A guest post by Lind Hewett of Positive Spin
It’s New Year’s Eve. I’m waiting for the bus into town when it begins. The ‘f’ear feeling.’
My stomach churns, as if I’m about to sit for an exam. But all I’m doing is going into town. I try to ignore it but once I’m on the bus I feel worse. How much longer till we’re there?
I don’t like it, the fear feeling. It follows me into the store where I try to choose some birthday cards for the year ahead. The floor is waving about. I glance around at my fellow shoppers. Surely someone can see the floor moving?
I hurry out into the fresh air but the fear refuses to leave me. I frantically search for a phone box, to call my husband to come and fetch me. Outside again I hover impatiently, shifting from foot to foot, because if I stand still I’ll fall over.
Back at home I go straight to the phone to call the doctor. It’s the weekend but he hears the panic in my voice and we drive straight to his office. I relate my story and he takes off his glasses, his wise face smiling. ‘This is outside my field of expertise’, he says. ‘But don’t worry, I’ll refer you to a specialist who’ll know exactlywhat to do.’
I’m on my way to dealing with the fear. I still don’t know what’s wrong with me but I’m on my way. And I’m determined.
In the specialist’s office (he was gorgoeus by the way…) I ask - “All I need to know is - What is it?, Why have I got it?, and How do I get rid of it?”
He tells me - “It’s agoraphobia. I’m afraid I can’t explain why you have it but I can help you to get rid of it.” The specialist tells me that if I hadn’t come to see him I would have soon been imprisoned at home. This makes me even more determined to deal with it. But it’s not easy. And he warns that it won’t go away overnight and it will take great perseverance.
To this day I still don’t fully understand why agoraphobia came my way. But I am so pleased I asked for help because I would not have known how to deal with it on my own.
Here’s how I chased my agoraphobia away -
1. I sought help imediately. I know other sufferers who don’t seek help. As a result they remain imprisoned. Such a waste of lives.
2. My appointments meant I was forced to drive alone to the hospital. My husband was at work so I had to go alone. This was scary. I hated driving alone, it was one of my symptoms, especially if I had to wait at a red light. Every visit filled me with fear but in fact it was a good thing as it was exposing me to the very situation I feared.
3. I was asked to keep a record of everytime I faced a feared situation and to record the fear level. At first the level stayed high but after a while it reduced and I could see my prgress.
4. We made a plan. The supermarket shopping was a problem. I always feared I would fall over, especially when waiting in the queue to pay. I approached this issue step by step, starting with my husband leaving me in the store for a few minutes to him dropping me at the door and waiting while I did the full shop.
Every feared situation was broken down into manageable steps. At every stage I felt extremely anxious to start with but the fear would gradually subside if I persevered.
5. I had to be patient. Naturally I wanted it to go away now! But I also knew that I was in charge of my own recovery.
My specialist said this : “One day, in the not too distant future, you’ll be in the supermarket, in a lift or on a bus, and you’ll suddenly remember that you used to be afraid.” I remember I laughed and told him I wished I could believe him. But he was right. It happens all the time.
Escaping the prison of agoraphobia equates to dealing with any other phobia.
In my experience, it involves 10 stages:
- facing up to the situation
- seeking professional help
- making an achievable plan
- accepting the bad days
- accepting that it will take a while
- practicing facing the fear
- accepting that life will always bring some anxieties
- believing you are able to do this
- not allowing the fear to take over
- never giving up
The bottom line? If I can, you can!
Linda Hewett is a writer, blogger and confidence coach. She blogs at Positive Spin - Live life on the upside! She believes that confidence comes in many disguises. All you have to do is…look.
Photo Credit: “Open Your Wings” by Alejandra Mavroski