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My journey through agoraphobia - part 13

By Janesse (ADAVIC member from Sydney) - written September 2014
22nd September 2014

[see also: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12]

Part 13

Hello everyone!
As I was contemplating writing this, I was reflecting on how far I have come.
I have gone from being housebound with agoraphobia to now being able to get out and about on my own.   Previously I could only venture out if someone was with me and even then it was with sheer terror.
Not only was my leaving the house restricted, I was also living with a high level of anxiety every day. Every day I was gripped with horrible fear of having a panic attack, and trying to control my life and environment so that I didn’t have a panic attack. Almost everything I did was centered on avoiding having a panic attack. Writing about this now makes me very emotional.

I cry for that girl I was, who was so very scared everyday of her life and in such despair. The girl who had tried so many different ways to find a solution for her anxiety through doctors, therapists etc., yet still could not find a way out of it. The girl who thought she was so broken she couldn’t be fixed.

The girl who felt so deeply ashamed of her anxiety and felt stupid and useless, and hated herself for it all. The girl who felt like a burden on her partner and her friends.
The girl who would keep trying everyday but still couldn’t get past the roadblock of fear.
The girl who felt like life was passing her by and she was wasting the best years of her life by being in the grip of fear. The girl who felt totally powerless over her fear and her life and totally hopeless.
I really do cry.
I also really do cry for all of you out there that are in the grips of agoraphobia right now and living even some of this. I cry for you because I know how hard every day can be and I hate the thought of anyone feeling as much heartache and pain as I did.
But this I know. I know if I can get better, you can too.
That girl is now this girl.
A girl that is free from living in fear every day.
A girl who can go out on her own and enjoy it.
A girl who walks in the park and along the bay every morning for half an hour.
A girl who goes to Zumba classes twice a week.
A girl who goes to a community college singing class every Monday night and gets up in front of the class and sings every week.
(This girl still unfortunately sounds like a cat being strangled when she sings but singing even badly she has fun!).
A girl who still has anxiety but knows how to manage that anxiety better.
A girl who still has bad days and setbacks and still has some challenges to conquer but has them more in perspective now.
A girl who still has a way to go with feeling worthwhile, liking and loving herself, but is (slowly) developing a sense of self-worth.
A girl who didn’t believe her therapist when she told her that the solution was not about forcing the fear to go away or trying desperately to control it, or hoping that one day it would just go away on its own but fixing what was wrong deep down inside that would enable all these things to happen.
A girl who is now living proof that it is true.
A girl who is less afraid now to face her darkest feelings.
A girl who has days when her feelings overwhelm her but she allows this now.
A girl who does forget this sometimes and gets depressed.
A girl who did all of this while breaking up with her long term (of 20 years) partner. A man who had been her best friend, her rock, the love of her life. A man who helped her with the practical things, did the shopping, took her to doctors’ appointments etc. The man who held her and soothed her when she was sad, reassured her when she was anxious. Made her laugh so long and so hard when she thought she couldn’t even smile.  The man that bore the burden of having an agoraphobic partner. The man who had to do most of it because there was no one else, no family to help. The man who sacrificed a lot of his life to care for her. The man who had promised that they would grow old together and he would never abandon her.
(While he did leave, he didn’t abandon her completely. They are still friends).

This girl thought she would never survive without him, practically or emotionally.
This girl’s heart was utterly broken.
She was barely living her life with him, how would she live without him?
I lived. Dealing with heartbreak is an ongoing journey for me.
Recovering from agoraphobia was not simple.
I have felt very alone and isolated throughout all of this.
I survived. I struggled. I had breakthroughs. I had setbacks.
Life threw me other curve balls. I went down. I barely got up, but I did get up.
Each time I went down I stayed down for as long as I needed to. Sometimes I was scared that I wouldn’t come back up again, but I did. Sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly. And each time I went down and came back up with something.
Sometimes with new pain, sometimes with new hope, sometimes with new knowledge about myself.

There are things that enabled me to survive all of this.

1. My therapist. I found a wonderful therapist who has been there for me through my long journey; she was there at the beginning and has been through everything with me. A good therapist is vital.
2. Meditation. For me meditation was absolutely key. Meditation not only makes you feel less anxious on an ongoing basis but provides so much clarity and insight into yourself. I meditate every day.
As some of you know I practice Pauline McKinnon’s Stillness Meditation, and her book In Stillness Conquer Fear was a major factor in overcoming my agoraphobia.

Pauline understands agoraphobia in a way most people don’t. She experienced agoraphobia first hand and I believe that gives her a deeper insight into how to recover from it.
She has gone on to become a therapist and a Stillness Meditation teacher through her Stillness Meditation  Centre.
Although she is not my therapist I certainly feel like through her book and CDs she has played such an important role in my recovery.
I have never met Pauline but I feel her kindness and concern for people with agoraphobia come shining through her words and voice.
Even though I have never met her and she doesn’t know it, she is a mentor to me. I would like to follow her wonderful example and use my experience with agoraphobia to help others as she has done.
I am still a girl who struggles a lot of the time.
But I am also a girl who now has days that are carefree and full of joy.
This is not a joy that comes from other people or things; it is a joy that comes from deep down inside me.
A joy that when I was in the midst of my agoraphobic days I thought I would never feel again.
There are still some things I cannot do yet such as get on public transport or get on a plane. Prior to my agoraphobia I always disliked both those things due to my claustrophobia. These things are a work in progress and once upon a time I could not get in an elevator or even think about getting in an elevator.  I can do that now.
I still don’t like it at all but I can do it and do it!
My message is as always please don’t give up. Please know that no matter how hopeless you feel, there are others like me who have felt the same way.
I truly feel for you and it is my dearest hope that you can take some comfort in my words, and maybe just maybe some inspiration from my actions.
With love
Janesse—ADAVIC Member from Sydney


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