• May

    An Attack of Claustrophobia


    Yesterday, I was getting all settled in and realized I had to get some things from my storage locker. When I returned to the house and moved the stuff up to my bedroom, I instantly overwhelmed the space and I began to have an attack of claustrophobia, something I’d not experienced in many years.

    Fortunately, with Tim’s help, I cleared out a lot of unnecessary furniture and was able to move my stuff in and get it sorted. That did wonders for my mental state and I calmed down considerably. Then, this morning, it hit me again and I really had to sit with it and question what was going on in my mind.

    The number one thing that came up was: “This space is too small.” And immediately after thinking that, the question: “Is it true?” The immediate answer was: “No.” And then another question popped up: “How do you feel when you think this way?” And many answers followed:

    “I feel closed in.”
    “I can’t breathe.”
    “I’m overwhelmed.”

    And then a memory from several years ago when I was homeless (yet again) and had to live in a truck camper for three weeks. Despite the close quarters, I didn’t have a problem with claustrophobia, not once. And here I was now, having it.

    I think part of the reason is that I’ve lived alone for so many years and to now be around so many people is a huge change. I’m not used to it at all. Still, with the inquiry process above, my mind calmed down.

    Some of you may recognize the technique I used, which is the “The Work” of Byron Katie. It’s a great way of questioning the reality of the thinking mind and discovering what is in fact, true. I’ve used it as part of my meditation practice for many years. It can be written out, which is how Katie advises people to do it in the beginning. Later, with, experience, it’s possible to do it mentally, as I did this morning.


    My “Homeless for Three and a Half Hours” post resulted in many letters to me from my friends all over the world. While I didn’t think of it as the time, it seems to have come across as an inspirational story. I have to admit I was so caught up in what happened that I hadn’t thought about it.

    In the wake of finding this place, I was compelled to go to breakfast at Willie’s Bakery and Cafe’, one of my favorite restaurants. There, I had breakfast and coffee with my friend Doug, who said to me: “Why didn’t you contact me? I would have put you up in one of the rooms upstairs.” (They run a B&B in the building).

    I said: “I did, I sent you and all my friends an email on the night of the 29th.” I watched him as he scrolled through the messages on his iPhone. It was clearly not there. He then apologized and said he’d been having major email issues for the last six weeks and it was clear he would have to switch providers.

    The important part of this story is that I now know I have a place to go, if something like this happens again. I hope it won’t but one never knows what life will bring.

    Again, thanks to all you who have been supportive of me and for reading this blog. Writing every day has introduced me to an entirely different way of living and I’ve met some fascinating people by doing so.

    © Nathan Segal

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