How To Escape The Prison Of Agoraphobia

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!

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Linda Hewett

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

16 responses to “How To Escape The Prison Of Agoraphobia

  1. Pingback: How To Escape The Prison Of Agoraphobia | Liberating Choices | Untreated Info

  2. @marci
    hello marci
    how are you?
    this is my first time on your blog and it certainly wont be my last time lol!! because of the great content here.

    @ linda
    hello linda
    how are you?
    this post was really inspiring and i cant begin to imagine all that went through your mind.
    one thing whch stands out from this post is your willingness to deal with the situation and i must commend you on that.
    although we dont have all the answers to the questions life throws at us, you certainly have turned this around for the better and it’s great to know that you are ready to inspire people through sharing your stories or coaching.
    take care of yourself and enjoy the rest of the day

  3. I literally knew about a lot of this, but with that said, I still believed it turned out practical. Beautiful job!

  4. Superb information and facts! I have been browsing for everything such as this for quite a while today. Excellent!

  5. Hi Linda and Marcie! Love this blog and this is a great post, Linda. Many people see fear as a weakness and not the debilitating condition that it is. I have arachnophobia which most people think is funny. I’m not too sure what is amusing about me frozen in fear and crying hysterically when I see one of those insects (can’t write it). The first thing I do when I walk into a room is scan for them. I have a radar that usually picks them out and if I’m lucky enough to have my husband with me he gets rid of the problem for me. I’ve tried to conquer this fear because I hate it so much but it’s just too scary to face. Thanks for your insight on phobias!

  6. Marnie,
    I was exactly the same with sn…..! (Long, worm like creatures…) I used not too be able to say the word let alone write it. But when I finished treatment for breast cancer I dcided that if I could face a Lfe threatening disease then it was time to deal with my sn… phobia.
    I was soponsored to handle a live snake and raised money for a local hospice. I’ve handled them since and there’s NO fear left! Amazing.
    So what’s next for me to face?
    Emmm… have to give it some thought.

  7. Thanks, Marci.
    With my breast cancer, it was a case of
    1. I can complain because it’s happened
    2. I can face it and find the positives, and believe me – there are loads.
    Obviously no-one likes it but there is a way through and I’m proud to say I found the way for me. I kept a Journal all the way through and that got me writing regularly. I often read it back and am thankful.

    • Linda, sounds like you have many more stories to tell. I’m grateful that you found your way, and I’m intrigued to hear more.

      Do you think you have always been able to see the positives? Or, is this way of thinking something you’ve developed over time?

  8. It’s hard to remember but I know the whole cancer thing showed me what I was capable of and I found so much to be positive about, right from the start. I surpise myself when I read my Journal from that time. I hope I’d be able to do it all again if I had to.