10 Things That Helped Me Get Over Agoraphobia

I have a speaking engagement for my book, An Agoraphobic’s Guide to Hollywood, on Monday.  The P.E.O. International Sisterhood promotes educational opportunities for women, and they asked me to make a personal appearance at their local chapter.

I’m already getting butterflies in my stomach.

The title of my speech (or at least how the events programmer is advertising it) is: “Darlene Craviotto – Getting Out of the House.”  I can talk about screenwriting for days,  or how to be a working mom for hours on end.  But when it comes to speaking about my struggles with agoraphobia my mouth suddenly goes dry, and the room gets unbearably hot.  The only way to fight through this is to make sure I’m prepared for next Monday.  I’m no Ph.D. with all of the answers, but I’ve had my adventures with agoraphobia over the years, and (as nervous as it makes me to admit it) I’m doing much better now than I did in the past.  I’ve gotten healthy enough to step out of the house on a regular basis.  And if I had to tell you how or why I got better, I think I could list ten things that have helped me go from a full-blown agoraphobic to someone who regularly gets out of the house – and usually has a pretty good time while doing it.

(Not counting the panic attack I had in the Home Depot this morning.)

Here’s my Top Ten List for Overcoming Agoraphobia:

1)  CABS, TOWN CARS, AND LIMOUSINES

Having somebody else drive taught me that if I was too nervous to get behind the wheel I could let someone  (hopefully, less nervous) do the driving for me.  This worked fine for a while until one day I got a cab driver that drove like a crazy man.  It took me a few minutes of internal debate (“You have to speak up!” “I can’t speak up – He’ll drive even faster!”) before I finally found my voice and asked the cab driver to slow down.  I told him I was in no hurry, and I didn’t mind if it cost me extra.  Well, he turned into one of the slowest drivers I ever had – which was fine with me.  That experience taught me that I had the power to speak up even when I was terrified, and that lesson was worth every dollar I paid for that overpriced cab ride.

2) THERAPY

I don’t have to explain this one, do I?  The more you talk about your problems (preferably with an expert) the better you feel.  And feeling confident and good about yourself not only helps agoraphobia, but it’ll help a whole list of other problems too.

3) NEVER QUIT TRYING

No matter how badly you want to hide in your house, you’ve got to force yourself to get out.  NEVER LET THE PANIC ATTACKS WIN.  No matter what happens: Get out there past your front door and try it again.  I did have a panic attack in the Home Depot this morning – just a day after I had gone there with my husband.  Ironically, while we were going to the back of the store (a real problem area for me), I said to him, “Wow!  This is the first time I’ve been in the Home Depot and not wanted to run for the nearest exit.” Well, okay, so today that flee-right-now-feeling found me again in the Home Depot (I had to return a towel rack) and this time the panic won.  But the important news is that I walked (not ran) to the exit, went outside, took some deep breaths, and drove home leisurely, intent to (one day soon, but not today) return again to that huge behemoth of a store known as Home Depot.  I’m in charge of my life, not the panic attacks.

4) A JOB

I took a job that forced me to get out of the house every day even though I felt miserable trying to get there. Just having that regular commitment of a place to go every day – a place that’s familiar – can put you in a better frame of mind.  I met people; I interacted with them; I even dated one of them and eventually married him.  He became my support person and that really helped me and well…that brings me to the next step in my recovery:

5)  KIDS

You have to leave the house eventually when you have kids – there’s no way around that.   One of my readers here at my blog (who has had her own challenges with agoraphobia) wrote me: “Doing something for my kids gets me out of my comfort zone.”  Every parent can relate to that – even if they don’t struggle with agoraphobia. There is no comfort zone once you become a parent: kids are messy (toddlers and public bathrooms are a real challenge), noisy (we preferred to call our kids “extremely verbal”), and overly honest (“Mommy, why is that man so fat?”). But here’s the good part for an agoraphobic who is a parent:   As my kids started to explore the world, they took me with with them.  There were times when I needed some help – Hubby would drive, or I’d have someone else drive us. But what was important was that my kids were getting me out of my house – away from my comfort zone. And the excitement in their eyes at looking at the world (a place that for me felt so frightening at times) made me see life with a brand new enthusiasm – a zest for living that only children understand.

6) GOOGLE MAPS

Part of the fear you face as an agoraphobic is being in a new (and unknown) environment.  Thanks to Google maps no location is ever surprising to me anymore because I know what to expect (and what it will look like) when I get there. And now  you can see the world at street level and 3-D!  When we went to England two years ago, I immediately recognized the outside of all of our hotels; I could walk down the street like a local.  I knew every building in the neighborhood, from the pub next door, to the Italian restaurant around the corner.  Google has given me the confidence again to travel.

7)  FRIENDS

Make some.  Or become closer to the ones you already have. For the longest time, Hubby was my only safety person – someone with whom I could venture out into the world and feel safe doing it.  I didn’t have that feeling with my friends.  If a friend wanted to go out to lunch or meet for coffee or a movie I’d always find a reason not to go or I’d cancel last minute.  It wasn’t the fault of my friends: it was me.  I just didn’t have the same level of trust with them.  That changed the summer my husband was hired to star in a play in Colorado.  While he rehearsed during the day, I stayed alone in the condo and wrote.  I didn’t dare venture outside.  As a matter of fact, I was a nervous wreck just being there, thousands of miles away from my comfort zone – our home in West Hollywood.  And then a good friend came to visit, and I had a choice to make:  spend all of our time indoors (there’s a limit to how much telelvision you can watch) or venture outside with our friend. I was a wreck trying to decide what to do. What was I afraid of, you might ask. That’s certainly what the therapist had asked me, when I called her frantically all the way from Colorado. “What if something bad happens to me?” I told her.  “I trust my husband to help me, but I’m not sure about my friend.”  Well, thanks to that therapist (See Item #2 above) for saying: “You’ll never find out, Darlene, unless you get out of the house.” So my friend (Jeff) and I went fishing at a nearby river.  For a first step, it was a big one.  A big step that turned into an even bigger stumble:  I slipped on a rock on the muddy river bed, fell backwards into the water, and I couldn’t move. My ankle was sprained and I couldn’t get back up. I was trapped there and my head was slowly sinking under water.  Jeff did what any of my other friends would’ve done: he laughed.  I looked ridiculous, spread-eagled, still wearing a cowboy hat (somewhat cock-eyed on my head), and still holding my fishing pole.  But Jeff did something else too: he came running, reached down to stop me from slipping completely underwater, and he helped me back up to my feet. Easier said than done – we slipped and slided along the muddy river bank, both of us now laughing (and me wincing in pain and hopping on one foot).  Jeff saved me from drowning.  And he taught me that day that I could feel safe in the world with a friend.

