The Mighty Logo

Women With Agoraphobia Pens Powerful Post After Being Harassed for Taking a Selfie

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

For people living with mental illness, selfies can be a powerful way to document victories against their disorder. Brenna Mae, a woman living with agoraphobia – a disorder that causes anxiety in places and situations where escape may be difficult – chose a selfie to celebrate a rare moment of relief from her disorder. What she didn’t choose was to be berated in the street for taking one.

According to her post on Twitter, Mae woke up one morning with a “flash of strange courage,” so she went out to a Trader Joe’s for groceries. “For once, I didn’t wait around to see if it would stay… [going outside] felt powerful. I felt free,” she wrote.

While taking a selfie outside of the store, Mae was harassed by a person driving by for taking a photograph of herself. According to Mae, the person yelled “Nobody cares that you’re going to the f**cking grocery store,” right as she finished taking the picture.

Fortunately, Mae didn’t allow the driver’s harassment to spoil her victory. “Yes, I was a woman standing outside a Trader Joe’s, acting like my shopping trip was important enough to document,” said Mae, “because it was.”

Mae’s powerful statement brings some much-needed visibility to agoraphobia. Mae also makes an important point about how shortsighted harassment is, as people living with mental illness face twice the amount of harassment as the general population.

You can read her full post below:

Dear driver who yelled at me for taking a selfie on the sidewalk outside Trader Joe’s, I know what you thought you were seeing, just a self-absorbed, shallow millennial, documenting a mundane task for no reason. ‘Stupid kid,’ you might have thought, ‘not every little thing has to be documented. Put your phone away and get on with your life.’ But here’s the thing. I also know what you were unable to see: I am agoraphobic.

For the past 3+ years, I haven’t gone into public by myself. I haven’t left the front door of my home without a friend or family member (except, on brave days, to get the mail). Even when going in public with loved ones, I become wracked with anxiety, crippled by panic attacks where I could barely breathe or talk. My husband has had to practically carry me out of movie theaters becasue I started panicking so hard. We’ve lost who knows how much money on non-refundable tickets. Before we got married, we couldn’t go on dates because it was too hard for me to leave the house. I have endured 3+ years of my body and mind revolting against my desire to be independent.

This morning, alone in my apartment, I experienced a flash of strange courage. For once, I didn’t wait around to see if it would stay. I didn’t worry that the courage would abandon me halfway through my trip. I just seized it. I grabbed a beanie and my messenger bag and walked out the door. I crossed two streets, by myself, while cars rushed by, and I didn’t panic. I smiled up at the blue sky and sun, for the first time in year enjoying it on my own. I felt whole. I felt powerful. I felt free.

You and I were the sole witnesses of a moment 3+ years in the making. All I wanted was one photo — not even from a flattering angle, not even well-composed. Just one photo, to prove I did it, to look at when I’m low again, that it’s possible to defeat the demons and win. To show myself that it can be done again. To send to my husband so he can be proud of me too.

When you saw me, yes, I was a woman standing outside a Trader Joe’s, acting like my shopping trip was important enough to document. Because it was.

I’m sorry that you’ll never know.

I’m sorry you see my generation documenting our lives as something to be scorned.

I’m sorry you don’t hear the stories we have to tell.

I’m sorry that I can’t tell you mine.

Originally published: June 13, 2016
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home