Iím agoraphobic. A lot of people automatically think that agoraphobia means being afraid to leave the house. Thatís not always the case - but I do have an extremely difficult time going anywhere. That includes walking, biking, driving, public transportationÖ pretty much any form of transportation you can think of. So I guess leaving the house is generally pretty problematic. For me its better sometimes and worse at other times. Sometimes I can drive a few blocks (on a good day, across town without using the freeway) if I take anti-anxiety medication like Xanax. Sometimes I still get panic attacks and have to pull over on the side of the road and wait in agonizing terror for it to go away, shakily driving back home, drenched in fear that I wonít make it home before my panic and anxiety escalates to an even higher degree (which doesnít help much).
This has been going on for years now. For the first few years I refused to take medication. This was also due to a negative experience I had at the doctors, where they basically treated me as though I were some drug addict trying to get a fix. I hadnít asked for anything and the doctor told me, ďyou know, anxiety medication has a really high street value so I donít feel comfortable prescribing it.Ē I didnít see a doctor for another two years for an intense fear of being treated like a criminal or drug addict. I still have problems for this very reason - I will go months without medication because my doctor will not refill my prescriptions without drug testing me before each prescription is refilled. Itís also very difficult for me to physically get myself into a doctors appointment. I also canít stand my doctor, but I go to the only clinic that I can afford. Because itís the only clinic I can afford I often feel an extreme guilt around asking for anything, asking questions about medications, or speaking up at all during visits.
I donít want to be anxious, and I donít want to stay shut in the house all day. Itís not only a mental thing - itís as though my body is physically reacting negatively toward doing anything.
I wasnít always like this. I backpacked Thailand, I took a trip to the UK, have been to 35 states, and used to go out every night. In high school I was really into punk rock, and Iíd go to punk shows every weekend. My love of music continued, and Iíd always be going out to concerts, having fun, being social, and enjoying life. I was shy at times, but not due to anxiety.
Iíll never forget my first panic attack. They say panic attacks only last ten minutes. My first panic attack lasted for 12 hours. I was on a road trip, and was outside of a festival in Santa Rosa, California. I never went inside the festival. Instead, I stood outside for ten minutes, and looking around at the dirty faces I saw, began to feel an intense sense of dread, horror, and anxiety. I had no words for it. All I could think was that my body was dying. I felt as though I was detached from my body. I felt dizzy, hot, like I would collapse at any moment. I could have also been suffering from heat stroke simultaneously, but I was too utterly terrified to be able to think rationally about my situation. I was with my boyfriend at the time, and we were living out of the car while we drove around the country. I sat on a bench for hours, completely afraid to move, to get up, to do anythingÖ for hours. Any time Iíd get up to walk Iíd meet this overwhelming sense of doom, fear, and terror.
I began to fear that this feeling would come back. And it did. A lot. Never for that long, though.
When I was in my late teens I experimented with psychadelic drugs (pre-panic days). Not too much, but enough. I never had a horrible trip. However, the feeling of panic and anxiety coming on is exactly how my body felt when hallucinogenic drugs would begin to take affect. For several years, any time I began to have a panic attack (pretty much daily) I would be unable to shake the fear that I had been slipped something somehow.
I became obsessive about checking my food for things, and then I stopped drinking things like water altogether. I wouldnít drink anything that didnít have a sealed cap. I couldnít brush my teeth unless it was straight out of the package. I couldnít open a drink, set it down in front of me, look away for two seconds and continue to drink it. If I was going to drink something I had to keep it in front of my eyes at all times, and sometimes Iíd still get a panic attack after taking a sip of water that I had listened to the seal break, and was completely alone. Iíd also have a complete meltdown if I was outside and a drop of water/liquid misted/touched me. I still have an unreasonable fear of water guns... and drugs/drug addicts in general.
I knew that this was ridiculous the entire time. My mind always knew that I was fine, and that I hadnít been slipped anything. I knew this. I rationalized it every which way. I knew that there was no freaking possibility that my water was tainted. I donít believe in invisible sneaky people that slip through the walls to put substances in my water. It was like my body was physically reacting to it. My body was telling me something was wrong, while my mind recoiled in horror, and then became convinced that something was wrong.
