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My journey through agoraphobia - Part 11


By Janesse (ADAVIC member from Sydney) - written August 2013


This page created 18th September 2013


[see also: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10]


Part 11


Hi everyone,

I hope everyone is doing well. To those of you who are not doing so well, my thoughts go out to you and my wishes for better days.

I continue to make progress. I am now doing things that I never thought I could or would be able to do. I am driving more; it is still fairly localized although I have ventured way out of my comfort zone at times. I drive mainly in my local area and have driven to a couple of surrounding suburbs. Traffic is still a bit scary for me so I tend to drive back streets and roads where there is less traffic. On my journeys I have had to cross major roads at times, or even be on major roads for a short distance and I have managed that.

As I drove down my street the other day I remembered a time when driving to the end of my street was terrifying for me! I remember being so anxious and so scared. Slowly I did it and slowly I managed to drive around the block. It took day after day of getting in the car and practicing.  It took weeks before I could even drive around that block but I finally managed it.

My therapist lives about a fifteen minute drive away and previously someone had to drive me to my appointments with her. Now I drive there on my own, a feat I am very proud of! To get there I can drive through back streets but there are a couple of major roads with heavy traffic that I need to cross and sometimes that is still scary for me, but I am doing it.  It is something that I had always wanted to do as I hated relying on other people to get me there. Often there was no one available to take me and I did phone sessions, (which were still good and helpful) but I wanted to be able to get there on my own.

To help me accomplish this I had a friend accompany me on my first few drives there. This way I knew if it got too much for me I could pull over and they could drive the rest of the way there. That actually never happened but it did give me more confidence in my driving. The first time I drove there on my own, I was very anxious but I did it.

I wish I could say I now do it with ease but that is not always the case! I can say though I do it much easier than I did before.

For me progress is always slow but steady. It seems to be just the way I am and that is ok. I have written here before about how long it took me to walk to the beach near my house to have a swim. That took day after day of trying with me often ending up in tears because I couldn’t do it. Success with that came through and what happiness that gave me being able to go back to the ocean!

With those of you still struggling my message is don’t give up. Keep going. If you are like me and it takes a while and it takes small steps, that is ok, that is more than ok! Every small step makes a difference and every small step leads to a bigger one. I did not think it was ever going to happen for me.

Looking back I think I hoped that one day I would just wake up and my anxiety would be gone and I would feel   normal again. I think I also thought that if I can’t just do it and do it without any anxiety that it is not worth doing  at all. Gradually I learnt that is not how it is. It is a process.

It is scary. Sometimes it’s hard and difficult.  I cried in frustration and attempting things and not being able to see them through more times than I can count. All the tears, all the frustration, all of the feeling hopeless and helpless were all part of the process. They all lead me to being able to go out more to do more things.

I am reminded as I write this of just how terrified I used to be. I remember sitting in car with a friend who was trying to take me out and being terrified of even leaving the driveway. Terrified. Frozen with fear on the inside. Hating myself for feeling this way. Desperately not wanting to feel this way and hoping that this day would be a day I didn’t feel overwhelmed with anxiety and scared a panic attack would overcome me and I would lose control.

If you are feeling this way, I understand and I feel for you. I really do. Please know though there is a way through and out. I am living proof of that.

It does take some work though, but do whatever you can manage no matter how small. I am not necessarily talking about going out or trying to go out here. I feel my real work was working on me first.  Those of you who have been following my journey probably already know what I am going to say next and you would be right! Meditation and therapy!

I have had therapy every week with my therapist sometimes by phone more often in person. This was not always easy and there were times when I felt like there was no point as it didn’t seem to be helping (It was helping, it was just taking time!).  I always showed up though.  It took me quite a while to find the right therapist for me and I am blessed to have found my therapist who has always treated me with kindness, gentleness and care, an approach that has helped me to blossom.

Meditation. Again those of you who follow me know I am a huge advocate for Pauline McKinnon’s Stillness Meditation.  I cannot stress enough how much this has helped me. In fact I truly believe it has saved my life.  I meditate every day and it has so many benefits that go way beyond conquering fear and anxiety. If you are struggling with agoraphobia or an anxiety disorder please try Stillness Meditation.

You must do it every day though and keep doing it every day. Think of it like medicine for your body. The best kind of medicine as it is natural, doesn’t cost anything and is available to you whenever you need it! You must do it   every day though and keep doing it every day. I promise you your anxiety and or depression will lessen and you will generally feel better.

It will help you to want to try to take those first small steps.

As I have mentioned I am not completely well yet. There is still more of the world for me to get to explore yet and more challenges for me to face. I still get anxious and I still get scared sometimes but I know more now about how to  handle my fear when it appears. I grow more and more confident with this.

As you get better it doesn’t mean that the anxiety just goes away completely all at once. I do things now many, many times without any anxiety at all.  Other times it is just like a little background humming noise for a minute or two and then it is gone. Sometimes it roars loudly in my ear and for a split second I may feel like everything I have learnt has gone away but I center myself and all I have learnt kicks in.

There will be setbacks along the way. I had one just a few weekends ago.

For the first time I drove to a friend’s house for dinner on my own and at night. I was tense driving there and while  I was there, thinking about the drive home and finding it hard to relax and enjoy myself. On the drive home I was holding myself very tightly and tensely and as I got near home I got a bit shaky. When I arrived home I was so anxious and became so fearful of having a panic attack. This had not happened to me for quite some time.

Of course I had been anxious many times, but hadn’t allowed it to get to the state where I was completely fearful of having a panic attack. It is so awful that feeling! You are not actually having a panic attack but holding on so you don’t have one. I was at home in bed safe but the feeling lingered on and on for what seemed like forever.

Then I had the disappointment that this had reappeared again and the fear that I would permanently go back to feeling this way again.

In the morning I was able to see where I had made some mistakes in this situation. Instead of acknowledging my fear and softening my body, I tried to ignore the fear by tensing against it, holding myself so tightly and winding myself up internally that no wonder I become overly anxious. When I was home in bed I was still doing it. It was like I was scared to move a muscle in case that would bring on the panic attack. I realize now had I just let myself relax and let the fear come it would have passed.

So what seemed like a setback was a great learning experience for me. I won’t lie; it did scare me a little.

I turned to my beautiful companion on this journey, Pauline McKinnon’s book In Stillness Conquer Fear, and as always that put me right back on track.

From her book two quotes regarding symptoms recurring that I love are:

“So if at times you seem to go backwards a little, remember that this is only temporary, like a crack in a healing wound”

I could visualize that and it was true. I am still healing and while a crack appeared it was only temporary, it didn’t and it won’t stop me from healing.

Also:

“…and the fact that anxiety is present sometimes only indicates a stepping stone to further fulfillment. With the practice of stillness we can move firmly from that stepping stone to the next stage of development. And while ever we rest our mind anxiety can never overwhelm us as it has done in the past. One flows with it all and ‘it’ passes a ripple on the water.”

I hope you can see that no matter how terrified you are feeling, how helpless you are feeling, you can recover.  I have been there and come through.

I have also done this while going through a great deal of personal heartbreak. I am sure many of you have your own heartbreaks to deal with along with your agoraphobia or anxiety disorder and this can make things all the more difficult. If this is the case I urge you to be gentle and kind to yourself and know you are not alone. There is at the very least one other heart out here that understands and sends you love.

Take care,

Janesse.

August 2013

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