Wednesday, 12 December 2007

More steps away from agoraphobia

It is 12 days since Marie’s EMDR appointment and there have been significant changes. For the better! In fact, there has been a major improvement in one area – staying home alone.

Marie has not been able to stay anywhere on her own - for more than a few minutes - since she was 16. Over the past couple of weeks, that has changed dramatically. She has been staying at home without a safe person for increasing amounts of time. Here are the steps she took –

* 1 hour with just the children while I went to a meeting ½ mile away. Marie rang two different friends who live close by to check that they would be in “in case of emergency”. I had my mobile phone with me, of course.

* 1½ hours on her own while Orla and I went to Joseph’s nativity play at his school, ½ mile away. (It is sad that Marie's agoraphobia kept her from going too and seeing her son being applauded by everyone there...) Two friends were put on standby again and Marie went into the “No More Panic” chat room for a while for support. I had my phone with me, of course, but this time on “silent” mode.

* 2 hours on her own while Joseph, Orla and I finished a shopping trip, 20 miles away, and returned home. Marie used “No More Panic” chat room again, but this time didn’t have friends on standby. I rang her a couple of times, just to check her anxiety level. She was fine!

* 5 hours at home with the children while my sister, her new man and I went to Sharyl’s college play (excerpts from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales – mainly the lewd tales – just what you would expect from hormone-flooded adolescents…). Our phone line had gone down and with it our internet connection, so no chat room support this time. Marie didn’t ring me the whole time.

* Tonight I went out twice for relatively short periods, but Marie wasn’t even slightly anxious.

Up until recently, Marie could only work if I was in the same building or at home, but this has also improved. This afternoon I had to go to a meeting 20 miles away, and Marie worked the whole time.

All the above happened without Marie having a panic attack.

So things are looking better for Marie. And it had nothing to do with EMDR! Although her appointment was 12 days ago, she was ill (stomach bug) and couldn’t go. Now she’s undecided about going. Why bother, I wonder? She’s improving anyway. If she goes now, she won’t know if EDMR is helping her or if she would be improving anyway. And there’s always the slight possibility that it might halt her progress – or worse…


SarahC♥ said...

Wow and wow again!

These steps that Marie has taken are absolutey FANTASTIC! FIVE HOURS...that is one massive achievement in the right direction.

The ONLY way is up from here :)

Coffeecup said...

Good grief this is great stuff! I started reading that thinking how wonderful EMDR must be until I got to the end and found that she had done it all on her own!!!!!

Well done Marie! X

HSP Woman said...

You made my week, Robert. What good news! Brava to Marie. Were you able to tape the play? Gosh, she made it without internet? That would have been hard for me.

Did you ask her what she was saying to herself? Her coping strategies? I'd love to know what worked for her. Sometimes just a single statement or two can work wonders.

I'm starting EMDR next Wednesday. My therapist told me, however, it's not really the best treatment for something as diffuse as agoraphobia and panic disorder.

She mentioned it works best for discrete traumatic events, like ones that result in PTSD. I am going to try it for a specific event in my life rather than the agoraphobia. per se.

Maybe the effect CAN work for panic, I just need to check it out more. I'll let you know.

Thanks for the inspiring post!

Robert said...

Hi Sarah & Steph -

Thanks for the really nice comments. Neither Marie nor I have been online much recently due to the usual seasonal increase in business and having to research & source presents for our rather large family (7 children, 4 grandchildren, 2 parents, 3 sisters, 4 nephews & nieces, 11 aunts & get the picture). We also host the family Xmas day meal (serving 14 this year). And our phone line was out of action for 5 days! So we haven't caught up with your latest news. You are still in our thoughts!

As I mentioned before, Marie has got a different attitude now, and really wants to move forward. Long may it last.

We're going on another shopping trip on Monday. More progress on the agoraphobia front then? I hope so.

Robert said...

Hi there hsp woman...

Thanks for your interest!

I wasn't able to record the play because there are 3 children in Joseph's year at school who are not allowed to be photographed (legal reasons). They left at the end of the performance so that photographs could be taken of the other children. (Sigh!) Sign of the times. I had not been aware beforehand that Joseph's participation was so major. He got lots of praise from other parents afterwards. How I wished that Marie could have been there to see it all...

