The Agoraphobic Artist – How I live in the captivity of my mind

Artist Charlotte Farhan

Artist Charlotte Farhan

Some see agoraphobia as simply not being able to leave your home or a fear of being outside. But I am here to give you a true insight into this disorder.

So lets look at its definitions:

Dictionary definition:

Agoraphobianoun, Psychiatry.

an abnormal fear of being in crowds, public places, or open areas,sometimes accompanied by anxiety attacks.

General definition:

Agoraphobia is what is known as an anxiety disorder characterized by anxiety in situations where the sufferer perceives the environment to be dangerous, uncomfortable, or unsafe.

For more information visit The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) diagnostic criteria via psych central.

So how does my agoraphobia impact my life and what symptoms do I have?

  • I have not left my home or been outside alone for over 9 years. I spend 5 out of 7 days without leaving my home at all. When I do I have to be with a trusted companion, I have a handful of friends and my husband who I trust to do this with. I have to go to familiar shops and take familiar routes. I mainly go to the supermarket, local shops, friends houses and a few outdoor and indoor activities.
  • I can’t answer the door to people, unless I know it is a friend and a scheduled meeting.
  • I find very open spaces terrifying. Such as mountains and rolling countryside, which is difficult because I also love them visually. When in these environments I am on high alert. I am able to go to these places with a companion, but feel like I am going to fall off the earth. Places I have visited like this include The Brecon Beacons in Wales, the deserts in Jordan and The Alps in France and many more, but these stick out in my mind as I felt so overwhelmed by the “exposure” of the the elements and how insignificant I am on this rock in space.
  • I find large crowds panic inducing. A busy shop, a packed cinema, a concert, festival and many other environments are either impossible on most days or need a lot of planning and even then can just be too much.
  • Bridges make me feel physically sick!
  • Most public transport is a big NO! But I can take a plane to visit family in Jordan or for a holiday as long as with my husband. Trains and the underground are the worst and most of the time I would not be able to use these at all.

This is not everything I suffer from but are the main factors within my agoraphobia.

Having had lots of treatment for my agoraphobia but none being successful, has been disheartening. My only success is in my acceptance of the illness, my ability to recognise behavioural patterns and to express my feelings of how it is to live with the condition and raise awareness and understanding, so that others who suffer feel less alone and for those who do not know what it is or how it affects a person, they are able to learn.

This is why I truly believe art is an effective tool within my treatment and general mental health. As well as being something I can do for the wider cause, by sharing my art I am sharing my experience and allowing there to be a visual testimony which will allow others to feel less alone.

Here is my latest piece of art:

Agoraphobia – By Charlotte Farhan 

Agoraphobia - By Charlotte Farhan

Agoraphobia – By Charlotte Farhan

My agoraphobia was born from my PTSD and this is very common for those suffering from these conditions.

The motivation behind my brains need to protect me is a reaction to the trauma I have suffered. Having survived childhood abuse from a family member and then at 15 being raped by a someone I knew and liked, sent my brain into a dissociated state, which in turn built up a fortress in my mind, trying to protect me from being in any further situation or from seeing the abusers again. Unfortunately, since then I have seen them, a handful of times but a handful which was enough to suffocate me and make my illnesses worse, reliving the experiences and feeling like I am a child again, or that 15 year old girl who was just looking for love and kindness not for life to repeat its torture and leave her as a broken doll who had been dragged through dirt.

quote about rape and ptsd

Although my agoraphobia is like a prison, it is also a safe house, a place where I can protect myself and feel like I have done everything in my power to prevent further pain.

Many feelings arise in me due to this forced mental committal, such as being an eternal child/adolescent, shame, guilt and vulnerability to everything. Often I am ashamed that at the age of 31 I am unable to leave my house alone, that I can not go to a shop to buy a pint of milk or far more important things, such as visiting a friend in distress, I lost my independence.

What I wish for you, the reader to remember is that no two people suffering from agoraphobia or any of the conditions I have mentioned are the same. Our experiences are our own and instead of assuming you know why, ask them or just mind your own business.

Just be mindful that there is no simple solution and please do not feel it necessary to try and dominate an individual into doing anything they are not comfortable or ready to do. We are not a “feel good” project for you to tackle, we are people living with a complicated psychological illness which does not need to be fixed by you, your empathy (not sympathy) is the most valuable of comforts. Listen to us, learn about our lives and reasons, do not judge, do not bully. If then, and only then, we ask for help or you wish to offer it, simply accept what we need and if you can help we will be most grateful.

 

mental illness quotes

 

Living with agoraphobia is like being a caged animal who fears its capture and environment. My mind passes back and forth and my panic increases with everyday that passes. Daily events round the world confirm the need to be locked away, for my own safety and sometimes others. On occasion certain parts of my mind wish to escape the confinement the agoraphobia has created, parts of my other illnesses such as my borderline personality disorder and psychotic depression bash their metaphorical heads against the bars of my prison. This illness is the child of my post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), from trauma comes anxiety and this ultimately changed my entire behaviour and personality.

Charlotte Farhan - Photography by Lisa Reeve

Charlotte Farhan – Photography by Lisa Reeve

If you or anyone you know suffers from agoraphobia please find more information via these links:

ANXIETY UK

NHS

Psych Central 

Here is another article I wrote on this subject:

The Agoraphobic Artist – My Story

 

 

3 thoughts on “The Agoraphobic Artist – How I live in the captivity of my mind

  1. I used to suffer from Agoraphobia and BPD. I am now in recovery from both. I hope you find something to help you. Sending virtual hugs. DBT helped me with my BPD. It took a lot of therapy to help me with my agoraphobia. When I first met my counsellor, I was so shy and traumatized, I couldn’t even look at her or speak to her. Instead, I handed her a note, then looked at the floor, mumbling and whispering in answer to her questions. I can actually leave the house now and socialize. I’ll never be Mrs. Outgoing but at least I can talk to people a little bit now. If I can do it, I’m sure that you can do it too someday! ❤

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