Invisible impairments
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Agoraphobia

ryan123ryan123 Member Posts: 17 Listener
edited January 16 in Invisible impairments
(I hope i'm writing this in the correct category)

I don't ever tell anybody about my mental health issues - only my very closest friends know and even then, they don't actually have a clue what my illness is. Not their fault, it's just an uncommon one i guess.

I suppose i'm writing this to ask if anybody else suffers from similar issues - i searched the forum and it seems quite a few do - and whether anybody was able to fully conquer it. I haven't yet been able to.

So, about 14-15 years ago, i just remember being in bed and crazy thoughts started going through my head. I don't like telling people about my endless array of pseudoscientific nonsense (it's literally all we can call it) that has gone through my head over the years, a) because it's embarrassing (and nonsensical) and b) because i don't want to pass it on to anybody else. For a similar taster, and i hope this doesn't negatively affect anybody on here, but let's just pretend i become obsessed that aliens are about to invade. (Really not that far off what i've actually thought). 

The thought enters the head, the anxiety combined with over-imagination fuels it, then before you know it you're having a panic attack. 

I just remember having that awful night's sleep, going to work the next day, and trembling with anxiety. I just couldn't get the thoughts out of my head. I worked through it, came home, anxious throughout, but survived. I really don't know how it got worse (infinitely worse), but all i do remember is i had to drink a lot back in those days to 'calm myself down' (obviously, i've since learnt that drinking an anxiety are a big no-no). So, for about 4 years i just battled this nonsense with booze and coping strategies: coping strategies that constantly changed because my thoughts constantly made them change.

For example, it began as i said above. Not long after, i started developing phobias and needing coping strategies to even go to work. So, like night-time began as a huge problem. As soon as the night was drawing closer, i'd panic. So, i'd start drinking at night to calm myself down (probably linked in part to the bad night i had). Then i'd start drinking earlier so i'd already be drunk by night-time. THEN.... i started to become scared of the DAY! Yep, a complete reversal. Imagine trying to work when day-time made you anxious. So, i started drinking for breakfast on some days. I'd usually drink at lunch-time too. This all went on for years, with my phobias going back and forth and a new fear would jump into my head all the time. 

Over the years, i've had i'd say half a dozen debilitating fears that actually crippled my ability to function. Thankfully today, 99% of them are gone - or at least in a sunken treasure chest deep in the ocean, and hopefully never to re-emerge.

All of this led to me becoming agoraphobic. I had a massive panic attack in town one day, so i ran home, literally panicking all the way (which, of course, makes it 10 times worse). I got home, shut my door, and didn't come out for 8 months. I was on the 2nd floor..... so inevitably, yep, i developed a phobia of being too high off the ground. lol. (You have to laugh, or you'd go bonkers). 

I had my mum come to look after me for a few months, i had my brother come to take my bins out, i'd do my shopping online etc. A doctor came out to give me anti-depressants, i stopped drinking alcohol, i finally saw a psychologist who explained that my fear of going outside was due to my perception that all of my stresses/anxieties were 'caused' by the outside world. When in fact, they were caused inside my brain. I then had approximately 3 years of seeing CBT therapist, support groups etc. 

What i found most helpful was just the 'push' to get out there. It was horrifying, but i did manage, little by little, to get back out there. I first managed to do it on foot, with great stress. Then i bought a bike (much easier, but not perfect). Then after a few years i managed to buy a car (that's where i am today). My car is now my extension to my house. I can't go shopping without it, i don't go for coffee with a friend without it, i don't visit anybody without it, and i can't be driven around (i have to drive). It's not perfect, but it's infinitely better than before. I managed to actually walk out of house with both my support worker and my CBT therapist, and doing so felt fine after a while. But, then the support slowly went, all of my family live far away (including abroad), so i just crumbled again. I basically went back to how i was. That's i think when i had to get a car.

