StrykerRN

@strykerrn
Alena M

What Living With Agoraphobia and Panic Disorder Is Like

In the 2000s, I was a lively, adventurous, and courageous teenager. I wasn’t the least bit afraid to go to the mailbox on my own, and for that matter, leave the house completely on my own. I walked about a mile to school every day, until I fished. I then got right out of school and got a job, in which I also walked to work all by myself at the age of 17. Ten years later, in 2017, who knew my life would turn upside down and that my own mind would keep me a prisoner in my own body and in my own home? I was diagnosed with agoraphobia in early 2017. I hadn’t even heard of what it was until then.. and then everything started coming together. At some point, later in 2016, I became terrified to leave my apartment. It was so bad to the point I would have panic attacks and nearly faint in public, sometimes even when I was with someone. I can only speculate why this was happening to me. Perhaps it was my intense fear of dogs that suddenly came back to haunt me, due to a childhood encounter with a rabid Rottweiler. Maybe it was the fact I had heard something horrible happened in that specific apartment complex that did it for me. I still to this day, have no clue. All I know is, at this point, agoraphobia and panic disorder had been ruining my life, and continue to do so. I had been put on several different medications to try to combat it and have started therapy, but I could still tell the road would be long. I would put in several job applications and when I had interviews, I would have a major panic attack and ruin my chances. One particular day comes to mind where I went ahead to a job interview. Toward the end of the orientation and interview, I had a full-fledged panic attack and had to be excused early. It was extremely embarrassing. Needless to say, I didn’t get a call back. The second time, it occurred with another company. As soon as I stepped out the door to go to my interview, I had a major panic attack, and of course, I never ended up making it to the interview. People don’t understand the absolute embarrassment and horror so many of us with severe anxiety disorders go through. They say phrases like, “Touch some grass” or, “You’re always in the house… get a job!” They don’t realize you’ve been trying and it’s your major anxiety disorder that’s setting you back. Sometimes, it makes me angry and that is why I’ve decided to write this article. I need people to know the extremes of agoraphobia and the absolute depression it can put someone in. In my experiences, most people in society who are working regular jobs don’t understand. To them, I simply look “lazy,” and sometimes that is exactly what they say. “Stop being lazy! You just want free money!” I absolutely cannot stand being stuck inside the majority of the time. I get bored, I overthink, and I have gotten more depressed than I would have been had I gotten out more. I want people to know this is not my choice. Don’t get me started on answering the door for the maintenance man, UPS, or getting the mail. I have to have others (my safe person) go with me everywhere I go because I can’t go anywhere alone. I always need a safe person. Agoraphobia has made me feel like a grown-up child and makes me feel like a “freak” because I’m always peeking out of the window, wondering what life would be like had I just gotten the courage to break myself out of this mental prison. If I had complete control over my mind, so smoothly, this would have not been my choice of a life. I spend more time on social media and put more stock into online relationships because my agoraphobia won’t allow me to have an actual life outside of that. The internet also comes with its issues and people don’t take things as seriously as I do because they actually have an offline life where they have offline friends and acquaintances. The only time I feel decent about being trapped inside my home is when I see tragedies happening on the news. Then, I feel a bit of relief and tell myself that maybe my agoraphobia isn’t so bad after all. Then, I come back to reality and remember living in fear isn’t the way anyone should have to live. It just isn’t. The times I do finally get out to enjoy myself with others, I get nervous having to go into stores, restaurants, or while catching public transportation. It has happened before, when I was so scared I would make myself look silly that I just decided I wasn’t going inside a restaurant to get anything to eat. I was very hungry, but my brain just would not allow my legs to put one foot in front of the other and walk into that restaurant. There were times I almost fainted and lost consciousness on a city bus due to my severe agoraphobia and panic disorder. Even when I’m inside, I’m constantly looking out my peephole, making sure nobody’s lurking near my place of residence because it is my only safe place at this time. Don’t get me wrong, I try to make the most out of life every day, but agoraphobia makes my life flat-out depressing. It’s hard getting a job because my experience isn’t as impressive as everyone else’s since agoraphobia has taken the opportunity to have any away from me. I just want everybody to know that, no, I am not lazy. In fact, I am a very hard worker and always do my best when there is something I do need to get done. Those of us who have agoraphobia can feel like prisoners in our own body and we do truly want to get better.

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