Stigma Fighters: Aleccia Lin Shaffer

Just Another Day: A Look At Life Inside
By: Aleccia Lin Shaffer

Everything can be summarized with a proper song. Everything. In my living room this morning, earbuds in, dancing like it was the 80’s (and no one was looking) to my “Chill Out” song, I realized exactly what I wanted to tell my fellow Stigma Fighters about. Listening to Oingo Boingo’s “Just Another Day”, I found my words…or rather…I borrowed some words from the much beloved Danny Elfman. So let me explain to you life inside. The life of an agoraphobic…

“I feel it all around, I feel it in my bones
My Life is on the line when I’m away from home.
When I step out the door, the jungle is alive.
I do not trust my ears, I don’t believe my eyes.”

I peek out my window and wish. Wish I was brave, and that people by their nature were better. That I could trust them to treat me the way that I would treat them. I can’t. So I live in constant fear of others. I’ve been a victim of bullying, abuse, sexual assault and self hate. Leaving home on my own, I am on immediate alert. My heart races. I expect to be a victim again. I wonder if someone will judge me and say something horrible. I wonder if someone will choose me to hurt or steal from because I already look weak and afraid. I worry that my weakness will have my children targeted. Because of all of this, I struggle to leave my home without the comfort of someone I trust…and because of the nature of the beast raging in my anxiety-riddled mind, that is a very short list of people.

“I will not fall in love–I cannot risk the bet.
‘Cause hearts are fragile toys—So easy to forget.”

Making new friends can sometimes feel impossible. I’ve had so few real friends

in life that I expect everyone to be the same. My default factory setting now is set so that I am already bracing myself for the knife to the back. Some days I feel like I deserve that. I’ve made mistakes. I’ve been a shitty friend a few times myself…and yet when I look on at people having coffee together casually, I wish with all my heart I could have that. I miss the old me sometimes that would greet the day as a new adventure. I’m often regarded as a crazy shut in. I don’t mean to or WANT to be this way. I’m often so tired of the same four walls that I could rip out my hair…but it’s safe here. There are locks on the doors to keep people out. I don’t have to let in anyone that I don’t want to. It’s so much easier to hide.

“There’s a smile on my face for everyone.”

I go out anyways. I do, promise. I try. I have to, because giving up is the worst possible thing. I plaster on a nervous smile that is likely something similar to what a child might have when they’ve just done something really bad and their mother hasn’t discovered it yet. Keep smiling. No one will know. I make small talk. Very awkward small talk. A chat about the snow would leave me feeling sick to my stomach and my hands shaking…but I feel proud of me when I try. When I get through it. Most people don’t know what it’s like to have to fight against their own nature so constantly.

“It’s a lonely place…that’s always cold.”
The agoraphobic mind is crowded and lonely at the same time. Each fear is alive with its own voice, and they all chime in with their two cents the minute the front door opens. Even on my good days, my own thoughts make me feel very isolated. Even in a room full of people I feel alone, because I feel rejected before they’ve even said hello. So I beg you, reader, if you meet someone in some setting who admits to this condition…don’t inwardly chuckle and picture some adult hiding under their bed, afraid of sunlight and plant life that might be lurking out their front door. It’s exactly those thoughts, those judgements and preconceptions we hide from. We are people, and we DESERVE to be be treated with kindness and respect. We are vulnerable, and scarred…and you know what? That’s ok. Hell, that’s good in a way. Nothing humbles you and makes you a more sincere and loving human being than having someone see the way you tick and not flinch at it.

“And just when I think that things are in their place…
The heavens are secure—The whole thing explodes in my face”

Stubbornness is among my many character traits. Sometimes this is an awesome gem in my possession…other times it’s a grenade I failed to toss. I’ll shrug off my worries. Smother them deep down and put them in a bottle. I’ll do something CRAZY! I’ll get dressed, walk my happy ass out that door alone, go somewhere public….get smack in the middle of whatever it was….then the lid pops off that bottle and reality sets in with an extra dose of anxiety. The panic attacks can be so overwhelming that you literally want to run screaming to your car. I’ve hidden in a bathroom to compose myself so that I could walk to my car like a rational human being before…all because I wanted to go by myself to buy a video game. When I get home I will kick myself for days over this sort of thing, swearing off society once again as it’s CLEARLY not the place for me…
After the shame wears off though I am proud of myself for giving it a go. Truly, I am. I need to, because if I never try, I’ll never succeed.

“It’s just another day…”

I have to remember this. Some people are good. Some of them suck, big time…but I am a decent person. I’m a damn good friend, and a loyal one to those I do keep close. It’s just another day, and I’m going to be this beautiful mess that I am. I am WORTH knowing, mental illness or not!

Agoraphobia is an illness, a pain, that is often laughed at or mocked and made into something it isn’t. We aren’t afraid of the world. We are afraid of you…so be kind, and give us reason not to be. The stigma surrounding us has to stop. The stigma surrounding all mental illnesses needs to stop.

As for me and my progress? I’ve reached out and made a few new friends lately…I’m writing again…I’ve made actual phone calls that had nothing to do with bills or doctors appointments, and may even have coffee with a friend in the future. I’ll never give up on me…because I have learned the hard way that sometimes we are the only ones available to pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off. I won’t give up on you either fellow Stigma Fighters…because together I know we can change how we are viewed. We are a wonderfully diverse and beautifully dysfunctional tribe of people, and we’re going to walk this path together, and come out better for it.

Thank you for hearing my voice, which I am often afraid to use. Thank you for sharing, or supporting, and thank you for making me feel at home someplace besides..well…my home. 🙂

Aleccia Lin Shaffer

Aleccia is a 27 year old mother of 3 home-schooled children, wife, bass guitarist and self proclaimed “Cat Lady”. While she has only ever published a few poems to date, she hopes to publish larger works in the future.