Monday, 11 April 2016

How I Overcame my Agoraphobia


Let me start off by saying agoraphobia sucks. It completely took over my life at one point. Since I'm bad at descriptions, Mayo Clinic describes agoraphobia as a type of anxiety disorder in which you fear and often avoid places or situations that might cause you to panic and make you feel trapped, helpless or embarrassed. I developed agoraphobia from having multiple panic attacks in public. I remember being at a subway station once, walking up the stairs, when my throat suddenly closed up and I started panicking. Thankfully, I was with Karl which made the situation a little better, but having everyone stare at me while I was hyperventilating, crying, and freaking out, was humiliating. Not to mention, being in a public area while having a panic attack is not the ideal situation, especially when everything's louder, walls close in, and being in any sort of inclosed space freaks you out. I've missed out on so many opportunities and events because of agoraphobia, and it's upsetting to think about everything that I backed away from, just because of my fear of having a panic attack. I got extremely nervous every time I had to leave my house.





I remember 3 years ago, having a panic attack for no apparent reason walking up the stairs in a mall. Because of that panic attack, my brain marked these set of stairs as a dangerous place, even though I was in no danger at all at the time. But because of that panic attack and the flight-or-fight response, this was registered as a harmful environment, and every time I got on those stairs, I panicked. It's amazing how our mind can do these things without any intent, but it's also frustrating to have no control over what locations my body perceives as dangerous, even if they are not dangerous at all. 
http://www.trauma-informedpractice.org
The fight-or-flight response is a psychological reaction we all experience when we are in a harmful situation. Whether we intend it or not, our sympathetic nervous system kicks in. Basically, when we are in danger, our body sets ourselves up to either approach (fight) the problem, or run away (flight). The fight-or-flight response will kick in if your body thinks you're in danger, whether you are or not. Us who suffer from anxiety and panic attacks, usually just have a much weaker sympathetic nervous system. 
Because of this, I secluded myself and thought it would be best for me to not to risk a panic attack by avoiding everything. I would turn down invitations, events, and basically every opportunity handed to me. This was all because I was scared I was going to have a panic attack. Living a life in fear is not the way I wanted to live, and the fact that I was too scared to do anything really took a toll on me. There is no way you can have a happy life, while being afraid of everything. Of course, doing this causes deeper issues such as depression, but I won't go too deep on that subject here.
If you suffer from agoraphobia, you're probably going to hate me saying this, but the best thing to do is to honestly get yourself out there. Whenever I was about to turn down a proposal because of my agoraphobia, I would say to myself, "you can't live a life where you are afraid of everything". Once you get yourself out there, you might realize how much you've missed out on, and it will slowly, but surely make you more comfortable with accepting offers that are given to you. You'll definitely surprise yourself with the amazing things that will come your way just by pushing yourself.  Cognitive Behaviour Therapy has also helped me overcome agoraphobia. It's a type of therapy which changes the way you think, so you don't see the world as such a scary place, and I also got a lot of tips on how I can calm myself down before a panic attack. If you can't receive CBT for whatever reason, there are a lot of books that also give advice on how to stop a panic attack before it starts. I think back about how I was too scared to apply to school, and go to my portfolio reviews and interviews, but I wouldn't have gotten accepted if I thought about having a panic attack the whole time. Taking the initiative and finding the power in yourself to open up to situations you might perceive as scary, is how you achieve what you want. Also remember to find the right coping mechanism to calm yourself down before a panic attack. Everyone is different, and something that works really well for someone else might not work for you, but you will definitely find something that will fit your specific needs. 
I know that I might get an anxiety attack when I go out, that's just something that usually happens to me, but I'd much rather know I can calm myself down, than just totally miss a chance I will never get back because I'm too scared. I hope this helped anyone who suffers with agoraphobia. I know how horrible it can be, but you can overcome it, and you will be impressed of the amazing things that will come your way.



16 comments:

  1. You've written it down so well - I've suffered from agoraphobia too and was always scared that I would have a panic attack when I was out and about. But I agree that you have to get out there and just do it!

    Victoria xx
    www.victoriaahelenn.blogspot.co.uk

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    1. It's the only way! You will never move forward unless you face your fears.

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  2. wow this was really inspiring to read!

    www.prettyinleather.net

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  3. You've clearly been through a lot, and are still going through a lot. The people who do things even though they are scared, regardless of what they are, are the real heroes in the world. Keep it up! And don't let your phobia run your life :)
    Bethany
    wardrobespareoom.blogspot.co.uk

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  4. Wow good for you! You're very brave. I don't know that I would be able to overcome that.

    COLLEENWELSCH.COM

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    1. You would, it doesn't seem like it at the time, but ti's definitely possible!
      Thank you :)

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  5. I didn't know about agoraphobia actually but I have generalised anxiety and randomly, I'll get really anxious about being in a gym class or something where I can't just leave. Then I associate places like the gym with anxiety and it stops me from wanting to re visit. I'm still discovering ways to calm myself down.

    Sally - DiagonSally

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    1. I also have generalized anxiety, and it sucks when we associate places as dangerous when we were just having an anxious moment.

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  6. This is such an interesting read and so well written. I can only imagine how tough this was for you but it's amazing you're overcoming it and not letting it define you. Very inspiring! xx

    http://www.thatnewdress.com

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  7. It's heartwarming how you've telling your personal story, I've no doubt it will really help those experiencing the same thing. A huge virtual hug to you for forcing yourself through such a tricky thing and having the mental strength to fight it :)

    Gabrielle | A Glass Of Ice
    x

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  8. You're really brave. Everybody knows how much it's difficult to face off our fears.

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