8) GIRLS’ SOFTBALL

My daughter started playing competitive softball when she was five.  When she was seven she was asked to be on an All-Star team and to travel during the summer to tournaments.  I remember how exciting this was, but also frightening for me.  We had to go to new towns every weekend, adjusting to different motels, new restaurants, and thousands of people at the tournaments.  The first time we had a team meal I was certain I couldn’t do it.  There must have been 50 of us all sitting together with tables joined  – everyone talking non-stop, people I barely knew. I thought to myself, “If I can get through this meal without bolting out of the restaurant in hysterics, maybe this won’t be so bad after all.”  I made it through that meal, and after that, team meals started to feel okay.  As a matter of fact, they started to feel like we were one big noisy family.

Softball taught me how to be flexible, and how to travel to strange new towns (like Mesquite,Nevada) and how to feel comfortable in a group of people, even if my husband had to miss a tournament.  I had to fly with my daughter and her team to Denver (thanks to valium) and Houston (thanks to valium again) and one time my best friend Marie drove my daughter and me to a tournament in St. George, Utah.  Marie’s not exactly a softball fan but she drove us anyway (See Item #7 above).   Softball taught me “to hit whatever strikes were sent my way.”  And in return, my confidence really started to build.

9) A VAN

I stopped driving completely in Los Angeles, and anyone who has driven in a large city can understand why: the streets are crowded with traffic. Once we moved two hours away (back to my hometown) and to a suburb, I couldn’t use traffic as an excuse not to drive anymore.  Plus, my kids were older, and getting busier.  True, they were in school all day in one location, but after school they had sports (located all over town). I realized that I needed to start driving again full time.  That was easier said than done. I was able to make short trips – down the street one block, and around the corner to pick up my kids after school. But I had to get more comfortable behind the wheel for longer drives, and I just wasn’t sure how to do that.  If I could’ve put wheels on my house, that would’ve helped.  Then it dawned on me: that’s what an RV is.  It’s a house on wheels.  All right, maybe an RV was too large, but if I could get something like an RV, maybe I’d feel more secure while driving. I looked in the newspaper one day and I saw an ad for converted vans. That sounded promising.  We had to drive an hour away to test drive it, but the moment I saw the Great White Van  I knew that I’d found my home away from home. Complete with wood paneling inside, a television set, mood lighting, and a third seat that (with the push of a button) turned into a bed, it was more like a pimp mobile than anything else.  But it was exactly what I needed.  I called it my mobile office.  And I would drive it to the beach, park it with a 360 degree view of the beautiful Pacific Ocean, and feel as safe and happy inside as I did in my own little track house in the suburbs. My Big White Van became my home away from home, and  I started driving (the kids and anybody else who would go with me) all over our small town.  Except for freeways – I’m still working on that.

10) WRITING

Writing my book (An Agoraphobic’s Guide to Hollywood) was one of the best things I ever did to help my agoraphobia.

As I worked on the revisions, I started to feel a lot freer because I was finally opening up (publicly) about something I had kept hidden for years.  When the book came out, (and through this website) I started hearing from people who wanted to know more about what it was like to battle agoraphobia.  For the first time in my life, I was giving myself permission to talk about all the fears I’d so carefully locked away because I was afraid people would think of me as weird. I had been terrified that if I talked about it people wouldn’t understand, or they’d put me down as a whiner, or some kind of malingerer.  Writing the book helped me in one other way too: it became another reason for me to get out of the house. There have been book signings, and personal appearances (like the one coming up next week) and I have to leave my house to do them.  True, they’ve only been in my local community, but still, I can’t hide behind my computer in my home office anymore.

When you struggle with a BIG PROBLEM in your life, its difficulty tricks you into believing that you’re the only person in the world suffering from it. The bad thing about agoraphobia is that it keeps us suffering all by ourselves. I once wanted to find a support group for agoraphobics, but then I realized probably no one would show up to the meetings.  That’s what’s so great about the Internet. You can show up here without really showing up.

There’s one more item I should add to this Top Ten list (even though that would make it a Top Eleven List) , and that’s humor. Never take anything so seriously that you can’t find a way to laugh about it.  Remember the Irish proverb, “A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor’s book.”

I shed a lot of tears in the worst of times – when agoraphobia first called my name and I answered.  But life only started to get better once I figured out  that it’s not about getting out of the house – it’s just about trying.

Anyway, it’s worked for me.

(New to my website? Read my first post, Can You All Hear Me In The Back? Want to read more of my posts about agoraphobia? Read One More Thing Before I Forget, and One Small Step For Mankind, One Giant Step For Me.)

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82 thoughts on “10 Things That Helped Me Get Over Agoraphobia

  1. AS you re-read this entry it should prove to you that you are well prepared for your next week. I have the impression that you were nervous even starting open up at the beginning and you became more comfortable with expressing your fears and strengths as you wrote. This reads as a perfect script for your speaking engagement. Best of luck to you and maybe your next entry will be about that experience.

    • How eery – You know me too well! Yes, this one was tough to write. I struggled with those internal negative demons that tell us (or at least me) that I don’t really know what Im talking about. Well, regardless, I wrote this anyway.

  2. I’m sending you a huge hug! What progress you’ve made! You are also 20 feet tall inside, even when you don’t feel like it. Your words, your strength can save families so while you are speaking remember how proud your kids are of you, your husband, friends. Maybe see them standing in the corner smiling at you. I will be 🙂

  3. Darlene, you make some good points that apply not only to your agoraphobia but to all of us. BC (before kids), I would NEVER talk to a stranger in a store- once I had my girls, I was forced into interacting with total strangers- including the woman who asked me if my oldest was a midget because she was talking in paragraphs at 14 months! I had never considered myself to be a “social” person until the girls came along. And as you so aptly pointed out, softball totally opened up my life– having to deal with the variety of coaches and parents and be politically correct at all times so as to not jeopardize my daughter’s playing time was a skill I had to master! Truthfully, Darlene, you hid your challenge well – I never knew until you wrote your book that you had problems being out of your house and safe environment. I guess the softball field became an extension of your safety zone! I really admire you for facing your challenge head-on! Cheers, Lynne

    • I should really take up poker because yes, I feel like I really hid well what I was feeling. And you’re right: I think anyone who is shy might relate to a lot of the social insecurities I talk about as a recovering agoraphobic. Kids definitely help us learn how to speak up. But now my kids tell me, “Mom! You speak up TOO much!” That started happening when they became teens and anything I did was embarrassing to them. So I say to them, “I spent a LOT of money going to therapists who taught me TO speak up. I’m not about to keep my mouth shut anymore.”

