joyandpeace: My Struggle With Agoraphobia And Depression

I came across this on a site titled the Daily Kos which is known for being politically liberal.  Their site is located   HERE.  They feature a weekly volunteer diary where a reader shares about their life and folks have a chance to respond.  I thought this was an excellent article and well worth your time.  Allan

During my experience with clinical depression 9 years ago, I reacted by withdrawing and cutting myself off from the rest of the world.  Several events seemed to trigger my behavior. 7 years prior my mother (my best friend) died of cancer, less than a year later my husband of 25 years died suddenly of a massive heart attack (age 52), 5 years later I developed breast cancer and was treated with surgery and radiation and a few months later retired from my job at age 55. (Several of us retired early because of incentives that would only be offered at this particular time.  Everyone said you would be “crazy” not to take advantage of the opportunity.  So I did with little real planning for how I would spend my time. My husband and I had no children so I found myself alone in our home with my beloved cat, Sammy, and no purpose in life.  Whether my thinking had been affected by the side effects of cancer treatment, my continued grief at the loss of the 2 people I had loved with all my heart, or the abrupt life change caused after working 32 years in a career I thoroughly enjoyed but was exhausting at times I cannot say.  All I know is that I could feel the depression coming on and I was unable to think through a solution.

Thus began  a downhill journey into withdrawal from the world.  It was gradual at first, not always answering or returning phone calls, avoiding social situations, not caring as much about housecleaning, cooking or my appearance.  I remember feeling extremely self-conscious if I was out shopping during the week when normally I would have been at work.  I didn’t think of myself as old enough to be retired and yet here I was in the stores with others that , to me, seemed much older and clearly retired.  Perhaps that is when I started to pull back from my  community and just stay at home.  It was easier and no one could see or judge me.  This time of isolation lasted about 2 1/2 years.  At some point my friends and family (2 sisters and a brother) realized that something was wrong, but really didn’t know what to do.

In the beginning I talked with friends on the phone expressing my regret at the decision I had made and trying to come to terms with the fact that I could NOT go back to my job.  I tried going out for lunch, movies and other social occasions, but none of these outings helped me with my profound sadness.  My home was a safe haven where I felt somewhat less stress.  It was a feeling I had experienced earlier in my life right after the death of my husband.  At that time I had great difficulty being in noisy, brightly colored surroundings and just wanted to be in my quiet, small home to grieve and try to make sense of this enormous loss.

As time passed, I no longer accepted invitations out or agreed to “maybe” consider them depending on how I was feeling that day.  More than likely I came up with an excuse not to go.  My health, home, finances were all affected as I sunk deeper and deeper into depression.  I continued to take thyroid medication as long as I could get the prescription renewed over the phone and could have it mailed to me.  I had been on tamoxifen to prevent  recurrence of breast cancer, but stopped taking it when the prescription ran out.  I was unable to leave my house to go see my oncologist and, truthfully, didn’t care if the cancer came back and ended my life. I saw no hope of it ever improving and I was miserable living the way I was.  As I saw it, my 2 sisters and brother had their own lives, jobs and families and would not miss me and I was becoming a huge burden for them.  However, I did feel the need to be around to care for my cat.  I did not want him left alone.  We had been through too much together and because he had been chosen by my husband I would never let anything happen to him.

Fears began to surround me.  Fear of driving my car because I wasn’t having the routine maintenance done, fear of answering the phone (before caller ID) because I didn’t know who was calling, fear of having anyone come into my home as I had no energy to clean it and fear of being seen (even in my own yard) since I had neglected haircuts, dental care, and wore the same clothes nearly everyday.

