I said that I would tell my story, my struggle with this disease and what I believe to be at the root of everything. So here it goes.
I'm the youngest of four children. There's 11 years difference between I and the only other girl, and 7 years difference between the next to the youngest and myself. So I was really the baby of the family. It was not a perfect childhood - no abuse mind you and I know that there are others who had it worse than I did - but it affected me none-the-less. My brothers were not intentionally cruel - but they were very sarcastic and insulting in their humor. I was constantly told how stupid and ugly I was. This happens to a lot of kids too and they are not overly affected by it. The difference is that those children probably had other sources telling them that they were smart or pretty/handsome. I didn't. With nothing but negative feedback coming in it becomes sort of a brainwashing phenomenon. Case in point. I can sing. This I will tell you with no hesitation. Could I win American Idol? No, but I can sing. You won't cringe or cover your ears. While my brothers were telling me that I couldn't sing I had positive feedback from church members, choir directors, etc. So they couldn't touch that part of me. But that feedback was missing from other aspects of my life, so they were allowed to fester like an open wound throughout most of my life. I still struggle with it. And it doesn't matter what "evidence" to the contrary you may throw my way (i.e. my college degree, my President's Scholar and Dean's list certificate) deep down I still feel like I don't deserve them, it was a mistake and someone will discover it and take them away. And it doesn't matter how silly that may sound, it's just my "reality". If I did something stupid (as most kids will) I was constantly reminded of it, ridiculed for it and made to feel a fool. This is hard for a child, especially in the formative years. I learned that if my family would ridicule me when I do something wrong, what would strangers do. I became afraid of doing things in public for fear of being laughed at.
But that doesn't explain everything. I have a cliche coming up, but sometimes cliches are there because there is an iota of truth to them. A lot of my problems originate from my father. He wasn't a bad man - in fact, had he been my uncle he would have been a favorite uncle. And as a father he did the best he could, the best he knew how. Mazlow's Hierarchy of needs is a list of things that a person needs in order to reach self-actualization. My father provided me with only one - I had a roof over my head, clothes on my back and food in my stomach. He provided. He saw that as his only job where I was concerned. Raising me was my mother's job. He once said that if there were anything wrong with me, it was my mother's fault because that was her job. He really didn't know what to do with girls. He took my brother's hunting, fishing, playing golf, bowling, but did nothing with me. I kind of got the idea that I wasn't as good as the guys. But that wasn't the worse. My father never finished school - not even middle school I think. This was common of people during the Depression, they had to work. This left him with a pretty big inferiority complex when it came to intelligence. Nobody was allowed to know more than he did. If they did he would tell them that they were wrong, didn't know what they were talking about. No matter what evidence they shoved in front of him. So I was constantly told by him that I was wrong. My father was intelligent. Not "book-learned" intelligent, but by life. He was a carpenter - a master carpenter and was good at what he did. He could run his finger down a column of numbers and have the total at the end - all in his head. One of the other things that he did was whenever I would do something he would point out everything that I did wrong, not what was right about it, no "good try". I learned that trying wasn't good enough, wasn't even acceptable. If you couldn't do it right, don't bother doing it at all. Imagine trying to live your life with that philosophy. You can't. Eventually you break down, your body refuses to let you do anything.
That's how I became agoraphobic. That's why I can only go places that I know exactly what door to go in, where exactly to park my car, what I am expected to do. Anything else pushes me into a panic. Some people suffer from depression, agoraphobia, shyness, etc because of genetics. Others, like myself, are created. I struggle every day with this, I refuse to give in entirely (I've had to make compromises because of the lack of medication/therapy). I've often said if I could just get the same amount of money that I make working outside of the home, for taking care of my mother, I would quit. But I know that I can't stop working entirely - I must work at least 4 hours. If not, I won't leave the house unless necessary and I would only get worse.