Getting the Agoraphobia Out In the Open

I have a touch of agoraphobia. I think. I’m not sure if that’s what it would be called exactly, but I don’t like leaving home. I also don’t like being without my car. Home and car are security blankets. My vehicles of protection. Shelter. It’s a strange feeling. I don’t like crowds of people like carnivals and malls, but I see that as being different from my agoraphobia. Away from home feels unsafe. I’m not relaxed. Everything revolves around getting finished with whatever it is that’s keeping me away from my safe place and when I’m finished I can collapse in relief. I’m home. I’m not sure what causes this feeling.

I’m not scared when I’m away. I’m just uncomfortable. To me it’s like having shoes that are too tight. I walk just fine, but it would feel so much better without them on. Or it’s like going outside a sunny day. The glare of the sun in your eyes makes everything you do a bit more difficult. That’s the best way I can describe it. I can function and most would never know that I have an issue, unless I tell them. I really like being at home.

The definition of agoraphobia is a fear of being outside or otherwise being in a situation from which one either cannot escape or from which escaping would be difficult or humiliating.  –

This is funny but true:

Physical symptoms are rare because most people with agoraphobia avoid situations that they believe will trigger panic. – 

This isn’t a topic I think about much, except it seems to be creeping in just a bit more all the time. When I was younger I had a lot of responsibilities. People to care for and obligations to keep. Now, it’s only me. I can do most of my shopping online. I pay my bills and compare prices online. The day I can work from home, I may be in trouble. This is one reason I like running. It gets me outside in the sunshine and fresh air.

I wonder if my neighbors think I’m a psychopath. I’ve lived here for over 5 years and still don’t know anyone’s name. We’ve talked. They’ve helped me dig my car out of the snow. I even almost proposed to one guy. I felt so grateful for his helping me get unstuck. I wonder what he’d have thought about that.

Just a note to all of my friends: As I get older, you may have to intervene. I don’t ask for much, but if you buy me a ticket to a Thirty Seconds To Mars concert, I will leave my house. Even in the ice and snow. Right Nicole and David?

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Guidelines and Constriction

I find it in funny that I don’t like constriction but I do like guidelines. Sometimes those two are confusing to me. Where is the line? The difference isn’t easy to see. Maybe constriction is not as forgiving. There’s no understanding of why I do something. Just do or don’t. The sense of doom of being squeezed and there’s no way out. You must be here until we release you. Freedom calls to me. I’m pounding on the door and wiggling the handle.

Let me out!

Guidelines are more give and take. Your responsibilities are listed. You know they have to be done, but there is some forgiveness. Vast emptiness with no structure, makes it hard for me to know where I stand. A blank open room. A face with no emotion. I find it difficult to talk to people on the phone because there’s no facial expressions. Did they understand me?

We are more comfortable if a room has some type of identifying items. A bed and a dresser lets you know this is a sleeping area. The sink and the toilet tells you to clean up. Those are guidelines. You could sleep in the bathtub. You could also eat breakfast in bed or a midnight snack. It’s just a guideline.

Why and when do guidelines become constriction? If you were ever grounded to your bedroom as a child, you’ll be able to think of one instance. Suddenly, the very room you loved so much seems like a prison. It doesn’t matter if there’s a television and a computer, the very fact that you can’t leave that room makes it unbearable. As an adult all I want sometimes is to be told to go to my room. Please, let me sleep. I know also that if I became sick all I would want is get well and go back to work. I’m such a fickle person!

Do I have a purpose for my life? Are there guidelines? Rules or constrictions? How much is too much is up to me. Only I can decide how many rules make me uncomfortable.

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Can I Learn to One-Two Punch?

54190-todayquoteimagetoliveby1past I didn’t punch. Not because I wasn’t angry, but I always thought of retaliation as unbearable. Maybe I haven’t changed much. The only thing that I know has changed is if you punch me, I will punch back.

I’m probably not ever going to be an aggressive person. It just doesn’t suit me. There are times though when the fight wells up in me. It takes a lot of practice to get a naturally restrained person to go outside of their boundaries. To speak up when angry. To protest when offended. To say NO when someone pushes their buttons.

