I’m an agoraphobe. It’s funny, I think pretty much everyone knows what one of those is now. It’s become a thing that people are.
I’d describe my phobia as “moderate”. I’m not housebound (unless I really crack the shits and use it as an excuse to refuse to do things) and I often enjoy being outdoors. Some days I look through my window and am suffocated by total illogical panic, but that’s not often, and mostly on Saturdays, which makes it easier to anticipate.
These are the kinds of things you learn about yourself when you have anxiety about something.
When I was a kid, I didn’t have agoraphobia. I was claustrophobic. On one occasion, when I was about five, I was at a shopping centre with my dad and we saw a group of people trapped in a glass lift. They were all screaming. I didn’t set foot in a lift for six years. That’s the kind of fatalistic child that I was.
During that time, I read about agoraphobia in a book (like I said, a serious child). It was the strangest thing I’d ever heard of – afraid of open spaces! What a thought! How ridiculous! Open spaces are where the lifts aren’t! There is nothing to be afraid of in open spaces! It’s just air and grass and sometimes cows are there! What a gas.
Eight-year-old self, you arse.
Living in a city as congested as Melbourne has paradoxically exacerbated both my agoraphobia and my claustrophobia. Yes, hilariously you can have both of these things at once. Afraid of the outdoors? Just go inside! Oh shit! Inside is so small! Better go outside! JESUS. OUTSIDE HAS MONSTERS. That’s a little game I like to play with myself called ‘LOL Ur Brain Is Totes Fucked.’ You can play too – all you need to do is take lots of drugs and come up with reasons to hate yourself.
I moved here with my family 13 years ago, and I’ve spent all that time searching and searching for the place where I could drop my bags and take off my shoes and have a good rest (as opposed to the kind of rest that is punctuated with periods of total and complete insecurity about everything). Everywhere we live is wrong – and worse, is getting more wrong. I seem to be moving further away from where I need to be.
To that end, I’ve spent the past couple of weeks in the Mount Eliza area. For those interstaters, Mount Eliza is a village at the top of the Mornington Peninsula, about 50km south of Melbourne, bordered by cliff faces and woodland. Many refer to it as a suburb now, but Melbourne is quite vain in that way and occasionally also tries to claim Mount Gambier and Albury. Either way, I’d like to live there. Each time I visit (which lately has been every other day), I find it harder to leave.
I inspect houses like a crazy person (I also go to work like a crazy person, take my kids to school like a crazy person and wash my clothes like a crazy person). Today I stood out on a back deck and looked out over a huge garden and breathed in the sea air and nearly hugged the real estate agent because this is my place. Not the house in particular, but the place.
When I left, I called Gaz and promptly burst into tears while trying to explain to him that when you’ve felt riddled by anxiety in your own home for 10 years, finding a place that doesn’t feel like that is a big fucking deal.
I don’t know to explain it to you any better than that.