I’m not lazy, I’m agoraphobic.
I used to spend my days at work, my nights in Manhattan, and my weekends filled with adventure and road trips. Now, if I am able to leave my house for a medical appointment, it’s an accomplishment.
I’ve had “episodes” that lasted months, where I’d be unable to leave my bed — not because I’m lazy but out of fear.
I suffer from a very misunderstood disease called agoraphobia, which is the fear of open spaces (a very generalized definition).
When I tell people, their first response is, “What? You’re afraid of spiders?” No, that would be arachnophobia.
To be honest, I’m not even entirely sure of how I came to be this way, so I don’t judge those who don’t understand. It started some time in 2013. It wasn’t a conscious decision; I just stopped leaving my home.
My husband would ask if I wanted to go out, and my answer was always no. Neither one of us actually realized how long it had been since I’d left until a month or two in when my husband looked at me and said, “Wait. When was the last time you left?” and I couldn’t answer.
Grocery stores were impossible (and still are), Target, Walmart, any store with more than one department is completely out of the question.
I’m lucky enough to have a very supportive husband, who takes care of all the “outside” stuff I’m unable to. He brings my son to the park, does the grocery shopping, etc.
When I do go out, my husband HAS to be with me. I can’t go hang out with friends or run to the store without him; to me, he’s like the security blanket little kids take EVERYWHERE.
Am I thrilled with how my life is? Not exactly, but every day I work on it. I try and make trips to the store with my husband, though most of the time, I remain a passenger in the car and don’t actually venture into the store.
I have gone to my son’s doctor appointments — basically, anything essential, I find a way to do it. Whether it’s taking an extra dose of anti-anxiety medicine (approved by my psychiatrist) or practicing breathing exercises to calm my nerves, I find a way.
If you invite me to a picnic or BBQ at your house, it’s pretty much a given that I will not attend. All my friends know this and have already stopped inviting me, either to ease the pressure off me or just because, why bother?
So, what does it feel like when I’m forced outside of my comfort zone? It feels like I’m trapped in a tunnel, with every terrorist and mass murderer that has ever lived.
Everyone is a suspect, not based on race or gender. I can see Big Bird and be suspicious and scared. My mind automatically goes into defense mode: Does this person have a gun? Does this person intend to carjack the vehicle I’m idling in? Will this be the next location of a mass shooting? Because you never think it’ll happen to you until it does, so I keep that in mind. I don’t care how safe or friendly your neighborhood is, it can happen anywhere.
When my husband and son go out, I worry it’s the last time I’ll see them. What if there’s an attack? All the “what ifs?” go through my brain at a pace I can hardly keep up with while I try to ignore it. And unfortunately, my brain can’t turn off that part of itself to allow me to enjoy outside activities like others do.
I can’t tell if I’m the product of the society we currently live in or if I would have been this way no matter what. All I know is that every time I make it past my front door, it’s a tiny victory in my life. And I know that one day, I’ll overcome this because I want to live life outside of my comfort zone. I want to live life as a person who’s free from irrational fears.
I want to show my son that despite the world we live in, and the scary things that happen daily, the world can be a pretty great place.