My security, independence and dreams were taken from me the day I decided to experiment with drugs－at a party I should have never went to. I was seventeen years old when this happened, the day I thought I was going to die. The day when I had never-ending panic attacks: racing, out-of-control thoughts and terrifying physical sensations. (At the time, however, I didn’t know there was a name to describe everything that was happening to me.)
What scared me the most that day…was thinking I would never see my grandparents again. They were more than my legal guardians, they were my parents. Even though I didn’t know anything about God or the Bible, I knew He existed. And when I thought I was going to die, I prayed, “God, please don’t let me die. It would kill my grandparents.” They loved me more than anything and I couldn’t bear putting them through the loss of their beloved granddaughter. Yes, I was terrified of going through the scary and painful process of leaving life behind. But I was more scared of being separated from the two people who loved me the most.
I didn’t know what to expect on the other side of lifelessness, except for the darkness and loneliness that awaited me.
Looking back, that is when I developed the phobia of never wanting to be alone, especially without my grandparents (my safe people) at my side. All the time. Not wanting to be alone was the first component of creating what is referred to as agoraphobia. When I think of the word ‘phobia’ there’s a better way to describe it: it’s the false and unhealthy beliefs/mindsets I created when I thought I was going to die and never see my grandparents again. Which led to other phobias that became a part of the agoraphobia. Any place outside of my home (my safe spot) was not an option, either. I even feared going to doctor appointments, which was never an issue before, thinking they would tell me something horrible about my health. Like I was dying! The thing is, I still had panic attacks with my grandparents at my side, and inside the safety of familiar surroundings. Still, it was less terrifying than being alone, away from home.
My social life was small to nonexistent, so was my space. My entire existence felt as if it was shrinking, day after day. Although somewhat comforting and secure, my home was my prison. My grandparents, although loving and supportive, were my bailiffs. There was another cell much worse, though. A cell that was dark and lonely－my mind. My phobias (beliefs/mindsets) had taken me captive. All because of that day when I made a very unwise decision, a decision that could have cost me my life. With that said, unforgiveness toward myself for what I had done, grew and strengthened the agoraphobia. I was seventeen, for goodness’ sake! I was human, and last time I checked, I still am. So why was I so hard on myself? (Low self-esteem, feeling of no value, rejection…I’ll save that for another blog post.) The phobia of being alone, being out in the world, scared of doctors and others, and not forgiving myself had continued to follow me throughout the years. Thirty, to be exact.
Had I only sought the mental and emotional help I needed as soon as the unfortunate cycle of fear and trauma first began. No one had mention it to me from what I remember. Anyways, I may, or may not, had been completely set free from the agoraphobia. I think it would have made it less severe, nonetheless.
I did go to the doctors to get checked out after the drug episode, but it was a few days after telling my grandparents what had happened. They were devastated as I knew they would be. But more grateful than anything that I was still alive. The doctors prescribed me medication for an ulcer that had developed along with putting me on a heart monitor. Not until a couple years later was I prescribed anti-anxiety medication. Ugh. To my dismay, the medications made the anxiety and panic attacks worse, and more frequent. Again, wish I had gone to see a therapist, psychologist…someone to help me deal and overcome my issues. But because I didn’t, the phobias grew and grew like the most disgusting and incurable infection ever.
I’ve lived being agoraphobic for a long, long time. More accurately, I’ve lived with the fear of being alone, being out in the world, the fear of fear itself (all the sensations one experiences in a panic attack), and not getting over/forgiving myself for making the worst mistake of my life. Despite all the suffering, loneliness, shame, and discouragement the agoraphobia has caused, I have lived my life without always having a trusted person by my side, and being outside of my home too.
Here are some of the things I’ve accomplished: being by myself at home, working at hotels and grocery stores, and volunteering at churches. I’ve attended a community college, had my own cleaning business, traveled far from home with family/friends, and DRIVING all by myself! I know, right? Do I still have agoraphobia? That would be an unfortunate YES. But instead of letting my mental prison of fears keep me locked up inside my head, or in my house, I live doing it afraid. And every moment that passes, I become more resilient. My bravery, determination and perseverance gets stronger every day.
No matter where your fears and agoraphobia stemmed from, or how long you’ve been struggling with them, I want to encourage you that there is always HOPE to break out of your mental prison of fear and isolation. When it comes to internal bondage, you and I are pretty much the same, even though our anxieties and phobias may differ, how often they occur and how intense they are. And the ones who find the freedom they’ve been longing for, may not be the same way others find theirs.
As for me, the road to HOPE took place when I was nineteen years old. I picked up a little, black leather Bible－that I cannot recall where I had gotten it from－and pressed it against my chest as I curled up on the bed, silently asking God to save me from the torture. From myself. The TV was on as well, and as I gazed at the preacher, tears streamed down my face. Somehow, somewhere, from my teenage years into adulthood, God really did rescue me. More than once. He spared my life at the age of seventeen, the age of nineteen, the age of twenty-two and then again at the age of thirty (the time when I wholeheartedly gave my life to Him). Every day He looks after me. He truly is my Savior.
If you need to talk, or just want someone to listen, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. Pain, trauma, unforgiveness, fear, and hopelessness are no respecter of persons. I pray God’s comfort, peace, safety, courage, strength and HOPE over you, my friend. It doesn’t matter that we haven’t met－because I get you.