Tuesday, 28 April 2009

My busy week

Last Tuesday I wrote buzzing with the excitement of my latest driving lesson. I was so thrilled that I had finally made it into Paisley town centre, and minutes from Gerry's house. I noticed that although the panic does come, if i ride it out and not bolt from it, it soon passes and i feel ok. I was filled with confidence and looking forward to the next few days or getting out and about and doing more and more. It didn't work out like that. Once again I am left relying on other people and i realised that i was still stuck. As i don't have my full driving licence I need to have an insured driver in the passenger seat. No one was available. Wednesday and Thursday I was so down. I was frustrated and even slightly depressed. I was sitting around the house itching to go places but with friends and family all at work or doing other things i wasn't able to do anything. I knew it wasn't always going to be like that though. I continued my walks, my daily routine but i wanted more.

On Friday I had a meeting with a new Occupational Therapist called David. It was your typical first meeting, lots of chatting and going over my history but i have a lot of confidence in David. As much as my usual OT Karen is helpful and patient, we don't actually do anything together. We go a quick drive, within my limit, and then i get dropped back home again. Karen doesn't really push me and i think in the past this might be what I have needed. Although to be honest i probably wasn't ready to be pushed and would have just avoided seeing her. David told me how we will be approaching my issues over the next few weeks/months. He said the first few meetings will be purely educational. Although i know about anxiety and agoraphobia he wants to cover all the bases so he knows we are on the same page. From there we will head out. David will take me to places where I will panic. He said that if we do something and I am not nervous during it, then it means that the task is too easy and I need to do more. In the past I would have been terrified by him, but now i am ready to take it on, i look forward to trying even more new things and having his support when i do so.

On Saturday morning i got up early and headed off to our local church. Once again it was time for my mums card sale which I have mentioned in the past. She hasn't been very well the last few weeks so asked me to do it for her. Off i went with a suitcase filled with cards, set up the stall and got to work. The sale is extremely busy with people packed into this hall and trying to grab a bargain. I managed to get a bargain for myself. 4 handmade rings from Kenya made of fishbone. A little unusual i guess but i love them and they were so cheap.

Sunday was spent with me working in the garden but that night my mum asked me if i wanted to do the weekly shop on the Monday. Hmmm our local Asda is a little bit away and also I wasn't 100% sure how i would feel in a massive supermarket. I was worried and I did fret about it the night before but I knew that no matter how i felt i wouldn't avoid it. I would at least drive to the supermarket and see how i felt once i was there. My dad came with me and once i parked up i thought 'well I'm here now, i may as well go on'. I was shaky, a little hyper too but i soon calmed down and enjoyed the shop. To be honest I let my dad get on with the food shop and I set off on my own to see the clothes or other goodies on offer. I tried to think of things I have needed or wanted but have never had the opportunity to try. And then i remembered Sushi! I have never tried Sushi! and so i set off and got it and, well sorry sushi fans, but it wasn't really to my taste. And wow the Wasabi, nearly blew my head off!! I went home and dropped of the bags and then took my mum to her doctors appointment. Once home Gerry came over and decided he was hungry so i took him for a McDonalds! It was easy. This is all so bizarre. I did take a pic of Asda but it doesn't really show its size. This place is massive. I don't think you can even see half of it in this picture. My nerves were very up and down but i guess this is what we need to go through to prove to ourselves we can handle these situations.

