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My Journey Through Agoraphobia - Part 6

This page added 4 March 2011
By Janesse – written March 2010


[see also: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5]


Part Six

Hi everyone,

Wow 2010! Hard to believe isn’t it?
I hope this year brings everyone peace and joy.

On this journey of mine I am continuing to make progress.
I have had some great successes and also some great disappointments when I haven’t been able to do something that I wanted to do.

It continues to be one step forward, two steps back. OK, sometimes it feels like twenty steps back! On my good days I try to believe though that sometimes we can learn more from our failures than our successes.

One of the successes I have had involves Christmas. Because of my agoraphobia I have spent many Christmas’s home all on my own, listening to the sounds of families all around me celebrating and feeling sad. This year for the first time in many years I was able to go with my partner to his family for the Christmas celebration. I was extremely anxious about going and worried how I would get through it. My partner reassured me that if I started to get really anxious that he would take me home. That helped me feel a bit better but I of course did not want to take that option unless I really had to.

I also told myself I could excuse myself and go lie down on one of the children’s beds for a while if things became too much. I also knew I could ring my good friend who also suffers from an anxiety disorder and she would talk to me. As it turned out I didn’t need to do any of those things on the day.  Even though I had quite a few anxious moments I was able to handle it without them escalating.


In the car driving there (another big deal for me as it is about a twenty minute drive), I had a few thoughts of asking my partner to turn back and take me home as I did start to feel anxious. But I really did want to go, I did not want to be at home alone, I wanted to see my partner’s family, some of whom I had not seen for a long time.  I should mention here that only a few people in his family know about my agoraphobia. Actually, I suspect that they mostly all know but I have not told them myself and I have never discussed it with any of them. I know that in some ways if they knew it may make things easier in some respects for me, but I confess I am embarrassed about my agoraphobia, too embarrassed to tell them and not ready to talk to them about it yet. The relationship between my partner and I and his family is complicated (aren’t they all!!) and I am uncomfortable talking to them about it yet.

Anyhow, we got there and I was very nervous!  I started chatting and helping with things as more people arrived, and I got nicely caught up talking to people which helped make me feel a bit more at ease. When we all sat down to eat, I started feeling a little bit trapped at the table and worried about panicking. I tried to just let go of my tight muscles and let them flop a little to help relax me, which helped.  I concentrated on how nice it was for me to be here finally having a Christmas which was not spent on my own.  It felt so good to be out and having a meal with people!!!

I have had to make so many excuses over the years for why I couldn’t attend my partners family functions, and I had missed so many that it brought tears to my eyes to think I was actually here doing it.

I then got really sad thinking of all the times I had missed, all those hours spent alone, because of my agoraphobia.  I have missed so much. Not just at Christmas but all the many occasions that I couldn’t go out to because of my fear and panic. I have been stuck inside scared while my life is passing by quicker and quicker.  Even typing this now makes me want to cry for all the wasted, wasted days.

Agoraphobia is a dreadful disorder. It makes you feel so isolated and alone, and then makes you ashamed and down on yourself because you can’t seem to conquer your fear. Then you get lost in despair, as I have been many times.

I did get through Christmas Day, actually more than get through it, I enjoyed myself. I confess I had a couple of glasses of wine which enhanced my enjoyment!
Those days, as well as my other successes in going out, have been a long time coming and I have felt hopeless many times. I was pondering on what I could tell those of you with agoraphobia to help you if you had an outing or a place you wanted to go. I was trying to think about what strategies had helped me and what I could pass on. The thing is, I realized that my agoraphobia has, as the title above me says, been a journey.  I know I must sound like a broken record, but I truly believe I wouldn’t be able to do the things I am now able to do without two things:

Psychotherapy and Pauline McKinnon’s stillness meditation.

Neither of these things works overnight, but they do work. I have had times where I did not believe they were working or would work, and wanted to give up, but I kept going and I am so glad I did.
Both therapy and stillness meditation have both a flow on and cumulative effect. They really pay off in the end.

People often say you have to have the courage to face your fears.
I hate that saying as I am sure most agoraphobics do. It is not about courage, it is abut learning how to be again without fear.
Somewhere and somehow we learned how to be fearful and to respond with fear. But it is exactly that, a learnt response and you CAN unlearn it.  Through stillness meditation you once again learn to get back to a more relaxed natural state of being.

One of the key things that meditation has given me, and that I use everyday is this: to notice where you are tense and let go of the gripping of the muscles. Try to notice this even when you are watching television or at any time and to just let go a little. You will be surprised at how tense you may be without even realizing it. If you make a habit of noticing this and letting the tension go, your body will gradually start to become more relaxed in general.  This, along with daily meditation does really help when you become anxious or tense.

In the beginning of my agoraphobia, before I started to meditate, I somehow thought that if I were to let go of my tenseness the anxiety would get worse. That if I relaxed the anxiety, panic would overwhelm me. That I had to be in control…preparing myself ready to fight it.  In fact the opposite is true, if you let go of the tenseness the anxiety is lessened.

I used to hear people say all of that but I did not believe them. Meditation has been a gentle way of showing me that it is in fact true. There is no need to tense up and try to fight.
Another ironic thing though is if you try to relax too hard, you will work against yourself.

I am sorry if all that does not make sense! The concept is a bit hard to explain, but if you begin meditating and if you read Pauline McKinnon’s book ‘In Stillness Conquer Fear’ you will understand better.
Pauline’s book had the best explanations of the processes of agoraphobia that I have ever read. Of course it does take time and practice but I use it all the time.

I have also said this before, but I really want those of you to know that if I who was so deep in agoraphobia and despair, can slowly work my way through it, you can too. I am not there yet, but I am getting there one success and one disappointment at a time.

Take care,
Janesse (ADAVIC Member from Sydney) - March 2010




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