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Years ago my anxiety disorder spiraled out of control. It was right around the time I quit my job. The thought of leaving my home, for any reason, paralyzed me. I would sweat, my heart would race and I felt like I was going to pass out. I missed my daughters’ award ceremonies and dance competitions. I wouldn’t even go to the grocery store by myself and if I took one of the kids with me and there were long lines, I would often turn around and walk out, making an excuse as to why we had to leave abruptly. Driving farther than a few miles completely freaked me out, especially if there was any sort of traffic. My doctor called it agoraphobia. It was a term I had only heard in the movies and at the moment she said it, I was positive she had misunderstood what I was going through and had surely gotten it wrong.
Regardless, I looked it up…
Agoraphobia is the extreme or irrational fear of entering open or crowded places, of leaving one’s own home, or of being in places from which escape is difficult.
Contrary to what I thought I saw in the movies, agoraphobia isn’t just panic when you leave your home. It also includes my fear of crowded places and places where I can’t easily leave (which would explain my panic attack in line for the ferry at Disney all those years ago). The doctor was correct and that terrified me. But it did put a name to what was happening to me, so there was a bright side… I guess.
With a lot of work, a lot of resistance and way too many tears, I overcame my fear of leaving the house within six months or so and although I still have trouble going places on my own, or without my husband in the car with me, I was able to overcome a part of my agoraphobia, to a degree.
I was finally going out more. I was pushing myself outside of my comfort zone. I went to my daughters’ award shows and dance competitions. We went on a number of family road trips, one as far as 600 miles away and on a cruise with my best friend. I even went to Disney World and LEGOLAND, crowds and all. In my mind, I was getting better and I was feeling better. I made so much progress that I was finally starting to feel hopeful again.
And then the pandemic happened.
Since March 13th, I have left the house only a few times, which mostly consisted of me sitting in the car, or taking pictures at a local park. I have not been around anyone except my immediate family. I haven’t even walked into a store, thanks to delivery services and my husband’s weekly trips to the grocery store. I’ve resorted back to my “agoraphobia days” but this time out of necessity, not by choice.
My friends and family were constantly checking in with me, thinking my anxiety would be bad, but in fact, my anxiety had calmed down significantly. Not having to go anywhere probably had a lot to do with that. I didn’t have to worry about being in a crowded space, or feeling trapped. In fact, I didn’t have to worry about leaving home because technically, we weren’t allowed to go anywhere.
Then all of a sudden, last month, my anxiety spiked. Out of nowhere, I had a massive panic attack in the middle of the night which caused me to stay in my bed for days. All of those terrified feelings were back. I couldn’t calm down. It got so bad, I was seriously considering getting back on my meds, which you may remember was a nightmare for me.
Watching the news, scrolling on social media and seeing people’s “opinions” and conspiracies of what is actually happening in our world… it became too much for me. I was overwhelmed. Every single conversation I had was a trigger. I pulled back, stopped answering calls and made sure I kept away from news and social media feeds as much as possible.
I’ve since gotten my anxiety under control again, thanks to meditation, CBD and keeping myself distracted, but I can’t help but be concerned that this pandemic has brought back my agoraphobia. Since we don’t know how much longer we will be self-isolating, I’d be lying if I said otherwise. What will happen when our city opens up again? Will I ever feel safe? Will the pandemic just be an added layer to the fears I already had?
I wonder if anyone else is going through something similar. If so, what are you doing to make sure you get out of the house, safely? I’d love some suggestions. Feel free to comment below, or if you don’t feel comfortable sharing publicly, email me.