Not stupid and not a bad thing at all, but . . . rash.
Okay let me start at the beginning. Those of you that read these occasionally angry outpourings will know that agoraphobia really is a terrible thing. One of the worst components of it is the mind-numbing loneliness of it. Being sat at home all day can get to be utterly crushing. I decided, however, that this year things would change. I needed to go out, meet people, do stuff. Small steps and with my partner acting, as he always does, as my safety net.
I looked for support groups and found one that looked like it might do the trick. It’s for people with agoraphobia, bipolar, social angst and so on and I thought that this would be helpful. It turned out not to be. Yes, there were people of all those types which pleased me, but as the evening drew on, it became apparent that no one really wanted to, you know . . . get better. It shocked me. It genuinely shocked me that a group of people with a common experience would descend into games of
“Well, I’m iller than you.”
“Yeah, well I take more kinds of drugs.”
Agoraphobic, any mental illness, is not a pissing contest. It’s not my raison d’etre and it’s not something I want hanging over me for the rest of my life. I live for the days when I don’t feel like a freak (not saying these people are freaks, I’m referring ONLY to myself here) and live for days when I don’t have the weight of the world and thwarted expectation on my shoulders. I live for the days where I can have a moment a moment of freedom. Sometimes that’s an unguarded moment in Yorkshire, or out on Dartmoor and yes, in Paris. I feel free in these places, but fate has conspired to keep me away from them. Them’s the breaks.
I can’t in good conscience go back to that group though, and find myself locked into an ‘iller than you’ spiral. I have agoraphobia. It’s an illness, not a lifestyle choice. I don’t want to survive, I want my life back!
So, feeling slightly downhearted, I wondered what my next move should be and here is where there may have been a tactical error.
I love games. I especially love board games and despite having a cupboard full of them, I rarely get to play them partly because of the loneliness thing and partly because a lot of them require a minimum of three players. So there’s me and my partner… and we’ll need a third. It doesn’t happen often.
We have had a few successful nights with one or two other people; a couple of others have wanted to join in but there just isn’t space at the house. So, someone suggested “Why not meet in a pub?”
It made perfect sense in terms of space and refreshment and I got quite excited about the idea. I put it off for a time – while I investigated the group I mentioned earlier – and that spurred me into taking the idea a lot more seriously. A pub, some games, a few friends. What could go wrong?
Well . . .
First and foremost, there’s the agoraphobia and social anxiety. Not insurmountable problems, but problems. My partner would be with me, so I’d get by.
Second, and more terrifying, some of the people I invited, not realising I wanted this to be kept as a small group between friends, have advertised it on Facebook. I now seem to be running a club of about forty people 75% of whom, I just don’t know.
The first meeting is on Sunday and although I’m quite excited, I’m also bloody terrified! Luckily, I have a few valium left. I can’t – and won’t – call it off but this is damned scary stuff. So much for small increments. I believe this is what psychiatrists and counsellors call “Flooding”.
My head will play the part of the Somerset Levels.
Wish me luck.