Tag Archives: agoraphobia

leaving home, goodbye

for the last year, i have been pretty much housebound.  some days i couldn’t get past the end of the driveway.  but a gal can’t live like this forever.  so having been freed up this past week, i’ve decided to take a road trip and who better to go with me than. . .

my trusty guides william clark and pongo the dog are with me!

my trusty guides william clark and pongo the dog are with me!  i hope they can restore my courage!


my new year’s resolution

and a challenge for you:

 

this year has been a year of losses, most particularly the loss of my best friend which occurred last week.  but counting up my losses is not as productive as counting blessings.  my new friend boris certainly knows about counting blessings.

in 2011, i made a new year’s resolution to spend the year visiting each and every facebook friend i had at the time.  it was a fun year, a year of discovery, a year of having to push my boundaries.  325 friends?  oh, yeah, and 13 countries and just about every state in the nation.  being an agoraphobic who has difficulty leaving the house it was a challenge.  but it was also a pleasure because i got to be with friends, some of whom i had only known online, some of whom i hadn’t seen in decades, some of whom turned out to be, well, catfish.

 

this year, my resolution is to recover myself.  and to do what my friend mark hashizume calls self-care.  so every day i will do and blog about an act intentionally meant to care for myself.  i ask you, i challenge you, to do the same with me.  we all have had tough years–i have a friend who lost a husband to alzheimer’s. a friend who lost her five year old son to cancer.  a friend whose son committed suicide.  a friend who lost her home (oh, wait, i did too).  and then there’s ryan gosling–

ryan, really, we both have to move on especially now that you and eva are becoming parents.  think of her feelings! and the arlynn presser t-shirt isn't going to make her feel strong and confident as she should!  but truly, i understand your pain.  i'll always love you.

ryan, really, we both have to move on especially now that you and eva are becoming parents. think of her feelings! and the arlynn presser t-shirt isn’t going to make her feel strong and confident as she should! but truly, i understand your pain. i’ll always love you.

how do you self-care?  how do you think  should start self-care?  and can we help each other self-care together?


packed to be home!

for an agoraphobic, i sure do get around!  today, i’m heading into des moines and from there i’m striking north for canada. i’ll be out of the country for close to a full month with a catch me if you can schedule–

in 2011, i made a new year's resolution  to spend facetime with every one of my then 325 facebook friend within the calendar year.  it was an adventure and in one 17 day period, i circumnavigated the globe and visited friends in 11 countries.  my passport is a mess.

in 2011, i made a new year’s resolution to spend facetime with every one of my then 325 facebook friend within the calendar year. it was an adventure and in one 17 day period, i circumnavigated the globe and visited friends in 11 countries. my passport is a mess.

 

so how do you pack for a month long trip?  i do it in two bags, one that serves as my office and one for my clothes.  i buy hanes three pack t-shirts and good news is that they are cheap enough that i consider them disposable.  i am a huge fan of reversible clothing.  i like baby wipes for everything, including the inevitable disasters. . . .

 

i always take with me my william clark doll.  william clark was a fearless adventurer, famously traveling from st. louis to the northwest coast with his friend merriweather lewis and the lahmi shashone woman sacajawea charbonneau.  i bet he was a big believer in baby wipes, especially since sacajawea had her son jean-baptiste with her!

i always take with me my william clark doll. william clark was a fearless adventurer, famously traveling from st. louis to the northwest coast with his friend merriweather lewis and the lahmi shashone woman sacajawea charbonneau. i bet he was a big believer in baby wipes, especially since sacajawea had her son jean-baptiste with her!

some of my friends are very much like me and are afraid to leave the house.  jeez, i spent most of my life with anxiety attacks that kept me trapped in my house.  in the year 2011, i learned to get out of the house.  when someone asks me how i did it, it’s very simple:  you have to make your car your home.  you have to make your seat on the plane your home.  you have to be exactly where you are and make that part of the universe yours.  you are entitled to peace and calm and a sense that you are welcomed by everyone.

