Understanding Agoraphobia - A guest blog by Malen Steptoe

[note: this blog contains discussion of suicidal ideation]

As a person who suffers from agoraphobia I know all too well how this disorder can limit the freedoms others take for granted, even though I would not class my agoraphobia as having a significant impact on my life.
For me, agoraphobia presents itself in a few ways. I don’t go anywhere unless I am able to drive myself and get myself back to my place when I want. I don’t live far from my parents, so when we go to family things or we are going to the same place, I have to drive myself. This annoys my folks to no end, I think my Dad more than Mum. Waste of money, paying for fuel for 2 cars to go to the same place. But I can’t go with them, I have to be able to escape if and when I want too. I can deal, well deal better, being out of my house if I have my car. My car, my house, they are safe places for me.
This also means I don’t travel, I don’t stay overnight at other peoples places, go away on holiday or travel any great distance from where I live. The only time I have stayed outside of my own place in recent memory is when I was in a psychiatric hospital recently. At the time, I lived about 45 min from my parents and while I was staying with them and in hospital, my Dad stayed at my old place and packed it up and they moved me to where I live now. My old place wasn’t a bad place but it wasn’t great, I stayed there for about 7 years because I couldn’t bring myself to move. I think, if it wasn’t for all the medication I was on at the hospital and after I was released I wouldn’t have handled moving. The idea of going back to my old place freaked me out, because it had gone from being a safe place to a place I was scared of. This was where I had really ended up in a bad place mentally and it was there that I got the closest to trying to kill myself than any time before. By the time I was admitted to hospital I was terrified that if I was left alone much longer that I would not be able to stop myself. The thought of going back there made me extremely anxious, I was pretty sure I would have a panic attack if I tried to go back into my flat.
I have developed ways to manage/minimise the impact agoraphobia has on my life. As crowds are extremely difficult, grocery shopping is not one of my favoured past times. So, to minimise the difficulty I go shopping only when there are the fewest people likely to be at the shops. I don’t hang around in the shops any longer than I need to, I get what I need and get out. If the store is particularly quiet I will try and spend more time and buy more in one time out than I normally would but this doesn’t happen often.
As I said, I don’t think my agoraphobia impacts my life significantly however, after writing this blog I realise that it does play a larger role in my life than I thought. I imagine this is because I have grown accustom to modifying my life style to accommodate my agoraphobia.
I hope you have found this blog interesting. Thanks for reading.

Aimee: I decided to publish this piece because there are many people with dual diagnosis and I am not one of them so my blog will therefore always focus on BPD. I wanted you all to see how other disorders can affect lives and also, my best-friend has this diagnosis so it had some personal interest to me.

Malen Steptoe is the founder of http://www.steptoelodge.com/ and can be followed on Twitter here
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