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!