Recently I’ve found myself on a good streak with my agoraphobia: I’ve been pushing myself a little more and I’ve been able to get out and about on three separate occasions in three consecutive days – which is a big thing for me! Usually I’ll give myself a bit of a break after one exposure session, simply because it’s so exhausting going through the panic cycle, but I was so inspired after reading this post by Lynn over at Living With Agoraphobia that I was able to just do it.
In the morning I woke up with a mission: I was going to take Lila to her three month appointment. It pains me to say that as her mother, I had never taken her to an appointment because they were all out of the house and it just seemed impossible to get myself there. But I had decided enough was enough and I needed to get out and do it. It took me such a long time to get ready (us agoraphobics have got procrastination down to a tee) but after many hours of messing about and redoing my hair and changing my outfit, I finally got myself and Lila into the car. The appointment couldn’t have been any closer to my house, it was literally a two minute drive. There was an event happening next door to the clinic and there was no where to park the car, so I had to keep driving on down the road and park a little way away. At this point I was definitely starting to panic but I kept moving and just focused on Lila. We got into the clinic, met the nurse, did the weigh in and measurements and all the fun stuff and then that was it! I had done it! I stopped at the supermarket on the way home and picked up some groceries…at that point I was still running on such high adrenaline that I almost walked out of the store without my purchases, but that part aside, I’d done my exposure session for the day and succeeded.
I decided late Monday night that I would go to the gym on Tuesday. On Tuesday morning I woke up and thought ‘lol, nope.’
Buuut after reminding myself how well I’d done the day before, I got myself ready, mum took over Lila duty and off I went. I did an hour workout, then went into the shopping centre and wandered around for a while. I was okay until I went to try on some clothes and got slightly panicked in the change room. (Seriously is it just me or do they deliberately make change rooms ten times hotter than they need to be?!)
Wednesday was the big one: Mothers Group. This was actually the third mothers group session, but I’d missed the first one because I got the day wrong, and then the second one Lila was sleeping and I chose to stay home rather than wake her up to go. I was so incredibly nervous about going – for some reason it felt like the first day of school. I still don’t feel like a mum (at least, the weird idea I have in my head of a mum should be like) so I was worried about not fitting in, as well as what would happen if I panicked and had to run out of there. I almost lucked out of going because Lila was sleeping again, but she cunningly woke up just in time, so I bundled her into the Moby Wrap and left before I could wimp out.
Of course it was nothing like I expected; it was calm and not at all intimidating. The maternal health nurse knew my situation so she was just happy I made it there, and the women were all nice and relaxed and I probably could’ve run out at any point and no one would’ve blinked an eyelid, but I didn’t. I came away from it feeling proud of myself and happy, but more importantly, I felt normal. I hate to use that word because really, what is normal? But I can’t explain it any other way – for two hours I just felt like a regular person with no worries or issues or obsessive thoughts.
I have one more goal for the week, which is to go out to brunch on the weekend. I’m at my highest level of panic and anxiety in the mornings so going out then will be a big challenge for me. I’m 99% sure that I’ll be fine…and by fine I mean a complete frazzled mess, but hey – fake it til you make it, right?
I want so badly to beat this disorder before it eats any more of my life. I try not to think too often about how disappointed I am that I’m still mostly housebound (because it’s depressing as hell) and it’s not like my life has stopped because I’ve been stuck indoors. I’ve missed so many important events and celebrations over the last few years and that has been really hard to deal with, but what I miss most of all is just being able to do the normal, everyday things. Going out to lunch or dinner, going for a walk, hanging out with friends, shopping, working, just being apart of it all. I’m going to try really hard this weekend to live the way I did before agoraphobia – before panic attacks, before routines, before avoidance behaviour…before I started to expect the worst out of every single situation. Maybe I’ll panic, maybe I won’t…but there’s only one way to find out.