I am an agoraphobic wreck.
I have a lot of problems, but I’d say this is the one I have the least amount of control over.
For those of you who don’t know how agoraphobia works it is defined by the DSM as “anxiety about being in places or situations from which escape might be difficult (or embarrassing) or in which help may not be available in the event of having an unexpected or situationally predisposed Panic Attack or panic-like symptoms. Agoraphobic fears typically involve characteristic clusters of situations that include being outside the home; being in a crowd… (Etc.)”
For me, this means that normal everyday situations like going to a class, on a date, grocery shopping, ANYWHERE is a problem for me and generates varying levels of anxiety. This anxiety often intensifies if I am situated in the center of a large open room, or become the center of attention. The place I feel safest is lying curled in a ball, in the bottom of an empty bath tub, in a locked bathroom. If its an en suite bath within a locked bedroom, even better.
Fortunately for me I work from home and have a Prime account through Amazon so my interaction with the outside world is minimized. I don’t have to venture out unless I’m feeling up to it and my social interaction is negligible.
Unfortunately this means my social interaction is negligible and as a result I spend periods of time profoundly lonely yet unable to connect to anyone without retreating to the tub.
I honestly don’t know how I’ve survived this long with so many blatantly conflicting personality traits. Seriously, I’m as surprised as you. Anyway.
Agoraphobia, like most phobias, is irrational and wholly incurable. But it can be treated.
My goal for the past few months has been to rehabilitate myself (mainly because therapy, where I get help from people with degrees shinier than mine, just doesn’t work for me, but that’s a whole other thing).
I have been working on my phobia mainly with the help of my friend Jo and my local blues dancing scene. Social dancing is a surprisingly welcoming environment where for the most part I can convince myself I’m totally safe and in control while simultaneously meeting people and participating in things outside of my apartment.
And if we’re being honest, I’m good at feigning knee and back injuries to get out of dancing with people once I’m at my social limit for the night.
AND, I mean, there’s always a bathroom to hole up in if things get really out of hand.
Now, I’m not saying it’s a perfect environment. Going dancing is hard for me in a lot of ways (that I may touch on at another time) and the first time I went I had heart palpitations so hard and fast they hurt and we left 90 minutes early. But I’ve been gradually working myself up and this last weekend I brought 2 friends with no blues (or in Kay’s case, dance. period.) experience to an event and STAYED THE WHOLE NIGHT.
Not only that, but I danced with someone who TEACHES blues and lindy hop (thank God I found this out LATER or I would’ve been too busy hyperventilating to take his hand in the first place), who is tall and handsome, and just altogether intimidating as can be to someone like me.
The point is, though, I succeeded.
BUT, because I’m human, I also have setbacks. The biggest one has probably been something no one noticed.
I haven’t posted a blog in 3 days and that one was pre-written.
I was good about posting each day until that point. Now this probably isn’t agoraphobia related persay but I’m in charge here, and so the internet counts as “places or situations from which escape might be difficult”. Blogging causes me a certain amount of anxiety as a result, so, shush. It counts.
I have a bad habit of writing things and then not posting them because “no one cares” or “it sucks” or “what if they hate it” or “I’ve reread it ten times and have built in spell check on all things I type on this computer but there could still be a typo.”
I have 5 separate posts in varying stages of “postable” saved as drafts here and in the last few days I couldn’t work up the guts to post anything. In my jubilation from the weekend, I became very delicate and couldn’t handle “failing” at this to ruin my high.
Yeah I know, who fails at blogging?
This is essentially the online equivalent of my mumbling to myself in public.
But still, I’m afraid I’ll fail. So instead of posting one of the thousand ideas I’ve had over the last 3 days, I sat at my computer and clicked through my five drafts before closing the wordpress window.
I’d come back to the site an hour later and repeat the process. Finishing nothing.
So here we are: a step forward, a step back. Me in a nutshell. NO MORE!
So here’s a post, a filler really, proving to myself that I can do things. And maybe someone like me will see this and decide to do whatever thing they’ve been putting off out of irrational fear.