I got stuck. It didn’t happen all at once, but the end result is the same. I exist almost exclusively inside of a 10 foot sphere of space. My agoraphobia seems to have reached it’s ultimate potential.
Some days it isn’t so bad. But even those days take monumental effort. Like walking uphill through molasses. It’s not my body that is stuck; it is my mind. Trying to execute a series of motor functions in order to get up and go outside is the mental equivalent of uphill molasses slogging. My body would happily comply if my mind could seem to get the messages through.
It’s almost fascinating, this mental paralysis. My body is fully functional. Healthy enough to be mobile, anyway. But I spend my days sitting on the same bed that I slept in, seeing people who come into my room to see me, because I can’t seem to go out and see them. My husband, my son, my mom, my roommate, they all come in and talk to me, spend time with me. Yet most of the time, I cannot go to them. My limbs work, even as they scream at me in atrophy when I get up to use the bathroom. If they can work to get me to the bathroom, why can’t they work to walk me into the kitchen, or the living room, or the front yard?
I read an article about agoraphobia once that talked about how agoraphobia involves a certain perceived disconnect between mind and body. Feeling that your body wouldn’t obey your commands, feeling that it is sometimes a distinct thing from yourself. That certainly seems to fit the experience well. I know my limbs are under my control, and yet, when I think of getting up and going out, it feels like my body is dead set against it, regardless of what I want.
The first time this happened to me, I was in high school. I thought it was real paralysis, or something close to it. I would wake up in the morning and be unable to move my legs. I could feel them, but they felt different than normal, heavier. Once I went back to sleep for a few hours and woke up again, they were fine. A few painful nerve tests later, I was pronounced healthy, and came to the conclusion that it was psychosomatic in nature, particularly with how it coincided with my fears of going to school. My fear was so palpable that it shut down my physical ability to go near the source of my fear.
I didn’t consider it agoraphobia at the time. I still left the house enough back then that the concept didn’t really occur to me. I knew my anxiety flared at school, but I attributed that to the myriad of stressors and overstimulation within that environment. In retrospect, I had begun the process of withdrawing from the world; my perceived fears about the world were already becoming major factors in whether or not I left my house, and as I shied away from the things that scared me, I found new things to be scared of, and shied away from those as well. Taking that course to it’s natural conclusion, where else could it have ended up? It was always heading for this: being trapped in one to two rooms of my home, afraid of unnamed things that lurk outside this one last safe space. My own self created prison.
Now, very soon, I have to move to a new house. There is no avoiding that. It will happen. Most of me is relieved and excited for it, as this house feels so suffocating to me, full of bad memories and painful associations. But from the agoraphobia standpoint, I am terrified of the move itself (which feels like being thrown against my will into the world that I avoid at all costs), and worried that I won’t be able to use it as an opportunity to break out of my cage. I fear that I will simply construct a new prison in a new house, bringing all the fears and baggage with me. I hate this house as if it were a malevolent entity, but I think much of that is me projecting my own mental illness onto the house in which I feel trapped. If that is the case, then how much of this will I bring with me into a new house? Is it possible for me to use being pushed out of the nest as an opportunity to learn to fly?
I want so desperately to unshackle myself from my comfortable prison, to go out into the world again. I want to use this move as a chance to leave behind so many bad habits and mentalities, but I fear that they will just travel with me, a constant monkey on my back.
Whenever I think about the move, I find myself nearly drunk with hope. That hope is matched by fear that it will be dashed, that I will still feel like the same broken woman, just living at a different address.
I cling to hope, for it is all I really have.
An Anonymous Outsider