WordPresser Documents Her Mission to Overcome Agoraphobia

For nearly thirty years, ArLynn Presser avoided leaving her neighborhood in Winnetka, Illinois, as she would experience debilitating anxiety and panic attacks when visiting public places and interacting with people outside her home.

But once she turned fifty, the romance writer decided that she was tired of living in isolation, and ready to face her greatest fear. On December 31, 2010 she started a blog at ArLynnPresser.WordPress.com and wrote in her first post, “My New Year’s resolution is to meet every Facebook friend I have.”

And so she spent 2011 visiting friends all over the world (and meeting some for the very first time). Her son Joseph accompanied her on the journey, recording video clips for ArLynn to share on her blog, which she’s been updating regularly since announcing her resolution on New Year’s Eve 2011. By the end of the year she had been to 13 different countries and met with 292 of the 325 friends she had as of January 1, 2011.

“Without WordPress.com, this project wouldn’t have happened,” she says. We set up an interview with ArLynn to learn more about the role that blogging played in her mission to face her agoraphobia. Here’s what she had to say:

Had you ever blogged before New Year’s Eve 2011? Why did you choose WordPress.com to share your resolution?

ArLynn: I had never blogged. I wasn’t sure I had anything to say. And I’m not sure blogging necessarily was about speaking to an audience so much as me creating a record of my experience. I chose WordPress.com because it was easy to use and allowed for customization.

What role did your blog play in the project?

ArLynn: It was absolutely vital. It gave me the discipline to say, “I will blog about every friend and publish posts nearly every day.” So that kept me moving forward. I could have made a diary of the project using Facebook or Twitter, but that would not have allowed for the kind of reflection that comes with blogging. A blog requires me to think about what I’ve done, what I’m going to do, and what I’m going to write.

How did it feel to put yourself “out there” on your blog for the world to see? What was the actual writing process like?

ArLynn: It took me all day today just to figure out how to encapsulate my experience with Facebook friend #298. I like to bring out the best parts in people I meet so I really choose my words carefully. As for putting myself out in the world, I think the only thing we can do is embrace being vulnerable and hopelessly flawed. I’ve learned to say, “Sure, I’m a total screw-up, but I accept it. If you want to read about it, fine by me.” I’m now fifty-one years old so it’s time for me to be liberated from worrying about what others think of me.

What advice do you have for people who are thinking about using a WordPress.com blog as a tool to help them achieve their goals?

ArLynn: I truly believe that if something doesn’t at first appear to be impossible then it’s not worth doing. I advise people to blog every day or nearly every day. It won’t just push you to reach your goal, it will completely overtake you. Last year changed me completely.

Do you still consider yourself agoraphobic?

ArLynn: Yes, but it’s gotten easier for me to leave the house and travel. I used to be terrified of getting on planes, and sometimes just thinking about leaving the house could induce a panic attack.

What are you up to now?

ArLynn: This year, I continue to travel and see friends, but I am focusing more on meeting those who have trouble getting out from behind their computers, whether because of agoraphobia, post-traumatic stress disorder, or other anxiety disorders. You can find out more by checking out my blog at ArLynnPresser.WordPress.com.

Thanks for sharing your story, ArLynn!


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Erica

207 Comments

Comments are closed.

  1. Natasha McNeely

    This is a really inspiring story! Thank you for sharing. :)

    Like

  2. calaurore9

    I feel your pain. Can’t wait to read your blog. Writing keeps us sane. Although my agoraphobia seems to improve when I’m in Manhattan. Makes no sense as anyone who suffers from it knows.

    Mine started a couple years ago when I had a life-threatening allergic reaction to hair dye and had to slowly go from brunette to skunk to snow white. Not the fairy tale, to be sure.

    Like

  3. Charissa

    Way to go! :)

    Like

  4. icittadiniprimaditutto

    Reblogged this on i cittadini prima di tutto.

    Like

  5. Sushant Kumar

    The story: Truly inspirational.
    The Problem: The author has presented this story as a propaganda/ad. It feels artificial. It could’ve been presented in a better way, something more natural.

    Like

  6. Russell Cawthorne

    Bravo!
    I hope your blog reaches and inspires as many as possible to embrace the world.
    Mostly it will hug you back.

    Like

  7. Cooking with Caleb (and Sadie!)

    I really appreciated this story — I think ArLynn has a book to write! Would love to see more ‘slice of life’ stories like this too.

