Does Having Agoraphobia Mean You Miss out on Life?



Anxiety often means not getting to do everything you want to do, but it doesn’t mean you should stop trying.

When you move somewhere for a set amount of time it’s typical to have a strong desire to explore the area constantly.  We’ve only got 13 months in Germany so of course we want to make the most of it.  At the same time, I have some intense anxiety issues that hold me back from making this experience all that it can be.

In the first few weeks that we lived here I kept thinking that this opportunity should have been given to someone else.  Someone who would go on walks, be willing to take the train by themselves, and frequent nearby restaurants to try out the local cuisine.  Now that we’ve been here for almost six months I realize that I just have to keep trying to get out there and stop beating myself up when I fail.

Of course, there are often times that I’m sitting at home wondering if I’m missing out on the best parts of my life.  I think back to my college days, when I enjoyed walking around the university botanical gardens for hours by myself.  Those walks gave me so much: exercise, time to think, beautiful scenery, and great memories.  They helped me to feel creative and inspired.  I’m not entirely sure how I went from enjoying solitary walks to being strangled by anxiety when I leave home.

I think the question “Am I missing out on life because of my agoraphobia?” is the push that I need in order to stay motivated.  I’m a sucker for personal development.  There is a healthy dose of fear that accompanies the thought of missing a good opportunity, and that is what I need or I might become complacent with my downfalls.  When I’m having a bad day my husband often quotes this to me: “I’d be more apathetic if I weren’t so lethargic.”  I don’t want to be that person.

So I’ve come up with some more ways to fight back against my agoraphobia (see my first post about it).  These are more weapons in my arsenal that will help me to go out and have the experiences and the life that I want to have.

Accept all invitations.

If someone invites you to something just say yes.  Don’t even think about it.  Yes is your new favorite word.

Sure, there’s a (pretty good) chance you’re going to freak out and have to cancel.  But there is a chance that you will go.  In my experience, it becomes easier to go out when you do it often and work on conquering that fear.

I recently found a group online that welcomes newcomers to our area of Germany and set up a meeting with one of the women.  I later canceled our lunch because of my anxiety (although I was also a bit sick that day) but I immediately asked if we could reschedule.  I was doing better the next week (plus I’d be mortified to cancel on someone twice in a row – fear is an excellent motivator!) and I met up with her for lunch this week.  That connection led me to another group for local expats, and I accepted an invite to go out to coffee with them the next day!  I can count on one hand the amount of times I’ve left home by myself since moving to Germany, and two of the times were this week as a result of receiving invitations.  There’s power behind scheduling a meeting, and you’ll feel so much stronger after you go.

Find a destination that really entices you.

Get on Google, Tripadvisor, or Pinterest and search for things that interest you.  Don’t just find one of the top ten touristy destinations for your area – keep looking until something makes you wake up and think “I’ve got to see that!”

The story behind this realization isn’t one that I’m proud of, but I’m going to tell it anyway.  Mr. Meena and I were out for a Sunday afternoon stroll and we had a big fight.  Instead of finding a mature resolution I chose to walk away from him and he didn’t follow me.  That incensed me even more so I just kept walking.  I got lost and inadvertently found the Hauptfriedhof (the main cemetery).

Schweinfurt Hauptfriedhof (main cemetery).

It was the first time I felt relaxed and peaceful while walking alone in Schweinfurt.  I was struck by how beautiful the cemetery was and how all the graves were lovingly (and recently) decorated.  Everyone there was respectful and gave me plenty of space to walk.  I realized that I wanted to come back and see more of the cemetery (it’s quite large and I had to get back home to reconcile with Mr. Meena) so badly that I was willing to try and do it on my own.  There’s no bribe you could give me to go to the mall by myself, but I’m much more willing to try and see a place when I want to be there.

Use the buddy system.

When I try to go out by myself I fail about 90% of the time.  When Mr. Meena and I are going out together I only fail about 10-20% of the time.

One of my biggest fears about being outside is crossing the street.  It’s even more of a problem here in Germany, where we don’t have a car and we walk down busy streets a whole lot more than we used to. But instead of focusing on all the cars and traffic that makes my anxiety worse, I can focus on talking to Mr. Meena and let my fear take a back seat.  His presence is an immediate confidence booster.

Write out goals often.

For longest time I only ever wrote out financial goals.  When I was looking over our budgeting goals earlier this month I realized that I could do the same thing for my emotional, physical, and spiritual goals.  I can wish all day long that I get past my agoraphobia but wishing doesn’t help me overcome anything.  When I sat down with my husband to go over these goals we had a serious discussion about why I want to change and how I can accomplish my goals.  That’s the kind of conversation and accountability that results in progress.  Here are some ideas for your own goals:

  • Go one new place each week.
    • Chose one errand, such as grocery shopping, and try to slow down and enjoy the experience instead of rushing to get home.
    • Find a support group and attend a meeting.
    • Go talk to your neighbor.
    • Find a homey coffee shop and drink your coffee inside instead of using the drive-thru.
    • Commit to walking for 30 minutes outside each weekend.

    I’m not sure if I’ll ever be completely free of agoraphobia, but I know that I don’t want to be a parent one day who can’t attend an event for her kids because her agoraphobia has control over her life.  Or a wife that doesn’t go out on dates with her husband because the thought is too intimidating.  I may not always be able to get to the grocery store, but I plan to always show up for the best parts of my life



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