I do wonder, if you are trained to be assertive or non-assertive, can you retrain yourself to be the opposite? What happens when military foot soldiers come back into society? When someone that must be aggressive on a daily basis needs to pick up the toddler from daycare? Just a curiosity on my part. Hardly a science experiment, but I wonder if it’s as difficult as teaching a compliant personality, like myself, to push her boundaries.

My first tendency may always be to pull my punches. I run into a conflict, so I stop. Well, maybe I’ll wait. Another day would be better. I’ve even thought to myself, maybe it’s just not in the plan. What plan? Whose plan? I have to remind myself that I’m the one in charge of my life. My plan. I must stand back up, dust myself off, and climb back into the saddle. I’ll try again.

To take a snippet from Seth Godin,

Where, precisely, do you go in order to get permission to make a dent in the universe?

The accepted state is to be a cog. The preferred career is to follow the well-worn path, to read the instructions, to do what we’re told. It’s safer that way. Less responsibility. More people to blame.

When someone comes along and says, “not me, I’m going down a different path,” we flinch.

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Sticks, Stones, and Ugly Words

blackwhite heartBeauty is in the eye of the beholder and so is ugly. I once had an ex who told me he couldn’t give me a compliment because I wouldn’t let him criticize me. Ridiculous. I had a different ex that called me a fat N*gger. Seriously. Now, regarding the first, if I stand outside and enjoy the sunshine, it doesn’t mean I have to stand out in the cold freezing rain also. That argument’s illogical and stupid. As for the second insult, I was 120 pounds at that time and I’m the whitest blue-eyed blonde girl that I know.

Insults are jabs that come straight from the person that sent them, having nothing to do with you or me. They say that we can only see the qualities that we have in ourselves. If that’s true, then withholding a compliment seems like punishment to one person, but an ugly name is punishment to another. While both of those stung a bit, I must admit, they didn’t hold the pain or suffering either of those men intended.

Theres a song that’s been going around in my head all week long. Here are the lyrics.

Mamma told me not to waste my life
She said spread your wings my little butterfly
Don’t let what they say keep you up at night
And they can’t detain you
Coz wings are made to fly
And we don’t let nobody bring us down
No matter what you say it won’t hurt me
Don’t matter if I fall from the sky
These wings are made to fly- Little Mix

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So Sensitive

How sensitive is your alarm? Too touchy? Or do you barely notice when someone disturbs your peace? Do you hear your friend sigh and wonder if you’re boring him? I have problems keeping my personal alarm calibrated. It’s got an electrical short I think. Let me explain.

Sometimes when I’m with someone else, someone I care about, I interpret their facial expressions. Shall I say misinterpret? Psychologists call this mind reading if it’s done in the extreme. I’m always trying to forecast if it’s the best day for an activity, because somehow I should know. I also try to predict how someone will feel before I’ve even asked them a question.

Over-prepared. Excessive. Like gluing and taping the envelope closed. overcompensation is what the true issue is. I feel vulnerable and incapable, so to make up for my insecurities, I overcompensate. Good girl scouts are prepared, right? I don’t like to look unprepared. Incapable. So I come prepared. I’ve read about every possible scenario and kick myself if I missed one. MapQuest, GPS, Google map or whatever it takes to confirm the correct directions.

What happens if I didn’t prepare? What if I allowed myself to run out of milk? Would the world stop? I’m learning to sit with that. Because my alarm system is set on a hair-trigger, I interpret every frown, sigh, or eye roll as displeasure. Another person’s displeasure is the enemy of my well-being.

Things I’ve learned:

  • Speak up when something isn’t right. Too warm or too cold? If you have a group then negotiate your needs. Don’t just let your needs slide for the sake of civility. Giving up your rights, sacrificing your needs does not make a peaceful environment. Letting your opinion be heard and negotiating a beneficial compromise.
  • Don’t turn your alarm off for the sake of peace. That’s not true peace, that’s a vacuum. Something or someone will fill that empty space. You are not the only one with those needs. There are probably one or two others who are thinking the same thing, but are too afraid to speak up. Awareness is the object. Letting someone else know they’ve crossed your boundary.
  • The opposite is also true. Extremely overbearing, no one’s going to stand in my way attitudes are as hindering in life as being to nice. Just because we can’t change the thermostat all the way down to 68°F when you are having a hot flash, doesn’t mean your needs aren’t important. Maybe we can handle it a different way.