To keep from being bored and trying to keep my brain from atrophying I read books (lying on the couch with my cat sleeping on my chest), watched a little television (especially enjoying the televised state legislative sessions) and worked the daily newspaper crossword puzzle.  The paper was delivered to the mailbox at the end of my long driveway, and since I didn’t want to be seen, I picked it up at 4:30 AM every morning right after it was delivered and it was still dark.  I also got the previous day’s mail, put seeds in the bird feeders and went back in the house never to appear again until the following morning.  Exercise was not a part of my life. The crossword puzzle became an obsession for me and if I could not solve all of it, I phoned for the answers  – at $1.50/min.  Some of my phone bills had an additional $100. added because of my great need to complete the puzzle.  (I did not have a computer at the time).  Some evenings I went to bed at 4:30 PM, watched a little TV and even though it was still light outside, prayed for sleep – the only thing that gave me any relief from this “hell” I was in.  Somehow I did not lose my faith in God but as time went on, and no solution was in sight, I explained to God that if I did not wake up one morning that would be fine with me – although I did not like the idea of leaving my beloved cat without someone to care for him.

Family and friends were stymied by my behavior.  Sometimes I was able to answer the phone – though the person on the other end had to do most of the talking.  I didn’t even know about the terrorism on 9/11 until a friend called several times that day and when I finally decided to answer the phone told me to turn on my television!  Another friend called  almost every morning – she didn’t always get a response, but never gave up calling.   One of my sisters called every Sunday at 4 PM.  I always answered that call.  It was the only time all week that we communicated, and I didn’t want to lose contact with her.

Problems that turned into crises developed.  Where I live winter is cold and snowy.  I have a long driveway that needs plowing.  After a few snowstorms it went unplowed which could be dangerous since since first responders could not get to the house in case of emergency and I was truly stuck inside.  I was able to get enough courage up to call a neighbor and ask who plowed for them and then had the same company plow for me.  Another time the furnace quit and I wore a winter hat and mittens to bed.  I was afraid to have a repairman come to the house – irrational, I know, and after 2 days HAD to tell my older sister who lives 50 miles away what had happened.  She immediately came to the house, called the repair company and waited with me until the repair was made.

Because my car was not driven the battery died and then during an ice storm, the overhead garage door became frozen to the cement and would not open.  I was unable to solve either problem and was simply in a state of panic.  Again my sister drove to my home, got the door unstuck, called a towing company  and after they got the car going, somehow got me to come with her while we went to the repair shop to get a new battery and see if other repairs were needed. She did the driving, but I needed to pay the bill.

During this time of isolation, I missed holiday dinners that normally are spent with my siblings and their children.  I was afraid to drive (though they always offered to pick me up no matter how great the distance), my self esteem was at an all-time low and I felt I had nothing to talk about with them, my hair was a mess and I felt I had nothing appropriate to wear on these festive occasions.  I was totally miserable on these days as I ate something micro waved, held my cat and read a book.

For a while I was able to buy groceries as long as one (or both) of my sisters accompanied me.  I had no grocery list, no interest in cooking and simply bought ready to eat foods.  Eventually I could not muster up the energy to go to the grocery store.  So the sister living closest would buy food weekly, bring it to me and leave it on the front steps.  After she was driving away I would open the door and bring it in the house.

I was able to pay my bills by mail though I don’t remember balancing my checkbook.  Luckily, there were no bill collectors knocking on my door.

There were other missed events and smaller “crises” as a result of this self-imposed isolation, but I would like to move on to the event that helped me get back to living again.
After more than 2 years, my sisters were weary and said they just could not do this any more.  I knew that if they stopped being my lifeline I would probably be hospitalized and I envisioned having to live in a locked facility for the rest of my life. That thought was enough to scare me into making a change!  My sister insisted that I find a mental health clinic in the area, make an appointment and that she would take me there and do everything she could to support me.  I knew that I had no choice.  Admitting that I needed to see a psychiatrist was one of the most difficult realizations I have ever faced.  On the day of the appointment I was physically ill, crying, and dreading my sister’s arrival.  Somehow she got me in the car and to the clinic.  I asked her to stay in the waiting room while I met with the doctor.  Much to my surprise he was not wearing a white jacket, but had on a bright Hawaiian print shirt, khaki pants and sandals.  His office was comfortably messy and he had many animal prints on his walls.  As we talked I began feeling a little more comfortable and at one point I actually laughed – something that had not happened for such a long, long time.  He had gained my trust and after drawing a small sketch of what was happening in my brain and explaining that what I was going through was NOT MY FAULT I decided that I would do whatever he recommended.  That day I left his office with an antidepressant as well as an anti-anxiety med.  M y sister brought me home, I immediately began the meds, slept well that evening and the following morning awoke with a new feeling of energy and wanting to tackle the many dirty dishes that were in the sink.  I was extremely fortunate.  The meds I began using are the same meds I rely on today.  I see a therapist regularly and am working with a nutritionist to eliminate my consumption of sugar, dairy, gluten and prepared foods.  I take necessary supplements and am increasing my use of organic products.

