Had my monthly med check-in with my psychiatrist yesterday. It's always a good time. We were talking about some med changes. Some drugs have multiple uses, so he may say something about a drug being an anti-psychotic or mood stabilizer. It's great to hear "psychotic" when you talk to your shrink. So, out of curiosity (and paranoia) I asked him what, exactly, are the labels he has assigned me. He responded with a nice list of panic attacks with agoraphobia; chronic depression; and, OCD. Impressive, I know, and a relief that the whole psychotic thing wasn't going on there.
When I heard "agoraphobia," I was thinking, "Um, what? I leave my house." It turns out that people keep using that word and it doesn't mean what they think it means. It is actually defined by the National Library of Medicine as, "Panic disorder with agoraphobia is an anxiety disorder in which a person has attacks of intense fear and anxiety. There is also a fear of being in places where it is hard to escape, or where help might not be available." Now that makes more sense to me.
Looking at my life from the point-of-view of this definition explains many things. As a little kid, I hated having to go in elevators and was more than okay with climbing the seven flights of stairs to my Grandma's apartment. I'm still not a huge fan of elevators, but I can suffer through it, especially if Shawn or other friends or family are with me.
Crowds are another issue for me. The idea of not being able to get through to an open area easily stresses me out. Also, getting separated from those I am with adds another component to the crowd anxiety. I get anxious just thinking about a concert I went and grabbing on to my step-daughter's shirt to make our way through. It was as much for my security as for hers.
The one thing that REALLY struck me when reading this definition is when it comes to seating at certain places, like movie theaters, reception halls, and restaurants. As for the restaurant part, it is mostly places without a windows or the windows are not really open for seeing outside. So, as a little kid, when I would feel like I was going to throw-up, it was probably an anxiety attack about this.
I can remember a time when I was older, not a little kid, when I thought I would have a panic attack. I was with my parents, my aunt and uncle, and one of my cousins. It was a bar & grille type of place. I'm pretty sure an Entertainment Book coupon was involved because it wasn't a place we had ever been. Also, my uncle must have been there because I distinctly remember 1,000 Island Dressing being ordered and the place didn't have it. Anyway, I distinctly remember getting to the table and the internal struggle over the seating options left to me. For a variety of reasons, I didn't request a change, one of which was embarrassment at admitting my panic, knowing there was a level of irrationality to needing an exit strategy for a meal at a restaurant.
These are my issues (well, some of them), these are a part of me. I need to be mindful of access to my meds to get through these moments. I still survey places for exit strategies. I'm not comfortable with the inside seat of a booth, or the chair next to the wall at a table. I can handle those seats if I have to. It is easier if Shawn is the one next to me. Along with my meds, he is my comfort, my sense of safety, and my calm.