Some Days, I Can’t Leave My House

As a rule, I don’t tend to write about things when I’m in the midst of them. I write about my struggles after I’ve done some processing, some reflecting, and it isn’t too painful to share.

Which is all just to say, writing this today is going to hurt.

I have agoraphobia.

I am afraid to leave my house without someone accompanying me. I don’t visit my friends’ houses because it’s too panic-inducing to get there. I go to the same restaurant to hang out because nowhere else feels safe.

If I want to go somewhere new, my partner R has to go with me repeatedly to help me practice – sometimes dozens upon dozens of times – before I can work up the courage to go by myself.

I cancel on people constantly because I think I’ll be brave enough to see them, but then I break down an hour before when I realize that I’ll have to leave my apartment alone.

Since living in California, I’ve never once gone grocery shopping by myself. I’ve never once gone to the doctor by myself. And not once have I gone to a pharmacist by myself.

If I run out of food, or I’m sick, or I need medicine, I wait until someone can go with me – even if it’s at the expense of my own health or sanity.

I’ve turned down interviews with big publications, passed up the chance to meet phenomenal activists and writers, cancelled speaking engagements at big universities, and otherwise fucked up career opportunities because instead of pursuing them, I was in my bathroom vomiting because I was terrified of going outside.

No matter how badly I want to go to the birthday party, or how desperately I want to leave my apartment for some fresh air, or how terrific that event promises to be, I am trapped.

I am sitting by my window at the end of nearly every day, watching my social media light up with happy faces – wondering, worrying if I will ever know the kind of freedom that they know.

Freedom, like when you can walk out your door without it being a complete and utter fiasco.

Freedom, like when you aren’t suicidal just because you missed your train stop and you’re convinced you are in imminent danger because you’ve never been in this part of town before.

Freedom, like when your friend wants to spontaneously grab coffee and it doesn’t make you hyperventilate at the thought.

Freedom, like being able to go somewhere without the petrifying fear that your anxiety will creep up on you and no one will be there to help you when you snap.

For the longest time, I made excuses. I told myself I couldn’t leave because I’m “just an anxious person.” I told myself I just didn’t like being alone. I told myself moving to a new city is always scary. I told myself that I just didn’t like being around people.

Time and time again, I told myself there was a logical reason for why I hadn’t left my place in a week.

My friends asked me, “I always see you with your partner. Do you ever go anywhere by yourself?” No.

My friends asked me, “I haven’t seen you in a while. Is everything okay?” No.

My friends asked me, “I noticed all your selfies are in your apartment. Do you ever leave?” No.

Why?

Because I am afraid.

Do you know what it’s like to be afraid of yourself?

To be convinced that you aren’t safe if you’re left to your own devices, that at any moment the panic will take over and you’ll be rendered an inconsolable, chaotic mess?

Do you know the longing of wanting to go to the beach, just to remember what the tide feels like when it glides across your feet? To want nothing more than to stroll down to that new cafe, the one you’ve pictured in your mind a thousand times?

Wanting to meet your friends at the park, so you can lay in the grass and feel the sun on your back? Wishing you could join them at that queer club so you could dance the night away, sweaty and laughing and alive, surrounded by electric bodies and beautiful souls?

Talking yourself up, saying that you’re going to do it this time, that there’s no logical reason why you can’t – you RSVP with a “yes” while shaking your head “no” – knowing that it’s inevitable, that disappointment of being alone again, of missing out.

Too afraid to admit the truth, just to say, “I can’t.”

Too afraid to tell your friends, “I’m not as strong as you thought.

And so everyone goes to the beach, to the cafe, to the park, to the club, while you are curled up beneath the covers, promising yourself “next time” but knowing that there will never, ever be a “next time” until you say those three little words:

I need help.

Just to go to graduate school, my partner had to accompany me across the city – two busses, an hour’s trek – three days a week to my classes. Still, I wouldn’t say it. I dropped out.

Just to get to the psychiatrist’s office, my partner had to go with me then, too – four stops on the train, a shuttle – and no matter how many times we practiced, I couldn’t do it alone. Still, I wouldn’t say it. I haven’t seen that doctor in months.

I ran out of groceries and I was too scared to ask someone to drive me. I ate whatever I could find in the back of the cupboard and sometimes I didn’t eat at all. Still, I wouldn’t say it. I ordered my groceries online.

Last week, I typed into a search bar, “I can’t leave my house alone,” knowing full well that it was going to tell me what I already knew.

I can tell myself until I’m blue in the face, until this lie feels close enough to the truth, until I run out of food again or run out of pills again, that everything is fine. I can tell myself that it’s the city, or it’s the bus, or it’s the people – I can tell myself a hundred thousand times that it isn’t me.

But it is me.

