After my youngest son was born, I went through a phase where I didn't want to leave the house because I didn't want people to see me. I remember having logical conversations with myself and trying to figure out WHY I didn't want people to see me.
I told myself that I didn't have any disgusting deformities that would make people gasp and point, I did't have a speech impediment that would cause me to say foul things to people, I did't smell bad. In a nutshell, there was nothing wrong with me that would make me a sideshow if I were to buy groceries.
I went to great lengths to stay in the house for an entire fall and winter, and I did so in very devious ways. One more than one occasion, I let air out of my car tire so that I couldn't go to the grocery store, I made up grating sounds on the car that made it impossible for me to stick my babies in the car.
I was very good at never stepping out of my door, and the more days I stayed inside, the more panic I felt at the idea of going anywhere. Even to the mail box at the end of the driveway. The pinnacle of my avoidance of people was the day that the meter reader came to read the meter, and I hid in my bedroom closet.
It was in that closet that I realized my cheese wasn't even close to my cracker and I reminded myself that I had no reason to be afraid of the meter reader--I didn't have a meth lab that he would discover, my children were not being abused, there weren't stolen goods in my house.
Looking back, I have always assumed I was suffering from Post Partum Depression and that time of the crazies was done and gone. In fact, I have spent most of the last eight years very much in public, where anyone driving by could see me. I went to school, I found a job in a cubicle, I made friends, I went places, I went to the grocery store everyday!
The creepies snuck up on me this time, and it started with the telephone attached by a three foot long cord that tethered me to a computer. Talking on the phone has never been one of my things, but I did it for nine hours a day and I was pretty damn good at my job.
It started slowly, with just a jolt of panic when the calls were piled up back to back. There were days and days when I could answer the same question, offer the route excuse, sell the mandatory product. But then, one day, the jolt of panic happened with each beep of every call.
In my cubicle, with my headset and my earnest attempt to sell a product to a person who was trying to cancel their service, I was acutely aware that all of my calls were recorded and that there were people walking around with headsets listening to me at anytime--all the time.
I did talk to that panic and explain it didn't matter because I was great at my job, and they were probably recording me specifically to use as a training aid.
Then came the viral infection that landed me in bed for a couple weeks and by day ten the idea of leaving the house caused my heart to pound, my brow to sweat and my chest to heave.
And now I am Unemployee of the Month and once again I have no desire to leave my house and I make up ingenious excuse why I can not: "I am painting the basement. I am looking for a job. I am cleaning the house. I am babysitting someone's kid. I am Writing. I don't have enough gas to go anywhere."
I recognize where I am right now, even though I haven't hid in the close from the meter man. I know the panic that wiggles in when I must go somewhere.
Yesterday was my children's Parent teacher Conference, and I told them all that I couldn't go--to busy painting and writing and not enough gas and it would be just fine if I didn't go because they are all doing great.
Baby Girl insisted because she wanted the extra credit, and she cried and begged so that I shut down the panic voice and put on clean clothes and brushed my hair and reminded myself that there was nothing odious about me, the crazy was all inside and no one would notice.
When we arrived at the High School, the parking lot was packed and I suggested we just go home, since there was no place to park. Kate explained she was doing so good at school and she wanted me to hear it from her teachers, and she wanted them to see me so they would know where she got all of her good looks.
We found a spot and before getting out of the car I said, "I am currently experiencing a Social Anxiety Disorder and being around people makes me feel panicky."
"Get Over It" she replied.
Which is great advice, that I shall work on.
But between now and then, if you see me in public and I don't acknowledge you, it isn't because I am ignoring you. It is because I didn't notice you, I am concentrating on what it is that I need so that I can get back to my house.
If you can't get ahold of me on the phone--it isn't personal, I am avoiding everyone. To be honest, I have turned off my ringer because when the phone rings I get the jolt of panic and I would prefer not to feel that.
The root of this problem is obvious: I don't want to talk about how I am doing. I don't want to admit that my degree is in an envelope in my closet and I am not doing anything with it. I don't want to have a conversation about my habit of staying inside of my house until I gets dark, I don't want you to know that the job hunt is not going well because not many people are looking to hire people who would prefer to be invisible.