Our first full day on vacation. Eventually, after we all get ourselves together and have a second breakfast (a real one this time), we headed out to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. MeToo nodded off on the way up, thereby missing the view as we headed out of Tucson. RU, on the other hand, got lessons on the types of cacti we could spot along the road. The Wife and I decided that later we’d turn MeToo’s carseat around so she could face forward for the duration of the trip. That way she won’t miss any of the scenery the rest of us are talking about.
The Museum was a good time. It’s mostly outdoors, so the Wife put Z in a wrap, I put MeToo on my back in a Tula (for the first time in quite a while), and we walked the desert trails.
Afterward, we turned MeToo’s seat around and headed back towards civilization and lunch. The landscape stretched away before us, the road running straight to the distant horizon, where jagged mountains loomed. What a view!
Then MeToo started shouting. “Stop the car, stop the car! Too much! It’s too much!”
We pulled over. She was clearly distressed. MeToo has never said the words “too much” before — I didn’t think she even understood the concept. The thing is, there wasn’t anything she could be having too much of, except for the amazing, wide-open scenery.
I turned her seat to face backwards again, but the view was just as big out the rear. I twisted around as much as I could and held her hand while we drove.
With my other hand, I used my phone to read up on agoraphobia.
(“Isn’t that the fear of people,” the Wife asks.
“No,” I say, “it’s the fear of open spaces.”
“Agoraphobia is a social anxiety disorder. It’s the fear of being in crowds or crowded places. I know it is.”
“Then what’s the fear of open places? I was sure that was it.”)
Agoraphobia (it turns out) is a condition where the sufferers feel anxiety about their environment. This might be due to its openness or crowdedness, or it could be focused more on social situations.
Now, I don’t really think that MeToo is agoraphobic. However, it was interesting to me to learn that in some cases there seems to be a link between agoraphobia and problems with spatial orientation. Normally, human beings orient themselves by combining input from their sense of balance, visual cues, and their proprioceptive sense. Some research suggests that agoraphobics rely more on their vision and less on the other inputs. When put in, say, a wide, open space (like the outskirts of Tucson) where there aren’t many visual cues, they become disoriented.
The Wife has a friend here in Arizona who happens to be blind, and we mentioned all this to her during a visit. She asked if MeToo stomps her feet when she walks. Yes… we think that sounds right. MeToo’s a lot like a bicycle in that she’s much more stable at higher speeds; at a walking pace, she tends to fall over a lot. If your feet are on the same floor she’s walking on, she will either step on them or trip over them. Even though she seems to fall down and bump into things a bunch, she has liked to climb since she could pull herself upright. Well, our friend says, it could be that she stomps when she walks because she needs that sensory feedback or it feels reassuring. She likes to climb because it gives her more points of contact.
Well, food for thought.
We’ve had other incidents since then where she has gotten panicky and, so far as we can tell, the only source of her distress is a particularly open panorama. There have been fewer and fewer of them, though, so maybe the landscape out here was just so different that she had to get used to it.