Agoraphobia and the fear of 'what if'
Posted Tuesday 22 May 2012
I have been in a particularly chronic phase of severe agoraphobia for three years now and despite a round of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy in 2009 over the phone, I just wasn’t making the progress I wanted to. I started dedicated self help, which got me to a certain point of recovery, at least able to get out into the street for a few minutes, a marked improvement!
But there is still something - a fear, a thought, a worry – making me hang back. It is of course the classic 'what if' worry, it sounds so simple, but as many others who are in/have been in similar positions know, those two little words can trigger such overwhelming anxiety in the single blink of an eye.
Well, I’m just not confident in dealing with such intense physical symptoms and the associated mental distress. It’s something I don’t feel I can address on my own. I need someone to help me with this hurdle but because of the self harm aspect (which is my reaction to overwhelming anxiety and panic) allowing that help in is a matter of extreme sensitivity.
Earlier this year I decided I really wanted to try again to address my agoraphobia and anxiety. I have separate ongoing counselling for other areas of my life, but I wanted to see what other help might be available to me. I was referred to a local NHS service again and after talking with them, and finding that the therapy offered would be the same as my previous experience in 2009, I felt it just was not right for me.
I didn’t feel supported or understood enough, it felt like there was pressure on me to achieve goal after goal in a certain time frame. I explained that I would prefer more support and was referred on to Cam-Mind's Changing Lives project.
My assessment was carried out at my home at the end of April. In itself, having the practitioner visit me at home was a huge help. As someone with agoraphobia, attending any appointments elsewhere is simply impossible, it’s not doable at all.
At no time in my correspondence with Mind have I had to fight for my need for home visits – it was simply accepted by the team, which was a very encouraging start as all too often people just do not listen or understand when I say I simply cannot go out somewhere!
My practitioner arrived on time and straight away I had a positive feeling about working with her, we got on very well. It was a lovely informal assessment, just like a chat with a particularly knowledgeable, understanding, patient and non-judgemental friend.
I felt instantly at ease and was able to share my conditions and experiences, including the most painful ones, at that first meeting. We also had a think about what I would like to work towards, and agreed to meet again in two weeks.
I've just had this first appointment and feel even more positive, supported and encouraged. I'm even – dare I say it – looking forward to seeing what this journey might bring. I don’t feel forced, pressured, pushed for time or anything negative. It’s all very informal, relaxed and positive.
I’ve chosen a rough goal to work towards. It was made clear that it is just an idea of what I’d like to be working on. It’s not set in stone, so it’s being approached in a way that suits me, at a pace that suits me. No pressure.
I have a tendency to pressurise myself where goals are concerned, so to have a goal in mind without setting any solid plans is really important for me. To be allowed to do this is a huge reassurance and allows me to learn to go with the flow, to just take every experience as it comes instead of worrying about meeting a target someone else is expecting me to fight towards within a certain time frame.
I have a gem of a supporter in my practitioner who can be by my side to help me learn to cope with the difficult moments, as well as to help build my confidence and encourage me in the positive moments.
I’m looking forward to next time, I know it will be tough having to put myself in a situation that is likely to trigger waves of intense anxiety, but having someone non-judgemental and experienced who I trust by my side will I think – I hope – make the difference I need to be able to take the next steps in my recovery and the lifelong management of my mental health.
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