An agoraphobe’s trip to New York

Vacation.

Most people love that word. But I am not most people. Yes, I’ve gone on vacations. And once I’m at my destination, I’m usually fine. But planning for a vacation—and actually getting there? That’s pure hell for me. I’ve been this way all my life—and the modern-day hassles of air travel have not helped one bit.

I never knew I had agoraphobia until I was diagnosed with it last year. I always thought that if you had agoraphobia, that meant you never left your house. I had no idea that there were different levels of agoraphobia. Thankfully, it’s not as severe as it could be. But it’s still a pain in the ass, especially when it comes to travel. Even when I do get to my destination, I’m good for about two or three days. Then I start thinking that, surely, my apartment caught fire and I’ve lost everything, but no one’s going to tell me that because they don’t want to spoil my trip. It kind of puts a damper on any vacation fun.

But today, I’m on my way to New York City. I’m spending five days there. I love New York. I always have. I have friends there. And Broadway. Boston’s just a four-hour drive from the Big Apple, and up until two years ago, it wouldn’t be uncommon for me to go down there two or three times a year.

But that was before my latest severe bout with anxiety and depression, which were both strong enough to rouse my agoraphobia. It’s been almost two years since I’ve been to New York. That’s a big gap for me.

Planning the trip has been an interesting experience. Do I schedule as much time as possible in advance, or do I not schedule too much at all? And for whatever reason, travel-size toiletries are an issue for me. I’m always afraid that I won’t be able to get the brand I use in a mini-size. I hate that. I have a great talent for turning minor irritation into major catastrophe. I spoke to my friend Steve last night, hoping to arrange a time to get together. “Anytime Friday,” he said, but I had a problem with that. I wanted an EXACT TIME, damn it. How dare he leave that up to me!

But even with all that, there have only been a few bumps in the journey so far. I had a mini anxiety attack while packing (Do I have everything? Am I forgetting anything? Why the fuck won’t this zipper close? Why don’t I EVER remember to put a distinguishing feature on my suitcase, so that it doesn’t look like every other damn suitcase?). I calmed myself down by watching a Grace and Frankie episode on Netflix. (There’s just something about Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda. When they’re together, things are right with the world.)

I was also mostly calm leaving my apartment this morning. I only checked four times to make sure everything was turned off, and I only checked eight times to make sure my front door was locked. For me, this is an improvement. I was pretty okay arriving at the South Station bus terminal, too—save for a brief moment when I caught sight of a pink phone being charged, with no one anywhere near it. For sure, I told myself, it was a bomb. How clever these terrorists are these days—using a pretty pink phone as a death device. It didn’t help that there was a sign right above the phone that read “All unattended items will be searched – and destroyed!” Yes, I moved away from the pretty pink phone as fast as I could. But at least I didn’t turn away and head back home. A few months ago, I might well have done that.

Now, I’m on my way. My fear of crowds has also escalated in the past year and a half, so it will be interesting to see how I manage that in the City That Never Sleeps. I’m trying not to think about it too much. But boy, I made sure I had all my meds with me before I left. In fact, I made sure about that three times.

So, New York, I’m as ready as I’ll ever be for you. Gimme whatcha got!

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