 


sarah, you got this one!

while i was on the road heading into washington, d.c., i got a phone call from my facebook friend sarah.  she lives with her parents in detroit and is a beautiful, funny gal with a big heart and a great future.  sarah doesn’t leave her house and suffers with agoraphobia.

agoraphobia comes from the greek word phobia which means fear and agora which means marketplace or meeting place.  the agora was the center of greek urban life and so someone who is agoraphobic quite literally is afraid of being out and about.  this agora is pretty much in need of some renovations.

agoraphobia comes from the greek word phobia which means fear and agora which means marketplace or meeting place. the agora was the center of greek urban life and so someone who is agoraphobic quite literally is afraid of being out and about. this agora is pretty much in need of some renovations.

sarah is considering moving to texas to be with her boyfriend.  what a wonderful future they might have.  but sarah is worried about the eighteen hour drive.  if it is difficult to leave the house to walk to the corner market, an eighteen hour trip is going to be a challenge.  in her favor is that her boyfriend is an understanding and caring man and he will be driving (sarah doesn’t have a driver’s license).

i told her that she won’t be making an eighteen hour trip.  she’ll be making a series of hour or two hour trips or maybe half hour trips, or maybe even fifteen minute trips.  i asked her to consider purchasing an air card so that she can be connected to the internet and can distract herself by doing much of what she does when she’s at home.

the real secret for me is to make wherever i am my home, so that there is no agora to be scared of.  here, some kids from the marine scouts program wash my house.

the real secret for me is to make wherever i am my home, so that there is no agora to be scared of. here, some kids from the marine scouts program wash my house.

and of course, i invite some friends into my home.

sarah, you got this trip!  you can travel because the whole world, well, it ain’t an oyster, it ain’t a small world after all, no, no, the world is YOUR home!


A is for ativan, W is for withdrawal

A is for ativan.

B is for benzodiazepam, its drug classification.

C is for calming when taken.

D is for damned, which is what i have felt like for the last three weeks.

i could go on like this for another 22 letters but except for the W i think i will stop. i have been experiencing ativan withdrawal and it’s like having all the anxiety attacks i have avoided or weaseled out of with ativan have been waiting to be unleashed when i say enough.

ativan

ativan is a drug used to control anxiety and panic disorder.  i have been taking ativan for nearly seven years.  every time i get an uptick in my anxiety level, my doctor puts me on a higher dosage.  three weeks ago, i was taking three milligrams a day and it wasn’t making me feel particularly calm.  but if i didn’t take it, lordy, was i a wreck.

in 2011 i had a new years resolution to meet all 325 of my facebook friends wherever on the planet they might be.  i stopped being afraid of things because i was forced to do things i was afraid of every day of the year--fear of flying, of meeting new people, of leaving my own house.

in 2011 i had a new years resolution to meet all 325 of my facebook friends wherever on the planet they might be. i stopped being afraid of things because i was forced to do things i was afraid of every day of the year–fear of flying, of meeting new people, of leaving my own house.

three weeks ago i made a commitment to quit, which started as a drop down to one milligram and then two weeks ago became a dive off the cliff.  every phobia i have possessed has returned.  every inclination to not leave the house.  and sleep?  fuggedaboutit!  i even felt a fear of posting a blog.  just because i stopped doing it everyday.  i have the shakes.  i have had hideous asthma attacks.  all side effects of withdrawal.  i have given my ativan to a friend who is both close enough that i can get to the ativan in the case of a real emergency and someone i trust to not take all of them.

i can’t wait to tell my doctor that i don’t need a refill, thank you very much.


no facebook friend left behind

i woke up thinking–i cannot leave her behind.  miss x was crying when i left her.

“i feel like i made and lost a friend in the past couple hours!”

“no, you haven’t,”  i said.  “you made a friend on facebook and you still have a friend.”

she wasn’t convinced when i pulled out of the driveway. she sat on the porch bench, crying. i felt awful.  i was tired, i was scared, i was driving so many hours.  i had so many more to go.

miss x is the 331st facebook friend i have visited since my 2011 new year’s resolution.  at that time, i had 325 facebook friends and i resolved to meet and spend time with each one during the course of the year.  i mean, who are all these people in my little solar system of mark zuckerberg’s virtual universe?

but as the year progressed and in this year 2012, i have been meeting newer friends.  miss x had seen a bit of news about me, had friendshipped me, and we’d been corresponding.  she thought she was inviting me to louisville, kentucky to give me an opportunity to test out my fearlessness against agoraphobia.  instead, we faced an interesting problem:  she drinks.  a lot.  much more than i do.  when i showed up at her doorstep at one thirty, vodka had been two glasses ahead of me.

we all find ways to quell the pain.  whether it’s prescriptions, meth, alcohol, video games, hoarding or the carbo load of a dozen doughnuts in front of the television set, we do it.  we have to.  times are particularly tough right now.  miss x lost her job fourteen months ago and has pretty much given up on getting another for the moment.

