Agoraphobic Moving Across State Lines?!

This post is long overdue.

I made it to Oregon a few days before the start of February! I’m so happy and proud of myself.

For a few weeks leading up to going, I had been seeing my exposure therapist several times a week. We started driving in circles on the on and off ramp over and over. Then I would drive on the freeway to the next exit, and back to the exit by my house. Over and over. Then I was able to make it two exits down the freeway…

The night we left I was having more anxiety than normal, so I took some Xanax. I was really tired, and started feeling pretty loopy from the  Xanax. I felt comfortable that I would probably pass out in the car, so I told Rex to just start driving. We loaded the baby, the cat, the dog, and grabbed what we could. My dad had flown out from Nebraska to help us move, and to help my mom. He told us not to worry about anything, he’d pack the house, and if I was feeling capable of going, then to go.

We must have left at two or three in the morning.

I was pretty nervous a lot of the beginning of the drive, but once we made it over Highway 17 (a long winding road through the forest that goes over a big hill, and you come out on the other side in San Jose), I felt better. I felt like I’d made a big escape. I was so happy to leave the bay area.

We listened to the audiobook Ready Player One (by Ernest Cline, narrated by Wil Wheaton) the whole drive.

I went in and out of sleep the whole time. I woke up a few times and caught glimpses of snow, forests, mountains, and lakes.

When we got to Oregon it felt like a dream. I had spent over a year dreaming of being out of the house I was so afraid to leave. Dreaming of moving somewhere that wasn’t so congested, full of crime, and expensive. We had wanted to move out for so long, but that was impossible (Check out this article about how it’s the third most expensive place to live in the nation).

But we did it! Even though I was battling agoraphobia, and even though there was a time I was so housebound I wondered if I would ever be able to leave the house, I moved to a different state and I couldn’t be more overjoyed.

Since it’s been over a month since we’ve been here, I’ve definitely noticed my anxiety is a lot better. It helps that there’s not crazy traffic. It helps that I’m not afraid here. Every time we hear news from Santa Cruz, it’s terrible. Rex’s friend got stabbed twice in the back last week. Dirty needles washing up on the beach. Shootings happening in the parking lot of my favorite bookstore. Ugh. I just keep thinking, what if we had gone with our baby to check out books, and BAM stray bullet? It feels so much better to be here, where I feel like I can go out and be safe. That’s definitely helped with my anxiety a lot.

My anxiety hasn’t completely gone away, but I’ve found it’s a million times more manageable here. I still get anxious if I start getting too far from our new house, but that’s only when we try to leave our town to go to different surrounding towns. I feel fine anywhere within our town, which is a far cry from not being able to go around the block.

My best friend is here, and it’s amazing to be raising our babies together. We even went and saw a play together last night! I was initially nervous about going to a play and having to sit through the whole thing, and that came up a few times during the play, but I breathed through it and found myself just letting myself enjoy the play and forgetting to worry.

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Horribly groggy. Snapped a selfie at a random rest stop on our way up to Oregon. 

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Rex and I outside our new house. We got really excited because it was snowing. Silly Californians.

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My first post-partum corset. Getting back into waist training and it feels amazing. I’m not a 22″ waist anymore but, you know, I’ll get there.

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My adorable baby! She’s almost five months old now!!!

Thank you for reading, and for sharing this journey with me. It’s been hard to write with so much going on, and still adjusting to motherhood… but this blog, and the people whose blogs I read, and those who comment, just mean the world to me. It’s a long journey, and I’m still going through it.

❤ Chloe

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Not stopping, starting Zoloft.

I made it to another appointment! It was fine. Again, surge of adrenaline beforehand, but pushed through and didn’t panic.

I’ve been really wanting to start freeway driving, and I don’t know what’s been holding me back. The rain? I don’t know.

I’ve been visualizing driving on the freeway every day.

Yesterday I had an anxiety attack (not a panic attack, I differentiate hugely between the two). I’m not sure why, but I looked in the mirror and thought, “I’ve felt better than this, and I’ve felt way worse. And I’ll feel better again, this won’t last forever.” Somehow that seemed to make me feel a lot better.

