For so long I’ve been living with this thing. This thing that was casually described as “Naomi finds it hard to go out.” I don’t know why this was the case. I don’t know why it kept getting worse, or why it started to get better. Or how this thing has hindered me, and in some ways helped me.
What it felt like was this: my mind and body were weighed down, and every molecule of me was screaming at me not to go places, not to leave my comfort zone. Something that I couldn’t see or describe was blocking me, 24/7, from the outside world. Eventually I started to call it an “invisible wall.” Once I identified it as such, it had a shape in my head, and I could smash through it.
It was hard for me to do things that I was not comfortable with. That’s the definition of comfort, isn’t it? Things that are not hard to do. Thinking about going to school, or even just riding in a car, started to give me panic attacks. Then I started being anxious about the panic attacks themselves—a vicious cycle that could only be avoided by not considering leaving home in the first place. So I stopped considering it.
The less you do anything, the harder it gets to do. Ultimately, it was easier to stop fighting my urge to stay home all the time. But then, one day, that began to change.
Last year was the unhappiest period of my life. It’s when I really saw clearly all of my limitations, how deep the hole was that I had dug myself into. But I was so tired. Too tired and lacking in motivation to do anything to change my situation. I gave up before I really did anything at all.
So I regrouped, and decided that instead of trying to act differently, I would first focus on feeling better. I had been so sad for so long, and nothing was fun—I worked on alleviating my depression before I worked on leaving the house. Then when I did leave, I didn’t try to go far. I took small walks right near the vicarage where we live, then I started going to the nearby library, and those things felt good, and safe, and I stuck with those for a long time before venturing farther.
In some ways agoraphobia is just another destructive habit, like smoking, or cutting, or procrastinating. You know you are not helping yourself by staying home again, but you do it anyway. You know that you are making everything harder for yourself, but that doesn’t matter, because right now you are choosing instant gratification, where the anxiety decreases and you think that makes it the right decision. And that is what is important. You are blinded to most other things.
I don’t think I am blinded anymore. I think I actually want to go places. I don’t want to miss out any longer. I don’t want to hate myself every time I realize I can’t go somewhere. I don’t want to let the people I love down anymore. I think there is only so long you can live with something like that. It’s a continuing thing, though, with no clear beginning or end. ♦