(Kate is our newest guest blogger and will be supplying us with her perspective on the stubbornness of agoraphobia. Here is her introduction of herself:) “Hi there my name is Kate. I live in Toronto, Canada and am closer to 50 than 40, a business owner, wife, mother, daughter and sister. I have survived agoraphobia for nearly 25 years and tried multiple therapies and medications to treat this disorder. I read Hal Mathew’s book Un-Agoraphobic and enjoyed the creative recovery plan he laid out so simply. I am thankful for the opportunity to share my experiences with you.”
Uncle Jack Comes for Dinner
This past weekend we invited Jack, a recently widowed uncle of my husband’s to come for dinner. We hadn’t seen him in years and he isn’t a particularly favourite relative of my husband’s. On my urging I encouraged him to reach out to Uncle Jack as he had been with his beloved wife Nell for over 50 years. He is a simple, uncomplicated man who is a little rough around the edges but I always enjoyed his company.
When he arrived he was much older looking and thinner than I remember. And although we haven’t seen each other in person for some time we had maintained communication through holiday phone calls and birthday cards. The awkwardness of not seeing each other passed and Uncle Jack sat down and we talked about politics, the economy, real estate and of dear Nell. My husband stayed busy in the kitchen cooking a roast of beef while I maintained the conversation. Jack talked of Nell in the present tense and I felt so badly for him, truly sympathetic to his loss.
On the couch opposite to me, Uncle Jack broke down in tears. I let him cry without verbal interruption as he explained how the most difficult time for him was after dinner, the silence and the dread of trying to get to sleep. I gave him a hug after he finished and we sat down at the table to eat.
After regaining his composure, Uncle Jack narrowed his eyes and laid into me. “You still have all your problems?” He asked sourly.
“Yes, but I have been doing well and went downtown last year!” I tried to keep it upbeat and positive.
“Well if you can go downtown, you can come to my house!” He replied hurt.
This is where I turn and start reciting a variation of my much used dissertation. “Jack, it’s not that I don’t want to come to your house and be with you. I would love to see your garden again, I remember it was beautiful. But, when I get in a car it is like a war is going on outside. Logically I know it’s not, but that’s what my brain is telling me is happening and it feels as real as if I were a soldier at war.”
I am used to “digs” like this. I have experienced them from other mother’s after missing a school concert or anxious couples who want me to attend their weddings or other wives pitying my poor husband for having to live with a woman who never goes anywhere.
Over the years of growing up and maturing with an agoraphobic skin, I am now more transparent with people about my feelings. But, it will never cease to boggle me how non-sufferers assume that if you can walk and talk, not bleeding or in a cast that you are just fine and can’t possibly have anything wrong with you.
Uncle Jack left thankful for the dinner. But, I think he may boycott visiting us again until I go see his garden. He might be waiting a long time.