Category Archives: Agoraphobia

Agoraquaraphobiantine

I know it’s selfish, but I hope the quarantine lasts as long as possible. I hope the government does not rush to end it for the sake of the economy or any other reason.

Why do I say “I know it’s selfish”? Because my reasons for not wanting the quarantine to end are not all about “us” and more about me; specifically my agoraphobia.

I have been told by more than one person lately that they hope this quarantine doesn’t set back my progress. My mom told me over the phone the other day, “I hope all of this doesn’t mess up your condition. When this is over you make sure to get out, don’t be staying home, you hear”.

I’m feeling different these days. Before the quarantine agoraphobia made me anxious about going out in the world, so I stayed home. Being at home relieved my anxiety, I felt safe and comfortable. Since the quarantine began I am happy and more comfortable than ever. I feel the same things as before, but now I don’t have to feel guilt, now I am justified (in society’s eyes) in staying home. And having everybody else doing it, too, feels good.

The funny thing is that now most people are getting a good taste of what it is like to be agoraphobic. Everytime they think of going out or have to go out, they are flooded with anxiety. “If I go out there something bad will happen.” (Catch covid-19). “It’s scary out there, I could die!” 3ubs66

The rational side of me wants this quarantine to end, covid-19 to have never come to be. All those lost lives to still be here with their loved ones. All the fear and uncertainty to disappear, and life to go back to what it was.

But agoraphobia is perfectly happy to have the quarantine part of all of this stay just as it is.

My biggest fear right now is that the quarantine will end and I will be forced to go out there. I don’t want to go out there. I feel so ill equipped to participate in the world. I feel so fragile.

I think an equal, or even bigger fear of mine is that the quarantine will end and everybody will go back to their lives and I’ll still be stuck here. Stuck, realizing I’m the only one not moving forward.

Something Slightly Related to Quarantine

Something about this quarantine has got me thinking a lot about friendship and family. I’m not sure why, it’s not like I’m doing anything different, I always stay inside my home. Hello….agoraphobia over here. LOL. Maybe it’s because so many of my friends and family have been reaching out for social interaction because they are not used to being stuck home and alone.

The sad thing I’ve had slapped across my face is how very opposite I am from virtually all of my family members. I am so much closer and more accepted, and have more in common with my friends. That’s not unusual, but it is so very obvious for me.

I’ve been painfully aware of my black sheep status for a long time. Much longer than my family has, for certain. But since the quarantine it’s been so much more harrowing. I guess with everyone being so much more social lately it’s just…there.

Politically most of my family is conservative republican. I am liberal democrat. My most vocal family members are total Trump lovers. I hate Trump with a passion. I can tolerate their side, but for the life of me I can’t understand how anyone can think he’s even remotely a good person, cares at all for the people, and has anyone’s best interest in mind. He only cares about himself, he doesn’t try to hide any of it, it’s right there in front of the entire world, how do Trumpets not see it!? My family pays attention to certain news sources they trust and watch Trump’s rallies, news conferences, and get their info from their chosen sources. I get my info from reputable news sources, I force myself to sit through his conferences, and get my info from other reputable sources as well. This is why I just can’t understand how my intelligent family members can listen to this man and not see the very obvious lack of intelligence in him, and the blatant lies, greed, and lack of empathy or humanity among many other traits that make for a total lack of presidential qualafication.

So, you see, my family and I are polar opposites here.

We argue some about politics, but mostly just don’t talk about it at all. I post a lot about it on my Facebook, as do some of my family members and friends on theirs. My family is very vocal about their issue with my political posts. It doesn’t bother me, everyone is free to post on their own page, that’s what it’s there for. And if their comments on mine bothered me I just wouldn’t leave the post open to comments. I have muted a couple of friends and family members in the past for both political and religious posts on their pages I just got tired of seeing those posts every single day. That’s what the mute option is for, I still love you and want you as a friend, but STFU already! LOL

As for my friends, we are all of differing political beliefs. We talk politics, we may not agree, but we still remain civil for the most part, we are open to learn from each other. We can joke and laugh about our differences. In the end, we remain friends.

I guess my family is just very, very sensitive, and very, very stubborn? I just feel that we can’t talk without high feelings and can’t be open-minded enough to learn from each other.

Religiously the vast majority of my family are protestants, and very devout at that. I, being raised the same as them, grew up protestant as well, and I tried to be devout, I tried to believe, I tried to get close to God. I tried to be a good Christian. But I always felt it just didn’t add up. I couldn’t articulate the issue at first, the feeling in the back of my mind. I began to study more, the Bible, religions, theology, etc.. In the end I became atheist and I’ve never felt more at peace.

So, you see, my family and I are polar opposites here.

My family lives religion, every single thing in their life is all about God, just as they believe it should be. As you can imagine this sets me apart from them in a big way. Not by fault of either of us, we just have opposite beliefs.

As for my friends, once again, there is every imaginable religion amongst our group. We talk about our beliefs, or lack there of, we learn from each other, on few occasions there is debate, but in the end we remain friends and love each other.

The difference here between my friends and family is just the simple fact that hanging with groups of friends means many different beliefs. Hanging at family gatherings means an atheist or three being drowned in God talk. I don’t hate it, but I do tire quickly of it.

Then there is the last, and probably least of the issues. Most of my family are heterosexual and most (not all) of them have traditional religious and cultural beliefs on any sexuality other than hetero. I am bisexual, at least that’s what most people would call it. I can be sexually attracted to and fall in love with guys, gals, and trans folk. There are a couple other family members that are not straight. But most are hetero and some don’t feel even the slightest bit comfy with anyone that isn’t.

As for my friends, once again, we are a mixture of all sexualities and more than just the two classic genders. And we all love and accept each other just the way we are. And we are open to talk and learn about each other.

I love my family and I mostly understand them, and accept them just the way they are. I do not share most of their stances and beliefs, but I will never give them up because of it.

I know this post may sound like a bit of a family shit-post, but I don’t intend it to be that. It is simply a post about how I feel like I am shoved to the sidelines of my family, lest we hurt each others feelings.

Yes, I am liberal
Yes, I am atheist
Yes, I am bisexual

Love and accept me as I am.