This morning i set off on my 6th driving lesson. This time as my appointment approached I wasn't as nervous as I was last week (still nervous!!... only not as much). I drove directly into Paisley town centre without mentioning where we were going once. Even Archie the instructor said he couldn't believe the change in me and that he noticed we drove there without any complaint from me at all. In past lessons i have moaned, suggested turning back...and even cursed at him. I'm sure he enjoys our lessons haha. I drove further again and before i knew it we were miles away in a completely different county. When there i felt my hands sweat. I knew that if i panicked i was now miles away from home and it would take me a fair amount of time to get back, but i just tried to put it out of my head and focus on the driving. It worked.
I spoke to Gerry later and suggested we go out for dinner. I am covering distances now that include all sorts of new shops, pubs, restaurants so i decided to put it to the test. I wanted to go to a restaurant and see if i could sit in there while waiting to be served, waiting on drinks, food and the bill etc without having to leave. We chose a restaurant called 'Table Table'. I did take pics but they really don't do it justice. Poor Gerry did say 'are you going to take pictures everywhere we go' but i cant help myself. I'm all over excited ha. The meal itself wasn't actually that brilliant but that wasn't really the point. I passed the challenge. Of course my head does still try to freak me out but i know i have covered that distance and been ok and also that if i got really anxious i would just breathe through it or worst case scenario drive us home, but It didn't come to that. I used to love eating out before this all happened to me, its nice to think i can start enjoying it again. From there we went shopping. Window shopping mostly but i bought myself 2 gorgeous mugs and went home completely thrilled with my day.
Tomorrow we are meeting for lunch. Isn't this all very normal???

(sorry this post isnt written very well but i just wanted to give you an update but im a sleepy girl)

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Am i getting over Agoraphobia?

Today was my 4th driving lesson. Just like the other day i was anxious this morning. I was so close to cancelling. I told myself to face it, stop running and at 1.00 i set out on my lesson. I drove through 3 towns (or villages) ended up in Paisley. Paisley has been my main goal for years. Here there are restaurants, bars, clothes shops etc, but most importantly this is where my friends live and Gerry too. I drove along and the anxiety was like a roller coaster. It was rising and falling but all the while I knew I wouldn't run from it. I wouldn't tell Archie my instructor to take me home.
My safety thinking was at work though. I had the usual visions of me jumping into the back seat and curling into a ball, or getting into the passenger seat, rolling down the window for air and screaming DRIVE DRIVE DRIVE!! But thankfully this didn't happen.
I drove through different areas learning about cross roads, who has right of way etc. I practiced my maneuvers again. A 3 point turn and reversing around corners. As the minutes passed, Archie was driving me further and further into the town centre and further and further from my home. I was aware that if i panicked it would take me quite a while to get home, but i tried to talk to myself and tell myself that it wouldn't come to that. I pulled into strange streets and sat quietly as I was taught the rules of the road. I didn't imagine I would be able to sit still like this for a while but i managed it ok. The only problem is... i am so busy thinking about how well i am doing and imagining where we are going next that i struggle to take in everything he is telling me lol. I think i might need to take a notepad with me in future and write stuff down. The lesson ended with me driving through the town centre. This is where i spent my late teens/early twenties. The pubs and clubs were all around me. I didn't think for a minute i would be seeing them again so soon. (ok its been about 8 years since i went clubbing but the progress of late has been faster than ever). I knew i had quite a drive ahead of me to get home but i was ok.
This has given me a huge confidence boost. In the last few days I have been looking at restaurants for Gerry and I to try. I have still been driving everyday in my own car to keep up with my practice. I am out most of the day now. Driving or popping into visit friends. I am happier and always smiling. Lukes 1st coommunion is in 2 weeks time and i cannot wait. I will attend the ceremony in the chapel and then I am driving to another town for a family meal. In the past i wouldnt have been going, in the more recent past I would have agreed to it, but dreaded it. Now though I look forward to it. A few people have commented that i may be getting over agoraphobia forever. I also said that if i continue like this, i will be over it by the end of summer. I don't really want to put a time on it though, as if it doesn't happen i will only be disappointed. But i notice it is me who suggests going out now, its me who wants to visit new restaurants or bars. This weekend I have asked Gerry if he wants me to drive us over to his parents. I have never met them! Because of my situation Gerry wanted to wait till i could meet them until he told them we are engaged. So we will drive there on Saturday and announce it ( well that's my plan at the moment lol). Today i passed my friend Angela's house , so i have been invited up for dinner. I plan to take her up on that invite as soon as we both have a free night. It's exciting. I think Angela has lived there for about 2 years and I have never been. I only knew it was her house because i seen her car parked outside.
I do still question myself a lot. I wonder if i will relapse. I tell myself that if i do, i will fight it and will never go back to how i was. But I'm sure we have all heard of someone who this has happened to. I know i will have to battle with my thoughts for a long long time and that they may never completely go away, but i am hopeful that i am learning to live my life whether the thoughts come or not. I wonder if i will get over my agoraphobia but be left with anxiety. I still deal with anxious thoughts and behaviour every time. But i guess with everyday i am trusting myself more to be able to take it on.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

