During 2015, I began to follow the blog of a young woman who wrote about her life with anxiety and agoraphobia, together with other mental health topics. We got to know each other a little, through reading each other’s blogs and by exchanging comments.
By July 2015, Lauren’s anxiety and panic attacks had caused her horizons to shrink so much that she was unable to leave her home at all and so we began to work together, via Skype.
Here are Lauren’s own words about her experience of agoraphobia and anxiety:
“Agoraphobia is undoubtedly one of the most misunderstood anxiety disorders; with many people assuming it simply means ‘being afraid to leave the house’.
However, agoraphobia can be better defined as an intense fear of being in a situation where an escape is not easy.
For me, this has included using cash machines because of the length of time you’re stuck waiting for your money and can’t leave; it has included being in elevators, cars, trains, cinemas, using pedestrian crossings; not being able to stand still because of the need to keep running; being unable to cross the road because there’s too much traffic, and a million other small and complex things that would take me way too long to list but equally impacted my life beyond belief.
The result of all of these things was what left me housebound. It wasn’t that the outside world was a scary place to me, it was that my disorder had gradually dictated all the things that I couldn’t escape from and the only option I had left was to remain inside.
Leaving the house for the first time isn’t the end of agoraphobia, it’s merely the start, the first step; because agoraphobia is all of those things. Agoraphobia is being too scared to cross a bridge and it’s feeling like you’re going to faint when you’re waiting in a queue. Agoraphobia is feeling suffocated when crammed in a small room and feeling lost and vulnerable in an open space. Agoraphobia is most definitely not simply ‘being afraid to leave the house’.
But by adding together each small step, things can and do get better. Because small steps are massive.”