Tell Me How You Really Feel

Since November 2019 I have been working especially hard on overcoming Social Anxiety and Agoraphobia, as well as the depression that comes with it.

All three of these illnesses have been super overwhelming and crippling ever since August 2019. I have been isolating, suffering a myriad of symptoms including both insomnia and hypersomnia, dissociation, and a strange inability to differentiate between dreams and reality (probably part of the dissociation). I had to quit my awesome job because of anxiety and not being able to leave my house. These are just the main symptoms I have to deal with daily, there are plenty of others that pop up here and there as well.

Needless to say, these illnesses have cost me a lot and have been an immense struggle to bring under control. I have yet to get enough control to live effectively.

I have been seeing a therapist once a month. I am on depression meds and anxiety meds. And I am attending a Dialectical Behavior Training (DBT) class once a week. I also have wonderful, essential, and indispensable support from my hubby, mother, and friends.

With all of these tools I have been able, slowly but surely, to make positive progress. In February I suddenly felt a large lift in depression. I felt good, I felt almost normal. My anxiety lifted noticeably as well, although not nearly as much as the depression. The only thing left unchanged was the agoraphobia. I still couldn’t leave my house more than twice in one week.

Normally in DBT class I do not actively participate in discussion. I listen, I study, but I do not talk. The past two weeks, with the improvements I felt in the depression and anxiety, I found myself participating in those class discussions. Everyone in class noticed and gave me positive reinforcement. You see, they are there for very similar reasons to me, they understand the struggle and they celebrate the accomplishments of others.

*Side note here. DBT class comes with homework. I always do the homework. And the point of DBT is to teach skills to help overcome anxiety and other issues and meet crisis with effective tools. The point is to use the tools that we learn in class in our lives. I have been using them, practicing, and trying to improve.

It is a lot of really hard work.*

Last week I came home from DBT class with the discussion on my mind. It kept rolling around in my thoughts because it was so close to me, my struggle, and my desire to help others. I have always wanted to be there for others in any way that I can. My social anxiety and agoraphobia have greatly affected my ability to do so. I decided to give myself an exercise to help me be more social and be able to be there for my friends as I’ve always wanted to be. So I posted the following on my Facebook.

“In DBT class today one thing we talked about is the importance of having someone you can talk to who wont judge you. Someone who will listen, validate, and empathize.

If you don’t have someone like that, just know I am here to listen.”

The post got many likes, loves, and positive comments.

Then one person posted something I didn’t quite understand, so I asked for clarification. The thread of hurtful posts and responses that followed from this person were a shock to both me and many of my friends who saw them as well. This person is close to me, we love each other.

Yes, my Facebook is private, only people on my friends list can see and post.

I couldn’t understand why this person was being so cruel. Why try to ruin my efforts to help both myself and others? I was trying to do something good and this person was tearing it all down. Why?!

We had a back and forth right there on my Facebook thread. We also had a back and forth through text, and that is where this person completely ripped my heart out and crushed it to smithereens.

It was very hurtful to do what they did on my post. But it was a million times worse to say what they said in text.

They told me I was more or less a cry baby, “Oh, poor me” about my physical and mental health struggles. They said all I wanted was sympathy and attention, etc.

I write this blog, and am such an open and honest book, in all places of my life, about my physical and mental health struggles for two reasons, and two reasons only.

1. Education – People who do not have to live day in and day out with any kind of chronic illness (and some who do have chronic illness) tend to not understand at all what it means to live this way. They tend to make assumptions that are totally wrong. They are ignorant to what these illnesses are, who the people that live with them are, and what it all means. I write my blog and live as an open book in order to reach out with information and education to these people. Ignorance tends to breed teasing, bullying, cruelty, heartlessness, etc.

2. Reaching out to others who struggle – I write this blog and live as an open book because I want to let others who struggle with chronic illnesses understand they are not alone. There are many, many of us out here and we understand what you are going through and we want to be there for you. You are not alone!

One of my biggest fears since I decided to open up and be an open book about all of my struggles is that people would misinterpret it as a cry for attention and sympathy, and a “Oh, woes me.” attitude of unhappiness.

I do not want attention like that, I never ask for sympathy, and I am not unhappy at all. I have major physical health issues, and I struggle with mental health, but I accept it all, this is my life and I make the best of it. I am happy despite it.

So, hopefully you can understand how the text from this person completely crushed me.

It hurt me so badly that all my hard work over the past several months was demolished, all my progress set back completely. I tried not to let it, but it did. Depression is raging out of control, anxiety so high I am having nightmares, and agoraphobia so bad even the simple thought of going onto the front porch to get the mail is frightening.

It is a huge setback, but I will get back to where I was, and I will continue to improve. I just keep trying.

Yes, I told them how they’d hurt me. I also told them I am cutting off correspondence with them until which time they can acknowledge what they’ve done and bring themselves to apologize. Is that too much to ask?

Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words can kill.

Another Tony dream, With Misha and Jensen, Too!

Last night I had a dream so vivid, so lengthy, so meaningful, and so good that I just have to tell you about it.

I was at Reedley College walking to class. My mind was full of both important and unimportant thoughts. My head was down but my peripheral was keen, acute, and aware, as it always is due to my agoraphobia. I was aware of the crowds of people in the college quad, the disturbingly loud sounds of talking, laughing, yelling, footsteps, machinery, music, and all other common noise of crowded places. Despite my hyper awareness, I did not notice his approach from behind until he put a hand on my shoulder and greeted me.

“Congratulations, Tamra!” He said with a smile.

I immediately tensed at the touch, even more than I already was, and looked up to see Misha Collins. I was shocked and instantly shook to the core with fear, shame, and embarrassment.

*I have to step away from the actual dream here for just a moment and explain something to you. In real life I am riddled with social anxiety and a profound self-loathing. So, although I have my celebrity crushes, and people whom I greatly admire for their good works (like Misha), I would never want to meet them because I am convinced that I am not worth a thing, I am terrible, ugly, unlikable, utterly unworthy and plain pure shit. Add to that the fact that social anxiety makes me completely awkward and confused in the moment. In reality these thoughts and feelings are mixed with normal thoughts and feelings and so a bit muted but not ineffective on me. In my dream, however, they were pure and loud, extra strong.

