the Solitude of Agoraphobia:
all began in 1984 – this sudden and seemingly irreversible
terror. I’m not sure what caused it, nor could I, at the time,
explain how I felt to myself or my family. All I knew was that I
was afraid to step outside of my house.
had once been a “go everywhere” woman.
I took my children to amusement parks, attended teachers
conferences and Sunday school. Now,
I was suddenly afraid to walk into a grocery store. I would
become overwhelmed by a feeling of panic and doom which I simply could
not explain. So, I lived quietly inside the walls of my little
house, afraid to venture out into the world.
made up excuses on a regular basis why I could not attend the
Christmas play at my son’s kindergarten class, or why I could not go
to my husbands family barbeque.
began “self-medicating” with alcohol – probably my biggest
mistake. I would drink beer daily – excessively – simply to
give myself the courage to leave my home. I was actually making my
condition worse, but I did not realize that until many years
later. I affectionately referred to each drink as my “can of
knew my lifestyle was affecting my family. My son and daughter
never told me how disappointed they were when I didn’t go with them
to a special outing, but I could see the look of sadness in their
eyes. My husband would often invite me to “ride along” in
the car, but I always had an excuse to remain quietly at home.
husband tried everything to get me out of the house. I think for
a long time, he felt as though I didn’t want to be seen with him in
public. We had many arguments about why I wouldn’t go anywhere with
him. I couldn’t explain why, because I didn’t know the
answer myself. But one thing we both learned:
trying to force someone to face their fears simply does
house had become my complete world. I did nothing outside the
confines of these walls; I gave birth to my third child at home.
cannot count the events and occasions that I missed throughout the
years. Christmas programs, weddings, birthday parties, my
daughter’s high school graduation and the like. But I think
the thing that caused the most distress for me was my father’s
funeral. Not that I didn’t try to attend. I was already
feeling guilty for missing my mother’s service and had promised my
father that I would attend his. That was a promise I swore to
myself and him that I’d keep. Yet in the end, that promise was
tried so hard to force myself to walk out to the car and go to the
church, but I just couldn’t do it. I copied a verse from the
Bible, handed it to my sister, and asked her to have the priest read
it for me. In my own way, I felt at least a part of me would be
there. Then, after everyone had left to attend my father’s
funeral, I sat inside these walls and cried. Even my “can of
courage” couldn’t get me to attend that funeral.
Many terrible things happened in my life.
My grandnieces were placed with their grandparents, and I was
told if I kept drinking, I wouldn’t be allowed to see them. I
had no choice but to quit! The
thought of never seeing those two little girls again was enough for me
to give up the alcohol. But, by giving up that “liquid medication,” I simply didn’t
have the mental strength to leave my house.
sincerely believe the turning point in my life was my fathers death.
It was sudden. It was totally unexpected, and I was crushed.
I was completely disappointed in myself for breaking my promise
to him. I swore I would do whatever I had to do to change my
life, and at least visit his grave.
was fully aware of my problem, although it did not have a “medical
tag” on it. I knew that my condition had gotten worse throughout the
years, and I fully understood that it would continue to worsen without
treatment of some kind. But
how can someone go in for treatment when they are afraid to leave the
house? It is a “catch
17 long years of loneliness, I had simply had enough. My wonderful
daughter made the appointment for me. Then, she set up a code
with the doctors office, so I couldn’t cancel the appointment – as
she knew I would certainly try.
worried constantly until the day of the appointment came. I
remember that morning clearly. I
paced frantically around my house, trying to come up with the perfect
excuse to not go. But when push came to shove, somehow, my
children – now grown adults – got
me into the car.
had written the Lord’s Prayer on a slip of paper, and tucked it into
my pocket. Just touching that slip of paper gave me a renewed
sense of courage. I would reach into my pocket and mentally
remind myself that He was with me.
we drove to town, my heart was racing, my hands were shaking, and I
felt as though the world was caving in around me.
Somehow, I got to the doctor’s office. It was by far
the longest, most terrifying journey of my life – and yet it was
only about 10 miles from home.
sat in the examining room, with my daughter by my side for moral
support, wringing my hands. I really wasn’t sure what I was
afraid of, but I was so scared I wanted to run all the way back
home. My daughter, who is also my best friend, kept saying, “It’s
OK Mom... try to relax... you’ll be OK.”
