When Agoraphobia Keeps You From Living

So this is a scary thing to put out there. I have been in and out of tears all morning because at my son’s school today, they are having a Thanksgiving feast and while I am off work, I can’t go. I am absolutely drowning in guilt and shame this morning.

I have agoraphobia and it is keeping me from living. I am isolated in comfort.

Most people think you can’t leave the house when you have agoraphobia, but that is only 40 percent of the most severe cases. I am the other 60 percent but don’t confuse this with social anxiety or being introverted. I go to work and I come home. If I go anywhere else, 99 percent of the time my husband takes me. If I go to school events, basketball games, to get my hair done or go to the store, I have to take anxiety medication and still usually end up bawling either before, out of fear of a panic attack, or after from exhaustion. Those times are few and far between. They leave me feeling like I have run a marathon and a parade should be held in my honor.

I feel like a crap mom, wife, daughter, sister, friend and person in general all the time. The guilt and shame eat me up. Out of shame, I let people think I am just a “homebody,” super busy or just an introvert. I tell my son I have a migraine or my back hurts or I just buy him things out of guilt and convince him it outweighs whatever I missed.

I take medication for bipolar disorder, depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and such but it has not helped me with this. I went to therapy for a long time but the impending fear of just getting in the car and going kept me from attending and I stopped. I haven’t always been this way. Well, not to this extent anyway. I used to be able to cope much better. At least enough. My husband, bless his sweet heart, always steps up for me no matter how uncomfortable and has made this very easy for me. For him as much as me, I am going to ask him to start making it a little harder for me. To no longer be my well-meaning enabler.

This morning, it hit me hard. All of the wonderful memories my son will have to look back on with his dad. Some with me, yes, but not the group pictures at school, the time at the zoo with his class, the pumpkin painting at a Fall party. Because I wasn’t there. I waited at home to hear the stories and live it through the still life pictures. It is not the same for me and I am sure it won’t be for him when he looks back on it. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe agoraphobia makes me any less of a good parent than my husband. I am a darn good mom, but I have the potential to be better. As I think any parent can be, given any situation or illness.

I made the decision this morning, after beating myself up over the Thanksgiving feast, that I can’t live this way anymore. I am going to actively do absolutely everything I can to not miss out anymore and stop being afraid to live.

I am starting with deep prayer of supplication and an agoraphobia and panic attack workbook, I am going to try to desensitize myself enough to get to therapy and do small things. This will be the last year I miss the Thanksgiving feast, the school fundraising events, the school parties, the field trips, the get-togethers with friends and family, going out to dinner, shopping, therapy, movies and anniversary dinners with my husband.

I am terrified of failing but this will be the last year. I will do this. I can’t fail. I have way too much at stake. I know myself well enough to know I can do this. I have overcome a lot in my life and this will be no different. I am convinced of it.

This was my step one — just getting it “out there.” I have been outing myself a lot lately, living my truth in light because shame, guilt and lies can only live in darkness.

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Getty Images photo via Thomas Northcut

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