I was 36 years old when my agoraphobia started. I was travelling to work on the train as I did every day. All of a sudden, out of the blue, I had, what I later found out to be, a full-blown panic attack. I couldn’t move, I froze in my seat. Next, I started to sweat and had a pain in my chest, I couldn’t breathe. There were people around me but I couldn’t speak, it felt like I was going to die.
The next thing I remember was a paramedic telling me I was going to be okay. I was taken to the local hospital where I underwent exhaustive physical tests, which all proved negative. I was then seen by a doctor who diagnosed me as having a panic attack. This was the start of a long struggle, my life changed completely at that moment.
For 2 years I lived with regular panic attacks, I didn’t get back on a train. My wife had to take me to work and apart from going there four days a week, I hardly went out. Eventually, even going to work became too much and I was taking more and more time off sick. Eventually, my doctor diagnosed me as having agoraphobia. I had never had any problems with my nerves, prior to the train episode, although I guess I had been under enormous pressure at work for the preceding 6 months. Plus my wife had recently been made redundant which gave us money difficulties.
After some time, a waiting list of around 12 months, I was referred to a Behaviour Therapist specialising in anxiety disorders. The therapist explained about self-exposure behaviour therapy and how I could overcome my anxiety by the use of this method. The therapist worked out a programme for me. I had ‘homework’ to do each day. This started with walking to my front door and staying there and holding the handle while listening to a recorded message through headphones. I had to add an extra minute each day until I could stay there without feeling anxious for 15 minutes. Next, I had to do the same but with the door open, this was followed by taking three steps outside the door etc. Each time I went a little bit further and a little bit longer. There were days that were harder than others, but I was determined. At first, it was really difficult because the feelings were so terrifying. But as I stuck with it the anxiety dropped slowly each time I went that bit further.
Over the next 2 years, I fought the anxiety rushes and panic attacks. My therapist put me in touch with No Panic, I became a member. It was a breakthrough realising I was not alone and in fact, panic attacks were more common than I had ever thought. I used the crisis message to get me through some really tricky times and joined a recovery group with others who were facing similar struggles to myself. We shared stories and helped each other by sharing tips. Slowly things started to return to normal, whatever ‘normal’ is considered to mean. I still can not go on a train on my own but I am back at work and managing to go places that I haven’t been for a long time. I actually am starting to enjoy going for walks in the forest near my home, something I thought I would never do.
I have come through a lot but my journey isn’t over. I am going to get on a train again by myself. I can now walk to the station without feeling anxious and can calmly walk up and down the platform. This didn’t happen overnight but I am getting there. Watch this space.
How can No Panic help?
No Panic specialises in self-help recovery and our services include:
Providing people with the skills they need to manage their condition and work towards recovery.
Our aim is to give you all of the necessary advice, tools and support that you will need to recover and carry out this journey. No Panic Recovery Programs