There is a popular misconception that agoraphobia is a fear of wide-open spaces. As a sufferer, this confused me as I wanted nothing more than to be able to stand in a field or on a mountain; somewhere in the middle of nowhere; somewhere I could lie down and see nothing but sky and clouds and the occasional bird darting overhead. Somewhere I could just be, surrounded by nature.
When I finally got to see a therapist, she told me the etymology of the term completely backed up my feelings. Agoraphobia. Fear of the ‘agora’ – the Latin for marketplace. This translates as a fear of the overly crowded or busy spaces. For me, stepping out into the world of people, stepping out of a place where my ordered, understandable world comes crashing down was and remains too much to cope with. There are too many variables; too little control. My brain short circuits and stops the calamitous experience by refusing to put me in a position of insurmountable chaos.
Sometimes, this might be in the form of intense discomfort, sometimes an inability to touch the door handle. If I make it past the door, I may forget how to use my legs, or
Be incapable of breathing. Sometime my chest is so tight, I’m convinced I’m having a cardiac episode. Sometimes I just cry. Any of these symptoms can occur outside, too. I can mange to get into town, or university without a hitch and then suddenly I’m locked in a toilet panic stricken, with tears running down my face wringing every penny of value out of my premium ‘headspace’ account.
People are Chaos.
People are Confusion.
People are people.