When I was in grade 7, we were given a project in art class that required us to choose one word that we felt best described ourselves – we had to write it on this big poster paper and make it, well, a piece of art.
I used vibrant colours, big, graffiti-esque lettering, and I wrote “AMBITION” across the page.
From a young age I knew I wanted more than just an okay life. I was going to reach for the stars,and no one was going to stop me. I was a driven, stubborn youngster with fire in my veins. Only years later would I learn the self-discipline required to allow my ambitions to shine through. That was the secret -the follow through- and I was as determined as ever before. I would be a success!
But for all my stubbornness in deciding that “no one” would stop me, I didn’t realize that one of the biggest obstacles to step in my way would be myself. Growing up, anxiety would become a battle for me – especially through my teenage years and young adulthood.
In my early twenties, I went through a difficult period in which I didn’t even want to leave my home. I didn’t leave my 500 sq foot apartment for 3 days. My sister (who is an absolute angel) came to my rescue. Although terrified, hand in hand she would take me to the doctors that day to try and get some help.
In time I realized that what I was struggling with was Agoraphobia, which is a fear and/or avoidance of any environment deemed dangerous. For me, this has always meant anywhere outside my home. It’s an anxiety disorder and is common for those who struggle with other anxiety or panic disorders. For many like me, their home becomes their “safe place”, and one becomes afraid to leave.
Any individual person who struggles with Agoraphobia will have their own individual fears and places they avoid, and in that way it is unique. Most find it easier to leave the house with a person they trust.
For me, Agoraphobia is an indication that my anxiety has reached its peak. I have dealt with it on and off over the years – the feeling creeps in slowly and suddenly I prefer the safety of my home than the uncertainty of the outside world. I feel a sense of impending doom, feeling that something bad is definitely going to happen to me if I leave.
At the same time, I beat myself up for being unable to do something so simple: step foot outside my home.
My ambition, my drive, it pulls at me too. And it pains me to think about the opportunities I may have missed, or might miss in the future, because of this agoraphobia. I can do my best to care for myself and reduce my anxiety, but I can’t plan my life around predicting when it will strike me.
My dreams are enormous and my motivation is great, but sometimes it’s like my ambition is holding one hand and my agoraphobia is holding the other, and they are both pulling at me.
I deal with the agoraphobia the same way I deal with my anxiety – by practicing good self care and being kind to myself. If I can’t leave the house that day, I can’t. If it’s too hard to do anything but watch something mindless on Netflix, it’s okay. I keep my head up and I wait for tomorrow.
And sometimes, it’s better.
I wake up, and that day, ambition wins.