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On Becoming An Agoraphobe In The Pandemic Age

I left the apartment today to run by the bank and then drop off an order. It was drizzling when I walked to the car, but by the time I got to the bank one block away, it was pouring. I actually enjoy rainy weather, as long as I'm curled up on my couch with the dog, wearing my favorite cardigan and grasping a cup of coffee lovingly with both hands. Driving in it? Not so much. As I made my way from the bank to my next destination, the rain was intermittent but the clouds were always threatening. I wasn't going far, but as I was driving I felt myself becoming more anxious and my mood slipping into a darker and darker place. I still had several more stops I needed to make, but I couldn't get home fast enough. I made one quick stop by the store on the way home and put off the other stuff til tomorrow, when I will dread the tasks even more knowing that I could have and should have gotten it done today.

I wish I could blame it on the weather, but this could have just as easily happened on a bright, sunny day, a cool late summer evening, or a biting cold winter night. It happens on a regular basis, especially since COVID (I mean, what part of our lives hasn't COVID affected?)


I hesitate to share this, because I know at least one of my children will read this, but when my marriage was close to ending, I sub-consciously stayed away from home as much as I could, either doing plays, going out with friends, working overtime, whatever I could come up with. It wasn't that I didn't want to be with my children, but things were strained with my husband, we didn't communicate, and the discontent that had taken over our family was evidenced by a house that was filthy, floors ruined by two Shih-Tzus that deserved a much better life than we gave them, and cluttered with my husband's work stuff (and play stuff, and clothes, and trinkets from his time at UNC Law - well, basically the stuff of a hoarder). I would come home at 7 in the morning after working a 12 hr shift in the ICU to find total destruction in my kitchen sink and in the den. If they were preschool or elementary school age, I would be pissed but understand it to a degree. But they were middle school/high school age, and as I viewed the scene I actually began recording the horror for all of Facebook to see.

When I left the marriage and eventually ended up here at Oleander Court, in these WWII era apartments that I just love, and was able to fill them with things that represent the person that I have become now, it is now my happy place and I NEVER want to leave.

Unlike most people, however, I mean this very literally. I do not like to leave my apartment. For anything! During the worst of COVID, when I was working at Trinity, I would go do my three twelve hour shifts then not leave my house for the entirety of my time off, whether it was one day or four. I was comfy, I was happy and content, and I had no desire to go anywhere. I started ordering my groceries and having them delivered, at first out of necessity, but now because it means I don't have to leave the comfort of my own home. I don't even have to deal with people!

You see, for us homebodies, the lockdown wasn't so much a mandate as it was permission to finally stay at home in our pajamas and not have to deal with the outside world. We were in Heaven! Well, except for that pesky virus that had us in constant fear of infection, the riots that were escalating in almost every city in the country, and that big ole mess in Washington minimalizing the whole thing.

Now that the pandemic is (mostly) under control and half the country has been vaccinated, we are again being invited places. Places that require decent clothes and makeup. I don't know about you, but I can't fit into any of my decent clothes right now. The back injury certainly didn't help, but that was only a few months ago, so for the rest of the last year and a half it's just been the stress eating and lack of activity when I'm home.

My apartment is filled with all of the things that make my life complete, with the exception of my children and my grandchild. So why would I want to go anywhere? I have everything I need.

There were two things that I have recently noticed that have me worried. 1) I can't even seem to work up the motivation to leave the house to go visit my granddaughter, who may be moving 13 hours away in just a few weeks. If she isn't enough to get me out of the house, then I'm a lost cause! 2) I've started noticing a sense of detachment when I leave my bubble to do even the smallest thing. Going to the store, the bank, getting gas. I look around me and it feels like I am looking through someone else's eyes. Like it is not my reality, it's someone else's. It is a weird and NOT pleasant feeling. It's unnerving. Even if I am somewhere having a great time, in the back of my mind I am thinking about when I can get back home and into my pajamas, then lock the world out.

It's just like my makeup that has been sitting in my bathroom practically untouched for a year and a half. It sat there collecting dust while I went to work with an N95 mask, goggles, and gowns. It was too hot to wear makeup! I think my mind has become cloaked in dust as well, and I need to figure out how to get in there and shake the dust off so that I start to feel more like me again. I'm just not sure how to do it. I am open to suggestions!

Embarking on a new venture has certainly helped. It is forcing my mind to work in a different mode than just clinical. Now I'm thinking about the orders that need to be fulfilled, what I need to buy from the store, and when it's going to be picked up or delivered. My mind is now filled with thoughts and ideas for things that I can do to promote my business, different dishes I can work on, and I've already designed my business card and labels. My left brain is getting more use than it has in my almost 54 years. I do think that has been a step in the right direction.

Here's the thing. What it boils down to is that I am ok with watching the world go by outside my window while I stick with what I know here in this one bedroom apartment. Want to bring me dinner? Cool! I'll be very social (unfortunately, so will the dog). Want me to get dressed and come out to meet for dinner or cocktails at someone's swanky house? Ehhhhhhh, not so much. While I would love to see those people, my body and mind aren't ready for it. I'm going to get anxious in anticipation of the event, I'm going to be fine during the event, but as soon as a respectable amount of time has past, I'm going to be making my way toward the exit as subtly but as quickly as possible. Then I am going to get in my car and drive home while my anxiety slowly slips away and I begin looking forward to what I'm going to entertain myself with when I get home, which is usually South Park or Family Guy.

Has anyone else experienced this odd sensation (or at least willing to admit it)? I would love to hear from you. We are in this together, so we are going to have to help pull each other out from the rubble.

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