Tuesday, 26 May 2009

The dream home and agoraphobia

Steven from the Estate Agent's office opened the heavy front door, and we all piled in.

The house was, externally, an imposing Georgian building and was one of the most prominent buildings in the street. (The picture above does not show the house - but it looks much like it.) Internally, a clumsy conversion to 3 flats and maisonettes and a subsequent conversion back to a single dwelling had destroyed most of the original features. There was a little Georgian cornicing, a couple of corbels, a few ceiling roses here and there, and most of the skirting boards and door surrounds were intact. A second staircase had been added. The building's last owners, from whom it had been repossessed by their bank, had had bizarre taste, so the d├ęcor was very unflattering.

When I learned that it was for sale, I made an appointment to look around it as soon as possible. Although the house needed major refurbishment and a total makeover, its construction was sound and all it needed to make it immediately habitable was to have the electrical wiring renewed. Later it would need a new kitchen, new bathrooms and improved central heating. I would want to replace the cornicing on the ground floor hallway and reception rooms and probably install some recycled period fireplaces. I could see that there was tremendous potential for a comfortable family home big enough to accommodate the frequent visits by my large family. I could have a decent sized office, too. As a bonus, there was a two-storey building in the garden (probably stables with a groom's room above) with its own access to the street, which was an easy conversion to a maisonette, thus providing a useful income while not compromising the family's privacy. When I was a younger man, I bought, renovated and sold three houses. When I moved into my current home, I made substantial changes to the interior. I knew that I would enjoy restoring this fine dwelling.

That was a few days ago. When I described it to Marie, she was keen to see it too. Now in the house, Marie clutched my arm as if she was in mortal danger while Steven pointed out the various remaining features. She managed to make it up one floor and gave the 4 bedrooms there a cursory inspection, but she was obviously uncomfortable and couldn't wait to get down to the ground floor again. The top floor of the building was totally inaccessible to her. In contrast, Joseph and Orla assumed exploration mode and reported what they saw to Marie and me. They were fascinated with the two staircases - they could run up one and down the other... Despite her uneasiness in the house, Marie could also appreciate its potential.

Back home, Marie immediately consulted the internet for ideas on kitchens and Georgian living room interiors. Then Georgian reproduction furniture. And bathrooms... She checked out colour schemes and light fittings. She pored over the house's floor plans, suggesting what use each of the rooms could have. We went back one day to inspect the garden in greater detail.

I told Marie that it was up to her to decide if we would buy the house. On the plus side, it would be the first home that we had chosen together. Restoring it would also be a joint project. On the negative side, it would use up all our financial resources for a few years. I left her to mull it over.

To my surprise, she rang the agent a couple of days later and made an offer on the property. She had made her decision. It would be the perfect dream home. She really wanted us to live there!

A week later, she reversed her decision. Although she knew that she would become accustomed to the new house, she had become anxious about how much effort that would take. Staying put was a much easier option.

This is how much agoraphobia controls Marie - she has just lost her dream home.


Coffeecup said...

Oh wow! That house is incredible!!

If it's any consolation some years back my Mum and Dad did a similar thing. Mum saw her dream home and agoraphobic Dad agreed to the move. He never settled there, couldn't be left on his own, and eventually had a nervous breakdown which required hospitalisation, followed by the break up of their marriage.

On first impressions one would think that Marie's decision might have been a major blow. However, from my sorry tale maybe this time it wasn't to be and was for the best. I'm sure another dream house will happen in future and one where Marie will feel comfortable. I hope so, you guys deserve a happy home X

Robert said...

Hi CC, and thanks for dropping by. I read the interesting discussion between you, Nechtan & Diver on your blog.

I'm not upset about the house. Our current home is ok and can be improved. And we won't be broke for the next lot of years. I'm just sad that it was agoraphobia that made Marie's choice for her...

Kaci said...

I hope that someday soon the agoraphobia will no longer be making Marie's decisions for her! I know that I want this very much for myself. Sometimes when I make a decision I have to ask myself, is it because it is what I want or is it fear speaking for me? I hope that her progress is still going well. :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Robert,

It sounds like a fabulous house. I hope one day you realise that dream, I'm sure that day will come.

It is a shame that the time to ponder has taken its toll but I think the longer anxious people have to think the more chance there is of that happening. I can understand your disappointment as I know my wife would be the same if I gave her a glimmer that an area of our family's life might improve and then I had to go back on it.

All the best


Robert said...

Kaci - Thanks for that really nice comment! I know what you mean about analyzing your decisions. However, Marie is improving and if it continues, agoraphobia will have less of a say in her life.

Robert said...

Nechtan - Believe it or not, I'm not disappointed about not getting the house. Not for myself, anyway. In my younger days I had a big house and a crap marriage. I'd rather have the smaller home and a good marriage! All I'm disappointed about is the fact that Marie cannot yet do what she wants - not when anxiety gets in the way.

Casdok said...

Fab house! But as you say it is just a house, so glad to hear your not disapointed.
And hopefully on day Marie will beable to do what she wants.

rosiero said...

If she really wanted it, I am sure she would have said yes. Maybe in her heart of hearts, she just knew she would never settle in it. I am sure there will be other homes in the future she will feel happier with.

Michelle said...

She's making so many strides in other areas. I think having a "safe" home to come home to probably helps that. I can see adjusting to a new living (and financial!) situation setting her back. I mean, moves and fixing up houses are stressful for anyone, and extra stress is bad for getting over agoraphobia!

Although everybody is tired of agoraphobia calling the shots, this probably was the best decision at this point in time.

Robert said...

Casdok - Thanks for the comment.

Rosiero - I hadn't thought of that. Perhaps she wasn't as keen on the house as she seemed? Oddly, this evening, she said that she might re-reconsider...

Michelle - I'm going to show your comment to Marie. I'm sure that it will please her that someone agrees with her opinion! Thanks for the input!

Dr. President said...

I know how it is to let Agoraphobia make decisions for you. I'm sorry about losing your dream home.

Dr. President said...

Also, I agree with what Michelle said, the process of buying and moving into, and refurbishing a new house can be very stressful and would, without a doubt, exacerbate Marie's agoraphobia.