Saturday, September 10, 2011

Why Am I Afraid to Leave?

Saturday Morning At My House
First Load Started
And this is just since Thursday. Seriously. There's another pile of whites over there by the wall that is just barely showing. The first load is in the washer. I took out the trash, which was overflowing, I took the dog out to go potty, and I put the dishes into the dishwasher. Yesterday, I vacuumed up approximately 9 pounds of cat and dog hair from the main level (excluding the dining room), made the bed, and cleaned the banisters, baseboards, and window sills. I started cleaning and one thing led to another led to another dirty paw print. I would still be cleaning, but my hips started to hurt and I was hunched over like that guy from Notre Dame Cathedral. Did I mention I did the dinner dishes? (There weren't many, since we had takeout, but still. Since Justin usually cooks, I almost always do the dishes. It's only fair. For some reason, utensils are not considered dishes in my house and everyone puts their other dishes in the dishwasher and I end up with a sink full of knives covered in butter and peanut butter.)

I have three theories as to why I do not want to leave my house:

1. I have agoraphobia.

2. I am an eccentric and a recluse.

3. I am lazy.

Let's take those in reverse order:

Number 3. I am lazy. I think we can agree from the pictures above, the manual labor I did in the last two days (in between writing blog entries, interacting with my children, trying to figure out whether or not my middle son had the right clothes, shoes, socks, and cell phone with him for the first home football game he was marching in, and whether or not my youngest son has homework this weekend), and my fibromyalgia that I am not particularly lazy. Sometimes it takes me a while to get going, but once I do, things eventually get done. I can always be counted on to assist in planning the school project and help get it done, make sure the kids have clothes that fit them for that last minute event, and sweep up the animal hair at least once a week.

Despite the fact that my ever expanding butt seems to spend a lot of time on the couch, if someone needs something, I'm on it. I make the appointments, pay the bills, balance the checkbook, and keep track of who needs to be where and when. I am the official secretary and chief operating officer, pet caretaker, dishwasher, and laundress. I make sure that my almost 20 year old son's work clothes are clean so that he doesn't have to and that my 12 year old's gym uniform that gets forgotten in his backpack every Friday gets washed in a separate, tiny load on Sunday night.

So, lazy? I don't think so. I'm just working on being more of a type B personality. I don't stress about crap as much as I used to, although my kids might argue with that when I am yelling at them that they shouldn't have waited until 9:00 the night before the project was due to tell me about it.

Number 2. I'm an eccentric recluse. Eccentric: deviating from the recognized or customary practice; irregular; erratic; peculiar; odd. Definitely no argument there. I've been deviating from society's norm for my entire life. I locked myself into my bedroom for my entire adolescence. I would also not argue erratic, peculiar, or odd. I don't fit in when we go to social functions and I never am quite sure why. At the banquet we went to in August, I spent a good 10-15 minutes hyperventilating in the bathroom. (Note to self. Next time bring alcohol to the bathroom.) Recluse: a person who lives apart from society, often for religious meditation. Okay, I'm doing my best to live apart from society, but it's not a religious thing. It's more of an I can't stand the idea of going out thing. Which leads to...

1. I am agoraphobic. Agoraphobia: an abnormal fear of being in crowds, public places, or open areas, sometimes accompanied by anxiety attacks. Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding! I think we have a winner.

I recently requested all of my psychiatric records from the time I got my bipolar diagnosis because I had this idea that I might add a book about my experience with the disorder to the myriad of books that are already out there and actually grab the interest of a publisher (silly me). What made me think this was a unique idea? There are a multitude of books by famous people already out there about the disorder, along with a slew of other books chronicling every other person's life who ever had the disease and was able to cash in on it by putting together a coherent account of something that is completely incoherent most of the time. Must have been a manic moment.

But my point is that even the psychiatrists noted that I had agoraphobia as far back as 2001. I apparently talked about my unwillingness to leave my house and the panic attacks that hit me when I did so as far back as ten years ago. I suspect that if I had been in treatment before that, I would have been talking about it as far back as when I was a teenager.

New situations scare the living shit out of me.

When I was about 15, my mother got kind of concerned about my anxiety and, wanting to help me relax a little, signed me up for a yoga class at the local YMCA. I went to the first class (terrified not very happy about it), worrying for days before it started about the fact that I didn't know anyone in the class and I didn't know what to do when I got there or whether there were certain clothes that I needed and whether people would stare at me. As with most things, when I got there I was welcomed and I figured out what I was supposed to do without too much trouble. We went through the exercises and I got so relaxed that when she said it was time to sit up, I didn't hear her. I was still lying on my mat while everyone around me had sat up and was staring at me (I thought). The teacher made some snarky kind remark about the class being over and I was mortified. I never went back. My mother was frustrated.

If I go somewhere new, my stomach is in knots for days beforehand. I worry about getting lost, even if my husband programs the GPS for me. I'm still using the GPS to get to my doctor's office, even though I've been there approximately 25 times. I cancel and reschedule things. I promise my kids I am going to take them somewhere and then get mad when they remind me and find reasons why I can't go.

