Friday, 8 July 2022
Saturday, 4 June 2022
The question is often asked whether the monsters who commit evil crimes are the product of nature, i.e they were born that way and nothing could have prevented their evil course, or nurture, i.e their life experiences shaped them into who they were.
Wednesday, 1 June 2022
|The actress recently revealed she has agoraphobia|
‘Why do you have to be like this - you know you're just making things difficult for yourself?’
As someone with agoraphobia, I have heard that a lot. There's a misconception amongst some people - not everyone - that a phobia is just something you can easily get over. Just try facing up to your fear/s by doing some anti-sensitivity training. Force yourself to face up to whatever it is you fear whether that's spiders, heights, or in my case the fear of open spaces and people. Then your phobia will be gone.
If only it were that easy.
It seems that sometimes the only time some people acknowledge that you have a genuine health problem is when a celebrity has the same thing. In my case, Kim Basinger's recent revelation that she suffers from agoraphobia has shone the light on a condition that so many people have in the UK. According to the NHS, 2% of people in the UK have a panic disorder with a third of them having agoraphobia.
When I was growing up in the 80s (I'm showing my age now) Kim Basinger was one of the best-known actresses. She was beautiful and had an amazing smile and a lot of women wanted to have hair like her.
In recent years, she disappeared from public view. I thought she'd chosen to take time away from acting or had been the victim of Hollywood's ageism where leading men get to age whilst the women they star opposite get younger. I had no idea that this beautiful, outwardly self-confident woman had something in common with little old me, namely that she has agoraphobia.
That wasn't until recently when she appeared on Jada Pinkett's Red Table Talk with her daughter Ireland Baldwin to talk about the anxiety that left her struggling to leave her home. I found myself for the very first time in my life identifying with a beautiful Hollywood actress as she spoke about the paralysing anxiety.
On the very rare occasions I do try to venture out alone I am struck by a paralysing fear that sends me spiralling and I have to get home. I struggle to breathe and feel as if I'm having an asthma attack that no medication can help with. My heart is pounding and my chest feels fit to burst. A friend who witnessed this once thought I was having the worst panic attack should have ever seen. She was so worried she wanted to call an ambulance.
Basinger says her anxiety was triggered when she visited a health food store in California and was overcome by overwhelming anxiety that caused her to flee the store.
What started it all
In my case, I know exactly what the trigger was but not when - the bullying I suffered at school and home during my teenage years. Unlike the Oscar-winning actress, I can't pinpoint one single event that caused it, just a multiple series of events that eroded my confidence and feeling of self-worth. I became scared to go out.
Agoraphobia is much misunderstood. I've had some people tell me I should just pull myself together as if I have chosen to be this way. Relatives have also told me just to dope myself up with medication so I can attend family events. Again, they don't understand. It's not as if I don't want to go out, it's that I can't.
I have tried therapy, both cognitive-behavioural research and hypnotherapy (I wasn't very good at getting hypnotised apparently), meditation and reading various self-help books but nothing has helped. I can also confirm that the drugs don't work - at least for me. I've been on various medications for years and there's no change.
For me, the cognitive behavioural therapy that seems to be successful with lots of other people, actually made my condition worse. Before CBT, I'd had OCD and hypervigilance as part of the side effects of my agoraphobia. After having the cognitive behavioural therapy, they were worse. Like they were on steroids.
When I had the honour of having the book launch for what was then my first novel Vile City, the first book in my Detective in a Coma series at the architecturally stunning Waterstones store in Glasgow Argyle Street, I couldn't even enjoy my big night. My doctor had given me tranquillizers and anti-anxiety medication but my nerves were still shot. During what should have been a night of celebration I just felt terrified and wanted to go home. I was constantly in the grip of panic.
|I won a novel writing award but couldn't go to collect my trophy|
A few years before that when I won an award for my first crime novel, I couldn't even attend the prize-winning ceremony. Agoraphobia made me a prisoner in my own home and continues to do so. The late great Alanna Knight was going to hand me the prize that night but even knowing that wasn't enough to get rid of the black cloud that was hanging over me. I couldn't attend.
‘What were you like before you had this wrong with you’ one of my writing friends online recently asked. I honestly don't know because it was so long ago. With something like agoraphobia, once it gets its tentacles on you, it's hard to get it to let go.
As for the future who knows. It isn't as if I can just snap out of this as it’s a family member once said. If only it were that easy. But at least thanks to a certain actress family and friends know what a struggle things are for me.
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