Agoraphobia....Living with it and the symptoms that go along with it.
Reading this, I want you to understand that everything that is written is ONLY my own personal experiences and opinion of this phobia. I am under doctor's care for it, and I have been for close to twenty years, but that NO way makes me an expert on anything, except how it affects me.
I currently work in the customer service area at a local Wal-Mart. I am a cashier, but I am a little different from a lot of my co-workers because I treat the customers how I would want to be treated, not as if they are part of a herd of cattle that are making their run through the store. That is probably my first problem of day to day life away from my home. A couple of days ago I was working the "self-check" area, where you can run up, scan your items, pay the machine and walk out without having an employee help you with the check out procedure. I monitor a screen that has all of the self check registers displaying the activity on them, and I help when help is needed, but only then. This man came up to me, he had a familiar look in his eyes, and he asked if I could check him out at my register, that he couldn't "deal" with doing it himself. I felt that I could "see" into his soul, so I told him sure, I could help him, and I took him to my area and started processing his purchase. He asked me "how do you do this"? The look in his eyes was getting wilder by the second, but I replied "do what"? He lowered his voice and very softly said "how do you manage doing this with all these people here"? Bingo !!!!! I knew exactly what he was feeling, and what he was saying to me.
I have Agoraphobia. Before I knew what it was, what it is, I felt like I couldn't leave my house, my home, the security of what is familiar to me. If I did, if I went somewhere that I really didn't want to go, I felt light-headed, my chest hurt, my heart felt like it was pounding so hard that it was going to burst, and I KNEW that I couldn't breathe. I've touched on PTSD and mental illness in a previous Hub, but this is more insight to the symptoms, causes and care that is available.
So, I casually told the man that I was helping that I have agoraphobia. He lit up, and wanted to know how I deal with working with the public, how I was able to calmly stand there and help people. He went on to tell me that it was sheer hell for him to have to go to the store. That on several occasions he had had to walk off and leave the items in his cart that he wanted to buy, to retreat to the safety of the isolation of his car. To flee the place where people were and to run home, get inside, and to shut and lock the world outside.
I have felt like someone was following me. I have been driving and felt that a car coming up behind me was going to hit me. I have had to speed up to try to escape the cars that are coming behind me because of this fear. I have been so paranoid about this that I have swerved across lanes of traffic to get to an off ramp and "escape" the car following me. I have NEVER been in an accident in all the years that I have been driving. How do I manage? I go around. Yes, I will take surface streets, to this day, to avoid freeways where the unknown is at and could be following me. I will take stairs instead of an elevator because in an elevator I will be trapped with someone that might hurt me, but I now realize that what I am afraid of is that they will see that there is something wrong with me. I try, when I'm going out in public, to look and dress like everyone else. But I know, they can see that I am a fake. They can see that there is something that isn't quite right with me.
Do you ever feel like this? What do you do? How do you cope? Do you hide inside, shut the outside world away, or do you force yourself to go out, to be part of the crowd and try ever so hard to blend in?
With therapy, years of it, and medication, I function. With a great deal of talking, listening, and therapy, I know now that there are a lot of people that feel the same way I do. Now, when I go out, instead of being afraid of what others see in me, that my secret is branded across my forehead, I look at them and wonder "Are they like me"?
Please tell me what you think...... Please tell me that I am not the only one, clearly I've found a customer at Wal-Mart that feels and experiences what I do. I would LOVE to hear that there are more than just the 2 of us out in the world that experience this. Can you let it out....can you put it into words that maybe you are NOT what the outside world sees when they look at you? I've done it, and I want everyone to know that it's okay not to be okay.