    Like

  8. Spinster

    Inspiration.

    Like

  9. hoping4astory

    Interesting story. Glad she’s helping herself, and helping others at the same time.

    Like

  10. matesolusa

    I’m inspired. I think you got it just right, a blog encourages reflection before we write. one of the biggest stumbling blocks for writers may be not knowing what to write about. By using the blog as a reflective tool, we can, as you said, write about what we have done and plan to do. I’m inspired that you did this, making the world a little smaller than Facebook could have ever framed of doing. Good luck in all your future endeavors.

    Like

  11. Judy

    Wonderful post. Thank you for sharing your triumph.

    Like

  12. Metal Odyssey

    A fabulous story that ArLynn is sharing. Congratulations to ArLynn and hopefully her story (stories) will help others like her.

    Like

  13. The Best Man's Poem

    Brilliant idea, and fair play to you ArLynn!

    Like

  14. susielindau

    This is such an inspiration. I am so glad that you interviewed her . It amazes me how blogging has changed my life, but I had no idea how it could change someone with such a debilitating problem How cool is that! I will definitely check out ArLynn’s blog!

    Like

  15. Laurie Buchanan

    Yee Haw – You go, girl!

    Like

  16. Deb

    Good for you, ArLynn!

    Like

  17. obsidianfactory

    Wow, this was really cool! I’m so happy for her :)

    Like

  18. nonexpert35

    Thanks for sharing your story.

    Like

  19. wendykomancheck

    Thanks for sharing your story, ArLynn!

    Like

  20. anvilimage

    50!? No way, shut the front door!

    Good for her!

    Like

  21. darkjade68

    Well That’s Amazing. I’m Happy For you

    Like

  22. kathatt

    It was a wonderful and inspiring story. I think that blogging is a wonderful tool with which to share stories. I look forward to checking ArLynn’s blog out more thoroughly.

    Like

  23. mcelliott

    ArLynn, when my husband’s job required him to relocate to England from Virginia, I was overwhelmed. I decided right away to start blogging to process the information and keep track of what happened. I experienced this unintended, but wonderful side effect of creating a beautiful journal of the year for myself and others to enjoy, learning a new way to express myself, and share our life with friends and family. .

    And YOU combated an inner struggle and came out victorious! As they say in England, Brilliant!

    Like

  24. ruizsainz

    Wonderful story! Hooray for WordPress.com!

    Like

  25. wahyudipnyu

    wowooww very inspiration for my blog :D

    Greetings from Indonesia :)

    Like

  26. rctrepresentacoes2

    Congratulations to ArLynn

    Like

  27. Adriana Mallozzi

    Awesome story!!!!

    Like

  28. inatngivel

    Arlynn!

    That’s a beautifull idea! A lovely sotory you are sharing with us.

    Great!

    Mirze

    Like

  29. tpaige3

    Thank you, Erica for this terrific interview and allowing us to be inspired by such a remarkable story and woman! Cheers to both you and ArLynn!

    Like

  30. Southern Sea Muse

    As a professional therapist, I would like to note that the counseling profession is, more recently, acknowledging social media as a legitimate source of healing and inspiration, and a means to achieving one’s goals. Of course, ArLynn and others have already discovered this…but it is nice to see it showing up in official professional publications of late. Congratulations to ArLynn, and the many others who use WordPress to reach their potential! And kudos to WordPress for making it a welcoming, user-friendly platform with which to achieve such victories.

    Like

  31. imjess

    congratz

    Like

  32. Träumerin

    I have to read this blog and cannot say how much respect and admiration I have for this woman. As I’ve been suffering from agoraphobia for almost twenty years myself, I know what it’s all about.

    Like

  33. Village Drummer Fiction

    Congratulations on taking control of your life.

    Like

  34. starsapphiregirl

    YAY!!!!!!!!

    Like

  35. bluepearlgirl's world

    She is really brave! This is great that you are sharing her story with us. So sad that she is agoraphobic especially when she is so beautiful AND successful! Lots to be proud of!

    Like

  36. bluepearlgirl's world

    Reblogged this on bluepearlgirl's world and commented:
    This is really inspiring to anyone and everyone. Way to go Arlynn and WordPress!

