Dylan Trigg on Confessions of an Agoraphobic Victim

Trigg explores the nature of his spatial anxieties @ The White Review. The title of my essay has been stolen from another essay written in 1919. In this older work, the reader is introduced to a man of 'mid-life' assuming the pseudonym, 'Vincent,' a sufferer of agoraphobia who has decided after 'some time' to 'commit to writing' some observations of his condition. Over the next five pages, Vincent rewards the reader with a detailed and evocative account of the strange maladies he undergoes in his daily life as a victim of a this spatial anxiety.

To begin with, we are told of the likely ‘cause’ of his condition, being the murder of a childhood friend, whose throat was cut ‘from ear to ear’ and then dragged at night to the ‘bank of [a] river’. Thereafter, Vincent suffers from a morbid fear of being alone. In addition, he was also ‘afraid to go to the barn in the day time, and suffered when put to bed in the dark’. This childhood trauma sets in place a troubled relationship with the world, exacerbated by an already nervous and sickly temperament. Soon after, the agoraphobia begins. His first encounter comes at the top of a hill. One evening, he tells us, he experiences the incipient symptoms that will mark his adult life more generally.

In time, this rupture of his security increases to the world around him, to the extent that even ‘[u]gly architecture greatly intensifies the fear’. Certain props afford him comfort. Darkness, snow, stormy days and any other means to veil the horror of the world from his eyes allow Vincent to find his way in the world, as he tells us rather glibly: ‘On such days I make it a point to be out and about the town’. But this anxious relationship to places is not limited to a localised event. For Vincent, the agoraphobia is always present even when at home. In one especially incisive passage, he remarks: ‘I enter a home and sit in an arm-chair chatting with my friend; I soon find myself gripping the arm of the chair with each hand. My toes curl in my shoes, and there is a sort of tenseness all over my muscles’. This terror of domestic space defies reason and logic, placing Vincent in the realm of those who are possessed by unseen forces.

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