Having done so well with my outing to the Dragon Parade, I decided I would wait until later in the day to go to Publix, to mix it up. I can do this. I was around a swarm of people two days ago, I can do this. I can conquer this madness that has kept me from the world for so long. So, off to Publix we go.
Picture it. Middle of the day. Designated “lunch time.” Tons of people in cars. Phillip came with me. And just there, at the corner of Colonial and Shine, my agoraphobia kicked in. I saw anarchy, people driving wildly, pedestrians nearly hit as they tried to cross the street, people on phones who don’t care anything at all about anyone other than themselves, etc, etc, etc.
I grabbed my husband’s hand and said, “Oh, I don’t think I can do this.”
“Ok,” he said, “well, we’re out of coffee and we’re nearly there, so we’ll hurry up, get in, and get you back home.”
And it was a mad dash through Publix. Phillip noticed my anxiety pushing ahead and winning. You can see it on my face, you can see it in my walk. He just put his hand on my back as we stood in line… and people are taking forever to pay for their things, that damned chip card is slowing everything down, they’re not ready to pay because they’re on their phones, this woman behind me is coughing and spreading germs, I have GOT TO GET HOME…etc, etc, etc.
My turn to pay. Now, this is a cashier I have known for nearly a decade. She’s discussing something scandalous with the bagger, something tawdry and despicable. She sees me and says, “Hey, you! How you doin’ today? I see you brought your husband! I only ever see you with your mother or your husband. They don’t make people like that anymore.”
“What’s going on?” Referring to the deliciously bit of conversation I over heard.
“Oh, we were just talking about the latest episode of ‘General Hospital.’ I’m all caught up now.” She then proceeded to tell me all of the dirt that was happening with the Quartermaines.
Out of nowhere I asked, “Well, what about Luke and Laura?”
“Girl, don’t get me started. Luke is going back to his REAL wife.”
“I KNOW!!!! Here you go, baby. I’ll see you next time. Have a good day. And be sure to bring back this handsome man of yours whenever you can!”
As we leave the store, I catch Phillip laughing.
“What’s so funny?”
“Why, what did I do?”
“Your agoraphobia went into total remission the moment you connected with her. You had your hands on your hips, your eyes were bright and alive, your posture was perfect. That’s it, I think. That’s the secret to this. You need to CONNECT with people rather than fear them. Because when you connect, you are full of light.”
And he is so right. But, I need support, you know? I need to get in touch, learn from others who have dealt with this, figure out their methods for moving on, getting out.
So I joined an agoraphobic support group.
No one there wanted help. No one there was ENCOURAGING anyone to get help. They’d all applaud each other for being victims of a mental health problem. There was no DISCUSSION. Just sharing of fear. And applause for being so brave to speak about it.
I couldn’t take it. You know, I WANT to get to the root of this problem, I WANT to move on with my life. It has been nearly 5 years of my locked away in an apartment with only 20 minutes a day of sunlight. I WANT to be free. Did you hear me? Clearly? DID you? I….WANT…..to…..be….free!
My turn. “I went to the Dragon Parade on Sunday. It was a big step. But, nothing bad happened. And I have to say I enjoyed myself enough that I want to venture out more.”
NO reaction. It was like I had made a cardinal sin. “Thou shalt not BETTER thyself.”
I left. This was no support group. Ok, I retract that. IT IS a support group. They support each other for being victims, because if you’re not a victim, then there isn’t anything interesting or special about you.
I want to be interesting or special for the things I’ve accomplished, not for the things I’m afflicted with.
I was looking through the pictures I took from the Dragon Parade. I really LOVED that little spot, that little house with all of it’s great energy. The Community Center. And it dawned on me that we’re drawn to places like that because they promote (in their own unique ways) bettering yourself with peace. Don’t be so hard on yourself. And there, in the photo, I noticed something on the sign I had not seen before. “LOVE YOURSELF.” It was faded, and only hinted at the bottom of the sign, but I saw it.
Oh, God yes.
I can be so hard on myself. Why aren’t you doing better? Why aren’t you selling more? WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM, GREGORY???? Why aren’t you the most famous male knitter on the planet? Why aren’t your books best sellers??? Why aren’t you at Honeychurch??? All pie in the sky, you fool. You’re cash poor and flat ass broke, you won’t amount to anything, because you’re a LOSER!
etc, etc, etc….
You know, maybe there is a really delightful paradox here. In order for me to venture out more, I’m going to need to go deeper inside to figure out why I don’t love myself as much as I should.
Maybe THAT is the funny irony about my agoraphobia. I won’t be able to go out until I go “inside” to find out where the pain is coming from.
Why don’t you love yourself, Gregory? What happened???? How did this all start???
The Universe loves to shove obvious things in your face all the time, but somehow we don’t see them. Brilliant clues to your own self discovery and bliss don’t come in the form of burning bushes. They come from quiet little signs on the side of the road, etched and faded, hinted in the corner.
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