Saturday, July 12, 2014

Inspiration for my novel When One Door Opens (Caleb)

The original inspiration for my novel When One Door Opens came from a real life news article. The article was about a woman who died in a fire in Chicago because she refused to leave the building. The woman was an agoraphobic. I remember being so shocked and saddened by this article. Imagine a fear so great that it can override your instinct for self-preservation. I'd never considered agoraphobia could be life threatening. The article also made me think about my own experiences.

 I have had two panic attacks in my life, both in my twenties. The first one was the most serious. I was driving to work during the very first week of my first job after college. I was late and managed to take a wrong turn. My heart started to race and my hands to shake. It got so bad that I had to pull over, nearly ending up in a ditch. I thought I was having a heart attack. I thought I was dying. My cell phone was in my purse in the backseat, but there was no way I was going to reach it. I felt frozen. Fear doesn't give a crap about logic and reason. I was fear's bitch until she decided to let me go twenty minutes later.

 I told no one about the panic attack. Not coworkers. Not friends. Not family. It was my dirty little secret until I started writing When One Door Opens. I've been really lucky not to suffer from panic attacks since then. I really appreciated the people who reached out to me when the book was published to tell me I'd captured their experiences with panic attacks accurately. I spent a lot of time reading firsthand accounts, realizing I'd shared a lot of the same symptoms and stressors. In When One Door Opens, Caleb has a severe form of agoraphobia, like the woman in Chicago, which leaves him a prisoner in his own apartment. Most agoraphobics can leave home with difficulty, usually with a trusted loved one. Caleb hasn't left his apartment in three years. By the end of the novel, Caleb has made progress but he isn't cured. Because recovery isn't a straight line, with a start and an end. It's more like a rollercoaster. Love can't cure agoraphobia, but it sure in the hell helps to have someone to hold your hand when the rollercoaster plunges over the edge.