Getting back into life was a gradual process.  I took “baby steps” learning how to drive again, buy groceries by myself, make appointments to get dental care, physical exams, haircuts, etc.  I still needed the support  and understanding of friends, family and my therapist.  But it all came together and I couldn’t be more grateful.  Even a new cancerous breast tumor three years ago did not discourage me.  Again I made it through surgery, radiation and chemo.

My life today is an absolute joy.  I have returned to the church of my childhood and consider members of the church my extended family.  I work part time at this church and because I am frequently there,  consider it my second home.  I am a grateful member of al-anon and an active volunteer in several organizations where I have met amazing people.  I belong to 2 book clubs and am beginning to do some traveling – something I never thought possible – I have overcome a fear of flying and am just waiting for the next travel adventure.  My home no longer looks the way it did when it was a “prison” for me.  I have added color to the walls, remodeled the kitchen and am doing lots of decluttering.  I still get anxious when someone comes to visit, and, sometimes, when the phone rings but I am making progress with both.

I probably am most proud of getting involved in the mental health community.  I volunteer at a locked treatment facility which I absolutely love and am on a steering committee with 4 others to organize a local NAMI (National Alliance of Mental Illness) group within our community.  My dream is that the stigma of mental illness will be gone one day and that individuals and their families will be comfortable seeking help earlier than I did.

My story is long and for those of you that are still reading – thank you for letting me share my experience.  I have been stable for nearly 8 years and am now living a life that I never thought possible.  My confidence grows stronger with every new “adventure” and I am determined to maintain a positive attitude no matter what lies ahead.  On my refrigerator are 2 magnets that sum up my new life goals. One says “TREASURE EVERY MOMENT’” and the other, “LAUGH OFTEN”.

The Father’s Hand: Streams In The Desert, October 31st, 2010

Helen Keller

“Your heavenly Father knoweth” Matthew 6:32


A visitor at a school for the deaf and dumb was writing questions on the blackboard for the children. By and by he wrote this sentence: “Why has God made me to hear and speak, and made you deaf and dumb?”

The awful sentence fell upon the little ones like a fierce blow in the face. They sat palsied before that dreadful “Why?” And then a little girl arose.

Her lip was trembling. Her eyes were swimming with tears. Straight to the board she walked, and, picking up the crayon, wrote with firm hand these precious words: “Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight!” What a reply! It reaches up and lays hold of an eternal truth upon which the maturest believer as well as the youngest child of God may alike securely rest — the truth that God is your Father.

Do you mean that? Do you really and fully believe that? When you do, then your dove of faith will no longer wander in weary unrest, but will settle down forever in its eternal resting place of peace. “Your Father!”

I can still believe that a day comes for all of us, however far off it may be, when we shall understand; when these tragedies, that now blacken and darken the very air of heaven for us, will sink into their places in a scheme so august, so magnificent, so joyful, that we shall laugh for wonder and delight.  –Arthur Christopher Bacon

No chance hath brought this ill to me;
‘Tis God’s own hand, so let it be,
He seeth what I cannot see.
There is a need-be for each pain,
And He one day will make it plain
That earthly loss is heavenly gain.
Like as a piece of tapestry
Viewed from the back appears to be
Naught but threads tangled hopelessly;
But in the front a picture fair
Rewards the worker for his care,
Proving his skill and patience rare.
Thou art the Workman, I the frame.
Lord, for the glory of Thy Name,
Perfect Thine image on the same.
–Selected