      • LOL that’s funny because that’s exactly what my kids say to me now — must be when they hit their teens and 20s they want us to become invisible!!

  4. A really fine post Darlene. Your courage is so impressive.
    I had one thought at the end, but you may have covered this in therapy. When my daughter would ring me in panic from the other side of the world, I would get her to breathe deeply , and I’d breathe with her. As we breathed deep slow breaths her panic subsided.
    Have you ever tried this? or am I teaching my grandmother to suck eggs. Forgive me if I am…

    • “….or am I teaching my grandmother to suck eggs…” What a wonderful phrase! Actually, deep breathing is my “go-to” technique that I try to use. It’s very difficult, however, to stand in place, deep breathing, when every cell in your body is screaming for you to run for your life. Your heart starts pounding, the blood flows into your limbs as you prepare to fight or take flight, running for your life. But you can’t run because you’re only standing in the soup section of the local Von’s. I’ve gotten better at stopping what I’m doing, taking some deep breaths, and allowing myself to find a place nearby that can (for the moment) be a safe space – either an exit outside, a place to sit, a restroom where I can (usually) be by myself. The worse panic I feel is when I tell myself that there IS no safe area nearby, and I find myself in a crowd of people where there is no escape. This happened when my husband and I wandered into the middle of Trafalgar Square with thousands of people around us, and I sensed that my husband was too proud to admit he was lost. I was so panicked that I don’t even remember how we finally got out of there. But how nice that your daughter was able to call you when she needed some help and you were there to support her. Thanks for sharing that story, Valerie.

  5. Your reflective list really is amazing. I experienced a similar feeling when it comes to Goggle maps. The ways we end up interacting with the world are so varied. Your post shows that even when we think something will kill us, it doesn’t. I can really relate to a lot of what you wrote.

    • I’m glad I’m not the only person who has these experiences. But on the other hand, I’m also SORRY that other people have these experiences. It helps me to be able to talk about this – I hope it helps everyone else. Thanks for commenting, Jeri.

  6. Thanks for checking out my blog. I just had to share this with my friends on the High Anxieties facebook page. Thank you for talking about it and sharing your experience with us. =) .

  7. Thanks for being so real Darlene, I enjoyed your presentation tonight and have a new understaning of something I had never considered before. You were great tonight! I look forward to getting to know you better.

    • Thank you so much for reading my post, and for leaving me a comment. I’m so glad you enjoyed my presentation tonight. It’s never easy to do something like that – but thanks to my training as a tour guide, and for my early years acting in theatre productions, I’m able to do it. Every step I take as a recovering agoraphobic makes me feel stronger. And the P.E.O. Sisterhood is such a wonderful group of women – You’ve all made me feel so welcomed ever since the first time I showed up at your St. Patrick’s Day dinner. I’m looking forward to spending time with all of you and to getting to know you all better.

  8. Hi Darlene,
    I like your blog and it is good to know things are getting better for you. Anxiety states are never easy to overcome. I know. And what you have said here is helpful to me even though I haven’t got agoraphobia. Thank you.

  9. Pingback: One More Thing (Before I Forget) | Darlene Craviotto

  10. I had shared this on the High Anxieties fb page. It got a great response and many thank you’s for sharing it with them. So, I’m sending their message, Thank you for writing this. ❤

    • Many thanks, Victoria. As you know, this week is National Mental Illness Awareness Week. Your Facebook page is so important in the fight against the stigma associated with mental illness. People are afraid to admit they have struggled with a mental illness because of that stigma. Consequently, we are not getting an accurate picture of what mental illness is, and that, like any other disorder or illness, there are treatments and people CAN lead a regular life. One of the reasons that I have decided to speak out about my own struggles with agoraphobia is so people can see you can hold down a job, be in a relationship, have children, and lead your life in spite of a mental illness. My phrase for this week – and I will be tweeting it – is this:
      JOIN THE CONVERSATION. END THE STIGMA. I will be posting it anywhere I go on the Internet this week, and I welcome it’s use by anyone who reads these postings on my website.

  11. Your writing is divine. And your humor even more so. I have found that overcoming obstacles starts with humor. Your humor is highly advanced and I love it!!! Share it with everyone who is lucky enough to encounter you on the street!

    • You are so kind! You’re absolutely right that “overturning obstacles starts with humor.” I’d be lost without it. It’s helped me during the darkest periods of my life. I was at my grandmother’s funeral crying my eyes out when my grandfather suddenly stood up and announced to the priest, “I gotta take a leak.” Well, so much for crying.

  12. Society brainwashes us into ‘hiding’ certain things that some may look upon as weaknesses. I’ve always believed that keeping things in the open is healthier and many things we are taught as ‘different’ are not at all. Who determines that? We shouldn’t let ourselves be ‘slotted’. e.g. My adopted children always knew they were adopted. They knew it anyway because they were older when I took them. I told them that yes we were different as a family but it was good, not bad, to be different. If chocolates in a box all have the same center, we get sick of them quickly. My youngest one used to be called ‘retarded’ at school. I taught him to respond “I’m not retarded. I’m just a little slow.” It didn’t do the trick altogether but it helped. We are black, we are white, we are thin, we are fat, we are smart, we are slow……..we are acrophobiac, we are not…….SO WHAT? But glad you’re overcoming it Darlene.

