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AIM Agoraphobics In Motion

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Dizzy, trembling, and about to have a heart attack, I rushed home to have my mom take me to the doctor, but I was found to be perfectly healthy. Healthy? PERFECTLY Healthy? I did not know that being healthy felt so awful. I was having these kind of episodes pretty much non-stop and it scared me soooo much that I just decided to stay in my house. . . always.
I used to tell people that I really wasn't hungry enough to go out for dinner. I also would tell them that I had seen every movie that had come out. I became a hermit. I did not do much, but only because I was trying to protect myself, from what I now know, was panicky feelings. When I started telling people the truth about how I was feeling, I didn't expect that they would understand, but at least I was honest with them and myself. Most people I told said that they knew someone that felt like I did, or that they did themselves, to some degree. I was hoping that someone I would share my horrific feelings with, would know how to fix it... When I admitted that I had a problem, then, and only then, did I make a commitment to start working on it. I wasn't sure what the answer might be, only that I was sure there was an answer for me, somewhere.

"Expect a Miracle!" Many of you might be saying, "Oh, no, she is going to start preaching!" Trust me! I am not! I thought that there were no miracles, especially for me. However, I think that I always held onto a glimmer of hope. Hello, my name is Mary Ann Blomquist Miller Gogoleski and a miracle did occur in my life! I merely had to start expecting it, instead of expecting the worst possible scenario. What did I have to lose? I wasn't doing anything else. . . except shaking and being scared. Have you ever felt like they you were going to die, or go crazy? I felt both! I felt that I would die, not next year, but in the very next minute! So, to expect that I could be better seemed far fetched, but with support, I slowly started to see this far away star.star

If the building that you are standing in should catch on fire, you would not want to sit idly by, and say, "Oh, well". A certain amount of anxiety can save your life. It's the old "fight or flight" syndrome. While it can save your life, it can complicate your life, too, especially if you suffer from an anxiety disorder. Anxiety has physical companions such as: heart palpitations, dizziness, blurred vision, gastrointestinal distress, wobbly legs, feelings of disorientation, out of body sensations, etc. etc. etc. Two or more of these symptoms, happening all at once, could be called a panic attack. If there is an Armageddon, this is it! One way to cope with panic attacks (especially when you don't understand what is happening) is simply to avoid everything and everybody that you think might be the trigger. It is an effort to protect yourself from what you perceive as danger. Panic would seem to come out of the blue, even while I was calmly having tea and crumpets (lol), so to avoid everything made a lot of sense. The only problem was that my world became smaller and smaller and smaller. . . world

My first panic attack happened on a beautiful, spring day (seems like most people can remember exactly what was happening on their fateful day.) I was attending Catholic mass with my classmates. I was only 12 years old. When I got dizzy and nauseous, I thought I was sick...terribly sick. After all, I had seen lots of kids get sick in church, so it must be my turn to be sick. I rushed home and went to the doctor, but he said that I was fine??? Same thing happened the next day, and the next day, till finally I skipped out of church and went to smoke cigarettes with my friends.smoke (Good idea, right?) The doctor told my mom that I would outgrow this phobia, but guess what??? I was 32 before I got a handle on it.
heart Why was my heart palpitating like crazy when I attempted to do anything? My head was like a spinning top. I was quite sure that I had a very large brain tumor. I kept going to one specialist after another and no-one found anything. I would have welcomed surgery, but the docs would just say, "Go home and relax".

To correct my situation, I decided the best idea was to get married? ? I married a sailor, that I never dated. He was my pen pal, that I wrote letters to, in Japan. He came home, briefly, from Japan. We were married, but he had to leave for Japan, again. Finally, we got together and rented an apartment. What a shock, when he discovered that his new bride was not just a "nervous bride"...she would not leave the house! To correct this, I had 3 beautiful baby girls. (Jennifer, Amy, & Amanda) You don't have to leave the house to do this. However, nothing alleviated my panic attacks. I went to therapist after therapist, doctor after doctor, and all I got was a bill for $72,000.money

My one and only friend, Peggy, found an article in "Redbook" magazine, about agoraphobia. It was a weird name, but I related to everything that I read in the article. I had never read about anybody else having almost the same symptoms as I did! I wrote to California, where the treatment center was located, and found a chapter, in Michigan. Wow! Finally, someone knew what I was talking about, but when I called them, I discovered the cost was $1,000 for 16 weeks. We didn't have that kind of money, but I was so desperate, the money was found.

