Hello once again!
Below is the text from the last video I made for my YouTube series “Coexisting With Agoraphobia, Anxiety and Panic Attacks”….Again, I hope some of the information will be useful!
Always Improving : Video 6
Hi there….Ellen here again in probably my last video in my series “Coexisting With Agoraphobia, Anxiety and Panic Attacks. I may make a few smaller videos if a topic comes to mind that I feel will offer helpful information, but for this particular series this is my last video. I entitled this section “Always Improving” because, even though we have limitations, perhaps even many limitations, we can always strive to do better and try to become all that we can be.
Once a trusted counselor of mine told me that I was the only self-actualized agoraphobic she had ever known. Since I was a young adult and came to know what that word meant becoming self-actualized had always been a goal for myself as a human being. I assumed however, that since I had developed this intense anxiety condition which inflicted many limitations on me that goal was off the table. When my counselor made that statement it brought tears to my eyes. I asked her how she could think that given all the things that were so difficult, if not impossible for me to do, and she simply said that being self-actualized simply meant that one was always striving to fulfill their full potential, and she thought that was what I was continually trying to do. I am suggesting that we can ALL do that, no matter what the limitation.
In my video series you have heard me talk a lot about simply “accepting” yourself as you are on any given day. Accepting in the way I mean it does not in any way conflict with the notion of improving. . It means just accepting where you are at any given moment so you can relax with it and live your day to its fullest potential and keep moving forward!
Many of us ask “How did we get the way we are….?” I am not sure it is absolutely necessary to know the answer to that question, but to try to fill in some of the possibilities we might look at things like:
A: Some of us have abusive backgrounds that made us fear the world. I know that is at least in part true for me.
B: There may be a genetic predisposition or family history that is at work for some of us.
C. It can be a combination of predisposition and environmental factors…such as neglect or abuse.
D: There have been studies that show that the amygdala portion of the brain may be of an unusual size and may contribute to extreme fear reactions in certain people.
E: Certain traumas such as a hospital stay can cause anxiety and panic.
So you see, it is not an exact science, but what IS important is to try to find coping mechanisms in order to live the best life you can, whether anxiety is a short term visitor or it is something you have been dealing with for a very long time.
When I ask myself about how I have improved or am improving my life what I
have mainly come up with is:
1. I have a great deal of trouble with social phobia as well as agoraphobia and panic attacks. I continue to try to expand my world and bring people in despite the intense level of discomfort it brings me. I suppose it is a choice to work on this particular challenge at this point in my life rather than territorial expansion. There are only so many things a person can work on at one time. Connecting with people and developing a support system seems to take precedence over getting to the “grocery store.” I have managed a way to get my groceries and other goods from the outside world but have been sorely lacking in day-to-day support from “in person” people. Examples of my efforts to stretch in this area are:
A. My friend recently moved here and I allowed her to stay with me for an open -ended amount of time until she found a place to live. That was tough for me since I am severely socially phobic, but I tried to just come out of myself to extend myself to another. After writing my book “Behind These Eyes: One Agoraphobic’s Journey To A Meaningful Life” I really came to know that when all is said and done in this life it is the people connections that mean the most.
B. In May of this year I started bringing in medical professionals to address a few health issues. This felt very threatening to me, but I stretched and did it anyway. I probably had 30 or so visits from various medical personnel to address various issues. I was way out of my comfort zone and medical problems are on the top of my fear list these days. So, having to have strangers come into my house to deal with medical issues was a double challenge!
C. I keep trying to make new friends and am finally getting successful in this area. I have recently brought two new friends into my life that look like they will be a part of a wonderful support system for me. Granted I have to see them in small increments, but they are willing to work with me and inch by inch my world is beginning to expand once again.
D. I am currently helping the owner of the house behind me get her home ready for remodeling. She does not live here so I am meeting all kinds of construction people on her behalf. This is an ideal situation for me to practice being around new people because I can come and go freely and only have to see each one for a short period of time.
E. I keep up with old friends who don’t live here but are close enough to visit. I make sure I manage to see them here for dinner at least occasionally.
F. I keep up with repairs and improvements on my house which requires having people here from time to time. This is especially difficult for me but I continually keep chipping away at it.
G. I recently had a reporter from our local newspaper come to my house to interview me about my book. All in all I had about eight interviews (not all in person) and next the photographer will come to my home to take photos. This is a HUGE stretch out of my comfort zone.
2. Developing my spirituality:
I am deliberately trying to develop my spirituality in terms of connecting more fully to this earth we live on to enable me to function better on a day-to-day basis so that I might be able to reach whatever goals I might have. I do this mainly through reading, taking related college courses online, doing regular meditation practice and listening to audio books. I have decided for my own life that my inner world is every bit as important if not MORE important than my outer world. Who I am as a human being….how I treat others…. and what I am able to GIVE of myself is so much more important that any place I can “go”…..
3. Progress territorially… I have it in the back of my mind to try to venture out into the outside world again when I have developed my new support system more fully…..to the extent that I feel safe and confident with these people.
In conclusion: I suppose that, as with most things, the proof is in the doing. What I have done with my life to date, in spite of massive amounts of anxiety and panic from time to time is……
1. Got my college degree
2. Had a career for about 13 years as a mental health counselor
3. Owned and operated a T-shirt shop
4. Presently have a small online business doing custom printing
5. Took care of my mother in my home in the last years of her life
6. Had a few wonderful love relationships
7. Wrote a book and may write a second
8. Consulted on two plays and one movie
9. Currently am having an article written about mylife for a large local Newspaper
10. Managed to maintain good health
11. Have had several lasting friendships
12. Took care of a good friend until she passed away…..running her care mostly from home via phone!
13. I own a home, car and have a rental property.
14. I ran two different support websites at one time trying to help others.
15. I have wonderful pets
16. I have managed to run my own life and remain independent.
I believe that my challenge over all these years has made me the person I am today. I am better able to empathize with others who have any disability or hurdle to climb in their life. I believe I was born with a loving heart and that still exists within me. I have given up trying to swim upstream and have simply for the most part made peace with where I am at on any given day. I know you can too, no matter where you find yourself.
I once had a psychologist/ medium tell me that she believed that the fact that I am still homebound after so much “trying” might mean that there is a reason for me to be here. Who knows? Maybe I am meant to experience this anxiety disorder to the fullest so I might understand it and help others. No matter what the reason if I continue to just accept where I am I know I will be ok…and you will be too if you live each day as it comes and simply do the best you can! Please remember as well however, that recovery includes setbacks! Setbacks are inevitable so just try to accept them as well and then continue putting one foot in front of the other and move slowly forward.
Living with anxiety is like always having a shadow ….the trick is to put the shadow behind us (as in ..let it run in the background) and learn to co-exist with it. Believe it or not, there is room for both you and your shadow!
I want to thank you for tuning in to my series…..I hope you have gained some useful information that will help you on the path ahead of you.