During the summer of 2009 I went on a mission trip with a group from my church to Los Angeles. It had been my third mission trip and my first time in LA. We had the best time sharing the word of God, building homes with Habitat for Humanity, feeding the homeless in soup kitchens and homeless shelters, and bonded over touring LA, Hollywood and Beverly Hills.
During my trip to the soup kitchen we were giving a tour of the building where the homeless people can seek shelter, if only for a night. After the tour, eleven of us squeezed into a small elevator to do back down to the ground floor so we could head back to where we were staying. And that is where my fear of elevators began.
It was only a couple of floors, but it was a very old elevator in an even older building. The elevator got stuck between the second and third floor. For the first fifteen minutes, I was okay. Feeling a little claustrophobic, but manageable. We had help on the way and I was sure we would be out of there soon. Keep in mind we were in LA in August, the hottest month of the year.
Twenty minutes in and the heat really started getting to me. I started feeling like I couldn't breath and I could tell the others in the elevator started to recognized the panic on my face because they started to try to calm me down. I tried really hard to hold it together, but it starting feeling like we were never going to get out of there. I think the worst part was that we packed people in the elevator so there was no room for anyone to sit. We stood for an hour and a half, while I hyperventilated. Condensation was dripping down the aluminum walls, and sweat literally dripping off of us. Once they were able to pry open the elevator doors, we had to climb through about a foot of space while two guys held the door open, since we were in the middle of two floors.
Once I was out of the elevator and calmed down, I swore to never use an elevator again. Legitimate fear after that experience, am I right? So for about a year I choose to always find the nearest staircase, explaining each time to the people I was with why I refused to get on the elevator. After that first year I decided to take an elevator every once in a while. Usually only when I was with someone else, since I got tired of explaining to people why I was afraid, they just didn't seem to get it. For a long time, when I would use an elevator I would only go if it wasn't crowded, I would stand in the corner and grip the hand rails while my head would spin.
Starting last year, I took the elevator a lot more often. When I would go to class I would take the elevator to avoid walking 14 flights of stairs. Since then, I don't always feel like I'm going to fall over when I take the elevator. The past couple days I have taken an elevator multiple times a day and I just realized that I don't even think twice about getting on an elevator!
The moral of this story is that while overcoming your fears is hard, it takes baby steps. It took me years to get to a point where I don't need to search for the nearest staircase. Its funny to think that something so small can control you. Most people don't think anything of taking an elevator. You can overcoming anything and everything simply by believing in yourself, praying, and taking little baby steps.
What fear is holding you back?