Back to the dream:

“For what?” I managed to say after a moment.

“You won the drawing to spend a day with me giving you acting lessons. C’mon, let’s get started.” Misha responded. He gently put a hand on my back and we walked to the campus theater.

I was very quiet, scared out of my mind, but I kept thinking to myself, I need to get it together, this is a great thing, this is Misha Collins, calm down and enjoy it!

By time we got to the theater I was loosening up. Misha had been talking the entire time and I was trying to chat back and seem like a normal human being. But now I felt better. We spent a couple of hours talking, laughing, and I learned a lot about acting. Despite the enjoyment, I was constantly hounded by negative thoughts.

“You’re fucking this up.”, “He thinks you’re stupid.”, “You’re being too weird.”, etc.

Lunch time came around and Misha had to take care of some things so the plan was to meet back at the theater after lunch. My plan, of course, was to go find my hubby and friends and tell them about this awesomeness! I began the walk to the quad.

*Another step away from dreamworld for a moment. I often have extremely vivid dreams, mix that with my mental illness and it causes me to sometimes not be able to determine the difference between dream and reality. The one good thing (usually) is that I am a lucid dreamer.

Back to dreamland:

As I walked toward the quad I became aware that I wasn’t sure if I was dreaming or if this was real. I knew I needed to test my reality. I could feel the weather, chilly early February as it should be, and the foliage matched the season. Lighting and atmosphere were as they should be. I turned my attention to myself, I was walking and the terrain felt as it should, I stepped from the sidewalk to the grass and felt the trip I had over a tree root. This all seems like reality to me, I’m not dreaming? Then I realized. I’m walking across Reedley College campus and I am not having trouble walking, I am feeling no pain. I should be in agony and having to take frequent rests. I am dreaming.

OK, I am dreaming. I like this dream so I am going to release lucidity and let it roll on it’s own. Let’s see where this goes.

As I was walking past the the final stretch of classrooms before reaching the quad someone called out my name and wrapped his arm over my shoulders in a gentle half hug.

“Hey, Tamra, how’s it going?”

I immediately realized I didn’t feel as scared with Jensen Ackles as I did with Misha. I thought to myself that this dream was getting silly now, first I meet Misha and now Jensen? c’mon… wait, wait a minute! Pause the dream, I’m still partially lucid, I need to turn it off and just roll with this.

“Hi, what are you doing here?” I ask nervously. In the back of my mind I’m thinking how tall all the Supernatural guys are. Jensen towers over me. And, damn is he somthin’ to look at!

“I’m here with Misha, giving my own acting lessons to a lucky winner.” He winks at me. “Hey, you see those two guys over there?” He points to two men walking together into one of the class rooms. One guy holds the door open and lets the other walk through first.

“Yeah.” I nod.

“Last year I was here and I introduced them.” He smiled. “Now they’re engaged, ain’t that somthin’.” Jensen grins big.

“That’s pretty cool.” I smile, still wondering how Jensen even knows me, but I’m not going to complain.

“So, McDonald’s?” He says as he glances around.

“OK, then, enjoy your lunch.” I smile and walk off. I catch in my peripheral Jensen looking confused. It dawns on me that he was asking me to join him for lunch. Instead of stopping and turning back i just keep walking, feeling like a stupid idiot and missing out on lunch with Jensen Ackles due to embarrassment.

I’m so fucking dumb. I think to myself.

Finally I make it to the quad. It is drowning in tables and chairs, every single one of them with a person sitting in it. Some people are also sitting on the tables with their feet in a chair, laughing and talking with other’s sharing the table. There are also plenty of people standing and walking around. I don’t want to be here, my anxiety is screaming at full force, my fight or flight response wants me to flight, flight really far, like all the way home and lock the door behind me. I push the feeling down and look for Hubby and friends.

I quickly find them sitting at a table eating lunch. I walk over excitedly and as I stand before them I hop up and down, giddy.

“You guys! I have something so amazing to tell you!”

They ask me what’s up.

I relay my story to them in animated detail. They listen, one or two jumping in with a little story or tidbit of their own, one or two asking questions. When all is said and done, they are happy for me, but I feel like their reactions lack as much positivity and excitement as I would have thought. Do they, my friends, not realize how much this means to me? Are they not happy for me?

Lunch break is almost over and I begin my walk back to the theater. I think to myself that this is Reedley College. I attended Reedley many moons ago, like nearly 20 years has passed since I set foot on these grounds. This dream must be taking place in the past. Maybe it’s not a dream, maybe I’ve gone to the past. But, the whole Misha and Jensen thing… and the only friend that was sitting at the lunch table that attended Reedley with me was Hubby. Maybe dreams aren’t unreal, maybe dreams take us to another dimension…and this one, this dimension is in the past as well?

If that’s true… my heart begins to speed up. If that’s true then I can warn Tony! Tony should be here, I can find him and warn him about his heart! But if this is another dimension, and as I’ve already seen, things are different, maybe Tony in this dimension has a healthy heart.

I need to warn him anyway. I have to try.

I begin my search for Tony at the quad, most of the friggin campus were still there. I find him hanging out at a table with several friends. He is the center of attention, telling stories and joking…that laugh, I haven’t heard that laugh in so long. I stop for just a second several feet away and watch him, tears well in my eyes as I hold back a sob. He looks like the Tony from back then, long hair and all.

I run up to him in a near panic. “Tony, Tony, I have something very important to tell you!”

“Hey, Tamra, what’s wrong?”

“I have to tell you something, it’s going to sound crazy but it’s not, it’s real…”

“Oh, OK, what is it, tell me.” He already looks skeptical though he’s trying to hide it with his real concern.

I begin with my theory of dreams and dimensions. I realize I should have just skipped that. Then I tell him the warning. “You’re going to die in December of 2018. You’re going to have a heart attack….”

His face says it all, he doesn’t believe me, he’s concerned for my sanity. “Tam, it’s OK, you don’t have to worry about me, I’ll be fine…”

“No, you have to believe me…” I sob. “I miss you, we all lose you! Lee is torn up, your mom and Mona. Tony! Bri, your wife, you can’t leave her like this!..”