    Like

  37. mZ. Purrfect

    ArLynn I commend you on your venture and your fight to overcome your disorder. Many people would not have to courage to do what you’re doing and would continue to let their fears and anxieties consume and conquer but you didn’t. I have just started blogging about a month ago on wordpress and I’m looking to venture further with this. I love to write and speak my mind but I want to expand further than my local area. I’m going to remember you in this journey into the unknown. You’ve given me new found hope for this new venture I’m embarking upon!!!! Thanks :)

    Like

  38. PhotoLord Contest

    Wow, that truly is a great example of using a blog to reach outside of your fear one post at a time! Sometimes, it comes down to taking the first step in our fears and WordPress made that possible.

    Like

  39. Doug Wolven

    Congrats. My experiences with fear are entirely different from yours, but I fear not belonging, being accepted in the group, whatever it is . . . so I am an overachiever.I am a writer, too — romance comedy.

    Keep it up, Chief!

    Like

  40. parwatisingari

    great keep the journal going.

    Like

  41. John Russell Reilly

    What an amazing woman !! She has faced her fears and overcome them,truly amazing. May ArLyn’s life be an encouragement to others locked inside themselves,full of doubt,fear and anxiety. Thank you Arlynn for embracing life’s challenges !

    Like

  42. nanditosilaen

    thanks for sharing :)

    Like

  43. Samar

    Great, well done.

    Like

  44. kenben

    Good for you ArLynn.I also experienced problems with anxiety and panic attacks.Probably not to the extent you did.So you are not alone.

    Like

  45. NetBookLori

    Very interesting! Happy you overcame your fear!!

    Like

  46. intuitiveone

    great post!

    Like

  47. chegandonahora

    Reblogged this on chegandonahora.

    Like

  48. Marc Phillippe Babineau

    what a great, inspiring and rather expensive idea!

    Like

  49. The Blazing Trail

    Powerful! Thanks for sharing

    Like

  50. thelightwithinyou

    Awesome story and congrats on your courage to move forward in life. It’s a wonderful achievement to be proud of!

    Like

  51. janjoy52

    Awesome! Great example of facing your fears and turning tragedy into triumph. Thanks for sharing. Inspiring!

    Like

  52. shalimarali

    Thanks for sharing this incredible story!

    Like

  53. ramanan50

    I know people who blog for money,some exclusively for’hits’
    What is appealing in this blog is the desire to know people and be friends with them.
    Much better than clicking in Facebook.
    It is all the more noteworthy as the blog is ranked 2,262,784 in Alexa with only 559 links as date, another indication that the Blogger is sincere in her mission to meet with people.
    This is how blog writing is ought to be, know and be known.
    Commendable effort and thanks to wp.

    Like

  54. cheryl734

    a heart-warming story. it was nice to read. now am hooked and want to know more . . . . lol.

    Like

  55. danthescienceman

    Bomb! You go girl! Don’t ever let fear or anything stand in your way. Maybe one day I will be fortunate enough to meet you and share in your newfound joy! God’s peace be yours today and every day. Danny

    Like

  56. bahrain2012

    This is a really inspiring story. Thank you WordPress for putting it into my email inbox this morning! What a great start to the day!
    I started my blog only 5 days ago! So it’s particularly great to to hear how much blogging helped you on your incredible journey. I am certainly hoping that blogging will do the same for my family and me in our adventure, although it will be a bit more of a home-based adventure but with wonderful new-found flexibility for travel. We’re undertaking a home education adventure in the Middle East – homeschoolingmiddleeast.wordpress.com
    I am really in awe of you ArLynn and think your aim for this year is a wonderfully nobel and lifechanging one, hopefully for you and the ‘stuck’ people that you’ll meet. Best of luck!

    Like

  57. rominajp

    Reblogged this on Romina Jamieson-Proctor (PhD) and commented:
    This is an interesting story about how blogging helped an agoraphobic lady overcome her phobia.

    Like

  58. Doren Da

    INspired to do what I assumed would be the impossible now I see the possibilities.
    Great Story!

    Like

  59. Jon McKissick

    Bless Your Heart..you go girl!

    Like

  60. John Ward

    Heroes are people who over-come their fears and do, what needs to be done. Therefore, you are a hero girl and don’t you forget it.

    Like

  61. startupideaexchange

    nice reading..thank you.

    Like

  62. LifeCoachRN

    What a wonderful story! It’s what we need more of…human contact. Very inspirational!

    Like

  63. Natalie Wilson

    I love your story. It is very motivating and inspiring.

    Like

  64. pepejim

    WOW! Truly an awesome story!

