A Life Indoors ~ Speaking Out About Going Outside

“Never give up on someone with a mental illness. When “I” is replaced by “We”, illness becomes wellness.”
Shannon L. Alder

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Disclaimer: This is going to be a bit of a heavier post than I’m used to writing. For those of you uncomfortable with the idea of reading about anxiety and mental illness, I understand. Truly. It’s a difficult subject. You don’t need to read any more than this paragraph – credits are at the bottom. ❤

I realized today just how long it’s been since the last time I wrote about anxiety. Years, really, and as much as I would like to say that it’s because I am completely out of the woods, that really isn’t the case. I’ve written about my condition prior to this (here and here) and hinted at it from time to time as well. I am not ashamed of my illness and I don’t believe anyone should ever worry that speaking out about who they are, as long as it does no harm, nor should they be judged or shunned for their personal life. If I don’t discuss mental disorder often, it’s because my anxiety has become just another fact of life. I am a Canadian woman. I have green eyes and a nice smile. I live with chronic anxiety, agoraphobia, and hypersensitivity.

Not a single one of these traits defines who I am but they do contribute to the sum of their parts. I don’t rail against my agoraphobia anymore, just like I don’t hate the fact that my hair is too straight to curl – I work with it. I do the best I can with what I have and believe me, the work never ends. It’s hard to be happy on a consistent basis but I don’t think I’m alone in that either. Most people have a hard time being happy. Everybody struggles with something.

Let me tell you about my struggles, though. Maybe it will help with yours.

Portia’s Agoraphobia

Agoraphobia itself is a bit difficult to understand. In simplest terms, it is a fear of places that can be perceived as dangerous, uncomfortable, or unsafe. For me, it is a catalyst to my social anxiety and hypersensitivity and, at times, all of these things together contribute to feelings of depression. People with agoraphobia can be triggered by any number of situations and this is why I’m only talking about myself; there’s no definitive list of symptoms, triggers, or strategies for dealing with mental illness because no two people will experience it in exactly the same manner. I’m showing you mine, hoping that some small degree of sharing will open our minds and hearts; that in hearing some of my story, someone will be encouraged to examine their own experiences with family, friends, co-workers, or even on a personal level.

I have a very hard time leaving my home and I’m not completely certain when those feelings began. Like so many people, my family life growing up was unstable; my parents separated when I was twelve and I felt a massive amount of pressure to keep up the pretense of being strong, acting like nothing was wrong. I wanted both my parents to be happy and my father seemed to be doing well enough on his own. The problem was that my mother was not coping in a healthy way and as she was caring for my younger sister (age six) and myself, I took it upon myself to step up my game.

Looking back at it now, I realize that it wasn’t my job to take care of my mother and sister. It wasn’t healthy for me to suppress my own anger and hurt over the fact that the good life I had as a young girl was changing. Like many young people coping with separation and divorce, I had a very hard time with it through my teenage years and well into adulthood. Even twenty years later (the age my parents were when all of this began), it’s a difficult thing for me. My father and I rarely speak.

I don’t say any of this to engender sympathy or pity; when it comes to my personal history and mental illness, I don’t want either. It’s important for me to own my thoughts and feelings and, most important, my reactions to them. I am not weak.

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What I am, though, is different (just like everybody else 😉 ). Maybe I’m a little bit broken inside, like so many others. I know that my fear of leaving my home, of travelling in cars (not airplanes, trains, or the trusty ol’ Greyhound – only cars), is not reasonable. I know that the anxiety I have in a crowded room trying to adapt to the noise of four conversations happening at once while the radio and television are both on and my little nephews are screeching (Barret) and roaring (Ben) by turns, isn’t logical. Some people are able to tune out some of these stimuli and focus on just one or two things without feeling like a giant exposed nerve. Not me. But then, some people juggle geese and I can’t do that either.

The most important thing I have learned thorough all of my personal challenges with agoraphobia is that I am not alone. I am capable of doing so much more today than I was five years ago when my symptoms were really awful (the huddling in a dark room under blankets kind of awful) and I know that in another five years, I’ll be in an even better situation than I am right now. A large part of this optimism comes from the fact that I’m not shy about my condition anymore. I don’t isolate myself from others out of shame or fear of being judged. Sure, I don’t always answer the door when someone rings the bell (like they are RIGHT NOW – what are the odds?!) but that doesn’t mean I’ll have the same aversion to it every time. It just means that right now, today, I’m going to say it’s all right to stay on the computer and let the nice church ladies talk to someone else.

Accepting that my feelings are something that I, and others, are able to understand has helped more than anything. Being able to step back, even (or especially) when I’m feeling anxious, and examine those feelings one at a time – breathing deeply – gives me enough space to work thorough them. It isn’t always fast and it’s never easy, but I am getting better at it.

An Example of a Thing That Just Happened. For Reals.

Portia is sitting at her computer writing a blog post about her mental health, talking on skype with Lucky about their respective days so far, sharing paragraphs (hers) and gyazos (his) of photography works in progress. It’s been a fine day so far, low stress, and Portia already has a good sense of accomplishment after completing a blog post yesterday and managing flickr and facebook groups this morning. The picture is doing great and the post is solid, with another good one on the way (this one) and the attainable goal of finishing a second one by tonight (you’ll see). Her sister and nephews will be visiting tomorrow instead of today as she’s already worked out the details for that visit.