At the time, I was living in a small town called Talent. Thatís in Oregon. Iíd recently moved from California. I had a few piercings, and dressed kind of punk. I was driving to and from school every day, which was one of the only things getting me out. My car still had California plates. Just about every day, Iíd get pulled over by the police. I never drove over the speed limit. Theyíd tell me I was speeding, or they were going to take me to jail for having California plates. Theyíd park outside my house and follow me every time Iíd go anywhere. Iím not schizophrenic, and I was not imagining this. They searched my house because of an ďanonymous reportĒ that there was a meth lab inside.
Again: they searched the house of the person with a severe phobia of drugs, because they claimed there might be a meth lab inside. They walked around measuring the levels of chemicals, and questioned everything inside the house, while I sobbed and said I hadnít done anything wrong. They came back a few times. Once I got a speeding ticket while I was parked in my driveway. Iím pretty sure this is where my fear of driving came from. At the time I was not on medication (at this point because I was afraid of putting anything in my body, including advil or vitamins).
The house I was renting went up for sale by the owner, and unknown to me, she had begun scheduling the realtor to show people the house. When I refused to let the realtor lady in with a group of people, she called the police (the same ones who searched my house before). They showed up, harassed me, threatened me with jail.. and then I was forced to let complete strangers into my house. I had a meltdown, was crying, and tried to ask the people who wanted to see the house if they could reschedule and give me time to leave/clean the house (I have extreme problems with being embarrassed about having people in my house if it is not cleanÖ more than the average person). No such luck. I got in my car, went to drive away, had a panic attack, and sat there on the side of the road for over an hour feeling completely lost. I began to not only fear drinking things, or drivingÖ I began to fear:
Walking, public transportation, touching things in public, enclosed spaces like elevators, being in malls, department stores, standing in line, large open spaces, and pretty much being out in public at all. There was always something that would trigger my panic.
I ended up moving out of that house, and into a house that was not up for sale. My best friend even moved from Chicaco to be my roommate. It was wonderful. The panic and anxiety were still horrible, and I still could hardly get myself to walk outside the front door without feeling like a ton of bricks had been put on my back. Also I would feel like my vision would get tilty, and Iíd get dizzy, and have a fear of falling down or blacking out, even though this hasnít happened before.
I wasnít dating anyone, therefore wasnít meeting people. However, one day the neighbor boy knocked on the door. He had seen me around the house and thought I was cute, and wanted to hang out. We started dating. Well, we started hanging out every day at my house, since I had a really hard time going anywhere. A few months in, he just sort of moved in. I started taking anti-anxiety medication around this time as well. Six months later it turns out that Neighbor Boy was a heroin addict, and was selling/trading my Xanax for heroin. He also sold my phone, My 3DS, and a bunch of other stuff. And stealing from my wallet. I used to let him drive my car (since I was too afraid to drive it). One day I worked up the nerve to drive, and went to see if my keys were in his pocket. I ended up finding a syringe tangled up with my car keys. Surprise!
I waited for him to wake up, made coffee, and had him sit down with me to talk about it. He totally freaked out, and said he was going to kill himself. He actually ended up downing all of my medication. I mean, all of everything that I was taking. I called 911. They took him to the hospital, and his heart stopped beating, but then was resuscitated.
I decided to move back in with my mom in California. I also had to detox from all the medications I had been on while doing that, which was extremely unpleasant. I started hanging out with my ex boyfriend. He was the only person that would come see me. He ended up taking me to a hotel room and having a stranger come into the room and violate me while he watched. I still havenít gotten over it. I had trusted him very much, and that trust was (obviously) gone.
After that, I didnít know what to do with myself. I stayed at home, mostly. I saw a lot of different therapists and psychiatrists.
It felt like every time Iíd make an effort to pick up a social life it would somehow backfire. For instance, one night I went out with a girl to go sing karaoke. When we stepped outside there was this guy that kept trying to kiss my friend. I politely asked him to leave me alone. This turned into him backing me into a corner threatening to rape me, and violate me, while I screamed ďhelpĒ at the top of my lungs, kicking at him to get away, tearing his shirt, crying, and staring at the crowd of THIRTY PEOPLE to freaking HELP. Finally police showed up - but I was absolutely floored that absolutely nobody in the large crowd did anything to help. Up until this point I had felt safer when there were people around, but now I felt unsafe either way - sometimes especially if there was a crowd of people around.
