Friday, 19 February 2010

Agoraphobia - trying to change


Six feet tall, lean and intimidating.  That was my first impression of John.  Then he smiled, and a much nicer persona broke free.

John is a former drug user and dealer.  Depression and panic attacks forced him to reconsider the direction of his life.  John stopped using illicit mind-bending substances...and started to use the legal ones.  When I met him, he had got over the worst days, and now believed that a drug free life was possible in the not too distant future.

Marie met John in a cyberspace and he became one of her online circle of friends, all of whom have suffered from or are still suffering from anxiety disorders.  After a while, learning that John lived in the south west, Marie invited him to visit our home.  He accepted.

Sitting in my living room and chatting freely, John appeared friendly and open.  He was intelligent, articulate and soft-spoken.  He had a good, well paid, responsible job now.  When he gave up illegal drugs, he also gave up all his drug using cronies, so he didn't really have any friends at the moment (except those in cyberspace).  I liked him.  He spoke to me about his mental health problems.  He had been dangerously depressed, he told me, but therapy had given him a life-line.

"Do you do everything the therapist tells you to do?" I asked.

"Yes, I try to," he replied.  "When I do, I feel better.  I know that it's working for me.  I have mostly got over my anxiety.  I know I can get over the rest of my problems."  John went on to tell me that, on advice from his therapist, he had changed his diet and had joined a gym.  He had now embarked on a healthy lifestyle and felt that this had significantly contributed to his recovery.

Later, when John had departed on his homeward journey, Marie and I chatted about him.  She felt really pleased that John had overcome the worst of his depression.  We spoke of his positive attitude, healthy lifestyle and his attitude to therapy.

Why, I asked Marie, didn't she embrace a healthy lifestyle and follow her therapists' advice?

She replied that she didn't know.  But she's trying to change that.

And she is trying to change.  She's really trying.  She's trying to reinvent herself, to be the woman that she would like to be.  But the scale of the change is daunting her, and her lack of belief in herself is her biggest handicap.

I cannot help Marie to change.  That can only come from within herself.  All I can do is provide security, encouragement and support when required.

21 comments:

♥ Kathy said...

You are such a good man. You can just read it when you write. Keep supporting her. You rock!

Ethereal Highway said...

I wonder if the advice of John's therapist suited him and there is something about the advice of Marie's therapist that sort of rubs her the wrong way on some level or is not something she can do in the way that the therapist advises?

Alcoholic Daze (ADDY) said...

There is a saying that is roughly along the lines of "a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." Al-anon, a group for families living with alcoholics also has as one of their slogans "one day at a time".

I believe when you have something so huge and difficult in front of you, it helps to chop it up into smaller pieces and deal with them one at a time. You can eventually get through them and come out the other side. Gradually you make progress and it makes you feel better to se what you are achieving. Maybe that might help Marie. Little steps one day at a time. Meanwhile, I am sure your fantastic support is a tremendous comfort to her.

Michelle said...

I'm doing the reinventing thing myself. And the support is really a key thing for me. I feel like a little kid sometimes--Greg will come home from work and I'll tell him, "Today we walked two miles down (insert country road or trail here)" and he'll be so delighted that it makes my day.

There are a lot of changes to make. With diet, I fall off the wagon regularly, but I always get back on. It does make a difference, but understand how Marie can feel so overwhelmed...no sugar, take vitamins, exercise, push yourself mentally, get enough sleep, don't watch negative media, blah, blah...taking it all one step at a time is important.

Michelle said...

I meant to say "I understand." :-)

The Nakamuras on Saipan said...

You are doing the right thing by supporting....it is hard to change old habits. We become comfortable in them, even if we know they are bad for us. Change can be frightening...but with loving support it can be much more easy to face.

Robert said...

Kathy - You could give a fella a big head! If I'm a good man, it's because I have a good woman at my side!

Robert said...

EH - I know where you're coming from. Some therapists are a pile of s--t! Marie has had a couple of those over vthe years! However, her problem of not following therapists' advice has been around for as long as she has been seeing them. That's why she's trying to change.

John has been pretty fortunate that he got a good therapist from day 1. On the other hand, he is determined to totally change his life - the sort of determination which only someone who has lost everything and has reached rock bottom can understand.

Robert said...

ADDY - I agree with you, and I have been suggesting to Marie that she concentrate on changing one thing at a time. This has been happening to a certain extent, but she still can't lose sight of the bigger picture, and this is when she becomes somewhat despondent.

Robert said...

Michelle - I get those little progress reports (like, today I haven't eaten any chocolate, etc.) from Marie too! And although an outsider would see them as unimportant, for Marie (and you too, I bet) they are important.

Does the "bigger picture" look unconquerable (is that a real word?) to you at times? How do you avoid that? That's what Marie's current problem is.

Em said...

i think we all make assumptions about people. yet you opened your doors to someone you found out to be lovely. good on you.

im sure marie will get there in the end. with you both searching for answers, you will find one. hope your both well.xxx

Robert said...

TNoS - You're absolutely right - change is difficult! I've had to do this myself, but it was worth the effort. I'm doing that tightrope exercise - supporting Marie as much as possible, but not interfering too much!

Robert said...

Em - I have a policy of not judging people before I get to know them. Everyone is a mixture of good and bad, don't you think? And even the worst person has the capability to change and be better, so someone's history doesn't tell you what they are like now.

Grumpy Old Ken said...

Robert, the older I get, the less I know. I just try to support people and look on the 'proverbial' bright side.

Robert said...

GOK - I can sort of get what you said... The older I get, the less of what I thought I knew is certain now. On the other hand, I know lots of new things...but, of course, I may soon not be certain about them either...

Nechtan said...

Hi Robert,

You can only do what you can which is what you are doing. As you say only Marie can instigate the change required. By providing a safe, comfortable environment without distraction you can do no more than that- which is a credit to you as not everyone can have that.

I hope it goes well for Marie.

Nechtan

Crystal Jigsaw said...

Support definitely. Three months ago I lost confidence totally, couldn't even go out of the house without feeling incredibly vulverable. Yet now I am able to take the dogs for a short walk and say to myself on my return, "I've done it. Tomorrow I'll go a bit further."

CJ xx

babs m said...

Patience. Patience. Patience. I know it's very hard to watch and wait and be supportive until someone makes that step toward progress. I often see it with women in abusive relationships. But you're right. The motion has to come from within her. When she feels safe and ready, I'm confident she will do it. How lucky she is to have a patient person waiting with her.

Robert said...

Nechtan & babs m - Thank you for your words of encouragement.

CJ - You must have felt awful, 3 months ago! With your attitude, though, you can't fail.

Gary said...

Even though we've never met I get the feeling from your writing that you will do everything possible to support Marie. Thanks for visiting my new blog by the way! (Did you sign up for the Indywood Film project?)

Gary

Robert said...

Thnks for the compliment. The new blog format looks good!