My first claustrophobic experience happened when I was pregnant with my 5th child while army crawling on my belly through a dark cave in the Ella Valley. I know, I was as shocked as you are.
I remember the guide saying, “Ma’am, I don’t think it’s a good idea for you to go in, are you sure?” And I was like, “I’m pregnant, not ill. Watch me homeboy.” As soon as the damp earth and darkness sealed itself around me, one thing became totally clear, “I need to get out. Now.“
Since then, the brassy din of claustrophobia has crept up on me a handful of times, several of which landed upon me in the throws of sleep and had me bolting out of bed, searching for light to orient myself in space like a hunted animal. That feeling comes in varying strengths and sometimes with years between visits, but no matter it’s potency, when it arrives, there is no mistaking it. The feeling is clear; I feel trapped. Lost. Confined.
I suppose panic is the most accurate word to describe it.