Walking from work at my stressful job in 1973, I had no idea my life was going to change so severely. I was 31, had a pretty fiance, and I was in good health. Clambering into my old black Beetle, I dropped my keys...
and suddenly I began shaking...and sweating...and this feeling of foreboding, of impending doom, filled me.
I had never ever felt this way before. I had been an iron man, a street wizard, a silver-toned devil. I had hitchhiked my way around the country, sold art and string art to stay solvent, slept in cars and tents and, once, in a burned-out gas station.
Finally I gathered myself together and drove to my apartment, and made my first mistake: I stayed home from work for a couple of days. I telephoned my boss and told him what had happened, and he gave me good advice ("Just keep going. Don't let it affect you.") , but I ignored it. By not keeping on, I became sensitized to anxiety.
A few days later, 15 minutes into the performance, I walked out of "The Nutcracker Suite" at the local university and sat waiting for my girlfriend outside, chain-smoking, in agony over what was happening to me.
I went to a clinic, and talked to my doctor, but no one had an answer. I began to hate to leave the apartment. I had to force myself to go to the store, or to the dentist. I would stand in the front porch, looking at the people playing in the park across the street, wanting to join a group but unable to force myself to do so.
A couple of years later, I read a newspaper article about agoraphobia, fear of the marketplace, and recognized my symptoms. At last I had a name for it.
Over the next few years, I tried psychotherapy, tranquilizers, biofeedback...none of it helped much.
I became a freelance writer so I could work at home. I started a magazine, starred on a local radio talk show for a couple of years, held seminars, gave speeches...all while holding that dread at bay. I didn't want it to affect my marriage, but...
one day in 1989 my wife announced she wanted a divorce, and moved out. Suddenly I was faced with a jarring reality. I had to either break out of this trap, or become a hermit, with only my dog for company.
About this time, I came across a book: "Hope and Help for your Nerves" by Australian author Dr. Claire Weekes. (It's still in print today, 17 years after her death in 1990, and continues to help sufferers worldwide. Reviews in Amazon.com almost all give it five stars.)
I read that, particularly her comment that you learn to "float" through anxiety. To overcome my aloneness, I joined a singles group and "floated" my way through uneasiness, "sense of impending doom", and the like.
Now, as you can see by this blog, I'm restored from my agoraphobia after 16 years. Oh, I still get nervous, but I just let it wash over me. You can, too.