I am glad that is over. It was horrible. I made it home safe. Just breathe. Just relax. You are safe.
An agoraphobics favorite place to be is home. Anywhere else feels unsafe. But because of this, I have been spending too much time at home. Recently I bought a new bike. I thought it would be a good way for me to get out of the house and exercise in the mornings. Everything had been going well so far, but I had not ventured on my bike more than a few miles from my home. Instead, I have been riding my bike up and down, back and forth, on the same streets close to my house.
Today I have the day off. I have not been riding my bike much the past several days, due to the grief I have been feeling with regards to the lives that were lost in the Oakland warehouse fire. After I finished my morning cup of coffee and reading I gave myself a challenge. I have been hearing about various bike paths close to my home that lead to all kinds of beautiful places. There is one bike path that leads to a small lake, which is in the next town over from my home. About six miles away. I gave myself a challenge, why not ride my bike to the lake? It would be fun. Good exercise and a nice way to try and clear my mind.
I put on my North Face fleece jacket, warm yellow beanie to cover my ears and thinning hair, gloves and headed out into the great outdoors. No problem, I told myself as I got on my bicycle and headed down the street.
It was nice to be back on my bike riding on a pleasant winters day! I rode over all the dried leaves on the street and took pride in the fact that I was on a bike and not stuck in a car like everyone else.
Everything was going fine until I realized that I had exited the town that I lived in and entered a new place. The streets and homes were all foreign to me (an agoraphobic likes to stick to familiar places) and even though I was only in the next town over, I suddenly felt like I was on another planet.
Then the thoughts started to happen. Those goddamn thoughts. Who would know where to find me if something happened? How would I be able to direct someone to my location since I do not know where I am? My chest began to tighten and horrible images of something bad happening to me filled my head. I turned down a quiet suburban street with American flags, Christmas decor and camper vans in front yards hoping that the quiet which fills suburban streets would also quiet my mind. Nope. I was struggling to get air into my tight chest and suddenly all the alarms inside of me were going off. I quickly u-turned my bike and began the very long (two mile) journey back home.
Once I was pointed in the direction of my home and back on the bike path that would take me home, I contemplated getting off my bike and just walking. Go easy. You can always knock on some stranger’s door if you need help. My chest was squeezed and my thoughts were terrifying me. What if something happened at any second? I could barely breathe. I was on the verge of freaking out. Stay strong, I told myself, just keep riding. Cyclists raced past me. I cursed them under my breath as I battled this war inside that kept me moving along at a snail’s pace. Fuck this bicycle challenge, I kept thinking to myself. If I make it home safe I will never do this again.
Once I saw the sign that read: WELCOME BACK TO YOUR TOWN YOU CHICKEN SHIT AGORAPHOBIC TROUBLED MAN, I felt a slight feeling of relief. But not enough to loosen up my chest and put a hault to the frightening thoughts and shallow breathing. Just got to make it home, just got to make it home, I kept telling myself as I was riding along. And then I saw my house in the distance. I was so happy to see it that I waved at it and yelled, I’m here, I’m here! It was as if I was thinking that my house would come and pick me up. Just keep going, I told myself but my mind threw back the thought, Something terrible could still happen.
Once I gratefully arrived back at my house (about fifty-five minutes after leaving), I noticed that the gardener was there. He was blowing leaves from my front yard and I had never felt so relieved to see him. It was so nice to see him that my chest began to loosen up. I was home. He turned the blower off and said, Good for you, you went on a bike ride! So good for you! I pretended to agree with him, parked my bike in the front of the house and then entered my home like someone rushing to the toilet. Once inside I threw off my beanie, took off my North Face fleece, threw my gloves on the floor and collapsed into my reading chair. I swore out loud that I would never take that challenge ever again.