I try to keep my Agoraphobia quite close to my chest. Funny how I call it “MY” Agoraphobia, like I own it. Couldn’t be further from the truth!
Truth is, I worry that as I build my blog & social media platforms, people might see me talk about the Agoraphobia & not relate.
Immediately after ‘coming out’ you feel a little isolated, thrown in the Weirdo Box with all the other nut cases who talk too freely about their issues (not my opinion! I’m making a whopping assumption)
I won’t go into how it all began since I have already mentioned that in a previous post, but now marks 6 months living with this condition and I can tell you now, it is not in my head! Well, it is, but I will divulge…!
What is Agoraphobia anyway?!
Agoraphobia is an Anxiety Disorder displaying strong and sudden symptoms of anxiety in situations I perceive to be ‘unsafe’ or difficult to get away from. It is often perceived t be he fear of leaving your house and in a nutshell, that’s not far from the truth.
The Science of Agoraphobia
During a moment of panic/anxiety attack, your body goes in ‘fight or flight’ mode. This is a physiological reaction to something your brain feels requires this intense rush of adrenaline. You know the shop isn’t scary, the spa is calming & an Autumn stroll should be enjoyable, but try telling your brain that! Your body releases adrenaline, a hormone which puts all your senses on high alert. This is a survival instinct that we are all born with. Newborns are tested at birth by midwives/health visitors by quickly releasing their hold. Babies will look startled, arms will span out & they may cry. People with Agoraphobia/Panic Disorder have a particularly sensitive fight or flight response.
I read a book called “Feel The Fear & Do It Anyway”, and whilst it didn’t help me as much as other techniques, the title resonates with me so much. I HAVE to do it anyway.
Agoraphobia feeds off repeated behaviour, once you leave a shop because it gets too much, it seems to remember and will deliver all those horrible symptoms the next time you go!
My symptoms range from racing thoughts (what if I throw up? Oh God I’m panicking! Calm down! LEAVE! Just put the basket down quietly & scurry off!), racing heart, sweating, feeling sick – this is the big one, erratic breathing, pins and needles amongst others. So how is this a mental health issue when all my symptoms are physical?! I’m not imagining these things, they’re really happening!
As horrible as it is to experience, I have to ride it out and continue living my life. I do struggle and there are places I haven’t attempted yet and at times I falter with my own advice below!
How I Manage:
- Don’t give up – I’ll still try to go to that place, I’ll deal with the symptoms when they happen but I WILL calm down! The symptoms will ease and the longer I’m there the less I feel it.
- Distraction – Easier said than done sometimes but I’ll often start a shopping list in the Notes section on my phone if I’m waiting somewhere. Or listing 5 things in my head: 5 things I can see, 5 things I can smell, 5 things I can hear etc.
- Plan it anyway – I try my best not to turn down offers of play dates & visits because I need to give myself a chance. If I cancel before I’ve even tried it I’m just reenforcing to agoraphobia that yes, that place is scary and that it is right to send out all those panic signals.
I have tried a cocktail of different medicine to help me cope day to day, none of them helped me that much so I am now drug-free and dealing with it myself. Diazepam was great during the really tricky periods but it’s not a drug that can be used persistently, short term only.
Agoraphobia, or Anxiety in general really, is a challenging condition to live with because it is always there, there is very little respite because your body is always on high alert, waiting for the next scary thing.
There are some practical ways to help learn to live with it though;
Self Help Books: I recommend the ‘Overcoming’ series. There are 20+ books covering depression, anxiety, shyness, agoraphobia, eating disorders etc, all based around CBT techniques.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT): I personally found this helpful with learning to talk about what I was going through, but I didn’t benefit in any other way. Others do though so do try it if you are suffering.
Love, Dannii x