For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, “agoraphobia,” it is a word used to describe a person who fears leaving their home or a comfortable surrounding of safety. I am about to expose a well-kept secret I have held for 30 years. Most of you know me as a poet, a writer and someone who is available 24/7 for prayer because I am here and I care. Well, I am also an agoraphobic. 

I have expanded the eight places I can frequent to a whopping 10 the past few months. Of course, after the “stay at home” order, I am sort of back to square one again on my leaving the house. I felt that it was time to come out about this part of my life now because, unfortunately, the whole world is experiencing what I live through every day. 

I want to go out, but I can’t. I am inside 90% of the time anyway, so I guess you could say I am somewhat of an authority on staying indoors. 

Believe me, I wouldn’t wish this lifestyle on my worst enemy. I have, however, made the most of my condition by making a life for myself behind these closed doors. Being a widow going on seven years, I have God, music and Doodles, my 10-year-old blind cat as my constant companions. Believe it or not, I lead a satisfying and productive life by keeping very busy.

When this pandemic hit, I was doing well at expanding my comfort zone and enlisted professional help to get me over my agoraphobia enough so I could move from writer to author with the books I have written. Now, all but the help I enlisted is put on the back burner until further notice. 

I learned to build my own world many years ago when I learned I was agoraphobic, and I thought I could share some ideas with you.

I keep busy by organizing, because I am somewhat of an organizing nut, as well. Scrapbooking, organizing recipes as I love to cook, organizing photos into albums and even organizing the cabinets and closets in my house. 

I work hard at my favorite passions like writing poetry to share with others, writing books in the series I created, organizing my music, book and movie library (vinyl, CDs and DVDs). I handwrite a lot of cards and letters to my family and friends, import fantastic music to my ancient computer, and do spring cleaning all year round. 

I keep in shape by dancing, another passion of mine. Back in my hayday, I could out-dance just about anyone. Now I dance in my kitchen, but I was dancing at the Cardio Therapy Center while working out. This is one of the 10 places I can go in safety and comfortably, and I can’t wait for it to reopen. I love to put smiles on people’s faces when they see me dance around the track. Having lost 80 pounds in a year and a half, due to a diet I was put on after a heart attack, I learned that my passion for dancing could also keep my body in good health. 

At the church I attend, when I can, we cook for people every week. I work in the kitchen, and my passion for cooking is put to good use. I love to see the smiles on people’s faces when I come up with a new concoction that really goes over well. 

Experiment with your food and get your kids involved with it, it’s a very worthwhile thing to do. Since I attend church over my phone now, I cook for the neighbors. It feels great to take a pie, cake or something homemade to them and they enjoy it. There are so many things you can do to uplift others and make yourself feel good at the same time. 

I am not online, but I import music by way of CDs, do creative writing and play games on my computer. I pick one afternoon to binge watch one of my favorite programs on TV, and I have my popcorn then. 

I play keyboard by ear and love to write my own songs. This is a great thing for the family to do together — write a song together. You just might discover a hidden talent or two.

I know this is a drastic lifestyle change for so many of you, but keep in mind that once this thing has passed, you will be able to get out and resume your lives again. Me, well I have mine behind these doors most of the time. 

Be grateful you can get out and walk into any store you want to. You don’t know what a blessing that is until something like this happens. What you do normally, I have to fight to do. 

My phone stays busy as well with people who call to vent, just talk or want me to pray for someone in their lives that is ill or struggling. Prayer takes time when it’s done right, and I do a lot of it. I understand a lot about what is going on right now just by knowing God’s word by way of reading the Bible. I attend Bible study by way of my speaker phone on Wednesday nights.

Well, like I said, I wouldn’t wish my lifestyle on my worst enemy so far as not being able to leave my home when I want. However, this will run its course, and soon you’ll be fighting traffic, trying to beat the clock and waiting for the prime parking spot at your favorite store again. 

I have just exposed a well-kept secret of mine in hopes that something I have said will make you all feel better about yourselves and your lives. If exposing my agoraphobia helps just one person, then it has been well worth it. 

I keep everyone in my prayers in this time of change. This too shall pass — just keep the faith and through it all you will be victorious.

Susan M. Pennell of Brighton contributes poetry regularly to the BH-FP, as well as opinion pieces to newspapers across Missouri. She describes herself as 63 going on 36 and says many know her as the “Dancing Poet.” 

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