(Ordinary People, 1980)"I am now in mid-life and I have not seen a well day since I was about twelve years of age. Before I experienced any of the symptoms of agoraphobia I recall that a strange affliction came over me, an affliction that seemed to baffle the country doctors who were consulted. I was taken suddenly with 'spells' which lasted about thirty minutes. During these attacks I was entirely conscious and rational. As I remember the affliction, a sort of chill came over me-not like an ordinary chill, but a sort of 'coldness' that produced a very unusual sensation, or perhaps, a lack of sensation would describe it more accurately.
Later, perhaps a year or so, I commenced having a dread of wide fields, especially when the fields consisted of pasture land and were level, with the grass cropped short like the grass on a well-kept lawn. I likewise commenced to dread high things, and especially to ascend anything high. I even had a fear of crowds of people, and later of wide streets and parks.
I have outgrown the fear of crowds largely, but an immense building or a high rocky bluff fills me with dread. However the architecture of the building has much to do with the sort of sensation produced. Ugly architecture greatly intensifies the fear.
It is not pain that I feel, but it seems to me that it is more than a dread. I am not nervous, as some people whom I know -I mean in the same way, but it certainly is a case of 'nerves.' Let me illustrate:- I enter a home and sit in an arm-chair chatting with my friend; I soon find myself gripping the arm of the chair with each hand. My toes curl in my shoes, and there is a sort of tenseness all over my muscles.
Usually I feel better in the evening than in the morning, partly because the darkness seems to have a quieting effect upon me. I love a snow storm a regular blizzard, and feel much less discomfort in going about the town or riding on a train on such days, probably because one's view is obstructed. In fact I welcome stormy days, strange to say, with a zest that is hard to appreciate; in short, some of the most stormy days of the hard winters of this region stand out as bright spots in my life. On such days I make it a point to be out and about the town.
When I think of the agony which I have experienced for many years I am astounded at the endurance of the human spirit. Let me illustrate:- I have such a dread of crossing a long bridge on foot that it would require more courage for me to walk to the part of my town situated across the river than it would to face a nest of Boche machine guns. And yet day after day, month after month, and year after year I have carried in my soul the dread of such an eventuality.
I see a man hobbling past my house on crutches, a cripple for life, and I actually envy him. At times I would gladly exchange places with the humblest day laborer who walks unafraid across the public square or saunters tranquilly over the viaduct on his way home after the day's work."
From "Confessions of an Agoraphobic Victim" by "Vincent" (1919)