One day when I was meditating in my favorite watering hole, a fella jumped up on the green padded stool next to me and bumped my elbow!
“Sorry mister, I’m a bag of nerves!”
He was a big blond chap, about mid-thirties, with a twitch in his right eyebrow. I’m very observant because I’m a writer.
“Bartender, give me a beer with a whisky chaser.”
“Wow, that’s heavy drinking for the afternoon,” I observed.
“Mister, I need it. I’ve got two phobias and on top of them I get panic attacks.”
He was hyperventilating as he spoke.
Could I help his chap with some cognitive therapy?
I finished my glass of red wine and ordered another.
“What are your phobias?”
“Claustrophobia and hypochondria,” he said, breathlessly.
‘The fear of being closed in and worry about having a disease,” I said, knowingly.
“Holy Cow mister, do you know a lot about these things?”
“Not a lot, but I am a writer and I do a lot of research.”
My panicky friend ordered another whisky!
“Hold on now, don’t drink so fast. I want you to listen to what I’ve got to say. It might help you!”
His eyes lit up with excitement.
“Can you really help me?”
“I’ll try,” I took a sip of wine and swirled it around my palate.
“How do your phobias manifest themselves?”
“Well, the other day I entered an elevator and I felt panicky right away. I felt trapped and then I started sweating. I thought I was going to have a heart attack. I had palpitations!”
“Do you worry about having heart problems?”
“Yes, my father died of a heart attack.”
“Do you fret about getting a disease in general?”
“Yes, sometimes I feel like I’m losing control.”
“In the elevator, did you feel confined like the walls were coming in on you?”
“Yes, and I started having a panic attack also. I was sweating and shaking all over.”
I felt sorry for this chap, he’s got it bad.
“Do you suffer from the fear of things closing in?” he asked me.
“Not really, the only thing is sometimes when I want to go to the tavern I’m afraid it is closed!”
“That’s a joke, right?”
“Right, a little laugh to make you relax.”
“Okay, I’m relaxed, now what’s the treatment?”
“As far as your fear of heart disease, I would go to the doctor to make sure your heart is okay. Then stop monitoring your body constantly for evidence of disease, this just reinforces your fear.”
“That sounds logical to me. I’ll try it.”
“Now, when you go into enclosed spaces, I want you to breathe slow and deeply, inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth. Use some positive self-talk, such as “I can cope with this and any difficulty life brings”. Slow down and breathe deeply and let go of anxious thoughts.”
He smiled and said, “I have to go now, thanks for the help.”
The next day the phobia chap came in the tavern and sat next to me again.
“Well, how did it go?” I asked, hoping it went well for him.
“Great! I went to the doctor and he told me:
“I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is:
THAT YOU’RE NOT A HYPOCHONDRIAC!”