  13. Hi there :). I often think people mistake us agoraphobics as wimps, as it takes a long time to heal from. Yet, I know deep down, that ever since I was born, I was a striver and a fighter. I don’t mean fighter as in “beating people up”. I mean I have fought through my colon illness. I normally make it through most stuff anyway, whether I think it’s going to be tough or NOT. Just goes to show then that I have more faith in myself than I think. I can’t really explain this phobia, but one thing I do know, is that I refuse to let it win. Have you heard of Service Dogs? I only discovered them a few days ago. Charities train them to help you if you have a panic attack. They are also available to assist you, when you want to go anywhere. I see it as a little gaurdian angel protecting me. I find it quite cute, that an animal could save your life in this way. So heart-warming :). It’s all very well suggesting therapy, but when you’re going there every week, with no improvement to report back with, it seems a bit pointless. Anyway, you’d feel more independent again, trying to do this by yourself with a Service Dog. These dogs are trained to help people with anxiety issue’s. A bit like guide dogs who guide the blind. If you type ‘Service Dog Charity’, and the name of your city, into the search engine, a list should come up. I hope all you other agoraphobia sufferer’s get the help you need.

    • Yes, I agree, Sarah. I never thought of myself as particularly strong until I had a car accident years ago and became agoraphobic. I write about this in my book, AN AGORAPHOBIC’S GUIDE TO HOLLYWOOD (excerpt is in the menu above). It took me awhile, but slowly I learned to have “faith in myself,” to use my inner strength, and that’s what helped me the most to battle against agoraphobia. Service dogs are now being used in the treatment (a great idea!) and I wrote a little about that in a blog post I did last summer. You can read about it here: https://darlenecraviotto.com/2012/06/14/one-small-step-for-mankind-one-giant-step-for-me/

      I love what you wrote here about your own struggles – they really mirror what my thoughts are about this quirky phobia. I know each person is unique, and agoraphobia may manifest itself differently or more intensely in some people, but the one thing we all have in common is that we each have to find our own ways of pushing back against it. Thanks so much for reading my post and leaving me a comment.

  14. I wondered about this as you mentioned it in your post today. I tend toward agoraphobia but am good at forcing myself and you are right about kids. I had to take my grandson to baseball practice myself and was fine. But once I am out I talk to everyone. One grand daughter has panic attacks, took Paxil a while. Doing a research paper on it helped her. maybe I told you the story about her being a twin. I am going on too long here but thanks.

    • The one thing I can say about agoraphobia is you have to keep working on it. I don’t think it’s ever 100 percent cured. It’s something you live with; you make adjustments; you get better; you learn the panics get worse the more you fear them or try to run away from them. And yes, it helps to reach out and connect with people. To talk. To engage with them. I have my bag of tricks but it’s taken me a few years to put that bag together, and to talk about it. Thanks for commenting, and you can never go on too long here 😉

  15. Upcoming speech? You can do it girl! As I learned in Toastmasters – don’t forget to look from side to side of the room, encompassing all. But what I learned from experience was to focus on one or two faces that looked encouraging and think of talking to them as a friend. I have done a lot of public talking but still get nervous. I’ve learned never to hold papers (They rustle if your hand shakes) And, I’ve learned to keep a glass of water handy. If I forget what comes next and/or become too nervous, I take a long slow drink, keeping the audience waiting. They don’t seem to mind and it gives me a chance to regain my thoughts and calm down.
    As for your nerves when driving in L.A. — I drove around Seattle for years but froze when it came to L.A. That traffic is too much for me.
    Thanks for the lovely book review Darlene. Luv ya always!

    • All great suggestions, June, and I appreciate your support. This was a post I put up a few months ago, and I’m proud to report that I made the speech and lived to talk about it 😉 As a matter of fact, I was asked to join the organization, and now I’m a member. We have twice monthly meetings at various locations and it’s great practice for me and my “recovering” agoraphobia. Unlike the flu, you don’t get better from agoraphobia by staying at home. Still can’t drive freeways, but I’ll take whatever victories I can get, and not beat myself up for the other stuff I’m still working on. Really enjoyed your book – Keep writing ’em!

  16. Pingback: It’s Impossible to Hide In Your House When You’ve Got Friends | Darlene Craviotto

  17. What annoys me is when articles say experts don’t know the exact cause. HELLO. That’s because the SUFFERER’s know the cause. lol. Ask me how it started, and I will know.

    • I agree with you. It’s very personal and can’t be generalized. I hope you’re finding your own ways of dealing with it, and taking care of yourself while you do. I send you all my best thoughts, and sincere hope for healing.

  18. Wow thanks for sharing this! I’m doing a lot better with my agoraphobia than I was a year ago, but still haven’t completely conquered it. I totally do the google maps thing! My current challenge is to go back to school, which requires me riding the bus alone all over town or driving alone (not sure which seems more frightening). My life has been totally hijacked by agoraphobia but I’m not giving up yet. I’m a 31 year old woman in Portland, Or.

    • Thanks for commenting, Liz. I’m so happy to hear your agoraphobia is getting better! And yes, you’re right: It totally highjacks your life. I still have my “moments” when I avoid doing certain activities – I’m not a mall person, but I do better when there aren’t tons of people around, and the mall is outdoors. And professional sporting events are seldom on my “To Do” lists. But I am driving again (after so many years of NOT driving) and I am slowly branching out and attempting more activities. I salute you for wanting to go back to school, and I encourage you to take a step in that direction. I went back to college just a few years ago but it took the encouragement of my husband and my therapist to do it. Now that I am able to drive a little bit I use my car as a comfort zone or safety place. I always know that if things get too tough and I feel panicky I can retreat to the parking lot and my car. The big problem for me about going back to school was being able to get my car close enough to the classrooms. Just knowing that my car is close by really calms me down, and relieves some of my stress. Since the college I was considering is so huge (a major university) I expressed my concern to a therapist and he suggested I get a handicap placard for parking. Up until he suggested that I was filled with terror about going back to school, but at the thought of being close to my car I relaxed a little. Suddenly, the idea seemed a little closer in reach. I applied for the placard with a letter written by the therapist, and that placard made all the difference in the world. I also went into the Disabled Students Services office on campus and explained to them that I was a recovering agoraphobic, and presented them with the therapist letter. You’d be amazed at how much help a department like that can be. If you are interested in learning more about this, or if my story can help you in any way, let me know, ok? I’ll write a post about it and post it here. Just leave me a comment and let me know…

  19. Good article, I still struggle with agoraphobia and am trying my best to work on it. I started a Facebook support group for anxiety if any of your readers are interested. Keep increasing awareness about this horrible illness!

