Sunday, February 12, 2012


I have spent the last two months housebound. My doctor told me to take time off work, and, seeing as I was struggling to cope, I readily agreed. She probably didn't mean for me to isolate myself from the world. Neither did I, but somehow it happened. My reluctance to impose myself and my troubles on others, combined with my lack of a drivers' license, meant I have spent a long time at home.

Just me and my computer. 

That's not to say I never went out. I saw a couple of friends at their homes, and I made it to the shops every so often, always accompanied. I even made it to church. But gatherings of people, or parties? No way. I got halfway through a family birthday dinner at a local pizza place, and had to walk away before I broke down.

I blame my anxiety disorder for most of this. Apparently, I am so easily stressed, that when surrounded by people, I can easily descend into a panic attack. I shake, while my heart races, my head gets dizzy and I begin to hyperventilate. While I am not ashamed of my bipolar disorder, it is much harder for me to admit to my anxiety. I know it is triggered by irrational fears, and that bothers me. If only I had valid reasons for this panic! But as it is, I find myself sweating and shaking when confronted by such small things as groups of people and telephone calls.

Because I am bothered by my anxiety, I usually work hard to conceal it. The amount of panic attacks I've weathered in a bathroom stall, all the while trying to pretend to everyone else that I'm fine, is staggering. I'm also pretty good at working out where and when one might occur, so I avoid those occasions. No big parties where I don't know most of the people. No phone calls without a pad of paper where I can organise my thoughts. I know I will never be able to see my favourite bands in concert, as I would never be able to face the crowds and noise.

Sometimes I feel like I've become far too old for my age. I feel like an old woman, struggling to function in a world that is too fast and too noisy for her to take in without pain. I hate that feeling. Therefore, for the last two months, I have simply avoided every uncertain situation.

So when the idea of going to the local DoJ gathering popped into my head, I didn't initially think it a good idea at all. An hour of singing in a room packed full of large families, followed by an afternoon tea in a crowded tearoom? I knew what it was like, as years ago I used to attend regularly. And what about the people? Would they welcome me back? I stopped going abruptly, two and a half years ago. Would they remember me? Would they care? I didn't know.

For some reason though, I found myself wanting to go. I talked it over with Graham. Though he was worried about how it would play out, he willingly agreed to accompany me. I was still in contact with one family who attended regularly, so I rang them and checked to see if they would be there.

And, somehow, I found myself walking into the venue yesterday afternoon. Uncertainty started to well up inside me, and I slowly realised I was shaking. I walked past people, and recognised who they were. Two and a half years, and I still remembered all their names. Awkwardly, I tried to smile and wave, while uncertainty distilled into panic. I shouldn't have come. What had I been thinking?

Heads turned to see who had arrived, focusing on me... and smiles appeared. I found myself surrounded by people, all smiling, all asking how I was, and all seemingly pleased I was there. Eventually, we made our way into the auditorium, where I could take a much-needed seat. For all  that I'd just had the best possible welcome, I found myself trembling, I think partly from relief.

I'd only planned to stay for part of the afternoon, and strategically exit before everyone began afternoon tea... but I found I was enjoying myself. It was nice to hear everyone singing praise songs, even nicer that I was surrounded by my friend's family. I even began to relax a little. And I was able to introduce, with great pride, my husband to all these people who had never met him. I felt as if, while I had left the gatherings two years ago broken and mentally sick, I was able to return stronger and far happier.

The last thing we did that afternoon before leaving was to speak to an old friend who we hadn't seen for a long time. As we said goodbye, he said he would be looking forward to seeing us next week. And you know what? Though I might not always be able to make it, I think I will go back. I felt so good, reconnecting with old friends, knowing that to do so I had beaten down my anxiety and won - that is awesome.

I am housebound today. But maybe I can begin to work towards controlling my anxiety. And then there will be no more need to hide at home in fear.

1 comment:

  1. I can empathize. I went.. maybe.. two years where I couldn't go anywhere without my hubby Mark.. and even then, it was only certain places I could go and NOT have a full blown panic attack. Here it is, ten years later.. I still can't go to the mall. It is youngest daughter has missed out on things, because either Mark or my eldest daughter (they are my safe people) couldn't go with us, and I dared not take my youngest, alone, 'just in case'. I fear losing it, losing control. What would happen with my daughter if that happened? Best for me to wait and take her places when I have a "safe" person with me. What do I fear? Losing control I guess. Freaking out, falling, fainting, or a big full blown panic attack where I can't breathe. I can't risk it. I hate being that way, but it is what it is. It's gotten better, even if I can't go to the mall. I am able to go, by myself, to many more places. I guess it just takes time sometimes. Don't give up Felicity!! ♥