I thought it was quite unusual when I found out that my new next door neighbour has agoraphobia.
But what are the chances of the lady next door to her also having agoraphobia?
Pretty remote, I hear you say. And you'd be right. But yet, it's true. She has. Which explains why until recently I had never seen her.
There is a chap with a little Scottie dog called Bob who lives next door to my next door neighbour. The chap is called Bob, not the Scottie dog. Bob is in his early 60's, I'm guessing, and very pleasant. We both walk our dogs, and when we meet he will chat to me about the weather and other similarly interesting topics as his little dog checks out my dog's genitalia, and vice versa. I knew that he had a partner living with him. He mentions her sometimes. But I don't remember ever seeing her.
When my new next door neighbours moved in, Bob introduced himself and offered his assistance should they need anything. From time to time, my neighbours would see the shadowy image of a lady moving around behind the net curtains of the cottage. But why did she not ever appear outside?
Sometimes they would speculate about this. She might be being held there against her will - a sex slave or something. An illegal immigrant. Or a recluse. Or some type of ethereal being - not a real person at all...
One day they spotted a lady getting out of Bob's car. Introductions were exchanged. She was Bob's partner.
"You won't see me outside often," the lady said. "I'm a bit agoraphobic."
An agoraphobic neighbour on both sides? That was something they had never considered. They swapped symptoms. Seems this lady has mostly recovered from her agoraphobia. She can go most places that she wants to go to. She just feels uncomfortable sometimes and prefers to stay indoors.
What's more, her partner, my neighbour with the Scottie dog, Bob, has anxiety issues too.
Could you live in a village like this?I'm thinking of starting up a colony for anxiety sufferers. There are five here already, living in three adjacent houses. A little anxiety sufferers' corner. Want to join our colony? Contact me and I'll put your name down on the waiting list. As properties in close proximity to our ours become available to rent/purchase, I'll contact you.
We could have our own self-help group. We could bulk buy therapy sessions. Specialist doctors specialising in health anxiety could move to the area. Disability payment claims could be made en masse. Local shops could be forced to become agoraphobia friendly. They would have to open at midnight once per week to accommodate social anxiety sufferers. Anyone else have similar suggestions?
In time, anxiety sufferers could become the majority of the population in this area. Folk without anxiety issues would be the odd ones. How weird would that be? "He's a bit eccentric," you would hear locals say about a newcomer, "he's never had a panic attack!"
photo © Richard Knights