Tuesday, 15 December 2009

My next door neighbour has agoraphobia!

     The doorbell rang. 
     I opened the door to a quite attractive lady in her early thirties.  It was one of our new next-door neighbours.  She was slim with long legs, had quite short curly brown hair and a disarming smile.  Her dress was peculiar - under an Afgan she wore a dark knitted top, jeans...and a brightly coloured, striped blanket.
     "Hi Julie!  Come on in.  Fancy a coffee?  I was just about to make one."
     "Mmm.  Please."
     She followed me into the kitchen and watched carefully as I prepared our beverages.
     "Sugar?" I asked.
     "No, thanks."
     "Shall we go into the living room?"
     We sat down on different settees, at right angles to each other.  Julie sat on the edge of her seat, knees together, hands clasped together on her lap, back rigid.  We had met before, but only on a business footing. She's an Ebay trader.  Meeting socially is different, of course, and Julie appeared somewhat ill at ease.
     "You must think I'm odd," Julie ventured apologetically, with a sweeping gesture highlighting her stripy blanket.
     "Living with Marie, I'm kinda used to odd behaviour," I replied.
     "Yes, but I hope you didn't mind me watching you make the coffee.  I can't eat or drink anything unless I see it being made.  And the blanket, I have to wear it when I feel anxious.  It's my safety thing.  It's a security blanket.  I have about twenty of them."
     Julie continued to catalogue her "oddities" and for the most part, I just sat and listened, nodding my head at appropriate intervals.  She can't walk far from her house, can't travel in a car further than about 30 miles, can't cope with being in a room with more than a few people, has anxiety about any type of social interaction but feels okay in most business environments.  She has some OCD, being compelled to put things in their "correct" places and she finds it very difficult to put down a puzzle without completing it.
     Julie now settled into the soft cushions of our settee.  She had obviously relaxed.  She told me a little about her difficult childhood, and how it left her with problems trusting people or showing affection.  Drew, her "other half", a local business man and known to me, has social phobia - but only in non-business situations.  She wasn't sure if he would be able to come into our house.
     Both of us looked up as Marie entered the room.
     "Hi Julie!  Sorry to keep you waiting.  I was just getting ready."
     "No problem."  Julie got to her feet and took her leave of me.  She and Marie had arranged to go to the local shop.  They were going to give each other courage.
     So Marie has a new friend; and Julie has too.  Each glad that the other knows something of how they feel, of how their phobias are affecting their lives.  I'll see if Drew will allow me to befriend him.  He hasn't had a friend for many years.
     It's early days, but this might be a helpful development for Marie - and our neighbours.


Ruby said...

This is so great, it would be great to have a friend who is going through the same thing. To give and accept support from. It will be so beneficial to both Julie and Marie.

Wish you the best with Drew, he will be lucky to have you.

Bsquared86/Bsquared0408 said...

Wow, incredible! I think this will play out well for both Marie and Julie (and Drew as well).

Nechtan said...

Hi Robert,

I can see that pattern of behaviour so clearly in myself around people. For the first 10-35 minutes I'm rigid and then it starts to ease. Maybe its apprehension finally breaking down.

That is great news. I can't think of anything better for Marie than having someone close by to try going out with who she can confide in and also trust. It will be very beneficial for both of them. I really do hope so.

It is amazing just how many people have some sort of anxiety related problem. I don't know whether its to do with the times we live in or whether people are just more willing to be open nowadays.

All the best


PS Great post about Joseph too, you have a gem there.

maz said...

Wow, I was going to say..what's the chances of a neighbour having similar issues but then again once I thought about it, who knows! It's probably more common that we realise, it's just that people don't really share information and just muddle on!

maz x

Robert said...

Ruby & Bsquared - I hope you're right! Time will tell how beneficial this situation is.

Nechtan - ...amazing just how many people have some sort of anxiety related problem. I don't know whether its to do with the times we live in or whether people are just more willing to be open nowadays Imho, both. "Nervous" people and people who preferred to stay in nowadays know that they have a p/a disorder and are prepared to say so. Crofters living in a remote Scottish area in days gone by couldn't afford to be agoraphobic - they'd die - so they had to overcome it! Nowadays they'd move to a nearby town and claim benefits. Thanks for your comment about Joseph :)

Maz - You know, I thought the same! We have known this couple slightly for a couple of years, but didn't realise that the lady had agoraphobia, although she had confided that she had "some anxiety issues". But we didn't expect them to move next door! However, I think that having Marie next door to them influenced their decision to rent the property - particularly the lady. So far, we're all getting on well.