Praise & Worship, October 30th, 2010

Song List

1.  Fall On Me, Set Me Free-  Vineyard

2.  Salvation’s Song-  Stuart Towned

3.  Song To My Parents-  Keith Green

4.  Redemption-  Kristene Mueller

5.  Your Hands-  JJ Heller

6.  Yearn-  Shane and Shane

7.  Amazing Grace-  Angel Voice

8.  Jesus You’re Beautiful-  Cece Winans

9.  By Your Side-  Tenth Avenue North

10.  Never Alone-  BarlowGirl

11.  Michael Row Your Boat Ashore-  ???

Urgent Prayer Request

My sister’s husband Jeff is in the process of dying.  He has been in a coma since February as the result of a brain injury from a car accident.  The family is not sure how much time he has left.

Jeff and my sister have three children and Jeff has family members as well who are being impacted.

Please pray that Jeff’s passing would be peaceful and that God would protect the family from any spiritual attacks while filling them with His peace.  Thank you.  Allan

Prayer Requests & Praise Reports, October 29th, 2010

 

Lord Savior,

Release me from the web of complexities. Anxiety lurks in the corner disturbing my peace. My wants are overwhelming patience and Your will. You know my desire. You hone my motive. Fine tune me. Make me the ethereal harmony that will bless You.

I stand awed. I bow flawed. I crawl like a forgotten sojourner. Draw me to a position worthy of Your presence.

I can climb or be lifted. I wait for Resurrected Joy to say “Come forth”.
Submerge my spirit until my identity is hidden behind You that You might always be before me. I am guilty of going ahead. Be my Head.

Your eyes follow this sparrow who falls to the ground wounded by failed acts of determination to supersede the Planner of Life. Gather me into the Palm of obedience.

Pin me to Your heart. Speak my name in mercy. Call me to Your order. I am facing the corner where i can reflect on my deeds. You are more worthy than my attempts.

But this I know. You know. You know my “because”. You know the little solutions I create. You know the full answer. Slow me down. Tie me to Your side. Shackle me to Your steps. Re-establish my contentment. You know. I know You know. I will sit like a beggar at Your feet and feed off Your next command. Thank You for the “while I was away You didn’t leave me”.
My kiss upon Your feet,
My ear to Your voice,
My will in compliance,

Amen    ~clean hands pure heart~

Past Prayer Requests

Allan–  My friend’s brother will have a treatment for a tumor on his kidney in October.  Please pray it succeeds as his other kidney is non functional.

Allan–  Please pray for Rachel as she is battling bipolar disorder. Pray also for her parents who are fighting battles of their own.
Allan– Please pray for Natalie Tan as she has had a setback in her battle with her eating disorder.

Shaun Sells- Hi E – Thought I would give you a quick update. The group has slowly shrunk over the summer, last time we met there were only 5 of us. We are trying to regroup and refocus. Looking for good ideas and praying for someone else to lead it so the group can meet more than once a month.

Allan–  A woman e-mailed me tonight asking for prayer. She is struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts. She will be seeing someone tomorrow to apply for emergency Medicaid. She has been without insurance for two years. Please pray for her.

Set Free–  I appreciate that you still have our request for a building. Some opportunities have been presented to us but nothing yet. We did move out from our previous location but we are trusting and believing God for a place of our own hopefully before the year is out.

Mom–  Thank you for keeping my request on your prayer list. Our son is doing better and is now able to work and is hoping to return to school next semester.

He’s been through different combinations of medications and we are hopeful that the current combinations will work for him in the long term.

He is still discouraged and is beating himself up for disenrolling from school. We try to encourage him, but he doesn’t receive it.. We are praying that God would allow him to live a rewarding life and that he see God’s hand in all this the last 5 months. Thank you for your continued prayers.

