Southern Caves and Reasons To Pray For Me – Claire
I’ve been in a cave before. Not some metaphorical cavern that keeps you “sheltered from the world,” but an actual cave that is dark and cold and makes you feel like you’re probably going to suffocate, and wonder what exactly would happen if there was an earthquake at this exact moment and—well, it kind of goes downhill from there. I hate caves, in case you didn’t pick up on that. Not just “hate” in the sense that you “hate” homework and brussels sprouts; it’s a bone deep hatred that is all consuming. Anytime we would go to Indiana (yes, you read that right. Indiana. Don’t worry, I know) and my family would suggest we go to the Squire Boon Caverns (or something equally Southern sounding), I would feel my chest tighten and wonder why it was that my family was so insistent on going underground and into the darkness. I have always hated being in the dark. I fear the Great Unknown (hello, John Green, is that you?) more than just about anything. The idea of “not knowing” is what makes my hands shake, my heart race, my chest feel like it is being crushed. It scares me. It makes me anxious.
I cannot necessarily explain the feeling I would get before going into those caves, but it is one that I am familiar with; it’s like you’re suffocating before you have even made it underground. Every possible (and, quite honestly, impossible) Bad Thing That Could Happen to me would race through my head. Caves, airplanes, even escalators; I knew my fears were irrational, that I was safe, but I did not know how to deal with the anxiety that was always there, waiting for me to stumble across it. I didn’t talk about how I was feeling or why I hated those caves so much. I was (now in the metaphorical sense, keep up) in my own cave. It was dark. It was cold. I felt so alone. I was afraid. And I did not know how I was going to get out.
So, how do you get out of the cave? Like in Plato’s Cave, it took someone else for me to realize that there was something wrong with the way I had been living; with the way I had been seeing things. I didn’t know that I needed help until I had it. I went to a counsellor, and just talking to someone about how I was feeling made all the difference. From there on, though, it was all up to me. I had to make a choice; did I want to stay in my cave? As scary as it was, it was all I had ever known. What if what awaited me outside was even worse? It took some time, but after I took that first step towards the light, I kept walking. I have never looked back. I feel like it’s my job to not only keep myself informed, but to inform others. I’m open about discussing anxiety with others, about sharing what I’ve been through and the help I received in order to get me to where I am today. I’ve learned how to handle my anxiety. It’s still there, but it can no longer control me. I don’t let it. I’m in control of it; of myself.
I hate caves. I hate the idea of being in the dark, of never knowing and learning what might await you if you take that step outside. I have done as much as I can to make sure I never find myself trapped in a cave ever again. And, really, it is because I stepped out of my own cave that if I go back to Indiana (pray for me), I know I can enter the Squire Boon cavern and that I will be fine. Anxious, maybe, but fine.