Saturday, 16 January 2010

Let Panic Go

For anyone with an iPod touch or iPhone there is this cool little application. A friend emailed me to tell me about this last night and I downloaded it immediately for a look.

The features of Let Panic Go :-

  • biofeedback enhanced, to help regain control over breathing

  • No audio necessary - Visually formatted for rapid access and ease of use

  • Incorporates mindfulness and cognitive behavioural techniques

  • Simple instructions with build-in training module

  • Guided exercise adapts to the users level of relief.

Well I don't know about all that but I had a little shot last night although at the time i was already completely relaxed. Basically there is a leaf blowing and you have to move it as you inhale and exhale. That was it! But weirdly I did find this extremely relaxing. As I was doing this messages of reassurance would appear on the screen. 'This will pass, your body is already beginning to relax', and other comforting statements.

It then asked me to rate my stress levels after the exercise. I hit the 'distress' button to see what happened next. it then showed a feather moving on the screen and i was to follow my breathing with the feather, matching my leaf with how the feather moved. Ok that might not make much scene, but i guess that the purpose of this exercise is to regain control of your breathing and also to distract your mind.

In all I was pretty impressed. I could see that it would help in someway and if anxious in future I will definitely give it a go. The only criticism would be that I would have liked some music in the background. Or even just some relaxing sounds like waves crashing or something but I would defo recommend it. A bargain at just over £1 (50c).

Thursday, 14 January 2010

I Just Wanna Be... Happy

A friend of mine pointed out that Leona could be singing about agoraphobia and panic attacks in this song. Im sure youve heard lots of songs that you could relate to anxiety too. This one may be a little cheesy but it makes sense.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Hard To Stay Strong.

My week has been another roller coaster. I stopped enjoying Roller coasters when i was about 15.

I started the new year with my head trying to think positive. And i was somewhat successful. I attended them gym after several weeks off and I went on a few drives.

But lots of things had been getting to me. I haven't really done anything BIG in quite some time. I haven't overcome any big obstacles and felt the buzz of 'YES! I did it!' And so my plans for the New Year are to get that back. I actually remember last year being at a point where I WANTED anxiety to come. I wanted to panic and be in a position where I had to test myself. I wanted to take it on, and observe it, and then work through it and feel stronger and even more successful. But obviously if we are actually WANTING to panic, it will probably never happen!

Which beings me nicely to Tuesday of last week. Monday and Tuesday I had made myself one goal. Go to the gym. On Monday I had a nice chat with Jorg and he got me thinking nice and positively as i headed off for my first day back at the gym since the Christmas holidays. I was nervous. I was actually a little shaky, but I took the positives from my trip there. Ok i was a little nervous but hey I had still gone there alone. I got on with my work out and actually did more than I had expected to get done, i felt quite good. Then on Tuesday I went again and this time I was probably MORE nervous. Not really sure why. At a couple of points I felt really unpleasant but I was adamant that I would not leave. There are times in the gym when I have some negative thoughts but usually I just get lost in my work out. This time the thoughts were quite prominent, one being 'What if I leave here and try to drive my car and it doesn't start'. Having that on my mind obviously made me uneasy but I got into my exercise eventually.

Tuesday night i didn't feel too hot. I was fixated on my breathing again, do you ever get this? I had it about 2 years ago and it caused panic back then. One night after focusing on it so much I caused myself to hyperventilate and it only stopped when I asked my dad for help. Tuesday night was much of the same. This time i felt I could control it enough not to hyperventilate but sadly the thoughts were enough to cause me panic. I dealt with though, alone. I tried all the usual methods of distraction that work for me, and they did work to a point. But instead of having one big attack it was coming in waves. Each time I thought it was passing and I was calming down it came back. Not at all pleasant and yes very scary. What shocked me most was the reaction my body had AFTER the attacks. It was the very same reaction I had after my first ever panic attack. I had obviously been very tense throughout the whole thing because afterwards I was physically shaking. In fact I couldn't actually walk without my whole body trembling. The good think about this happening, is that i know that's the attacks over. My body is calming down and I am starting to relax. And so after the shaking stopped I got into bed and fell asleep. As part of the distraction at the end I videoed my shaking. Silly in a way as the camera is all over the place, but on listening it was my breathing I noticed most. You can actually hear the trembling in my breathing.