are you better off than you were four years ago? asked ronald reagan when debating then president jimmy carter. it’s a question every voter has to ask. in miss x’s case, the answer is decidedly no. she has unemployment benefits, but she would rather have a job. and her drinking–popov vodka mostly–has ramped up. jobs often give us purpose, which gets us out of bed and away from our poisons.

the breckenridge inn of louisville, kentucky had generously booked my room next to the “can’t sleep without the television on, argue at two a.m., have makeup sex at four” couple.  i so got to appreciate the room decor.

was it a good idea to go back?  to meet miss x again?  but i was haunted by the crying galpal.  and by something she had said.

“i started drinking because i thought i was too boring when i’d be with people, you know, at parties and such.”

i was thinking “that’s me”

i have often felt like a wallflower who can only manage with a glass of white wine.  and then i can talk with people.  and then another glass of white wine.  and i can sit still through dinner parties.  and another white wine.  i can be funny or witty or amusing.  one more white wine.  and i’m smushy in my thinking and scattered in my speech.  but i don’t notice by then because i have white wine saying “it’s all good.”

i messaged miss x at six a.m.  total long shot.  if she was up, i would return to her house.  we’d go for a walk.  i wanted this facebook friend visit to end well.  she had drank and fallen asleep and had awakened early.  i was packing up for the next facebook friend adventure.

i checked out, went to her house.  and that’s when i really met my friend.  the day before, i had met alcohol smothering my friend.

the facebook friend who opened the door, the three hundred and thirty first friend i have recorded about since i made that resolution, is bright and funny and witty and engaged in the world.   she looks sort of like lana turner or maybe jennifer coolidge.  she has a gift for seeing beauty and translating it into home decorating.  she has an empathy with cats and although one of her own is dying, she has a sense of humor.

jennifer coolidge is the actress who played stifler’s mom in american pie. this is sort of what miss x looks like. she would be chill with being identified by name but she wants to protect her husband.

we walked and we shared a morning ritual.  it is how i pray these days, having figured out that rosaries and om’s sometimes seem hollow for me.  we exchanged lists of ten things we are grateful for.  i was grateful for coffee that morning.  she was grateful for her husband and mother who are both loving.  we were able to exchange gratefuls for each other.

there are many days in which coffee has made my list.

we said goodbye.  well, goodbye sounds more final than what it was.  we hugged and kissed and i will see her again.  and i’ll even take up the offer of the manager of the breckenridge inn for a free upgrade because of the couple next door.  really, i should just remember that maybe the couple was celebrating and happy and . . . well, actually, i know they were pretty happy at four a.m. roughly thirty seconds apart from each other.

no secret–i love the white wine. we’re having a break up. i am using a drug that is weaning, subtle, strange. i am not a believer in twelve steps because i think we do all need something to get us through the day.

i strike north for bloomington.  i thought i would be aiming for tennessee but my friend in cookeville has distractions.  i drive.  i meet my facebook friends. i ask for their friendship to be in person.  mark zuckerberg introduces but there’s nothing better than right there, right now.


we are all that one lost sheep–facebook friend #331

a week ago i posted about alcohol.  specifically, my relationship with white wine.  i didn’t feel great.  in fact, i felt pretty damn lousy.  the self-loathing ticker was high.  i had returned from florida and never got my bearings.

especially since on wednesday of last week i had a martini for the first and last time of my life.  and was suitably embarrassed and mortified by the effects and consequences.

but i never felt quite so bad as when facebook friend #331 messaged that i couldn’t come see her.  i had thought she was an agoraphobic unable to leave the house.  i thought i was being a good friend to show up, say “hey, i can do it, so can you” and i was wrong.

“i can go anywhere.  i don’t have a problem with getting out of the house,”  miss x* assured me.  “i don’t have your problem.  but i read your post.  i drink too.  pint of vodka a day.  but that’s down.”

“i’d want to meet you sober.”

“forget it.   too scary.”