3rd Driving Lesson

look how much i had to zoom out!

Today I had my third driving lesson. I didn't want to go. I was dreading it and as the time of the lesson drew closer i was ready to cancel it. Archie, my instructor, has told me that i NEED to go to another town to learn more driving. My village is too easy and i need to learn to deal with driving on busier roads, junctions etc.

I knew that when i seen Archie today he would want me to travel way out of my comfort zone. I wasn't ready. but i managed to convince myself to go through with it. I would at least speak to Archie and explain how i was feeling instead of running away and avoiding facing up to this. Running away from life is exactly how i ended up with agoraphobia.

When Archie arrived I got into the passenger seat and had a bit long rant. But Archie wasn't listening. He continued to drive with me until I was at my furthest point. I explained that I was getting way too uncomfortable and that, if i had to, i would jump out of the moving car if he didn't stop. Does that sound dramatic? Have any of you ever considered this? I really believe i would do this if someone continued to drive me against my will lol. Thankfully Archie pulled over and let me get in the driver' seat. Once i had control of the car my anxiety reduced a little. But wanting to challenge my, Archie asked me to drive further than usual. I did it. I don't know if you will remember a post i did a while ago and I talked about places on the road to Gerry's house. The Garage, McDonald's, Asda. Well today i hit every one of those targets. Not literally! I didn't crash into them, but i drove past them and even beyond them. At first we hit a series of round abouts which Archie told me to drive through. Well i shouted and moaned and said no, i wanted to turn back... but eventually i done as i was told. My panic subsided. We drove to PAISLEY... yes PAISLEY where Gerry lives, and the point i most want to reach, but never thought i would. Feeling like i had gone far enough we headed back and then i done it all over again.

Then we headed out in the other direction and before i knew it I had driven through another 2 towns. I sat at the furthest point and thought to myself 'LOOK WHERE YOU ARE' but like i have said before, i don't think it really sunk in. The most mental thing is that i was pretty much completely calm. To get home i was taken onto the duel carriageway where i drove at 70mph. He told me to take the slip road back to my town but i continued and drove all the way to Glasgow Airport. When i missed the turn off for my village i got a bit stressed again. I realised that I was doing 70, and that for quite a bit of road there was nowhere to stop and no where to turn. Now that i was heading to the airport there was no turning back. But somehow i just thought 'Well i better just do it'.

I sit here in disbelief. Next lesson Tuesday

Sunday, 12 April 2009



Make your own. I've made them for the kids and my parents. Its quite funny.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Me and Marie

I met Marie when she wrote to me about 2 years ago regarding a post i had written on a random website. I had written about how i suffered from Agoraphobia and Panic Attacks and obviously Marie seen we had something in common. Soon after her first email we began to chat on MSN. We are now very close although we have never met in person. Marie has been there for me through a lot of tough times with anxiety and other issues and I would like to think that I have been there for her too.

About a year ago Marie and her husband Robert were taking a road trip and asked if I would like them to visit me. At first I said yes but unfortunately as the date approached I had to pull out. I was sorry for this because I know Marie was upset but I never doubted the fact that we would one day meet in person. I knew it would happen.

