Living a life with Agoraphobia
No Way Out
What Is Agoraphobia?
Agoraphobia (ag-uh-ruh-FOE-be-uh) is a type of anxiety disorder in which you fear and avoid places or situations that might cause you to panic and make you feel trapped, helpless or embarrassed. You fear an actual or anticipated situation, such as using public transportation, being in open or enclosed spaces, standing in line, or being in a crowd.
I consider my form of agoraphobia akin to being behind bars in my beloved home that has become a prison. The bars are translucent but are powerful and they don’t let me leave,they don’t let me come and go easily nor readily. Theres a lot of preparation that goes into being able to leave the house and sometimes I miss appointments, sometimes I miss events, I’m going to have to miss my stepson’s wedding in Puerto Rico and I might have to miss any funerals that come up along the way if I’m unable to leave the house in a safe way without panic.
I first remember being afraid and having a panic attack after learning at a very young age of my grandparent’s deaths in Auschwitz, and of how they were taken from their safe and secure dwellings in Paris, France in 1942. These were the first memories I had of the fear of leaving one’s home and being taken from the safety of home, and I was only a little girl when I first listened and learned about this while the adults were talking in the other room. They weren’t telling me this directly but I overheard it and I was terrified and from that day onward I’ve been fearful of death and dying, waking up in the middle of the night as a child and adult with panic attacks, screaming aloud that we’re all going to die, and of how scary that was for me to know this and to have that knowledge and to feel so alone. I think that I have had many experiences that have been layered, and like a rich casserole dish, have led me to have panic disorder, social anxiety and now agoraphobia, which is a combination of all the fears and all of the traumas that I’ve had in my life. Each layer is filled with fear and terror about living life and dying, and being afraid to die as I go about living life, and this is the conundrum I now find myself in.
The translucent invisible bars are keeping me confined and preventing me from living a full life, a life where I can go visit my children and my grandchildren, a life where I can work at my career that I’ve worked at for 30 years. Now I just must stay in my house most of the time and this affects my marriage; family, friendships and self esteem. Staying home bound also affects my dog because we can’t go as many places as we used to go and see the things we used to see and do the things we used to do as our life has become very limited.
Many good things have happened since I’ve been home I have relaxed a lot, I’m learning to take care better care of myself I’m playing word games with friends online And reengaing with my joy of reading. I got involved with writing for Hub Pages and I am staying in touch with people via the telephone and Face Time and Skype. There are so many opportunities to keep in touch with people with digital networking that there’s no reason for isolation even if you can’t leave the house freely. I invite people to my house for social events and celebration at times although often I am too anxious for company.
Although I look forward to the day where I can move more freely about and go places again I must also be able to accept where I’m at now and know that this is a possibility that might affect my future as well and I might not be freed from the bars that keep me hidden.
I am working very very hard with various treatment modalities I have two therapists, one who uses the ACT model of acceptance and commitment therapy and the other that uses cognitive behavioral therapy and one therapist uses EMDR as well which is a trauma therapy. Claire Weekes teachings on panic disorder and agoraphobia are a mainstay of treatment. We do exposure therapy which is about being exposed to the triggers outside of the house and feeling the panic and floating through the panic and letting it wash over me like a giant wave and wash through me like a swarm of bees feeling the stinging, and moving on anyway, and getting through it until the stingIng subsides. I also am being taught Interoceptive therapy where I stimulate a triggering feeling and respond the same way trying to ride out the feelings until they pass knowing they’re not going to hurt me. I struggle with avoidance of many opportunities as well.
Each day I try to go a little further or to do certain things to go out of my house to walk the dog to pick up my groceries to go to my therapy appointments even if I’m having a panic attack or a mini panic attack. It’s very very difficult work but I really want to have my life back and be able to deal and manage with the sensations of a panic attack without feeling like I’m dying.
I recently learned of a man by the name of Alan Watts and he was a historian, philosopher and clergy and he speaks a lot about death and dying in esoteric terms making it more understandable to me in a way that isn’t as frightening. I also am taking CBD oil which seems to be calming me down more and allowing me more space and freedom to do more things.
So if you might be struggling with agoraphobia catch it in its earliest stages when you begin avoiding people, places and things, before it progresses and becomes difficult to treat.
And feel free to comment on this article and get in touch with me and I will respond because I have plenty of time on my hands right now. I hope one day to be writing from a different location than my house and to be writing an article or articles from a local share space or at the library and I hope my articles have the same authenticity that they’ve had since I’ve been home.
May I walk over the threshold of my front door and not look back.