It’s like living in a glass dome, one that maintains a permanent perimeter just inside your front door. Others can pass through this invisible barrier at will, but not you. For you, it’s a constant reminder of your limitations and you have a primal aversion to bumping into it, lest the whole thing shatter and come down on your head. It’s walking through a grocery store and pretending you don’t feel as if every passerby is holding a gun at eye level. It’s loneliness and it’s craving time to yourself. It’s wanting desperately to connect with people and at the same time feeling paralyzed by a chronic sense of doom whenever they’re around. It’s repeated situations in which an old friend will show up on your radar and you’ll scramble over yourself to invite them out, only to have that last word fall like a guillotine when you finally realize what you’ve said…. Out.
What were you thinking?
“Maybe I’ll call them back,” you say to yourself. Explain to them that “See, well, the thing is… I can’t so much leave my house. And oh, by the way, I’ll have a panic attack if you walk through my door, so can you just drive by and sit on the other side of my window so I can howl at you like a housecat with nothing better to do? Catch up that way?”
This is the illogical mess of suckage that is agoraphobia – and I’m soaking in it.
At least these days I can talk about my little problem without fear of being labeled a nutcase. More and more, society’s understanding and acceptance of mental illness expands to where things like this don’t need to be kept in the shadows. They are recognized for the hitches in biology that they are, rather than flaws in character. That helps, more than people may know.
If I could say anything to those in my position it would be this.
- Have compassion for yourself.
- You will have good days, and you will have bad. Live your good days to their fullest and remember that the bad days don’t make you any less of a person.
- Know that you have worth beyond your aversions. What you have to offer that won’t be hindered by fear, not for long.
- You won’t always be in control and that’s okay.
- You won’t always understand yourself and that’s even better, because if there’s anything worth learning more about, it’s the human condition.
- Most importantly… open the blinds when you least want to. Let the sun remind you that it’s still shining, whether or not you care to look.
As we speak, I am treating my agoraphobia with a cocktail of medication, hard-bitten pep talks, and the most supportive husband red hair can buy. I take comfort in my backyard beehives — they give me a reason to step outside and breathe the wind and I often feel safer in my protective white suit than I do in these four walls. And I write. By putting a bit of myself in my palm and reaching beyond the barrier, I’ve found a way to say, “This is me. I am here. And I haven’t forgotten that you are there, either.”