A few months ago Marie mentioned us meeting again. We talked about arranging it for the summer. Marie, Robert and the kids were thinking of taking a trip to Loch Lomond, a beautiful area in Scotland, and while there Marie could pop by and visit me for a couple of days. Then Marie got in touch to tell me that Robert would be attending a conference in the coming weeks. He would only be a couple of hours drive from me so she asked if she could make the drive up with him and then come and stay with me from the Sunday to the Wednesday. I agreed.

As the date approached it looked unlikely that it was going to happen due to Robert's recent trouble with cellulitis. See his blog here. It was only confirmed that they were definitely coming on the Sunday morning. Apart from Robert's health issues there was the obvious problem of Marie's agoraphobia. I know most of you are familiar with Marie already and so you know her story. She has suffered with agoraphobia and panic attacks for many many years. She has gone through times of depression where she hasn't left the house and doesn't want to drive anywhere. When Marie does go out in the car it is usually with a safe person in the passenger seat, but when travelling in the car with Robert he is usually the one doing the driving. On top of this Marie will very rarely drive on her own. Even driving to the local shop just seconds away has been a problems.

And so on Sunday morning I was very surprised to hear that they were definitely coming to visit. Robert wasn't going to be able to drive for 7 hours without a bit of help due to his foot problems but I think even he was unsure if Marie would be able to do the driving... given the fact that she doesn't like motorways. Well Marie surprised us both. They set off on the Sunday afternoon and Marie drove from her home town all the way to Scotland. I am so proud of her and completely in awe too. I have no idea how she managed it. Robert drove for the final hour or so and they arrived at my house at 11.30pm.

I was excited to met Marie but also excited to meet Robert. I have spoken to him a few times on the phone and read his blog regularly. As i waited on them arriving i didn't really believe it was happening. Marie and I have spoken for so long i feel like we know each other as well as possible but the thought that they would be in my house was all a bit hard to imagine.

When they pulled up outside my house I met them at the car to help with bags. Marie got out the car and i was greeted with this tall beautiful women. (I knew Marie was tall but it is rare that i meet any female taller than myself as i am 5'10') She towered above me but then she was in heels and i in flats. Robert was exactly like I imagined. Extremely warm and with a big smile i hugged him and then Marie. That night we just had some tea and then headed to bed. The following morning Robert had to hit the road and he left so early i didn't see him. Marie eventually crept into my bedroom and asked me to go into her room. She was getting stressed that I had forgotten she was there haha.

The few days that followed seem like a blur to me. What I have achieved by having Marie here has shocked me and my head hasn't quite got round it yet! We had already decided that while she was here, Marie and I would go out for drives. This meant that I could practice my driving skills and Marie could see where I live, the places I have spoken about etc. On Monday I had my appointment with the people from the job centre to discuss my benefits (the people who at first refused me a home visit). The women from the JC ticked the required boxes but the best thing was that she brought another Occupational Therapist to meet me. I think his name was Dave. He was really nice and knew exactly how I should be tackling my recovery and asked me if i would like to work with him. I said yes as i think any support being offered should be taken, even though I am doing pretty well on my own. After the meetin i drove with Marie around my usual safe roads but before I knew it we were down into the main part of the village, where i had previously only just gone with my driving instructor. I was calm and we chatted away happily. Would i be brave enough to drive to the petrol station with Marie to get fuel? I didn't know if i could manage it. The thought did make me nervous, but i challenged myself and drove there anyway. Oh we had such a laugh! Since i hadn't been anywhere near the garage in 5 years I didn't know that you could pay at the pump. This meant I also didn't know how to work it. The 2 of us must have been a sight for sore eyes. Marie took care of the payment, but for some reason i think it took her 4 attempts. Meanwhile she was trying to take pictures of me filling the car with petrol (that was once we had discovered which side the petrol cap was on). Even though we paid at the pump i still wanted to walk into the garage and buy something just to prove I could. And so i did. I was completely amazed and so so proud.

