I felt there was no one I could talk to. Who would understand that I found such a common social event so unbearable?
This continued throughout my university life and into the first few years of my working life. I had a dream to travel the world and towards the end of my twenties the opportunity came. This would be my salvation. I thought the confidence I would gain and the experiences I would have would solve my problem. I couldn't have been more wrong. I took my fear around the world with me with disastrous results. I refused an increasing number of invitations from wonderful people to join them in their homes. I even found myself restructuring my itinerary to avoid and escape. Upon my return home the side affects and ramifications began to surface.
I was losing both confidence and self esteem at an astonishing rate. The lies and excuses were beginning to take their toll as I dearly wished I didn’t have to make them. I was becoming isolated as I deliberately pushed friends and relatives away. I became indecisive as I was at the mercy of my feelings, and with that I became vulnerable to suggestibility. I became increasingly frustrated and agitated, as there seemed no end in sight to the feelings that were preventing me from living a normal life. I felt detached from the rest of the world. I felt alone. I became tired from the continual drain of nervous energy as I held tightly onto myself, afraid of where the next invitation would come from - the next phone call, the next person to knock at the door, the next person I spoke to at the pub and at work. My mind became tired from all the anxious thought, started losing its resilience and my career stagnated as I lost focus and energy. And of course with all this, depression and apathy were soon to follow.
At the time I couldn’t see my life changing for the better. A pattern had developed that was beginning to set in concrete. Attempts to explain to family and close friends were greeted with baffled bemusement. Relationships were brief and kept shallow, as I wouldn’t let myself get too close to anyone for fear of meals with parents and friends. I began to feel that marriage couldn’t be an option for me.
But strangely never did I think that I suffered from a phobia. That was for other people.
Then unexpectedly my mother died and in the grief haze that followed, the reality sank in, that I had a problem and it had to be fixed.
First I went through a period of what I called “shock”. In other words coping with the harsh reality that the dreams and aspirations I had for my life could not, and would not, eventuate until issues that I had previously been unaware of were dealt with. Admitting to myself (and then later to others) that I had a problem was an extremely difficult thing to do.
Then I spent a long period of time determining what had caused my present situation. Talking to relatives and dredging up past thoughts brought me to the conclusion that my problem had originated in my childhood. A key factor, which helped me to arrive at this conclusion, was the fact that I never had any problem eating at restaurants, hotels and barbecues. I thought this was very odd at first but then I realised my parents never frequented these sorts of environments. So something had linked fear to invitations to dinner when I was a child. I began to think that my mother’s life-long subjection to epilepsy might have relevance. Close relatives confirmed my suspicions. The pre-dinner environment in our family home was apparently very tense and stressful due to the unpredictability of my mother’s condition. If her epilepsy struck during the meal then considerable embarrassment prevailed. For me as a child, not fully understanding this situation, I began to dread being taken by my parents to their friend’s homes, but I was not old enough to be able to refuse to go. As I reached an age where I could obtain independence from my parents, my subconscious was already full of material that would surface at my cousin’s home when I was eighteen, as a phobia.
I’m sure the processes and events were much more complex but this simplistic explanation was enough for me to proceed.