Agoraphobia, literally fear of the market place, was the only diagnosis they had at the time that described all of my symptoms. Today, I would have been diagnosed with severe Panic Disorder, accompanied with agoraphobia. The treatment center was called TERRAP (Territorial Apprehension). I learned behavioral skills to help me recover, but 16 weeks is not long enough to change a behavior that had lasted most of my life. Although, I learned a lot, I did not feel fixed. I was so depressed. I did not want to live the rest of my life struggling to live.

A local television show, introduced me to Reverend Jack Boland. Yes, a religious person. I would have turned the channel, but I would have get up off the couch. t.v. (We did not have remote control) Rev. Boland was talking about a positive attitude that he had used in his own life to overcome alcoholism and cancer. I don't know why, but I felt I just had to meet this guy. After many weeks of practicing, I finally made it to his church and was able to meet him. Coincidentally, the title of his lesson, for that Sunday was, "Another Chance". When I asked him if he thought that I could recover from agoraphobia (I didn't even know if he knew what it meant), he asked me two questions. 1. Do you want to recover? I responded, "Of course, I do." 2. Do you believe you can? Without hesitation, I said, "No." After all these years, why would I believe it? He, then, said to me, "You don't have to believe it, because I believe it, and I will believe it for you". . .

Fireworks didn't go off, but I started to think. If you don't believe something is possible, how will it easily occur? I would have a good day, and suddenly stop myself and say, "I can't be doing this good. I am sick." To start to believe I could be better was taking a risk, but what did I have to lose? I started working on recovery, as if I was taking an important college exam. I already knew the behavioral stuff, but I added cognitive restructuring (positive thinking), which I learned from Rev. Boland. Within 6 months, I was panic free. Now, did it take me 20 years and 6 months to recover, or just 6 months? It matters not.

This is how A.I.M. was born. You see, I discovered that support was the missing ingredient in my recovery. Jack Boland had become my mentor and biggest, positive, support. I wanted to write a book about my recovery, but I thought it would take too long. I wrote a magazine article, but couldn't find a magazine that liked it. Why not start a support group, where we can all believe for each other? I wanted to tell people that it was possible to live an unrestricted life. I have been to every restaurant in town, up and down elevators, flew to San Francisco, been up on the C.N. Tower, and I even visited the salt mines below the city of Detroit. If I could do all this, after so many restricted years, I knew that anybody could.
The first meeting of A.I.M. was held on March 7, 1983. And, as of today, AIM is still here.

I believe my recovery was a miracle. It was something that I had to work on, but some miracles happen that way. Some changes can be good. I always was frightened of change. I know recovery, when you go into motion, is not only possible, but inevitable. Expect it. Expect your miracle! If you can't believe it for yourself, please know that I'll believe it for you.

P.S. My marriage to the sailor ended after 17 years. Then, I remarried and had a wonderful son, Johnathan. Johnathan is my buddy, and my teacher. He taught me to enjoy the wonderful things of childhood. This marriage did not last, but I am thankful for the lessons that were learned during the 17 years. (both marriages lasted 17 years...I don't give up easily) Jennifer has given me two beautiful grandsons, Robert & Brian and a granddaughter, Sara Rose. Amanda, my youngest daughter, had a beautiful baby girl, Hailey.  Would you believe that I was able to see both Brian and Hailey being born! What a marvelous experience.

To you, I say, NEVER GIVE UP! EXPECT A MIRACLE! I will support you!

Mary Ann Blomquist-Miller-Gogoleski
Founder/Director