Swimming Away From The Liferaft

Swimming Away From The Liferaft

I have agoraphobia. I first noticed it in a pronounced way when I was about 14. Prior to that, I would just opt to stay home instead of going out. It got to be a pretty familiar practice. By 14, I would end up with massive anxiety fits. I took Grade 9 as home schooling and formally swapped to correspondence education in the next year. In my teens, I took to writing for a living. I worked in retail for a number of years (varying degrees of sucking). As soon as I could, I went back to working at home doing web design and programming.

Not being at home is like leaving the liferaft. Going out further is like swimming away from that liferaft. The stress, tension and fatigue of simply not being safe takes its toll. Even though treading water is realistic, exposure in the enemy. I actually feel this wave of relief when I get past the midpoint of a journey, turn for home and know that in the remaining hours I am closing in on a safe place.

Combine the above dynamic with exercise. My preferred exercise routine is walking. It’s my ideal way to lose weight, as it integrates my day-to-day life with exercise. I can get somewhere and get healthy. Try to square that away with increasing anxiety the longer and farther I walk from my safe place. There is a big impetus to not walk. I have been trying to squelch the drive to be safe in lieu of the drive to be healthy.

Why do I have agoraphobia? Safety. It took a lot of detective work, but my agoraphobia crests when my life in flux– when I am unsafe. In an ironic twist, when I get in a domestic quarrel, the best thing to do is walk out of the door and cool off. I know subconsciously that flux plus walking triggers my agoraphobia, so I don’t leave. If I’m not going to leave, I bottle my upset. I box up whatever hurt I am feeling because I cannot vent it well nor safely. If I can’t win an argument because players in my head are not on my side, I will cave on arguments that I could win. I will not champion myself because I am gambling with my safety. It’s better to be safe than right. That’s what I tell myself on some level.

The challenge I am facing is how to fight agoraphobia by wrestling the core issue: feeling safe. I felt safe for a few months in 2014. That bliss was almost a miss-able event because it was an absence of turmoil. 2015 demonstrated that outside forces can spark a lack of safety in me. The goal in 2016 is to get to the point of feeling safe. My partner once called me the bravest man she knows. Outwardly: I will agree. I can stare down hard things and get them done. Internally: there’s a big cave of fear. The fear is borne of a lack of safety. The lack of safety that came from my home life when I was a kid. I’m not a kid. I am capable to feeling myself safe. I am capable of squaring away that lack of safety with the reality that I am safer than most people. I am resourceful and I have a keen survival instinct. My survival instinct came from my long relationship with fear. It’s my driver– my vehicle. My goal is to turn the survival instinct into a tool instead of a vehicle. What will drive me if not fear and a need for safety? I don’t know. It would be great for me say, “I’m gonna be _____!” but I know that I don’t know what the next chapter looks like. That makes the liferaft of safety so hard to puncture. I may be adrift in a kiddie pool. I may be in shallow water. I may be an excellent swimmer. Losing the liferaft of agoraphobia, fear and anxiety is hard because it’s been a part of my life for so long.