! She informed me she could not remove it or she’d have to begin again so I needed to get a grip! I pulled out my phone, turned on Pandora and listened to Praise music. It calmed me enough to get me through it. But the panic I feel always surprises me. I wanted to punch her out! Thankfully I didn’t or I’d be dentist shopping!

The saddest event happened several years ago. Hubby and I were on a fantastic driving trip of a lifetime – from St. Louis to California and back. All was wonderful except for one tiny part! The Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel: A 1.1 mile tunnel dug through a mountain in the 1920’s. There are many restrictions for sizes of vehicles. There have been major and minor accidents over the years. I read all I could. Then I determined we couldn’t go through it. By that I mean I couldn’t go through it. Patient Hubby complied and we drove many, many miles around to avoid it and give me peace.

Every year St. Louis had quite the festival downtown for three days with food and entertainment and booths of all kinds, ending each night with fireworks off a barge in the river. It’s quite spectacular. One year, probably 25 years ago, we went with my kids and got caught in a sea of traffic – people traffic. One had no choice except to go with the flow. I thought my kids were going to suffocate! I thought I was going to suffocate! We’ve not been back.

Since my daughter and family moved to Florida a couple of years ago, I’ve been on a lot of airplanes. I do okay unless there is a problem. And with me, it seems there is ALWAYS a problem. I wrote about one such incident last August. You can read it here:

The Rest of the Story

Now, I have little pills, thanks to my gracious and understanding doctor, which I always pack when I fly. And believe me, they have come in handy too many times! But I’m grateful for them!

Now I’m wondering if I need to carry them with me all the time! I guess it couldn’t hurt – especially in the middle of a show.

We have tickets for another show later in the summer at Stages.

Yes – same place, same seats!

I hope it’s not too late to change my seating arrangement!

I’ll be carrying my pills . . . just in case. 🙂

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.'” Psalm 56:3


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