Thursday, 10 May 2007

2002 - Driving Forward With Agoraphobia

2002 opened with optimism. Marie was more mobile than she had been for years. This was the state of her agoraphobia at the time - she couldn't...
  • Stay on her own anywhere, anytime
  • Walk more than 2 metres (yards) from the car if in the countryside
  • Use any form of public transport
But, she could...
  • Walk up to half a mile in a street lined with shops - as long as the shops were open
  • Go into quite large buildings - e.g. supermarkets, the theatre, the cinema, the Doctor's surgery
  • Walk around open-air markets and car boot sales
  • Stay with several people other than me in their houses
  • Travel with most people in their cars
On the down side - but not all that much down, her OCD had got worse. Now, before we went anywhere, she needed...
  • A heavy coat or jumper (no matter what the weather
  • Her shopping-bag sized shoulder bag (no substitute was allowed)
  • Her keys
  • A bottle of soft drink
  • Her mobile phone
  • My mobile phone (new)
  • Our son's pram (even if he wasn't with us) (new)
It seemed to me that it was time to try to push back the barriers further.

I had heard of people whose first aid to reducing their agoraphobia was learning to drive. When Marie was 17, she had taken several driving lessons. Her driving licence was still current, so I insured her to drive my car and persuaded her try driving it. We had several sessions on a deserted road near us, and then as her confidence grew, she gradually started to drive in traffic. I had a Renault Espace at the time (a 7-seater people carrier or MPV) and few people would choose to learn to drive in a car so big, but Marie got on well.

Marie learned to drive in one of these!
Soon Marie could drive from our house to her parent's house - over 70 miles. At that time I used to go to Bristol quite frequently, on business, and Marie sooned learned how to cope with city traffic. (I was always with her wherever she went, of course.) Then Marie started to go places with other people (they had to hold a full licence), and even went to her parents' house one day with a neighbour.

I thought it was time to give her a further incentive. I promised to buy her a car if she would try to pass the driving test. Marie agreed, and soon had passed her theory test and was taking lessons from a driving instructor to get her ready for the test.

Near the end of 2002, we spotted the car that Marie wanted in a car magazine advertisement. Off we went to London with one of my daughters who could drive, checked out and bought the car. My daughter drove it back home for us while Marie and I followed.

Marie's dream car
Marie and I made plans. After she got her full driving licence, she would get a job nearby that she could drive to. This would mean a life outside our house, and not being tied to me most of the time. She could start to drive to her friends' houses in our town. Later, she might be able to drive to the next village - 2.5 miles, then perhaps the next town where there was a supermarket - 10 miles, and then....who knows?

1 comment:

lisar said...

Your story touched me. I have had agoraphobia for most of my life, though at times I have been much better. I think it is so touching to me because of your love for Marie. Not to say that a person who suffers from this is not loveable. I had a fiance and live in boyfriend for 13 years. He left me a year ago for someone else, and said it was because I could not give him the life he wanted. I was so devastated. I'm just touched at your love for her.