I started taking Zoloft today. I’m kind of nervous about it. I feel like it’s such a critical time for me to do well right now. I want to get up to Oregon by the beginning of February, and I’ve been on a good upward swing, and my head has been racing about whether or not it’s a good idea to introduce anything new into my system, in case it sabotages my progress… But then there’s a chance that it could be that extra boost that I need to make progress even faster.

My housing situation is not looking good here. There’s a chance of eviction, the energy is heavy, the city keeps coming around for inspections, the landlord wants to overhaul the place, and there is no affordable housing in the area… so I can stay here and let things run their course, or I can take charge and move somewhere that I can be happy, relax, and not have to stress about having a stable place to live.

I really hope that I don’t get a bunch of weird side effects from the Zoloft, and that it will actually help instead of hinder progress. I’ve never been successfully on an SSRI for any amount of time long-term, but of all of the different ones I’ve looked at, it seems to have less side effects than other things.

I’m really grateful that my anxiety has been lessening, and I’m really proud of myself for pushing through, despite how grueling and difficult it has been. I feel like anything life throws at me will be nothing in comparison to having to overcome agoraphobia, and severe panic attacks. Sartre said, “hell is other people.” Sure, but it can also be yourself. I think it’s worse when it’s yourself.

So.. have still been meditating, visualizing, and have also been reading up more on the law of attraction, and the power of “I am” affirmations. Baby girl has been keeping me busy, focused, and grounded.

Also, happy solstice everyone!

 

 

Maybe really moving? What?!

I successfully made it to my daughters doctor appointment yesterday! I still felt a twinge of anxiety and an adrenaline rush leading up to leaving, but I pushed through anyway. I was reflecting a lot on how that adrenaline rush that comes when you’re feeling really anxious about something is incredibly similar to the feeling you get when you’re super excited. I have another post called turning fear into excitement, but it was really helpful to revisit that technique. I was initially nervous, but instead I started thinking of why it was such a good thing, and kind of convinced my mind and body that it wasn’t panic, it was excitement – and transformed my negative feelings into positive ones.

I was talking to my grandma the other day, and she lives in the town I’m hoping to move to. She visited a property that is for rent – three bedrooms with a big back yard! I ended up getting in touch with the woman who owns the property today, and she said that we are the only people interested in it, and basically implied that if we want it it’s ours. It’s also less than a minute from my best friends house!

I want so badly to go, and I’m very seriously considering putting a deposit on the house to hold it, and aim to move by the end of January/beginning of February.

I am feeling pretty optimistic about making this happen, but there’s still a part of me saying, “you were barely able to go outside or down the street a few months ago – do you really think you’ll make it through a several hundred mile drive?”

So, I’m doing my best to quell those fears. I have been driving every day, but I am going to call (or text) my exposure therapist today to try to get some freeway driving in, and start preparing myself to really go. I got a comment on my last post from someone that said, “just start packing like you’re going!” And I think that’s the best and simplest advice. Just start doing the things it’s going to take to really get myself up there, and I’ll get it done.

There are so many things I’m doing on a daily basis that a few months ago would have thrown me into a frenzy of panic and fear, that now feel mundane and like it’s no big deal at all. I was reflecting on this earlier, and it feels really good to sort of sit back and say, “wow, I’ve accomplished a lot. I’m doing things I once feared I would never be able to do again, and now they’re okay.”

I remember sitting with my therapist months ago and telling her, “I just want to be able to go to a grocery store and buy food for myself.” And I felt such a longing for something so simple, to have something so normal feel easy and boring – and I’ve already reached that point. Grocery stores are no problem… so hopefully, I can do the same thing with a long distance drive.

Also, I’ve been making more progress on my book! I’ve written around 6,000 words the past few days, and that feels really good. And I’ve got a lot more where that came… and I’m excited to keep working on it!

