I have a condition that is commonly known as agoraphobia. I have been cursed with this affliction for my entire life. This phobia is associated with being in public, around crowds of strangers. It is amazing how debilitating this fear can be at times with me. I can be in a place with a large number of people and feel totally alone. Most often I am overcome with feelings of anxiety, of smallness, of unimportance. As the feelings set in, I need to get away, far away. The urgings that I sense are almost instinctual, from deep within my being, it is like some survival sense emerges.
Most recently I felt these pangs going through the airport. It was just the other day. I was waiting in line, going through the security checkpoint. I unpacked my laptop, took my jacket off, removed my keys and wallet, and stepped out of my shoes. There were a half dozen folks with TSA labels on their jackets pawing at me like a piece of meat. They eyed me with suspicion and distance. The smiles given were lifeless and cold. These people were obviously just doing their jobs, but I felt so small, so alone. I just wanted to run, to get away. Looking around, all of the other travelers were going through the standard routine. Some were very business minded, others were joking with each other, still others made small talk with the people next to them in line. I got through the short wait and quickly moved to a corner where I could collect myself, where I could be alone and gain back my composure. I find it funny that folks who know me don't know this condition of mine. When I tell them of my phobia, they look at me with disbelief. They think that I am joking given how loud and boisterous I can be at times. It's funny the traits and characteristics that define who we are. Some behaviors that we exhibit are easily understood and traceable to our younger days, to how we were raised or some particular moment or occurrence. Still others arise within us and their origin is never understood. A part of me wishes I could come to understand where my fear of people arose. It seems that if I could understand its origin that I might have a better chance to control it, to rationalize it, to do something about it. However, another part of me is afraid that if I turn over too many thoughts or explore too many corners of my mind, that I might uncover something far more painful.