This post is going to be about me in a more direct fashion, not just my thoughts on other things, but my experiences within myself.
I’m going to discuss some things about anxiety and my triggers for it, so, ‘tharrr be yuurr warning mi hearty bloggy fellows’. 😉
I’m agoraphobic, which as those of use with agoraphobia know, doesn’t mean I’m afraid of open spaces, but of not being able to escape.
Specifically I’m afraid of not being able to distract myself from (aka escape from) the effects I experience in my own body. (such as panic)
Because of this I’m afraid to leave the house without someone I trust. I have panic disorder, and at one point I was afraid to even be in my house alone because I was so afraid of having a panic attack without anyone else around.
I introspect a lot and I tried to understand what I was so afraid of, and that’s why I found the word ‘panic disorder’ and sought help for it. At this point I’m working forward to quell those fears. I still don’t like being alone, but I know I will be okay, and now I can be okay while alone. For best emotional results a bit of forewarning is needed.
Still, it was a pretty big stride for me to reach that point, but most all of what it took was just introspection and challenging the illogical fears.
This is something I’m practiced at, since I’ve been doing it with my OCD for many years now. I scour them with critical thinking looking for the reasoning behind them, and reasons not to keep them.
I mention this, so that in a minute when I say something that sounds irrational you’ll know I’m not keen on allowing for irrational thoughts, and wouldn’t just accept something irrational without a serious fight.
Introspecting is great tool. For me it is a necessary tool, as it helps me with my numerous struggles, and it’s had a great impact on my outward choices to know what my genuine inward opinions and choices are. It’s also helped me to change those inward opinions, leading to all sorts of personal growth.
This month (or last few months rather) it has helped me discover one of the major causes for my agoraphobia: Noise.
That’s right, I’m really frightened of noise.
Sounds irrational doesn’t it? Let me explain why this is not nearly as off the wall as it seems at first.
To come to this realization I had to first accept that I’ve been having some issues with noise. At first this was a very hard thing, because I hadn’t put 2 and 2 together that it was noise causing me issues. I had assumed my problems with noise were any number of other things, maybe mood related, or maybe I was tired, or maybe it was just a bad day.
Pattern finding can be misleading, such as when we see faces in random things (a phenomena called pareidolia), however, it can also be a valuable tool in collecting information and piecing together the truth. Even about ourselves.
So I watched myself, and over the course of 4 months, I noticed a pattern. When there was too much noise, or there were too many sources for sound, I became less able to think or cope or focus.
I noticed, that tuning out noise sources is a struggle for me, that fan you stop hearing after 5 minutes? I’m probably still hearing it. I’ll go on hearing it, without effort to listen to something else.
Then I thought back on times this may have also occurred. So be more sure that this wasn’t just something normal I was being hypersensitive to, I asked pretty much everyone I knew about their experiences and contrasted them with mine.
I won’t bore you with recounting the whole process, but suffice to say that I have serious issues with noise that are not the norm and I think I may have sensory processing disorder.
When I say serious I mean that I can lose my ability to understand other peoples speech when there is music or a show playing and more than one conversation in the same room.
You might be thinking ‘oh yeah everyone has problems hearing sometimes’ But this is more than that. This is the words becoming garbled even when I am close to one person and not to others, in what the other person considers ‘medium’ noise levels, when I’m focusing hard on the person right front of me really hard and can end up struggling to grasp what they say and not succeeding.
It goes beyond that too, if I stay in that room with more than one conversation and a show or music, I can sometimes also lose my ability to understand letters and therefore can’t read.
Have you ever lost the ability to read? I don’t know if I’ve met anyone else who has, but it’s like being 6 again, with my dyslexia in high gear struggling to make sense of the damned squiggles that should be so familiar to me but just refuse to be entirely coherent.
Sometimes I get frustrated and don’t know what to do. That’s when it happens at home with people I know and trust.
If I’m out and about, I get scared. I get nervous. Sometimes, I panic.
The noise can also cause me headaches, or make me feel nauseated, and most of all it increases my anxiety.
One of the terrible things about this experience is, even after I’ve gotten away from the noise, I can get stuck in this state. While it usually goes away when I can get someplace quiet and calm myself, sometimes I can’t get away so easily. (like if it’s the general noise from many people in a crowded store, as I described in my previous post about noise induced panic, which was during beginning of the time when I was still puzzling out my relationship with noise.)
I always do try to calm myself though, because anxiety can and will synergize with the unpleasant effects of the noise, so the less anxious I am the less symptoms I have to deal with.
It doesn’t always work though, even when I think I’m mostly calm, but just irritated, I can still end up struggling to comprehend language.
Oh and sometimes in those instances I can spend hours where I can’t make sense of things.
Hours? That doesn’t just suck, that’s scary.
The idea of being suck in public like that for hours? Horrifying to me, I don’t like it at all.
Public but not alone would be bad, but alone in public? There would be no body I would look at pleadingly for help who would know I needed help, or to take me home.
Maybe that shouldn’t scare me, maybe I should be able to look after myself? I don’t know, but for now it does scare me.
This is why noise is probably my most serious trigger for agoraphobia. I am very frightened of the idea of not being able to read signs, or understand what people say, and maybe getting lost if I went down an unfamiliar street and still couldn’t read signs to get home.
The thought is terrifying. Frankly, I don’t think it’s unreasonably so.
This is good though! Because now I know this, know what I’m so scared of, I can start to calm my panic by giving myself coping mechanisms and addressing my direct issue, and start overcoming my agoraphobia because of it.
Just knowing can lead to some strides, because it means it means I can challenge fear in instances where it couldn’t possibly be logical.
For instance, I can’t get lost if I go to the park next door. Even if what I’m afraid of happens, I’d be okay there.
So the other day, I sat alone at the park. 🙂
It probably sounds silly, but I was very proud of myself for sitting alone there, because as silly as it may seem: That is the first time in 2 years I have sat in a park by myself.
Though please don’t jump to extreme conclusions, I know that makes it sound like I never leave my house, but this isn’t the case.
I still go places, I just make sure to meet up with people I trust preferably within 20 minutes or less. I could do a full hour of travel alone if I knew that I could call or text someone as soon as I felt like I was getting panicked, but I didn’t like that.
That’s how I’ve lived around my agoraphobia.
Without realizing what I’d been avoiding, I also have mostly stayed away from places with lots of noise, or loud noises, even without knowing what I was trying to avoid.
That’s how I’ve coped, without knowing what I was coping with.
I’m so glad that I learned the skill of introspection, and critical examination.
And I’m glad that I’ve discovered this about myself so that I can figure out what to do about it.
That occasionally I can make progress, especially with my struggles, by discovering things about myself.
Ultimately I’m also pleased that I now have some new avenues, especially to try to explore to better help and understand myself.
Such as trying to find out if I do have SPD, and if so what to do about that.
I told my P-Doc about it and she acknowledged that it seemed quite possible given my experiences and gave me a referral to have it further looked into. There’s also a possibility that I’m an aspie or somewhere on the autism spectrum, though, even if I’m not I have some overlap in experience, and I’m certainly neurodiverse.
But let’s not worry about that for now, and just focus on the known things, the agoraphobia and sound. 🙂
P.S. Any suggestions for how to cope with sound are appreciated. 😀
I’ve had suggestions for sound canceling head-phones, ear-plugs, and a kind of putty/wax that is used like an earplug but doesn’t go inside the ear canal.
Silly suggestions will simply be enjoyed.
For instance, pudding will not be placed in my ears, but I will enjoy cringe-laughing at the idea. ;P