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agoraphobia as mobility reducer - musings on pokemon go and the false 'physical' vs 'mental' disability distinction

I know at this point its cliche to talk about pokemon go, but I’ve been thinking about the disability discussion about how the app excludes people with reduced mobility. Which got me thinking about the false dichotomy between ‘physical’ and ‘mental’ disabilities…. Primarily around something like mobility (which is today’s example but not the sole realm wherein this false distinction falls apart). One of my disabilities that impacts my mobility is agoraphobia (the other is my sun allergy). I’ve not downloaded pokemon go or even considered it because I don’t go anywhere. Like pretty much ever. Outside of the fairly limited radius I’m willing to go out of my apartment and at specific locations I must go (work, doctor’s, and the like), I can spend weeks (months) not going anywhere new.

A situation of course, which would quickly make pokemon go a boring thing for me to play. And, yes, I know this for a fact. I gave up on location-based apps after trying grindr. Back when grindr was new and changing how online hookups worked, I figured I’d try it myself. It was, more or less, a giant failure. Who you can interact with on that app depends on where you are and who is around that location. But if you’re someone like me, someone whose agoraphobia ensures that you have a tiny world, you just end up seeing the same people all the time. It quickly becomes boring and pointless. Same with foursquared.

All in all, location based apps simply don’t hold much interest for someone whose disability has shrunk their world as much as it has mine. The difference, of course, with pokemon go and grindr is that at least pokemon doesn’t depend on the proximity of other people with smartphones, so it would be possible to create an ‘easy’ mode for people with reduced mobility.

I do think its funny though that despite the stereotypical agoraphobe being represented in media as a housebound person, its never really posited as a mobility reducing disability. I’m not sure because its ‘treatable’ (allegedly) in a way that other kinds of mobility reducing disabilities are or some other reason. Popular media certainly doesn’t help with this since most narratives with agoraphobes are the ‘my magical penis will cure you’ kind. With the story ending that if only we meet the right person, we’ll be able to escape the prison our mind has constructed.

Like sure. There are things I can do to overcome some of the mobility barriers I deal with. Like being on anti-anxiety medication and having another kind of anxiety medication for when/if I have a panic attack. I’m not sure what qualitative difference medication has vs an external mobility aid (like a cane). Both are technologies used to reduce mobility barriers to allow a disabled person greater freedom of movement.1

Re-thinking this also has me being even more irritated with my doctor who very reluctantly prescribes me benzos and is always cautioning the possible addiction and blah blah blah. Yet as I told him the last time I pleaded for a refill on my ativan, just having the meds increases my mobility. Knowing that I have some kind of solution when I have panic attacks does a decent job of reducing my overall anxiety about being out in public and, thus, results in fewer panic attacks.

But bc of his reluctance to prescribe benzos, I get a brand new anxiety over running out of my supply. Which in turn increases my ambient anxiety while also making me reluctant to take my anti-anxiety medication (lest I run out and he refuses to give me a refill). So I often turn to… er, self-medicating as a way to manage my anxiety instead of, you know, my doctor prescribed and surpervised method. Which, amusingly, is actually what caused me to seek medical care in the first place (a few years back I started noticing a pattern of self-medicating with alcohol – a fairly common thing and why substance abuse tends to be a big problem with mentally ill ppl).

Anyway… I digress. In terms of mobility, having a mobility aid like benzos has made travelling significantly easier and less stressful for me (and anyone I’m travelling with because I am not a fun travel companion since my anxiety can often manifest as irritability). And the number of panic attacks I’ve had on my way to the airport, train station, and/or bus terminal…. Let’s just say that not having explosive diarrhea is something I’m a fan of.

At the end of it all… it makes me wonder what other disabilities cause similar reductions in mobility that fall outside of the stereotypical ‘physical’ ones. Like… depression, wherein you can feel so profoundly lacking in motivation that leaving your bed is a heroic feat. I’m trying to think of other examples but my brain is getting sleepy and I’m losing focus. So. Yeah. Something to chew on, I think. And one more argument why the ‘mental’ vs ‘physical’ dichotomy should die in a fire.

  1. absolutely no one should be reading this post via a perspective that I’m trying to make an argument that agoraphobia is ‘as bad as’ being paralyzed or whatever. As above, because I’m not a mind-body dualist, I do not conceptualize disabilities as being either ‘physical’ or ‘mental’ (this dichotomy relies on some form of mind-body dualism in order to be coherent). Which also isn’t to say that I’m taking a strict medical/physical approach to ‘mental’ illness (in other words, I do not necessarily think that all ‘mental’ illnesses are caused by chemical imbalances in the brain and, thus, medication is the best/most effective method of treatment). What I am saying is that such a distinction is meaningless when my ‘mental’ agoraphobia so clearly impacts my ‘physical’ movement in the world.