Laughter as brain injury medicine … ending another’s phobia quickly

03 Apr

My mother-in-law did not drive and when she moved in with us at 93 she went everywhere I needed to go.  That was limited to medical appointments, aquatic therapy and grocery store.  Many people have phobias

and mother-in-law had many.  

She lost her phobia quickly when she couldn’t tolerate enclosed spaces.  These spaces included parking garages.  She was with me when going to one of my appointments.

The only place to park was in the parking garage.  She wanted me to let her off outside the garage and meet her.  Hey, I didn’t mind doing that.  The problem is this: there are many entrances to the garages.  How would I remember exactly where I left her off?

English: Parking garage.

English: Parking garage. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Even if I remembered where I left her off, I didn’t have energy to walk around looking for her.  She definitely knew both these things were significant issues for me.

This was a woman whose entire family drove hundreds of miles out of their way to avoid tunnels! She never entered an elevator!  Now I was expecting her to go into a parking garage?  I never thought of it until we arrived at my appointment destination and she began to panic.  I felt horrible but there wasn’t much I could do.

When I told her I’m not sure I’ll remember where to pick her up or able to walk around she immediately said she’d rather go on with me parking in the garage.  She never asked for me to leave her off again!  She laughed and survived!   Sad, she wondered what she feared all her life.

I knew she would be okay.  I was relaxed in spite of her panic and I spoke slowly, calmly, and she trusted me … I think that was the key to her phobia.  She certainly didn’t want me to lose her, and that would definitely be more frightening in a strange city, and a strange place!  Lose the phobia or lose person!

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**********All material presented on Brain Injury Self Rehabilitation (BISR) is copyright and cannot be, copied, reproduced, or distributed in any way without the express, written consent of Edith E. Flickinger, BSN RN. 



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8 responses to “Laughter as brain injury medicine … ending another’s phobia quickly

  1. behindthemaskofabuse

    April 3, 2013 at 12:19 am

    it’s amazing sometimes what we can do when push comes to

  2. markinidaho

    April 3, 2013 at 12:34 am

    I have claustrophobia that has gotten worse as I have accumulated more concussions over my life.
    It can be triggered by visual confinement or physical confinement. The tunnel of an MRI has both characteristics. I have needed many MRI’s of my bad brain. I use 2 simple techniques to deal with MRI’s. For the visual confinement, I close my eyes and try to imagine an relaxing open space like a mountain meadow. For the physical confinement in the MRI, I fold my arms across my chest and hold the opposite elbow so that my elbows never touch the sides of the MRI tunnel. If I do both of these before the tech rolls me into the tunnel, I can survive the procedure.
    I have needed this same skills set with my job where I needed to climb under kitchen and bathroom sinks. If I start to get anxious or feel stuck, I pull my arms in tight so I do not touch anything and close my eyes until the anxiety passes.
    Learning these skills can be a life saver, or at least help you keep from loosing your mind.

    • brain injury self rehabilitation (BISR)

      April 6, 2013 at 7:15 pm

      Claustrophobia is one of the most common anxiety problems when undergoing an MRI and I appreciate you explaining how you conquer this difficult situation. I will be sharing this with my spouse as he undergoes his MRI and also has claustrophobia. Do you have any difficulties with traveling by air?

      • markinidaho

        April 6, 2013 at 8:21 pm

        Yes, When traveling by air, I claim the Air Carriers Access Act to get preferential seating.
        I need as much visual space in front of me as possible. In most aircraft, sitting at the bulkhead has this visual space. It also provides some physical space. The smaller the aircraft, the more important this becomes. I used to fly Boise to San Jose or Sacramento 6 to 8 times a year. The 4 across aircraft used require that I push hard to get an aisle bulkhead seat. When I claim disability, they fight me because those seats are often exit rows. I have to tell them that I am exit row qualified (able to operate an exit door). The ACAA requires asking for preferential seating more than 48 hours before the flight. Often, the airline holds these seats for VIP fliers who want last minute seating and first off deplaning so they do not release them except at the gate.
        The visual problem I experience is rows and rows of the tops of seats and the backs of heads. This is a serious visual overload.
        I find it helps to use medical terms. I tell them that I have a visual processing disorder that causes problems when I have too much clutter (seat backs and heads) in my line of sight.
        I have never been ACAA accommodated by Southwest with their cattle call seating. At the reservation phase, once the online reservation is made, I need to call in and ask for a supervisor who has authority to unlock these seats that are reserved for last minute seating. It is a battle.
        In those situations where I can not be accommodated, I use the eyes closed method. Sometimes, I survive by staying busy reading or using a tablet or laptop. But, learning the different protocols each airline uses can make a big difference.
        I traveled from Boise to Phoenix on America West in 6 across seating and was seated 2 rows from the back. I was a mess for the next day. I learned from this flight the importance of standing my ground with ACAA. ACAA give the qualified party ‘BUMP’ authority. This means you can take a seat already assigned to a non-ACAA passenger. The 48 hours before flight time limit for these rights are the problem.

      • brain injury self rehabilitation (BISR)

        April 16, 2013 at 6:48 pm

        This is useful information for many traveling via air. Many times it doesn’t affect us as a person, but someone around us can benefit from these tips. Thanks so much for sharing this info about traveling. Take care and stay safe, Edie

  3. Maria Tatham (Elizabeth Ott)

    April 18, 2013 at 1:26 pm

    Love this, Edie!


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