Also, here is an artist called Pokey LaFarge that my grandma recommended to me, and I’m loving it!

And Rex keeps telling me to revisit this video when I’m feeling hesitant about doing things. It’s kind of effective.

❤ Chloe

 

Writing a book and moving out?

I’ve been getting out of the vault (as Rex calls it, as he’s been playing a lot of Fallout 4). It’s been good! I’ve been hanging out with these guys a lot:

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and today I didn’t just drive to the beach, I finally got my feet in the sand!

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I’ve recently discovered the fun of taking panoramic pictures.

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Things are going well. I’ve started working on my book again (that I stalled around the time I found out I was pregnant). It’s really nice to write about something other than myself. It’s therapeutic. Also, I love writing. I love weaving together stories and creating worlds. I recently decided that I wanted to put everything I’ve got into finally finishing a novel… and I have also decided that I’m going to self publish it after it’s done. I feel like I should probably have a blog and a twitter and stuff dedicated to this, but I’m kind of lost right now with it. I have this blog, and I love this blog, but it mostly revolves around my struggles and successes with mental illness – and as much as I don’t care who knows of my struggle, I feel like it’s not the best platform to promote a young adult novel. If anyone has any experience with publishing a book and having an authors blog, or know of any good blogs to read up on the subject, I would appreciate you commenting on it so much! Thanks in advance ❤

I’ve also been really wanting to move. I want to move out of state. I’ve been driving every day, but I still haven’t made it to the freeway. I don’t know if you’ve heard, but California is EXPENSIVE. I mean, damn. To move out, we’re looking at $2600++++ for a two bedroom house that may or may not be falling apart, that is probably in a sketchy area, or has a slew of other problems. It’s kind of unbelievable how much it costs to live here. I really want to move to Oregon, but the only thing holding me back is my fear of making the drive there. If anyone has any advice on this (moving an agoraphobic), I would be extremely grateful.

Rex and I went out dancing Sunday night which was a lot of fun! I had been feeling in kind of a funk for the two days prior, but my spirits were lifted a lot by getting out and having some adult time and fun.

Other than that, I’ve been focused and excited about working on my book. Hoping to figure out how to better proceed with establishing an online presence before it’s finished though!

❤ Chloe

It’s okay if you don’t feel up to it.

So, lately my posts/general mindset has been pretty positive. I want to keep writing about things that help me in my blog, but I also just wanted to put something out there…

I know how impossible it feels to do ANYTHING when you’re feeling shitty. Like, my last post was about visualization. And I know that when you’re feeling awful and horrible and depressed and anxious, visualizing anything good in the future can seem like being asked to come up with the plans for a warp drive.

And it’s okay to feel like that.

So, I’m going to tell you about the one thing that helped me more than anything when I was feeling like that. (I might have mentioned it in my blog earlier, but I’ll talk about it again).

At my absolute WORST point, this helped. It helped when I would wake up having a panic attack before I opened my eyes. Being alive was spent in a nearly constant state of terror and depression, hopelessness and fear.

I kept a notebook with me at all times. I tried my best to only write good things in it.

I remember sitting on my stairs, paralyzed by panic, holding my notebook, and writing with a shaky hand, “I like cats. Cats are fuzzy. I like things that are fuzzy. I am grateful for fuzzy cats.” Or something like that.

I would keep a running list of the things I loved, the things that made me happy, and anything good I could think of. When I was feeling my worst, I would search my brain for anything that was comforting. Sometimes all I could come up with was cats. But usually as soon as I’d think of cats, something else would come to mind (chocolate, music, writing, etc.) and the rest would flood in.

I’d be panicking, and then would start writing about how grateful I was for cats, or flowers, or the internet, or video games, or Harry Potter, and things would get a little bit better.

It didn’t make things totally better all at once, but it helped, and I think after doing this for months, it helped a lot in a cumulative way.

