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. . .
Tag Archives: agoraphobia
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–
how do you self-care? how do you think should start self-care? and can we help each other self-care together?
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–
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. . . .
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
get up in chicago, pile into the airplane and sit.
and sit some more. our airplane had a problem, the pilot explained, one that required bringing a technician onboard to disable the lavatories in the “aft” compartment. i’m not great on my aeronautical terms, but i figured out pretty quick that “aft” meant that the first class passengers still had a bathroom but the rest of didn’t. and then, forty five minutes later, we took off.
i am in tallahassee where one of my facebook friends, my father justin, lives. he is experiencing meta-fan-tastic prostate cancer and will undergo the experimental treatment provenge. provenge is a one time only treatment that costs $90K and man, i sure hope it works.
it’s a good thing that i’m here, because justin’s wife had a business trip so she’s gone. and tomorrow morning justin and i show up for the treatment which involves all his blood being sucked out of his body and the white cells taken out to be sent to north carolina where they will be genetically altered and reinserted into his body in tallahassee on friday.
my plans of meeting facebook friends all over the state are a bit compromise. nonetheless, i was so grateful that facebook friend william taylor, er, bill, came to visit me and my dad. and took me to my favorite place in tallahassee.
because we were meeting for the first time, bill brought a birthday cake that was a symbol of all the birthdays that we had missed as friends. he transposed the numbers. oops!
tomorrow i have to cancel some plans, some rentals, some tickets, but the most important thing is to take care of my father. but the most placid picnic ground in tallahassee. . .
when i was twenty five i shopped around for a therapist for all that ails a gal in her quarter life crisis. anxiety, depression, panic attacks, a touch of the eating disorder.
so i tried a gestalt therapist. interviewed a freudian. did one session with a cognitive psychotherapist. even got my chakras manifested. nothing clicked. nothing seemed particularly helpful.
when i went to a “blended” psychotherapist i remember he asked me a half dozen questions. one of them was “who is your best friend?” i said, well, it’s actually two people. they’re married to each other and i can’t really separate them. not that i want to. . . and they’re seventy-ish and they’re retired and well they’re like parents to me. dick and vivian eastman. he taught me english in college.”
the therapist put down pad and pen and stared at me in that woeful, soulful, doleful sort of way that therapists are wont to.
“don’t you think it’s a sign of a . . . problem . . . that you consider your best friends a couple who separated by so many years from your peers and . . .”
he didn’t get the whole question out before i moved on. and i never found that perfect therapist. and, sadly, both dick and vivian passed on a few years ago. i felt honored that they considered me a friend.
i find it strange that american culture assumes you are friends with people who are roughly your own age. your own grade. and i have reached an age at which i am honored particularly by young than me people who consider me their friend.
this weekend i went to visit my facebook friend taylor jordan. she is not even twenty years old and all the adjectives apply: beautiful, enthusiastic, energetic, fun! i am not her best friend but i am included in the circle of people she counts as that word.
taylor was the eighty-fifth facebook friend i visited last year. she is the granddaughter of my friend suzanne’s husband. although i had often interacted with her in the context of seeing my friend suzanne, i had never really spent time with taylor as a friend unto herself. last year, i went to her school in wisconsin to visit and discovered a way nuanced, intelligent, funny galpal. this year, i went to her school in central illinois. next week, she is going to join a sorority, but first there’s an initiation rite that i tried to help her with. . . uh, well, maybe i’m not the friend you want at your side when you do that. . .