Agoraphobia is a type of anxiety disorder in which you avoid situations that you’re afraid might cause you to panic. You might avoid being alone, leaving your home or any situation where you could feel trapped, embarrassed or helpless if you do panic.(Mayo Clinic)
This has been a long time coming, some years worse than others. But in the past couple years in has become a problem that affects the way I live my life. I no longer go out to dinner, or to social events. I get anxious just thinking about it. As my anxiety has increased, my life has become more and more limited. The house, and this farm, I call home, is becoming more of a prison than a safe haven.
I’m not sure when things really shifted. I know it has been considerably worse since the last hospitalization, and the ECT. Though I am not blaming that. I used to be social. I’d go to dinner with friends, and see movies. I’d visit the city to see a show or attend a concert. All that has changed. I can’t even make it into town to have dinner with my mother. One of the times I tried I was so anxious and nauseous wasn’t able to eat at all. I force myself to go to therapy.
To see Virgil it is between 1-2 hours to get to her depending on traffic. My anxiety starts the night before. I can barely eat dinner. By the time I have to leave in the AM my palms are sweating and I have stomach problems. I try not to dwell on it, and to get right in the truck and leave. I use music to try to calm myself for the duration of the ride. To deal with my stomach I usually have to make a couple stops on the way. I plan for this and give myself extra time. I try to focus on all the times everything has been fine, all the sessions in the past. I think about how important it is to be in treatment, and that she helps me so much. I normally get there a couple of minutes early. I try to focus on my breathing and calming myself by reading a book, though that rarely works. By the time she opens her door and sticks her head out, I am convinced I am going to throw up. My arms tingle and I feel flushed. I just keep trying to tell myself that this is normal, that it happens every time. That I won’t, in fact, puke on her rug. Somehow I never quite convince myself, but I step in her door anyway. It takes a good 10 minutes for the anxiety to rachet down. I focus on her voice and what she is asking. I attempt to concentrate and that helps it subside. After the initial 10 minutes it is normally ok. Occasionally I will get a wave of nausea, but it is brief and leaves about as fast as it appears. By the end of the session I feel normal, I don’t have any anxiety. I feel ok. How does 45 minutes make such a difference? I think much of the anxiety is anticipatory. The what-if’s in my brain,the worrying, and the ruminating.
I don’t ever talk about this. I thought it was just me. The more I read, the more I realize I am not alone in this. Lots of other people have anxiety like this. They too have lost bits of their lives as everything closes down around them. I don’t want to end up like Howard Hughes with 6″ finger nails and a mask. I need to step up and work on this. I have started to share with Virgil that this is effecting how I live my life. Last week I didn’t make it to a seminar I was supposed to attend. I became so anxious and panicky the night before, I did not even get out the door.
So, in the search for a way to overcome this, I think this is a start. Just talking about it. From here, I think dealing with the cognitive distortions that drive the panic will make sense. Short trips to nearby places, and slowly working up to farther places. I am most able to cope if I have my truck. If you ask me to go in a car with other people to someplace that is just a disaster. I see my vehicle as an escape route. If anything happens I can just leave. I need that security right now. Maybe, eventually I will be ok without it. But it is hard coming up with excuses to take two cars, or always insisting on meeting people wherever we have to be. It is even this way with my mother. My mom has seen me at my worst, so it s odd that the irrational thought pattern even extends to when I am with her.
Panic and anxiety are slowly destroying my life. I want to figure out a way to get my life back. A life where I am not chained to my home. To think, I though bipolar was my problem.