About six years ago, the quality of my life significantly diminished. Leaving my home – my safe zone – unfailingly caused a panic attack: a feeling of suffocation, heart palpitations, palms sweating profusely, and a bleak sense of foreboding. I am a 29-year-old woman with a nine-year-old child who fears venturing into the outside world, where the sun shines and the cool breeze caresses my cheeks. I have suffered from a variety of mental illnesses – including generalised anxiety disorder and major depressive disorder since I was 13 – yet myagoraphobia has proved to be most crippling.
It developed slowly over time. I didn’t go from attending Mommy & Me classes with my newborn to becoming a self-imposed recluse overnight. There were signs warning against my downward spiral, but I was blind to them.
But looking back, I can clearly see the pattern that became agoraphobia. Around 23, I was leaving home less and less. I lacked interest in activities I once found pleasurable. Coming up with excuses to get out of family gatherings was exhausting. When I went anywhere beyond my front door, I felt uneasy. When I did leave, I repeatedly checked the time, counting down the minutes until I’d pull into my driveway and feel safe. Within six months, I had my first panic attack inside a children’s clothing boutique. After that, I continued having these attacks every single time I left home – which meant I only did so when completely necessary.
I am a 29-year-old woman who fears venturing into the outside world, where the sun shines and the cool breeze caresses my cheeks.
But I wasn’t always like that. I grew up enjoying outings to the mall with my mom and sneaking out of the house to go to parties with friends. After my daughter was born, I watched as she happily played with her peers on the playground after school. She and I treasured the evenings where we indulged in greasy garlic knots and fed seagulls down by the docks. I’d have to say my life was...