You probably know that I have an anxiety disorder and am afraid of everything: catching a tram from an unfamiliar station, walking into an occupied room by myself, getting into a crowded elevator, getting into an empty elevator. Elevators, full stop. I’m afraid of being crushed by all the people in them. And I’m afraid that they’ll break down and I’ll be stuck by myself in the dark listening to elevator music. I can’t stand that scene in Resident Evil, where the elevator gets stuck halfway above a floor and that woman tries to pry open the doors and climb out but she only gets partway before it suddenly falls again. Ugh. I’m shuddering just writing this, and wondering if it’s too much to say aloud to anyone reading it.
The elevator fear might actually be the thing that first made me realise I had a real problem. When I was at uni, I used to have a class right up on the 26th floor in the tower building at UTS. I dreaded that class every week. I hear they’ve improved it now, but when I was there, UTS had the most horrible rickety old lift. It was one of those ones that made a lot of crashing and grinding noises, just to reassure you, and it did this thing where it would always stop slightly above the floor you wanted, and then sink back down again, just to make you sick. I absolutely HATED that thing. If it was full, I wouldn’t get on. If it was empty, I wouldn’t get on. (I didn’t want to be stuck in it by myself when it finally broke down!) I’d get into it with other people on the ground floor, and then I’d only go up as high as everyone else went. If everyone else got out on level 20, I did too. Then I’d take the fire stairs the rest of the way – not that they were much less terrifying. A big, echoing concrete tunnel, with only a few emergency lights here and there, is pretty scary on its own.
One day I wasn’t really watching or I got distracted or something. I don’t know how it happened. But somehow everyone else got off at level 10 and I was travelling in that elevator for 16 levels all by myself. I had the biggest panic attack I’d ever had. By the time I got to the top of the tower, I was stuck in the corner of the lift, gripping the handrail, shaking, sweating, clenching and unclenching my fists and I could not stop crying. All because I took a lift by myself. Wt? Who can’t do that?
So last night we went to the Paris hotel in Vegas, and asked ourselves, who wants to go up the Eiffel Tower and check out the most romantic view of Las Vegas? We all do! We bought our tickets, and walked across a bridge crossing over the casino floor to the base of the tower, and got into the elevator – and as soon as it broke above the roof of the hotel, I remembered how much I hate lifts. I immediately began to feel the walls closing in. As we rose higher above the city and the glass windows revealed just how far we had to fall when the elevator cable broke and we plummeted to the ground, my hands went clammy and I couldn’t breathe and I wondered “Why did I do this?” The higher we went, the worse it got. Did I even want to go out onto the observation platform? As much as I hated this little glass case, I began to suspect that I might be safer here. Except that I wanted to go back down as soon as possible.
Then we arrived on the 46th floor, and the doors opened, and we stepped out onto the observation deck and saw this:
Sometimes, just sometimes, it is worth facing your fears. Especially if you’re afraid of everything.