Friday, 14 May 2010

Persceptions of Mental Illness

I was talking to my friend last night who is at university studying to be a licensed practical nurse. At the beginning of the week they were looking at mental illnesses and Agoraphobia as discussed. I have obviously discussed Agoraphobia with Angela several times throughout the last 10 years, but like many of my friends, she struggled to really understand it.

Its funny because on a quiz show the other day it asked the question 'What phobia is the fear of open spaces'?. They answer was agoraphobia and my other friend was confused. 'So your scared of open spaces'? I tried to explain that although i might not really be scared of open spaces,I know that some agoraphobics may not like this. For example, some would struggle to walk into the middle of a huge space like a field. I tried to explain the condition but found myself failing. I don't know how i find it so hard to put it into words. To me it makes perfect sense.

But when Angela told me that they were discussing it in Uni i was interested to find out what she had been told. I suppose I was a little smug and expected again that she would have been given the WRONG information which seems to be so common but I found there explanation far better. Her tutor told her that Agoraphobia is NOT really the fear of spaces but is better explained as 'the fear of having a panic attack'. To me this makes far more sense and it seems Angela could understand it much better too. In fact she said 'I now understand why you used to be able to come to pubs and clubs with me, but would struggle to go into a supermarket'. 'You obviously had never panicked in a pub and so it was still relatively safe to you, whereas you had suffered bad experiences in a supermarket and so you would then avoid going back there'. Thank you! Yes that is correct. It also made me feel LESS 'weird'. I must say i have never felt weird at all but you do wonder how other people perceive you sometimes.

Something else that cropped up this week which I found interesting. Another friend who has been working with the same support team as me, who is doing AMAZINGLY well, was asked to help the team in recruiting new support workers. Quite rightly they thought it would be a good idea to have one of their clients sit in on some interviews and see what she thought of the candidates. No one knows the kind of people needed for this job better than people who use the service. And so she went on Monday and sat in for 4 interviews. 2 people were great and got the job but what shocked me was that one of the candidates was talking about people with mental health problems and drug use. He was going on about methadone and other drugs and seemed to be under the impression that anyone with a mental health problem seemed to have a drug problem. I had always thought that in this day and age people were far better educated when it comes to phobias, anxiety and depression so i am completely flummoxed as to where he has made this connection. I am still clueless to be honest. Hopefully he was just a one off and this isn't an opinion shared by lots of people. Needless to say he wasn't one of the successful applicants.

As for me, well I have been ok. My blog has been lacking as I feel I have nothing of interest to tell you ha. I am plodding along taking things day by day. The depression I suffered at the start of the year definitely seems to be lifting. I still have no news on the house front but I am hopeful that I will hear something soon. Myself and Margaret (who is my support worker) have went down a different route and applied for house on the basis that it will help my 'recovery' from agoraphobia. It will encourage me to live a more 'normal' life, I will gain routine and can settle down and focus on my health as I will have gained more Independence and confidence. Which I totally agree would happen. So i am basically just waiting for a decision about this. Fingers crossed.

During the winter I stopped travelling as far, which can so easily happen, but i was annoyed at myself for allowing it. Nervously I have been out pushing the boundaries again and thankfully have been improving. I have been out for lunch a few times with friends, gone shopping alone, gone longer drives and been really enjoying all of it so I am glad I am back to where I was. I still have a bit further to go but at least I'm getting there. Last weekend I went to my friends daughters first communion, as pictured, and had a great day. I will never stop appreciating being able to attend events like these. I missed so much in the past that I just buzz the whole time that I can be involved in something like this.

In fact the other day I was out with Gerry (ill discuss this another time ha) and he was asking me to go to the supermarket Asda. He is obsessed with Asda. He seems to think its the best thing since sliced bread and that everything there is cheaper so its the only place to shop. On this day I really didn't feel like going to Asda. I was slightly anxious and since its a bit further away really wasn't in the best frame of mind. And so i suggested going to a closer supermarket. 'No don't go there is crap. Its not as cheap as Asda' Well I explained to Gerry that I don't actually care about the prices. So some items are a couple of pence more expensive. I don't really care. I am just thrilled that I can go to ANY supermarket and do my shopping because for so many years this was impossible. It is amazing how much we appreciate the small things. I can be so buzzing after a trip to the supermarket. The buzz that 'normal' people might only achieve if they did something huge like... I dunno a bungee jump ha. But the small things really make me happy.

Oh an update about the literacy course. Travelling to the new location was just beyond me but I called them up and just told them the truth and they have guaranteed my place on the next course. So basically i just need to wait and see when I start, this was good enough for me, they were actually very understanding. And the girl living in the car park? Well she never did get back to me but I have heard that she is now left the car park and is back living in her own home. Great news! Apparently it was in the newspaper last week, gutted i missed it, but I also hear she is now suing the health system as it took her to appear in a newspaper to get help. Not sure If i agree with that. Could it maybe be that she wasn't looking in the right places? I'm not sure.

Anyway I hope you are all wonderful and positive and I will be back soon with some HUGE news!

Ive found the latest article about the girl in the carpark if you want to hear the latest, click here


diver said...

Nice pic of you with your GFs daughter. What with churches, supermarkets, luncheons, longer drives ... sure sounds like you're holding onto the gains you've made this last eighteen months. Perhaps you're on a plateau now, cruising for a bit?

Those misconceptions about agoraphobia you mentioned ... wow that's what they used to think in 19th century :( Did you know that the American Psychological Association are currently re-writing the diagnostic criteria for agoraphobia? They have two versions under consideration. You can read about them here if you're interested. It's likely that within a year or so one of these versions will become the 'standard' definition for agoraphobia worldwide.

You have huge news eh. Hmm. Fingers crossed it's wonderful Lynn!

David said...

The other good definition I heard was 'fear of being too far from home'- certainly my main problem. Fear of having a panic attack while hard to get home would probably be even closer.

I always have stories to illustrate it to other people but fear I can induce it in them by doing so. I ask them to imagine a holiday or theatre etc and then describe something terrible that happens there that turns it from pleasure to disaster. Like claustrophobia is the difference to people of being in a lift or being in a lift when it gets stuck. The same location suddenly becomes a living hell, that is how we react where they don't.

If people read our blogs they'd soon get it, I regularly come across people who don't know what depression is either although nearly everyone experiences it sooner or later just for a short time. It's just ten times worse or more when you have it clinically. If the only way people can really understand is to experience them we may as well just get on with it without them. If I just had a partner who understood the rest really wouldn't matter.

Lydia said...

Hi Lynn, nice blog & good post. You have beautifully maintained it, you must try this website which really helps to increase your traffic. hope u have a wonderful day & awaiting for more new post. Keep Blogging!

Lynn said...

Hey Diver thanks for that link, i found it really interesting and was going to create a post about it if thats ok.

David - Your definitions sounds like they pretty much suit me too. And wouldnt it be so much better if we could just find that understanding partner! one day eh

Lydia thanks for your comments and ill check out that site :)

Cloudy said...

I refer to it as a fear of fear. For me it's a fear of the unknown. Who knows how insane I could go when I start feeling 'that' way.
Thanks for the follow up.