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My Journey through Agoraphobia - Part 10

This page added 17 December 2012

By Janesse – written December 2012

[see also: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9]

Part Ten

Hello everyone,
It’s Christmas time again, so soon!

Most of you know by now that I am not a huge fan of Christmas, but I do wish all of you a happy and peaceful Christmas time. Apart from my own issues with Christmas, it is such a difficult time for so many people. People who are isolated or lonely tend to feel it so much more at Christmas time. If you are feeling that way this Christmas, my heart goes out to you.

Even without the shadow of Christmas, I will admit to feeling lonely and isolated myself lately. Agoraphobia is such an isolating, lonely condition for most of us I think. Whether you have people around you or not, the loneliness can come from feeling that people don’t understand, feeling left out, or feeling different from everyone else. I have felt all of those things at one time or another. That is where groups such as ADAVIC are so very important. Through the services and information they provide, we can connect with other people who may be experiencing the same feelings as us, making us feel a little less alone.

Sometimes though, the loneliness can seep through to our very souls. I think it is because fear feels so very powerful, so very frightening and we feel so burdened by it, so crippled in the face of it and at the moments when it hit us, we have to face the fear in our mind on our own. No one can do it for us, they can help and support, which is wonderful but ultimately it is our fear to face. It is also the shame and embarrassment we can feel because of our agoraphobia. Shame can be a very lonely place to dwell. At times like these I think it is useful if we can have compassion for ourselves.  If we can hold ourselves, our fear, our pain, if we can hold those feelings, hold ourselves like we are a child who needs to be comforted and soothed we will feel less scared. It seems to me that we often do the opposite of that. We are so harsh with ourselves.  I was reminded of this last week.  I had just come out of a stillness meditation setting and a memory came to mind of a few years back. I was in the midst of the worst of my agoraphobia but had decided to try and go somewhere in the car with my partner who was driving. It wasn’t a long journey but I was frightened the whole way. On the way back I felt the panic frantically rising. Back then I had no clue how to deal with it at all. What I was remembering was how awful the feeling of everything spiraling out of control was, that feeling of being so helpless and so terrified. I was also remembering that as well as the fears swirling in my head there was also so much criticism of myself going on. As I was remembering all of this, I thought to myself how awful that was, and a well of compassion rose up. Compassion for myself, for that poor girl sitting in the car terrified out of her mind.

I also remembered how I was so scared most of the time. Living in fear that a panic attack would strike any moment, living in fear of losing control and feeling helpless to help myself.
I thought “what an awful way to live!” And yet this had been my life for so long. I stayed with the memories and most of all the feelings that came up and literally hugged myself close. I held myself as if I was a baby, soothing and comforting myself. I  actually think that this may have been the first time throughout my agoraphobia that I have had compassion for myself and what I have been through. It actually felt nice to feel this for myself.

Agoraphobia is rough and is at times tough to get through, and we need to acknowledge that to ourselves, when we can.  This is not about feeling sorry for ourselves. It is about being kind to ourselves, caring in a loving way for ourselves. I used to be one of those people who, if I said something about how hard it was to have agoraphobia, I would then immediately say, oh but there are so many people worse off than me. My therapist pointed out to me that by saying that, I was invalidating my own feelings, saying my feelings did not matter. I have come to see our feelings always matter, and always need to be   validated by acknowledging them to ourselves.  That is an important way of caring for ourselves. It doesn’t mean that we don’t care about others who may be suffering. There are many people that are going through really awful things, but we don’t help them or ourselves by ignoring our own feelings. In fact opening up to our own feelings, to our own pain helps us be more compassionate and empathetic to everyone.

So this Christmas as you are busy giving gifts, remember to give the gift of love and compassion to yourself. Be so very gentle and kind with yourself, the good bits and especially the hurt and wounded parts. They need your love the most.

Janesse – December 2012

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