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My Journey Through Agoraphobia - Part 4

This page added 11 January 2011
By Janesse – written December 2009

[see also: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3]

Part 4

Hi everyone,

Well it has been awhile!

Many things have happened to me in the interim. Some good, some bad but then that is life really isn’t it?

I am pleased to say that I have made some good progress in my recovery from agoraphobia. I still have a long way to go but I am getting there slowly, and I hope surely. What makes me the happiest is that I am now able to go to the beach and swim in the ocean sometimes. I am not doing this on my own yet, but I am doing it!

I have always loved the beach and the swimming in the ocean. It has always felt like home for me.  The years when I could not get to the beach due to my agoraphobia were like torture to me. A beautiful summer day and I was locked inside not able to get to the ocean.

We have had a couple of house moves and each time we moved a little closer to the ocean. The first day I decided I wanted to try, at the time we lived a short drive away. We set out with Nick driving and I was anxious as usual. So many times I wanted to tell Nick to turn the car around and head home but I was torn as it was a beautiful day and I not only wanted to see the ocean, I wanted to jump into it.

We got there and I was scared to leave the relative safety of the car, and scared to walk to the sand in case I became anxious. It is a bay more than a beach, very flat with only gentle waves.  I got out of the car and for the first time in a long time smelt the wonderful sea air, and saw that vast ocean. With Nick assuring me all the way we made it down on to the sand. I felt the glorious soft sand in between my toes and breathed a sigh of relief. I was still anxious, but I wanted to get in that water!

When I put my toes in I squealed with delight at finally feeling the water against my skin.  I had to immerse my body in this wonderful water. I dived in and floated on my back.

Oh My God! It was pure bliss! I won’t lie to you I was still a little anxious, but it felt so good that I thought I don’t care, I could die happy now I have been in the ocean again.

Oh! To feel that salty water on my face, to taste it in my nose and mouth; to lie and float and look at the sky, and to touch feel and hear the beauty of nature again.

It was so overwhelming to me I wanted to cry. To cry because I was so happy to be in my beloved ocean again, but also for all the years I couldn’t get here, for all the years of not being able to do this, all the years of missing this experience, all the years of being locked away, a prisoner of my own mind.

After my swim I wanted to lie on the sand and feel the sun dry my body, but I was too scared and I didn’t want to spoil my experience, so we got back in the car.  I was so happy!

Then I wondered would I be able to do it again?  For me as an anxious person the doubts can start pretty quickly!  What if that was a fluke? What if I can never do it again? What if next time I get really anxious? What if I have a really bad panic attack on the beach and it spoils it for me and I am too scared to go back?

I am pleased to say that I did go back as often as I could find someone to take me. For those who don’t know, I am unable to go out on my own. I carried all of those doubts with me each time, and sometimes I was so anxious I had to turn back home and then I would be so disappointed and frustrated with myself.

I did mange to go to the beach and swim often though. Again it was often with anxiety as my constant companion. Each time I did relax a bit more and was able to stay a bit longer.

Even on the days when I wanted to turn back, often I thought of how it would feel to lie in the ocean and that got me through so I could go to the beach. Often it was a huge struggle for me though.
Since then we moved within walking distance to the bay, and I have swam many times.
I guess there are a couple of things I would like to share with you from all of this.
Number one is never ever give up hope of recovering from agoraphobia.

I did lose hope many many times. I felt hopeless and cried with despair.
Many times I was too afraid to take even any small step toward recovery.
And then when I did try, even something small, the fear would drive me back. I would be disappointed in myself and beat myself up by telling myself it was no good even trying, as I just get disappointed and feel like a big failure, I was stuck.

As you have read, I did get ‘unstuck’. How?

Number one I found a good psychotherapist. She made it easy for me to come to appointments with her. On the days when I was too anxious to get there she would do phone sessions with me and showed me great understanding and compassion.

She also told me that it would take time for me to recover and it has, a long time!
I have been seeing her for quite a few years now.

She has been a huge force in my recovery.  She tells me I need to be proud of myself. Not only did I show up for my appointments (whether they be in person or on the phone) but I did the work that was needed in our sessions. As I was seeing a psychotherapist, our work involved lots of dealing with past issues that I had suppressed and lots and lots and lots of hard emotional work. It was painful, deeply painful, but with her help I did it.  And I am proud of myself for that.

All of that emotional work was, for me, the key that enabled me to try to venture out more and more, that and meditation.

For those of you who have read my pieces before you probably think I sound like a broken record but I will keep on saying it as I truly believe it makes the difference.

I meditate every day, sometimes twice a day now. In the beginning of my meditation practice I would find every excuse not to do it. Sometimes I was too scared to do it but gradually I got myself into a routine of doing it every day.

I use Pauline McKinnon’s mediation CD: Stillness Meditation. It is by far the best meditation technique I have ever done.  Her book In Stillness Conquer Fear is also wonderful and has been a valuable tool in my recovery.

Pauline often conducts workshops through ADAVIC.  As I am in Sydney I can’t attend, but I would urge you to go if you can.  Pauline is a psychotherapist who went through agoraphobia herself so she does know exactly what we go through. I have never met Pauline but I have thanked the universe many times for bringing her CD and book into my life.

Please know that no matter how hopeless you think your situation is, that there is help out there for you.  You may not go down exactly the same road I have, you may need to find your own road but do not give up trying to find a way through. You can and you will.

I am not completely recovered yet, but I am doing things that I had never dreamed of a few years ago.

You may be thinking “but she doesn’t know how afraid I am”.  “She doesn’t know the awful thoughts that I have, how bad the fear I feel gets!”

I promise you I do know.  And I promise you can get better.

Until next time,

All my love, Janesse (ADAVIC member from Sydney) —written 2009

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