Allan- My sister’s husband is improving although still in a coma after two months.  Please pray that he will soon be weaned from his respirator and that he will have a miraculous recovery. Pray also for my sister and three adult children.

Allan–  Dorci has had surgery to remove a cyst from her spine.  Please pray that God would allow her to heal quickly and completely.

Long Term Prayer Requests

Angela–  Keep Angela in prayer as she continues on her road of recovery from Anorexia.

Okie Preacher–  Battling unknown physical problems and depression.  “I have a physical problem that the doctors have not been able to identify. It has been characterized by severe muscle pain and weakness, joint pain, fatigue, shortage of breath, dizziness, difficulty swallowing, and coughing fits that almost cause me to pass out.”

White Horses- Prayer for anxious thoughts and worrying.

Allan–  Our nephew’s wife has M.S.

PK Sweet–  please pray for a bipolar son with brain damage also…that he may know and love and follow Christ, be free of all addictions and self destructive behavior, get the help he needs and be @ peace…also that God help us all in the family to be filled with the Spirit and bear luscious fruit, and be filled with joy rather than despair

Larry Taylor: Margaret

Her father, despairing over a failed business, shot himself in the heart.

No one told her. It was not until she and her little brother were playing in the backyard that she overheard trash men referring to the children of the “man who killed himself.” The societal shame of suicide was hushed up, never to be spoken of again. Grief was a demon to be suppressed.

The seven-year-old and her three-year-old brother never shared what they had heard. A grand pretense, a mock farce of a life was born, albeit with a Pollyanna façade, a happy, lilting, singsong voice that rose at the end of each sentence. Only those closest to her would ever see evidence of the eremacausis of depression and unresolved grief beneath the surface.

Her widowed mother taught in a small country school. The family of five ate and was clothed in hand-me-downs thanks to the generosity of neighbors and relatives. They did not own a car. The tiny town held them captive. It was their only world.

It was the Great Depression. Everyone was struggling. Talk around town was of hard times. Hobos rode the rails. Businesses hastily locked up and pulled their shades when Gypsy bands came through town. The family secret lay buried, replaced by a family myth — a myth of a carefree childhood surrounding by loving adults.

The stress of raising four children alone in the 1930s sabotaged her mother’s immune system. She contracted tuberculosis, untreatable and misunderstood in those days. Physicians did the only thing they knew to do — ship her off to a sanitarium where she spent a year eating high fat foods and sitting in the sun. Amazingly, she survived to return to her children who had been farmed out to relatives.

Everyone changes in a year, especially in the eyes of a child. Mother returned having inevitably gained some weight. The little girl was appalled. A second demon seized her — food, an enemy you cannot escape.

Terrified of poverty, filled with unresolved grief, anorexic before anyone knew the term, the bitterness, pain, sorrow and bereavement were forcibly shoved into the unconscious, covered by the thick icing of pseudo-joy.

He was a wise, quiet, artistic senior in college, she a freshman. He graduated, entered graduate school, then dropped out to join the Navy a year before Pearl Harbor. Handsome in his officer’s uniform, she fell in love, and yet, she was incapable of love. They married, and he became the primary target of the sublimated psychopathology.

When you do not like yourself, you cannot like what you produce. Her two children became objects to mold through criticism. It was assumed that her daughter could not sing or be artistic because she was not. The primary goal of raising her son was to be certain he grew up not liking, and not being like, his father. She criticized dad to her son daily. It backfired. The more she tried to pull him away from his father, the more he loved him. The more she demonized his father, the more he became the boy’s hero.

Introduced to religious fundamentalism by both her children, she latched on enthusiastically. The world of the fundamentalist is black and white. There are answers to every question; the world is explainable and safe. It helped that her husband never signed on — it gave her yet another reason to feel superior. Now, she was the ultimate insider, connected to her children in a way their father could not be. She and they were in, he was out.

Religious fundamentalism further chased the demons underground. A superficial world is explainable and safe.

But a safe world, a world without suicides and poverty and tuberculosis and obesity, is a world without mystery, without wonder, a world without color. Shades of gray are all you can derive from white and black.