“well, scary for me too.”

i told her i would drive to kentucky, i would knock on her door and if she opened the door, saw me, slammed the door it would be fine.  at least, she would know that her facebook friend wanted the best for her.

sunday night i picked up my messages on facebook and my phone at ten fifteen.  she wanted to cancel again.  i called.  she was hostile and frustrated.  her thoughts were expressed like the first break in billiards, with three balls dropping in pockets, the rest bouncing against the walls, and the eight ball scratching.

the problem to her was that i hadn’t been in communication with her since thursday.  that i didn’t phone her.  that i didn’t keep lines of communication open.  that it was too much pressure to clean the house in anticipation of my arrival if i wasn’t going to arrive.  and time–there needed to be an exact time.

i have a garmin gps that was purchased for me by a friend who was tired of reading blogposts in which i fretted over having gotten lost. the garmin tells me the exact time i will reach a location. trouble is, i still get lost. i turn at the next street over, i miss the exit, i don’t see the turnaround. my garmin shrieks “recalculating! recalculating!” and then i say . . . @%#xte$!!!!

then i listened closely.  i wasn’t listening to my facebook friend who is witty and funny and adorable in her posts, statuses, and comments.  no, i was listening to alcohol.   alcohol had taken over the conversation entirely.  and i got the impression a lot of people had said “so long, happy trails to you” when alcohol had butted into their chats with miss x.

so i said i would call her in the morning and we’d figure out whether we would meet.  i admit to thinking “nope, we’re not doing this”

in the morning, she was the miss x i had been communicating with on facebook for the last year and a half.  the one with witty, wry observations.  the one who had seen a news piece about me and friended me, saying “i don’t have your problems but boy i sympathize”  she was nervous, but so was i.

i drove the three hours from indianapolis to louisville.  i was a little early, but i thought that was good because i would catch her before she had a chance to pop a pre-meeting vodka.

i wasn’t early enough.  and she had one while i was there.  again, i had a conversation with alcohol.  i couldn’t keep up with the tangents.  and i couldn’t keep up with the emotional swings–happy, insecure, witty, hostile, frustrated, apologetic, demanding, paranoid, sweet as can be.

she said don’t judge me and i said i can’t judge you i am in jail with you.  i’m just standing closer to the door.

i shared with her what i’m doing to rein in my drinking.  she was intrigued but argued the point of whether i was an alcoholic, a heavy drinker or an amateur.  she drank more in an afternoon than i could lay down in an entire night–but she herself said she could drink any 250 pound man under the table.   she considered me an amateur.

can you name another disease besides alcoholism that’s self-diagnosed? miss x considers me an amateur, social drinker. there’s people who think of me as off the charts, ship me off to rehab. the horrific thing is the very people who will say “you have a problem” are often the people who are the first to bolt. miss x has had some bolters. i want to get out her address book and say “hey, whassup dude?” because she’s brave, smart, funny and needs all friends and family on deck. it is said that when the lions go after the gazelles, the pack separates the weak for slaughter. no, don’t separate her from the pack.  she’s your best one, the one that will tell the lion what’s what.

i believe some people drink because they are bored, boredom being shorthand for no purpose, because they are that one lost sheep that the shepherd needs to find.  miss x is unemployed, with no children to care for, no volunteer activities and–by her account–no friends (hello, i’m here in your kitchen!).

i suggested a goal, a purpose.  doesn’t matter what it is, just that she try.  i made a new years resolution on december 2010 to meet the (then) 325 facebook friends i have.  that’s a pretty silly life mission when you think about it.  but if you wake up every morning with a reason to push, you do.

miss x is adorable and beautiful and we made a contract that her goal was to walk one half hour before ever having that first drink. i’m a big believer in small goals and big goals. this is a small but manageable goal.

 

i was sorry to have to leave her.  she went to a nephew’s house to see relatives and help with a little one’s homework.  she said “i feel like i’ve gained and lost a friend in the space of a few hours” and i said no, i became your friend on facebook a year and a half ago, and i got to meet you today and i will be your friend tomorrow.

i was speaking the truth.

i am striking for cookeville, tennessee tomorrow.  i believe i meet two facebook friends, one of whom WILL be the inspiration for miss x.  i’m just playing matchmaker for two new best friends.

 

i truly hope miss x believes me because we will meet again, my 331st facebook visit since january 1, 2011.

 

*she kept saying i could use her name, that she had no secrets, but i think for the moment i’d like to let this her be miss x.

miss x looks very much like lana turner from the 1966 movie “madame x” about a mother who sacrifices everything for the welfare of her husband and infant son. except for the fact that miss x wore blue jeans.  i am so enchanted by the movie madame x, which i watched when i was barely an infant, that i like calling my friend “miss x”