(This blog was written on the 7th of July.) Stating the obvious here, but it’s been a while. My life was temporarily consumed with my wedding, holding down a job and holding down my sanity around all of that busyness. Wedding was awesome – and I’m back – with AN ESSAY! So get seated comfortably.
Hello agoraphobia, my old friend
Unfortunately so is agoraphobia that has not been this bad in over a year. However it’s not just leaving the house, it’s even needing to face people, friends even. I got dressed and tried to leave for the office last weej (getting the furthest I had during the week to realistically leaving) but I was just filled full of dread and froze, I physically couldn’t.
My OH managed to coax me out on Thursday for 5-10 minutes with him, just for a walk around the corner, which was progress. Unaccompanied or not before that, it’s been since last weekend that I’ve left the house.
Partially I think all the people-ing of getting hitched broke me, in that it drained all my mental energy supplies. However the main trigger has been the ongoing situation with our new neighbours (moving in next week) and their builders. They’ve flouted a tonne of laws put there for able people, so someone as crazy as me it’s lead to me being too scared to leave the house.
Laws they’ve broken to date
Firstly they started drilling into the wall between our homes without getting us to sign anything first. They then told us it would be 3 months and most of it wouldn’t be as noisy. It overran to 4 months + without any update. It carried on being work that vibrates the floor and rattles your teeth. That’s not a law they’ve broken, just one of many verbal agreements.
They’ve trespassed into our garden, even when asked not to (looking back I think we were just so stunned they did this when we were in, we didn’t film it and report it, instead took a really bloody English approach ‘oh, er, excuse me, do you mind not jumping over a wall into my garden without checking with me first, thanks awfully?’)
They’ve worked through Sundays, Bank Holidays, and late Mondays – Saturdays through this period. (Council rules are no Sundays and Bank holidays and finish up at 6pm the rest of the time.) So there’s been no respite in the noise. They’ve stayed over at the property every night to start early and finish late, so they’ve constantly been there.
The worst bit was going to use the shower at 11pm and having builders up on the roof opposite able to see into the top bit of the open bathroom window. Yes, I was naked and yes the top bit of the window was open. No I shouldn’t have to explain that.
How this has impacted my mental health
As someone with massive anxiety I started to imagine the walls falling down around me and not having any legal case to pay for damages, so we’d be left screwed. When it carried on with no warning, I imagined it would go on indefinitely.
I work from home two days a week partially to avoid noise in the office (as well as people). So this downtime I’d reserved to preserve my sanity and get some uninterrupted work done, has been replaced by hellish noise. This slowly melts away your ability to keep your shit together.
The whole bathroom debacle was the peak of the whole them being en masse in the front and the back of the house shouting loudly at each other and adding to that ‘surrounded’ feeling which ended up triggering the agoraphobia attack this week.
Where did complaining get me?
I’ve had various text conversations with the guy moving in. However, this was only after texting him myself once the builders had set up camp on the roof and had a perfect view into the toilet that night.
Before then, I’d written a letter and hand delivered it to the builders (so no doubt about it, it was from me) saying for the new neighbours to contact us. The male then contacts my male partner. Which instantly causes me to raise an eyebrow.
His response to us asserting our legal rights to protect ourselves from getting screwed over? To turn it around into what I think you can call gaslighting. He’s not trying to screw us over! (With a hint of, how could we think that of this random guy we’ve never met before?) That and the whole approaching the male just SMACKS of privilege. In fact it’s been his tactic from the start – it then moves on to ‘hey, it’s no big deal, there’s no problem, there’s no need to make a big fuss…’ type gaslighting.
The night I finally contact him myself, angry as hell about his drunken builders getting an eyeful, I get condescended, placated & the whole power dynamic of burly cishet alpha males constantly living in and being around my property every time I come and go – and apparently when I shower – is lost. Rage inducing. This is so important because this is absolutely this dynamic that was triggering to the agoraphobia.
He finishes this episode off by coming around our house, talking to us in the same way with a half amused look on his face (like how ridiculous are we?) then ridicules a solution I bring up that he originally suggested. He leaves with me shaking in anger.
Our final episode of texting was after the nonstop drilling during our wedding day, and all weekend after irrespective of law and the verbal promise to cease that weekend. This time this guy ignores my telling him he’s broken the law and to cease work, then claims two things I experienced never happened with the builders. Typical and specific gaslighting of a femme presenting person by a privileged douche. I wasn’t shocked, just fucking angry.
Struggling against internalisation
Despite maintaining my rage and knowing (see all the above) that I’ve had to deal with a privileged ignoramus who at the very best doesn’t get, but more likely knows and exploits the power he has, the agoraphobia it’s manifested as is essentially internalising. I’ve changed my actions to deal with external factors, because I feel I’ve lost control of them.
Also, it took me a lot of courage to write this, because I’d convinced myself that I was to blame, all of my hysteria about this was to blame – and it was because I am broken that I cannot deal with it. That is in some part, what the behavior exhibited was supposed to achieve. Unfortunately, it’s also my go to place. Add in a bit of guilt over feeling shit the week after I got married – et viola! A shit sandwich.
Then this morning I read Mark One In Four’s blog post on how people with mental health conditions have not had the same revolution disabled people have in terms of people realising society is not rigged in our favour – and is in fact rigged against us. We try and fit in, lay low, beat ourselves up, blame ourselves and our glitches – instead of knowing what we need and pushing for it to be a reality. Reading that first made me cry tears of relief, for someone understanding how that feels, then pushed me to realise my first thoughts were right. It helped me write this blog. Please read it, it resonated so much with me.
But how can anyone with mental health conditions protect themselves from these situations?
Shouldn’t there be laws protecting disabled people in this sphere of life? That is exactly what I thought before and exactly what came back to me after reading Mark’s article. Like reasonable adjustments that apply to the people living right next to you? A mediator, so you don’t have to deal with laws unto themselves who have no compassion or understanding – who exacerbate your mental health conditions by using abusive behavioural tactics?
I will ask though, if council’s are so overstretched that they can’t regulate people flouting laws like this, that are supposed to apply to everyone, how the hell under the current system could they monitor anything else put in place for disabled people? It comes back to more funding and systemic change. There’s no quick fix. However the Equality Act should be enshrined in every area of life to protect marginalised people.
I’m not sure how this could work, but let’s start a conversation about it. Do you agree? Do you have have any ideas or suggestions about how this could be implemented? Let me know in the comments beneath and start up a discussion.