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My Journey Through Agoraphobia - Part 14

[added August 2015]

[see also: Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6Part 7Part 8Part 9Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13]

For those of you who have been following my journey you remember that I was once consumed by fear. I was crippled by panic attacks and the constant fear of having a panic attack. I was terrified to leave my house. At home I lived with constant anxiety every day and depression. I had the need to control everything, including myself. I thought if I can stay in control and try to control everything around me I would be safe, and not have a panic attack.

My therapist says now that I didn’t realise how severely ill I was back then and I agree, it is only now I am well on the way to recovery that I see that.

I remember all too well how horrible it is to live with that constant fear and anxiety and to despair of ever getting better.

Agoraphobia has a huge impact on every area of your life, relationships, work and career, finances and all the stresses of dealing with that, as well as the constant anxiety is overwhelming.

I can happily say now that I am no longer living in constant fear.

I can leave my house, I am driving again (first time in over 10 years) and I am doing things that bring me joy. No longer does fear control my every thought and every move.

I still get anxious. Some days I have quite bad anxiety but it is not quite the same as it was before. It doesn’t terrify me anymore. It’s not pleasant and it can be uncomfortable, but I am not as afraid of it anymore.

I also try not to let it stop me from attempting anything, especially anything new. That is quite amazing for me, the girl who was scared of her own shadow!

Those of you who have followed my journey know it has been a long one, and not easy. All of this came step by step. There were lots and lots of attempts to leave the house that I couldn’t manage. There were oceans of tears as I struggled with trying to do something and letting the anxiety stop me. One small step forward, what felt like twenty back.

I wish I could say I never gave up, but I did. Many times. For a short time. Then I tried again, and failed again and cried again. Then tried again; until I had a small victory, then another, then another.

In the last year or so I have been attending a community college singing class.

It is one night a week and there are usually about 7 – 8 of us there. I have done three terms of this now and find it a lot of fun.

Each week we have to prepare two songs to sing in front of the class. From the time I was a little girl I have always loved to sing. Usually really loudly! Singing just makes me happy. There is one small problem; my voice is not very good!

My singing teacher Jen is such a wonderful, upbeat person. She makes everyone in the class feel supported and praises us all for having a go. She says I am a natural at performing a song and acting but yes my voice does need a lot of work.  There have been a couple in each of my classes that have had amazing voices some with good voices and some like me that struggle with their voice. To get up every week and sing songs in front of the class is nerve racking! Even the people with good voices get really nervous which makes me feel better.

When I saw the class advertised, I really wanted to do it but wasn’t sure I could sit in a class room for 2 hours and not get anxious and want to leave. I also had to drive there which while it wasn’t far it was a bit out of my comfort zone and at night. But I decided to give it a try.

The first night I went I was nervous driving and nervous walking in to the class. I had thought I might tell the teacher about my anxiety in case I had to leave but I didn’t get a chance. I made sure to sit in the seat and desk closest to the door so I could make a quick exit if I needed to. I didn’t need to!

I was anxious at times but I kept reassuring myself that most people would be a little anxious for the first night of a new class, especially singing. That first night we didn’t have to get up and sing a whole song, but she did make us sing in front of the class. I was less nervous about that, than my anxiety.

It is a funny thing. When I go to class each week and have to get up and sing I am nervous but not anxious! It is a different type of nervous. Even though it is scary to put myself out there in that way it is not quite the same as being anxious and scared of a panic attack. Does that make sense? I hope so.

I always feel better after I do it as well, not matter if I have sung well or not. It is a good feeling knowing that you could feel scared in that way and do it. The class is always so supportive as well. Clapping and cheering after your song, which is so lovely! At the end of each term we put on a little end of term concert for family and friends who want to come.  It is just in the classroom but we have it set up like a concert and we sing group songs, as well as our own songs. Even though it is nerve racking we do manage to have a lot of fun.

The concerts can be a bit awkward for me though. I have no family to bring and most of my good friends live interstate so they can’t come. The other friends I have I am not ready yet for them to hear me sing. So most often everyone has their partners or there family there and I have no-one. It does make me sad.

I don’t let it stop me though, I go to have fun, and I do.

For me to go from not being able to leave my house to going to a singing class where I sing in front of the class every week is a huge achievement for me.

I have come so far. I still have a way to go yet, but I really have come so far.

It is my dearest hope that those who are reading this who are in that terrifying grip of agoraphobia, panic attacks and anxiety will draw hope and inspiration from my journey.

No-one could have been more afraid than me, and if I found a way, you can too.

I had many stops and starts, many therapists that didn’t work for me before I found the right one. I struggled with meditating in the beginning, but with every day practiced, it started to come more easily.

I know I keep saying it every time I write about my journey but the absolute keys to my recovery were psychotherapy and meditation, particularly Stillness Meditation by Pauline McKinnon.

I think it is really important to note something about Pauline’s Stillness Meditation. It does not use a focus on breathing for the meditation. A lot of people with anxiety can struggle with some meditations, as they focus on the breath, and that focus can make you feel more anxious.

I was reminded of this the other day when I met a yoga teacher whose husband has anxiety, and she was telling me he doesn’t like the yoga meditations as they focus on the breath and that makes him more anxious. I introduced her to Pauline’s Stillness Meditation and her husband loves it and now meditates in that way every day to great benefit.

So I thought it might be helpful to those who have been put off meditation to mention that.

I know this journey through agoraphobia can be so tiring and seem so futile. I understand I really do. Be kind to yourself and take care of yourself as you are going through this.

I am thinking of you all and sending much love.

Janesse- ADAVIC Member



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