Lately I’ve been kicking some serious agoraphobic ass. (My own agoraphobic ass, that is.) I’ve done things in the last couple of weeks that I never thought I’d be able to do. I went to a mothers group where I knew nobody. I took my little girl to a shopping centre by myself. I changed my walking route to somewhere totally out of my comfort zone, an area I haven’t walked through since I was ten. I even went out at 9 AM to get Lila’s immunisations. (That may not seem like a huge deal, but for me one of my most anxious times is first thing in the morning, and going out somewhere with lots of people around when I’m still in my morning-panic-zone is just not cricket.)
Even though I’m feeling super duper proud of myself for these outings and achievements, there are still things that I completely rule out for myself because they come under the category of ‘Things I Simply Cannot Do’. I can’t go see the new movies that are out. I can’t go to fancy restaurants. I can’t go visit friends. Birthday parties? Forget about it. I just can’t do it! Why? Because I’m agoraphobic. Because I have panic disorder. Because I have anxiety. Because I’m afraid.
I saw the lovely image above on instagram by AccidentalAnxiety and it immediately hit a nerve with me. I mean…what would I do if I wasn’t afraid?
First things first – If I wasn’t afraid, I would go and see the new Jurassic World movie. I was saying to a friend the other day that out of all the things that have sucked since being agoraphobic, missing out on seeing my favourite movie remake has definitely sucked the most. This may seem like a gross exaggeration, but hey – I really, really like dinosaurs. So if I wasn’t afraid, I’d go to the cinemas. But not before making a quick supermarket trip for lollies and chips to sneak into the theatre. I mean, does anyone buy stuff from the candy bar anymore? That’ll be $45 for a small coke and three M&M’s – ah, no.
If I wasn’t afraid, I would organise a road trip. I’d load up the car with bags of crap I probably won’t need, make a totally awesome road trip playlist consisting of 5ive’s greatest hits and the best of S Club 7. I’d hop in the car really early one morning to ‘make good time’, even though within thirty minutes I’ll be stopped at McDonald’s chomping down on some hotcakes. I’d drive to the wineries, the snow, the beach…the other side of Australia. I don’t care where. I’d just drive.
If I wasn’t afraid, I’d go out to fancy restaurants with my friends. In the 3+ years I’ve been mostly housebound, some seriously bomb-ass eateries have opened up in Melbourne and I haven’t been to any of them. I’ve missed out on so much good food! Nutella doughnuts, thrice-cooked chips, everything served in jars….smashed avocado becoming a legit menu item on it’s own?! If I wasn’t afraid, I’d go on a food trip around town. I’d go to all the trending restaurants, order far too much stuff and spend the rest of the evening in that kind of delicious food coma that comes only from eating your body weight in food. (Seriously, nutella doughnuts? Jesus Christ, Marie.)
If I wasn’t afraid, I would go overseas. Save all my pennies and plan a trip to South East Asia, or Europe, or America. Get on a plane with the only worry on my mind being whether or not I’ve packed enough outfits, or who dropped that seriously bad fart on the plane. I would do all the touristy things – take photos ‘pinching’ the Eiffel tower or holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa, eat overpriced food and get ripped off from street vendors because my bartering game isn’t so strong. I would come home exhausted and probably broke as hell, but I’d already be planning my next adventure, because there’s just so much of the world to see.
If I wasn’t afraid, I would take my little girl to fun places. I would take her to the zoo to see an elephant for the first time. To the beach to get sand in all the wrong places (including your ears, three weeks later.) To the botanic gardens, to the Vic Markets, to the museum.(Incidentally, where they happen to have dinosaurs.) She might still be too young to enjoy most of those outings, but I just want her to see that there are other places out there. You know, places besides the interior of my house.
But the things I’d really want to do if I wasn’t afraid…they are the banal everyday things that people take for granted. I’d wake up and go for a walk before breakfast. I’d do the grocery shopping. I’d go to a friends place. I’d take my daughter to her check-ups instead of sending her with her dad. I’d go back to work. I’d even go to the dentist. (Okay, maybe not the dentist. Let’s not get too excited.) Having an anxiety disorder means that I’m afraid all the time, so really, the answer to the question is simple.
If I wasn’t afraid, I’d start living my life again instead of spending every minute trying to run away from it.
Since I saw that Instagram post, I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind. There is so much I’d do if I wasn’t afraid. I’m almost using it as a personal reminder of all the things I want for myself, and for my daughter. I still have huge issues with anxiety – obviously – and I might for sometime. But everyday I’m getting closer to letting go of the fear and learning to live again. I’m challenging that voice in my head, the one that says ‘hey – that’s something you can’t do, remember?’ so that eventually I won’t even think about it anymore. It’s hard work, and I have to remind myself to be grateful for small victories – like making it out of the house once a day, even if it’s just to walk down the street. But I know it will be so fucking worth it when I can begin and end my days without spending one second being afraid. And you better believe the first thing I’ll be doing will be going to see Jurassic World.
What would you do if you weren’t afraid?