Heal Yourself With Loving Kindness

Meditation is an integral part of recovery from agoraphobia, but meditation can take many forms. I just read a recent article by one of my brother/sister bloggers at Psychology Today pointing that out. Emma Sepalla advises her readers to find a form of meditation that works for them. In her words, “You just have to find the shoe that fits.”

In the Un-Agoraphobic recovery program I recommend both sitting meditation and the meditation that comes while learning and practicing a new skill. I emphasize employing some form of meditation as a means to get out of your own head. Practicing loving kindness was the Buddha’s means of learning and teaching compassion as a way to attain a peaceful mind.

PhD Sepalla, a TED speaker on the subject, elaborates on the virtues of meditation and suggests learning to meditate by starting with something that comes easily to most: kindness. “Loving kindness” meditation, she says, can be a powerful healer because it brings out healing feelings such as empathy, compassion and love.

Her blog, “18 Science-Backed Reasons to Try Loving Kindness Meditation,”talks about the healing aspects of this basic tenet of Buddhism. The Buddha Dharma Education Association website says this about loving kindness meditation: “It acts, as it were, as a form of self psycho-therapy, healing the troubled mind, to free it from its pain and confusion.”

When you can begin focusing on loving compassion toward others you can begin practicing it on yourself – part of healing the whole you which will free you from panic disorder and agoraphobia forever. Un-Agoraphobic is available in bookstores and other places to purchase books on Oct. 1.




Tranquilizers Linked to Alzheimer’s

There are now three very important reasons for people with panic attacks to avoid long term use of tranquilizers in the benzodiazepine family.  The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation online “Health” blog reported Sept. 10 on a Canadian medical study that indicated elderly people taking meds from this family increase the likelihood of developing dementia by about 50%.  That was rather astonishing news to me.  I had already, based on personal and professional experience, advised against use for more than three months  such meds as Valium, Xanax, Klonopin and Atavin for two big reasons: 1. your body becomes addicted to these meds after only two or three months, as their effectiveness declines. 2. Withdrawal symptoms include unending anxiety that can last for weeks or longer as you taper off. I’m basing this on wide reading in the field, interviews with psychotropic prescribers, and my own addiction to Xanax.

The article in “Health” was referring to a study by French and Canadian university researchers on several thousand Canadians over 65 that was reported on the British Medical Journal web site on Sept. 27, 2012. Using national medical records, the researchers tracked those who developed dementia and then the ones in that population who had been prescribed a benzodiazepine medication. Based on those statistics, university researchers said in the report that those people who were taking a benzodiazepine during the study period were more likely by half to be diagnosed by a neurologist as having Alzheimer’s disease, a dementia-like condition that causes severe loss of memory and even death.

Un-Agoraphobic is a non-pharmaceutical approach to recovering from panic disorder. I can tell you that once I got past the edgy, restless period of withdrawal, I felt more calm then when I’d been taking tranquilizers. I loved my benzos, but I know my recovery from panic disorder was delayed by a long time because of my addiction. If you are taking one of the meds from this family, please begin doing research. The study’s researchers included an advisory in their conclusion that essentially asked  medical professionals and medication regulation boards to be prudent when prescribing benzodiazepines.


Therapeutic Value of Writing

You will be writing your recovery program in your journal day by day as you begin work on the Un-Agoraphobic plan. Writing is a vital part of your recovery: you write your goals, your accomplishments, your insights, your passions. What you write based on what you learn through the book is what will set you free from agoraphobia.

One of my brother/sister bloggers at Psychology Today has written a nice little piece about the therapeutic values of writing that I know you’ll enjoy reading. PhD Harriet Lerner’s article, “Five Ways Writing Can Make You Braver and Happier,” gives us several avenues for improving our lot by writing about it. Included in her humorous look at writing is the advice to write yourself a love letter. Who else, she asks, knows better what a lovable person you are?

I advise saying those 3 little words to yourself every day in the mirror, so that self love becomes a driving force in your healing process. Writing a love letter to yourself as Ms. Lerner recommends would give added value to your self love endowment. She also suggests writing as a means of self discovery. I know I often don’t know how I truly feel about a subject until I begin writing about it. That’s why I have you writing about your passions as part of the assignment in Un-Agoraphobic, appearing in bookstores Oct. 1.

Look for Ms. Lerner’s blog on writing at psychologytoday.com/posts in the topic stream “Creativity.” She is author of the book The Dance of Anger. My blogs on agoraphobia appear at the same Psychology Today site in the category “Personal Perspectives.”

