Tag Archives: Agoraphobia

Therapy and Healing

I’ve not been writing a lot about therapy lately. My last post about Paul’s absence was actually twoWP_20131116_001 weeks old. I’m not sure what’s going on for me right now. In the days leading up to this therapy programme, I often wondered what healing from trauma might actually feel like and what shape the process might take.

Each one of us have our own route to healing, but my own journey  feels as though I’ve been on a rollercoaster ride of reflection and rumination, writing and talking… anger… regret, and many stages of grief.

We learned early in our group how important it is to observe the feelings. There were months when I seemed to exist in a weird trance like state with a whirlwind of emotions circling inside my head. I thought acceptance, healing, and change might never come into focus, but this is beginning to feel much more likely.

The last group I attended was two-weeks ago. I had only just received the bizarre telephone call, which brought news about the death of my long lost friend, Anne.

I’m still trying to grasp how extraordinary that coincidence actually was and the news has been difficult to come to terms with. However, the experience came to mean so much more than synchronicity or grief.

In the days that followed the news, my mind was awash with long forgotten memories of the past. It took a few days to realise that beyond the nostalgia, was a clear view of how I once viewed my existence.

I recalled the enthusiasm and heaps of confidence that would eventually become lost beneath years of mental health problems. I have able to taste what life once meant to me and what I meant to life.

When I first approached a Psychiatrist five years ago, almost begging for help, the distress came from a realisation that I didn’t want to get any better, “not if it means interacting and trusting other people again…” My perception of life had been utterly dismal for so many years, it was easy to lose track of what existed before the days of mental illness.

th0UQOMD3LIt feels as though these long forgotten memories form part of the missing jigsaw and now I can see a lifestyle that is worthwhile aiming for. Of course, everyone changes with time and there is no return to a former self, but I finally envisage what life could look like.

We return to usual sessions next week, but already my time is running out in therapy. We finish group in December and from January until June, I will be on a rapid sliding scale with my Therapist, Paul.

It might sound strange, but my least problematic condition in recent years has been Agoraphobia because it kept me safe and comfortable within an isolated cocoon. At the heart of the debilitating phobia is a fear of venturing into strange places with the prospect of meeting unfamiliar people. This brings me full circle to the very place I started with my Psychiatrist five years ago, only this time, I do want to face those fears and I will ultimately find a new life, but the prospect of change is scary and therein is the next stage of my therapy.

Dr Gerald Stein writes a nice post on avoiding our fears, taking control, and making the best of life here

The Fear Depresses me the Most

It has been a long time since I experienced significant bouts of depression. I’m quiteblack dog sure many readers will relate to that jittery feeling we get in the pit of our stomach, never really knowing how low the depression will go, or if it’s merely just a passing blip.

My MH diagnosis’ includes Major Depressive Disorder so I guess it does what it says on the bottle. There was a time not so long ago when chronic depression became more than a regular occurrence, but it feels as if I’m out of practice, although this can only be a good thing.

Where did this episode begin? The largest part of it seemed to settle during my therapy with Paul yesterday. I was already exhausted and feeling pissed off on arrival, which just seemed to snowball during our session.

We briefly talked about a number of issues, without going into anything in depth, but those topics possibly held more significance than I initially realised.

I told Paul about my emails to the narcissistic mother and Sissy, the Golden-child, asking for no contact. There’s not one shadow of doubt or regret hanging over that decision, but underneath the certainty, is a weird sense of loss. I didn’t expect this to happen.

The fact is, childhood memories and dysfunctional family dynamics have dominated my life for such a long time and now that my mind isn’t so swamped, there’s this vast empty space just waiting… waiting… for… my… future. The fear depresses me the most.

Somewhere along the way, I lost faith in myself. I was always a worker and the opportunities were more than I could’ve ever wished for, I loved and breathed my vocation. But, fifteen years disappeared and there’s no way I would qualify for the same positions today.

Nevertheless, Cat does have something in mind, but the plan entails going back to college/university for four years. It’s not the time that feels daunting and I can handle the cost and even the debt, but the thought of returning to study at 52, feels humiliating. I know, I know, we’re never too old, but I just can’t snap out of feeling a complete failure for reaching this time of life without any solid roots.