There is one phobia i just haven't ever been able to get over. Without going into detail, i'll just say when i leave my house the anxiety elevates to such an extent, that i *will* have a panic attack if i don't prepare (in other words, if my coping strategies aren't in place). I know that i am still a victim of my illness because i'm still allowing it to control me. And i know that to win you *must* confront it. I know this because it's what i did in the early days. But, unless you have had such issues, it's impossible for people to really understand what you're describing. Like when my CBT therapist used to say, "what is the worst thing that can happen?". Well, unless you've been in that situation, you don't know how awful it is. 

But, i've improved immensely. Even though i don't walk anywhere other than 30-50 metres from say carpark to supermarket, car to cafe etc. I can cycle from my house all the way through town. I can drive up and down motorways etc. I even had a lady friend visit me from abroad (see my post in the dating section) and she told me people would never guess i was ill. As i wrote in the other section, that's because they don't spend enough time around me to see my coping strategies in full swing. 

But, i've just never been able to get over that last hurdle: how do you go back to just WALKING like everybody else, after being scared to leave your house for nearly 15 years? 

It's the reason i no longer seek therapy. Not because CBT etc doesn't work, but because, for me, it just goes around in circles. I need a solution, not more analysis. 

Thanks for reading. Let me know if you've found a solution. lol.  :)

Replies

  • OverlyAnxiousOverlyAnxious Member Posts: 1,259 Disability Gamechanger
    ryan123 said:
    i finally saw a psychologist who explained that my fear of going outside was due to my perception that all of my stresses/anxieties were 'caused' by the outside world. When in fact, they were caused inside my brain. 
    If only we could avoid our own brains eh!  :|   Would swap mine in an instant if that was possible...

    I also suffer from agoraphobia but can't really offer any more than you already know.  I've never been fully housebound so far and want to keep it that way, but am now at the worst I've ever been due to the pandemic and lockdowns.  The only thing I can say is that it takes constant work to keep it under control, I don't think it'll ever disappear.  The worst thing I can do is over-stretch myself.  I've been given terrible advice during CBT about just staying in situations until the anxiety drops, but it never does drop and I just end up with catastrophic consequences, and am then unable to go back to a certain place or distance etc for weeks/months/years.  I'm not able to shop online due to OCD (need to chose my own food carefully) so have no choice but to visit a supermarket once a week so just have to do what I can to keep that possible.  I haven't been following the lockdown rules this time and am still forcing myself out to drive 3 times a week, and walk once or twice.  I don't go far, but currently that's just enough to maintain the ability to get to the supermarket once a week.  I know I'm not going to improve at all until this over, but I really can't afford to get any worse.

    As for walking, I chose routes where there are likely to be few people, always wear a hood and/or dark glasses and chose times carefully so as not to coincide with school leaving times etc.  Some people will say that's avoidance but I say it's about picking battles, you can't fight everything at the same time.  Due to physical issues (unsure whether they're cause by anxiety or not) I'm only managing about half a mile now, whereas I was doing up top 3 miles before Covid.  Some days I feel I can manage a little more so push on further, but knowing the limits is crucial so as not to push too far.
  • ryan123ryan123 Member Posts: 17 Listener
    edited January 18
    OverlyAnxious said:
    The only thing I can say is that it takes constant work to keep it under control, I don't think it'll ever disappear. The worst thing I can do is over-stretch myself.  I've been given terrible advice during CBT about just staying in situations until the anxiety drops, but it never does drop and I just end up with catastrophic consequences, and am then unable to go back to a certain place or distance etc for weeks/months/years. 
    I was reading on the NHS site (i think) that X amount of people get cured fully, Y amount of people tend to have to live with bits of it, and Z amount of people literally have it forever. My advice to people is that when i was at my absolute worst, i just don't see how anybody could have had it worse. I'm sure, objectively, some people *have* had it worse - i know it's not a competition - but from the symptoms i had, and taking into account i'd be asking NHS specialists on the phone if anybody had ever 'managed to come back from this far gone?', it seemed like there was absolutely no hope. Yet, i've improved immensely since then. Looking back on those days, it was like it was a different person experiencing them. I hope i never and i highly doubt i will ever get that bad again. I mean literally sitting in my bedroom for days on end, never venturing out, the room shaking around me, my body trembling, not being able to sleep etc. 

