I always thought agoraphobia was basically defined as never leaving the house, I didn’t really know what it was. Finally I hit a point where I realized it wasn’t just depression keeping me from going out more frequently, and I needed to find out what was going on.
The Mayo Clinic defines agoraphobia as “Fear of places and situations that might cause panic, helplessness, or embarrassment”. Everyone has a fear of embarrassment to some degree I’m sure, but this is like an extreme. I’m completely panicked that I’ll panic and make a fool of myself. That I’ll have no where to run and hide. That someone will see me and destroy my life, my hopes, my dreams, because suddenly they caught a glimpse of my crazy.
My first big panic attack was at youth group as a teenager and I remember “hiding” behind a chair. I don’t recommend that, it doesn’t work. Later as an adult when my BPD really started to show more I began to fear this type of panic attack and where I may have another. What if I can’t escape? What if there is no where to hide? What if my boss finds out and I loose my job? What if they call the police and my children are taken away? (You can see how quickly that escalates in my brain)
I’m fully capable of going places I need to go, but I have techniques to make it possible. I have a hiding place at work where I can panic if I need to, and meditate to bring me back. I have a specific row I park in at the stores I frequent, and have memorized the quickest routes to the exits and to the restroom for quick hiding or escape. If I’ve been stable for a while I can go nearly anywhere as long as I’m with my family, or someone I trust.
So I’m still a fully functional person out in the world, usually. But it takes a lot more effort, a lot more practice and ritual. And it also requires my feeling strong enough, which sometimes I don’t. There are rare occasions I call in sick because I’m too panicked to leave the house. There are times I’m too panicked to reach out even on Twitter or text for human interaction, days that I sit on my bed near panic for a full day. This week has been difficult as I find myself hiding at work more, keeping quiet, avoiding social media, and not going anywhere extra. Fortunately(?) I get migraines, so when I get like this my employees assume my head hurts and don’t question it.
My hope is to build more rituals that can open up more places for me, but for now I will be happy with the interaction I can force. I haven’t yet given up on being part of the world, so hopefully the world hasn’t yet given up on me.