    • I try to lend support wherever and whenever I can. I always thought I was the only person in the world suffering with this, but when I wrote my book I learned I wasn’t alone at all. That knowledge has really helped, and so I commend you for starting the Facebook support group. I belong to several, and I try to comment when I can, especially when someone is struggling and needs a helpful word or two. Thank you SO much for dropping by and commenting. If you would like to leave a link to your Facebook page, that would be great. I’ll make sure it’s posted here.

  20. That Home Depot has long been a problem. When your give your talk, don’t forget to keep that glass of water handy. I’ve mentioned it before. They will always wait while you take a sip ( or a gulp) and it gives you a chance to calm down and regain your thoughts. You CAN do it girl!

    • That water suggestion is a good one. The last time I did a talk my mouth felt like it was filled with cotton balls, and I was too nervous to reach for my water. THAT was a nightmare. Now, I don’t care how long the audience has to wait while I drink some water. I just can’t do a talk without drinking something while I am doing it. Live and learn, I guess.

  21. I have the samr problem I don’t leave my house ever I have my family go to the store for me I just don’t leave the house and it.drives me.crazy house iam the kind of person that can’t sit still but it seemed everything changed one day I had panic attacks when I was younger and one they went away but there back and worse my boyfriend keeps pushing me to go out but.I want to take it slow but I don’t really think he understands I would guess nobody would unless they been through it there self but ent ways I really want to leave my house if u have eny tips please email me at snookslovesdevin@gmail.com

    • Yep, I’ve definitely been there myself. I think you’ve discovered the best tip all by yourself: Take it slowly. I’m sure your boyfriend is a great guy but he better get on board with this, and be patient because yes, it takes some time to get better from this. Take little steps and don’t worry about going out everywhere every.single.day. Do it at your own pace, and find reasons that make you feel good about leaving the house. I once read a book about a woman who one day just decided to stay in bed. In truth, she had a lot of things that had gone wrong in her life, and whatever that last thing was that went bad, well…that pretty much put her over the edge and under the covers. So she took this sabbatical from life, stayed in her bedroom, and didn’t go out. I was sooooo agoraphobic at the time when I read this book and I remember thinking how that made perfect sense to me: not leaving the house. And I seem to remember that no one in this woman’s life really understood what the problem was, but I certainly understood. It was very comforting in a way to read about another woman going through what I was going through because one of the worse things about this disorder is that chances are you don’t know anybody else going through it. Well, except now you do: You know me. The best thing about this book (and I really wish I could remember who wrote it and what the hell it was called) was that by the end of the book this woman was finally able to step out into the world again. And you know what did it for her? Raspberries. She loved raspberries – was passionate about eating them. And it dawned on her: Yes, she could order her groceries, and they would be delivered, and she’d never have to go out into the world to buy raspberries. But she’d never be able to choose her own raspberries again; she’d never get to pick them up, feel them, smell them, and choose the ones she thought would be the sweetest. That was something that gave her pleasure and she realized that if she gave in to this “thing” that was keeping her in bed, in her house, and locked away from the world, she’d be giving up that one thing that helped to make her happy. I have never forgotten that moment of realization that woman made in that book – although, unfortunately, I’ve forgotten the author, and forgotten the name of the book. But that moment stayed with me and said to me: Look for a reason that makes you feel happy and you will slowly go back into the world. So I say to you: Find something – a reason – find those raspberries that you want to experience, taste, smell, and enjoy – and let them lead you out of the door. Don’t be discouraged if you only get a little bit out that door, and don’t be in a hurry to get out into the world, and stay out there for always. Find your comfort zone for right now; do it slowly, and trust yourself to lead the way at your own pace.

  22. I guess this would be helpful to me if I had the strength to go out and get a job (which I can’t do due to my nerves), if I had a husband or boyfriend, friends (of which I don’t have), or kids (which I’ll probably never since I can’t even get out of the house to date anyone). Anyone know of any information that’s actually useful to help someone get over agoraphobia? I’m feeling so pathetic about my situation.

    • Mary, I didn’t start out by having a job, a husband, or kids. I can relate to where you are now and how you are feeling. I was there once too. Getting better begins with taking a step…a small step, a step that you decide to make. For me, I needed to accept help, to acknowledge I needed help. Therapy helped me immensely, and being able to talk to another person who would really listen. I never recommend to anyone what their first step should be, but reaching out to someone, to a counselor, a therapist is a good first step. I am sorry that you are suffering – it is a great pain to feel so alone and to be so alone. Feel better. I hope that you find your own step for going forward, and one day you find that strength to step back into the world again.

  23. Where can I find this book.I’m suffering extremely bad from my anxiety and I feel or atleast hope that if I can talk to someone who has experienced this then it would give me hope..I miss my old life help lol

  24. I always referred to mine as me being mousy. This year I vowed to my self to explore more, an I have a job that kinda forces me to deal with others I don’t know. Ty for wright this, just knowing i’m not all to odd is kinda nice..

    • You are more than welcome! Thank YOU for commenting on my post. The first step to understanding you are not odd – just a member perhaps of a group of individuals that share a challenge – is to share what you’re going through. There will always be those who don’t understand (just as there are people who don’t understand archaeology, or soccer, or the rules of gin rummy) but there will be others – like me who will definitely “get it.” I get it – I understand. And I salute you for vowing to yourself to explore more, and for having a job that “forces me to deal with others.” You’ve just summed up life and the human experience. And that’s not odd at all.

  25. Pingback: Oh Crap She’s Famous! Pt. 2 | Jen's Thoughts

  26. I stumbled across this post when I typed ‘is it possible to overcome agoraphobia’ into google. After struggling with for nearly 17 years I really find it hard to hold onto hope. I’m 31 now and can’t even really remember what it was like to go out without any anxiety.

    I saw my therapist earlier and I got upset because I was trying to explain how I feel like I am in a completely different world to everyone else around me. Everyone I know is in a mostly happy relationship, has a decent job, just has the ability to go wherever they want when they want for the most part. Those things seem impossible to me. I would love to travel one day but that feels as impossible to me as other people wanting to go to Mars. It’s crazy to me that for the people around me that is so easily achieveable but for me it isn;t. I feel so different and very isolated. My therapist said she understands and could feel some of what I was feeling but I’m not sure that she really does. I just wondered if you, or anyone else reading this, feels the same way?