With new found confidence i took a little detour to my doctors surgery. 8 years it has been since I have been there. But there I was sat outside with Marie. We parked up the car and I told Marie that i wanted to take a little walk through the village and see how i coped... and then i might pop my head into the doctors and see if it had changed. Poor Marie. I didn't realise that she didn't like to be left alone in the car like that but she coped brilliantly. While she was here I tried to make her as comfortable as possible. If i left her at anytime i always let her know I had my phone, where i was going and how long i was going to be. When Marie could see me again she started taking pictures of me walking to the surgery. Inside the surgery I walked up and booked an appointment for my smear test! I only just wrote about it a few posts ago but i never imagined i would be in that building so soon. The test was booked for Wednesday at 2.00.

After the days success we went home, had food and then got settled in my room. We sat on my bed watching tv all night, both on our laptops. That night i slept better than I have in months.

Tuesday. Up and dressed we went off out in the car again. This time i pushed myself and we left my town. I drove a new road and even Marie could tell I was nervous at this point but we survived and after about 5 minutes we were back in Linwood again. I drove to places I hadn't been able to get to in years. The local sports centre, the bowling club where Luke's communion party will be, the pub which used to be my local and then to boots where Marie could spend some money. Marie bravely bought some hair dye whilst there. In the past the thought of dying her hair has made her too anxious. I think its the control thing, knowing that once it is done, she cant change it back. Also i know she has said she would struggle havin to sit there calmly while the dye developed. So we got home and i set to work on colouring her hair which is almost at her bum! She did brilliantly. You really wouldnt have known she was nervous at all. The only give away to me is that she went and got her handbag (regular readers of Robert/Maries blog will know that this is Maries safety behaviour kicking in). I thought the end result was fab, infact you couldnt really see a difference apart from the fact it covered some unwanted grey hairs. That night a friend of mine popped round. I wanted Marie to meet some of the people I have spoken about for so long. Again that night I slept like a baby.

Wednesday arrived and it was the day of my appointment. My mum also had an appointment at the doctors that day and luckily it was at the same time as me. So i drove the 3 of us there. I was a little nervous as i sat in the car park. My mum went in first and I waited with Marie in the car, then it was my turn. I went in and sat in the waiting room. I really hoped I wouldn't be kept long and luckily i wasn't. I had my test! I am so glad. I will have the results through the post in about 4 weeks.

(a quick video while in the waiting room of the doctors, i really must stop filming things sideways)

In the afternoon Marie met my nephews Riley & Jude and my friend Angela and Taz the cat killer. We sat in the garden and everyone got along great. I will add pictures of this when i get them.

Then we ordered a huge Indian and waited on Robert coming to pick Marie up. He arrived on Wednesday evening and we ate. Then we all sat and watched tv. Marie, Robert, myself, my mum and by then Luke had arrived. I was glad she got to meet everyone. Unfortunately my dad and Gerry were both working but at least she met some of the important people in my life. I did dread Marie leaving. I have achieved so much in the short time that she was here. I had a perception of Marie from chatting online but meeting her in person has been different. She is so kind, sweet and really funny. I think we have a friendship that will last and I am very honored to call her my friend. I always knew we would meet and I know for sure it wont be the last time. As we said our goodbyes Marie cried and i felt awful but i reassured her that we are closer than ever and have loads of fun times ahead. Thank you for 3 amazing days!

Last night I slept for about 10 hours. I think i am mentally and physically exhausted. I did worry that now she was gone I would have lost my driving partner and wouldn't be able to do as much. So today I asked my mum nicely if she fancied a little trip. Thankfully she agreed and i drove us to the petrol station. I fueled up and this time i paid in the shop ha. From there i drove to a local supermarket. I parked up and went in alone. I bought food for tonight's dinner and lots of Easter goodies for Gerry and the kids. I did get a little nervous, but i always do when trying new things. It was a little strange as I have never been in this shop before, so didn't have a clue where anything was, but I was also proud of myself. Now I am home and its time for a bath, and then dinner and tonight i guess i will be in bed early again. Robert and Marie are still on there little road trip and I look forward to seeing all their photographs on their return.