And so the vicious circle begins. I woke up at 7am and immediately thought 'am i anxious, am I going to panic today' and so my heart began to pound rapidly, but i stayed put and just took some relaxing breaths and soon fell back asleep.

So Wednesday I had no great expectations as I know the anxiety had knocked me a little. I wasn't going to make a trip to the gym or try any big long drives. In stead I just popped round to my brothers for a visit and stayed pretty close to home.

Thursday my car wouldn't start. Bizarre really as it has never happened before, even when i thought about it at the gym, there was nothing to suggest it might actually happen. The cold here is the worst we have seen in years and it is affecting is all in so many different ways. the cold had caused my car battery to go flat. Great! My dad and I attempted to give it a jump start but it wasn't working and he told me the next thing we could try was just plugging it into a charger. My car was parked too far away so we had to push it. Obviously i was keen to get the car going as this is my mode of travelling greater distances, but my dad was busy and not able to push it. Fabulous! So on Thursday i was again stuck at home. I went a walk but that was about it but i was pretty much indoors. Not good for me really. Just shows how often you really need to keep up your routine.

Friday is usually my favourite day as I'm busy. I will go to the gym and then collect Luke from school. The car was still dead so it wasn't possible and again i was stuck at home. but thankfully i got the car hooked up to the charger and then after an hour I finally got the car going again. To charge the battery I took it for a little drive. Gerry was over at night but basically the most of the day was spent at home. My mood being affected with every hour.

Saturday I had Luke and he didn't want to go anywhere. The snow is usually the cause of so much excitement with the kids here but we have had it so long that they are just sick of it now. I tried to tempt him out of the house with the promise of building an excellent snowman but after a quick walk around looking for a good place, Luke got bored and wanted to go home. Also I then got a phone call from a friend in need who needed to talk. So she came over, followed by Gerry. Dinner was made and before I knew it the day was over and it was another day where I was pretty much always in doors.

My point is this. Life. Life can cause all sorts of obstacles that we cant predict. And this week my routine was once again up in the air through no fault of my own. But last night after days of doing nothing really the negativity kicked in. I lay with Gerry and my mind was spiraling. I haven't been out, I haven't done enough, I don't know if i can go far again, I don't want to go to the gym now, i don't want to even go a walk, I'm scared. And so my anxiety crept up slowly until at one point I lay and looked and Gerry and just cried. He didn't know it thank goodness but I felt so sad. Why is this happening again, why am I scared. This poor guy is lying here wanting to be with me so much but instead of getting better I am getting worse. I felt huge love for him but massive fear that I cannot give him what he needs. I thought about telling him what I was thinking, but it was so intense all ready, i felt that if i said the words out loud i would scare myself more and become even more upset. I reasoned with myself that it was my negative head doing the talking again and that the reality would be much different. I would get up early in the morning, get back into my routine. I might not go straight to the gym this week but I would at least get dressed in my gym gear and drive there. In fact I made my expectations even smaller! I would go a walk around the block. I would go a small drive with no destination in mind. But I knew that even if it was something small i had to get out of the house and do it. I told myself that even if i was panicking and under extreme anxiety i would STILL walk out the door and face it, cause it always passes. But then the little demon pipes up and tells me 'but what if you try this and everything starts to spin and you are far to terrified and need to run indoors'.

Why on earth do we do this to ourselves. It is so hard to describe to someone how the thoughts can seem so real, how the cause a fear that is so intense that it affects the way we live our lives. I try to embrace this and tell myself, this is just another challenge to beat Lynn. You will fight it. But sometimes you cant help just think 'why me. Why is this STILL happening'. But please people don't give up. I will never give up. Life is too precious and I don't want to miss out on any of it. I always said that agoraphobia stole my 20s from me and that i wanted to head into my 30s with a new lust for life. My 30s are going to be fabulous. Well on Friday I turn 29. Could this also be a source of my anxiety?