I notice at this moment standing a few feet to the left of Tony is… Tony. I look at him for a moment in confusion. What is this? This Tony has short hair, is thinner, and has a wizened look to his face and eyes. He’s looking directly at me, nobody seems to notice him but me. This must be Tony from my dimension. What is he doing here, and, he’s dead. What’s going on?

I decide to ignore him for the moment and continue to try to save this dimension’s Tony.

“You can’t leave us! You have to try to save your heart…”

Tony wasn’t having any of it, he tries his best to be calm and kind. He laughs it off. “Really, I’m fine, everything is going to be OK, Tam.” He walks away with the crowd as everyone goes back to classes.

The other Tony, my Tony, is still standing there, looking at me.

I sob, my heart broken and breaking some more. I want to tell him I’m sorry but I can’t speak.

This Is Me

To whom it may concern,

My name is Tamra, I was born in California and have lived here all my life. I come from a large family and was loved and raised in as normal an environment as I can tell. That is to say, I was not abused or neglected.

I have had anxiety all my life. Truly, I’m pretty sure I was born anxious. This is not an exaggeration by any means. I constantly worried about what could happen; “what if…” was always on my mind. I consistently second guessed and doubted myself. I never had a positive thought about my abilities, looks, or anyone’s opinion of me. I always knew I was loathed and hated and not wanted around. My earliest memory of any of these kind of thoughts and ideas of myself was when I was five years old. I’m sure I had them earlier, I was just too young to remember. No one taught me to think or feel this way, I naturally did.

This anxiety was of the general variety, although as I grew it became more localized to social interactions. I did not like to be around people. I loathed school, church, shopping, parties, anything social at all. To be around people brought up worries that I was being judged, and judged negatively. I just knew people thought I was ugly, dumb, etc.. I also worried about making a fool of myself, what if I fell in front of everyone, what if I said something stupid and affirmed their belief in my low IQ. What if, what if, what if…

Since I was virtually born thinking I was ugly, dumb, worthless, and everything negative you can imagine, it didn’t take long for me to completely believe it all. I developed a soul-deep self loathing and hatred.

I come from a family thick with type 1 diabetics. There are six of us that I know of, my father, an aunt, one of my brothers, two cousins, and myself. Type 1 diabetes does have a hereditary link, but not always, and it is extremely rare for it to be so prominent in one family as it is in mine. I was diagnosed at age eight. I felt frightened, I knew what this disease is, I knew how dangerous it is, I knew I would forever have to take shots, prick my fingers, eat carefully, and would probably lose a leg, go blind, and die young. It was the mid 1980’s and these were the possibilities at that time. I was scared, devastated, and I acted out in anger. These feelings and behaviors never lessened, I never faced them or dealt with them, and everyone around me took my anger as a symptom of my constantly high blood sugars rather than for what it really was, a cry for help, and need to properly deal with my fear and devastation.

I spent the next few years rebelling against my diabetes with a passion. I did not watch what I ate unless my parents were literally right there with me. I did not check my blood sugars unless I was forced to. I was always running sky high blood sugars. Over those years I heard from a couple of different people words to the effect that a diabetic who doesn’t keep their blood sugars under control are committing a kind of slow suicide. This struck me, and not in a good way.

I strongly believe at that young age, being as self-loathing as I was I didn’t develop a suicidal nature but a self-harm nature. I hate myself, I’m worthless, especially now that I am a type 1 diabetic, I’m worthless damaged goods. It only makes sense that my rebellion, my refusal to care for my diabetes has always been my way of self-harming. This has always been my way of punishing myself for being such a worthless piece of shit.

My diagnosis of type 1 diabetes and the fact that I already had anxiety (undiagnosed) is what, when, and how I developed agoraphobia. At least this is my theory. After my diagnosis of diabetes I stopped wanting to go outside the house as much. It wasn’t super bad, I would go out to places I knew well, and especially if a family member was with me. But I rarely would offer to go out or want to go out of my own choice. Obviously it wasn’t very severe since no one in the family picked up on any issue. I do not remember having any fear of the outside, but I was still young and children are often unable to articulate their thoughts and feelings very well.

For three years I lived in rebellion of type 1 diabetes, pure hatred of myself, anxiety, and mild agoraphobia. Then, when I was 11 years old, on a cold February Sunday afternoon, my dad had a massive stroke right in front of my brother and I. I was literally petrified in terror. Dad died the next day. I knew it was complications of his type 1 that had caused his death. I was traumatized. So was my brother. The two type 1 diabetic children watched their type 1 diabetic father die of type 1 diabetes. The trauma had opposite effects on us, my brother became militaristic in his extreme tight control of his blood sugars. I, on the other hand, decided it was worthless to even try, I rebelled even more. I hated diabetes for killing my dad. I hate diabetes! I have diabetes. I hate that I have diabetes! I hate myself.

So the self-hatred and self-harm worsened.

My 8th grade year my agoraphobia got so bad that I was ditching entire days of school. It got to where I was ditching about two days a week. At this time I was living with my mom and my brother closest in age to me. My brother was in high school so we were going to different schools, and my mom worked more than full-time so it was easy for me to get away with missing so much school. That was, until the school notified my mother of what was going on. I got caught and so I started back at school without the ditching.

No one ever suspected I had anxiety. No one ever suspected I had agoraphobia. No one asked me any questions, they just reprimanded my bad behavior and expected me to straighten up. When I followed the rules, that was it, no more thought about it.

So I went untreated.

My high school years weren’t much better. I hung in there pretty well although I did have a lot of anxiety. I hated school, I hated being around people, I hated teachers picking me out in class to answer questions, I hated having to give speeches and reports in front of the class, I hated being stuck in classrooms all day, I hated being told what to do and how to live, I hated having to be responsible. I dealt with the anxiety by playing sick as often as I could. My sophomore year I learned how to ditch the occasional class. My junior year I graduated to not just ditching the occasional class but also ditching entire days again, just like back in junior high. My senior year of high school I ditched so often that I almost didn’t graduate due to poor attendance.

In the end I did graduate. But the anxiety and agoraphobia were still unnoticed by anyone, including myself.

