Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Anxiety sufferers corner

I thought it was quite unusual when I found out that my new next door neighbour has agoraphobia.

But what are the chances of the lady next door to her also having agoraphobia?

Pretty remote, I hear you say.  And you'd be right.  But yet, it's true.  She has.  Which explains why until recently I had never seen her.

There is a chap with a little Scottie dog called Bob who lives next door to my next door neighbour.  The chap is called Bob, not the Scottie dog.  Bob is in his early 60's, I'm guessing, and very pleasant.  We both walk our dogs, and when we meet he will chat to me about the weather and other similarly interesting topics as his little dog checks out my dog's genitalia, and vice versa.  I knew that he had a partner living with him.  He mentions her sometimes.  But I don't remember ever seeing her.

When my new next door neighbours moved in, Bob introduced himself and offered his assistance should they need anything.  From time to time, my neighbours would see the shadowy image of a lady moving around behind the net curtains of the cottage.  But why did she not ever appear outside?

Sometimes they would speculate about this.  She might be being held there against her will - a sex slave or something.  An illegal immigrant.  Or a recluse.  Or some type of ethereal being - not a real person at all...

One day they spotted a lady getting out of Bob's car.  Introductions were exchanged.  She was Bob's partner.

"You won't see me outside often," the lady said.  "I'm a bit agoraphobic."

An agoraphobic neighbour on both sides?  That was something they had never considered.  They swapped symptoms.  Seems this lady has mostly recovered from her agoraphobia.  She can go most places that she wants to go to.  She just feels uncomfortable sometimes and prefers to stay indoors.

What's more, her partner, my neighbour with the Scottie dog, Bob, has anxiety issues too.

Could you live in a village like this? 
I'm thinking of starting up a colony for anxiety sufferers.  There are five here already, living in three adjacent houses.  A little anxiety sufferers' corner.  Want to join our colony?  Contact me and I'll put your name down on the waiting list.  As properties in close proximity to our ours become available to rent/purchase, I'll contact you.  

We could have our own self-help group.  We could bulk buy therapy sessions.  Specialist doctors specialising in health anxiety could move to the area.  Disability payment claims could be made en masse.  Local shops could be forced to become agoraphobia friendly.  They would have to open at midnight once per week to accommodate social anxiety sufferers.  Anyone else have similar suggestions?

In time, anxiety sufferers could become the majority of the population in this area.  Folk without anxiety issues would be the odd ones.  How weird would that be?  "He's a bit eccentric," you would hear locals say about a newcomer, "he's never had a panic attack!"
photo © Richard Knights


Coffeecup said...

It does seem rather uncanny doesn't it?

However, the Office of National Statistics 2000 suggested that one in six adults living in private households in Great Britain had a neurotic disorder, and 4% of these had generalised anxiety disorder and 2% other related phobic disorders. Ref NICE guidelines Scope for Anxiety.

Still, not a huge percentage of the population by any means. I reckon that it's because we stigmatise mental disorders and so people don't openly talk about such problems that we literally do not know about our own neighbours. Once you get chatting to people it's incredible just how many reveal that they themselves have suffered, have someone in the family who suffers, or know of other people who have panic attacks and agoraphobia.

I don't think the social phobics would welcome joining a community?

Maybe this just reiterates the point that it's high time society stopped seeing these disorders as something so unusual and eccentric as millions are going through the same each and every day. People are just people reacting to life as best they can. Just because we have agoraphobia doesn't mean we need to have therapy and self help groups and want to claim disability!!!! Robert I'm shocked! That was flippant I get it, but is that how you see us too?

Your village looks very beautiful indeed! Who wouldn't want to live there? It must be delightful.

Robert said...

CC - You don't actually believe for a moment that I see all anxiety sufferers as therapy-needy, benefit claimants who are looking for self-help groups, do you? My firmly OTT, tongue-in-cheek post simply contains the type of jovial self-deprecation prevalent among my anxious neighbours.

Although millions of folk are dealing with anxiety issues daily, it's still unusual, isn't it? And what's wrong with unusual? Or eccentric? Let's have eccentric, I say - it adds colour and variety to our society.

Around these parts, people are very tolerant and sympathetic of disabilities, mental health issues, sexual orientation, learning difficulties, etc. Is this atypical? If so, then I agree with your call for change.

Perhaps life is significantly different here. If you want to become rich, famous, posh, a fashion icon or cultured, then you'll want to live somewhere else. You can be yourself here, out of kilter with straight society, and nobody will mind. Is this the sort of society you crave? The village in the picture is not where I live, but it is typical of the villages in the area. Life is delightful here. (Sorry if this sounds smug.)