I think so. I don't enjoy growing older, and I don't think any of us really do. When your of an anxious nature I am sure that from time to time you think of death. That is hardly a cheery thought for anybody. I think about how i want to keep my body in shape and I head to the gym to try and keep my body at its best for as long as i can. But every now and then I find another stretch mark or a little more cellulite. Maybe its a control thing again. We with anxiety seem to be control freaks in someway (perhaps not all but i am) and this is something i cannot control. I look at myself heading for 30 and still living with my parents, with no children and no careers and It can really get me down. But i know all this negativity doesn't do me any good at all. Now i know some of my older readers will be saying 'oh shut up Lynn your going to be 29, i wish i was 29, that's so young'. But its just like all the thoughts we have isn't it, irrational? Turn this into a positive. I still live at home so I have time to save, its never too late to go back to college or go get a career going. And maybe its best I don't have children right now because it means I am able to focus on myself and my recovery and not sacrifice my children's happiness in the process?

So all this anxiety and all these crappy thoughts it can be very hard to stay strong. Life can feel so difficult at times. An uphill climb. And when the climb goes on longer than we thought it would we can lose heart and feel like its never going to get better. But we are not psychics, so why are we so certain our futures are going to be crap. We have no proof of it whatsoever so why convince ourselves otherwise. We know are thoughts are usually always wrong anyway so I try my best not to listen to mines anymore. Do you have a voice in your head that tells you all the bad things, and then another little voice, the voice of reason, that will say to you 'Don't be silly, that wont happen'. I think we all do, and that's the voice I am going to be listening to from now on.

When I first started my recovery I was strict about writing things in my diary. Everything i did in my day, no matter how small, i would write it down so that I had a sense of achievement. I have my new 2010 diary now and I have been writing everyday. If you don't have one, and you are trying to recover from agoraphobia or panic attacks then I do suggest you get a diary. Writing goals and achievements down make me feel much more focused and my head feels much clearer.

Today i woke up at 1.30. immediately I was anxious and annoyed as basically the darkness kicks in at 3.30, so i had missed the best part of the day. Gerry was in a lazy mood and quite happy to lie in bed (since he works night shift) but I knew i could not risk another day stuck at home. I knew that if i stayed in, i would lie in bed and night kicking myself and probably work myself into a panic. I felt lousy. I looked worse! But women have a wonderful gift. Something that can make us look and feel better on the outside, even if we don't feel it on the inside. Make up! It is probably one of the main things that make me glad to be female. I can look so dreadful at times that I don't know what I would do without my war paint, apart from scare children. Don't get me wrong, i don't wear make up everyday, but some days it is NEEDED! Today was one of them. I put my make up on and I'm sure women will understand, I felt better for it. It can be amazing how it can cheer you up. I felt a bit braver even? Ready to take on what was coming next.

I planned a small walk, but was asked to get some things from the shop so before I knew it, i was in my car and on my way. I pulled up near the shops, and yes i did feel anxious, and even had some thoughts that could have made me turn back, wobbily legs, but i tried to just push on. I got my shopping and when I got back to the car I went a little drive.

Ok it is hardly the most thrilling day out but I felt so much better for it. Once again I faced my demons and I didn't let them put me off, where as in the past I wouldn't have crossed the door. Another little win? No matter how minor it may seem, and i happily put it in my diary tonight.
Yes there are times my head feels completely crazy. I am filled with fear. I feel every horrible symptom that you guys do, be it mental of physical. But we need to keep strong. It is probably the hardest thing to do isn't it? When your anxious. But isn't sitting in the house worrying about it and working yourself into a frenzy far more unpleasant than actually facing the situation?? The thought is usually far worse than the reality.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year Everyone!!!

I hope you all had a fantastic Christmas and are ready to start the New Year with a bang.

I try not to be very negative when I write my posts but to give a true account of the last few weeks I'm afraid I will need to be a little bit depressing. But firstly I will start with a quick summary of how I feel my year went.

I would say 2009 was a massive success for me in many ways. After around 5 years of sitting in my bedroom, I took on many challenges and won. In fact 2009 was a massive turn around for me. I started the year off by attending a New Years party in a crowded pub, I then went onto face the dentist for the first time in 8 years (resulting in 11 teeth being removed and 8 fillings or something like that). I walked everyday unless extremely unwell, I never broke this habit. I started driving lessons which took me out of my little village for the first time in many many years. This was my biggest achievement I guess because for years I didn't imagine for a second that this was possible. It felt completely beyond me. I drove not only around my village but another 5 on top of that. I started going out for lunch, dinner. Going to restaurants, the cinema, I attended my doctors which again had been impossible before. I got my smear test done and was given the all clear. I have been in hospital, gone house hunting. I attended Luke's communion and other school events. I visited several people at home which for years just did not happen. I got engaged and then I got pregnant. Around the later part of the year I joined the Gym which was a massive achievement and one I am proud to say i have really enjoyed and which has become a huge part of my routine.

