(Gene writes from time to time of his experiences on the road to recovery from agoraphobia)
Yes, You CAN Get There from Here.
I don’t know about you, but where I live winter just won’t quit, spring takes her own shy time arriving and summer, after a brief blaze of relative heat and humidity, fades all too soon, like the tan on an Irishman back from vacation. Naturally autumn, being my favorite season, lasts the shortest time of all. The frustrating truth is that I’m stuck living where my parents chose to live, not where I want to live. But that is due to change . . . .
A popular adage says to bloom where you’re planted. But this human plant is solar powered and I don’t feel really energized until and unless I’m placed in vigorous sunshine. So one of my goals (which I’m told are simply dreams toting todo lists and timetables) is to reside, or at least spend my winters, closer to the sun – say, on a Caribbean island. The rub is, how to get there from here? Here being the aggie state of fear of fear, the place where we “travelchallenged” folks hang out. And there being wherever we wish we could be.
There must be a way to close the gap, since other agoraphobes before us have found and followed it to freedom, though perhaps in their own unique way. The path I’ve been taking is comparable to how some bathers enter the cold ocean on a summer afternoon: gradually, by testing the waters with both feet, then wading in up to the waist, then up to the chest and then -WHAM! – the crest of a wave catches them neck high and they surrender to the water and start to enjoy themselves. Well, that’s how I’m getting to where I want and need to be – by taking regular, deliberate, scheduled steps, however small or scary. (In this way I find the journey to freedom is process, versus an event.)
In Life Unlocked, a book Hal mentions in Un-Agoraphobic, the author, Dr. Srinivasan Pillay, warns us not to mistake the difficult for the impossible. Just because a thing is hard to do doesn’t mean it can’t be done. If you want to do something badly enough you find a way to do it; you develop a cando attitude, you drop the “if only I could I would” mentality. As you continue doing, not just dreaming about doing, you start telling yourself that small victories add up to big victories, which add up to the final victory over aggie. So you get there by advancing from one victory to the next, step by step. The effect is cumulative, perhaps exponential in a way, as strength feeds on strength, along with courage, and self-confidence becomes selfperpetuating. (As they say, nothing succeeds like success!)
Further along in Life Unlocked the author quotes another writer who believes that “courage is not the absence of fear but the judgment that something else is more important than fear.” Well, what exactly is this “something else” for you and me if not the freedom to travel where, when, and how we want without letting phobic anxiety stop us? (We know it’s the anxiety and panic that causes the avoidance that causes the aggie. Eliminate the avoidance and you eliminate the phobia, by definition.) In any event, I am proving to myself every week that taking graduated steps to extinguish the anxiety and panic through exposure therapy is a necessary part of the process of curing myself. A process which involves the imprinting of new neuronal pathways until joy of joys aggie is no more than a shadow of a shadow, just a memory, and a distant one at that.