Nice to meet you all. I have had anxiety and agoraphobia for 25 yrs. I actually became housebound for a couple of years, and slowly, very slowly, have grown. I've eventually been able to leave my house, (which was in a small town) and endured the anxiety of having to move, (but it was for the better, if we could only know in advance eh?) and then I moved to a home a short distance out of town. (This move was difficult as well, but it has also allowed me to grow. We have to push our boundaries of feeling uncomfortable, for growth, and therefore; less anxiety) It was difficult for me because of my agoraphobia. I was afraid to drive or travel anywhere, alone or not, other than within my town. I hated that I could only travel within my town limits. As you can see, my world was very small. I couldn't go on vacations, take my kids to special places ie; camping, swimming, or even to a zoo. I didn't know how I could get my "get out of jail free card", as I was the only one with a ticket. I have two dogs....one a chihuahua, and the other, a german shepher/lab X. I took them with me everywhere. When I pushed my boundaries, I would feel anxious, but looked often toward my dog(s) for comfort. I didn't feel so "alone" when they were with me. My chihuahua would sense my anxiety and was quick to lick my tears in acknowledgement of my stress. I learned to pay attention to my dogs, when I felt anxious, and see how they were "feeling" when my anxiety attack was at its highest. I observed that they were quiet, yet alert. But there was no "real" danger...like the danger I perceived. I learned how dogs live in the "here and the now", not in the future or the past. As with anxiety attacks, for the most part, its all, "what if" thinking; ie; what if I have a panic attack, what if someone sees me freaking out, (all anticipatory anxiety) I was very good as this kind of thinking which only hindered my growth. All it did was make me more anxious, even before I ventured out. As I turned to my dogs for "moral support", I was able to travel more and more, with this "here and now" thinking. I would look at my dogs, and see them looking around their environment, when I was in my vehicle. Knowing they think in the "here and now", I also would try and focus my thinking the same. It was difficult, but proved to be a useful tool in dealing with the anxiety monster! My world became bigger and bigger. I am now able to travel alone, to quite a few places. My world is still small, but its much bigger than it used to be. I am more independant, (as I couldn't travel before at all, unless accompanied by my husband) I still have setbacks. And some places I just can't go to. I also know that accepting that I'm predisposed to anxiety (as I have a twin, and he also struggled with anxiety for a number of years) has helped me to not dwell so much on the anxiety itself, but to have tools to cope with it.
I rely on my dog very much and decided to further investigate possibilities of having my dog with me all the time. I learned that I can have a psychiatric service dog. I researched the options and regulations of having a service dog. I can train my dog myself. She doesn't need to be certified. I can teach her to alert me when I'm going to have a panic attack, and distract me by nudging me, and she can put her upper body across my lap, applying what is called "deep pressure" to my stomach, which aids in better breathing. She is now my official service dog! I have since acquired a german shepherd puppy. (Because my shepherd/X is getting older) My puppy is going to be my service dog as well. She will of course need training which isn't as difficult as you might think. I have name my pup, Freedom. She will one day accompany me everywhere. In stores, restaurants and more. My world is still getting bigger. But it takes work to deal with anxiety, but with a little help from my canine friend(s), I know I have a brighter future.
I hope to help others here, and others help me, as we venture on this journey of life together.
Deb aka, Nighthawkess