    Like

  65. Jody Thompson

    Inspiring story. Thank you for sharing. Cheers!

    Like

  66. mokusoman

    Interesting way to achive a tuff goal. Good luck in the future too!

    Like

  67. abddi367

    Reblogged this on abdibiyyaa.

    Like

  68. binder99

    very interesting , thanks

    Like

  69. enochered

    Strange how one persons agoraphobia is another persons life-style choice. I love my isolation here in the woods. I am very happy however that Arlynn has overcome her own personal problem and I hope her Facebook friends are at last real friends.

    Like

  70. Jojie Alcantara

    Reblogged this on scene stealer and commented:
    A wonderful woman overcomes her fear of agoraphobia through blogging and traveling to meet her Facebook friends! What an inspiration worthy of a reblog.

    Like

  71. ayesha2012

    Awesome! Inspiring story! Thank you for sharing!

    Like

  72. whitedragongolf

    Hi have you been down to New Zealand yet ?

    Like

  73. Kabura Zakama

    Great story! Thanks for sharing. Now to work on my fear of flying. Any examples out there?

    Like

  74. The Awkward List

    Awesome!

    Like

  75. theworldisyourlobster

    What a beautiful story.
    I am so pleased to hear how well you’ve done, good for you and long may you continue to go forward.
    My first wife was agoraphobic and she struggled all her life, we were married for 30 years.

    Like

  76. arifulkhl

    Powerful! Thanks for sharing

    Like

  77. arifulkhl

    Very interesting! Happy you overcame your fear!!

    Like

  78. arifulkhl

    what a great, inspiring and rather expensive idea!

    Like

  79. arifulkhl

    Thanks for sharing this incredible story!

    Like

  80. arifulkhl

    Good for you ArLynn.I also experienced problems with anxiety and panic attacks.Probably not to the extent you did.So you are not alone.

    Like

  81. arifulkhl

    Congratulations on taking control of your life.

    Like

  82. arifulkhl

    That’s a beautifull idea! A lovely sotory you are sharing with us.

    Like

  83. arifulkhl

    his is a really inspiring story! Thank you for sharing

    Like

  84. arifulkhl

    Wonderful post. Thank you for sharing your triumph.

    Like

  85. آقا و خانم روانشناس
  86. driuorno

    Reblogged this on BABAJI.

    Like

  87. kevintaggart

    Congratulations!! Being an a Agoraphobic myself I know how much courage it took to visit most of your facebook friends, You are an inspiration to us all.

    Like

  88. Mai Thompson

    Wow! This is one truly awesome and significant adventure—> a very courageous stint! I wish I could do something like this at least before I return to dust where I came from =)

    Like

  89. Roger Nield
  90. AKHMAD SUDRAJAT

    Thanks for sharing this nice story

    Now I know, by macroblog and microblog, we can change our life.

    Like

  91. chaliegirl111

    “well done” great story

    Like

  92. awkwardspelling

    Incredible!

    Like

  93. timctaylor69

    Fantastic story. You continue to inspire.

    Like

  94. bloodyirish

    Reblogged this on bloodyirish and commented:
    nice story

    Like

  95. Sandra Smith

    This is wonderful, I had a breakdown and it left me with anxiety and panic attacks. So I decided to do a university degree course, doing that has forced me out of the house, I still have problems sometimes but it is mainly kept under control. I also do voluntary work with people so that I can get out more.

    Like

  96. RussellUpol

    Reblogged this on russellmahmud.

    Like

  97. princeproductions

    Fantastic blog. inspiring stuff. I’m using wordpress to bring to life my challenge. to bake and blog my way around the world in eighty bakes. only up to 24 bakes at the moment but will keep blogging away. Thanks for sharing

    Like

  98. thefuture2020

    I do admire her for her courage. It’s never easy to just come out of your shell like that but its amazing what kind of experiences you can have in life after a minor adjustment or just saying i want to do something different for a change. That is the power of choice and it can take you down wondrous roads if you let it. So hats off for your courageous decision Ms.Presser and keep on trucking -,o

    http://wp.me/2aAA8

    Like

  99. thefuture2020

    By the way Ms.Presser looks amazing for 50 doesn’t she?

    Like

  100. dixiedeano

    Well done, its a inspiring blog . I have a mobility problem myself. its so easy to take the easy route by not going out,- your computer becomes the link to the outside world. Ultimately no-matter what illnesses might befall you, the choice is up to you with basically a life changing decision.

    Like

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