Yes, by all means meditate and exercise and eat right. But those are the last things you feel like doing when you feel shitty. It’s like, “yeah, I could exercise, but I’m depressed and I can’t get out of bed so I’m going to eat this pint of ice cream and binge watch Netflix for the next eight hours. Maybe I’ll exercise tomorrow… I went to the bathroom. I had to walk there. I’ll count that as exercising.” And that’s fine, as long as you don’t beat yourself up for it. You have to feel a little bit good to even try to exercise in the first place. When you’re feeling totally crappy, and someone tells you “go exercise, it will make you feel better!” It usually just make the crappy-feeling-person feel even crappier and inferior to these magical people who eat healthy, shower every day, go to bed at a reasonable hour and have already run a few miles and gone to a yoga class before 9AM.

So, I guess the point of this is that even though I’m going to be writing about things that I do that help my anxiety/depression, don’t get down on yourself for not doing them. But if you feel like you can, maybe try them out? I just don’t want to come across as some insensitive ass who is like, “just do these things and you’ll feel better!” Because that’s just not how it is. Well, maybe it can be, but you have to get motivated to try anything to make yourself feel better in the first place, and it can be hard to try anything when you can’t even will yourself to shower for weeks, or feed yourself, or get out of bed. And if you’re feeling that crappy, maybe that’s what you should do first. Take a shower, feed yourself, get out of bed. Then maybe try to meditate for two minutes. I mean, if you feel like it.

Anyway, this was kind of unstructured and a bit all over the place.

  • Do what you can.
  • Don’t feel bad about not doing things you don’t feel up to.
  • Try to find things to feel good about, no matter how small. When you find even one thing, sometimes the rest will snowball and life will look a little brighter.
  • Don’t compare yourself to other people. Everyone else in the world seems more high-functioning than you when you’re feeling at your worst.

Here’s a cute song that cheers me up. ❤ 

What would my life look like without anxiety?

I have been doing so much better lately, and I partially attribute this to how much visualization I’ve been doing. I’ve been visualizing being calm in situations that normally would induce panic, and I’ve found that has been incredible in allowing me to succeed in situations that would generally be difficult for me to deal with.

I was doing a meditation via Headspace (the anxiety pack), and the question, “what would my life look like without anxiety?” popped into my head.

This question seemed huge for me.

Images began flooding my mind of how different my life would be without anxiety (or just the ability to manage it so that it didn’t impact my life so dramatically).

I think this is a great exercise to do, and can be really helpful if you’re struggling. A few things though… I think it’s important not to judge your current life against the life that you’re imagining in your mind. That won’t help a thing. Beating yourself down just keeps you down, it doesn’t help you pull yourself back up (which is what you want).

Having a concrete(ish) idea of what kind of life I want if anxiety was completely off the table makes that life seem more attainable. It makes it seem more realistic. And it also made me realize that it wouldn’t be a completely drastic thing. All the things that I seem to want aren’t gigantic unrealistic goals. They’re small, little things. Like taking my daughter to the aquarium. Things like that. Being able to have fun and rock out to music in traffic instead of getting all crazy-eyed and freaking the hell out.

Also, I’ve been setting a timer daily for about ten minutes, giving myself that time to do my visualizations. Yesterday I was enjoying it so much that I ended up setting the timer over again three times.

So, I don’t know if this will help you, but it’s been really helping me. Feel free to ask any questions in the comments section, or share any experience you’ve had with doing visualization-type techniques.

❤ Love to you all!

 

https://youtu.be/jlZDiztyxMI

“The conductor, frozen thunder rumbling through the ground
With a perfect little twist of that suit of armor and crown
You created, built for denying it
Hiding the cuts and bruises due to the self-inflicted bone crushing anxiety
I’m with you, so understand that all of this within you
Has chiseled you a flower out of stone
Yeah, you are not alone”

I’m finally doing the things!

I’ve been doing the things and it’s been great! By “the things,” I mean I’ve been going out of the house daily and doing various things.

I stayed in a hotel for five days. My house did get red-tagged, but got un-red-tagged.

