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My Journey through Agoraphobia - Part 9

This page added 7 September 2012

By Janesse – written September 2012

[see also: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8]

Part Nine

Hi Everyone,

I am so glad we are almost done with winter!

Spring and summer will be here soon and I can’t wait to feel the warmth of the sun, and to start swimming in my beloved ocean once again!

The journey continues…

I have had many personal problems to deal with over the last few years. Some of which have affected me greatly and I think, have held me back from progressing in my recovery.

I have tried not to let them stop me from continuing to recover, but they have, at times, completely floored me. During those times I have had to stop and retreat and simply let myself be.

I continued to walk every morning, as I find walking helps me in so many ways, both physical and mentally.

Walking for me is more than that though.

There is a lovely large park which goes for miles near my house which has a creek, trees and even horses in paddocks.

I live in the city, not the country, but where I live encompasses both the city and the country. The park leads down to the bay where there is a walkway by the water.

It is truly wonderful, and every morning I feel blessed to be able to walk in such an environment.

I have come to know each tree and each rock by the water and I love them all.

I think of when I was completely housebound. I was too scared to go outside and open myself up to the world around me. I was too caught up in my own feelings of fear, to let go and look around and see the beauty of the world.

Some days as I walk, I have hardly been able to see through my tears and I have come to view the ocean and the trees as friends who I can lean on to soften my tears.

These tears were not from feeling anxious about being out, but were the feelings themselves: The pain of life, loneliness, regret and emptiness. Those beautiful trees know each of my heartaches. When I put my arms around them, I feel the strength of their trunks and spirit of the earth. They don’t take away my tears, or tell me to stop crying. They just allow me to feel whatever it is I need.

In the past, I would have been afraid to cry while out on my walks, but now, if the tears come, they come, and I try to soften my tears instead of fearing them. I try to let the feelings come and refrain from holding them back, feeling safer when surrounded by the comfort of nature. Of course this hasn’t happened all from the beauty of nature. Through my therapy, I have worked a lot. Not only on my anxiety, but on myself and my fears.

It was odd to discover that one of my biggest fears was myself! Fear of who I was, who I had been, and what I had become. Fear of knowing myself in case I didn’t like what I found. Shutting down and closing myself off from myself and the world, or putting on amour to face the world in case what the world saw wasn’t enough.

Even before my agoraphobia, I discovered that deep down I thought I was pathetic, horrible and unlovable.That of course was not the face I gave to the world.  For all intents and purposes I was a happy, giving, caring person. And I was. I was loved and appreciated by everyone but me. I just could not see it. I was so scared that the monster I thought I was, would be out for the world to see, and as a result, I closed my heart, mind and spirit.

From the outside, you would never know it, as I still often appeared to be happy. If anything, I gave more and more to people in an effort to counteract who I thought I was.

Through therapy, I gained the courage to look deep inside every dark corner of my mind and every part of my heart that I had closed to discover what was there and his was a scary process.

What did I find in those dark hidden spaces? I found feelings. Painful feelings. Feelings that I had suppressed for years.

They were painful feelings. Feelings that were hard to look at, but no hidden monster. No horrible person waiting to come out.

With the support of my therapist, I gradually became able to bring out these feelings, and more importantly FEEL them.

In the past, I knew somewhere these feelings existed, but I would analyse them, examine them and do everything but actually FEEL them.

I will be honest; there were times I thought I couldn’t do it. There were also times when I was shaken to the very core by these feelings, and I wondered how I could live through such thoughts.

The thing is; feeling those feelings is the way to freedom. It was for me.

As I am writing this, it occurs to me that for some of you this may sound easy or simple. It may sound simple but it is certainly not easy!

When I started therapy, I thought I was feeling my feelings, but I wasn’t. I was thinking about my feelings, analysing them, examining them from every angle; doing everything I could not to feel them. I see now that the endless examining of my feelings was actually a way to distract myself from actually feeling them.

Something I have learnt that I have found valuable is that I don’t have to like the painful feelings; I just have to allow them to be there and be gentle with myself.

In fact, generally speaking, I think being gentle on ourselves is a very good idea.

My sense of self worth is not quite where I would like it to be, but it is so much better than it was.

I am not entirely free of agoraphobia; I cannot begin to tell you about my day to day anxiety. That said, my anxiety when I am out is much less than it was.

There was a time where I would be anxious all day, and if not anxious then alert for the prospect of anxiety. That is not the case anymore.

I would encourage all of you struggling with anxiety to get out and about if you can.  Even if it is only sitting in your backyard, or on a balcony.

There was a time when all I could manage was getting to my letterbox. If that is all you can manage, that is fine too.  Look at the sky, the clouds, the grass and the trees, and if you can, try to feel them embracing you and try to soften the tension within your body.

Try to believe that not only is the world around you a safe place, but that if you let it, the beauty and kindness of nature will embrace you and encourage you to be okay.

All my love

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