I’ve slowly started telling my friends. Now, I’m telling the world. In part because maybe, in holding myself publicly accountable, I’ll actually reach out and get the help that I need (I’m working on it, I promise).

But I’m writing about this, too, because I know somebody out there is going to Google “I can’t leave my house.”

And if that person is you, this is your sign.

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10 thoughts on “Some Days, I Can’t Leave My House

  1. bobcabkings says:

    Clearly this wa a hard one to write, so, thanks. Its not one of my issues, but you express it so well its almost like having it. I agree, somebody out there will Google that sentence. I hope they find their way to this and know they are not alone.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Laura P. Schulman, MD, MA says:

    Hey there. I’m checking in. Yes, I do know. That’s one reason I bought this tiny RV, because I love being in Nature but can’t really manage other people. I have RSVP’d YES to two parties this year, got dressed to go, and even got as far as opening the door, then closed it again and fell hyperventilating on my bed. So I have this personal pod, and if I want to go to the mountains, I go deep into the forest where other people are not likely to be. I’d rather take my chances with bears and cougars than meet another person.

    I don’t have a partner. I do have a service dog. I don’t go anywhere without her. She has a terminal disease, and sometimes I totally freak out thinking that when she dies, I will have to die, because….who will be there to watch out for me?

    I don’t think I actually have agoraphobia. I think it’s more social phobia, but I don’t know. It may have to do with my Asperger syndrome. All I know is, being outside of my little cave on wheels, if anyone else is there, is terrifying.

    Damn, SDF, I wish I had my magic wand back. I’d wave it and POOF your agoraphobia would be gone. You’d be able to do all the things the world offers to you with relish (and mustard, if you like it 😀 )

    Virtual hugs to you, my friend. I’m hoping you will find the right shrink who will help you find that “get out of jail” card. I wish it could be “get out of jail free,” but I don’t think so. I think it will be a lot of work. Everything worthwhile is.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. jerbearinsantafe says:

    Hi Sam, I have a milder form of agoraphobia myself. I am able to go out by myself once and awhile. I also have painful physical disabilities which complicates my situation. I do go for a week or more sometimes with out leaving the house. I know that being agender who was designated male at birth and preferring to skirts, knee high socks or leggings creates additional social anxiety given the hostility sometimes shown folks like me. Still there are bright spots. Today I went to Trader Joe’s with my friend in my favourite denim skirt and galaxy themed knee high socks and there was another younger dmab person in a skirt! Maybe we’ll start a trend. I do hope you find a therapy that works but it’s okay to be who you are! My therapy is our local Trans support group. Their friendship and compassion has made a big difference in my life. Just know you are not alone! Hugs!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Andi says:

    Thank you for sharing this. I don’t know much about agoraphobia but I have friends and acquaintances that experience this (mainly whom I met through support groups) and I feel like I have such a better sense of what this experience is like.

    Like

  5. raphaela99 says:

    My heart goes out to you. I spent over ten years isolated in my house, never venturing out without my partner. Even a trip to the letterbox in the front yard was unheard of. I just started with little, manageable steps, like standing on my front porch. I had to be kind and gentle with myself, and not expect too much. Every step outside was a triumph. I think you are incredibly courageous, and your post shall help many people. x

    Liked by 1 person

  6. WhimsicalWyvern says:

    This took a lot of courage and strength to write. I cannot fully empathize with this difficulty in you life but through your words I could glimpse your pain and it resonated with me. Good luck and please remember you are loved wherever you are and whatever you do.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. MsDroeseLives says:

    Working from home today. Still in my bathrobe. Should be showered and running work errands. Instead I’m stuck in anxiety glue, rumination, and my little created hell that is tricky to escape. And this rain doesn’t help. Knowing that others do the same thing gives me courage. Blogging keeps me going–without creativity I land in the worthless depression pit. I’ll take my dog Mr. Schnoutlands on these errands for moral support. I’m a mom and if I don’t work I can’t pay rent. I must trudge on past my fears, dammit. I want to toss my cookies. Would rather hid in bed. Awesome read! Hugs! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. On the edge says:

    You are not alone! I’ve been struggling with this for half my life. Junior year of high school was when agoraphobia started dominating my life. I’m 32 and have moved back home because I need my mom to leave the house more times than I would like to admit. I’ve been in a support group for people affected by depression or bipolar. They have been a miracle cure. Thanks for being brave enough to share your journey!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. loomy9138 says:

    “I cancel on people constantly because I think I’ll be brave enough to see them, but then I break down an hour before when I realize that I’ll have to leave my apartment alone.”

    How very true. I feel like this all the time, making plans and then canceling at the last minute. Any excuse not to go, any reason I can find.

    Take care of yourself, and don’t be so hard on yourself. You are certainly not alone.

    Liked by 1 person

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