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Elevating traumas may cause PTSD by Angel Perkins

June 21, 2012

Not to take a mental disorder caused by physical tragic events lightly (I actually suffered from it myself at one time) I just have to say I’m pretty sure that elevators and escalators are a cause for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
I make this observation with the facts that I can’t take either mode of vertical transportation without picturing events that I was either present for or heard about from family members. I have a cousin that was caught in an escalator by a flip flop. I can’t explain how that happened but I know not only she and my family members and the people that were witnesses on the moving metal stairs will always remember what happened.
Granted, she was a child at the time and surely she thought the thing was going to chew her up and spit her out, and since being an adult and watching shows that divulge that death by escalator is an actual possibility (in a six-year period there were 20 deaths, 12 from falling and eight from getting caught), the event caused scars that surely she and they will carry with them always.
When given the choice, I would rather take a chance on the skin-shaving stairs than a confining box that could plummet me to my death or trap me for eternity — even if I do look a little silly taking one giant step on and off the metal steps, just in case it wants a bite of me. My kids, never raised near moving machines, to this day (at 15 and 18) naively look at both as strangely dangerous challenges. I recall as a teen taking the elevator to the observation deck of the John Hancock building in Chicago and traveling up 94 floors. One of the fun facts for eager tourists is that in 40 seconds, the elevator can climb or plummet 1,000 feet at a time.
What “did in” my aunt in so long ago was the fact that a canned voice announced the speed and heights as we were advancing, which her subconscious immediately registered as “I’M GONNA DIE!” and thus caused her to melt at the knees and dribble to the floor. My U.S. Navy pilot uncle, her husband, did his best to mask giggles as he peeled her from the walls of the elevator, much to mine and the other elevator riders’ at the time’s enjoyment. Yes, I felt a little guilty for making light of her plight when her hysteria only worsened as the voice continued its announcements, and though we made it to the top, she did not, and to my knowledge never has. I remember when the Willis Tower constructed its sky decks, glass boxes 1,353 feet in the air that jut out 4.3 feet from the building so those inside the tiny rooms appear to be walking on air.
I called my aunt and asked when we were going. I described how much fun we would have, especially the 103-floor-ride to the glass boxes, that though they claim to be entirely safe, three layers of half-inch thick glass can’t possibly hold the both of us above the pavement below.
She called me a name I can’t put in print and added, “fat chance.” If given the opportunity, would I go? I would, but would I make it to the top? Would I take those three steps out into the nothing? Would I be brave for my children and husband and prove to myself that I can conquer my fear of heights? Likely not. At some point I would probably get jelly legs ... or worse.
Some things just don’t go out of a person’s mind no matter how hard they try to bury or overcome it. They may forgive but they won’t forget. Sure, there’s always hypnotism, but is taking part of your memories (good or bad) away a good thing? Is drowning your sorrows in alcohol or drugs the answer to building courage and healing wounds? No. The events or memories will always be there.
Things that happen to us may or may not have a reason behind them, but they are what makes us the people we are — for better or for worse. And anyway, if you can’t get past your elevators or escalators, there will always be stairs to get us where we need to be.

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