Panic attacks and anxiety are never positive experiences. Sometimes the panic you feel can grow into a severe condition called agoraphobia. Agoraphobia is a mental health condition that affects the way you perceive your environment. You may have panic attacks, be afraid of being in public places, or feel suffocated by small spaces. Living with agoraphobia can make you feel like there’s no hope for relief from this pain. But, it doesn’t have to stay this way! You can overcome agoraphobia and live a more productive life.
When the pandemic happened everyone had to stay home. This experience was painful for some and welcomed by others. Personally, staying home was something we were already doing when the pandemic hit. We have dealt with agoraphobia for decades and it is a constant struggle to leave the house. Being put on lockdown was not scary or stressful for us. We felt a sense of relief that now being agoraphobic did not make use weird or odd.
Simply walking to the front door and grabbing the knob will trigger a panic attack. Fear of the outside world may seem irrational, but in the current climate of this world, it makes sense. In the past, our fear was based on trauma. Having complex post-traumatic stress disorder left us scared and fearful of our life many times.
After the pandemic, a new fear was added to the mix. People that do not understand what it’s like to have a disability that makes you vulnerable to COVID were everywhere on the news. People that are against keeping people like us safe. Not only were we afraid to leave the house because of trauma, but now we fear people in public that are not taking proper COVID precautions.
Our agoraphobia could be irrational, but now there was a valid reason to avoid the outside world. Of course, this fear worsened our symptoms. The fear of having negative interactions outside that lead to a panic attack was very real and justified.
Changing the narrative
Even though agoraphobia caused obstacles it made us even more determined to make life inside work. In this new age, everything is available online. You can order what you need and never need to leave the house. Telehealth is readily available, so we don’t miss medical appointments.
We can live our life inside and be happy.
Now that does not mean that we don’t leave the house. Sometimes for medical reasons, it is a necessity. In those cases, we have a safety plan and take steps to ground ourselves before leaving the home. We still are agoraphobic, but we take steps to minimize the negative consequences it can cause.
On bad days, we may only be able to look out the window. We accept this feeling and do not dwell on the anxiety. Working in therapy to learn grounding skills has been a wonderful addition to our mental health toolkit. It is still hard to leave the house. If we use our coping skills we can go out if we absolutely have no choice.
Agoraphobia doesn’t stop us. It makes us find creative ways to thrive and problem solve!
Image credit: qimono
Tas are autistic neurodivergent members of the disability community with developmental, mental health, and physical disabilities. They are the trifecta or triad of disabilities. They are a person of color and nonbinary. They are proud to be a member of the LGBTQ+ community and a neurodiverse DID system! Since they have an unique combination of diversity, they advocate for inclusion. They are passionate about equal access to education and healthcare. Making sure everyone has human rights motivates them to move past challenges in the effort to make the world accessible, inclusive, and fair for the next generation.
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You may read more MHT posts by Tas here.