Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Anxiety vs. the Hospital's Third Floor

I asked my friend in Germany if she could give me a word that means "the relief one feels when one is crying and one remembers one didn't wear mascara today."  She replied with "die Mascaraabwesehnheitserrinerrungimweinenerleichterung."

I apply this word retrospectively to the moment a couple weeks ago that I was sitting outside Parma General Hospital at a picnic table smearing tears all over my eyes. I was experiencing die Mascaraabwesehnheitserrinerrungimweinenerleichterung in part because a slight Indian man was at the curb loading up his vehicle with medical supplies.  Die Mascaraabwesehnheitserrinerrungimweinenerleichterung made me think I had a shot at being attractive.

I heard my mother call from beyond what I imagine is an ice-cream booth that serves employees who click their heels together as they swarm to the picnic tables for lunch each noon.  My mother and grandmother were standing what seemed a dangerous distance away, just outside a giant revolving door.  I rushed across the entrance with my face to the parking lot, not wanting anyone to remember me as the person who had inside experienced "the embarrassment one feels when one repeatedly tries to board an elevator but one's body keeps jumping out of it unbidden."

I hugged my grandmother.  "I'm sorry," I said.

"He didn't seem to want to see us today, anyway," my mother said.

When we had arrived earlier, my grandmother and mother rocketed up to the third floor to see my grandfather.  I took the stairwell.  The stairwell allowed no third-floor access.

I found this discriminatory.  Who stops the loonies from seeing their grandfathers?

I walked back down to the first floor.  One of the elevators stood open, its arrow pointing up.  "This is a sign," I thought.  So I scouted all four corners of the building for another stairwell, which, if it exists, exists in places where people are cut open for stuff.  I went back to the elevators, a different one of them standing open now with its arrow pointing up.  I got in the elevator and pressed the button for the third floor.  The button transported my body back outside the elevator.  I tried again, and again I found myself in the hallway.

I sat down.  Employees streamed around me.  My phone lit up: "You can't get here by stair.  Do you want a nurse to come help you?" my mother wrote.

"No, I just want to sit here and feel like an idiot for a while," I replied.

I used to take elevators without a second thought, but a period of stress has plowed my mind under.  Anxiety requires rehabilitation, just like any other injury.  I'll get on an elevator someday as part of that rehabilitation.

Driving away from the hospital that day, I experienced "the pride one feels when riding to one's grandmother's house in the back seat of a car without experiencing too much panic."

= = =

I rejoin yeahwrite this week!  Yeah!  Click through to read others' blogs.  Thursday is voting day!



  1. I can totally relate to this. I once tried to take the stairs all the way up 26 floors to visit my Grandmother in her high rise apartment building in Milwaukee. The elevator in her building frightened me so badly. Thank you for sharing your writing. It always comforts me.

    1. Thank you Erika! It's so nice to know I am helping someone out there.

      26 floors, wow! The most I've gone on the stairs is 9 floors. That was in a hotel, carrying luggage. I felt like a badass, but a ridiculous one.

      Hugs to you.

  2. I'm sure you will be able to step onto an elevator again. I remember as a child going through a period where I couldn't go on escalators. I still think about that when I approach one. Standing at the top watching the stairs going down. Not being able to take the first step. Of course as a child, my dad eventually took my dad and basically drug me on. You are not alone -- we all battle getting on elevators of some kind or another.

  3. I understand elevator anxiety well. I got stuck on one once a couple years ago, and ever since then have suffered from a pretty terrible case of claustrophobia and can't get into an elevator alone now without having some sort of panic attack. I haven't yet figured out how to rehabilitate it.

  4. My daughter hates elevators because she is afraid they'll get stuck, and I can't say I blame her. The very thought gives me the sweats.

  5. My anxiety increases like crazy when I'm stressed too though for me it's not about elevators. Hang in there! You will experience whatever the German word is for "the feeling one gets when one can tame one's anxieties after a long period of turmoil."

  6. Welcome back to Yeah Write! Such a compelling story and I love how you told it. Anxiety is just awful. I hope you can get to see your grandfather soon.

  7. I find it highly disturbing that there was no way to access that floor from the stairwell. I don't usually get elevator anxiety, but my claustrophobia would definitely kick-in if I felt like I couldn't get out of a stairwell. Yikes.

  8. I know how the elevator anxiety is; surprising though that you have it and not you mother or grandmother. My mom has a huge elevator anxiety and claustrophobia but I usually have to accompany her on the stairs because of that, so we feel like idiots together. The way you begin your post is very funny. That word, yes, german is such a language. It took me forever to get used to LONG sign boards on public buildings when I first moved here. Take care. :)

  9. This is brilliantly told. Anxiety is horrible, scary and debilitating. Thanks for also showing the funny, quirky human side. I felt your pain, but you also made me laugh.

  10. Love this! (And have missed seeing you on the grids.) You marry humor and sentiment really well here and I totally relate to the mascara crying thing. Funny story: yesterday my 3-year-old was crying because he left his favorite stuffed bunny at preschool. My husband, trying to lighten things up, said, "What's coming out of your eyes?" Lincoln wiped his eyes and looked at his hand and said, with some surprise, "It's not blood!" :)

  11. This is great, Esther. Thanks for sharing your inimitable voice.

  12. Thank you for all of your comments, everyone! I wasn't able to keep up this week but I appreciate your stopping by!!