Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Confessions of an Agoraphobic

I've posted before that I am a diagnosed Agoraphobic.  Actually, the official diagnosis is "Agoraphobia with Panic Disorder."  Subsequently, I am also diagnosed with Cyclothymic Disorder, which is a low-cycling, less severe form of Bi-Polar Disorder.  I take several medications to keep the symptoms of both disorders in check....since I also have a seizure disorder, the seizure medication I take also treats the Cyclothymic disorder. Otherwise, I would be taking 8-9 different medications instead of 6.  Six is enough, believe me.

My agoraphobic manifested in about 2006, when my grandmother's dementia became so severe that she need daily care.  It was also concurrent with the beginning of the "mystery" ailment that wasn't actually diagnosed until 2009 (I don't like to discuss that in depth, but it is what my seizure disorder stems from).  Grandma's care only became more intense, and the treatment I received once my illness was diagnosed made me so sick that I hardly left the house at all.  Now....there are a lot of misconceptions that agoraphobia means people cannot leave their homes.  That may be true for some sufferers, but really the problem is entering situations/places that cause panic - in my case, new/foreign places, and being around people I don't know.  My home became my "safe zone," so I came to a point where I avoided the situations that triggered panic, and soothed myself in my safe zone.  This continued until I was afraid to even enter grocery stores.  I felt horrible about myself and my lack of control over the panic.

Through a series of positive opportunities, I entered therapy in June of 2011.  Through my therapist's guidance and adjustment of the medications, I found myself less and less panicked by new situations and new people.  I got out more, and even ventured into new places.  I was encouraged by the progress, and found myself looking forward to my therapy sessions every week.

Thanksgiving 2011 was a turning point.  Grandma cut me out of her life, so I decided to move on with mine and made the plans to move to Alaska to be with Richard.  While the change was scary, I handled it fairly well - I even let go of all my possessions fairly easily.  With the teenager, 4 suitcases, 2 duffel bags, 2 laptop bags, and 3 boxes, I boarded a plane and left everything and everyone behind.

I did okay the first few days in Alaska.  I met my love's family, ventured into stores and businesses, and adapted to my new life fairly easily.  The difference, though, is that Richard was always with me.

Yesterday, Richard dropped me off at Faith's school to register her as a new student.  The first trigger hit - he wasn't sure where to go, so he spotted a door and let us out there so he could get to work.  Alone (although with Faith, I still felt alone), unsure of my surroundings, and with streams of teenagers moving around me, I had a major anxiety attack.  Once we finally found the office I stabilized, but the damage was done.  I was scared and unable to reason with myself that I was okay.  Faith wasn't able to start school without an extra immunization (not required in the state of Oregon, apparently), so we left.  Not driving meant I had to call a cab, and thankfully the driver knew our address and was able to take us back without me having to help.

At lunch, Richard picked us up and we headed to the native medical center for my doctor's appointment.  This time, I directed him to a familiar door, and I was able to find the office okay.  When the doctor came in, though, I was having such a bad anxiety attack that she called a counselor in to talk to me (and gave me a strong valium).  After the appointment, I had to register Faith as a patient so she could get her shot, and that was another mess....they had a rush of new patients after the new year, so they couldn't get her entered right away.  We ate lunch so I could calm down a bit more and let the valium do its job, and then called another cab to go home.  This driver, unfortunately, did not know how to get to our address, so we had to try to help him.  I was nearly in tears by the time we finally found the condo, and it was all I could do to get inside and close the door.  I made it through dinner (albeit Chinese delivery, rather than home-cooked), but ended up shutting down and napping for 2 hours.  Between being sick and being so panicked all day, I had to shut down and regroup.

I'm working on getting back into therapy here, but it can take a while.  In the meantime, I'm going to have to find a way to manage the panic so it doesn't affect me so profoundly.  I'm trying to convince myself that yesterday was just a minor setback, but it doesn't feel so minor.  My mantra is "tomorrow is another day." So, with that in mind, I will approach tomorrow with a new attitude.  Today is for healing.  And writing a very long-winded blog about being agoraphobic.


  1. With the huge step of "faith" you just took it is natural to experience some anxiety even if one doesn't have agoraphobia. Keep your chin up and give yourself a pat on the back lil' sis!!! I'm sure you've got ways but maybe try bringing a good book with you and when the feeling hits, leave that situation and go into a "happy space". :) Feel better!!!

  2. Good Luck Duchess. A very bold move for an agoraphobic. I never got a chance to tell you it was nice to meet you. I think you are so clever and funny. Anchorage is lucky to have another warm fire to huddle around for swapping stories late into the night. Sincerely.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.