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My Brain on Agoraphobia

B

Bigfoot

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Like many of you, I went from depression to anxiety to self isolating and arrived at agoraphobia. It started creeping in with fear of taking the train for a 45 min ride, later I had trouble getting on the freeway. I know some people have had it worse than me, but I'd like to share my view on what caused it for me and how I'm dealing with it.

To me, agoraphobia feels a lot like claustrophobia, but in reverse. When I am on the freeway in an open space, I feel trapped. It never made sense to me until I was watching a prison documentary involving inmates in solitary confinement. After being isolated for long periods of time, many would adapt to the isolation. Even when they got out of prison, they lived in isolation. I think the brain, under the influence of anxiety, starts to develop two spaces; one safe, the other not. So, I realized it wasn't a rational process but merely a habit of my brain. That meant to me that the only way to make progress was to change my behavior and it was going to be difficult cause my brain was going to fight me.

Change comes with repetition, but I chose to take small inconveniences as opportunities for change. To me, there must be proportionality. Maybe it's a difficult struggle for me to travel a few hours from the house, but should I feel the same way about going to the store ? I know how difficult it is, I know how we start to anticipate dying just because we want to go somewhere, but we also know each time we think this we end up being wrong and all we did was make an ordinary task a mountain that it never was. I see my agoraphobia as a child that needs to learn to have more confidence, and I will be the one to force him into turning dread into opportunity. He always feels better about himself with even small victories which, in time, will make mountains look less intimidating.

I hope this didn't come across as arrogant or obvious. I just found that a change in philosophy, for me, made my struggle meaningful and it's much better than working for my master.
 
jajingna

jajingna

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Seems to me it is all about feeling safe and comfortable to do what you want to do. We avoid things when we don't have that feeling. We may need to somehow learn how to feel safe and at ease. To reduce that sense that there is somehow danger lurking. If you can really know and feel there is nothing bad going on, nothing to avoid, then you can feel freer, but getting there to that feeling of being safe, that's a challenge. Removing the "threat" is key, however you go about it.
 
B

Bigfoot

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Thanks for your comment. I think that as long as your brain is telling you going to the grocery store or doing normal things is life threatening, you either choose to endure some of it or remain forever hoping to get around to it with some new idea :)
 
T

Twinkle Toes

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Mar 11, 2020
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somewhere out there
For me it started when I was confined to a wheelchair and my environment was not wheelchair friendly. I couldn't get anywhere without help and couldn't drive.

it took 2 years to be moved to an adapted property where I could finally manage something as simple as showering myself because my bathroom was adapted and my kitchen was adapted and big enough to get an electric indoor chair in with a seat riser to reach in cupboards etc.

Outdoors I was in a small village though small minibuses with steps and only one taxi service had an adapted minibus. It is expensive to get to nearest city, double the cost of a regular car taxi.

I got outdoor mobility scooter to walk my dog as my chair struggled with terrain but small village shops are not wheelchair friendly so everything has to be delivered.

I have difficulties understanding people due to autism and auditory processing issues and my speech is difficult to understand so people don't really stop to talk to me much though they do wave and say morning etc when I pass them with the dog, so I'm kind of isolated from people on several fronts.

I learned to be happy just with a dog for company as my best buddy/partner/helper/support system! I did see a few people a couple of times a year mostly birthdays and xmas before the pandemic situation. I've only been able to see 2 people for the last year who are my support bubble (sibling and their partner).

I didn't like really busy crowded places anyway before I had to use a wheelchair but it feels even more claustrophobic with me being sat and everyone around me stood/walking and the amount of peole that fall over you or bump in to you cos they're glued to their phone screen and not watching where they're walking! (in busy shops etc).

Since menopause kicked in I've seemed to not enjoy socialising even more so lockdown did kind of offer me a much needed 'acceptable excuse' to not have to make the effort. I just seem to find face to face contact exhausting these days from physical effort of having to speak and concentration needed to understand the other person for several hours.
 
B

Bigfoot

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San Luis Obispo
You are very concise for someone that has difficulty understanding others :) I enjoyed reading your post.

I think the essence of what your saying is that you've adapted to being somewhat socially isolated. I can see that. But for me it's like asking if someone who drinks and disapproves of his drinking is making a choice. I don't think so.

I'm curious to know when you talk to people does it seem like listening to a foreign language where you pick up on some of it but not others (that is if you desire to elaborate) ?
 
T

Twinkle Toes

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You are very concise for someone that has difficulty understanding others :) I enjoyed reading your post.

I think the essence of what your saying is that you've adapted to being somewhat socially isolated. I can see that. But for me it's like asking if someone who drinks and disapproves of his drinking is making a choice. I don't think so.

I'm curious to know when you talk to people does it seem like listening to a foreign language where you pick up on some of it but not others (that is if you desire to elaborate) ?
me? ... yes ...sorry I meant when talking to people face to face I struggled with making sense of people what they were saying, what they meant (as its not always the same!) and body language. I have a sensori neural loss too so certain pitches are out of my range and Tinnitus confuses things further as I can't seperate the Tinnitus sounds from the environment when its really bad (loud) or seperate the sounds of people's speech from a radio or TV in in the background.(even with hearing aids cos the the problem is the processing area of the brain not the hearing of the sound).

Visually reading and typing is a different area of the brain to processing sound and physically speaking!

This ability had improved with age as I had gone to deaf college and been taught lip-reading and sign language and the structured manner of learning all that in smaller classes too did help. I could then follow an interpreter for stuff like accessing university so rather than having to understand an whole class full of people I only had to focus on the interpreter and learn her way of signing and body language to convey what was being said.

The internet has also helped because where I previously wouldnt have thought to ask someone how they felt about something if I couldn't imagine...Social media brought people's thoughts, dreams and motivations into my world as they posted about absolutely everything!!.. so that brought a new insight into other people's minds and I could then also access research done with people with autism and support groups to talk to others with it.
 

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