“I didn’t wake up one day agoraphobic, although it may have seemed that way. When I look back now, it was definitely a slow progression, but a steady one. My life was definitely stuck, limited, and pretty sad – a prisoner of my house and my mind. At it’s smallest, my world consisted of my house, and leaving the house with my parents, but only if we stayed in town. My therapist at the time suggested a residential treatment center in Texas that she had had some success with. Next came the paperwork because of course this center was out of network. It was denied and I appealed and it was eventually sent to arbitration. Both sides agreed to abide by their decision. It was approved! The insurance company still denied it, so we had to get the MN Attorney General’s office involved and an attorney. After we did this, the insurance company shortly approved it. I could go. The enemy definitely didn’t want me to go, but God had other plans. But first I had to get to Texas, which involved airplanes. Getting an agoraphobic to Texas via flying is a now hilarious, albeit different story.
My first trip to Texas didn’t go according to plan. I was put in the wrong unit, and when I got home it was clear I hadn’t really made much of a gain. A few months later, after reassurances that I would be put in the right treatment unit, I made a plea to insurance to return. This treatment facility was quite expensive, and I wasn’t optimistic that they would shell out upwards of 100K after my last experience. However, never doubt what God can do! It was approved on the first try. No Attorney General’s office!
When I look back on this whole episode of my life, there is no doubt that God was orchestrating every second of it. When I really think about that and try to wrap my brain around it, it’s almost impossible, but nonetheless amazing. In preparation for writing this, I looked back into my journal from this time and for the days before this. I was feeling really down and detached from any progress I had made. I wanted to cut my losses and return home as it all felt hopeless. Then I went to Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church one night with thousands of other strangers. I was waiting in the lobby and a woman in her mid 20’s came up to me with her parents and said, “God put it on my heart to pray for you and tell you that you will have a happy year.” Then they walked away. I was stunned and speechless, as I have never had anything like this happen to me. When I think about the thousands of people in this building (it’s huge as the Rockets used to play there), and this one woman connected with me? It was God, connecting with me at my low point.
As part of the Creative Conference workshop at the Duluth Vineyard, I performed a piece, movement, to a poem I had written on coming out of the agoraphobia. For me, writing and really anything you might label ”creative”, are ways I get my thoughts, feeling, and emotions out. It is how God has hard-wired me, and I feel so much better and whole when I create. Many years ago I had done a practicum at a juvenile jail as part of my teacher training. On the tour, I was locked into a cell for a brief bit to see what my students’ lives are like. That was my one and only experience with a jail cell, but it was profound. So when it came to writing the poem, I used the experience of that jail cell as a metaphor for my experience with agoraphobia. For that is what this was, I was a prisoner of my own home and mind. My parents were my “jailers”, as I couldn’t go anywhere without them.
Just as I didn’t wake up agoraphobic one day, I didn’t wake up cured one day either. It has been a long journey. God has led me down many roads that I never thought I would be able to do again. In my journey, there have been pretty big God-moments, like being able to go to this treatment center. However, there have been just as many tiny God-moments. In my journal, I noticed there were many times that scheduled treatment sessions were in jeopardy because someone was sick, etc. Well, God always came through and I got to complete them. The tiny God-moments are just as significant as the big ones. It’s the big ones that get our attention in an “aha” way, but the tiny ones are embedded into our daily life, many times private moments between us and God.
Before agoraphobia, there were many things I took for granted, such as driving to Target on my own, meeting new friends for dinner, and the freedom to choose what I want to do. I’ve flown since treatment, by myself, and it was good. God has led me onto many journeys, big and small. To this day I am 11 years post-treatment and he is still leading me on new journeys. Every time I finish one, it still amazes me. Last year I drove to the cities by myself for the first time in I’m not sure how long. Yes, I was nervous, but He got me through it. He has gotten me through all of this, and he He will continue to get me through. Does this mean that I don’t struggle with agoraphobic thoughts or anxiety anymore? Of course not. There are still struggles. The difference is that I can look back and see where He has brought me from, and with His help, we can get through whatever comes my way. I know these agoraphobic thoughts and anxiety are from the enemy, and not God. As each sunset closes the day and each new sunrise ushers another in, I know I will be okay. That is what God has promised and shown me in my life, and this is enough. How can it not be?”