Tuesday, 5 April 2011

I am not an animal! I am a human being! I...am...an agoraphobic!

Sometimes when I go out I start to feel disorientated, and detached ,and people are talking to me and I am looking at them through what seems like a fish eye lens, I am  not really hearing them..  I am being attacked by colours and things moving too fast around me, like a tornedo of abuse from the surroundings I am in, and I panic, because I am far away from safety, I cannot hideaway, and everyone can see me like a scared animal, I feel nauseated and my legs feel as if they have sponges for feet, I sweat, and require assistance but would never ask,  people are staring at me or so it seems , and I pray for composure..


Last year I couldn’t get to the newsagents at the end of the road, without thinking I would never return unaided, I would fight my way up there with what felt like a gale force wind pushing against me, then when I got there I would wobble my way around the shop, and leave to face the cyclone on the way back, stopping to cling onto walls to make sure I was still conscious, my battle with this has been for a good 23 years, it has presented itself in varying degrees over this time, and I have been so stressed, that I have had to visit the lav a million times, before, and during my visits out, thus creating in me a mistrust of my own body to get me through a day, less alone the rest of my life.. I was trapped in a vessel, that had a mind of it’s own and it was travelling with me in it, to places I really didn’t want to visit, and I knew each time that I would become travel sick…

Out of desperation, and what I would say in hindsight, real bravery, I decided to get some help, and went to see a psychiatrist at ‘The Priory Hospital’. There he was in his three piece chequered wool suit and red bow tie, with a smile that said ‘I smoke too many cigarettes’ and an office that was far too untidy for any conclusion to be made reliably on anyone’s behalf.  He was a total eccentric, the way I like them, he leaned back in his chair in a very patronising way with his hands clasped across his chest, and spoke to me whilst glancing around the room as if he was watching a fly like a frog and was planning to eat it.. I spoke of my fears and my expectations, and hoped he would take some notes, which he did, as I really didn’t think that he would remember what I had said, as his concentration span was worse than mine, and I was putting my valueable self in his hands which were thankfully now being put to task to create the Cheryl file which I’m sure will come back to haunt me someday..

This file was then handed to my care-worker, a nifty little woman, with dangly beady earrings and earlobes to match , I did actually like her, but she had a chaotic and clumsy nature and always forgot to print out enough fact or work sheets for us all in her group therapy classes, and never remembered to ‘bring them next time’ either. I found out subsequently that she herself was once a patient, suffering from severe depression, and had found enthusiasm to help other people which I thought was really nice. She left halfway through my treatment to go and work in the NHS, I bought her a copy of 'One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest' because I had joked with her that I felt like Randle Patrick McMurphy but at that point I was deadly serious.

We sat in a circle, so we could get a good look at each other, this unnerved me because at that point I found it almost unbearable to be in such a situation as this, and I would fidget for the whole hour until our tea break, then come back and fidget and doodle and pick at my fingernails for a whole hour after, I also liked to position myself so I could watch the clock, as I found this countdown a good distraction for the anxiety I felt, and unless someone’s story was worse than mine, I would sit there and hope that my bladder or bowels wouldn’t let me down, because I was bored, and wanted to go home to where it was safe.. 

The canteen was in a lovely bright room, and don’t forget this beautiful old mansion house was set in beautiful grounds, and you could look out and see Grovelands Park, and also the clusters of patients all huddled together trying to light up a cigarette in the wind and sometimes even the rain, it was only January and bloody cold. We sat on round tables of six, There was a long table at the end of the room which was only for the addicts, a no go area for the likes of us, everyone on that table spoke loudly, and laughed a lot, but they all looked much older than they really were, I wanted to be on that table because they all looked so animated and enthusiastic. I sat with a carefully chosen eclectic set of people , we altogether seemed to represent society as a whole as we all had different reasons for being there, I realised very quickly that these were an excellent bunch of very intelligent people which was probably why they were there in the first place, and the stigma about being there for me faded over the weeks and I felt like I had joined a very special and exclusive club, and didn’t really want to leave..

Outside as the weather got better and certainly by March, myself and my new friends would congregate on the benched tables to chat, never before had I got more sympathy, and never before had I given so much, I heard stories of simple misunderstandings to total abuse, I saw people in high powered jobs who had been crushed under the pressure, and I saw people who had the lowest self esteem  I have ever witnessed, some  got so low they actually gave up caring.. one person tried and failed to injure himself fatally, and two others succeeded in the rush hours under trains on the Piccadilly line.. and the tables we sat at were scarred with the scrawlings of desperate patients, and the grass was littered with about a million fag ends all bearing the lipstick and spittle of hundreds of people in pain..

My problems have not been solved, but I have been provided with industrial tools in which to implement my knowledge, I was told from the start to try and push my boundaries unless they will close in on me, I have managed to do that, but I still live within some restricting walls, I do not choose to do this, and I am amazed by the amount of people who think that I do, anyone who has bothered to get to know me knows this cannot be the case because I am a very sociable and bubbly person, who lives for everyone but herself.  I am not being selfish.


Understand me. love me. help me...


  1. I suffered from agoraphobia quite badly after my sister died. My whole world closed in on me, my immune system collapsed. Going out provoked panic attacks as adrenalin was pumped into my system. It was hell. Over time I have pushed the borders and found "me" again, though I can't pretened that my fears have completely disappeared. I can and do go out alone without any problems at all now.

  2. Dear Anonymous, thank you for your comment, I could have written it myself, because I am exactly the same as you it this point in my life..if you are willing to push boundaries then you will always be on top of these feelings, and I think that the more people around you that know about how you are the better for you it will be... x

  3. We, your friends (it's me Debbie!), do get what you go through Cheryl although we don't always understand it fully... You are as you are and that's ok! Each and everyone of us has problems and stuff that we deal with daily - and we're all getting far worse with age ;-)

  4. Thanks Debs, I think all my friends are really supportive, and I thank you all for that xx