I cannot say how much I love her.
the doctor came in. After
talking for a good hour, I began to feel a little calmer. Truly,
you must be comfortable with your physician when seeking help for
life-altering phobias such as this.
the appointment had ended, a “medical tag” had been placed on me.
I am agoraphobic, and suffer from panic attacks. Finally, help
was on the way!
is no magic cure for agoraphobia. Yes, there are many wonderful
medications. But one must remember, medicine alone will do
nothing. We all must have the will to heal ourselves.
doctor prescribed an anti-anxiety medication for me and made an
appointment with a counselor. Now, to be honest here, I did
cancel that appointment twice, as my fear was just too great for me to
deal with. But finally, after hours of prayer, I did make and
keep another appointment.
counselor was a wonderful, very patient man.
We talked in detail about my condition, about medications, side
effects, and various other aspects of agoraphobia. He explained
the things I needed to do to “help myself,” and I swore I would do
all I could to walk the road to recovery.
have never considered myself a strong woman; I always believed I was
weak. But leaning on the Lord, family, and friends has given me the
strength I need to continue on in my recovery.
began a strict regime of Paxil. Now, I am not a “pill taker.”
I am one of those that will suffer endlessly with a headache, long
before I reach for the aspirin. But I was so determined to
change my life, I trained myself to take that pill daily! That
is the only way medication will help. And I must add, no drug is
an instant fix. It is
simply an aid to recovery.
worked hard daily to force myself to leave my home. I started
small by walking to my mailbox. Each time, I would stay a little
longer. Now, I can stand at the mailbox and read the mail!
I took very short rides in the car – maybe a quarter mile at first
– and adding a little more distance each time. Some days, I
just couldn’t muster the courage to get into the passenger seat, so
I had to force myself. These “baby steps” are crucial to the
that first visit to the doctor, those months ago, I have attended my
granddaughter’s birthday party, my niece’s baby shower, and I have
been on more walks and drives than I can count. I have to force
myself to leave my house, and on some days, that really does seem
impossible, yet I still manage.
no longer panic when someone knocks on my front door. Instead, I
invite them in for a cup of coffee. It is so wonderful to have a
have a long way to go, but as each day passes, I feel stronger and
much more self-confident. I anticipate changes, and embrace
them, instead of hiding away in fear.
recently started my own business, and am now working diligently on it.
It has not been an easy task for me, as public speaking is very
difficult for someone with my condition. Making a simply phone
call to offer my business services can be a nearly impossible task!
and more each day, women suffering from all forms of disabilities
enter the work force in one way or another. Home-based
businesses are popping up everywhere, and many of them are owned and
operated by women – some with disabilities, some without.
know that, if this woman – who was once terrified of
something as simple as going to the grocery store – can step into
the world and start a profitable home business, then any woman
can. To me, this is pure proof of the capabilities of all
persons suffering from agoraphobia.
must add: if you are suffering, as I was, do not be afraid to ask for
help. Depend on your family to help you. Believe me, they are
suffering right along with you. Give them all of the information
you can on your condition, so they can understand what you are going
through. Find a friend – a trusted friend that you can call
anytime day or night – just to talk. And above all, trust in
God to guide you along your path in this life. Keep with you
some small reminder of His presence and love.
road to recovery is a long, uphill climb. But your family, your
friends, and the Lord will all hold your hand and walk with you.
You truly are never alone!
life is so blessed now. In October of 2001, at the ripe old age
of 39, I graduated from high school. My father would be so very
proud. I have been sober now for nearly 2 years (Thank you
Lord!). My business is booming. And most importantly, I am
surrounded by family and friends who I love dearly. Not only do
they come to visit me, but I can go to visit them!
next venture outdoors is long overdue. I am taking flowers to a
grave which I have never seen... my father’s.
Copyright © 2010, Triumph Over Panic, Inc. All rights reserved.
Triumph Over Panic, Inc. is affiliated with the Agoraphobia and Panic Disorder Foundation.