Have you got the fear?

When I was 21 I thought I was fearless. I wasn’t, of course - say the word ‘spider’ to me and I’d run a mile. But, during my teens I’d done slightly odd things  like hitchhiking to Glastonbury Festival, and running away to the USA for a summer. Now I was fresh out of university, flat-sharing with friends, and having the time of my life. Sure, I wasn’t completely confident of what I wanted to do work-wise and my income depended on bar work, but who wouldn’t be happy boasting a guitarist boyfriend, a mane of waist-length, pillarbox-red hair, and their very own not-that-terrible-actually band? Not me. Life was good.

Until, very suddenly and completely without warning, it wasn’t. One morning, I was aimlessly browsing in Boots when the ground tilted sharply beneath my feet. My palms flooded with sweat and I was struck by the kind of wooziness you may have felt if, and I don’t mean to be presumptuous here, you’ve ever drunk too much cheap cider and urgently needed to be sick in a hedge.

With my stomach threatening to explosively empty itself, I scanned the shop for the closest exit. But by that point, the world was see-sawing so violently that I crashed headfirst into the mother & baby aisle and blacked out. Other shoppers looked on in horror as, when I came to, I clambered out from under a large pile of breast pumps and legged it.

I’d never experienced anything like it before, so naturally, I assumed I had somehow contracted Ebola, or that the zombie apocalypse had hit. But, after a restorative cup of tea, I felt perfectly normal again. And as I was neither bleeding from my eyeballs nor craving human flesh, I decided it was just one of Those Things.

However, the next day I went funny again in the local newsagent.

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It happened to me: I was housebound with panic disorder and agoraphobia

In any enclosed space outside my home – the train to my boyfriend’s house; the bus to my bar job - the world would pulse and warp, and a tremendous dam of nausea would build up inside me until I’d either faint, or be trapped inside a terrible vertiginous inertia.

I write about the four years I spent as a housebound agoraphobic with severe panic disorder in my early twenties - and subsequent recovery - for xoJane.

Plus I manage to crowbar in references to Whitesnake, Yoda, and shitting yourself. Hooray!