It is five o’clock in the morning, and I can feel it already. The first thought to cross my mind is this: Do I really have to? My mind is racing around a mental maze, trying to find a way out of this situation. If I look to my left, I see only one outcome, only one exit. To my right is the same exit, just mirrored. Just thinking about it causes my palms to sweat, my heart rate rises, and my breathing steadily gets heavier. I am trapped in a magical mirror maze of the mind, and all the exits lead to the same fate. There is no MacGuffin that I can use to find an escape. My deus ex machina has deserted me and left me to rot in a mirage of misfortune and madness.
An hour has now passed, and I am still trying to free myself from this muddle. To find that one strand that will untangle this Gordian Knot that is my mission, that will be my escape from this labyrinth of the ludicrous that my mind has created. I am, though, all out of ideas. I have to go one way or another, and it is going to find me; it is going to get me. Going back is not an option. I have two choices, and neither of them are good. I can just go and do it, or I can do nothing. Doing nothing is tempting, but it isn’t a genuine choice. It is just delaying; pushing it to one side, hoping that it will go away. It won’t. So, I close my eyes and take a deep breath. I then open my eyes and step forward.
This was my Monday morning. I could feel it building from the moment I woke. It was a thought that burrowed and dug. Planting itself deep in my mind. What was the problem? I had to take the bins out. That was it. A task that is so simple that many of you will do it without even thinking about it. I had gone to bed on Sunday thinking about it; pushing it to one side, thinking, I’ll do it tomorrow. I’ll sleep on it and tomorrow I will have a good day, I lied to myself. This was not anything rational. I am agoraphobic, and this is my normality.
This was always going to be tough to write. It was always going to be easy to describe things I struggle with, but I struggled with another enormous problem. I have battled so much with it that this is my third attempt to cover it.
It should have been easy. I could have done it without thinking. What changed? Lockdown. Well, many of you will now have some idea what this is like. Like seeing a Rorschach inkblot, it is a very slim likeness to the real thing. I can’t, therefore, write about the boredom of being confined to the house. You have been there, done that, and got a free complimentary t-shirt. I can’t tell you about the loneliness, as you know all about that. Lockdowns changed the world. I hoped they would do so for the better, but humans don’t like change. Many people moaned about lockdowns and the problems that came from them. They have said that mental health will have suffered. I have every sympathy for you all. I would not wish this upon anyone. I hoped people would remember what it was like and grow from that experience.
I have, before now, gone months without interacting with anyone. I struggle once a fortnight to take the bins out; fighting to fill the bins! I can’t post mail like a regular person. Just about any task that requires leaving my home becomes an uphill struggle. If depression is the downwards slope, then agoraphobia is the upwards. It is easy to slip into depression; it is a nightmare climbing to the pinnacle of a phobic mountain. You think you have just reached the peak only to find out that another lurks just beyond the cloud line like a mental flight of steps that never ends. You climb one step, and another appears. It is a mental staircase that I fight each day, only to look back up at it the following morning. If life is a game, my save vanishes, and I have to start each day all over again.
Irrational: It certainly feels perfectly rational, but I know it is not. How can a fear of being outside, sometimes even downstairs, be considered rational?
Extreme: I have had to back away from the door, eyes closed and breathing deeply and calmly. Like I am hiding under the duvet from an invisible monster.
We all have phobias in one form or another. We all know that they are – mostly irrational. Why does a spider give me the heebie-jeebies? What is it about clowns that make the hairs on my arm stand to attention? And, really, it is too late for me to worry about losing my hair! Unfortunately.
These fears are irrational, and they are extreme. They are also very real.