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.”