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Agoraphobic Steps Out For First Time In Twenty Years

Thursday, April 16th, 2009 Agoraphobic Steps Out For First Time In Twenty Years

A mother who suffered from agoraphobia for inexcess of twenty years has stepped out for the first time in twenty years. It is understood that the forty year old had spent half her life in the confinements of her home.

However, it is largely thanks to the internet and self-help classes and the prospect of seeing streets on Google Maps, she has managed to step outside. Such was the extent of her problem, her phobia meant that she had to marry her husband in her sitting room in 2000, but has now taken her first steps to freedom. Curtis says, ‘It may not seem very far to walk, but for me, this is amazing, I’m getting there very slowly, and now I don’t see no reason why I can’t be cured in the future and lead a normal life again.

‘It’s all down to the classes, I’ve said for years I needed cognitive behavioural therapy to help me, and now that I’ve got access to it, I’ve been able to learn, and I feel like I have a new lease of life.’

Her problems first manifested themselves when the mother of two sons took her toddlers to the library. She experienced strange and anxious feelings, which she later realised was a panic attack she rushed back to her home in West Harton, South Shields, but the feelings continued.

She said: ‘Over the next few days when I tried to leave the house the same thing was happening to me. It was very scary. ‘At one point I was suffering between 15 and 20 attacks a day, my weight dropped down to just over five stone and I ended up bed-bound for 18 months. “It gradually came to a point where I knew I didn’t want to be or go outside, so I just stayed in. ‘Then I developed a range of phobias, I was scared to do so many things like wash my hair, brush my teeth, or even stand up, because I thought bad things were going to happen to me.’

Although Mrs Curtis, who lives with husband Alan, 41, got back on her feet she was still unable to lead a normal life with her boys and go outside. As they’ve grown up she’s never been able to take them to a park, go swimming or even have a family holiday, something which she hopes she can now achieve. To keep her connected to the outside world, Mrs Curtis relies her computer. She also uses it to download her self-help classes, which are a therapeutic approach to help her overcome her fears and emotions. She said: ‘I’m looking forward to seeing Google Street Maps of South Shields; it will mean I’ll be able to see everything then. But I also depend on the computer for my classes.

‘They take me through different exercises and teach me how to combat my anxiety; I listen to them whenever I feel the need.’ Her sons are extremely proud of how far she’s come in recent weeks. Mr Curtis said: ‘we’re really pleased with what’s she’s achieved so far. It’s quite amazing that she is now able to do all this just from teaching herself.” Mrs Curtis is now hoping she will be able to renew her vows in a church and have the white wedding she missed out on.

She added: ‘I still have an awful long way to go before I’ll be totally cured, but we just take each day as it comes and one step at a time.’

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