agoraphobia, depression, anxiety, chronic fatigue, cycling,, Personal growth, faith, prayer, contemplation, love, oneness,, Prayer

Agoraphobia diary: day 4

Hello to you all. Day four hasn’t been too bad, as expected. I checked out a couple of charity shops and my favourite kitchen outlet, then met my family for an extended exploration of Ely Cathedral. It’s surprising how distracting it is to pay close attention to two small children in a huge public space. Between us, we managed to watch the boys whilst gazing up and around sufficiently to take in something of our surroundings.

We had lunch in the busy Cathedral Cafe, then the boys had a run around outside on the grass. I was beginning to tire, and to long for a rest, but they wanted to show me their favourite charity shop. Again, I forgot myself for a while, helping one to read aloud from a big book about weapons and armour! The inner process of deciding how much further to push myself is a very delicate one. When I’m alone, of course, I only have to stay for as long as I wish!

Eventually, we had all had enough. I exerted myself to do my own very small amount of shopping, then returned to my room, where I immediately fell asleep. Today feels a bit like the calm before the storm. I’ve got used to my room, and feel safe there now, always pleased to return to quietness and rest. However, tomorrow I have to leave this new-found security behind, and move on to Leicestershire, where I will stay with my sister, and visit my 101-year old mother in her nursing home. Meanwhile, the train journey on Thursday morning is coming a little closer each day, and preying on my mind.

Today I realised that being completely honest about my fears has made it considerably easier for me to cope with the days with my family. So this became the subject of my prayer:

Real things

Lord,

I can speak
And write
About real things!

Real feelings,
Real anxieties,
Real fears!

I can be honest!
What a relief!
I’m not ashamed!

I make sense.
I do my best –
And life is good.

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agoraphobia, depression, anxiety, chronic fatigue, cycling,, Prayer

Agoraphobia diary: 6.30am on day 4

Greetings to you all. This is the fourth day of my agoraphobia challenge, and it’s amazing what foolish things my mind can attach my anxiety to. As the time with my family draws to a close, I’m still ruminating about how to manage my luggage. Before I arrived in Ely I sent a bag of clothes ahead so as not to have a heavy, unmanageable suitcase. So by the time I leave Ely on Tuesday for the next leg of my journey, I need to change into clean clothes, then ask my son to wash the dirty dirty ones, parcel them up, and send them back. This seems like an appalling thing to ask of anyone, so I’ve been worrying about it for days. You might say it’s not really part of being agoraphobic, but in fact it’s all part of not wanting to be any trouble, not attracting any attention to myself, and, above all, not wanting to presume on others in case they reject me. All these things were big no-no’s during my childhood, and I still struggle hard with them. I guess that partly explains why I never developed the confidence to cope with life.

Anyway, the plan for the morning (worked out over a very good dinner at Pizza Express), is to meet in a coffee shop, then go round Ely Cathedral. It might make you smile to hear that though I’ve visited Ely Cathedral  quite a  number of times, and love it dearly, I’ve only once, many years ago, gone past the barrier where people pay to enter. Normally, I confine myself to the free side-chapel for private prayer, and the excellent shop. Spending money to go round the whole building just seems too extravagant, and I’ve never overcome this. Hopefully, with encouragement, I’ll do better today!

After all that tangled thinking, here is today’s prayer, which is perhaps rather suitable for reflecting on whilst visiting one of the most magnificent, beautiful and richly-decorated buildings in the world…

 

We are one

I praise you! (Psalm 63:3; NLT).

You alone are the one we worship (Isaiah 26:134; NLT).

I love you, Lord (Psalm 18:1; NLT).

I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one (John 17:22; NIV).

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It makes no sense
To say, “I praise you, Lord,”
For we are one.

It makes no sense
To say, “I worship you”,
For we are one.

It makes no sense
To say, “I love you, Lord”,
For we are one.

Yet still I say
These things to you each day –
For we are one.

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agoraphobia, depression, anxiety, chronic fatigue, cycling,, Prayer

Agoraphobia diary: 10am day 3

Hello, everyone. Well, today is the third day of my agoraphobia challenge, and this morning brings a chance to catch my breath. I slept like a log, with only one anxiety dream – much better than the night before. The plan for today is to walk to my family’s house, have lunch, then sit in the middle at the back of the car again for a shorter drive to one of my favourite places in the world: Wicken Fen. Hopefully, this will be less testing than the previous two days, though the cumulative effect of facing feared situations is very tiring, especially on top of chronic fatigue.

For now, I’ve got time for an extra pot of tea, then a space for contemplation, before plunging into the day’s activities. Meanwhile, here is this morning’s reflection:

You give us all a lifetime

He gives breath to everyone, life to everyone who walks the earth (Isaiah 42:5; NLT).

How short is life, how full of trouble! (Job 14:1; NLT).

The Lord must wait for you to come to him so he can show you his love and compassion (Isaiah 30:18; NLT).

Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me (Psalm 23:4; NLT).

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Lord God,

You give us all a lifetime,
Long or short,

To come to terms
With how we are brought up,

With who, and what,
We are,

And all that
We experience.

Plus, you wait to help us
Every day –

If only
We will ask.

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agoraphobia, depression, anxiety, chronic fatigue, cycling,, Prayer

Agoraphobia diary: day 2

Hello, friends. Well, after texting my son to explain my claustrophobic fear of sitting in the back of the car between two child seats (as mentioned in my previous blog), I managed it – all the way to Cambridge and back to Ely. Being honest about it was a huge help. The only time I was uncomfortable was when we were looking for a parking space in busy side-streets. I felt we might never get out of the car, but hung on to my courage, and coped.