Agoraphobia is not my only symptom of anxiety, I scratch my scalp uncontrollably, it doesn’t itch, it’s just a ‘nervous’ habit. I also pick at my skin which leaves me with lots of cuts and scabs. I bite my nails and the skin on the sides of my fingers until they bleed. I crack my knuckles, rub my hands, bounce my legs, drum my fingers. Sometimes when it’s really bad I rock back and forth. I fidget a lot, I clench my jaw (I have TMJ from it). I am not prone to panic attacks, but I have had a few in my time.

After high school the anxiety didn’t get any better. I tried many times to go to college but I couldn’t stick with it. I couldn’t stand the classroom environment, the crowds of people. Add to that the freedom that comes with college and adulthood that you didn’t have in high school and childhood. I was able to miss class as often as I wanted, I was able to drop out whenever I wanted; that is, whenever the anxiety got to be too much to handle. I took as many online courses as I could, but I wasn’t able to stick with all of those, either, because it’s not just people and the outside world that I can’t handle. I also can’t handle responsibility, apparently.

I went through part time minimum wage jobs like a person with a cold goes through tissue. As soon as the anxiety of responsibility mixed with the anxiety of social environments and the outside world got too much, I would up and quit, take some time to recoup and then find a new job.

My twenties were especially tough. I got married at 20 and moved in with my hubby, his brother, and their mom. It was a 960 square foot house with virtually no privacy or quiet. I hadn’t realized it until I moved in there that I really, really need alone time and peace and quiet in order to handle my anxieties. I hung in there as well as I could but within five years I had a nervous breakdown. Think about it, I was working at social jobs with social anxiety, I had agoraphobia so it’s not like I can escape anywhere outside the home, but my home life was noisy, crowded, and provided no comfort or privacy. I was bound to breakdown, I’m just surprised it wasn’t much sooner.

I came home from a long, hard, anxious day of work. The TV was on, the housemates were arguing, one with me. I needed to make an important phone call but the phone battery was dead, again. Hubby got home and dug into me about something. I started crying, arguing, I needed him to understand how I felt, what I was going through. Hubby wouldn’t let me get a word in edgewise. I exploded. I jumped on him and shook him, I was sobbing, “Just listen! Just listen to me!” I got off of him and I shoved everything off our dresser top, I threw a couple things across the room. Then I sat down and sobbed and hyperventilated. As I sat there heaving for breath I saw one of hubby’s swords and I wondered if I was strong enough to fall on it or shove it through my chest.

We got through that and things got better once we got our own place. One thing that came out of that nervous breakdown that was good, though, was that for the first time in my life I realized I have an anxiety issue.

Took long enough. But I didn’t think I needed help, I just needed to adjust a few things in my life.

It was in my thirties that I developed some really bad coping mechanisms, worse than I had already been using to cope. The economy was bad, finances were dire, everyone in our circle of friends was struggling. We would all get together every weekend and drink ourselves sick. I found that I have a few drinks of choice, vodka, Jager, IPAs, and sometimes rum. I have to stay away from tequila, though, it gets me real sick real fast. Drinking did what drinking does, it numbs the anxiety, it quiets the worry. We always smoked tons of hookah while we drank as well. Tobacco numbs the stress, too.

We did this for a few years. It was tons of fun. Myself and a couple friends went so far as to create a drinking card game tailored just for our group of friends. I named it Fuck Your Friends because that was the object of the game, to get your friends totally sloshed. It worked too well and eventually we had to shelve it because it was getting dangerous. Lot’s of people got so drunk they blacked out, threw up, or got out of hand. One night I got so drunk playing this game that I shattered a handle of vodka in my hand and cut it up.

Yeah…

Eventually these weekends tapered off. The economy improved, people were able to find jobs again, finances improved, and people matured. The reason I stopped wasn’t such a lucky one, though. I stopped because I landed in the hospital having triple-bypass heart surgery. My heart trouble wasn’t caused by the drinking and smoking, but it was made worse by it.

The initial heart disease was caused by my lifetime of not taking care of my type 1 diabetes. And also a smidgen of heredity on both sides of my family. Here I was 34 years old having triple-bypass surgery.

Another life trauma. This one self-inflicted. My self-harm was having a grand old time.

To add to the trauma of heart surgery, four months later I started on a year long journey of eye surgeries. Diabetic retinopathy, yet another self-harm party going on there. I endured four, count them, four eye surgeries in a nine month period of time. Also two laser treatments. Eye surgery is done while you are wake and aware, by the way. One of the surgeries the nerve block they use so you can’t feel the pain wore off before the surgery was done. Excruciating pain. MY blood pressure was through the roof from the pain. I writhed and struggled on the table.

You would think a person would be super angry about something like that. Angry at the doctor (in all honesty it was not his fault), angry at the facility, angry at anyone that can be blamed for the screw up. I wasn’t, I took it in stride, I chocked it up to me deserving it, because I did this to myself, because I’m a screw up.

Once all the surgeries were done and I was healed up the agoraphobia exploded. I was shut up in my home, all the shades drawn. I did not answer the door, I did not answer the phone. I was so depressed I did not get out of bed. I knew something was wrong, I knew I wasn’t well in the head, but I couldn’t access my feelings, I was numb.

Eventually I sought help, medical help. This is when I was first diagnosed with anxiety and depression. Soon after I was specifically diagnosed with agoraphobia and this was the first time in my entire life that a light bulb went off in my head. I was beginning to understand, certain things in my past and present were making so much more sense.

For a while things got better, a lot better. The medication eased my depression and therapy eased my anxiety and agoraphobia.

Then another sort of tragedy. I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism. This in itself wasn’t the tragedy, the tragedy was the weight gain. I’ve struggled with obesity since I hit puberty, but I had long since become comfortable with my weight. But then when my thyroid went to shit and I gained 30+ extra pounds (despite medication) of which I can’t lose no matter what I do, I plummeted into depression and even deeper self-hatred, insecurity, and horrid self-image.

I quit my depression meds and stopped going to therapy. It’s strange that at the same time I was struggling, my life was also getting better. I was dealing with the horror of being extra fat at the same time as getting a new really good job, and paying off all my debts, controlling my diabetes, and just everything in life being awesome, except the weight shit.

