Agoraphobia and I

EllenMy "story" with this challenge, called Agoraphobia, began about 42 years ago when I was a high school freshman in New York City. The school year was just about to come to an end, when I noticed myself feeling rather "odd" and uneasy in school. Prior to that time, I was always an excellent student and very much at home in school. In fact, it was more of a home than my home was.

Summer vacation started, and like most kids, my friends and I intended to get the most out of the luxurious days of summer. One day, in the dead heat of the day, we decided to visit the Statue of Liberty; and, of course, climb all the way to the top!

I remember feeling very closed-in and hot as I climbed up the arm of the statue. Later, I felt dizzy, but being the typical indestructible teenager that I was, I didn't pay attention to the symptoms. After we got home, I had dinner, then went bowling. It was late and dark and I was exhausted, but it never occurred to me that maybe I should rest.

Inside the bowling alley, suddenly the world seemed to go "black" on me. I couldn't focus on anything or anyone and felt totally terrified. It was as if I were an alien from another planet visiting the creatures on earth as merely an observer of their life.

From that time until this present moment (with the exception of about a two-year period in college), I've been challenged in one form or another, or to one degree or another, with anxiety and/or agoraphobia. I had big plans for my life. A consistent overachiever, I felt I was destined to be a doctor. With the onset of the anxiety "problem," all of those hopes and dreams went down the tubes.

I dropped out of high school for about two years, but managed to get back in my senior year and graduated with my class. In college, I majored in both psychology and sociology. I became a Psychiatric Social Worker, and later, a mental health counselor for many years.

Unfortunately in those early years, not much was known about agoraphobia, so for many, many years I went undiagnosed. I had to work to survive and soon learned that having a few drinks would get me through the day. Naturally, in the long run, drinking only added another problem to my pre-existing problem. Thank goodness, when I moved to Florida in 1981, I discovered what I was dealing with and enrolled in a self-help course. I also stopped drinking and started living, but it was only the beginning.

This anxiety challenge is stress-related, as well as a product of our self-talk and perception of the world around us. I've noticed a definite correlation between suppression of feelings and the intensity of the anxiety symptoms. When I can stay focused on "today," and deal appropriately with today's reality, the symptoms are greatly reduced. I've learned the invaluable lesson that it's okay to say "no" and that I don't know what tomorrow will bring, and that's okay. I guess it comes down to living life on life's terms.

Behavioral therapy combined with cognitive therapy seems to have worked best for me. Removing myself from unhealthy interactions with people who weren't meeting my needs didn't hurt either! I've tried medications from time-to-time, with little success. I'm contemplating trying some of the newer ones in the near future. Wish me luck!

Today, while I still have severe limitations territorially, my self-esteem and self-confidence have grown enormously. I think most of that came from my ability to totally accept " who" I am and "where" I am on any given day. In my heart, I know that I do the very best that I can with each day, and that's enough. I don't have a specific goal that I'm trying to figure out how to achieve, but rather I put one foot in front of the other and see where it leads me.

Additionally, developing my spirituality has offered me a great source of enlightenment. Believing that all things have a reason, and that I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be at this point in time, is very comforting to me.

As I write this, I'm facing, perhaps, the most challenging time of my life. My mother is seriously ill. However, I'm hopeful that I'll find the inner strength to cope as well as possible with this inevitable life situation. Once again, it's all about: LIFE ON LIFE'S TERMS.

Good luck to all who read this page. Hopefully, this site will grow and be helpful to those who are faced with the challenge of agoraphobia.

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APA Reference
Staff, H. (2007, February 20). Agoraphobia and I, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 14 from

Last Updated: July 1, 2016

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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