The object of the journey was an archaeology open day, mainly intended for children. It was busy and crowded, the only bad moments being when I couldn’t find any members of the family. Afterwards we had a windy, cool picnic by the river Cam, watching the boat crews of various colleges going through their drills. As I got more tired, I began to long for some security and a good rest, so was very pleased to get back to my hotel room and put my feet up for an exhausted sleep.

My most triumphant moments involved herding a large, aggressively-hissing swan back into the water three or four times. It came astonishingly close, and was taller than my grandchildren. It was an unusual thing for me to do, but perhaps by then I felt I had nothing left to lose!

Increasingly, I’m reflecting on what healing actually means, as seen in today’s blog:

 

What is healing?

 

Lord God,

We know
You heal all our diseases,

But what, exactly,
Does this healing mean?

Sometimes it means
The end of pain and suffering;

Sometimes it means
Embracing them, like you.

 

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He […] heals all my diseases (Psalm 103:3; NLT).

Yet I said to myself, “This is my sickness, and I must endure it” (Jeremiah:10;19; NIV).

“The Son of Man must suffer many terrible things,” he said (Luke 9:22; NLT).

Those who suffer he delivers in their suffering; he speaks to them in their affliction (Job 36:15; NIV).

I was given a thorn in my flesh […] Three times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:7-9; NLT).

In everything we do, we show that we are true ministers of God. We patiently endure troubles and hardships and calamities of every kind (2 Corinthians 6:4; NLT).

We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28; NIV).

The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised (Job 1:21; NIV).

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agoraphobia, depression, anxiety, chronic fatigue, cycling,, Prayer

Agoraphobia diary: 3.30am on day 2

Hello everyone. Spoiler alert: this blog will be mentioning child emotional abuse, so if you don’t want to think about that, you might want to switch off now.

Well, managing the inevitable challenges of day one resulted in a really bad anxiety dream last night. So I’m typing this at 3.30am, whilst thinking about the day ahead. My main worry is that I will be travelling about 20 miles in the back of my son’s car, wedged between two large, fixed child seats and my two grandsons. As yet, I don’t know if the car’s automatic child locks will be engaged, but all aspects of this scenario are a torment to a severe claustrophobic like me. I can clearly remember panic attacks in enclosed situations from before I was 3 years old, so in some ways my claustrophobia is even worse and more longstanding than my agoraphobia.

It’s taken me 65 years to manage this fear relatively well on a plane, but it’s interesting that the fear in a car, a lift, or a loo is still so bad. So, thinking all this over, I’ve decided to briefly tell my son how I feel. We could perhaps then arrange that he will stop the car to let me get out and collect myself, if I ask him to. Not looking forward to it, but ready to face up to it, if that makes sense!

Lastly, I haven’t even mentioned that any lift means going away from relative safety, and having to wait until the driver is ready to return. So there is a risk I will have to deal with a panic attack without a quick escape route I can control. I still routinely turn down kind offers of a lift because of this anxiety, though always giving a socially acceptable reason. Maybe I should now start to review that policy…

 

Why should I be ashamed?

 

Lord,

Why should I be ashamed
Of my agoraphobia?

It’s a standard consequence
Of child emotional abuse.

Why should I be ashamed
Of my depression?

It’s a text-book response
To child emotional abuse.

Why should I be ashamed
Of my anxiety?

It’s a basic reaction
To child emotional abuse.

But acceptance is not
Passive resignation –

Help me to fight back, Lord,
Till my last breath.

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Agoraphobia diary: day 1

Hello everyone. As promised, here is my usual blog, plus a short report on today’s agoraphobia-defying journey. My husband took me to the Isle of Man airport, and all went well with the flight, though it was a very fast and bumpy landing.  When I got to arrivals at London City my taxi driver wasn’t there. For a moment I felt completely alone and bereft, with no idea what to do. Then I got out my phone and called the company. Within 15 minutes the driver arrived and I was safely in the car, but the experience was definitely stressful. Worth it, though, as whilst I was waiting I saw a cool businessman in a suit glide by on a special scooter that also carried his suitcase.

Traffic on the motorway was very bad, sadly owing to an accident, so after a lot of long queuing, we turned off on to tiny lanes and roads through old villages. It was picturesque, but made me more anxious that I would have been if we’d gone direct, especially as I had no idea where we were. A journey that would normally take two hours took three, and I had to exert myself to relax and let it happen. The driver had Radio 2 on, playing music quietly, but with an insistent drum-beat all the time. I used headphones, tried to sleep etc, but the drumming was unpleasant, very migraine- provoking. After a fair bit of rehearsing, I managed to broach the subject just as we arrived at our destination, having previously felt I couldn’t possibly say anything direct about it.

So, here I am at my hotel in Ely, very tired, but pleased with how the day has gone. Tomorrow I’ve been invited to go to Cambridge by my son’s family. Before I got here, this excursion had been suggested, but felt impossible to me. However, I have now agreed to go, because full “flooding” or immersion treatment is often the most effective. So much more comfortable to cling to the safety of my hotel room and the surrounding streets!

Anyway, here is tonight’s prayer, for regular readers. Hopefully, I’ll be back tomorrow evening to report on the day.

My task

I love you, Lord (Psalm 18:1; NLT).

Love your neighbour as yourself (James 2:8; NLT).

To acquire wisdom is to love oneself (Proverbs 19:8; NLT).

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I love you, Lord,
So now my task
Is learning to love
Everyone on earth –
Including me!

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