Last night, while relaxing in the hot tub with Joey, we had a very serious conversation about irrational fears. He is afraid of insects (especially the ones that move) and that a baselisk is somehow going to come out of his closet. He understands the baselisk fear isn't realistic, but it still lingers in his mind. The insects continue to be a problem and, during the summer, Justin and I are constantly having to get up and go up to his room to kill a bug that "was on the wall, Mom, I swear! It was there a minute ago! Where are you goooiiinnngggg???"

I told him that Mom has irrational fears too. This was a novel concept to him and he looked at me like I was an interesting new species of animal he had just discovered. Mom? Afraid? Is that even possible?

Oh yeah. Mom is afraid. Of leaving the safety inside of the house. Once I get out, I'm just fine. I can get what I need to do done and usually within a reasonable amount of time. Usually without a panic attack. Usually. But when I have the panic attacks, it's not good when the kids are there because they can see that Mom is not handling the situation (which seems like a perfectly normal situation to them) very well and is getting irritable, cranky, and upset. And Mom just wants to go home.

The problem is that I never know if I am going to have a panic attack when I go out, so I limit the going out as much as I possibly can. If I have to run an errand, like picking up my anti-anxiety medication, I put it off until I can't put it off anymore. I am procrastination personified if it means leaving the house and actually going somewhere.

As usual, the boys grew since last year and needed new clothing for the fall. I decided it would be a good idea to wait until after Labor Day because Virginia doesn't get chilly until at least October and I was figuring that the retailers would be desperate to move merchandise between Labor Day and the Christmas rush, so there would be good sales. It also sounded like a logical excuse reason to not go out. And then Labor Day came and went.

I had the opportunity last weekend to take them out shopping for jeans and thought, "Eh. It's still early in September. What are the chances that it will be chilly enough for them to need jeans that fit? And they can always squeeze into the jeans they wore last year." (Um, they're teenage boys. Did I really believe that? No. I just didn't want to go anywhere.)

On Thursday, I came down with whatever the stomach virus was that Justin had on Wednesday. I was honest to God sick and all I wanted to do was lie on the bed with three pillows, emitting the occasional groan and making sure I was near the bathroom. And then Jamie came home from school with a note from the band director saying that the kids would be marching on Friday night in jeans because of the "inclement weather." So I sent Jamie into his room to try on his jeans from last year. Which would not zip. He couldn't breathe. I'm familiar with this problem. I've written about it extensively. I would never force a child to wear clothes that are too tight.

It would have been nice if his band director had sent home the dress code for Friday night a little earlier in the week. I mean, who expects parents to go out and buy their kids school clothes before school starts?

So, on Thursday, I dragged myself out of bed, plunked Jamie into the car, drove to Old Navy in the pouring rain, and took him shopping for clothes. Did you know that 4:30 on a Thursday in the pouring rain is actually a pretty good time to go clothes shopping for your teenager for jeans? There was no one in the store but us. That's the kind of environment I can only pray for. By the way, I thought I would kill two birds with one stone and looked for what I know is going to be Joey's jeans size this year and Old Navy has decided not to carry them. Meaning another trip to a different store, next time in the mall.

Long story short (you're welcome), we bought Jamie two pairs of jeans, the sweatshirt he's been asking for, and a really cool Army camouflage cap, just because he wanted it and was such a good sport about trying on the jeans for me. He took everything he needed for the game to school yesterday and the game was postponed until this afternoon because of flooding and they aren't performing. I went out when I was sick with a stomach bug in the pouring rain and bought my son jeans that I should have gotten him weeks ago that he ended up not needing yet. He will probably grow out of them by October.

Do I have agoraphobia? Oh, definitely. Can I force myself out in spite of it? Absolutely, if my children need something. Otherwise, it's online shopping, which may explain why I don't have a pair of pants myself that fits.

I still need to take Joey to the mall. Maybe tomorrow.



  1. My irritaonal fears are mice,ants or bugs in my bed,and i fear huge bodies of open water,i also am afraid of swimming,and I am very irrational when it comes to being at the grocery store when i go by myself,its weird sometimes ill be fine,but a lot of times,i will think that everyone in my path,is staring at me,and thinking how ugly i am. i cant seem to stand the site of my face a lot of times,so i avoid the mirror as much as possible-i need a makeover badly!

  2. I kind of have the same problem. I know my wardrobe is awful and no matter how much I shop, my clothes don't look right on me. So I think everyone is noticing that I am a fashion disaster. And also that my hair really needs a style and that my face is all wrong...where do you live again? Maybe we could do those grocery store trips together!

    I hadn't thought of it before, but I kind of avoid my face in the mirror too, unless I have to look because I am putting on eye makeup. It's pretty bad when you can't look yourself in the eye, isn't it? Since I put on this 20 pounds, now I see that even my arms are getting fat, which distracts me from the problems with my hair, face, and makeup.

    No wonder I'm afraid to go out. I'm 'sure they're staring now that I think about it.

    My biggest fear is that people I don't know will touch me. It's really stupid, but I'm afraid of crowds to the point of panic. I used to freak out when Justin and I would go to concerts because of the people being so close together and the drunks falling into us. It was not a lot of fun for me.

    You are perfect the way you are. And I know I am too. But it's hard to believe it sometimes. Just listen to that Pink song - isn't it called Perfect? There's a radio version and a youtube version.



I'd love to hear from you. Feel free to tag back to your blog in the body of your message. Comments are my favorite!