Her husband has rarely been out of the house in a year because he refuses to leave her there alone. I want my freedom back.”Christy France“I’m OK with it. You’ve got to think about what’s really important in life.”Chris France Telling someone with a severe version of the mental illness that they must go out for treatment is akin to telling a paraplegic there is help if only they get out of their wheelchair and walk up the steps into the doctor's office. "I felt like everything I'd worked so hard for just blew up in my face," she says. "I just kept crossing things off the list that I could do." The anxiety would come over her suddenly while she was out. But the effort didn't work and eventually the doctor, who was not trained to deal with agoraphobia, stopped the visits after they agreed she needed an expert's help. The treatment, known as "exposure therapy," involves confronting the patient's fears.
The only way she can get treatment that is paid for by OHIP is if she goes to a doctor's office. "We're both prisoners here," Chris France, 34, says matter-of-factly, as though resigned to his wife's fate. "I want to go outside to pick an onion to go with dinner and I can't today," she says softly. I want my freedom back." Growing up on the east Mountain, Christy was always an "anxious" kid. She switched to general arts and sciences and graduated. For a long while, she mistook it for low blood sugar, and carried juice boxes around hoping that would ease the trembling and dizziness. The couple was out doing the weekly grocery shopping. Andrea Liss, a psychotherapist who specializes in trauma and anxiety therapy, began working with Christy in August 2013. But after nearly a year of going to sessions, there was a setback.
Those who suffer from agoraphobia will experience extreme anxiety over leaving their comfort zone.
I’m not going to pretend that I fully understand agoraphobia; I’m not a psychologist, and I’m basically just repeating what I read on Wikipedia and what my therapists told me.
- Gary Yokoyama, The Hamilton Spectator Even a trip to the backyard can be too much for Christy France, who has been trapped in her house for three years. Still, she finished high school and enrolled at Mohawk College in the child and youth worker program. They go nowhere, apart from the few minutes to the mailbox. The last time Chris was really out was a year ago, for his mother's funeral. Christy has been diagnosed with agoraphobia, panic disorder and generalized anxiety disorder as well as bulimia and PTSD.
She can't get the help she needs without leaving home, but can't bring herself to do so. During a work placement at a shelter, she collapsed from hunger. My heart was pounding." Chris remembers everyone staring at his wife. "I didn't understand it." Just days after that, the couple moved into the house they live in now. He now works in the basement at home, but he can't get out to install his finished product because Christy can't be without him. For awhile, a doctor from the Mc Master family practice unit came regularly to the house. Once, he even managed to get her outside, onto the sidewalk.
- Gary Yokoyama, The Hamilton Spectator She has barely been out of their house in three years because of her agoraphobia. He made gigantic sandwiches for his lunch and persuaded her to eat half. On Christmas Eve 2010 they married in a small ceremony on the football field at Hill Park. Her eating disorder prevented her from completing her program. Christy has been inside virtually every minute since. Sometimes she can't bear to have him leave her in a room alone. "He danced with me to try to keep me calm," she says fondly, offering a rare smile.
This is my first time being single since I was a teenager.
It's challenging enough finding love without my issues.