Hello guys. What follows is not just an introduction but something like a blog - a way for me to "vent" if you will...
Some of you may already know me from the *** chat. I'm "IBEX".
I've had agoraphobia since I was 18. Panic attacks, and general anxiety/social phobia a lot earlier. I immigrated to United States with my parents when I was only 11. We settled in New York City because this is where my parent's relatives resigned. For my parents this was the only good choice. For me, it was another story.
New York, and just about everything about it, was indeed one of the most depressing things for me.
I was born in a beautiful small city of Odessa in Ukraine.
It had lots of trees and parks where I liked to take strolls. It was all very accessible and close to my house. New York doesn't offer such luxuries. Parks are very few and those avalable require one to spend a lot of time on a train or a car just to get there. There is very few trees. The streets are dirty and polluted. The subway smells of piss, and the ventilation system often doesn't work. I was used to "surface" trains with big windows that let lots of light in. It was a pleasure to ride in one. The subway in New York is dark, claustrophobic and smelly.
My most dreaded place in NY is Manhatten. This might seem like madness to some New Yorkers because Manhatten is the "heart" of this city. This is where all the "cool" people go. This is where the party is at. Most fashionable restaurants, theaters and clubs are concentrated here. Some of the richest most successful companies/offices are situated here also.
I see Manhatten in a different light... Huge skyscrapers create a feeling of PRESSURE. Walking down the streets I feel their wight bearing down on me. There are swarms of people walking down the streets at all times. On the weekends the streets are so busy that I feel like a sardine in a can. The busy, sweaty nightclubs with their loud music and strobe lights don't appeal to me. Neither do the expencive restaurants and theaters. People are always in a hurry somewhere. Everyone is thinking about college, work, career, interviews, business, money, money, money. Everyone is a businessman/woman. Everyone is talking on their cell phone. The drivers on streets are pissed off, cursing, screaming and honking their horns.
I wish everyone and everything would just SLOW DOWN. I feel like screaming "CHILL DOWN PEOPLE!" take a frigging breath! Life.. Is NOT only about money, career and financial success.
I grown to hate New York with it's hectic life, and busy lifestyle. I'm just not cut out for this kind of life. Unfortunately I couldn't do anything about it, being a kid.
I was bullied at school, and had very little friends... At first I played basketball with some kids I knew but later they moved to other places with their parents and I was alone. Eventually I just shut myself away from the world. All I did was go to school, come back and play my video games/watch TV. Video games/TV were my friend, my mother, father and brother. They made me forget about the harsh reality of my miserable life. They taught me how to speak, read and write English. Video games made me feel good. I was a muscular hero wielding a sword twice my size, chopping the villain into pieces, and saving a beautiful girl. I was free to do as I please and make my own choices. I could be a ninja who froze enemies with ice coming out of his hands, a towering robot crushing everything in his path or a commander, controlling enormous armies of tanks, planes and ships.... I played and played, because it made me forget... Because ot offered a retreat.
Eventually my body gave up because my brain could stand spending 8-10 hours a day playing video games. I started having terrible headaches that wouldn't go away, my hands would shake like that of an 80 year old man. I got dizzy for no apparent reason. I got scared and stopped playing video games, but the headaches wouldn't go away. They were so severe that I felt like I would die any second. I consulted with numerous doctors but they had no idea what was wrong with me. They scanned my brain many times and every time the tests came back normal. Seeing that the doctors would send me home and I kept suffering. Eventually I developed a phobia of computers and TV's. I couldn't walk into a room where a TV or a computer was on. Just try and imagine what something like this must be like in a world where TVs and PCs are in every household!!! To make things worse, computer class was a requirement in my school program. Every day, going to school, I wasn't thinking about studying, fun, friends or girls. All I was thinking about is when the school day would end so I can go home and get into bed, so I can go to sleep an not feel the constant, relentless headache. Because no one could help me, I started having panic attacks that got worse and worse...
After High School, I got accepted into a college located... Can you guess where?
THE DREADED MANHATTAN. Every day going there was a torture. I had to spend an hour on subway and then another 20-30min navigating the busy streets. In between the headaches and panic attacks I my body completely gave up again. One day in college my headache got so bad that I had to get up and run home. The fear, pressure and pain were so intense that I started bleeding from my ear on the way home.. I barely made it back. Later on my doctor told my parents that the bleed was caused by a finger nail scratch when stuck a finger in my ear to relieve the pain. (what a lier...) After all, I am the one everything happened to. Who but me can know the truth? After that horrible event in college, I became agoraphobic and homebound.
Again, I seen many doctors, took many pills - nothing helped. Eventually my headaches became a little less frequent. Maybe it was the vitamin B I was taking?
At some point a doctor gave me Zoloft. In between that, and "exposure therapy"(forcing myself out little by little) I was able to get back into college and start getting out again. I even met a girl and we dated for a while!
Unfortunately not everything was so good in "reality". The college I went to was much closer to my home, and as such far less prestigious than the one in Manhattan. I kept having my headaches and could barely attend classes. I got good grades on my headache free weeks, and failed classes miserably during my "bad weeks". Unfortunately my professors didn't give a damn about my problems and threatened to drop me out of their class whenever I missed sessions. I had to stop taking Zoloft due to side effects that started 2 years into taking it. I barely managed to to finish a 2 year college with a crappy "non marketable" diploma. And my girl broke up with me because she wanted someone who was willing to marry and have kids. The whole "friends with benefits" thing did not appeal to her. (well at least after a year of her enjoying it )
Slowly but surely my video game addiction took over again. Games allowed me to forget everything and get lost in "made up" worlds. I struggled on and transferred into a better college hoping to get some kind of had decent diploma. Unfortunately, a week into the program, I had a panic attack. Then another.. And another! I felt like I was done. I knew it, but I kept trying... Eventually I "broke down" again and this time my agoraphobia is the worst ever. I've been home for more than 2 years now.. Seen more doctors and took more pills. Still taking some pills my psych gave me. I have yet to find anyone/anything that would help me.
I understood over years that I am the only one that can REALLY help myself. Not God, not mother, and not doctor. I developed a strategy that I'm hoping will help...
I force myself outside little by little... I walk c***les around my house or just stand near my doorstep watching people passing by. (best I can do so far) On my good days I can even force myself to get to a grocery, buy something real quick, and run out of the store... (wow)
I try working out, and I try to break my video game addiction by cutting down my "gaming time". I figured if an alcoholic or a smoker tapers off his/her poison by slowly reducing the amount of intake, I may try that too.. Off course this is easier said than done, but one has to start somewhere!
I did not write all this to get pity or remorse. My intention is to share my story and hear yours. Maybe we have something in common and can help each other?
PS: If this belongs in a different part of this forum, I apologize and ask that a mod please move this to the correct place. Thank you.