Imagine Me in a Vid

I wrote what follows as a script for a video I’m making as a promotion for Un-Agoraphobic, available in book stores Oct. 1. As I was reading it through it sounded like something readers and bloggers would like to read. So, here it is; imagine me sitting in an office chair by my drawing table, yakking away, summing up the recovery program.

“I was in Agoraphobia Prison for a long, long time before I put together all the things I needed in order to Bust! outta there. That was over 20 years ago.

I’m Hal Mathew, former agoraphobe. I’ve been panic free and able to travel freely ever since I cleared the final hurdle and left that terrifying, horrible time behind. You too can be free and I’ll gladly show you how. I don’t want anyone to suffer as I did for any longer than necessary. Whew! I had some really scary times and I imagine you have as well.

I’m actually the “perfect storm” for creating a recovery program for folks with panic disorder and agoraphobia. First, I’m a writer by profession and as a journalist trained in communicating ideas to others; Second, here I am, living proof that you can totally overcome panic attacks and everything that comes with them: I had my first panic attack at age 10, became agoraphobic by age 19 and totally overcame the problem at age 49, and Third, when I overcame my mental illness I began a 17 year career as a social worker at a Mental Health Center, keeping close track of adults with all forms of seriously disabling mental illnesses, including anxiety issues.

I learned much about daily coping and problem solving by working closely with clients, and much about medications, treatments and all available options by working closely with psychiatrists, psychiatric nurses, therapists and other social workers. Problem solving for people with mental illness was my job for 17 years. I’m a potter and artist, so I also ran programs at the Day Center in pottery and drawing. I show you how to incorporate creativity and artistry in your healing process.

I learned from working in mental health, but I also learned from adversity, a powerful teacher – if you survive the lessons.  I made my life even more difficult by treating anxiety with alcohol beginning as a teenager. As a result, I had to overcome alcoholism as well as addiction to tranquilizers before I could begin serious work on defeating the Panic Monster. I finally, with help from a friend, was able to blast away from the strong gravitational pull of agoraphobia.

I’ve put together a systematic, daily work plan that will lead to the healing of the Whole You, because all of you has been damaged by your experience with a mis-firing alarm system that is badly in need of re-programming. That’s what you’ll be doing, step by step, day by day – re-training your brain to process data as it arrives at you in an objective and rational manner. That way, you can lead your life as if you have nothing to fear and will only have to panic if something truly dangerous occurs. Wouldn’t that be refreshing?! You’ll have your life back.

If you do everything in my book you will learn how to disconnect your current frantic thinking process and build new neural pathways in your brain that will leave you panic free. It’s not going to be easy, but if you throw everything you have into this you will stop fearing panic attacks and never have another. You can do this. You can be free.

Un-Agoraphobic is the best book ever written on the subject of recovery from panic disorder and agoraphobia. I should know. I not only lived it, I researched it, and I certainly know how to write it. I don’t have to cite stories of others as many writers do. There are other books available on recovery from panic attacks and anxiety. Some are written by psychiatrists and MDs, and some are written by various mental health professionals, such as psychologists and therapists. A few have been written by people who suffered from panic attacks and agoraphobia. All of them have value and I would recommend a few of them as an aid to your recovery.

But, only mine has the holistic approach, covering nearly every aspect of the life of an anxiety-ridden person, because no one else writing in this field has the complete range of experiences I have. No one else has experienced the total picture as I have, or been given the skill I have to organize ideas and communicate them to others.

Many of the self help books on anxiety and panic focus on “exposure” as part of therapy, with the belief that repeated exposure to the feared thing or feeling is a way of gradually overcoming the fear. I had the “desensitization” therapy approach backfire horribly for me more than once in trying to overcome my fear of traveling beyond a “safe” perimeter. I also talked to other agoraphobes who said a panic attack many miles from safety resulted in a major setback in recovery efforts.

Instead, I set up a daily routine that helps a panic-stricken person create the comfort of order as well as be able to record and measure progress. I show you how to create ideal-for-you ways to do practically everything in your life. This may be a very scary time for you, but it’s also an opportunity for you to create a new you out of what you’ve learned in this battle and what you’ll learn about yourself  in this fascinating recovery process you’re about to undertake. When you have learned enough to have confidence in yourself you will begin quite naturally to dip your toe into the pond and  beyond.

Take it from me: You too can be free.”