Dog Watching

Last weekend I was asked to look after Angela's dog Taz as she was going to a wedding. She was staying in the wedding hotel for 2 nights, so it meant that I would have Taz from Friday through till Sunday.

I was really looking forward to having him. When Taz is here I get out for walks more often and most of the time i go further too. I think it really benefits me having him around. So Friday was great, we had lots of walks and exercise, and as Luke was here, he had loads of fun with Taz too.

On Saturday I got Taz dressed in a bandanna for our walk (as shown in video). It is actually Luke's as he has a fascination with them at the moment, but Taz took a shine too it. Whenever I walk Taz I take him to a big patch of grass where he can run wild and tire himself out. Obviously this means he is off his lead. So after lots of games of fetch we headed for home. When we got to my street I noticed a man walking with 2 HUGE Akita's and I decided I would take a different route to avoid them.

Taz casually walked beside me until we reached my neighbours garden, and it was then that he spotted his biggest nemesis... A CAT. Well I am rubbish in these situations. Taz casually approached the cat and started to sniff, which seemed harmless but since I know he doesn't like cat's, I was getting very nervous. I am not the biggest fan of cat since I have never had one and I think they can be a bit unpredictable, but mostly its the hissing noise and the scratching that scares me. Anyway the cat began to hiss, my stomach actually flips when I think about that. He hiss in Taz'z face and then the claws came out as he took a swipe. Suddenly Tax lurched forward and had the cat in his mouth.

Well... I screamed! I was shouting on him, pulling at him, even tried slapping his bum, but nothing worked. I am sorry to admit but at that point it all got too much for me, I freaked out and i RAN! I was only seconds from my house and I burst in screaming asking people to come and help. TAZ HAS A CAT, TAZ HAS A CAT. Gerry was in... he wouldn't help. My dad was in.... He wouldn't help (they were scared. Big burly men and they didn't want to face it). And so my poor mother headed over. I am ashamed to admit that I couldn't help at all. I physically couldn't make myself go back round there as I had no ides of what I would find. I was pacing the house and by this point I was on the verge of panic.

I stood at the door and I saw my mum come back with Taz, and I asked the dreaded question. Is the cat dead? Yes it was dead. I now felt sick and very anxious. I was trying to hold it together and really thought the panic was going to take over. I couldn't even look at Taz as he had now changed to me. He wasn't my gentle little friend anymore. So we had to tell the owner who was surprisingly ok even though their cat was 18! 18 years that cat had survived until i came into its life! He said the cat was a wanderer and he had hardly seen it in the last 2 years. My mum bravely disposed of the cat. When she brought it to our house i was hiding. I couldn't look, i think that would have tipped me over the edge. Plus i was looking after 4 kids at the time. I tried to ring Angela over and over again but i don't know why. She was at the wedding and what could she do to help, plus i would have ruined her day but thankfully her phone was off. I called my uncle to ask what to do here. He is a big animal lover and has had animals of all kinds all his life. He told me that it wasn't really Taz's fault. He was just doing what dog's do. It was my fault. I mishandled the situation. Of course he was right. Taz and i didn't talk for an hour or so, but eventually i warmed to him knowing it was my fault anyway. The kids didn't really help as they said things like 'Does that mean Taz has Cat inside him'. But the rest of the weekend went without a hitch.

Taz went home on Sunday evening and just after he arrived I got another visitor. But more on that next time.

Friday, 3 April 2009

Distance Update

About 9 months ago this is where i could walk (in the yellow). Even doing this i wasn't very comfortable.

This is now where I can walk (the red shows all paths or walkways i can take)

9 months ago and for the past 5 years I have never been in a car. This is now where I can drive. I made it to my furthest point today when I was driving the car on a driving lesson. I found that as the driver I am more relaxed, i must be too focused on the road and not constantly asking myself how i feel.