I don’t go to the grocery store anymore. It’s not safe. People block the aisles with their carts and the fear in me starts to build. I am trapped! I look for an aisle with no people so I can escape, but there is someone in every aisle. I can’t breathe! Defeated, I abandon my cart and make a run for it. I push through people (excuse me! excuse me!) Heartbeat accelerating, hands shaking I finally make it out the door. I breathe in gulps of air and try to calm down, but I am shaking and people are staring. I feel them judging me. All these eyes on me feel like ice against my flesh. Panicked, I flee to my car and lock all the doors.
I drive home crying at yet another failure. Home is safe, home is best. I arrive and hurry inside, closing and locking the door behind me. Frustrated I yell at the cats . “Get off the table! Who do you think you are? Stop it! Just stop it!” The cats love me unconditionally, they come to soothe me. Crawling on me, purring and just being lovable. I tell them I am sorry.
I can see the backyard from where I sit. There is a high fence that goes all the way around. It should be safe, but it isn’t. I only go out there if someone is with me. Mostly I spend my time sitting in the kitchen at the table on line. I have two windows to look out of and I occasionally take a break from my writing and just gaze outside. What a beautiful day!
I started having panic attacks and bouts of agoraphobia twenty five years ago. I have been dealing with my agoraphobia on a daily basis for the past ten years (Lord, has it been that long?) I used to be able to get over the attacks and carry on, now I am almost totally housebound. Luckily, I like this house. The sage green walls in the kitchen soothe me. Yet, the panic can occur at anytime for any reason or for no reason. Suddenly I hear a car door close. No one is supposed to be here! I hear footsteps on the wooden walkway, I don’t have a peep hole in my door. Who is it? Why are they here? Do I answer or not answer? They knock. It’s not a good day, I don’t answer. They leave and I open the door.
Xanax is my friend. When I feel the panic attacks coming I take one and it helps calm me down. I am on a multitude of medications for various reasons both mental and medical. My husband is good at talking me down, we do breathing exercises. It usually works, but not always. Each day is the same, but different. Except for Sundays.
I love Sundays! Sundays my husband takes me to the local flea market, I am safe as long as he is with me. He is strong and protective I know that with him there no one will bother me. I love to walk up and down the rows seeking out little treasures that I want. He rarely says no, he spoils me. He knows me so well, after twenty years, that he can read my facial expressions. He always knows when it’s time to leave.
Family functions are the hardest. My side of the family is easy, my mother and brother no longer speak to me. Which is not so bad when they don’t believe in or support me emotionally. I have a twenty five year old son who understands more than they do and at least has compassion for me. I love him unconditionally. I just hate that he is in the middle between myself and my mother and brother. It’s been over a year since they have spoken to me. It really hurts, sometimes I just want my mother, but she is not safe anymore.
I’m not sure if husband’s family understands what I am going through or not. Family functions are important to my husband, so I go, though I tend to find a corner to sit in, occasionally making small talk, but mostly remaining alone. I love my step-children and grandchildren very much. They just think I’m odd and leave me alone. I usually can last two hours at these functions before I have to go (have to go, now!). My husband spots me and the look I give him and he knows. I say good bye to a couple of people and I’m out the door and in the car waiting. My husband tells everyone good bye, which usually takes another twenty minutes. My anxiety ratchets up (have to go, now!) He finally makes it out the door and to the car.
I have two friends who are safe and I can go places with them, though I usually wait in the car with the doors locked. I see my therapist once a week, it’s been ten years and he is safe because he knows my life inside and out. I don’t feel like a failure with him. My friend just started seeing him and now we go on the same day so I don’t have to drive. I don’t like to drive, it’s not safe.
I am so blessed to have a husband and two friends who understand the seriousness of my condition. It’s so hard to get people to understand that this is real to me, it is my life. I live with fear every single day. How do you explain that to people?
My anxiety doesn’t abate until I am home and safe. I ask, “Do you still love me?”
His answer is always “Yes.”