*The doorbell rings.*

Portia’s hands stop above the keyboard, her breath catches. Her pulse quickens when she hears the sound and, just for a second, everything goes bright around the edges of her field of vision. /Shit,/ she thinks. /Who is it? What do they need?/

Paranoia rears its head, exposing (metaphorical) jagged teeth and a nauseating cloud of fear. Portia’s throat tightens and she swallows back against the immediate gag reflex, closes her eyes to gain a moment for herself. /It could be anyone. No, if it was  family they’d just come inside. Ben rings the doorbell sometimes when he comes to the door ahead of the others but he rings it in his little kid (a.k.a big boy) way; this is an adult./

/Is someone hurt? Was there an accident? No, if they were hurt they’d ring it more than once. If there was an accident it would be the same. Is it the police? Did something happen to my family? Oh hell. What if it’s that? Are they still here?/

*The person on the other side of the door knocks.*

/Crap, why are they still here? How do they know I’m upstairs? What if it’s important? If it’s important I should answer. I need to answer this. I don’t want to do this./

Portia takes a deep breath and tells Lucky what is happening, “just in case” /in case of what?/ In case he needs to call 911. In case he needs to tell someone else what has happened to her, for whatever reason. /It won’t be anything like that. It’s probably just a parcel delivery or someone .. whatever. It’s fine. I can at least check./

Standing up slowly, holding her breath as she backs noiselessly from the computer and tiptoes to the top of the stairs, Portia bends sideways at the waist to peer through the little window beside the front door. A staircase and a full level separate her from whomever is ringing and knocking and, leaning lower still, she notices the edges of a black skirt with small white polka dots moving around a pair of thick, tanned calves. The woman is wearing sport sandals – black – and her nails are unpainted.

Portia breathes a sigh of relief as Paranoia begins to ease away from her. /No one is hurt. It’s not the police. My sister is still coming over tomorrow and I have plenty of time to finish what I need to do today. Thank goodness! Do I really need to answer this? No. Do I want to answer this? Also no. It’s probably a missionary call like the one last month; I still have the brochure. I am still not interested./

So this is me sharing a thing with you. I know that if you aren’t familiar with self talking (and/or ‘baby steps’) it’s going to seem pretty strange. One thing we don’t realize is just how difficult even a simple thing like answering the front door can be for some of us. While my own agoraphobia is most often triggered outside the home, today was a good example of how a distressing situation can occur anywhere. You can probably also see why it’s an internal dialogue that takes place in the space of a few breaths and not a thing I share aloud. Fear isn’t a thing we can avoid but we can talk our way through it some (and ideally most) of the time. What I’ve shared above is the general form of how I manage to cope with life. It can be exhausting and, even on a good day, it takes continuous work to keep myself in check.

Oh, and I also characterized Paranoia because that’s the way I try to manage my feelings of  fear and anxiousness. They are entities outside of myself; things I can identify as illogical, unreasonable, unfair, and inconvenient. I can tell Paranoia to eff off and sit my Anxiety down on its ass for time out when something is important. This is another tool that helps me function. We all have them. We all use them.

Life goes on. ❤

~ Credits ~

Skin: Lara Hurley-Fae natural/Rose Pale ~ Lara Hurley
Mesh Body: Maitreya Mesh Body – Lara ~ Onyx LeShelle
Hands: Slink Avatar Enhancement Hands – Elegant1 ~ Siddean Munro

Hair: enVOGUE HAIR – Cassandra ~ Cassandra Rain

Dress: .aisling. Zoa – {Champagne} – MAITREYA Lara ~ Damian Kleiner
Robe: PEQE – Dis Robe III (Mint) ~ Inex Hax ~ Available @ We❤ Role Play (till May 31st 2016)
Boots: REIGN.– Luxe Thigh High Pumps (Maitreya Lara) ~ KenadeeCole ~ Luxe Box Item (May 2016)

Mask:  :[P]:– Opaline- Pearl Mask:// Goldenesque ~ Aikea Rieko ~ Gacha Item ~ Available @ Whimsical until June 8th, 2016
Earring 1: :[P]:– Opaline- Teardrop Earring [L]:// Goldenesque ~ Aikea Rieko ~ Gacha Item ~ Available @ Whimsical until June 8th, 2016
Earring 2: :[P]:– Opaline- Pearl Stud Earring [R]:// Goldenesque ~ Aikea Rieko ~ Gacha Item ~ Available @ Whimsical until June 8th, 2016
Collar: .aisling. Nura Collar {Gems&Chains} ~ Druunah Esharham ~ Available @ The Fantasy Collective until June 15th 2016
Necklace: :[P]:– Opaline- Weave Necklace:// Goldenesque ~ Aikea Rieko ~ Gacha Item ~ Available @ Whimsical until June 8th, 2016
Ring: P.C; The Envy Ring – Gold ~ Cora Lu

Pose: *PosESioN* Mantis 7 ~ Dahriel

~ Scene Credits ~

House: Zaara [home] : 1 Jodhpur house RARE ~ Zaara Kohime ~ Gacha Item
Fountain: A.V. Fountain with Flowers ~ Stephanvisconti
Gate: ROOST – Maison de Loire Gate ~ Roosthomes
Hedges: Botanical – Seasonal Boxwood Bushes ~ Kross Lehmann
Trees: Skye ~ Enchanted Woods v2 ~ Alex Bader

3 thoughts on “A Life Indoors ~ Speaking Out About Going Outside

  1. You may not desire sympathy, lovely Portia, but I hope my sincere and heartfelt empathy and understanding would be welcome. ♥ I see so much of myself in your amazingly honest words, and I understand those struggles all too well. You said it so well: owning your thoughts and feelings and reactions, and being gentle with yourself by trying to understand them and find their value, is so important. You’re a lovely, thoughtful, beautiful person and I feel blessed and happy every time I read your words. Thank you so much for taking the time to be so kind and generous with me. I hope you always make the time to be kind and generous with yourself, dear lady. You deserve it. ♥

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