I should also mention that around the time I stopped being mobile (the police incident), I also stopped looking for a job. Kind of. I accepted the fact that I would be unable to work at a normal job. So, I began searching for alternative options - on the internet. I stumbled into online domination. Financial domination. The kind that doesnít involve getting naked or sexy talking. I ended up doing pretty well for myself, and also getting lots of presents via wishlist in the mail. I also began to feel like it was the only thing that I could do to make any sort of an income, seeing as I was no longer able to function as a regular member of society. Initially I thought it was funny, but now I absolutely hate it.
Recently Iíve become depressed. More and more depressed. I fell in love with a great guy about a year ago. Iíve known him for ten years or so. He messaged me on ***** one day and we went out. Well, he came over to watch Dr. Who. I felt safe around him. I felt safe going places with him. Weíve broken up mainly due to my anxiety, and the fact that I donít go anywhere. Iíve felt awful putting so much reliance on another person - which is an unfair burden or anyone. I just feel incapable of doing things on my own. Itís like I need someone I trust to be with me when Iím out, just in case. Just in case I fall down and no one will call an ambulance, or help me back up. Just in case I have a panic attack. I need someone who understands that I have them to be around, just in case Iím incapable of checking out at the grocery, or suddenly feel like the air has turned to murky water and Iím swimming through it, about to collapse/drift at any moment.
I feel rejected. I feel alone. I feel unloved. I feel like Iím unable to escape my house, my work, and this awful feeling of restlessness.
One of the things, through all of this - is that Iíve been able to maintain a generally positive outlook despite everything. Iíve been able to be positive about life. Iíve continued to do art, to create, to be social online, upload YouTube videos and tutorials, connect to communities, etc. Lately however, Iíve begun to feel completely defeated. Like itís all finally gotten to me. Like itís been just building on itself. Any time I think Iím doing better - driving more, doing things right, it just collapses right back on me. I wish that I was writing this because I ended up beating the thing. I wish I was writing this as a positive self-help story. I wish I was writing this because I wanted to reach out to people struggling to tell them how to overcome it. I know it can be done. I know it has been done, and will be done. I hope that I am one of those people that can reach out to those suffering and offer them help and guidanceÖ But as of this moment, I am just another person with another long story, reaching out for advice.
All I know is that Iím sick and tired of it. Iím fed up with being anxious and panicked about every. single. little. fucking. thing. Iím so sick of it!!! If there was a magic switch that would make it so that I was fearless, strong, and capable of doing anything a normal person could do, I would flip that switch so fast it would make your head spin. Iím serious. Nothing pisses me off like someone telling me to just ignore it, or just think differently. I have tried thinking differently. I keep a positivity journal. I practice mindfulness meditation. I exercise. I donít eat fast food, except sometimes, but Iím vegetarian so it really limits that. I say daily affirmations. I practice my breathing. Iíve tried medication, Iíve tried no medication. Iíve tried herbal remedies. Iíve tried all kinds of therapy. Iíve tried no therapy. Iíve tried exposure training. Iíve tried yelling at the ocean at two in the morning with a good friend. Iíve tried witchcraft, and banishing spells. Iíve tried ignoring it. Iíve tried paying attention to it. Iíve tried educating myself. I even sought out one of the people behind one of my favorite workbooks (the agoraphobia workbook) to be my psychiatrist (heís great, but Iím still panicky and anxious). Iím not an inherently lazy person. Iím normally the kind of person who sees what they want, and goes for it. I normally am pretty good at getting things done and following my goals, and accomplishing what I want. Iím the kind of person who, when I find something Iím interested in, will read every book known to man on the subject, followed by months of intensive study. I did this with getting help for my anxiety and panic.
Itís not for lack of tryingÖ but nothing seems to work. Nothing will make this go away. Iím beginning to wonder if Iíll ever get better - if Iíll ever be able to live a normal life. If Iíll ever be able to have a family. If anyone will ever love me.
Iím still afraid of elevators, of the mall, of grocery stores, of drivingÖ
But, to end on a happy note - I now drink water regularly, and am able to drink things that have been sitting out. Yay!