The only constant in my life these past few weeks is going to yoga class. It’s no easy task to make myself go each time. I don’t know how accurate online tests are for preliminary diagnoses of mental disorders but I took the one for agoraphobia here and I scored as a moderate agoraphobic. It never entered my mind space to consider if I am agoraphobic until some passed after I gave up my pet parrot (see this post for more details) because by losing him, I gained a vast amount of freedom now that I wasn’t devoting literally almost all of my waking hours to caring for a high maintenance animal that had many behavioral issues. Also, I was not able to curb his problems because I had periods of emotional instability (depression, anxiety) where I would not be able to give him the best care that he needed.
I could go on for forever about this topic but the main thing is I now realize that because I felt responsible for his needs, this exacerbated my agoraphobia and reasons for staying home a lot. And if I did go out, I would spend the whole time worrying about how he was at home by himself because besides my attempts to socialize with him, everyone else in my household treated him like an ornament in a room and he would be pretty much ignored. This doesn’t sound that serious to those who have never owned a parrot before, but for those of you who have, parrots can and will act out if any of their needs aren’t being met and in my case, my parrot already had a feather plucking condition that was happening even before I got him and it got worse throughout the years he was with me. He was completely bald on his chest, back, legs, tail area and was starting to pluck feathers from his shoulder blades by the end of it. I was using myself to compensate him for everything he lacked at home but eventually, I had to face the truth that this kind of life wasn’t enough; either for him or me.
I still am agoraphobic now for different reasons though. I feel insecure when I go out. If I could avoid public transportation, I probably would but in NYC that is literally impossible since I depend heavily on the subway for travel unless the place I’m going to is within walking distance. I do, however, hate getting onto a subway car that is even only partially full or if there are no available seats. I have always gotten the sense that people tend to look at me more if I’m standing rather than if I’m sitting. Then there’s being sandwiched in the middle of the car and getting off at the arriving stop but having to ask people to move out of the way. That’s not even the scariest part, which is sometimes being too afraid to say anything out of the fear that people either won’t hear me or that people won’t move to let me out. My agoraphobia is worst in social situations, especially if people directly invite me to things and I feel obligated to say I’ll be there, but chances are I’ll probably find a way in the days or hours before the event to cancel or apologize by saying that I had a change of plans. I would say the possibility that I will be able to push myself to show up to a social event is four out of ten.
Yesterday’s weather was a scorcher and I was already sweating like crazy even as I sat on my mat before the yoga class began. I picked the worst day to come out to the city for class but it was also a spur of the moment decision since I could feel myself getting depressed after being home all day the previous day with nowhere to go. I’ve never been very active with exercise because I suck at all sports. I can’t even jog for two minutes without becoming short of breath. The only thing I seem to be good at is walking long distances with no problem. After yoga last Friday, I had lunch at 96 Street and actually walked all the way down to 59 Street to take the subway home, although my initial plans were to walk onto the Brooklyn Bridge and over it. I started the walk too late in the afternoon so I ended up not going down to the bridge.
I guess what I like about yoga is it gives me something to focus on for an hour and I get a workout from it. That’s why it’s worthwhile to be there. I might not always feel grateful to myself when I get out of the house and push myself to go, but I always do by the end of the class. Even if going to yoga is all I end up doing in one day, that’s something at least.
Each yoga session I’ve been to ends with a selected quote from the instructor. Friday’s quote resonated with me. It is from the Persian poet Rumi: “I want to sing like the birds sing, not worrying about who hears or what they think.” The quote itself could be applied to the yoga class itself as there are times during it that the instructor allows everyone to do certain yoga poses on their own after we’ve practiced them all together as a group. The thing that is often stressed by the instructor is that we should each take the poses on our own time and to not focus or think about how fast or slow we are going compared to the people around us. In my own personal life, the quote is something I hope to be because all my life very I’ve been a very self-conscious individual. I go through some minuscule things, like not daring to blow my runny nose into a tissue on the subway in fear I am making too much noise or being at some place and not knowing where the bathroom is but being too shy to ask a stranger for help. There’s also the obsessive bits, like how even before I attend a social event, I’m convinced everyone there will hate me so I don’t bother going at all. I care too much about what people think of me.