The pregnancy was a sad part of the year. I can see the positives in the situation though. I was extremely scared when I heard the news as it is a massive change, especially for someone who really had no responsibility for so long. But I faced up to it and seen a completely different future for myself and for Gerry. I attended appointments way out of my comfort zone. I remember being extremely nervous before each one, but I always managed to get there in the end. Sadly the pregnancy wasn't to be and I miscarried. I know this was a very sad time in my life and it also had an affect on the progress I was making with my agoraphobia. My miscarriage was not straight forward and the process seemed to go on for a few months. With this at the forefront of my mind, i wasn't able to focus completely on my recovery. That's life though isn't it. I throws us all kinds of s**t at us and we can make the choice to crumble or just battle on. I choose to battle on, and I always will.

The year did have sadness but in all it has been my best year in a long time. I feel i have lived where as before I was just existing. Sitting in a bedroom watching tv or chatting online. Now I imagine many people out there who read this might be in that very situation. I am not for a second knocking them, because I really believe that back then I had no choice. I wasn't strong enough to take on the challenge of fighting my agoraphobia. I spent a lot of time inside my own head just figuring myself and my life out. But honestly I cant say I have regrets about trying to get better. At certain parts of this year I felt completely happy and content. Life didn't feel scary, I wasn't living everyday with a knot in my stomach. And I know that's because i wasn't living inside my head anymore. I was living a life and had other things occupying my brain.

The later months of the year, from November to December have been another challenge. I would say it could even be called a relapse. Winter has always been a hard time for me, but since 2008's winter went so well, i wasn't too worried. But it did have a negative effect. As soon as the clocks changed i felt my mood dip. Anxiety came back again. I did have anxiety in the summer something inside of me could handle it and brushed it off pretty easily. When it returned in the winter it wouldn't disappear quite so easily so it freaked me out a little. There were nights that i suddenly thought 'i don't want to go out tomorrow'. I hadn't had thoughts like that in so long that it basically terrified me. I was so scared and couldn't help but worry that I was going back to my old ways. The only way I got myself through this was by telling myself constantly that no matter how anxious i got, i would NEVER just stay in doors again. Even if I was an anxious mess i would FORCE myself to get out and walk, even if it was only around the block. I would not risk staying indoors for one day, as we all know, one day can quickly turn into one week and before we know it we are stuck.

I made myself keep up my routine. I went to the gym or the shops but I wasn't getting the same buzz as before. I wasn't a total mess when doing these things, but I wasn't getting the same sense of achievement. My mood was just very flat. There were times i felt anxious but i was stubborn enough not to run from it, but to ride it out, as we are told to do. Then i had the big attack in the cinema which i wrote about. Although it wasn't my decision to leave the cinema, it was Gerry's, it felt like a failure. Another knock to the confidence. So looking at it now I can see it was a slow and steady decline.

Then we have Christmas. Well i stressed myself out to the max about Christmas. Worrying about money and not having enough to buy all the gifts i would have liked to buy people. I put myself under so much pressure. Unnecessary pressure! On top of this, 2 of my nephews left the UK to spent 6 weeks in Australia. I talk about my nephews often as they are such a huge part of my life and i see them all the time. When they are around i will pop round to see them every other night, therefore having human contact, and getting out of the house. Suddenly they were gone, so who do I turn to to fill the gap... my friends.

Well I have also discussed my friends before. How agoraphobia can affect friendships. I was very very lucky that even though I became housebound I was able to maintain a few very special friendships. What is bizarre is that i spoke to these friends MORE when I was housebound! They used to say things like 'if you could go out it would be amazing, we could do....'. I heard this all the time and so the year came where i finally COULD do the things they wanted and where are they? Well I cant say they are here for me. It is very sad and it had made me realise that I value friendships much more than others. But I also accept that we are older, people move on with their lives, they are busy etc. So I am certainly not dissing them, but I cant help say I am disappointed.

