Tuesday, 23 July 2019

MIND // 5 Steps To Get Out The Door {A Look At Agoraphobia}

Following on from a few changes to my blog and affirming its direction to be a source of help to people in all sorts of areas of life, my new MIND// headings will be popping up more. 

My New Understanding About Agoraphobia

Having recently started listening to JORDAN PETERSONS: 12 RULES FOR LIFE I was really struck by something that he talked about regarding agoraphobia: the inability to leave home. It isn't something that I can say I have suffered from but listening to him describe how we actually create a Positive Feedback Loop which details how our brain takes a situation of anxiety and uses that to dictate how we feel about something. This is a really good clip that explains it more // JORDAN PETERSON AGORAPHOBIA CLIP (I would watch it before reading on).

Basically, in a moment of panic at a shop a pre-agoraphobic person can withdraw and go home with their anxieties dictating that the experience was bad. The next time the person thinks about going to the shop, the mind reminds that the shop is a place of danger and bad experience and that stops the person returning. 

I find this whole thought process very interesting because, actually, it highlights just how easy it is for us to avoid a place where we have a bad experience. Agoraphobia is a mix of emotions about mortality and embarrassment in public and when you actually think about those emotions yourself you can see how easy it is for someone to slip into a trap of social avoidance.


Recognising where signs of pre-agoraphobia slip into life

It was only when I started re-listening to JORDAN PETERSON to write this post that I began to reflect on my own life. between the ages of 18 - 20 my mum suffered badly with a mental breakdown. As a "grown up" at the time I had little understanding of the true realities of mental health but looking back at it now, knowing the small amount about this area that I do, I look at it in a completely different way. 
I am not here to write a diagnosis or discuss her experiences but there are a few key things that stand in my head about the situation. We lived in a big, old farm house surrounded by Lincolnshire's finest fields. We were in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by nothing and with no real help close by. My Mum's breakdown had a lot to do with mortality having had such a bad experience as a child but within that I remember her avoidance of wanting to be at home. My parents were lucky in a way that they had older children who had stayed close for university meaning that my older brother and I lived at home. That way there was always an "adult" around as a babysitter. But I remember mum and dad going out for hours. Hours and hours and dad would come home and tell us that she just didn't want to be in the house. Don't look at this with any kind of sympathy. At the time I don't remember it hugely affecting life, we had a big house and were all quite used to playing and entertaining ourselves so it never felt weird but it was one of the side effects I really recognised. Her want to avoid the house could have been down to the lack of safety out there. Almost the opposite to agoraphobia in that maybe being in town meant that there was always this security. But whatever her experience she created this positive feedback loop where her mind would warn her of the stresses of the home (I mean, she had 8 kids, way stressful) and therefore her want to return to it would have probably given her heart palpitations and then her anxiety would kick in and I fully believe she was then having to battle that inner demon to fight her getting back through the door. I am purely speculating because I have listened to some guys talk about it but what I am doing is reflecting on my life experiences and recognising that somethings do line up.

For me more personally I would never have said I was agoraphobic but I can see how easily it can slip into life. 

When Raph started school I became obsessed about not being to far away from school so that I could get there if there was a problem (sounds like a fear of mortality). This meant that I stopped travelling about. I wouldn't take Etta, who was still at home with me on days out, we would simply spend the 6 hours at home playing. The result of this time was actually a really happy thing for me, I missed Etta so much when she went to school but, at the forefront of every day was that I had to plan my time to have anything done by 2pm as I couldn't ever risk being late at the school pick-up (oh, sounds like fear of being embarrassed publicly). When you look at these two factors as to why I started staying at home more, they are clear indicators in a therapist signing me off with agoraphobia. Luckily for me it never affected my body with panic attacks or anything and at the time I enjoyed life at home with Etta, we had a wonderful time together even though at the back of my mind my days were set up like that to ensure I would always be close to school. I was trapping myself in my house because of it. 

It is interesting when you have a topic that you think you have no connections to but actually find there are several parallel lines.

I would class myself as lucky. I could have easily used my anxiety to rule over my emotions when Etta went to school but I found her going more of a break from them. I now love to spend time out of the house because it means I can avoid the tidying that constantly has to be done!


I want to help you

I wrote this post because JORDAN'S thoughts on it really inspired me. They got me thinking about these other areas of mental health that just isn't discussed and in a way I wanted to educate you a bit more. I mean my chat is nothing compared to the really clever people who are talking about it but  wanted to share this small reflection on it as you never know who it might help.

That said, I have come up with five steps to help you not let you mind develop any agoraphobic tendencies and to help you battle through anxieties about leaving home.

My 5 Steps To Get Out The Door//

1. Don't become trapped. 

If you feel like you are beginning to panic about going out, stop! Put on a hoody, open the door and step out. You don't need to go anywhere in particular or even in a car but walk for a few minutes before you return. If you feel really anxious, start with just a couple of minutes and build up, if you think you are totally fine and this isn't an issue for you, go on a half hour walk, that is great medicine for keeping good mental health.

2. Exercise.

You can do this at home or out but one key way to make your mind healthy is to fill it with endorphins. The easiest way to do this at home I believe is by dancing. You need nothing but music. You don't need any fancy gym wear or special shoes, you need a radio and you need to find a space where you can just dance. You know that phrase Dance Like Nobody's watching. DO IT! 

3. Talk to someone

One of the biggest blocks in dealing with mental health is our inability to talk about our problems. We must teach each other and our children to talk about feelings. We must cry, we must laugh, we must share annoyances because not talking and bottling up emotions only leads to one place, depression.

4. Find a purpose to leave

You need to put something into your life that gives you a reason to leave the house. That may be a love for going to the cinema, or a community group, even going to a gym class but go at every opportunity. Build it into your routine and that will help you have a reason to leave the house.

5. Never fear the doctor

As with all things health related we have to talk to professionals. We can never fear the doctor. I know it's hard sometimes and we can all have bad experiences in the Drs surgeries making us not want to go back as they appear like a waste of time, but you must. You keep going back until they help you because they can and they will help you.

I hope some of these tips have informed you and given help in you combatting any mental health issues you might have. If you feel you have no issues I hope this post has educated you in some way and you can use the information and any additional thoughts to help you develop a greater understanding of mental health.


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