“Safe? Of course, he’s not safe! He’s not a tame lion!”

Everyone, it is said, has a god. Whatever the driving passion of our lives may be, that is the deity we worship, regardless of profession.

You cannot serve God and Mammon.

We think of a rich young ruler or a wealthy robber-baron for whom the accumulation of wealth is itself the goal. But Mammon may just as easily affect the proletariat and the bourgeoisie as nobility. Terrorized by the possibility of someday running out of money, she scrimped and saved, took a single bouillon cube to work for lunch, and hung up paper towels to dry. It drove her crazy to see her children spending money on vacations.

Now she sits, diminutive, over her ledgers, sipping a cup of hot water, frightened there will not be enough money for “full care.”

Cathy Foster: Post Abortion Syndrome

Psalm 103:2  Bless Jehovah, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits;
Psalm 103:3  who forgives all your iniquities; who heals all your diseases;
Psalm 103:4  who redeems your life from ruin; who crowns you with loving-kindness and tender mercies;
Psalm 103:5  who satisfies your mouth with good; your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

I came across a topic today that was new to me and have decided to do an article about it.  The topic is Post Abortion Syndrome.  As many women read this blog the chances are some have had an abortion.  And I suspect as with other topics we deal with here, there are many women who walk in silence and shame when it comes to this topic.

If that is you then you need to know and understand that God can and will forgive you.  He is also willing to bring emotional healing to you.

I have taken this article from the website of speaker Cathy Foster and her website is located   HERE.  Cathy links to the website  Abortion Recovery which is located   HERE. Both of these websites will now be listed as resources on this blog.  Allan

POST ABORTION SYNDROME

Do you still struggle with the pain of a past abortion? Whether it’s been 2 months or 32 years, God stands ready to heal your soul. You may be suffering from what is known as post abortion syndrome.

You’re not alone. I’ve talked to women who had abortions and have said to me “I think about it every day.” One woman told me she had been alone in the delivery room after a saline abortion. After 20 years, she was still troubled by delivering that lost little girl.

One woman said “I don’t think you can ever get over something like that.” Can you relate?

You’re not alone – 45 million women are there with you. There’s hope and there’s help.

Abortion Recovery Programs

Abortion recovery programs are available all over the country and these resources are growing each month in churches, homes and communities all over the world.

Many crisis pregnancy centers offer abortion recovery programs. While it may seem uncomfortable to go to a “pregnancy” center to talk about a past abortion, don’t worry. You won’t be judged. They truly want to help you find healing from the pain that you carry. Many women experiencing an unplanned pregnancy have already had at least one abortion — the staff at the pregnancy center understands your suffering. They want to help.

To find a program in your area, visit www.abortionrecovery.org

Post Abortion Syndrome (PAS)

For women and men who’ve participated in an abortion, the experience can trouble them for years – sometimes decades. Currently, the American Psychiatric Association does not recognize a well-documented emotional and psychological response to abortion: Post Abortion Syndrome. (Also sometimes known as Post Abortion Trauma.)

Similar to post traumatic stress disorder, the guilt and burden of abortion can cause the following responses:

  • abusive behavior
  • alcohol and / or drug use
  • avoids baby reminders (like baby showers, baby stores, etc.)
  • changes in relationship / marriage (70% of relationships/marriages break up within 1 year of an abortion, 90% within 5 years)
  • control issues
  • crying spells
  • difficulty in all types of intimacy
  • divides time into “before” and “after” the abortion
  • eating disorders
  • fails to bond with subsequent children
  • loss of interest in sex
  • loss of normal sources of pleasure
  • marital stress
  • need of financial success
  • over-protective of living children
  • promiscuity or frigidity
  • reduced motivation
  • secretive
  • self-punishing and / or self-degrading behavior
  • sleep disturbances
  • strained relationship with living children
  • suicidal impulses
  • tolerates abusive relationships
  • wants atonement / replacement child
  • withdrawn