And now for current events. Life was wonderful, better than ever. Then on December 8th, 2018 my husband’s brother had a very sudden and totally unexpected massive heart attack and died. Everyone who knew him loved him and everyone who knew him was devastated. No one more than his wife, mother, and brother. I was devastated by my brother-in-law’s death and by my husband’s devastation.

My agoraphobia came back. My anxiety got worse. I started to have nausea and vomiting. I started to call in to work. Eventually I knew I needed help again. I started therapy again and I started depression meds again. Things stayed steady for several months.

Then more trauma. Hubby and I were in a car accident on the freeway. The car was totaled but we were only bumped and bruised. A week later I went to the emergency room thinking I was having a heart attack. Come to find out it was a really bad panic attack and I was diagnosed with post concussive syndrome. This caused my anxiety, depression, and agoraphobia to rage out of control.

A few weeks later I quit my awesome job because I couldn’t handle work anymore. I rarely leave my house, I can not handle any kind of responsibility, have both insomnia and hypersomnia (who knew you could have both at once?), and I am often dissociative. And what freaks me out the most is often I can’t differentiate between dreams and reality. My dreams are so vivid (nothing new there, they always have been)I sometimes think they are real, and my reality feels like a dream. I also have trouble with my memory sometimes.

And there you go, this is me.

The Truth About Agoraphobia

Growing up I saw agoraphobia depicted in movies and on T.V. sometimes. I thought it was one of the weirdest illnesses I’d ever heard of. I was fascinated by the documentaries on it and other mental illnesses. I didn’t realize at the time that I have agoraphobia. I wasn’t housebound. I wasn’t one of those weird people.

But I did have agoraphobia. I do have agoraphobia.

What I as a child, as do many, many people, assumed was that having agoraphobia means you can’t leave your house.

That’s not the fact.

Yes, agoraphobia can become so severe that a person can’t leave their home. Hell, it can become so severe a person can’t leave their bedroom! But in less severe, and more common, cases a person can leave their home, but it causes anxiety to do so and they are much more comfortable at home.

Growing up my agoraphobia was of the less severe sort, I could leave home but it gave me anxiety. If given the choice I would always choose to stay home. I ditched school a lot, and as I got older I’d call out from work a lot. The older I got the more severe my agoraphobia became.

As I’ve said before, I didn’t know I had agoraphobia, I didn’t know anything was a problem at all.

It wasn’t until I became about 90% housebound that I finally sought help and was diagnosed with agoraphobia. I was 35 years old by then.

I have depression, social anxiety, and agoraphobia.

For me the social anxiety has been there from birth. I developed depression and agoraphobia somewhere between 8 and 11 years old. They, I’m coming to figure out through therapy, were caused by multiple traumatic experiences.

When I reached my thirties I, once again, experienced multiple traumatic experiences in a short period of time. These experiences exacerbated my depression and agoraphobia leading me to be mostly housebound.

I went into therapy and started on medication. These helped a lot and eventually I was out and about again. The agoraphobia doesn’t go away, it will never go away, but I was able to handle it. I could cope.

Then, not very long later, more tragedy, more traumatic experiences. And here I am once more, housebound for the most part.

But this time it is worse. Way worse.

That’s what I’m learning now. I don’t know if it’s the same for everyone with agoraphobia, but for me every time it cycles and gets bad again, it get worse each time.

And this time…

This time I don’t think I’m going to get over it. This time it’s cost me so much. This time it’s defeated me. This time I don’t have the strength or energy to fight it.

This time I just want to stay home and sleep.

There’s no fight left in me.

I’m done.

me23

Down With The Sickness

I’ve discussed my life with agoraphobia many times before but recently while talking about it in therapy my therapist pointed out to me that although I try to play it down, I really haven’t ever coped well with it and it is worse than I want to realize.

I think I am realizing it now. And I know it is worse today than ever before.

As my therapist pointed out the above, I realized and pointed out to her that I have been living a cycle. A very bad cycle with this agoraphobia.

I missed a lot of school from the 8th grade through my senior year. I almost didn’t graduate high school because I had ditched so much my senior year.

I went to college but I didn’t stick with it because my anxiety and agoraphobia wouldn’t allow it… and I didn’t fight back.

I had many part-time, minimum wage jobs over the years -and here’s the cycle- and I always did great at first, then the call-ins would begin, and then something would happen to stress me out about work and I would crumble under the anxiety and it caused me to up and quit. I’d take some time to hole up at home, and then start all over with a new job.

So, how is it today? Why is it so much worse now than ever before?

As I was at home after my recent therapy session, I took time to mull it over. I realized that it was after my open-heart surgery 6 years ago that the agoraphobia started to get worse. I suppose the trauma of a sudden, unexpected major heart surgery was too much for me to cope with and the anxiety manifested in my worsening agoraphobia. Then the following year long battle to save my eyesight added to it even more.

I wasn’t working so it was easy to stay home. But then I found I wasn’t opening the window shades anymore. Opening the window shades caused me anxiety, I didn’t want to look outside, and I didn’t want people to look in. Then I realized I couldn’t go outside. The thought of going out into the world made me feel like I was going to panic. I could get myself to go…if I absolutely had to, but it was profoundly uncomfortable. Scary.

That’s when I first went to therapy. It helped, as did the medication I was put on. A couple years later I stopped therapy and the meds because I felt much better and didn’t think I needed them anymore.

All was fine until I got hired on at a full-time job. I thought I’d do fine at this job because my agoraphobia was mild. I had anxiety, but it wasn’t overwhelming. Plus, the job was good, and it would benefit my hubby and I in so many ways, I had incentive to try hard. And on top of that, my security blanket (my hubby) would be working with me!

All went well for the first three months. I didn’t miss any work in that time. Then I got sick and missed a day. Fine. That’s OK. But then my brother-in-law passed away. It was sudden and devastating, but I thought I handled it OK and moved on fairly well. Nope. My anxiety got worse, I was calling in a lot. Nausea and vomiting often.

I did the best I could to keep up with going to work. But it was getting more and more difficult.

I started therapy and meds again and it seemed to be helping, slowly.

That’s a lie, it was still getting worse, I was loosing control but I wouldn’t let myself admit it.

