Leaving The House Can Be Terrifying When You Have a Mental Illness

Today, I have plans with family I love who live about an hour away. I’ve been looking forward to seeing them ever since I made the plans.

Now the day is here and I’m dizzy, taking short breaths and I have to keep reminding myself not to grind my teeth.

My brain doesn’t let me access the positive emotions I’ve experienced in the past while visiting this part of my family. That’s a horrible part of my own personal mental illness circus.

Why am I so anxious? Is it the thought of seeing them? Nope. Is it the car trip? Yes, somewhat. Is it the thought of being away from my home, my nest, for hours at a a time? Yes it is.

Leaving the house is one of the hardest things in the world for me. It doesn’t matter how much I know I’ll love time with family or friends, it doesn’t matter that I love my car, it doesn’t matter that my fiancé will be with me the whole time. I am very anxious.

What does it feel like? Imagine standing at the edge of a very high cliff and leaning as far forward as you can until you’re on your toes. Unless you’re a lover of high places, you can imagine this would conjure feelings of sheer panic, terror and a sickness in your stomach.

That’s what it’s like to have a serious mental illness where part of it is social phobia, anxiety and a panic disorder.

I’ll put on make-up, a nice dress, get in my car and we’ll be there in no time. I’ll enjoy catching up with everyone, I’m almost sure. Later, on our way home, I’ll berate my stupid self for being anxious about the visit. I’ll beat up on myself and tell myself that next time I’ll be better. Next time I’ll be fine.

That’s part of the circus, the pretending that it’s all a choice.

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