Hi. My name is Jennifer. And I have agoraphobia. I’ve never talked about this in public before. In fact, this is the first time I am admitting this in an open forum; only my family and close friends know this fact about my personality.
There are many names for my problem. When I was a teenager, I was told by therapists that it was social anxiety. So this isn’t something new to me. I am not the worst case out there. My case is mild compared to the people it affects on a major scale. How does it affect me? I suffer from violent pains in my stomach each morning before I leave my house, but once I step beyond the threshold of my apartment door — I start to convalesce.
Sometimes I think my agoraphobia goes hand in hand with my sensitivity. As a highly sensitive person, I absorb and process everything around me. Sometimes being in a room crowded with people is too overwhelming for me. I feel over stimulated by the noise and emotion swirling around me. So much so, I can sometimes feel exhausted or gain a headache after I leave an event. This sensitivity is an essential plus to my life as a writer but crippling when it comes to my social life; to combat this difficulty, I usually choose events that are more my speed: slow going with a more intimate surrounding and smaller groups.
So what is agoraphobia exactly? There are many definitions but I will choose to tell you the simplest one. Agoraphobia is the fear of leaving one’s comfort zone and entering into new uncontrollable environments. Sounds like the very essence of travel, right?
So how do I do it? How do I, with the fear of leaving my comfort zone, do so by traveling? How did I travel to Paris, France without knowing a single soul there or the language when I was nineteen years old? How was I able to board the plane to Paris without having a panic attack, knowing it was my first time in an airport or on an air plane? How did I move across the globe to Buenos Aires, Argentina without knowing anyone or the language?
How did I, a person who feels suffocated by crowds or threatened when her personal space is encroached upon, survive the over crowded trains and colectivos of Buenos Aires? How did I go bar crawling, dancing the night away in the dark Boliches surrounded by a sweaty crowd? I had Courage, faith and strength that’s how— though a few nights of inebriation helped too.
Most of all it was stubbornness. I refused to be bound by my fears— to be tethered to one part of the world for the rest of my life. I wanted to see the world and I wasn’t going to let an anxiety problem stop me.
I don’t share this personal thing about myself easily. I don’t share personal stories about myself without believing it will benefit someone in some way. If I know it won’t— I don’t share my story. After a lot of thought and hesitation, I share this because I want anyone out there— who may be suffering from the same anxiety problems as I do— to know they don’t have to be caged by it. If you dream of travel, I want you to know travel is still in your future if you let your passion set your fears and afflictions aflame. If I can do it— you certainly can!
NOTE: Photo found via. I do not own any rights.