Who Is Real?

At first I thought you had two faces. but now I see one face is real and the other is just a lie. Do you believe that lie?

There was a time in my life that if someone told me their aspirations or beliefs, I didn’t look any farther. That was the person, the one they described to me. Now that I’ve had more experience in life, I realize the person screaming obscenities behind the smiling face is the true person.

I believe it was Maya Angelo that said, When someone shows you who they are, believe them. It’s a matter of training, or in my case, retraining my senses. At first it seems awkward. I see the two faces and I hear the voice speak that tells me they are kind and gentle and that I should believe them, and then there’s the punch in the face. Wow, where did that come from? Business leaders will promote new ideas. They’re for progress, the new style of management. Their employees are their greatest asset, they say. The want to allow their employees opportunity to grow. Then slowly, moment by moment, they take your privileges away. You’re called on the carpet for petty things. They look at you suspiciously and monitor your phones. Which to believe? Was it only the flavor of the month?

A spouse says they love you. They want to spend more time with you and can’t stand to be away from you. But they work late most nights and when they’re not working, they hole up in their office reading financial reports or playing video games. Hmmm, something isn’t syncing.

I think I’ve mentioned in the past that I tend to be a bit naive, trusting, accepting. I’m also a fairly adaptable person so I take on too much. I step up too tall and I stay too long. Which is fine if I’m with my friends. They know me and I know them. I feel free to say Not today or I’m not feeling well. And we all understand each other and allow the other person to bow out gracefully.

My problem isn’t that I didn’t see the actions or even know the person was lying. My problem is that I wanted it to be true. My emotions were involved. I cared. And that’s where my conundrum is. Do I not care anymore? I have no wish to become an ice queen. Caring is human. I have learned to isolate my caring to smaller and more trusted groups. I’ve learned to detach from caring if  I realize I’ve over invested.  With age comes experience and that grows into wisdom.

I no longer believe your lie.

Factions and Boring Routines

Factions are natural. I’ve fought them all of my life and now I realize it’s like fighting the need to eat. Cells divide. Children grow up and leave home and develop their own families. Students leave the school and start their business. We break off into our own small groups as natural as we breathe air every day.

It takes a village. A small one is best. To grow and be strong we need exposure to variety. But constant variety is too stressful. We need some redundancy. If some type of normal isn’t established we can’t develop patterns and patterns are our foundation for growth. If I don’t take the I-44 highway to work everyday, I don’t know how long it will take to go to work. If I don’t have some way to calculate the time I need to leave for work, how do I know what time to wake up?  My routine is the same every work day. The alarm goes off. I hit snooze. It rings again and I get up and make my coffee and grab my lunch for later that day. I shower, dry my hair, apply my make up, and get dressed. It takes the same amount of time everyday. My morning routine allows me the time to sleep in just a bit longer. Redundancy.

It’s natural, all the cycles of growth, destruction, division. Nothing is meant for permanence. How often I forget that. Life changes and grows much like the kaleidoscope we played with as kids. I remember thinking as a kid how pretty they were. I’d pick one that was my favorite then it would change and the new one would be my favorite. They were all pretty. I couldn’t pick one. And sometimes that is painful. If you couldn’t choose one job or one house or even one spouse, you’d always be darting around like a mad person. You’d never develop a lasting relationship. Life would be shallow.

As much as redundancy gives me freedom to grow, I also know that change is the nature of the game. Nothing stays the same forever, not even death, but that’s a subject for another post.

Nature doesn’t recognize good and evil, Philip. Nature only recognizes balance and imbalance.  Walternate, Fringe

Considerate Towards Myself

A dog after a swim, stops only long enough to shake off the water. For his comfort. He doesn’t worry about the water, if it made a mess on the ground or if his splashing will disrupt others. He shakes it off and runs on further. He has places to go.

Sometimes I hold on to responsibilities for too long. Obligations and commitments that no longer are helpful to anyone. But I said I would do that. They need me. I’ve always helped with that charity. It’s like the invisible chains that psychologists talk about. I don’t wish to be inconsiderate, but sometimes I delay my own needs for too long. I delay because I don’t want to inconvenience others. I’m considerate.