    • Yes! A resounding yes to your question. On my worst days I have felt exactly like that, especially when I first became agoraphobic. Thankfully, I worked with a good therapist, and slowly, very slowly I started to get better. But it still makes me nervous at times to admit that I’m 100% better because of a fear that I’ll retreat back to those early days. And that’s why through the years I’ve continued – off and on – to work with a therapist now and then. It’s given me a kind of confidence and strength (and yes, hope!) to keep going forward, one step at a time, back into the world. It has also helped me to connect to another human being (the therapist) and that connection can serve as a bridge back to connecting with other people, and to life around us. Every person is different, and I would never dare speak for everyone who has ever been challenged with agoraphobia. I can only tell you what has worked for me over the years, and as I’ve felt stronger and more “in control” of who I am I have become a “recovering agoraphobic” instead of an “agoraphobic.” The difference is that a “recovering agoraphobic” is someone who recognizes the challenges and keeps working at them. And even as a “recovering agoraphobia” I have days when I feel a little wobbly emotionally, or I look around and compare the total freedom others might have to what I have to do to go out. I am so envious at times of those who can simply take a walk in a neighborhood, or (God Forbid!) down a city sidewalk. I can’t easily do that and on most days I can’t do it AT ALL unless I think and plan ahead of time how I can find a comfortable way to do it. But you know what I’ve discovered? The more I look around and compare my inabilities to do what everyone else can do the more I start to feel bad about my situation. And when I feel bad I start to feel inadequate, and when that happens, it gets harder and harder for me to step out into the world. I’ve learned that you can’t look around at other people (who appear to easily be navigating life) and think they’re doing better than you’re doing. Because a lot of those people are struggling with something too. You just might not see it because on the outside they’re “in a relationship” “traveling” or “in a job.” Most people have their challenges, and many of them just aren’t visible. So one of the number one rules I had to teach myself was: Don’t judge (or envy) people by what you can see.

      Thank you for writing me, and yes, I do understand what you are going through. Keep seeing a therapist; keep talking and reaching out to connect. That’s how you will find the hope you are looking for.

      • You are right in saying that Agoraphobia is different for every body. I have had it all my life without getting therapy. It has kept me from getting a job or driving a car, which is practically not having a life. Live with Mother ,I’m able to go with her anywhere even purchase stuff and communicate and everything. It is just the getting a job and driving a car. I need a twelve step program with a sponsor. I have forced myself to get out of the house walking. The biggest step for me would be to apply for a job. Hopefully soon because I’m in my 50″s.

      • Let me know if you find a 12-Step Program for recovering agoraphobics – That would be a great program to join. Therapy helped me a lot, so I’m a fan of having someone I can talk-through the issues that come with agoraphobia. I’ve found that the more I can talk about it, and not be afraid of it, the better I do. Please keep us posted as to how you are doing. Much luck to you in taking those two steps – getting a job, and driving. But it sounds as though you’ve also found other ways to help yourself, (i.e. walking) and that’s great too.

  27. Hey Darlene. Since middle school (as far as I remember), I’ve had agoraphobia symptoms. It’s just months ago that I really discovered the name of it when I linked its symptoms to my actual feelings. I’ve always been the bright kid at school. Teachers would always refer to me as ‘perfect’. I was loved by teachers and students. I was and still am exceptionally influential in public speaking(a thing I find absurd for an agoraphobic). However, I always had these feelings of escapism. Whenever I’m out with friends, I have these ‘I want to escape’ feelings. Even when being out with relatives or other people, I get the same feeling. I feel safe when I am alone in my bedroom. Lately, I have found it hard to have the will to wake up and move on since I am 18 (first year in college) and for example, I still can’t drive. I had driving lessons and it was too awkward, and the tutor noticed that I was too fearful of everything around me on the road. I’ve kept my awkward feelings hidden for so long. My college large group of friends organize outings every now and then in relatively far places and I say I’m busy because I can’t get myself to ride a taxi or public transportation. My strength has always been my strong academics, without it I’d be feeling even worse. I tried pushing beyond my limits the past 2 years or so and expand socially, but I recoil whenever I feel someone getting too close to me and my comfort zone. For example, I joined an active group in college and I got to know the members and all was fine until they organized a camp and then I lost it all. I couldn’t imagine going on a camp so I quit the group saying I’ll have no time for them as I have to focus on my studies. I cannot get myself to think about sleeping over at a friend or going to a camp for a couple of days (they are beyond my comfort zones). Whenever I am out on the streets/supermarket, I have this horrible fear of anything going wrong, because deep inside I know I cannot handle any situation that may go wrong. I will feel dizzy and lose it all… that’s why I avoid conflicts at all costs. (never got a panic attack though) . I have also noticed that my health is getting worse(my hands and feet are freezing most of the time). Nature and reading help me feel better. I’m not sure if I want to/can face the world. The sad thing is, I know I have a brilliant mind/ great things to say/ wonderful imagination. Agoraphobia sucks..

