I’ve Had A Secret
While suffering with SO MANY PTSD symptoms, it was easier to stay at home in quiet solitude. All the movement and noise that takes place in the hustle and bustle of the world was too much for my raw senses to handle. So everyday I would go to work, sit quietly in my office, swallow hard when I had to be around people and noise, then I would drive straight home and collapse. Portraying a fake normalcy was very taxing – emotionally, mentally and physically.
By the time I reached my third year of PTSD, I had also become agoraphobic.
agoraphobia: abnormal fear of being helpless in an embarrassing or inescapable situation that is characterized especially by the avoidance of open or public places often accompanied with panic attacks and depression.
I was only able to go to work and the grocery store. Going to the grocery store often took three or four attempts over the same number of days. First I had to talk myself into leaving home and then I tried to psych myself up to getting out of the car after arriving at the grocery store. Seventy-five percent of the time I either couldn’t get out of my car or I walked to the doors of the store, turned around, got back into my car and drove home without entering the store.
It has been Hell.
I have ALWAYS been able to go anywhere at any time. Having panic attacks that broke me out in a sweat, constricted my breathing and made the fainting stars appear just because I went to the grocery store was confining, aggravating and I felt as if I was crazy. How can a person go from extremely active to agoraphobic? It felt as though I would never be normal again.
I Have A Job Requirement
Several months earlier, my boss at work informed me that there was going to be a meeting I needed to attend in April…in Wilmington, Delaware. I immediately felt like throwing up. How would I ever leave the fragile safety of my home and go all the way to Wilmington, Delaware? I can’t even tell you how many panic attacks I had day after day just thinking about it.
Knowing that it was my reality, I was determined to succeed at the task. My fight against agoraphobia began.
I talked to my therapist about it.
I read about it.
I cried about it.
I stressed about it.
I worked hard to leave my home a little at a time.
It was agonizing. The worst part of it all was that I remember being FREE. I was sick of feeling like a caged animal and felt robbed of my life, so I worked through the fear, panic and anxiety inch by traumatic inch.
I knew that I couldn’t fly because I get so air sick and the thought of being trapped in an airplane with my agoraphobia nearly gave me a heart attack. So I knew that my only choice was to rent a car and have a little trip. Being able to control my surroundings was an important part of being able to control my agoraphobia.
Eventually the day arrived that I was to leave on my trip. I must have prayed a million prayers and talked to myself so much that I was sick of hearing my own voice. I got in the rental car armed with a king size Hershey Chocolate Bar with almonds and a big water. Taking a deep breath, I started on the five hour trip north.
I stopped one time at a rest stop, but steadily progressed until I reached the hotel. I was exhausted, but I needed to talk myself into going to the meeting on the following day. It would be in a big building with people I hadn’t ever met. The stress was overwhelming. OVERWHELMING and caused PANIC. Knowing that I was in a hotel five hours from home didn’t help much either. There was no safety.
The next day arrived. I pasted a fake smile on my face and left my hotel room.
IT WAS NERVE RACKING.
I was so afraid that I was going to faint, have a panic attack and completely embarrass myself in front of all the other people. Walking into the building where the meeting was being held, I couldn’t hardly breathe, but my smile remained firmly placed on my face.
The meeting lasted all day long. In the beginning, I knew I was going to die in Wilmington, Delaware, while attending a work meeting. It was hard to talk to myself, listen to the people talk and interject my own information intelligently. However, by the end of the meeting, I had not only totally slam dunked my part in the meeting, but I had beat the agoraphobia to death literally.
When the meeting was over and I returned to my hotel room, I WAS SO PROUD OF MYSELF and I felt FREE. It was a feeling that had been elusive for years. I had won yet another fight. Exhausted and euphoric, I slept like a log. The next morning as I drove away from the hotel, I was so happy that I couldn’t contain the joy. I sang at the top of my lungs and danced/wiggled to the music while I drove home.
The emotional freedom was intoxicating. I no longer felt any fear, panic or anxiety. Agoraphobia was not a part of my life any longer. Another part of my life had been reclaimed and I did it. No one did it for me. I DID IT. I didn’t give up! I fought it like a wild lion and banished agoraphobia from my life.