My own 31 days of agoraphobia came to an end towards the end of summer in 2011. I had no choice because my time off work (due to my increasing fears that led to panic attacks at the work place) was coming to an end. I knew it was time to face my fears and create a change. So first I decided and got to the point of ‘no return,’ which meant I wouldn’t accept living the way I was for another day, Then I took action:
1) I left my house. I forced myself to stop avoiding and start facing the public places I feared most. Although I still avoided much of my friends and family in order to hide my condition, the overwhelming feelings of intense panic slowly started to subside as I put effort into reconditioning a new mindset about the places I feared, and making certain lifestyle changes that would add to my recovery from GAD and panic attacks. I remember vividly the first place I went to when I left my house and that was the grocery store. On that day it seemed I had killed two birds with one stone, I overcame my agoraphobia and also went somewhere crowded and normally uncomfortable for me, as I walked the two very long blocks to the grocery store that day, I remember being aware of everything around me from the cameras at the stop lights to the design on an old man’s hat, everything. I felt a little lost and confused but I thought to myself… who cares, I’ve made a decision, I’ve learned from others who have overcame their own mental struggles and I’m ready to take on the world. As I continued walking I became more aware of my panicky bodily sensations and they were creeping up on me fast, I felt my heart palpitating and dizziness kicking in but this time I was prepared for these feelings. I quickly remembered the movie The Gladiator and how Maximus mentioned “death smiles at us all, all a man can do is smile back.” So with that in my mind and my immense fear of death due to what my symptoms of anxiety might do to me, I smiled back.
I had brought with me a recording that I recorded myself that reminded me to simply ‘allow’ the sensations to be present, then apply a challenge to a physical exercise which for me was power walking to the store, and the challenge was to get to the store in seven minutes flat, the final step was to let the storm pass. This recording played through my headphones over and over again and repeatedly kept my mind focused on facing the fear and not running from it. I got to the grocery store and accomplished my challenge of seven minutes, got what I needed, check out and applied the same three step reminders on the way back. As I got home I didn’t care who was watching I pranced around just outside my door like a conquering hero, I was thrilled and now I realized that I am in fact welcoming the challenges that my mental health was creating, rather than running from them and I couldn’t wait for the next day to feel that same sense of accomplishment again.
2) I created new meanings for what was afraid of. Of course, it took time for the new data in my mind to kick in.
3) I was proactive. If you are struggling with your own mental health, you have to become a great problem solver, and not play the victim card day in and day out.
4) I focused on celebrity success stories. These stories gave me that light at the end of the tunnel that for so long I believed didn’t exist.
5) I surrounded myself with positive people. I learned the importance of who you surround yourself with and how you go about overcoming anxiety disorders, you don’t overcome your fears by listening to other people talk about what a victim they are and how depressed their day has been. Sure, you can comfort them, but if you spend most of your time going from forum to forum online simply listening and sharing your sob story with the world day after day, don’t expect anything to change.
I went to the people who had overcome their fears, and I just followed how they did it. Inspiration is a powerful thing and it was the fuel for me when it came to ending my agoraphobia. A great support team is absolutely vital in both cases, and expressing yourself consistently with someone that understands what it’s like to have gone through a traumatic event themselves, or a professional in the form of a therapist who has dealt with some PTSD victims in their past will over time make the memories of the event less and less frightening.
These are the solutions that millions of people are looking for everyday to end their issues related to generalized anxiety disorder and agoraphobia. There’s just two major reasons why we don’t see more natural success stories, and instead see a massive increase in mental health related problems year after year:
Reason #1) Our Culture has their values inverted and we are all extremely confused.
Reason #2) Natural recovery takes FULL responsibility, something many people are just not ready to do.
Deep down I believe as a culture we all need to stop becoming patients, and start becoming people. People that don’t rely on big drug companies that push for an increase in suicide through antidepressant drugs (true story). Remember, It’s the doctors duty to activate the bodies healing mechanism, and if that’s not going to happen, it may be time to walk away and look back at reason #2 just one more time.