Content note: this story includes discussion of addiction and suicidal ideation.
I am agoraphobic, which is to say that since childhood it has sometimes felt difficult or impossible for me to leave my home or even my bedroom. While “agora” means marketplace and “phobia” means “fear,” the reality of modern life is that I can easily order anything I need from online sites, and rarely need to visit an actual marketplace — or an actual anything — in real life.
I am not sure this is an entirely good thing.
This level of digital convenience was not the case when I was living out most of the events chronicled in my first book, a memoir called Agorafabulous!: Dispatches from my Bedroom. It mainly recounts my life from childhood through my early twenties (it was published when I was 31 — I am now 42.5). One of the chapters is called “Bowls of Pee,” because at times I was so frightened to leave my bed that I resorted to pissing in bowls rather than going into the bathroom.
In some ways, I suppose life has gotten easier for us agoraphobic types, at least those of us with any disposable income and reliable access to the Internet. Groceries? Instacart, Amazon, etc.. Over-the-counter medications, home cleaning supplies, and quick meals? Doordash, Uber Eats, Seamless, etc.
Scampers and Fido need a checkup? Many towns offer mobile vets who will come right to your home. Worried you’re sick? Zoom with your doctor, and perhaps even provide physical metrics using your Apple watch or other body monitor.
Want a shrink? Telehealth and video visits are often cheaper than seeing folks in person. I don’t even need to leave my home to attend a 12-step meeting.
The availability of these services is life-saving for those who cannot or should not leave the home or residential facility due to being immune-compromised, injured or physically ill.
Beyond that, considering the economic factors involved, a hybrid approach is likelier healthy and cost-efficient for those of us here in the United States.
But does a total reliance on these services really serve most of us with life-altering anxiety? In the short term, during a mental health crisis, absolutely. In the long term, I don’t think so.