When Anxiety Makes It Difficult to Leave the House

For me, leaving the house can be a difficult situation.

There are times when I’m getting ready to go out and I become overcome with anxiety.

I start to wonder if I need to go out. I find myself weighing my options. I act as if the decision to leave the house is life-changing. But it’s not. And I know this.

For years, I thought the feelings I had when getting ready to go out were caused by anticipation. It wouldn’t be until years later that I realized these feelings – the nauseating and painful feelings – were actually a result of anxiety.

I have anxiety when I leave the house. I have anxiety when I’m not sure when I’ll be home. I have anxiety when someone else drives and I can’t escape when I want to get home.

Home. My safe place.

It’s weird because I’ve traveled and stayed in several hostels around the world. I’ve moved away and lived in Japan, Greece and Vancouver. But no matter where I go, my accommodations become my safe place, even if it’s only for a day or two.

Home. Where I need to be. And it’s confusing because as a teenager, I always wanted to be out. My mother called me a “social butterfly” because I was always on the go. Yet, even as a teenager, I experienced these uncomfortable feelings. However, I never let them stop me from going out to a party or out with friends. I never wanted to miss out on anything.

I have no idea when this started. Yes, I had some separation anxiety when I was younger. I once cried hysterically during visitors day at a sleepover camp. I begged my parents to take me home, but with a lot of talking, I was convinced to stay.

As I got older, things got worse. It wasn’t until my last year of high school that the need to be home became overwhelming. If I was out with friends, there were many times I went home shortly after leaving the house. We laughed about it. I laughed about it. We all thought it was just me being “strange”— and that was my thing. Turns out, it is my thing — but it’s not as funny as we thought it was.

Recently, I was getting ready to go out to dinner with friends when I felt an anxiety attack coming on. My chest became tight about half an hour before I had to leave. It got tighter and tighter once I got into the car. As I started driving, my throat started constricting and I pulled my car over to the side of the road. I had to breathe. I had to gather myself. I had to pull out whatever tools I had in my special, imaginary resource pouch and get through this. I had to go out.

Don’t get me wrong, I am able to leave the house. I leave the house often. But a lot of the time, maybe even most of the time, I struggle with anxiety over it. This anxiety can range from mild to severe. I have mild anxiety when I have to go to work or run an errand. The severe anxiety occurs mostly when I go out in the evening during the week.

Leaving can feel like a chore to me. I have arguments with myself about going out. One part of me wants to be out, while the other part thinks it’s better to just stay home.

I don’t discuss this much, or mention it, to people while it’s happening because I’ve lived with it for so long that I’m used to it. Before leaving, I ask myself, “Can I do this? Can I go out? Do I need to go out? How important is it that I go out to dinner for a very close friend’s birthday? How important is it for me to go grocery shopping today?” These are actually the questions my anxiety poses.

Rest assured, I go out. I go out because I have to. I go out because otherwise, I’d feel like a prisoner in my own house and my own mind. I go out because I have a family who needs to eat. I go out because I have to work and my son has to go to daycare. I go out because there are people in my life that I love and want to see.

I go out because anxiety won’t win.

I go out because I don’t want to disappoint anyone, including myself. Leaving the house keeps me from sinking into an awful hole.

Leaving my safety zone makes me face my fear of leaving. Fighting against my anxiety keeps me in the game. I won’t back down.

While my anxiety can be debilitating at times, leaving me crying and angry — I can’t let it take over. I fight through the physical and psychological pain I endure because I have no other choice.

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Thinkstock photo via alexvav

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