A Poem for Agoraphobia Sufferers Under UK Lockdown

What is Agoraphobia?

Agoraphobia on wikipedia: ‘Agoraphobia is an anxiety disorder characterized by symptoms of anxiety in situations where the person perceives their environment to be unsafe with no easy way to escape. These situations can include open spaces, public transit, shopping centers, or simply being outside their home. Being in these situations may result in a panic attack. The symptoms occur nearly every time the situation is encountered and last for more than six months. Those affected will go to great lengths to avoid these situations. In severe cases people may become completely unable to leave their homes.’

Lockdown Doesn’t Work

I wouldn’t be blogging about this, my agoraphobia, if there wasn’t such apparent desire for UK lockdown. How people change in a few months. How confused they’ve become. Lockdown was unthinkable at the beginning of 2020, but now some people really want it. I’ve heard them say so. We even have politicians pushing for it. And yet lockdown hasn’t worked. Anywhere.

Don’t Make People Invisible

Do they ‘want’ a ‘lost generation’? Do they want us to conveniently disappear? Is that what politicians want? Tell me not because it’s important to me being fearful of going out. But lockdown’s great, you might think, no need to go out and get agoraphobic. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that.

Isolation Is the Last Thing I Want

During the months of UK lockdown, agoraphobia, like coronavirus, didn’t just go away because I didn’t go outside several times a day. When the long lockdown was lifted, it reappeared and was much more debilitating. I wasn’t surprised by the reemergence of both coronavirus and agoraphobia, and mental health issues generally. Agoraphobia’s resurfaced before, and there is no cure. It doesn’t lie dormant. In isolation it festers.

In Rehab

It’s taking me a long time to re-establish a sort of fake carefree lifestyle of familiar destinations that trick the mind. With my familiar destinations closed or altered, it seems impossible to me at the moment. But I’m going through the procedure anyway. I want to get back to a sense of looking forward to going out. I wear a mask, maintain a social distance and try to look forward to going out. It’s the only way. I also write poetry.

Agoraphobia and Poetry

My poems have always addressed agoraphobia long before agoraphobia came on. My early work, published in What You Will See, is about a crisis of self in an apparently unsafe world. My work is about a sense of not belonging, having no identity and feeling intense pressure to conform. Why? Who am I? What do people want me to be? To quote Afua Hirsch, from her influential book Brit(ish): On Race, Identity and Belonging: ‘Britain is a nation of unanswered questions and avoided subjects. [ ] Anyone whose appearance is an excessive reminder of difference needs to conform’, and I resolutely refuse to conform.

Lockdown Haircut Poem

You didn’t like the way I cut my hair today
with smoke and mirrors 
but stick around,
don’t go—
tomorrow will be brighter than sunlight
entwined in the Eagle nebula.

The openness of everything provides 
to grow.
History isn’t over yet.
There are many more stories
in the scheme of things.