After holding back my 100lb dog, so he wouldn’t claw the houseguests trying to meet them, I was inspired to write this story/inner monologue on a snippet of time in the life of agoraphobia.
My dog, Sir Charles Barkley the yellow Labrador Retriever, is an obnoxiously strong, quite large rascal with bad manners. I love him to pieces. We got him to replace my deceased service dog, 4 years ago, when he was a little puppy with massive paws and goofy ears. He has lived either in my room or is running in circles, top speed around the swimming pool, since we moved to Texas. We are very close. Charlie, as I usually call him, is my best buddy.
My parents were hosting a cul-de-sac families wonton party, a custom in my mixed-race household that has become a tradition with people everywhere we’ve lived. It’s a hit. So naturally I am absolutely dreading tonight. However, I had an especially fabulous day and completely threw the thought about the party out of my head all day.
I let had to let the dog out. I knew this time would eventually come. I ask Charlie, “You sure you need to go out?” He cocks his head. “I know, I know.” I say as I get up to take him to the back door. I walk a couple of steps outside after I released the hound. I turn to walk inside to type something up… I don’t remember what I was supposed to type. Oh well.
Anywho. I turn and walk inside, and just as the door clicks shut, I notice the first guest came in with wine and loud and friendly sounding. We have the best cul-de-sac.
Well, I wasn’t wearing a bra, and was in a tank top and short shorts PJ bottoms, so I had to sneak in and around the corner, through the pool room, and down the hall into my room to change. I put on a bra, and a nice shirt and jeans, and mascara.
Grandma’s voice in my head always tries to convince me with, “just put on some mascara and you’ll feel so much better.” Usually, I resist the urge to obey my Grandma, but I am an expert-level procrastinator, so I carefully applied mascara. Every time the doorbell rang my heart jumped.
I go out to meet the neighbors. There’s like 10 people in the kitchen, all loud and laughing, and and as I brave the walk towards them– another 3 people arrived. What the flip was I walking in to?
So I walk up to greet the first the people in my path towards everyone else; my next-door 70-year-old hardcore Republican cowboy type, the classic Southern middle-class housewife in her 60s who greeted us when we arrived here, and a man I didn’t recognize who was in his late 50s early-60s with a peppered short beard.
Walking up with unbelievably convincing false bravado, I extended my hand and introduced myself to the neighbor I have been actively avoiding for 6 months like an asshole. Ugh, I hate being so agoraphobic and wish I could just socialize with ease. I got this. [Deep breath]
I chat with him, speaking too loudly and laughing too maniacally, and always– talking 100 miles a minute and saying entirely too much in responses to their questions. Another person comes up, and Charlie saves the day by being a jackass and jumping on the back door.
I took my ticket out of that meet-and-greet. Or so I thought.
I walk over to the back door. I try to get the asshole dog to sit so I can let him in, while he lunges at the open door, tugging at the collar that I am gripping and bracing with. Before I can get him settled my newly met neighbors have formed a semi-circle around me at the back door. Now of all times, Charlie?
The old man next door, Grady, is bending down telling him to settle with an outreached hand and calm voice. Naturally, he settled right quick. Also naturally, I begin talking too much and too fast as they gave me smiles that were most likely genuine, but being from Cali they seemed overly kind and suspiciously fake.
I over-explain why my dog cant roam the house freely because he’d hurt my 6 lb cat trying to play with her overexcited, all while keeping him from lunging at these new old people that I postponed meeting as long as possible. They finally dissipate as Lynn, Grady’s sweet wife with brain tumors and a sweet gentle heart, and I freak out inside about having unavoidable extra social interaction.
Charlie was instantly soothed by Lynn’s presence. It was a beautiful thing to watch their connection with one another. You can tell a lot about a person by the way they get along with animals.
I chat with her and over-explain myself again. By now I’m only slightly giggly and over-talkative. I manage to escape without much conversation and just a brief hello to passersby. I waited until I was through the pool room and unleashed the hound. He bolted down the hallway, his hungry stomach motivating his chance at making a break for it.
Whew. I escaped.
I’m so not going back out there for dinner.
I then ask mom to send my kids in to bring me wontons and whatever other Chinese foods dad made. I am super proud of myself. Ugh, why am I so lame? Im a grown-ass woman. [Sigh].
I can hear a young-sounding woman telling Mary that she briefly saw me walking through. I feel like I did my part as a grown woman who was charming and delightful.
Success. I adulted.
I have really awesome, friendly neighbors! How lucky are we? They are totally our kind of people. Hopefully, that’ll be the last time I see them for a while. Going back to evading encounters and giving the neighborly wave if my timing is poor. I liked them. [smile]
Thank you for reading this. As an agoraphobic, I thought maybe if someone had an agoraphobic in their life, maybe I could help you understand the irrational fear that plagues many people.
I can only imagine COVID lockdowns either enabled agoraphobics to blissfully isolate on-demand or for normies as a result of the effects of isolation. I feel for these people. It is difficult to accept rationalizations of irrational behaviors, but it’s not your/their fault you’re like this and they’re like them.
We can work on coping methods and other behavioral modifications, but it takes time. Usually, counseling is involved and even necessary once they link a trauma that triggered the agoraphobia. These changes didn’t evolve overnight and they don’t repair overnight.
Maybe you know someone who isn’t necessarily bad at being social when thrust into social scenarios, but still cancels and avoids actually going to the social event or never interested in going to stores. Someone who actively avoids seeing people they love spending time with. Someone who comes off as irrationally irrational.
It might be hard to believe, but we do exist, and it is a miserable aspect of a beautiful life that could be more wonderful if I could just be normal again. Again, thanks for reading.