I used to go out and party every night, every weekend, and I knew everyone in the scene that I partied in. I went away for a year, and lived in a small town in an abusive relationship, which I fortunately got out of, and moved back to the city. I met another guy in January, and tried to start partying again with some of my old friends, and some new ones. Unfortunately, this turned out to be another abusive relationship, both physically and emotionally, and ever since I finally broke up with this guy, I can't go out and party like I used to. I try, but I get these panic attacks, and I have to leave and go back home. It's not just partying; I can't even really go out with friends in public. I'm only comfortable inside, by myself. How can I change this?
Adrienne (18 year-old woman)
The bad news is that you have developed agoraphobia. The good news is that you can do something about it. There is a standard 'Cognitive-Behavioral' technique for attacking this debilitating condition. So, seek out a therapist in your area who does 'Cognitive-Behavioral' work. If you want to know what's involved, buy my little e-book, 'Anger and Anxiety: Be in charge of your emotions and control phobias'. You can inspect it at http://anxietyanddepression-help.com/
So, there is hope for you. You CAN beat this problem, others have. Agoraphobia can be beaten in isolation, regardless of the initial reasons for it.
However, there is another issue: why did you become a prisoner of your own home?
At only 18 years of age, you have already had two 'abusive relationships'. You didn't write any details, but I imagine that both of these were very traumatic. The proverb has it 'Once bitten twice shy,' and you've been bitten twice. Within your mind now, there is an automatic connection between the party scene -- the place where you have contact with young men on the prowl -- and suffering. What was once a fun situation is now a place of danger. If a young man shows interest in you, you are simultaneously excited and terrified. This is so unpleasant that it is far easier to avoid the situation.
Over time (and all too rapidly in your case), this attitude has spread to other places where you might meet attractive males. And now, you hide in a self-made prison.
Adrienne, not all men are bastards. When you have conquered your agoraphobia, you will want to move forward into a normal life. And this should involve love.
Why did you choose two abusers in a row? I can't tell, from just one short letter, but here are a couple of possibilities:
- The people you have been associating with have a subculture of male domination, where it is the done thing for men to abuse women. It is very much to your credit that you didn't just meekly accept this, but that you left both these cruel (though perhaps unthinkingly cruel) men.
- There may be abuse and unequal power within your family. We tend to be attracted to people who in some way resemble the important figures of our childhood. Without realizing it, you may have specially chosen men who are abusers, because at some level they reminded you of the men in your family, who are also abusers.
Of course, both of these possibilities could be true.
What to do about it? When you are ready for romance again, I suggest you avoid the old crowds, don't bother with the wild parties. Instead, find new interests, involving a new circle of friends. Get involved in a sport, hobby or interest. The possibilities are endless. Here, you will encounter a different kind of man. You still need to be careful of your intuitive attraction to a guy, and there are no guarantees, but believe me, most men do not abuse women. There is a good chance that you will come out of your suffering as a far better, more mature person, and living a far better life than you would have otherwise.