I DID ask Marie how she is able to cope with negative thoughts now, that would have disabled her just a few weeks ago. Her response may not be really much help to anyone. She says that about 50% of the time she sees her negative thoughts as though they are detached from her, and they can't affect her then. The rest of the time, they make her anxious, but not as much as before. She doesn't really know why this is happening, and she is trying to work out (so far, without any success) what she is doing differently now that has brought these changes. However, she always KNEW that she had sympathetic friends/cyber friends available to offer support and/or distraction. Without them, she doesn't think that she could have got as far as she has. If I learn anything anything else which I think might be even REMOTELY helpful, I'll let you know!

My thoughts on EMDR concur with yours, and if Marie decides to try this at a later date, I'll be interested to see what the rationale for the therapy is, and how it is applied. In the interim, I would be VERY interested to follow your experiences.

Best wishes!

Coffeecup said...

Hi Robert, I hope to God that this could apply to Marie but I have heard of anxiety simply disappearing for no obvious reason. People CAN also 'grow out of it'. My mum knew a colleague at work who was plagued by panic for a long time and almost at once they just went and she was back to 'normal'! When I heard this I was gobsmacked. Still, doesn't matter how the progress comes, if small improvements happen it's all good news. ;-)

HSP Woman said...

You wrote:

"She says that about 50% of the time she sees her negative thoughts as though they are detached from her, and they can't affect her then. The rest of the time, they make her anxious, but not as much as before..."

This is actually very telling, and very common for us panickers (is this a word? ; )

I'm the same way, and I'm sure Steph and Sarah are, too.

Sometimes a "coping phrase" works, and sometimes the same phrase, well not so much.

For me, many times when I start to feel panicky, I can say something like, "Well, no problem. It takes a few minutes for the adrenalin to be metabolized by my liver. I'll just let that pass and keep moving."

But other times I say the same thing but I really start to feel the fear build. That second stage of panic (hence a panic attack) comes at full force.

There is something Marie and myself (and others) are saying to ourselves -- maybe even subconsciously -- that makes or breaks a full-blown panic attack.

I suppose that's what CBT calls automatic thoughts.

I guess our challenge is to teach ourselves to become consciously aware of such negative automatic thoughts.

It's like the missing link, man!

We just have to keep on keeping on until we can identify just what instantaneous automatic thoughts throw us into panic.

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UKintheUS said...

Robert and Marie-This is such wonderful news!. Bless her heart and yours, to you and your family during the Holiday season. Robert I know your estatic over this amazing progress, and Marie I know you feel that you are finally experiencing life again. It's the greatest feeling in the world, and only pushes you to want more and more.
Robert-I want to thank you for blogging about Marie, your feelings at times, as even though I've been married for almost 25 years, I still doubt sometimes what is going through my husband's head with my disorder, regardless of what he tells me.

maz said...

Hi, I'm so glad to hear your good news!

It's brilliant when things go well!

maz x

Ruby said...

WOW Marie this is awesome, what huge steps in the right direction :) What wonderful news. Thank goodness for the internet support we can access at any time of day.

I too have been trying to work out the automatic thoughts that spark a panic attack, sometimes I can, other times I am happily going along, then in a nano second I am starting a full on panic feeling, then of course it just escalates.

Robert said...

ukintheus -

Thanks for the comments.

I have found a webpage which you might like to read. It's an article about what it's like to be married to an agoraphobic woman. This man was (at the time of the article) married for 17 years. I hope you like it. Here's the address -

Best wishes!

Robert said...

Hi maz-

Thanks for dropping in again.

Just when Marie is improving, both children are ill with a stomach bug. Marie enjoys working these days, so I'm nursing the kids. Change of care duty!

But I'm loving all the cuddles...

Robert said...

Hi Ruby -

Thanks for the note. Due to a serious shortage of time, I haven't visited your blog for a while (or anyone else's). I hope you're continuing on your own road of improvement.

Will visit you soon.

SarahC♥ said...


That website address you left is that of a wonderful (although small) community.

I joined ENcourage back in 1999/2000, many years ago, and i still use it now. It's completely different to other forums i visit basically due to the size. Its more intimate. I like it. I actually met in person a girl who i met on ENcourage. She flew from California to meet me.

Wonderful place :)

charleslinden said...

Please ask your wife to contact me through the center on 01562 742004 or through the website at I KNOW I can help her - I have been there. Charles