My Journey from Independent to Agoraphobic

I can't look forward - By Charlotte Farhan

Being able to be independent is something I dream of daily.

When I was a young girl, independence was a quality which many adults admired in me. “Isn’t she mature and independent?” they would say. This would make me feel special and important. Adults were like another species and I had been accepted as one of them.

When you are an only child adults are everywhere. Your attention-seeking has to be of a certain calibre to get noticed. Like being the funny, talented or exceptionally sweet child. Otherwise you were literally seen and not heard. This I learnt very quickly, which allowed for me to be included and loved whilst the adults had dinner parties and we went on group holidays. With this eagerness to please and impress I was an easy target for my abuser, a family member who decided to take advantage of me sexually and emotionally at the age of 4 until I was 7.

This progressed into me being even more mature and independent as a teenager, a mask and persona I had adapted for survival and so that I could feel some sort of control in this strange world I existed in. From the age of 8, I started to cook for myself. At 11, I was getting myself off to school as well as self-harming and tried to take my own life. At 12, I was bandaging up my Mother’s arms after she had savaged herself with self-harm, telling me daily how she also wanted to die. I was left on my own for a few months as my mother went into a private psychiatric hospital. We had an 18 year old lodger who would try and take care of me as best as she could even though she herself was severely ill. My mother didn’t tell anyone as she knew I would be taken into care by social services – she was privileged in the fact she was rich enough to cover up her failings. With all of this, my independence grew and soon I was fully taking care of my needs apart from providing shelter, food and clothes, everything else was me – parenting me.

I Long to Walk Care Free in the Rain - By Charlotte Farhan
I Long to Walk Care Free in the Rain – By Charlotte Farhan
After being violently raped at 15 (which meant having intimate internal surgery), I was put in a psychiatric hospital and abandoned once more by my mother, who decided to check herself in to a 5 star private psychiatric hospital – again. She kept herself privately insured but took me off the insurance plan. This meant I was placed in an NHS unit, which was situated in the grounds of an old Victorian asylum. It was run down, poorly funded, and a mixed adolescent ward. I was sexually assaulted there two more times whilst in this “safe place.”

I was unable to go home on weekends as I had no family who could take care of me. I spent my weekends on an empty ward with two nurses whilst all other patients went home to their loving families. By this point – certain that I was an adult who could take care of themselves, I decided that I did not want to survive and take care of this unwanted child – me; which is why I was an anorexic, suicidal, self-harmer who wanted to die and was put on suicide watch.

This is when the tides changed. There was a feeling that I could not take much more, and by 17 agoraphobia reared its ugly head and decided to take hold of me.

Independence detached from me as if it were my shadow and I Peter Pan.

I had moved to a different city with my boyfriend (who is now my husband) to get away from my mother after she tried to push me out of a fourth floor window when she was in a mixed bipolar state. My independence left me soon after.

Independence detached from me as if it were my shadow and I Peter Pan. One day it was there and the next it was gone. My mind needed safety, enclosure and a certainty that there would be no face-to-face with my abuser, my rapist or the two males who has sexually assaulted me. I also did not want to see people who knew these things had happened to me. I wanted to disappear, but I also wanted to stay as, finally, there was someone  who could take care of me the way I had longed for.

I did not understand my diagnoses of complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD), borderline personality disorder (BPD) or psychotic depression, and I did not want to be treated as this mentally ill person. I buried my head in the sand and, for several years, just became a hermit with no friends or life. In addition, I was on archaic psychotropic drugs which left me like a zombie from the age 18 to 21. They caused me to put on 4 stone in weight which meant my anorexic brain had no control. I was left feeling empty and, without the prospect of being attractive to get attention, how would I be loved? This drove me further underground, more inward and less independent.

This is where it began, the regression into being the child I had never been able to be.

My BPD, means I have no emotional regulation. This allows me to be hurt like an infant at any given opportunity. My psychotic depression made me see fairies and angels as hallucinations; childlike delusions and psychosis which left me in the foetal position after violent episodes smashing my head till it bled in the hope the unwanted voices and images would go away. My C-PTSD rendered me within variations of consciousness, detached out-of-body experiences – feelings of  helplessness, shame, guilt, with a distrust for most and a repeated search for any rescuers to take care of me. These skewed attachment bonds lead me to confusion between the differences of pain and love. I developed other illnesses as symptoms of these three main illnesses. They include obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), agoraphobia, generalised anxiety disorder (GAD), adult ADHD and body dysmorphia.

Today as I write this, it has been 10 years since I have been outside alone.

It has been 10 years since:

  • I could just go outside with no preparations such as having a caretaker, an escape plan, medication, and the ability to know exactly what to expect, where we are going and when we will be leaving
  • I didn’t get overwhelmed by loud noises – my C-PTSD is often triggered due to sensory overload
  • I could speak to and stand near strangers
  • I did not hallucinate and see things which are not there, when highly stressed – leaving me vulnerable to harm
  • I didn’t detach and could hear properly when outside – when detached sound becomes muffled, like you are underwater
  • I didn’t see the face of my abusers in ever man’s face I pass by
  • I could cross the road on my own like an adult
  • I could order my own food and eat freely in public
  • I took public transport alone
  • I could be independent and live a better life

There are of course many other things to add to this list, but these are the ones which are misunderstood and are taken for granted by able, privileged people.

Independence, being able-minded and -bodied, not being marginalised or stigmatised for illnesses you have no control over, are privileges. I am not in the market for sympathy or special treatment, all I wish for is a fair chance to have a decent life.

I am a victim who survived

I know my neurological damage from severe trauma as an infant and then the systematic trauma which ensued throughout my childhood, adolescence and early adulthood mean, I shall be different and neuro-diverse forever. However, due to the neuro-typical world that we exist in today, I do not have to accept this fate. I want to be as functional as possible, with civil rights, opportunities and possibly some relief.

I am a victim who survived which is why I know this can be done. Furthermore, this means I have to ask for help and accept it too, something I have no confidence in, and you wouldn’t either, if your two main care givers were self-indulgent, narcissistic and neglectful abandoners, one being physically abusive and the other emotionally.

This is why when my friend Lisa Reeve said she was going to start fundraising for me to get a psychiatric assistance dog so that I could have some independence in life, I was overwhelmed and grateful that someone was reaching out, apprehensive due to feelings of being undeserving, but also seeing this as an opportunity which I could not refute.

Please take a look at my fundraising campaign on GoFundMe by clicking HERE and find out why a psychiatric service dog would be beneficial to me.


5 thoughts on “My Journey from Independent to Agoraphobic

  1. It breaks my heart to know you’ve had such horrifying experiences. I know many women face similar anguish and injury. I’m glad you’re speaking out. Thank you for your courage.


  2. I can relate. Thank you for saying these vulnerability-filled words aloud. I needed to know I am simply neuro-diverse. Love love love to you and yours!


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