let’s talk agoraphobia

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Happy Friday, Readers!  It’s a wet, wet day here in San Francisco, but I’m safely in the office and the coffee is hot!

I thought I’d take a minute today and talk about one of the “issues” I battle everyday.  See, I’m an agoraphobic.  Taken literally, the translation from the greek means “fear of the marketplace” but since the world has evolved, so has this monster.

Agoraphobia can be seen as a spectrum of sorts, and people with agoraphobia can have intense fear, anxiety and even panic that keeps them from living their life the way they want to.

At its worst, agoraphobia can make a person housebound, unable to leave the safety of their home because of the fear.  Some are unable to move outside a specified “safety zone” without someone there to help them.

Psychology Today has a good article here.

Thankfully, mine is not that bad, though having people with me who know how to spot my panic attacks starting and how to help me through them is a blessing. I still manage to get my own groceries, I go to work (most days), and I travel.

But, every one of these things can induce anything from minor anxiety to heart stopping panic.  There are days I won’t even open my front door.  Days where just going to get the mail is a major achievement.  There are days when I think nothing of getting in the car and heading out into the unknown though too.

Like any other chronic condition, it is a constant part of who I am, but its severity and my ability to fight it change all the time, and because I also live with chronic pain, it can also affect and be affected by the levels of pain I am in.

On bad pain days, I spend all my energy battling pain, and I have nothing left to fight the phobia, so I generally stay within my safety space.  On days when the phobia is running high and I know I have to go out into the world anyway, there’s seldom anything left to manage my pain.

It can be a vicious circle.

I’ve come to terms with this being a part of who I am, and I have mental coping mechanisms that help me handle crowds, unknown spaces, etc.  Crowds are hard. Crowds require days of mental prep and days of hibernating after.  Sometimes they require pharmaceutical help.  I take a very low dose of Xanax when needed.

Yet, I go to concerts and conventions and conferences.  I get on trains that I know are going to be standing room only long before I get home.  It’s terrifying and it’s exhausting and if you asked most people around me they’d tell you that they had no idea I was terrified because I’ve learned to hide it.

Why?  Because I’m a stubborn bitch that refuses to let my misfiring brain keep me from things and people I love.  At least, not all the time.  Maybe someday, when I’m a doddering eighty year old writer with a library of books in my quiver, I can become a recluse, and eccentric cat lady who never goes out and never lets anyone in, other than my young, gorgeous assistant/nurse who makes sure I eat and take my meds.

So today, I won the battle, despite the rain and the messy commute and the people.  I’m at my desk and now my cup of coffee is empty, so it’s time to go search for more.

May your weekend be amazing!

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