    • Yep. Definitely sucks. I totally get what you are saying. Everything you just wrote I have gone through, and still have moments/times/occasions whenI just want to retreat into my own space and not come out. You are not alone in going through this. There are people who DO understand and I thank you for writing me and sharing what you go through and feel. Sharing, for me, has been the one way that I was able to expand my comfort zone – that comfort zone you mention. Everyone’s comfort zone is different – you know yours and I know mine – but comfort zones can be challenged, and, through time, can grow larger. For me, I felt so totally alone, alienated, and unconnected to anyone, just understanding that I wasn’t the only person in the world to go through something like this made a huge difference. It’s like realizing you are living on an island separated from everyone else, and then, you suddenly see (and understand) that there are other people stuck on other islands just like you. Isolation is such a big problem for people like us, so breaking through that isolation can be the beginning of pushing out those boundaries of our comfort zone. Sometimes we have to risk feeling uncomfortable at first in order to push out those boundaries of our comfort zone. For me, I needed to know I had someone in my corner – an ally – who would help me do that. I was too terrified to do it by myself. It was just too daunting a task to face it alone, so I needed a therapist to work with me. Agoraphobia is too huge of a weight to carry all by yourself through life. It doesn’t matter how smart you are, or how clever, witty, beautiful, charming, or perfect. You can’t do agoraphobia all by yourself. It’s like being in a wheelchair and insisting you can climb a flight of stairs. You can’t. You’ll need some assistance, right? The same applies for people like us…So let me give you a little assistance just for this moment in time, okay? You’re in college right now, a freshman, right? Which in itself is a really vulnerable time in life. Trust me. Been there, done that. And yep, there were days I didn’t feel like lifting my head off the pillow also. It sounds like you have a group of friends, which is great. Sometimes we can make public speeches and appear to be outgoing, but that’s the extent of it. Anything else, like going somewhere and we retreat. Been there, done that. Okay…so here’s what I want to tell you what helped me in college. Every college usually has counseling services available to students. When I went back to college (the second time around because I never finished the first time) I was having a tough time and was terrified I wasn’t going to be able to get my ass to classes. I was exhausted from worrying about this and having that internal struggle we sometimes have between what’s in our comfort zone and if we can handle anything that’s not. So finally, I tracked down the counseling offices. It took me a couple of weeks to do it because even THAT was outside my comfort zone. But finally, I just did it, and I called them on the phone (which was easier than going in) and asked them how to proceed. They talked me through it, and I eventually made an appointment. The only way I could go to that appointment was to make a deal with myself that I could cancel it last minute if I had to. Once I gave myself permission it took the pressure off of me and I was able to go. Best.decision.I.ever.made. Suddenly, I didn’t have to find a way to climb up the stairs in my wheelchair. I had someone helping me find another way – that didn’t involve going up the stairs at all. I had a real ally – someone I could share my fears with. And yeah, I made it to my classes, and yeah, I graduated. And most importantly, it made me feel better. My comfort zone expanded – with some help. So yeah, that’s what I am suggesting to you. You don’t have to do what I did, you can do your own version of it. But this is too big of a load to carry all by yourself. You deserve a fuller life, and closer friendships, and with help, all of that can be yours. I once had a therapist tell me, “You’re a survivor.” I didn’t know what that meant at the time; it kind of scared me to not understand what he meant. But then, recently, as I had broken out into a cold sweat trying to do (what is for most people) the simple task of grocery shopping, it suddenly dawned on me: Of course! This is why I’m a survivor. Because I didn’t just give up trying to do that grocery shopping. I found away to get around it, and not let it defeat me. I went outside for a moment and found “another way around the stairs.” In this specific case and time, I realized all I needed was a few items, and that Walgreen’s felt more comfortable to me than Albertsons so I drove across the street and picked up the items there. That’s what the therapist meant when he called me a “survivor.” You’re smart, and you will find your own way “around the stairs” – but you just need some help to start. I’m so glad you wrote me – it was a first step for you to share, to connect, and connection is always good.

  28. I dont know if you will even read this but im 17 with agoraphobia i haven’t left my house in year in April something traumatized me i dont even know why or what it was ive been reading your blog and its actually helping me at first i couldn’t even go to a gas station or drive now im driving and going to gas stations i haven’t tried big stores yet because i know im not ready but i just wanted to thankyou for helping me and being an inspiration to me.

    • I am so happy to hear of your progress! I have to drive somewhere tomorrow and so I’m a little nervous tonight thinking about it. But reading your words will help me tomorrow, and so you are now an inspiration to ME. Thanks so much for writing me.

  29. Hey. Im 17 from Manchester, I’ve tried everything:'( everytime I have a panic attack in a public place I feel as if I’m going to wet myself.. It’s strange I know. Tbh ive never felt so helpless I used to be a very strong, confident person.. And now ha.. Now I cry myself to sleep every.night because I can’t find any hope that this nightmare will end.. my safe zone is slowly turning into a danger zone(my home) the only place I truly feel safe is in my room :/ I’ve tried everything.. Pills, breathing, everything!!! The most I do is walk my dog really late at night on the patch of grass across the road 😦 wish all this pain would end..

    • Is there someone who you can talk to about this? Do you still live with your parents? Please allow yourself to ask for help. I know it’s hard but I only got better once I sought some help. My thoughts are with you. Hang in – it CAN get better.

    • So glad to read your comment, Brooke. It really is one-day-at-a-time with agoraphobia. And sometimes I even think it’s one moment at a time, one errand at a time. This week is a busy one for me and I’m already nervous thinking about how many times I have to venture outside of my home (and comfort zone). At least for me, agoraphobia is something I live with – like having blue eyes. I can’t tolerate bright sunlight because my eyes are so light but I have learned to wear sunglasses. The sunglasses really help me cope with that bright light that for many people doesn’t even seem to bother them. With the agoraphobia, I have my own set of coping tools. So, I try not to get down on myself for a condition that seems to be a part of my life. That’s one of the biggest challenges, I think – not beating myself up for having this condition. Sometimes we can be our own worst enemies. I try to catch myself when I do that, and try to be my own best friend. Thanks for coming by and leaving me a comment – I appreciate it!

    • I wish I knew because I would do everything in my power to share the knowledge and work hard to cure it. It’s not easy to live with it, that much I DO know. But you can learn to live with it, with help and support. Gotta keep hoping, and putting one foot in front of the other to keep going forward. I don’t speak for all agoraphobics – each person is unique and special – but for me, the cure comes from trying and never quitting. Some days are more successful than others, but that’s just life – for everyone, not just agoraphobics. That’s my take on it, at least…

  30. Hi Danielle 🙂 Hope you’re alright. Can’t believe it’s been about one year since I last posted here
    Wow.lol. I’m getting there. Slowly but surely. Though getting assaulted a few month back, did throw me off course, quite a bit.

    • Good to hear from you, Sarah! I’m so sorry to hear about what happened to you a few months ago. But it’s reassuring to know that you are getting out there and feeling stronger. I hope you are getting some support, especially with your most recent problem. An incident like that can make you feel especially vulnerable. Keep taking it one step at the time.

