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My Journey Through Agoraphobia - Part 5

This page added 31 January 2011
By Janesse – written December 2009

[see also: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4]

Part 5

Hi Everyone,

It is hard to believe that Christmas has come around again so soon!

As some of you know from my writings, this is not my favourite time of year. For me, as for many, it is a sad time of year.

The enforced ‘jolliness’ that seems to be everywhere at this time just makes any feelings of sadness, loss and loneliness so much worse. Then you can feel almost guilty for not getting into the so called “Christmas Spirit”. I have mentioned before that at some Christmas’s I tried to force myself to get into the Christmas Spirit which only made me feel worse. Now what I do is to tell myself it is ok to allow my feelings of sadness, loss and loneliness to be there. I try to sit quietly with them for a little while and cry if I need to. I also try to remember that I am not alone in these feelings. Many people feel the same way and it is ok. Then I try to get on with my day, whatever that entails.

Since my agoraphobia I have often been alone on Christmas Day as I was unable to leave the house to join my partner or friends for Christmas. To be honest I never really got used to it and I didn’t like it.  What helped was, as I said, allowing my feelings, and also planning something really nice for myself. Maybe having a big box of chocolates all to myself, watching a DVD, giving myself a facial or a manicure/pedicure or reading a great book.

However it is easy at this time to feel overwhelmed with those feelings of sadness and I would really urge you to talk to your therapist about things that can help at this time. Another problem at this time can be change of routine due to the holidays.

It can make us more anxious not to have that familiar routine. Friends, neighbours or family may be going away at this time, which may worry us and make us feel isolated and alone. Here we may also need some strategies for coping. Again, talk to your therapist or talk to your friends or family about how you are feeling.

Talking to your friends or family about your feelings may be difficult. I was very embarrassed and ashamed to admit those feelings and while now I don’t go shouting it from the rooftops I have been able to learn to not be so ashamed and to let people, where appropriate, know a little more of my feelings. It can help if you can be honest about your feelings, whether it is anxiety, sadness, loneliness or isolation. Don’t brush aside these feelings or pretend that you are ok when you are not. A great sense of relief can often be had by being true to your feelings.

I would caution though to be careful who you choose to share with. Sometimes if we express those feelings and feel like we are not being understood or acknowledged it can makes us feel even more isolated or depressed.

A trusted family member or friend is the best way to go. If they or a therapist are not available through the Christmas period I would suggest ringing Lifeline.

Another alternative can be the internet. I have some mixed feelings about the internet and online groups. They can sometimes be a useful source of support if you are feeling isolated. If you don’t belong to any online groups, have a look and see if they would be something you are comfortable with. Apart from online forums and groups dealing with depression or anxiety, there are many other groups and forums to be found on the internet no matter what your interests are.

For example, I love animals and belong to a pet forum where many things are discussed. On the forum they have an off topic section where they talk about anything at all. This can range from shopping advice to serious personal issues.

There are quite a few people on there suffering from agoraphobia, depression and other mental illnesses. Sometimes it can be effective to be an anonymous person on a forum discussing your problems with others who are coping with similar issues.
One Christmas day I went to my pet forum and there were many people on there who were alone on Christmas day and were having a discussion about their feelings. While I didn’t join in on that occasion, it really helped to know that there were people around (even if it was on an internet forum), that I could talk to if I needed too. There are groups/forums for parents, for car lovers, various sports, music, art, television, craft, fashion, weather, almost anything you can think of!!

Before I go I just wanted to update you on my journey through agoraphobia.
I continue to venture out and about. I am doing more things that I have not been able to do for a long time and I continue to work with my therapist to deal with my emotional issues that drive my agoraphobia. Often I am going two steps forward and one step back, but the important thing is I continue to go forward how ever big or small the steps may be. There are still many things I cannot do or things that I have trouble with because of my anxiety and I have days where it feels like I have made no progress at all and I feel like I will never be free of this.

It truly is up, down up down, up, down.

I am heartened by the wise words of Pauline McKinnon in her book “In Stillness Conquer Fear”.

“...we exist in order to grow. Our very existence is imperfect too, and the fact that anxiety is present sometimes only indicates a stepping stone to further fulfilment. With the practice of stillness, we can move firmly from that stepping stone to the next stage of development…

So if at times you seem to go backwards a little, remember that this is only temporary, like a crack in a healing wound… When you wake each morning, give thanks for this day with the promise it holds. Recall regularly, with interest and affection, all the events and those people who have touched your life… Look forward to all that is still to come. And each evening, as you drift into sleep, gently bring to mind at least one good moment from the day that’s just passed. That keeps hope alive.” (p. 171)

To me there could be no better Christmas message.

My wish for anyone struggling with anxiety is for everyone to feel that spirit of hope.

All of my love,

Janesse – Written December 2009

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