The biggest hurdle of all is PTSD and ‘related’ Agoraphobia, which is something I don’t often talk about on this blog, but it’s hard to imagine being able to live my life as freely as before. The “related” part is not a medical diagnosis, but it’s entirely the aftermath of being a victim to violent crime, which I wrote about here.

There’s little point telling a victim of any kind of trauma that it might never happen. The fact is, it did happen, and sometimes the unimaginable becomes someone’s reality. .

Yes, I know how unlikely it is to become a victim of abuse or violent crime again and I’ve heard all about “statistically,” but I was once one of those statistics, so applying that kind of logic doesn’t seem to cut it for me.

When I first started therapy, many things were hard to imagine.

It would not have been possible for me to talk about childhood memories without recoiling in shame and trauma.

It was hard to imagine ever finding peace and acceptance for the childhood hurt and disappointment, and I never thought it possible to find the courage to ‘divorce’ my family.

thU6CGHWTTWhen I first asked the Mental Health Team for help three years ago, I shamefully admitted to the Psychiatrist, “I don’t want to get any better, not if it means re-joining life again or connecting with people” and here I am, anticipating and planning both.

It seems these “hard to imagine” scenarios have a habit of becoming reality and this needs to be my focus in the next phase of therapy, but that doesn’t mean every part of my senses will not still be screaming out “DANGER” whenever I try to push past those safe boundaries.

Therapy – Moving Forward

I am not sure what I expected to happen when the childhood trauma finally faded into the past. Maybe I envisaged bright colourful healing lights with life changing eureka moments, but my own experience of “renewal” has crept up so slowly, I almost didn’t notice.

I was apprehensive about therapy with Paul yesterday, mainly because I couldn’t think17423085-3d-small-people--with-a-question-mark of anything to say. We’ve spent months analysing my experience of childhood trauma and the ambiguous family relationships, but these have finally run out of gas.

Turning up for a fifty-minute therapy session without any kind of agenda will run the risk of hitting a wall of painful silence, but I’ve learned in recent weeks that these are often the most powerful sessions.

The Psychiatrist – the wonderful Dr J – used to say, “Whenever you don’t feel like coming to therapy, those are the times when you need to attend the most.” She never did offer an explanation, but the glint in her eye said, ‘try it and see’.

I’m still not entirely sure what it achieves, other than to force someone to sit with the discomfort, and maybe this is the purpose of the exercise, so off I trundled to therapy yesterday afternoon.

thLPKB5TKTI told Paul that the door to my past has firmly closed behind me and now I only see this vast empty space, and this represents my life and the near future. It is my opportunity to build a new existence, but I am apprehensive about pottering around a strange environment.

Paul and I talked about the fear, which didn’t altogether make sense. I did the professional life once before. Of course, I couldn’t waltz back into the same jobs today and there is still the ‘little’ problem of PTSD and Agoraphobia to overcome, but retraining is not out of the question.

Of course, it would be an enormous challenge and I am not even sure if funding (at my age) would make this dream a reality. As we were exploring this, it felt as if there was something more than fear that was potentially holding me back.

And then it happened, a true eureka-therapy-moment, a very small and simple realisation with an enormous potential for healing. I heard my subconscious speak the words that accurately describe my fears for moving forwards. “I’ve completely lost faith in myself.” I bowed my head.

The enormity of those words hovered in the silent space between Paul and me. “How can I trust myself after all these years of running… hiding… and failing.”

Last night I realised the significance of our session. I can barely believe this is little-ol-broken-me, thinking and actually talking of a future. I remember an appointment with my Psychiatrist three years ago, “I no longer want to get better,” I confessed in despair, “Not if it means reconnecting with life or building relationships again.”

Only last year, it didn’t feel possible to get to where I am today, when the positivethNKAGMHVY thoughts start to outweigh the negative ones and suddenly there is a future waiting just ahead. As it happens, Yes, I do want to get better and, yes, I do want to connect with life again.

I think this is progress.