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Understanding Agoraphobia

by Josey Pickering 19 days ago in anxiety
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From an Agoraphobic's mind

Understanding Agoraphobia
Photo by Sasha Freemind on Unsplash

Agoraphobia is defined as 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.

Agoraphobia is almost always pictured the same way in media. Some easily frightened friend or neighbor who is constantly peeking from twitching curtains and suspicious of strangers. They often look unkempt, mousy or unattractive and seem to live a very lonely life. I have agoraphobia, and I'm here to tell you the reality of it, and dispel any myths. As you can see already, our representation is incredibly stereotyped and not always the most accurate depiction.

In a nutshell, agoraphobia manifests in me as a fear of leaving my home. My home is my safe space, where I know where everything I need is and can exist without judgement of others. I'm autistic as well, and often move my body and exist in ways that don't seem normal to the average person. I get a lot of people staring at me, which triggers my anxiety and often panic attacks if people get aggressive about it. I also use a wheelchair and people can be incredibly ableist in public spaces, especially amusement parks. Not only can they be outwardly ableist but they will also stare, point and make comments at times. If I'm not open to socialization, it can be overwhelming to have strangers come at with me with comments and questions. Sometimes I am even non verbal, and I've literally had grown women wave their hand in my face and demand I speak to them if I don't have the ability to in the moment. People love to assume, and in assuming can often be very rude, and it's very overwhelming for me at times. It's made it difficult for me to leave my home for fear of these social interactions and someone yelling at me because they don't understand how complex and different we can be as humans. This social anxiety contributes to agoraphobia, and I'm constantly fearful of what could happen because other people can be so unpredictable. While the fear of these people and interactions comes from my social anxiety, it's the fear of losing control of myself and my ability to handle my anxiety that becomes agoraphobia. I'm afraid of being afraid in public - and not having an immediate safe place to go to, or compassion and understanding from everyone to create a safe space for me.

I can avoid places I love because of my agoraphobia, and places that once brought me great joy can actually bring me intense fear. Medications and various therapy techniques are helping me get out again here and there to the places that are "home away from home" level attachment. I love going to both Disneyland and Universal Studios because of an autistic fixation with ride engineering and amusement park history. These places are massive and filled with tons of self absorbed people, so it can be a panic attack just to leave the house for hear of having a panic attack in a very public setting and tainting places I enjoy. I have to make the choice to go out and stay and often it's a battle in my mind. I'm working through staying, even when a panic attack is looming. I'm working through self soothing and remaining in places I'm a little scared of, even when overwhelmed. In staying, I've ended up having a great time and making unforgettable memories that overpower any bad moment that could have happened. It's no easy task, as I stated previously - it's often a major battle. I am lucky enough to have a trusted companion in my wife Jackie. She is always there to help me tackle my mind, deal with other people and help me have the safest and best time possible. There are periods of time where I don't leave the house at all, but working through my mental health is leading me to get out a couple times a week now, and every day is a new day for me to fight the war in my mind.


About the author

Josey Pickering

Autistic, non-binary, queer horror nerd with a lot to say.

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