Em said...

sure is strange that your neighbours are sufferers. although i do think people suffer in silence because its just not acceptable in society to talk about these things. hide them away. why? because when you do start to speak about them, you will find others will join in, well thats been my experience if ive been bold enough to put out there my anxious feelings. xxx

Robert said...

Em - You and CC are most definitely living in a different environment to me. It's totally ok to talk about this sort of thing here. Of course there's no point in trying to keep secrets here - everybody knows everybody else. You either like that or hate it!

Coffeecup said...

Hi Robert, I wasn't being sarcastic about it being delightful there, I really mean it. Maybe there is something special about the South West? You only need think of the melting pot that is Glastonbury to get a sense of the spirit of the place.

Also figured you were being tongue in cheek because it would have been too awful to believe it could have been otherwise. It must have been quiet a curious scenario to find yourselves surrounded by so many anxious people. Lol, if that colony is an image of agoraphobic utopia then I think I'll pass.

People aren't accommodating in general though, because they don't understand what anxiety is. It's lifestyle I suppose, see if you're not earning and climbing the career ladder and wearing the right clothes then you're seriously frowned upon. The good folk of the West Country probably have a more live and let live approach where 'alternative' lifestyles are greeted with respect and equality?

Robert said...

Hi CC - I never for a moment thought that you were being sarcastic.

You're right - the good folk around here are, in the main, pretty accepting of anybody as long as they don't interfere with local life. So - pedophiles, thieves and violent folk don't stay long in the area. But new agers, hippies, gays, eccentrics etc. don't have any problems.

There are, in the wider area, quite a few anxiety sufferers. A group of them go round each other's houses. For some housebound folk, this is the only type of social event in their lives. The MH team are quite well thought of, and MIND is active.

Ethereal Highway said...

This neighbourhood sounds like my kind of place, Robert.

Grumpy Old Ken said...

Life is never simple, thank goodness!

rosiero said...

Hi. I'd move there - it looks a pretty town/village. How strange that there are so many anxiety/phobia sufferers living in close proximity. Just shows the pressures of modern life are getting to more and more people. Seriously, your idea aint a bad know what they say "Strength comes in numbers."

Robert said...

EH - I imagine that little communities liken this exist in your country too. What do you think?

GOK - So true!

rosiero - Is there a greater percentage of anxious people here than normal, or do people just not hide it? I wonder. However, it's true that anxious folk support each other - as with Julia & Marie - it's obviously better than suffering alone.

Nechtan said...

Hi Robert,

It looks a lovely little village. Reminds me a lot of a place named Beccles where my uncle used to live. For some reason the pace of life just seemed more relaxed and no one was in a hurry like they are in the city- or even in my town.

I think you are right about there maybe being a greater percentage of people around us than we think with anxiety problems. Unless you go looking or they come seeking its not the kind of thing most people want to advertise. If your village is quite friendly and people mix then that would make anxiety problems more apparent. Where I am no one has much time for each other so its not something that is visible but my wife has been shocked by how many people she has met with anxiety since my problems started. Maybe everyone has them but the degree of it being a problem varies. And I dare say there are a lot of people who don't even realise they have a problem.

If people can mix and support then it can't be a bad thing. I guess that's why group sessions between like minded people are so successful.

All the best


Robert said...

Nechtan - There is a relaxed way of life here. No one is in a big hurry and there's always time for a chat.

I can see how, in cities etc. anxiety sufferers could be invisible...but here, where everybody knows your business, that isn't possible.

This is a pretty self-sufficient community. The local social phobic is also the local computer repair man. He only works at night, so if you need to see him, you have to call round to his workshop after 9 pm. And nobody cares about this unconventional behaviour - he is very well respected in the community.

Group sessions aren't for everybody. Marie found them depressing. She prefers to meet people who don't obsess about their anxiety. She will go to NMP events, but she won't go to the local anxiety sufferers meetings.

I feel that acceptance of one's disability (no matter what it is) by the general public has got to be the best environment for the anxiety sufferer. Fortunately, that's what we have here. Unfortunately, this attitude is not universal.

Sarah♥ said...

Hi Robert - what are the changes of having both neighbours with agoraphobia? I don't think i've ever met any other person that has suffered with it before.

Thinking about it, i recall saying to my mother (about various people several times), "You never see them out - do you?" and maybe, just maybe that is because they have agoraphobia, you just don't know.

Your village looks beautiful :)


Robert said...

Hi Sarah - When I met Marie, I thought that I hadn't met an agoraphobic before. Then it turned out that my aunt, who I'd known all my life, was a lifelong agoraphobic too. She just hid it as much as possible.

The village in the pic isn't mine, it's just typical of the villages around here. They're nearly all beautiful!

swede said...

i would love to live in a place like that so if there is any places please don,t hesistate to contact me