Agoraphobia

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The last blog entry started me thinking about my agoraphobia. It’s been a pretty constant companion, since before I knew its name or could even conceptualize it. I can remember all the way back in grade school being timid about new places.

As a child, I didn’t get to decide whether I went someplace or not. Without choice, I just did it. Perhaps that was easier because I could not agonize, “Should I?” “Shouldn’t I?” I was anxious but I knew I had to go and knew it wouldn’t be fun. I always got through through it, usually without crying or complaining.

I was trying to fake being normal, you see.

There have been periods when I have been more afraid of new places and periods when it has eased up a bit. The transition is so gradual that I don’t spot it until months later. By then, whatever caused the shift is so far in the past I have no way of identifying it.

However, I have figured out one basic underlying cause of my fear of going from one place to another. Where ever I am, I know whether I am being hurt or not. But I do not know whether, if I go somewhere else,  there will be people there who will attack me. When it is really bad,  I have trouble going from one room to another in my apartment, especially if I cannot see into the other room. It is so much safer just to stay put and not take the risk.

Some types of buildings are more frightening than others. Banks, post offices, and libraries are scary, while museums are pretty much okay. That gives me some information but doesn’t calm me down. I can tell myself that there will be others around and that the cults are not apt to abuse people in public places in broad daylight, but I can’t seem to completely convince myself.

I’ve also figured out that I am afraid I will get lost and nobody will ever see me again. That, too, is information about what I was told as a child. I say reassuring things to myself, “I have a map. I have a full tank of gas and a credit card. I can always stop at a gas station and ask directions. It will be okay.” That helps a lot. Apparently getting lost is not as bad as entering a post office.

There is a reprieve when I am on vacation in a new place, especially if I am with others. It doesn’t last more than a couple of days, unfortunately. It’s as if the fantasy of a whole new happy life just came true and it is glorious to be calm and free to enjoy my surroundings. But my past always seems to come on vacation with me.

Agoraphobia is sad and exhausting.

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