My experience with the first steps to getting help for Agoraphobia.
I’ve talked about anxiety and depression before on my blog. I am very open about it because a long term side effect of having anxiety and/or depression is feeling alone. You often feel like no one understands and the sad truth is, a lot of people don’t. Why is that? I’ve yet to figure out. I believe a lot of people aren’t as empathetic as me. They can’t put themselves in someone else’s shoes. Often times people don’t care to understand. They don’t feel what we feel, so how could they possibly understand?
There is one thing I know for sure. You don’t have to suffer alone, nor do you have to suffer at all. That’s not to say recovery is easy because it surely is not. It’s going to be a long road. Life will seem unfair and you’ll wonder why you even have to go through what you do. You are going to learn to do hard things. That is an accomplishment you can be proud of for the rest of your life. Some may recover faster than others but your recovery is your own. You are in control of your journey, there is no rush.
One of the best things you can choose to do for yourself is to get help. Is it going to be hard? Yes. Is it going to be scary? Yes, absolutely terrifying. Is it worth it? Hell yes! That is the attitude you have to develop. When you have your freedom back all the fighting will be worth it. Things that are worth it don’t come easy.
Scheduling an Appointment
Being agoraphobic, making my appointment was terrifying for me. I had the phone in my hand attempting to dial the number only to hang up again. I thought, “What if I start to make the appointment, start to get anxious and then hang up?” It was a wall that I couldn’t seem to get over so I insisted my mother call for me. Keep in mind, I am 22 years old. She called back to tell me that she couldn’t. Since I’m over the age of 18, I had to make the appointment myself. If you truly feel that you cannot, you can call them, let them know that whoever is calling can speak on your behalf. Sometimes that works.
At this point I was still terrified to call them. I have terrible anxiety when it comes to talking on the phone because I feel trapped. I had to make a plan. I decided that I would call them, ask if they took my insurance as an opening question/reason for calling. I repeatedly told myself that I had control. I could hang up if I wanted. So, I blocked my number. I didn’t want to seem strange for hanging up so I told myself, if it comes to that, I’ll try again later.
When someone answered my heart started pounding. I asked if they accepted my insurance, she said yes. I decided that I would quickly try to make an appointment and gave her my name. She then asked what I would be making an appointment for and some details about myself, address, phone number, etc. Finally, the phone conversation was over and I officially had an appointment.
Since my schedule was so specific on when I could come I had to wait about a month. The weeks leading up to that day were nerve wracking. I came up with every reason I could think of not to go but decided that I needed to go. I needed to go for myself, for my family and for my future. The night before I couldn’t sleep. My heart was racing and I felt sick. I kept picturing in my mind that it would be a disaster. I kept picturing myself panicking, running around, flopping on the floor like a fish, you name it. I knew I was going to panic because I had no idea what to expect and simply because I was scared of having a panic attack. You know that horrible cycle, panic because you’re afraid you’ll panic? Yea, that one.
I woke up early, even though my appointment was at 2:30 pm. I wanted to “prepare” myself mentally. I do recommend you have someone you trust go with you. It was finally time to leave and I thought I might die. My heart was racing, I felt sick. I’m a major wuss and cried in the car on the way there. When we got there I took no time to wait around. I went in straight away. The longer you wait, the more you anticipate.
When I walked in I told her that I had an appointment and that I was a new patient. I was told what to bring with me on the day I made my appointment over the phone and told me to come about a half hour early to fill out any needed paperwork. I had to show some form of ID. Either an ID/Drivers License, birth certificate or social security card number. She gave me a clipboard with three sheets of paper and asked me to fill them out. They were basically quick questions about myself relating to my physical and mental health. It didn’t take me long to finish. I was hesitant about turning my paperwork in because I knew the sooner I was finished the quicker they would call me back. I turned them in as soon as possible anyway. See tip above: The longer you wait, the more you anticipate.
She told me who I would be seeing, to be seated and I would be called back shortly. I wanted my mom to tag along with me in case I did have a panic attack. Within a few short minutes my therapist came out. She was a little old lady with a sweet voice. She introduced herself and told me to come on back. At this point my heart was racing and I made it a point to let her know that I was very anxious about this appointment. She assured me not to worry.
When we got to her office she did a couple breathing techniques with me. A deep breath through my nose, then exhaling out of my mouth. She told me to do this 5 times slowly. After I did the exerices I felt slightly more calm but still on edge. I kept reminding myself that I was in control. If I wanted to step out I would do so. If I wanted to take a break, I would do so. Remember, nothing you could ever say to them would be out of the ordinary. Any thoughts or fears you may have are completely normal. If you freak out in front of them, that’s perfectly fine. They know the right tips to get you back in order.
Your first appointment will more than likely be something called an evaluation. Basically they want to get to know you. This is important for them to understand and help you. You don’t have to go into any juicy details the first day but it is important to be honest with how you’re feeling. The first appointment is probably the hardest but hard work brings good things. We talked for around 3 hours. I told her about my childhood, my teenage years, present times as well as how my anxiety is doing, what I’d like to work on, things that I have trouble with, etc. Anything that I could think of that I thought affects my life.
After the appointment was finished she asked if I would like to schedule another appointment and I agreed. Most therapist like for you to come either weekly or every two weeks. I prefer weekly because like I have already said, the whole waiting, anticipating.. You get it by now. It makes it way more difficult.
I know how terrifying it is to finally take the leap to get help, but when you do it feels so good. You are at the beginning steps to having your life back. You are doing something to change your life and how you feel. You don’t have to feel this way forever. There are ways to get better. It’s important to keep a good head on your shoulders. Stay positive no matter what happens. If you end up not liking your therapist you can always switch. Don’t let bad experiences stray you away. You’re going to be anxious, you’re going to panic, you’re going to cry and get mad. That’s completely normal. It takes a lot of courage to take that leap but it will be so worth it.