Agoraphobia: What it Means for Me
Hello. I am Marie and I have agoraphobia.
I often wondered what it would be like to stand up in a crowded room and admit this to everyone. I think to be able to talk about it here is quite freeing. For a long time, I felt ashamed of not being able to leave my home. I felt as if I was a failure and lacking in some way. That I wasn’t a bona fide human being. That I couldn’t be trusted to carry out one of the most basic of functions: get dressed, open my front door, step out on to the path and walk to the gate, open it and walk out on to the street with the aim of carrying out and completing a task. I was a failure.
My journey has been long and arduous spanning 17 years. Seventeen years seems like a lifetime written down and in many cases it does feel as if a huge part of my life has been impacted by this condition.
We all know that mental health issues are seen as taboo. Something we don’t talk about because it is perceived as shameful and an embarrassment and reflects badly on you. Well this is how I felt 17 years ago when it started. I didn’t even know the condition had a name and I certainly didn’t know it was agoraphobia. I had heard of the word of course – very few of us haven’t, but had I really ever thought about what it meant? To be honest, no I had not because before I got it, or should I say, it got me, I wasn’t that bothered. Sure we hear all sorts of related terminology: panic attacks, anxiety attacks to name two, but somehow until it happens to you, it doesn’t register fully.
Seventeen years ago, without any warning I started to feel odd and strange. I felt funny walking along the road as if I wasn’t fully in charge of my body. My vision was slightly blurred and my legs felt weak and I had a tremor. That’s the only way I could describe it. It made me concerned enough to go to the doctor and explain that I felt something was wrong. I described the symptoms to him but all he did was write a prescription and advise me to take a few days off work. Those few days turned into several weeks and about the fourth week my GP said it was time I went back to work because I was costing the National Health Service (NHS) money. I wasn’t any better, I had no idea what was wrong with me, and there had been no diagnosis from the doctor.
I went back to work but continually had to take time off because my symptoms were getting worse and it was becoming increasingly difficult to leave home because I felt afraid and unsafe. At times I would literally freeze on the road, unable to move my feet forwards.
Eventually after 5 years of various tests and trips back and forth to the hospital I was diagnosed with chronic anxiety and agoraphobia. During that time, the agoraphobia got to the stage where I was a prisoner in my home. Every time I got ready to go out feelings of trepidation would flood my body. My body had a mind of its own – it would foil every plan I made to leave home to go to the shops for food, go to the GP or make plans to meet with friends.
During that time I became lonely, depressed and felt as if I was completely alone. Friends didn’t want to know. They would occasionally telephone, but I saw no one. I would have been so grateful to see a friendly face at my door, enquiring how I was, if they could help in any way or if they could get something from the shops for me as I couldn’t do it myself. But no there was no help and I realised that my mental health issue had not only become a problem for me, but it had alienated me from friends and to some extent family. Had I been afflicted with a broken leg, or measles or something tangible, I’m sure those illnesses would not have been seen as so threatening. Not being able to go out on my own, invisible as an indication of the problem I had, but not tangible enough to warrant empathy and understanding left me alone and floundering.
I have been fortunate to have received therapy from counselling services, which has helped greatly in the process of healing and moving forward with my life. I am now improved as I can get out more. Not as much as I would like. Each day brings new challenges, but “I rise” to quote Maya Angelou.
Healing does not happen overnight as many of you well know. From connecting with others here in the blogging world, it has not escaped my notice how many of us are in therapy for anxiety related issues. In the past I might have been reluctant to share my experience as I would’ve been embarrassed or ashamed, but I see now that I need not be. And this is because of the many wonderful people I have met on WordPress who have bravely, and candidly shared their own remarkable stories here.
~ Marie Williams
I’ve been privileged to guest-blog on “Happiness Between Tails” by Daal. I’d like to thank her for the opportunity and the pleasure it has given me. Thank you Daal.
Thank you. Two small words. How often we use these words each day, so that it has become watered down and is said sometimes without much thought to what it really means. But these two words are an indication of our knowledge of the place we hold in this vast universe. What a huge thought! Let’s think about this: thank you means that we are not alone. To say “thank you” indicates that there is someone else there and that we are part of a great scheme. A scheme which we cannot comprehend in all its entirety. The complexity of life is such that we cannot hope to ever understand all that it is: only parts are revealed to us and each of us experiences these parts in varying degrees dependent upon our life experiences.
So when we say thank you, we are accepting that we are…
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In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “From You to You.”
Today’s assignment, write a letter to your 14 year old self, seemed easy, but on second thoughts I am not so sure. It certainly seemed the easiest option. There were so many choices: some that I thought I could do, and others that I thought I wouldn’t know where to start. Sometimes I think when there are too many choices, it’s very difficult to decide which option to go for. Better, when it’s either this or that really.
Yes, you, come on now, try not to let things get you down too much. I promise life will get better. I know that you’ve had it really rough and I know that you wish your first suicide attempt at age 11 had worked, but it didn’t and that’s because you are here for a reason. I know that you can’t see that now, because all around you is chaos, but you are a divine spirit and you need to know that.
Try not to internalise the pain. I know that you feel that you have no-one to confide in, but you do. Speak to your grandfather. I know he is no longer here. I know he died in 1959, but his spirit is with you. Speak your pain and he will hear and he will try to smooth the path for you and make life a little easier. I know you’re thinking, “rubbish!” But seriously, he came to help you that painful night when you were 11. It was him you saw, when he hovvered over you. It was not a figment of your imagination. He came to make sure those pills did not work.
You’re destined for great things Marie. Look at Oprah Winfrey, Maya Angelou – they suffered too but look how they have turned their lives around. They have have used their abusive pasts to build a solid framework in which to change their lives for the better. OK, so you’re never going to be Oprah or Maya with their very public profile, but you will be Marie blogging on WordPress, “sharing, hoping to inspire and motivate” others.
I know you think I’m crazy, and that this will never happen. Yes at 14, with a mother who clearly finds you an irritation and a father who gets a kick out of battering you, sending you to school with bruises on your face and body, with the explanation “If they ask you what has happened to you, tell them that you fell over some wire in the backyard”, makes the above paragraph seem like the ramblings of a mad woman, but honestly, you will survive.
People that you don’t know now, will be reading your poetry and will write to you telling you how much they love what you have written. People all over the world in France, Austria, USA, Australia will be commenting on your poetry.
There will be something called the Internet which will allow you to connect with others in a way that you can’t now. The world will be a smaller place in terms of contact and there will be vast opportunities for you to grasp and take advantage of.
I love you Marie and I want to take care of you in the only way I can. This is why I am writing to you, aged 14. I want to give you hope. I want to let you know that I am there for you.
(A much older)Marie xx