Only I can decide how helpful I wish to be. And even why I’m doing some of these things. I have to shake them off. Sometimes I’ve found I wasn’t as helpful as I thought I was. Left alone, that person could have done it themselves. I have to make my decisions based on my needs also.

I’m doing this for me. Those around me are going to scream and cry and throw a tantrum. They might accuse me of being selfish. Of not caring. Because I’m rocking their world. It doesn’t mean I’m selfish or inconsiderate. It’s just their words trying to hurt me. It’s done out of fear on their part and it isn’t an objective critique.

considerate (kənˈsɪdərɪt)
— adj
1. thoughtful towards other people; kind
2. rare carefully thought out; considered

Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition

Limitations, Boundaries, and those cute Picket Fences

mskittyshoulderSometimes when I’m in the bathroom my cat will sit on the floor and stare at me. It’s annoying. You may ask why I don’t lock her out. I feel guilty. She is home alone all day so I feel I shouldn’t limit my time with her. So I resent her stare.

Games we play

This is the game we play and you may recognize it. She stares and I feel guilty. I pet her and allow her to rub around my legs, until. There’s only so much I can take with all that attention. We both mean well.

The funny thing about it is, when I am with her overextended vacations, she still meows when she doesn’t see me in the room with her. If I step outside to take out the trash or go run an errand, it’s no different. She still wants the same amount of attention as she did when I’m only home for a few hours. So in my great reasoning, I don’t think it’s because she misses me.
I read somewhere that a cat’s memory is only a few minutes. She doesn’t know how long I’ve been gone.

This guilt I feel is just empty guilt. I am projecting how I would feel in her shoes (paws).  So why am I feeling so miserable? What do I really want? I like it when we snuggle up on the couch together. I like it when she greets me in the morning. Even when I come home. The time when I’m in the bathroom and she’s staring at me is my fault. I let it happen. If I really want to be alone at that time I need to close the door. A simple thing really.

picket fence
picket fence (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How often do we do this? We yell at people unnecessarily instead of metaphorically and physically closing the door. Have you ever told someone “Yes, I’ll do that for you,” when really you feel like vomiting at the thought of doing it? We go along with things when we have other plans. We say yes to their idea even when we disagree. It’s not necessary. We think we’re being kind. All we’re really doing is building up a reason to hate someone who we would normally love. That’s what resentment does. It builds a wall of hate. Get enough resentment built up and what happens? We yell. We scream. We blame. We walk away in anger. Is this what we want? Is it inevitable?

Kids need boundaries
In the study with a group of children on a playground, the children without a fence around them did not play close to the edge but clustered towards the center. The children that were in a fenced area used the entire playground to play. So it would seem that if you place boundaries in your life and those around you, you are actually giving yourself freedom. Ironic isn’t it? I know in my life, I feel freer creatively, if no one is around to disturb me and there are no other pending appointments. When I know my creative time is short I feel pressure, which goes against every creative bone in my body.

Right here and now

I have the right to close my bathroom door so that I’m not stared at by my cat. I have the right to not answer my phone if I’m needing to work. I feel so much freer knowing that I can put a fence around my time and declare that this is my time. I can put up a fence and stick my flag in the ground. This is my time! Right here and now. Kings do it, presidents do it, astronauts do it in the name of their country, and so can you. If it helps, you can make yourself a flag and put it in the middle of your room or outside your closed door. Name your kingdom. Just remember, you are the enforcer. Even if your best friend calls or your mother, you have to let them know that you will have to call them later.

If this has not been a part of your life before, people may not honor your boundary. But if you continually tell them, eventually they will learn to respect your fence. With cats, children, spouses, or parents, it’s no different. They learn what we teach them. If we teach them that it’s okay to call us names and hurt our feelings (by allowing it), then that is what we will get. Some people in your life will need retraining. But that’s okay. Think of it as an experiment. Who is the easiest to teach? How long did it take? How did they react in comparison to a different person? Be firm, but not rude. repeat the same line 30 or 40 times if necessary. “I can’t talk now. I’ll call you at 5:00.”  Don’t explain. Don’t vary. I’ve used this technique several times and it’s like magic, but you have to state it firmly and without emotion.

What works for you? Leave a comment.