In August Hubby and I were in a car accident on the freeway on the way to work. The car was totaled but we walked away with just bumps and bruises…or so we thought.

Four days after the accident I suddenly became riddled with symptoms: sensitivity to light and sound, ringing in the ears, dizziness, headache, and then I had a terrible panic attack that I thought was a heart attack. I went to the ER and that’s where I was diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome.

I spent the next six weeks at home working on getting the syndrome resolved. And then I went back to work.

At first I thought all was well. But then, a couple weeks later, I couldn’t go to work.

I just couldn’t.

I didn’t want to leave the house, the thought caused panic. I took Xanax but it only relaxed me physically, I still couldn’t deal, I couldn’t get past my own mind.

I managed to push myself out the door and into the car. As soon as we pulled into the parking lot at work I realized I couldn’t move. I was frozen, I couldn’t get out of the car.

It’s been two weeks and I still can’t go to work.

My therapist talked to me about how horrible I am with coping (she was very nice about it) and signed me up for a 6 month to 1 year coping class.

I’m working with my psychologist to get as much time off from work as I can. I am not going to be able to work until I can learn to cope and deal with this ever increasing agoraphobia.

I’m scared, though, they really drill it into us that the more we avoid doing what we need to, the more we give into the anxiety, the harder it is to get better.

I’m scared I’ll never get better. I’m scared because right now I am perfectly fine living like this. I am fine never leaving the house again.

“I can see inside you, the sickness is rising
Don’t try to deny what you feel (Will you give in to me?)
It seems that all that was good has died
And is decaying in me (Will you give in to me?)
It seems you’re having some trouble
In dealing with these changes, living with these changes
Oh no, the world is a scary place
Now that you’ve woken up the demon in me”

Disturbed – Down With The Sickness

Feeling Good

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything. Since I started working again I just don’t have much free time or energy. It seems my writing bug has died… or at least is very ill. Hopefully the little guy will come around again soon and get back to bugging me to write more.

Work is good, I enjoy it and my anxiety over learning and getting used to a new job has lessened quite a bit. My agoraphobia is still here, of course, but I think being in a routine has made it more manageable. I know when I need to leave the house, how long I’ll be gone, where I’ll be, what I’ll be doing, and who I’ll be around. Consistency and familiarity help. It’s still there, making life harder, though. But I’m dealing pretty well.

My type 1 diabetes management has gotten a bit better, although my BG’s are still too high too often. I still don’t know why they were so high, but my best suspicion is still stress. They went through the roof when I started working and wouldn’t come down. I adjusted both my basal and bolus ratios and that only helped a bit. It wasn’t until I realized I wasn’t feeling so anxious all the time that I also realized my BG’s had come down significantly as well. They are still too high, in the 200’s most of the time now instead of in the 300’s, but now I’m actually running low at part of the day, and then high the rest. I’m sure now it just comes down to me adjusting ratios again and fixing my diet (I eat too many carbs in the evening).

I haven’t seen my endo in around 8 months, I think. Starting my new job I made the decision to not take any time off at all until I’d been there six months. So just after the new year I’ll be seeing my endo, primary, cardiologist, and retinopathy specialist to get all caught up and back on track. I’m glad my endo is so kind and understanding. She’ll definitely give me a talk about it all, but it won’t be a lecture or mean or anything. She understands fully how life is and how much more screwed up it is having to deal with diabetes on top of it all. I like her so much because her main concern is living real life while controlling diabetes as opposed to just controlling diabetes and not taking real life into consideration. Help us be healthy and living normal life, not diabetics struggling to be healthy while stumbling through life. I definitely feel like the later there often, but that has nothing to do with my endo, LOL.

In any case, nothing is perfect, but I’m doing real well. I feel very good emotionally and psychologically lately and I think that is because of working and feeling like I’m doing something worth a damn. Not that I wasn’t before, it’s just a sad fact of society, if you don’t bring in a pay check you must not be doing anything. I don’t believe that at all, but that’s how we are made to feel. Also having to get out into the world, even though with agoraphobia it causes anxiety, I do feel more alive and vibrant than when I was locked in the house all the time. Sunlight works wonders. Whoda thunk? LOL.

Another big help in my emotional and psychological state is being a member of GISH. This wonderful game is designed to bring you out of your shell, build confidence and bravery, etc., and bring people together (all for good causes, too!). It encourages weirdness, creativity, and being yourself. Through the GISH challenges you tend to begin to blossom. I’ve felt more emotionally energetic, happy, optimistic, and just plain better about myself and life. And this comes from just doing three GISH challenges so far!

Consider joining the hunt: GISH

 

A Social Job With Social Anxiety

I’ve had social anxiety and a mild case of agoraphobia virtually all my life. Most of my life these didn’t interfere with my ability to function and prosper as a regular person. There were recently a few years where they both became severe enough to impact my life fairly negatively, even though I have refused to admit it until now.

As I now have a job and it is completely social in nature it has given a stark contrast view of me now and me over the past four years or so.

I spent the past four years unemployed, and the vast majority of those four years were spent in the cozy confines of my home.

I didn’t want to leave the house.

I felt anxiety at even the thought of going outside or interacting with the world and it’s inhabitants.

I only left the house if my hubby or mother were with me…my security blankets.

I felt conflicted all the time because I wanted to interact and hang out with friends and family, and I wanted a job, to be a responsible, functioning, and independent adult. But I didn’t want to…I was overwhelmingly (most of the time) anxious at the thought of doing these things.

It was only during these four years that my anxieties were this bad. Before these four years, before my health (heart, eyes, neuropathy, etc.) went to the crapper, I was pretty darn social despite the social anxiety and agoraphobia. I had these anxieties but they were mild enough that I could push those thoughts and feelings to the far back corner of my mind and live my life just fine.

I’ve always worked in customer service. Face-to-face with all kinds of customers and personalities. And I did quite well.

I enjoyed going out and hanging with friends and family, and going on trips, and doing all kinds of things outside the house.

I was no social butterfly, but I certainly wasn’t a shut-in either.

