Friday, 27 April 2007

2000 - 7 words

The room was the entire world. It had a window onto a different world - an interesting, exciting world which could not be visited in person. This window was called "computer screen".

It was evening and there were three people in the room; the girl, her mother and the boyfriend.

The girl was checking her emails. "Look Mum," she said, "look at this email. It's from my boss."

The mother and the boyfriend both looked. It read, "Hi there! How are you? Everyone has been asking how you are. Did you have a nice Christmas? Any exciting presents? It's been quite boring here. Pretty quiet since Christmas. The place isn't the same without you - Bob."

"Oooooh!" said the mother with a giggle. "Perhaps he fancies you!"

"Funny message from a boss" said the suspicious boyfriend somewhat grumpily.

Mmmmmm... I wonder... Is he interested in me? He hasn't ever shown it. And...if he is...how do I feel about that?... The girl's head was full of thoughts. And possibilities! She resolved to email him later, when she was once again on her own.

And that emailed reply was the start of many emails and the birth of a tentative e-romance.


Seven words changed my life. "The place isn't the same without you." It wasn't meant in any romantic sense. My purpose was to hopefully cheer Marie up by letting her know that her workmates were missing her. However, before long, the messages I was sending Marie contained hints (just hints, because I didn't want to expose myself to rejection) of romantic intent - and I even promised in a jovial fashion that I would give Marie a kiss when she came back to work - thinking "I should be so lucky!".

There were many nights of emails and online cha
t, but in all honesty I can say that I thought that it was all just the stuff of fantasy - like most of the chat on the internet. It was sometime later that I learned that Marie's level of agoraphobia had confined her to her bedroom, although she did share with me that she wasn't able to leave her family home.

One evening I got an email from Marie telling me that she had gone out in the car with her parents to visit an aunt. It wasn't exactly exciting, but I was pleased to learn this because it looked like Marie's agoraphobia was loosening its hold on her.

The next afternoon I was sitting at my desk in my office when the door opened and very much to my surprise, Marie stepped into the room. There was a short, pregnant pause...then -

"Are you going to give me the kiss you promised?" asked Marie.

I had my arms around her one second later, and my first chaste kiss led on to another, much more passionate one..

Our romance had begun.

Thursday, 26 April 2007

1999 - Escape from Home

I often muse about the lack of control we have over our lives. We can't choose our parents (and thus our genes) or the environment in which we grow up and form our personalities. All through our lives, random events direct our actions... Have we really got freedom of choice? But enough of this philosophising...

And by a freak chance, one day an extremely attractive young lady presented herself to a middle-aged businessman. Although her dress did not enhance her good looks - was almost sober, in fact - her sexual magnetism shone through. Her clothes looked a little worn, but originally expensive, and her accent was middle-class.

"Can I work for you - for free?" she asked. And then, by way of explanation, "I've got agoraphobia and I need somewhere to stay during normal working hours while my boyfriend is working." She placed a folder on his desk containing her CV, references and the record of her school achievements.

The businessman thought that, although he didn't need any more employees, this young lady could be quite an asset to his business. She was bound to attract local young men - like bee
s around honey - and she might also encourage other young ladies to frequent his establishment. And she wouldn't cost him a penny! It was a win-win situation!

"No problem. When do you want to start?"

"Next Monday."

"See you then."

And that is how the businessman met his future wife. Pure chance.

Marie came to work for me on a voluntary basis in 1999. Her boyfriend at the time was working locally, although both of them originated a couple of hours' drive away on England's south coast. Marie felt the need to leave home and strike out on her own and he offered the opportunity - as long as she could find somewhere to stay during normal working hours.

She fitted in well with staff, business contacts and customers. More teens and twenties became customers as I had predicted. Although I found her just as attractive as all the other men in the town (who were calling in with increasing frequency), I did nothing about it. After all, I was from a different generation; I was the boss and she was the slave...oops! sorry, I mean the valued (voluntary!) member of staff; and, of course, she had a boyfriend.

Her agoraphobia didn't affect her (or anyone else) much while on my premises. She got taxis to and from work. Her OCD was more noticeable, but not terribly intrusive. She always travelled with a full handbag the size of a small sack, her camcorder (which she never used) in its case, her mobile phone and a heavy coat, no matter what the weather was like.

But in November, she caught a cold, and returned home. For no apparent reason, this made her agoraphobia much more serious, to the extent that by the week before Christmas, she was unable to leave her bedroom.

General Background

This blog may be of interest to agoraphobics and/or their carers, since I intend to try to describe what it is like to live with agoraphobia, and what it is like to be a carer.

My wife is called Marie. She is 28 (in 2007) and (in common with many agoraphobics) her agoraphobia can be traced back to her adolescence.

  • Worst consequence of her agoraphobia – she had to give up a promising modelling career.
  • Best consequence of her agoraphobia – she got me!!! Actually, it was best for me - since when we met, I was a balding, average-looking, financially-challenged, middle-aged (complete with middle-age spread) bloke with a baaaaad love-life history and lots of baggage.

She has also got monophobia (aka autophobia or isolaphobia) which makes life more difficult, OCD – but that’s less serious - and more generalized constant anxiety. Unusually, for long-term agoraphobics – she doesn’t suffer from depression. In fact, she’s usually very good fun to be with, and being considerate, caring, and affectionate are some of her many good points.

Over the years, her condition has deteriorated – with some particularly bad periods and some better periods. Right now she’s not having a very good time. In brief…she cannot ever be on her own – she needs to have a safe person with her; she cannot go further that 2m (or 2 yards, if you prefer) outside; she can go out in a car (with a safe person), but she cannot go into most buildings.

  • Worst period – she could not leave her bedroom for a couple of weeks in 1999.
  • Best recent period – she went to Bristol on her own by bus and walked around for a while, also in 1999.

When I met Marie, I assumed that her condition could, given the right treatment, go away. I didn’t expect to become her carer on a long-term basis. Luckily for both of us, she’s worth it!

  • Worst attribute as a carer – my impatience! Although I’m better at controlling that now.
  • Best attribute as a carer – I can carry on most of my business activities from home, so I can care for Marie most of the time.

Marie and I have 2 kids, aged 6 and 2 (in 2007). Absolutely the best kids in the world! Of course, her agoraphobia affects them, too, but we try to minimise that.

  • Worst effect of Marie’s agoraphobia on the kids – being unable to go most places with them – school, doctor’s surgery, playground…she misses so much!
  • Best effect of Marie’s agoraphobia on the kids – uh-oh, can’t think of anything!