Meaning: Fear of going outside and being in public places or of being in a situation from which it might be difficult to escape or in which help might not be available.
Agoraphobia is derived from the Greek word ‘Agora’ – Agora were central public spaces found in the city-states of Ancient Greece.
The Athenian Agora, in particular, lies beneath the northern slope of the famous and still standing today Acropolis. It is there that Athenians of Ancient Greece assembled to discuss business and affairs of the state by democratic thinking individuals of all ages and class. It was also a melting pot for the arts in all its forms from acting, singing and listening to the notable philosophers of the day. It truly was a place to hang out for everyone.
Sounds right up my street! Meeting friends, listening to the coolest new sounds, talking freely in the open about life, love, why some relationships turn sour and how other couples seem to have the whole work-life, love-life and having a life balance completely down! I can even see a dancefloor at the very core of this welcoming scene inviting everyone to express their souls through dance and movement whilst being enveloped by the whisperings of mythology and great meaning.
Normally, I would be totally down for going out, excited that I would enjoy some sort of memorable experience (within reason and standards) however, something in me has changed over the last few years and I must admit that I find this change exhausting. There was a time when I would arrive and swing the doors wide open, announcing my arrival with confidence and courage; I cannot remember the last time I did that. It is the intimate social gatherings I am nervous about and I hold my hands up to say that for anyone reading this who has sent me an invite and I didn’t show, I know that I have let you down and for that, I am so sorry.
When I think of the times I have missed out on, the opportunity to make more laugh out loud memories with my friends, meet new acquaintances and connect with the world at large; a new world at that. I find every reason not to go unless I have a wingman waiting for me at the door or I am going with a group of friends or family. I ask questions of myself all the time to get to the bottom of my debilitating behaviours. I do recognise that protecting myself is at the heart of this anxiety, the irrational fear that I am not safe and if I do not have a safety net arranged or waiting, panic and paranoia move in for the night.
I can see my ancestors right now, high up on Mountain Olympus debating how the Agora that brought so much joy, freedom and evolution, is now out of rational reach for so many. There are varying levels of Agoraphobia with symptoms depending on individual experience and whilst we find physical connections a strain, we can reach out to one another from behind our laptops and smartphones. This is not a long-term solution, but it is a step taken. A virtual Agora if you will, where we can debate and discuss how we can kick Agoraphobia’s butt – democratically of course!
© Michelle Sotiriou 2021