Crossing the Threshold

by Katy Preen 2 years ago in anxiety

If Only I Could Undo the Padlocks on My Mind

Crossing the Threshold

It’s not agoraphobia, whatever it is. I have no fear of open spaces, or of crowds. There’s nothing fearful about actually being outside—it’s the process of getting there that I struggle with. I can’t tell you exactly what it is, but it’s some form of invisible barrier keeping me indoors, or keeping me in my bed.

I know that there’s a world out there. There are things to do, places to go, people to see. Yet I end up leaving at the latest possible moment, having convinced myself that time stands still in my world. I look at the clock, fully aware of the current time, the time that I need to be somewhere else, and how long it will take me to get there. My brain overrules this knowledge, telling me that it will be ok, that I have ages to spare, and I can put things off for just a little longer.

At the same time, I’m frustrated, knowing that when I do get out there, I will be ok, and glad to be making the most of my day. While staying in and hiding away somehow “protects" me, the massive force keeping me behind the front door denies me the opportunity to really live.

Going on social media, staring at the wall, these avoidance tactics bring me comfort and keep me locked in my mental prison. I don't know what it takes for me to be "ready," but when I am, I just know. A feeling of relief sweeps over me, followed by enthusiasm and determination. But it can't be manufactured, it has to come to me naturally.

Each step of getting ready to go out is exhausting, a physical and mental burden. To brush my teeth, to shower, to get dressed—I just don’t have the energy. I know that I need to follow these steps, but I put them off, enjoying just one more moment of relaxation, of safety. Those moments add up, and time moves faster outside than it does in here.

I used to be paralysed by the fear of leaving the gas on, or things touching electrical outlets. I'd go back and check ten, maybe twenty times. It was never a fixed number, I just knew when things seemed safe, and "right." But now, I don't know what it is that I'm so scared of, or what needs to happen to make the fear go away. I just know that it eventually does.

I’m able to find something else I could do, some task that wasn’t urgent before, but suddenly is, now. I have to do that before I leave, else things become more overwhelming and stressful. There’s so much to do, so little time, and the idea of going outside fills me with guilt because I’m not staying home and working on something important.

I know, based on numerous previous experiences, that if I do stay in and try to be productive, I’ll get precisely nowhere because I’m demoralised by looking at the same four walls. But it feels safe. Rationally, I know that to go outside, take a break, do something different, is the best thing for me and my creative process. But my brain seems to write its own narrative, and its arguments are compelling.

I’m never on time for anything, and it feels like I’ve lost the ability to plan. I understand the steps I need to take, I’m able to conceive of the plan, I know the logic behind it. But my brain won’t play ball. It lulls me into a false sense of security until something clicks in my mind, forcing me to confront the lack of time I now have left to actually go out and do whatever it was that I needed to.

The jolt of panic forces me to take action—the fear of completely missing an appointment, or being late for a flight, that’s usually enough to override the other fear. But I wish I didn’t need the fear to drive me. A part of me is scared to walk out the front door, and a part of me is scared not to. The horrors concocted by my mind are a fiction that overrules reality. But my brain wants to believe.

Katy Preen
Katy Preen
Read next: Never In the Cover of Night
Katy Preen

Research scientist, author & artist based in Manchester, UK. Strident feminist, SJW, proudly working-class.

See all posts by Katy Preen