    My avoidance of situations, pre-planned routines, and coping strategies are all designed to give me the ability to 'live' as well as i can under the circumstances. I certainly don't feel sorry for myself, and i'm glad i've found a way. I mean, like i wrote, most people probably wouldn't even think there was anything wrong with me - as is often the case with mental health issues. I can walk through town with my bike being wheeled alongside me. Ah, my old trusty bike! But, if somebody was to steal my bike from out under me, i'd crumble there and then! I know it makes no sense, but to me the difference between walking and walking with bike under the arms is like chalk and cheese. I can do the latter, i can't do the former. It's annoying - literally driving my bike into town, then taking bike off of car, walking through town with bike, then putting bike back on car, and driving home - but it works for me. 

    As for CBT, i think any form of psychological treatment is useful to certain people, and some of it might be useful to everybody to an extent. But, for me, i already *know* my issues off by heart. I *know* what it is that drives my issues. I have a degree in psychology now. I'm interested in this topic. So, going to CBT and just going round and round in circles, is a waste of everybody's time. The thing that helped me most, including with CBT, was being forced out of my comfort zone and shown that the danger is in my head. It was the worst part but also the best part of my recovery. Unfortunately, i've been at the stage of, 'i definitely can't do that again' for years. I probably will have to one day go back to the discomfort, but i'm not sure how (motivation, government cutbacks, Covid etc). In the meantime, i can cope doing things *my way*. 
    OverlyAnxious said:
    I'm not able to shop online due to OCD (need to chose my own food carefully) so have no choice but to visit a supermarket once a week so just have to do what I can to keep that possible. 
    Interestingly i have a friend who has severe OCD. I've never seen anything like it (e.g. checking front door for 10 minutes, taking 20 minutes to leave the house etc). I won't burden you with his issues as well, but they're definitely not 'normal'. I've seen how his OCD issues affect him. 


    As for walking, I chose routes where there are likely to be few people, always wear a hood and/or dark glasses and chose times carefully so as not to coincide with school leaving times etc.  Some people will say that's avoidance but I say it's about picking battles, you can't fight everything at the same time. 

    With choosing routes and whatnot, a lot of my friends seem to think i have 'social anxiety'. Probably because i think that term is a blanket term used to refer to people with 'anxiety'. It does sort of make sense to lump people into that category considering we are a social species and we have to interact with others. Once any of us develop severe anxiety, it probably does look like it's, at least in part, to do with our social interactions. After all, even the most confident of us can get a bit embarrassed or anxious in front of a large crowd or whatever. But, that isn't what i have. Even though it's possible i am *more* anxious around people than i used to be, it isn't the form of anxiety i have. My anxiety developed out of a ridiculous nonsensical pseudoscientific form of reasoning that i developed 15 years ago and that just got worse and worse. It's possible it began in childhood (as many of these things do), it's possible it got worse through drinking so much, and it's possible my interactions with others further increased my anxiety (after all, we're a social species), but it wasn't caused by other people. Had there been nobody on Earth, these anxieties would have been just as crippling. It's so difficult to explain to people because the pseudoscientific/irrational thoughts i've had over the years are so preposterous that many of them i couldn't even find in Google searches! (yes, i went looking to see if other people think like me). 

    And, i agree, you have to fight each bit little by little or you just give up.  
  • lisathomas50lisathomas50 Member Posts: 3,874 Disability Gamechanger
    @ryan123 I had full blown agrophibia  in the 80s I couldnt breath I couldnt move my heart would pound and that was just standing on the door step it took me two years to go out side with a lot of help and support from my then psychiatric unit helping me to go outside 

    I did manage after two years but fast forwarding  to now due to the corona virus that fear has come back and I did start to have panic attacks again which I am again managing through my mental health duport worker at the moment I am not well so not going out but every day I sit on my bench in the front garden or I tske a short walk down the lane its a horrible thing to have and hope you can have help to overcome this 😀 
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