What It's Like to Have Both Agoraphobia and Social Anxiety
Agoraphobia is a condition I struggle with, but I don’t speak about it very often — I think because it’s difficult to explain. At times, it can be nearly impossible to separate agoraphobia from social anxiety. I wanted to look into it and determine whether I was confusing the two conditions and whether it was possible to experience both.
Agoraphobia is defined as a fear of leaving your home. Many people with agoraphobia are housebound, even room-bound. Truth be told, there are days when I don’t leave our bedroom. Agoraphobia refers to the fear of being in situations or places from which escape would be difficult in the event of a panic attack. We often fear crowds, cars and even elevators. For me, it has become such a nuisance that I even fear just going to the mailbox in front of our house. If I spend too much time in an elevator, I begin to panic. I feel like I can’t breathe.
Both agoraphobia and social anxiety are often referred to as a fear of public places; people with social anxiety most often fear places where public scrutiny can occur. The more articles I read, the more it all began to make sense. One article even mentioned agoraphobics could feel better with a trusted companion when they’re in public. I find this true for me but only with my husband. It’s not often that you struggle with both conditions.
I can’t even count how many events or appointments I have missed due to one or both of these conditions. Add to that issues with your weight and self-esteem, and it’s a nightmare. I am constantly dissecting every single flaw I have, and because I am so critical, I expect everyone else will be too. All I see when I look in the mirror is an overweight mess. In the last few months, I’ve even avoided having anyone come to our house because of how terrible I think I look. It’s a horrible feeling to be terrified in your own home.
It’s been more than a year since I drove myself anywhere. I was recently gifted with a vehicle, and I still haven’t driven it. We let it sit for three weeks, and when we went to start it, the battery was dead. I saw that as just another sign. My husband takes it on little trips to the store now so we don’t have that problem again, but what can I do about my dead battery? I’ve isolated myself for so long, rarely leaving the house. I don’t know how to fix this. Sitting here right now, I can’t remember the last time I went anywhere.
I keep telling myself the more I avoid any attempt at getting out, the harder it will be to do it once I have something important I must do.
I’ve been struggling for months, just barely holding myself together.
I hide behind sarcasm because I don’t want anyone to see the real truth. I feel a sense of responsibility to the people who have seen my posts on social media or read my book. I’ve told everyone for so long they can lead a full and happy life despite mental illness, that I’ve forgotten to practice what I preach. At this point, I’m merely existing, not living.
I need to make a change, and I feel I need to do it quickly. I turned 44 last month. It’s time to put my big girl pants on and get back in the game. If it means some therapy, perhaps I just have to accept that. As much as I hate the idea, maybe it would be the best thing for me. I’m stuck, that’s for sure, and the old me didn’t leave any bread crumbs leading back to who I once was.
So, I have to contend with not just your run-of-the-mill depression and anxiety, but agoraphobia and social anxiety coupled with a deep seeded hatred of my appearance and very low self-esteem. It almost feels too heavy to ever come out from underneath. My brain tells me it’s just too much — I can’t do it. My heart tells me that in 20 years I’m going to look back and wish I had done more while I could. I can’t live with that kind of regret — I already carry so much as it is.
I feel like I’m finally at the point where I can make a declaration. I am finally going to start living my life again. I’ll keep working with my doctor to find a depression medication that works, but in the meantime, I’ll be working on myself. Maybe I’ll do online therapy, just until I’m ready to get back in the saddle. Every day, my mantra will be, “Just do a little more today than you did yesterday.”
If you’re struggling with similar issues, reach out to me. Maybe we can help push each other to make positive changes. It just takes a moment in time to change your life. You just have to be prepared to accept whatever those changes may bring. I think I’m ready. Are you?
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Unsplash photo via Aidan Meyer