Wish I Could Be There: Notes from a Phobic Life, is a memoir/study on social phobias. The main character in my novel suffers from acute social phobia and extreme test anxiety. Her personality is the crux of the novel because she is called upon to take a test she feels she cannot possibly pass and the consequences of failure are no simple matter.
This book was an interesting look into the life of someone who struggles with agoraphobia. While my character doesn't necessarily have trouble with wide open spaces, I found many passages well worth my time as I attempt to flesh out this character in my novel. Allen Shawn clearly articulates how the body responds to the fear messages phobias send to the rest of the body and he provides plenty of rumination on what makes a person develop such phobias and how they can fight them. It was quite interesting to learn that Shawn is a twin, whose twin sister was sent away to an institution when Allen was eight, an event which no doubt led to many difficulties.
I found it rather intriguing that many of the things I had already written fell in line completely with his assessment of the situation. I have only had one major panic attack in my life (it happened at camp and I truly thought I was having a heart attack and that my two small children would awaken the next morning to find their mother dead on the floor ... then it passed and I survived and I realized the terror was fully physical and yet it came from somewhere in my dormant mind, since I was asleep at the time it struck). Yet, even without a thorough understanding of what it must be like to be a social phobic, I find it is not terribly difficult to step into this character's shoes.
If someone you love struggles with extreme anxiety issues, this might be a helpful book to read in order to more fully understand their perspective. Regardless of whether you know someone who has social phobias, this book allows you to step into someone else's life and live a day with the irrational terror such difficulties bring. It's not a book I would have gone out to purchase, but I'm just as glad that I stumbled upon it for free.