Mother overcomes agoraphobia after resolving to meet all her 300 Facebook friends in person
New experiences: Arlynn enjoys travelling in a sidecar in Chicago in August
Arlynn visited more than 51 cities on her year-long quest despite suffering from panic attacks
She has urged others to conquer fear by making a big resolution that scares them and to tell their friends
Arlynn Presser, 55, has met 292 of her online friends since last January after she made a New Year’s resolution to overcome her fear of open spaces.
The mother-of-two has battled the affliction her entire life but five years ago things got so bad that she stopped going out altogether. When she was too afraid to go her own son’s graduation she realised she had to confront her issues.
Arlynn at the end of her year-long journey: She told her blog fans to ‘think big’ when it came to making resolutions
Arlynn said it would have been easy for her to stay indoors and only communicate online, but she wanted more from life
She said: ‘It got to the point that I was so frustrated with myself that I knew I had to tackle this head on.
‘I wanted to do something extreme and life-changing but I didn’t know what.
‘Then one night I was talking to a friend on Facebook who had recently broken up with his girlfriend.
‘He felt so bad about it that what I wanted to see him and take him out for a beer.
‘That’s when I got the idea. Why not visit all my Facebook friends We act like our cyber friends aren’t real people but why not go and see them in person’
Arlynn has taken a whole year to complete the challenge which has taken her to 11 countries and set her back a whopping 30,000.
Arlyn with Facebook friend 287 Brenda Allison from Ayettevill, Arkansas. Brenda says resolutions can be broken down into bite size chunks
Speaking yesterday at her home in Chicago where she was spending time with sons Joseph, 23, and Eastman, 19, she said: ‘I feel like I can do anything. I feel really amazing.
‘There were obviously people who I couldn’t get round to or weren’t willing to take part but I saw about 90 per cent of my friends.
‘The whole experience was terrifying but I’ve learned how to deal with my fear and that was the point.
‘My new new year’s resolution is to use what I’ve learned to help other people suffering from agoraphobia.’
In the past year Arlynn has…
Met 292 of her 325 Facebook friends
Visited more than 51 different cities
Taken at least forty five
Travelled to Mexico City, the north of Alaska and visited friends around the world including in India (pictured) and The Philippines
Brave Arlynn, 55, visited the majority of her friends in the USA at the beginning of the year but in October she set out to meet her international friends.
With her son Joseph she flew to Korea, Taiwan, The Philippines, Mumbai, Rome Austria, Germany and finally the UK.
She said: ‘I would suffer from panic attacks on a daily basis but my son got me through it.
‘I couldn’t have done it without him. He was very good at just making me get up and go without thinking too much about what I was doing.’
Arlynn has suffered with agoraphobia for the majority of her life and revealed how debilitating the condition could be.
She said: ‘I have always suffered from intense anxiety and panic attacks when I go into open spaces.
‘I managed to control it to a certain extent but since my first son left home it got worse.
‘As the agoraphobia became more intense the number of things that seemed possible got smaller while the number of things I couldn’t do was infinite.
‘I was constantly living in fear of a panic attack.
‘I was frightened to go to restaurants or take my children for a family outing in case I had one.
‘And when it did happen there was an overwhelming fear that I was going to die.’
Overcoming fear: Arlynn with Janie Gibson, who she knows through her sons and is Facebook friend 22
Facebook friends 187 and 188: Lane Wheeler and Sheila Kerrigan Wheeler, who took to the Renaissance Faire in Wisconsin
Arlynn will now return to her work as a romance novelist but says she will keep up with her Facebook friends online and in person.
She said: ‘If it’s one thing this year has taught me it’s that you need to keep track of your friends, because in the end your friends and your family are all you have.’
Read more on Arlynn’s blog here
TOP 10 TIPS FOR COPING WITH PANIC
One: If you feel a panic attack coming on and find you are breathing
rapidly, breathe slowly in and out of a brown paper bag or cupped
Although you may feel you can’t catch your breath, you are probably over
breathing and taking in too much oxygen – making you feel giddy. A
paper bag will help your oxygen levels return to normal.
Two: Don’t attempt to fight your way out of a panic attack – this will
simply increase the adrenaline. Instead accept the feelings will come
and go and allow the symptoms to play their tricks as they will.
Practise imagining yourself floating over them. Eventually the panic
will subside – be patient with this.
Three: Focus outside of yourself during an attack. Listen to some music
or do a pleasurable task while waiting for the panic to subside.
Four: Firmly tell yourself that your symptoms are nothing more than an
over-sensitised nervous system that has gone into ‘fight or flight’ mode. They are temporary feelings and are not
medically harmful or dangerous.
Five: Change your lifestyle. Take regular exercise – this helps to burn
off excessive adrenaline. Avoid cigarettes and alcohol. Eat regular
meals and avoid processed foods and drinks, to keep blood sugar levels
Six: Don’t bottle up your emotions. Find someone to confide in, such as a family member, friend or counsellor.
Seven: Learn a relaxation technique. First close your eyes and breathe
slowly and deeply. Locate any areas of tension and imagine them
disappearing. Then, relax each part of the body, bit by bit, from the
feet upwards. Think of warmth and heaviness. After 20 minutes of doing
this, take some deep breaths and stretch.
Eight: Reduce your exposure to unnecessary stress. Be prepared to express your needs to others and assert yourself.
Nine: Look into cognitive behaviour therapy or other “talking
treatments”. You can find a list of practitioners on the website for the
British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies
10: Join a self-help group. You can find details through the No Panic
charity freephone helpline on 0808 8080545. Also check the Mind charity
website and www.anxietynomore.co.uk