  31. Wow…i m not the only one…:) I m living in Romania and here this problem is not taken serious or ur being closed in a mental insitution so i have no one to understand my problem. I have been battleing this for like 6 7 years, i refused to take any pils cause it made me even more scared, so all i did was to try to forget it. Is hard i know but i really achived some things ..got married , made a baby…i still have them but im more relaxed then before. Im trying to make any place my safe zone…i still dont like to drive atleast not to be alone, and i have some limits in going places myself but everytime i tell to myself is not real stop being so stupid and so on. Now something great happend in my life, i was giving the job of my dreams, but for that i have to move alone in far away city from all the places and persons i feel safe with, going there and not knowing anyone, and im decided not to let this disease win the battle this time. Is making me feel so scared being all alone, but if i can overcome it now i know i will forever.ur words insipired me and i would love to read ur book…keep strong ….im so happy i had somewhere to tell my fear..when i see it and i can read it is making me even more powerfull…. wish we can speak more….kisses from Romania(europe)

    • Thank you for reading my post and for commenting here on my blog. It is so important to reach out and connect with others who understand what you are going through, and who provide a space that is safe and where you can express your feelings. I encourage you to keep reaching out, keep talking about what you are going through, and to seek counseling, and the guidance of good doctors. I had a young woman tell me the other day how much she appreciated my book because “I understood” “I got it” and she sought help for her own agoraphobia because of what I had written. She found a good doctor who also understood what she was going through, and through his help, she is coping so much better with agoraphobia. The key is to always keep trying by taking one step at a time. And never get down because you can’t walk all the way or run – taking that step is just as important. Step-by-step will always help you get through life. Keep your kindest words for yourself and never get critical of who you are or what you can or cannot do. I wish you much luck, and keep strong always.

  32. It is April 19, 2016 and am so happy to be here, reading and posting. My ex, I think enjoys frightening me claiming there is something wrong with me mentally due to my years of struggling with agoraphobia.
    He 60 something and has never had a panic attack so to him it is illogical yet we know we are large in numbers.
    I was surprised and not surprised to find out how many people in my neighborhood who (some secretly) have agoraphobia.
    I MUST AGREE that it is not how far you get in distance but just trying.
    I push myself everyday to walk around and although I have a very small radius I feel lucky to be able to do this every evening.
    I MUST AGREE humor helps.
    I MUST AGREE to not keep it a secret for there is no shame in agoraphobia. The real shame are the mean people who mock us but these are the same people who pretend to have no issues and are secretly suffering with their own personal issues and yes, we must have sympathy for these people.
    We are strong and will do what we can when we can.

    • Nice to meet you, Shelly. The tricky thing about being a recovering agoraphobic is that most days you feel so alone. But every time I start to feel that way I meet another person here on my blog and I’m reminded that I’m NOT the only person in the world wrestling with The Big A. That’s how I like to refer to it, and qualifying it as “mental” is just plain cruel and not helpful at all. Plus it’s not nice. And I can understand why your ex is your ex. You’re absolutely right: There is no shame in agoraphobia, and I’m glad you were able to talk about it and discover other people in your neighborhood who share the same struggles. I too have a small radius – some days it’s smaller than others! But it’s one step at a time. “We are strong and will do what we can when we can.” This should be a bumper sticker – I love it! Thanks for sharing it.

  33. I would like to recover from my agoraphobia. It is affecting my son. I have a complex mental health disorder so it’s not just my anxiety, it’s hard-going constantly. I itch to go outside sometimes but I cannot. I feel extreme guilt and have tried not to beat myself up as it makes things worse for me. I would like to take my son for a walk but walking an hour away from my car is extremely scary as I can’t get back to it immediately should the world try and swallow me up. Extreme thought hey hahaha. I’m all too aware of my faulty thinking. What would be a good first step?

    • Hi Kate…I’m so sorry to see that you too suffer from agoraphobia. And yes, I understand about having that “itch” to go outside sometimes, but how difficult it can be to actually do that. It’s so important to have someone in your corner, an ally who understands what you are going through and can offer you some support. For me, it was a therapist, actually about four different therapists because depending on the complexities of my life during different periods of my life I’ve needed support at different times. I too have children and when they were little I didn’t want them to be affected by my disorder. Just do your best to do whatever you can with them. Inside the house works just as well as outside of the house. And if you have a “safety person” – someone you feel safe with and you can go outside with – ask them to come along with you and do something that feels “ok” to do: go to the park, take a walk in the neighborhood, or down to the corner, or just sit on a porch, or stoop wherever you live, or wherever you feel “Ok’ to be. Don’t “beat yourself up” or feel “guilty” because you can’t do what you think you should be doing. Congratulate yourself for trying, and for taking any step that feels comfortable to you. And please guard yourself from critical people. If there are people in your life who make you feel bad for suffering from agoraphobia please know that these are people who simply don’t understand. If they are unwilling to grow and listen to your needs, well, then, make sure you have some people in your life who WILL listen to you, and understand. That starts with a good therapist, counselor, or even a minister who might help you get the help you need. You are not alone, Kate. Millions of people have gone through, or are going through the same feelings and fears that you face. Thanks for reaching out and writing me. I understand, and I wish you much comfort as you take that first step.

  34. I can’t get out of my comfort zone. I have very bad anxiety I cannot go out alone with my little girls. I always require someone with me but no one would do it. It’s so hard it kills me to see my kids bored at home everyday. I want them to explore outside. Even though I’m talking about it I should be outside already. Me and my mother argue about this everyday. I hate the fact that my anxiety is so bad and it always over comes me and wins… I’m 27 a single mom of two. I do need help. Words coming from someone doesn’t helps sometimes but I need help physically mentally. To over come my anxiety attacks. I’m at lost. I’m deaf. My kids are hearing. I don’t know what to do anymore.

    • Rochelle, I have been worrying about what I should say to you. I am so sorry that you are struggling. I know how difficult it is to have to deal with agoraphobia, and I also know that it is even more difficult when you have children. But your children love you – always remember that. And don’t let your fear of leaving the house interfere with the time you can spend with them while you are inside the house. Reading a book, playing a game with them, or dancing to music together. As long as I was in my house, I felt safe. And because I felt safe I could hug my children and play with them, and that connection I had with them made me feel better. Love can be a great source of strength. But you also need to be able to talk about your fears, and what you are going through. Sometimes the people around us just don’t understand what we’re going through. It’s not easy to explain, unless we are talking with someone who DOES understand feelings, anxieties, and fear. I really suggest to you that you reach out to a counselor – a therapist – so you can at least start sharing what you are going through. It’s a lot for one person to carry on her own. I don’t know if you have insurance or not, but if you do that would be a good place to start. If you don’t have insurance, reach out to Nami.org – National Alliance of Mental Illness. Here is a link to their website: http://www.nami.org/Find-Support. If this is too hard for you to do, do you have a friend or a relative who you trust who can help you make some phone calls to get help? It’s important for you to reach out to someone who can help you take this first step. We only get better when we reach out for help. You reached out when you wrote me, and I heard you. There are others out in their world who will help you too. Do it from the safety of your house, but please don’t stop reaching out for help. I care , and there are others who care too.

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