The Case Of A Famous Victim Of Agoraphobia
My friend is a captive in his own home. He has advanced stages of Parkinson’s Disease and he has not left his house for more than five years. Imagine that being shut in your house for five years because you can no longer drive and your walking is stooped and erratic. We are often made captives by illness. A more famous although little known captive was Marcel Proust born 1871 and died 1922. He is famous in clinical mental health circles because he is a type of prototype of Agoraphobia since he did seek help.
He was a Frenchman who had been immersed in fashion;however, during the last thirteen years of his life he became a self made captive rivaling Howard Hughes. One might diagnose him as agoraphobic since he closeted himself in his own apartment. Agoraphobia is a debilitating disorder with unknown onset. Victims of that disorder are fearful of going out and mingling with people. They choose the protection of their own apartments.
Marcel Proust was born into a world of money. His father was a doctor and his mother had inherited money from her Jewish family. He was educated by Roman Catholics and his circle of society included the rich and the influential. None of these birth given rights helped him to achieve health in his life. What is the heart-wrenching reality of mental illness is its total devastation of the afflicted person. What is the saving grace of mental illness is its utter disregard of money and class.
Marcel Proust had like Howard Hughes money and class. Marcel Proust wrapped himself up like an Egyptian mummy and tried (like an experimenter into the psyche to treat himself) to block out all sounds and light from the outside. Such is the crippling disorder of agoraphobia. The word itself defined means a fear of the market place. Agoraphobics are extremely sensitive to light, sound, and contact with other people. Both Howard Hughes and Marcel Proust were not born with the disease but developed it following a successful and financially impressive career in their respective societies. Listen to Marcel as he thinks.
"The first sounds from the street had told me, according to whether they came to my ears dulled and distorted by the moisture of the atmosphere or quivering like arrows in the resonant and empty area of a spacious, crisply frozen, pure morning; as soon as I heard the rumble of the first tram car, I could tell whether it was sodden with rain or setting forth into the blue."
Imagine that not looking out windows that you have blocked and guessing if it was raining. Imagine not wanting, not needing to go out and to feel the cool, delicious wonder of rain.
The story of Marcel Proust can be found online or in libraries and book stores. If you or someone you love, like my friend, suffers from agoraphobia read about a famous agoraphobic and seek help.