Daily Prompt: A Source of Anxiety

Write about a noise — or even a silence — that won’t go away. (We’ll let you interpret this in different ways…)

I’m back.  I’ve been gone for a while.  I’ve wanted to write.  I have.

I haven’t.  I’ve come here and I’ve looked.  I’ve peeked here and there.  Nothing.

I must start to write again.  I wrote a little on my recent trip and I couldn’t stop.  Someday I may share what I wrote.  Or I won’t.

This prompt caught my eye.  Anxiety.

I had a bit of anxiety a few years ago that required some medications to control.  I thought I needed the medication.  I didn’t want to be on the meds anymore so I just stopped.  I worked through the damn anxiety and eventually I overcame it.  I put my life in a different place and I removed the stresses that were driving me nuts.  And I stopped taking the meds.

That was about 5 years ago.

A couple of weeks ago I was in Florence.   It was raining and it was way off-season.  The streets were practically empty for a Tuesday.  There were men in custom made suits and women under their umbrellas heading to work.  The occasional Vespa sped by and the required sound of an Ambulance/Emergency vehicle echoed from the city.   I was in Florence.

I woke up early that morning.  It was seven.  I looked out at only 3 vendors were setting up instead of the usual 20.

It’s going to be one of those days.  Quiet.

I looked down and there was no line for the Duomo.  Perfect.  I will walk the 400+ steps to the top of this historic city and take it all in.

I head down after showering and eating my breakfast.    I walk around the Duomo to the door for the Cupola.  Empty.  Nothing.

I ask the guard if it is closed today.  He shakes his head.  I shrug.  He motions me in.

“I have not bought a ticket.”

“Do you see a line?”


“Then you don’t need a ticket.”


I begin my journey to the top of the world.


I had made this climb almost 20 years ago.  In the summer.  It was hot.  It was packed.  It was fine.


I get to the “halfway” point.

I have to stop.  I have to stop because it feels like my heart is either going to rip out of my chest or take the other route and come up through my throat and hand there from my mouth it its attempt to get as much oxygen as it possibly can.   I stop.  I sit on the floor and I wait.


No one is coming up the stairs behind me.

I can hear people working on a restoration behind the plastic sheets on this level.  We cannot see other but only I am aware that the other exists.  They cannot see me and in the din of their machines and laughter they cannot hear my panting.

After about 15 minutes I get up.  My wind is back and I had talked my heart into staying in my chest.  It would stop trying to escape if I promised to not run or take two steps at a time…  We had an agreement.

Taking my time I make my way up.  And up. And up.

For those of you that have done this you will know what is coming.


The tiny little concrete spiral staircase.  This seems to last forever.  It doesn’t.  You finish this nightmare and walk out to take in the view.  You are now looking down on the Basilica.  It is not hard to imagine 30,000 inside the walls of this building.  From here you can “feel” the size and the capacity.

I walk around the thick plastic and duck into the next door.  More up.

And tighter.

From this point forward I began the worst feeling I have ever felt.  Claustrophobia.  I didn’t know I had this and I didn’t know I could feel this.  I have been in the Navy and those close quarters are very tight.  I was on a sub.  Talk about tight quarters!

This was so different.

The next 15 minutes went by so slowly it was unbearable.  The walls closed in on me.  The steps became steeper.  The windows and air seem to not exist.  My heart was keeping to its word.  I was on the breaking point of running.  I would have began running if that had been a choice.


I finally crawl up and out of the hole in the ceiling.  I sit at the top of the world for a few minutes.  I am trying to shake the fear and trying to shake the shake.  I was shaken.  Not stirred.   I don’t mean fear like in a horror movie.  No.  It was a fear that the walls would crush me.  The fear that I would pass out.  No one would find me here.  No one was walking up the steps behind and then I began thinking that I would pass out and not be found for days.  I wouldn’t….

I sat there.  I was on top of the world.  It was wet and it was raining.  I sat there.


I sat there for about 20 minutes.  A Spanish couple asked me if I minded taking their picture.   I did.  I could not help but point out some of the sights.  They were thankful.

I completed four laps.  I snapped a couple of pictures.  I stood there and looked out.  The view was incredible.


At one point, though, the view became two-dimensional.  It was flat.  I could see how perspective would be lost.  In the middle of this revelation I realize I need to go down.  I need to retrace my steps.  Will I survive?

It was much easier coming down.

It is always easier coming down, isn’t it?


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12 thoughts on “Daily Prompt: A Source of Anxiety

  1. Welccome back. I saw you were off to Italy and a nice pastel coloured stone building photo , so I thought it must be Florence. I also did the duomo and have a photo somewhere of me looking out of a window on the way up. I was then about 19 years old and today I even take the lift to the cellar where we live and that is from the ground floor. These things happen. I once walked to the top of our cathedral on my own. When I arrived I fell onto the table with all the pamphlets spread out, most embarrassing. I took photos but had to lean back on the wall, was afraid of falling again. My last such trip on my own. I hope you enjoyed Florence. It is a quiet time of the year in November I can imagine.


    • Florence in November is probably by favorite time to visit. There are no crowds mid-week. You will have the city to yourself and, best of all, you will have the museums to yourself. Mostly. There are children/teens on field trips but most of them couldn’t care less for the works that stand and hang in these old buildings. They move on quickly. Faster than you might imagine.

      I will post more from my trip and my thoughts… stay posted. 🙂


    • Thank you. It was an experience. I am still not sure what to attribute my reaction to. Jet lag? Sleep deprivation? I do not know. It didn’t seem like a big deal such a long time ago… Age.

      Thank you for your kindness.


  2. The one time I went to Florence was in mid-December. I loved it. I didn’t climb to the top of the Cathedral, though. I also suffer from anxiety and I’m afraid of heights. Recently, I went to the Catacombs in Paris. While I was standing on line, I saw the sign saying that the tour was not for sensitive people. For a moment I wondered whether or not it was a good idea. It turned out not to be a problem. I was once diagnosed with claustrophobia, but I think the doctor was wrong. It’s mainly generalized anxiety, with heights being the only specially terrifying thing for me.


    • Wow. Were you always anxious about heights or was it something that was suddenly something you just couldn’t do?

      Spoke to someone yesterday that had a very similar situation in Florence. He had never had an issue before…

      Is it age related?


      • I guess none of us are really alone with anxiety and/or other related conditions. That’s one nice thing about the Internet it brings us closer by allowing us to share what was once taboo.

        Thank you so much for sharing. I will test the heights question in a couple of weeks when we go to Hawaii.



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