Dear World, I am a freak. A crazy person.
I have what can best be described as agoraphobia. I'll explain what that is in a moment, but first let me explain panic attacks. If you've had one, you know, they're the worst thing ever. If you haven't, the best way I can explain one is with this situation: You're taking a stroll down the street. Lalala, birds are tweeting and whatnot. And maybe you're not looking where you're going and -woops, you've stepped off a cliff. Suddenly, you are plummeting to your doom. You know death is coming quick and you're frantically looking around for something to save you. You're falling so fast that you can't make sense of anything around you. You've lost track of which direction is up. All you know is that you are definitely doomed. This is it.
But, there's no cliff.
It's just that sensation. That primal fear that struck you out of nowhere. Why? I don't know. People who have one for the first time (and often still the tenth or hundredth time) are convinced that they're having a heart attack or a brain aneurism or something, because it's human nature to try to make sense of things. If you suddenly feel like you're dying (or fainting, or going crazy), then something must actually be wrong, right? Well, in t his case, apparently not. I've been told by many self-help books and therapists that no one has ever died or gone crazy from a panic attack. But, that doesn't really change the fact that every damn time I have one, which is sometimes 10 times a day for the past 16 years, I am wholly convinced that this time, it's actually happening, I'm dying.
So, I started having panic attacks at the age of 14. For a few years I'd just have one every few months, and then around 17 or 18 they started coming more often, and, like anyone who is experiencing something highly unpleasant, I started looking for ways to avoid them. If I had one when a certain song was on the radio, that song would become a trigger. The next time it came on, I'd turn the radio off in order to avoid it sparking another panic attack. Then, it was places. If I had a panic attack at a certain store, I'd just never go to that store again. Even when I knew it wasn't the place that had anything to do with why the panic started, I'd still have a yucky feeling every time I came near. Kind of like when you see someone from high school and you don't remember their name or why you even know them, but you're just sure you don't like them. As you might guess, the list of places to avoid grew and grew...
Anyhow, the avoidance is where the agoraphobia came from. I think the word Agora came from the names of greeting places in ancient Greece or something. So, etymologically, it means a fear of places. Or open places. Something like that. I don't know how the dictionary defines it, but I know that it's fairly common, among panickers like myself, to get stuck in this bubble of a "comfort zone". I've dug myself into this hole and climbed out of it a couple times now, but at the moment, I'm in deeper than I've ever been before. For over a year now, I've struggled every time I had to leave the house. I've missed a lot of things. I've let my driver's license lapse and started shopping for most things I need online. And I feel a lot of shame about this. I'm fighting myself all the time- I want to get myself places, yet I am also the person keeping me from getting there. It's no wonder I feel like a crazy person. It's like having 2 personalities!
But, I am an intelligent, logical (when not panicked), driven human being. I am tired of keeping this secret and just letting people think I'm a flake. I'm not going to let shame complicate my already messy situation. I didn't ask for this, and I'm fighting as hard as I can all the time. I'm consumed by it, so I'm not going to keep avoiding writing about it or blurring it out in my journals that I share here. I'm going to be open. I'm going to ask for your support and understanding, and I'm going to be OK if you don't give it to me, too.
I'm an agoraphobe, but I am not a freak, and I'm not crazy, and I'm going to get better. I hope you'll join me on the journey.