My mom used to be afraid to go out. When I was a kid, until I was eight, she mostly stayed in the house. We lived in a small, suburban apartment, a short walk to a shopping center. We didn’t have a car. When I was really little, the farthest that my mom would go was a fire hydrant that was maybe 100 yards from our door. We used to call it the yellow thing.
“Want to walk to the yellow thing?” my mom would call.
“Yeah,” I’d say and jump up to get my shoes on. I remember being really excited about it.
That went on for years. My mom would need another adult to accompany her to the grocery store, drugstore, doctor’s office, or wherever she needed to go. We didn’t go out much.
Until I was about eight, my mom knew that she had a panic disorder, but I don’t think that she saw a therapist or took any medication for it. I do remember her keeping a jug of wine in the hall closet and having a glass whenever she did have to go out, any time of day.
As a kid, I didn’t think any of that was strange. I didn’t have much comparison, so I just accepted it. I even liked walking to the yellow thing.
One day, out of the blue, when I was about eight, my mom asked me if I wanted to go to Rite Aid to get a candy bar. “Really?” I asked. I couldn’t believe her. I skipped along beside her to the drugstore, practicing my whistling.
A few days later, my mom began seeing a doctor and got a prescription for Xanax. Now I’m not going to lie to you and tell you it was a wonder drug. It wasn’t. She traded her fear of going out for a habit of falling asleep anywhere – on the city bus, at a school assembly, even at the dinner table. I hated it. But my mom’s decision changed our lives. She was suddenly able to take me places – to the mall, to the library, on trips downtown. All of a sudden, my world expanded from the limits of our small apartment.
If my mom were around now, I’d ask her why she decided to change. Did she do it for me? What was it exactly that made her want to be different? What gave her the strength? As a kid, I was thrilled when my mom started venturing out. But now, as an adult and a parent, I can appreciate her choice so much more. It was hard, but she did it anyway. Thanks, Mom, for the great lesson.