Going back to the four year high anxiety flare-up, I tried to get past, to get a hold of it fairly early on. Well, it was about a year into it that I realized and admitted to myself there was something seriously wrong. I was deeply depressed, to the point I would lay in bed for days, not shower, and hardly eat. I would be laying in bed thinking “I really need to get up and do stuff”, but then just stay there. “There’s something wrong, I need to care.”. But then I just couldn’t access those feelings, I couldn’t reach my motivation and my ability to care about anything at all. It was there, but so deep, so buried, blocked off from me.

When I had to leave the house I would be near a panic attack, I’d have to literally force myself out the door and overcome the thoughts and desire to just run back inside and screw whatever it was that I needed to leave the house for!

It was my endocrinologist who took one look at me one day and knew something was terribly wrong. She referred me to the psychology (Mental Health) department. I spent several months in therapy and a couple years on a fairly low dose of Cymbalta.

It all helped but didn’t totally stop the issues. I finally got to the point where I stopped going to therapy. I felt I didn’t need it anymore, and probably didn’t, but I’d be lying if I didn’t point out that one reason I stopped going was because I didn’t want to have that requirement to leave the house!

I eventually chose on my own to stop the Cymbalta and that was just fine, I really didn’t need it anymore and it was causing side effects that were really unsettling.

Anyway, now that that long backstory is done let’s get to the real reason I’m writing this. A month ago I started a new job. It’s full-time, and it’s a customer service job. I really wanted this job and was excited and super happy when I got hired.

I was also overwhelmed with anxiety.

A full-time job. I’ll never be home! I’ll have to be out in the world all day practically everyday!

8 hours a day, five days a week of interacting with people! And strangers at that!

I was worried I couldn’t do this. I can’t handle this!

Come to find out I’ve been doing pretty darn well with it all. I easily talk and interact with my co-workers. Very little stress there. This is probably thanks to the fact that I have my security blanket nearby all day. My hubby (my security blanket) works in the same building and the same schedule as me. We do not work side-by-side, but he is there, and our breaks often overlap. And since hubby has worked there for several years I had become acquainted with several other people who work there as well, so it helped to already know people ahead of time.

The first three weeks I was in a training class. It was myself and six other people in a classroom setting learning all day long. So it wasn’t so bad, especially once I got to know these people.

This past week, though, I’ve been ‘live’. This means I am in the full mix of the job, working with actual cases, customers.

I was so friggin’ nervous, insecure, anxious the first day. But it turned out to not be so bad. Then day two came around and the anxiety, instead of getting better, got worse. and then day three; by now I felt I should be getting a better hang on the job but I didn’t feel I was so I beat myself up about it and was being extra hard on myself so the anxiety just got stronger. Day four was the worst.

At the opening of day five I was talking to hubby on the way into work and telling him how very insecure, anxious, and worried about my ability to do this job. He made it clear I was being too hard on myself.

“You’re still new, you’ve only been doing it for a week, you’ll get it, you’ll be fine.”

“I just feel so overwhelmed, there’s so much to remember and sort through, and I have to do it all in the moment.”

I had the overwhelming desire to run back home and hide from life.

Yes, the dealing with customers, the social interaction, was weighing on me as well, making it all even worse. More difficult to concentrate. Thinking things like “They think you’re dumb, you can’t do your job. Why are you so slow? How do you even work here when you can’t even do the job?” just adds to the low self-esteem about the job, it makes the insecurity even worse. Such lack of confidence really hurts performance.

As the fifth day got started I quickly realized and noticed how much I had been improving all week. I suddenly felt like I could actually do the job! My confidence grew more and more. Customers were thanking me for all my help, “You answered all my questions.” “You gave me all the information I need.” “Thank you for all your help.”

Even the negative customers made me feel better about myself because I proved to be able to handle them with tact and confidence.

And through it all I had in my mind the awareness that despite my social anxiety I was still able to be cheerful, professional, and outgoing.

And not once did I think anything along the lines of, “I want to be at home”.

I can do this. It’s not going to kill me.

Stigma

The term ‘mental illness’ covers a huge spectrum of conditions that can impact emotion (mood), thought, behavior, and so much more; often a mixture of these.

Many people when they hear the term ‘mental illness’ automatically think “crazy”, “unpredictable”, and even “violent”. The vast majority of persons who have a mental illness are absolutely no different from anyone else. Although mental illness can, in very extreme cases, lead to violence or unpredictable behavior, the vast majority of cases have zero risk of this.

As for me, I have encountered people who have been quite ignorant about exactly what my relationship to mental illness is. “Are you mentally ill?”, “Why do you talk so much about mental illness?”, “Why is it so important to you to ‘spread awareness’?”, and so on.

Technically I suppose I am mentally ill because I do have anxiety in the form of agoraphobia (which includes social anxiety). My current status with agoraphobia is mild and under control without the need for medication or therapy.

In the past I had a fairly serious struggle with clinical depression that required a few months of therapy and a year stint on Cymbalta. I no longer struggle with depression. I have not been depressed in well over a year. My depression was brought on and deepened due to multiple unfortunate factors in my life. Once I worked out the issues, and with the help of medication, the depression was resolved.

Point: I felt the need to word it “Technically I suppose I am mentally ill…” due to pressures from the horrible stigma that comes with the term. Then I felt I had to further explain my diagnosis’ and status’ for the same reason.

I, nor anyone else, should have to feel the need to explain their struggle in order to dissuade negative judgement or reaction to mental illness. But we do have to do it because most people jump to the most extreme conclusions and fear people who have any kind of mental illness. It is ridiculous.

I can guarantee you that there are multitudes of people in your life that have mental illness of some kind and you don’t even know it because…shocker here…. most mental illnesses have no outward signs or symptoms! Most mental illnesses have no outward effect on personality or behavior! They are just like anyone else.

Obviously I have struggled before with this, I have been on both sides, the ignorant side and the experienced side. I value knowledge both in myself and in others. When I see there is a serious lack of knowledge on a subject and a lot of people spreading stigma, taboo, and all kinds of fear and hatred just because they don’t understand the facts, I sure as hell am going to spread some awareness, teach the masses, do my best to set ’em straight.

There is no need to avoid talking about any kind or level of mental illness. It is detrimental to keep anything quiet, silence breeds fear, ignorance, and hatred.