I have gone lots of places and done lots of things – more than I have in the past year combined. It’s a breath of fresh air from not leaving the house at all, and driving around the block over and over again, or not being able to drive around the block at all.

I made it to a doctors appointment with no anxiety. I went to a museum and a marine sanctuary. I’ve gone shopping at a lot of different places.

And I met one of my favorite authors, Jenny Lawson!

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I’ve been reflecting a lot lately on how it felt for so long as though I’d never be able to leave the house again without getting a panic attack.

And it was always the little things I would hyper-focus on.

Things like, “I miss grocery shopping,” or, “I feel like I’ll never be able to get a Starbucks again.”

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And those things felt so big and huge and unattainable.

And the more I’ve gone out and done things, the more I feel like everything else keeps getting easier.

I started small – going the the library by the house, the grocery store by the house, a local coffee shop… and then branching out from there. Allowing myself to take my time. And the less pressure I put on myself, the less the anxiety was there and the more I was able to do.

I finally feel like I can really beat this stuff, or at least manage it to the point where it’s not all-consuming. I know that anxiety will probably be something I’ll have to manage for the rest of my life. But that’s okay, as long as it doesn’t completely overrun and consume my life.

There are still a lot of things that I want to do, and things I don’t feel quite up to yet, but I feel like I’m getting closer to those things every day (like drive on the freeway, and move out of the state). Those things felt so unattainable just a few months ago, but now I feel as though it’s possible for me to be up to them in a week or a month, or maybe tomorrow if I’m feeling good enough.

As soon as getting around the block became totally normal and not panic-inducing, it felt like the rest of the world started opening up even more.

I’ve certainly gotten twinges of anxiety here and there, and sometimes I’ve set out to do something and said, “hm, maybe I need to stop pushing myself for now and come back to that later.” And that’s okay. But I haven’t gotten a panic attack, and that’s freaking awesome!

I’m finally feeling like despite having panic disorder, maybe I won’t be agoraphobic forever. Maybe I can really do this thing.

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So, I’m excited for the future, and finally feeling in a good place. Motherhood has been really good for me, and Rex has shown to be an amazing father! And we just had our anniversary yesterday!

It’s been difficult to find time to blog lately what with being a new parent and spending a lot of time being out and about… but I fully intend to keep up with this blog (hopefully more regularly in the coming weeks).

I feel very determined to be successful in getting past all the things that have held me back for so long. All the fears and phobias and future-tripping (aka “what if this or that happens?”).

And if you’re struggling, just know that there is light for you as well. I know that when I was in the middle of the worst of everything, it made me feel better to read about people who had been through similar things and pulled themselves out of it, because it gave me hope that maybe I could do the same thing… but often I’d be hard pressed to find an agoraphobia recovery story that wasn’t one of the same three or five ones that showed up on google, and instead would end up finding awful stories.

I think that a lot of people who have gone through hell and come out on the other side have a hard time going back to that place to share about it. I know that for me, sometimes it’s hard to talk about or even think about how bad things were, how hopeless everything has felt, because part of me feels like if I allow myself to go there it will all come crashing back. So maybe it’s easier to write about the bad stuff when you’re in it, and then not want to re-visit, or acknowledge how bad things were later when you’re doing better. I don’t know. I guess I just feel like it’s important to talk about all the good stuff that happens when you start to emerge on the other side of mental illness, because when you’re in it sometimes it feels like no one else has ever made it out, and it makes you feel like you never will.

Not that everything has been easy – after staying at the hotel, and returning to my apartment, I felt like I had walked into a time-capsule of my sadness. I looked around and just thought, “wow, I barely left this place for an entire year. How did I even do that?” And I felt so overwhelmed, and almost let myself go into a really bad place… It took a lot of work to pull myself out of it. A big part of me wants to move and start fresh somewhere else. And I’m really working towards that, but for now I’m going to have to make do with where I am, and show myself that no matter where I am I will be okay, even if where I am is somewhere that I was really not okay for a long time.

As always, thank you for reading ❤ you are wonderful.