With Christmas just around the corner I was getting further into a depression. It is probably a very sad game to play, but I decided that I wasn't going to contact my 2 best friends but instead wait and see if they remembered me. Christmas day was a gloomy affair. Gerry had made arrangements for us to go to his parents for dinner but I didn't feel i could make it. I was struggling just driving around Linwood with my new negative blue head on, and so i felt it was inevitable that I wouldn't make it, or what If i even made the journey but was anxious through dinner and had to leave. No no no it just wasn't ideal. yeah i know this is a really unhealthy way of thinking but its where my head was at the time. And so on Christmas day Gerry wasn't with me as I had dinner with my parents. Did my friends get in touch? No they didn't. I didn't actually expect them to, its a busy day, but it still affected me. I was very down, very anxious and suddenly very lonely. I didn't have a big happily family Christmas. I was pretty much alone and spent the night myself in my bedroom. But hey that was my choice right?

Ok so the 2 friends. One has 2 kids and a house to run, and this is her excuse for not being in touch. I do understand this, but she never texts or calls and I'm sorry, i don't care how hectic your life is but surely once a month you can fit in a text to a friend simply saying 'how are you?'

The other friend I have mentioned before as being unreliable. Her life is very hectic at the moment also so i understand I am not at the top of her priorities. But on the run up to Christmas i arranged about 4 nights out for us. I suggested Karaoke, a pub and eventually just a coffee and a catch up. Every night we had planned she cancelled, or simply didn't turn up. I know it wasn't on purpose but it still hurt. On Boxing day i just cried. It all caught up with me. I felt so down and depressed and so alone. Poor Gerry got the brunt of it. But i really did feel like I had no one. I know that if I had someone available everyday, i wouldn't be stuck indoors. But as it is, i pretty much do everything alone. Anyway the friend with the kids, i text her and told her how i felt and she accepted that she hadn't been there for me. I have since been invited round to her house and enjoyed a catch up. The other friend, i kind of mentioned my depressing Christmas to which she suggested we have lunch on New Years Eve. She didn't get in touch on the day so the lunch never happened (i did text and call so at least i tried)

Anyway i am not sitting bringing these girls down. I know they have their own lives to live, i just wanted to explain where my head was. I do have to say though, that i call and text both regularly and if they EVER needed me, i would be there in a heartbeat. So i need new friends. But seriously, it is really touch to make new friends at this age, I'm not really sure where to look ha.

Last bit on depression. When feeling very low i listened to happy music LOUD. It helped. When feeling very blue I reminded myself of the thing I enjoy and will enjoy again. The summer, the kids, the drives, the lunches, the smell of cut grass, the hot summers, the feeling of achievement. When thinking straight I wrote down several sentences to read when my head wasn't working so well. Like ... Remember this is your anxious negative head thinking, not you! See this anxiety as a positive, a challenge that you will beat and therefore be even stronger. Always attempt things even if you are scared because you will get that buzz you love. Even if you panic, at least YOU TRIED. Nothing feels worse than knowing you never even tried. Then you feel like a failure and the anxiety just gets worse.

Ok so the positives. We are over half way through the winter YEY! The nights are becoming lighter YEY! The holidays are over and normality can resume, including the gym being open again as it was closed over the festive period YEY'. I have a new diary which i will use to write my achievements, keep my routine up. I can focus on my recovery again with no Christmas worries to get in the way. We are in January so my nephews will return soon (on the 15th). And I will be working with Jorg so hopefully this will also build on my strengths again.

So I am sorry for the doom and gloom, but hey I am always honest. For those of you who had a fantastic time then I am sooo happy for you and really glad it went well. For the others out there who might have had a Christmas more similar to mine, then lets just celebrate that it is over now. Lets look into the new year with fresh eyes. See the obstacles not as chores but see them as challenges to beat! Kick their asses and just get stronger. I tell myself this depression has been a good thing, once it is completely gone, it is another battle that I have won making me even more experienced and even stronger!

Last year was a good year for me and surely this can only be built on. I will not go back the way, i simply refuse. Yes I have to accept that the bad times can still come, but now i try to embrace them and move steadily through them instead of freaking out and imagining the world is ending. The things we want are completely achievable. We just need to focus and do what is right for us. Baby steps seems to work well for me. The light at the end of the tunnel eventually shines. Sometimes it just takes longer than others.

I really hope we can share this year together. The good and the bad. We all need support and someone to talk to and i offer my ear to anyone who needs it. May 2010 be OUR year. All of us together.