Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Agoraphobia and Pregnancy

Hi everyone. Time for an update I think.
Sorry I haven't written much but I haven't had much agoraphobia/anxiety related going on. This is probably due to the stage I'm at with the pregnancy. I am quite heavily pregnant now at 8.5 months and so I haven't been doing much travelling. I have been out and about of course but it has been very much locally. My routine is very simple at the moment. I wake up, clean the house, visit my mum or some friends and then I am home by late afternoon exhausted.
Ive only had to deal with the old familiar anxiety twice. Firstly was when the clocks went back. Ive said before many times that this is my least favourite time of year. The clocks go back and suddenly we have an extra hour of darkness. Plus the weather here is utterly miserable and pretty much raining and grey all the time. This can make it quite difficult to give you some get up and go. I love hot sunny days and would lie in the sun all day of i could, but when its so miserable outside you cant help but want to lie on the sofa with a duvet. I don't do that though. That's dangerous behaviour for someone who suffers agoraphobia. Spend a couple of days in doors and before I know it, going out can be quite difficult again. Theres no secret to how i dealt with the clocks changing, or the gloomy feeling that accompanied it. I kept busy and I ignored it. I think I am getting much better at this now. Maybe that's just because i have a house of my own now, i take to cleaning. A great distraction.

When I went for my 20 week scan it took A LOT of hard work. I really didn't think i would manage it and its probably the hardest I have ever had to fight against agoraphobia. When i finally made it to the hospital I was so proud and delighted. I knew that after that appointment i wouldn't have to return until the baby was delivered. All other appointments would be carried out locally. Wrong! Due to my low lying placenta I was told I would need to return at 34 weeks to check my progress and make sure i didn't need a c-section.

Well i managed to put this to the back of my head. I tried not to worry myself and told myself that since i made it for the 20 week scan even though it was ridiculously hard, then it wouldn't be as hard second time around. The months past and my tummy grew and of course now and then the appointment popped into my head, but i ignored it again telling myself it would be ok. 2ND of November was the date and when we arrived in October I began getting a little more nervous. 'Don't think about it' i told myself. In the past i would have OBSESSED over it and so i tried to handle it differently. Before I knew it there was a week until the appointment and although i had ignored it, i was certainly dreading it. I still refused to allow myself to think about it until finally it was the day before the scan and finally i said to myself 'ok you can think about this now and get it straight in your head'. Meaning, how i would get there, how i would cope with anxiety etc and even entertained the negative thoughts that I knew would come. I allowed my head to face all of these questions and tried to prepare myself mentally.

So the appointment was on Tuesday at 10am and on Monday night i went to bed early exhausted. Well the exhaustion didn't matter. I lay there awake for what felt like the entire night. I imagined every possible scenario. I'd see myself in the car panicking, screaming, curling into a ball. What if i really needed to turn back and go home and Gerry refused (he was driving). What if I panicked so much i went into labour? Well at least if that happened i was driving to the right place! I told myself that there was no pressure and if i couldn't make it then i simply couldn't make it! But all the while i knew that was rubbish, i NEEDED to go as it was regarding my baby and my safety should i go into labour.

And so Tuesday morning arrived and i decided... I'M NOT GOING. I CANT DO IT. I have noticed for years that when i am having an anxious time it affects me much more when i just wake up. Its like your body has been resting and asleep and when you wake up, someone flicks a switch and everything turns on again. Its all speeded up a little and takes maybe half an hour for everything to be in sync and calm down. So i was a bit shaky and anxious when i rose on Tuesday morning but I went about my usual routine. Tea, breakfast, get washed and before i knew it I was ready to go. Luckily I had an hour to kill but in getting myself ready my nerves had definitely died down a little. I decided it was time to pack my 'panic bag'. Last time i went to the hospital I went in the back of a van and took things i could use as distraction should i have a panic attack and so this time i took the same items. I packed my phone, earphones, baby wipes (should I sweat), magazines and a drink. But this time there was no van, i was going by car. I wont over dramatise this because it was quite simple. I got in the car, put the radio on and flicked through a magazine. Next thing i knew we were there. Yes i was a bit wobbly but i done much better than the last time.
I went for my scan and my anxiety raised a little as i realised this was the moment i could find out if i would need a section, or if they seen anything wrong with the baby but the appointment couldn't have gone better. Baby was looking fantastic and i don't need a section. I was overjoyed. I met with my consultant and discussed my labour plans. I luckily have the option of having the baby in birthing pool AND i can have aromatherapy and acupuncture too. Gerald said it sounds like a spa and hes jealous but I'm sure we are all aware it isn't called labour for nothing! And so i went home. Simple. The dreaded day was over, i have no more hospital appointments until the big day. The scan i dreaded for 14 weeks was done and i felt a huge weight lifted, i felt amazing.
And so it makes me think AGAIN. Every time i travel a distance like that I am pretty much always ok. Not only that, once i have done it i feel fantastic. So why do i still dread it? I think its obvious. Habit! I'm not in the habit of doing these things enough. I don't challenge myself enough anymore. Ok i can use the pregnancy as an excuse cause really I am knackered and really just cant be bothered! I want to lie on the couch and take it easy. Also when i do these things i kick myself for not doing more and suddenly want to start doing more challenging things. Already i want to make plans for the rest of the week, for Christmas etc. Its all about practice isn't it. Not sitting back and saying no to things because it makes you feel a little nervous. Get out there and do it. Now i am not saying its that easy. I am at a stage with my agoraphobia where i am able to tackle more, but i know in the past i couldn't have done these things. A walk to the bottom of the street would have been a huge challenge in itself, but at least i MADE myself do that walk everyday, and that's my advice to everyone else. No matter how small the task may be, don't give up, just keep on pushing. That's what i did and I am now in my own home, expecting a baby and 99% of the time i am anxiety free. So i cant help but ask myself, when will i think of myself as recovered. Instead of labelling myself an agoraphobic could i not say that time of my life is over. Yes i still have off days but really they are few and far between. Also i don't travel for miles and miles, and i don't see myself having any forgein holidays any time soon but that doesn't affect my day to day living. So maybe I am a 'normal' person now who suffers with nerves from time to time? Oh i don't know. All i know is that I will keep on pushing and will push even more once my baby arrives.
For women with anxiety and/or agoraphobia who would like to have a baby, but think they cant then my advise is this. When i found out i was pregnant i was told it might not be the best idea. What kind of life could i give the baby if i couldn't do anything. Well thankfully I was already at a stage where i could do pretty much everything within reason. But my answer was that agoraphobia had robbed me of so much in life that I would let it rob me of my right to have a baby. Ok baby might not be going abroad with me for quite some time, but it will be loved more than anything in this world, have a wonderful family around it and i can offer it a good life! So i was going for it. My pregnancy has been quite easy. I'm touching wood as I still have some time left, but really its been ok. I worried that hormones would make me crazy, that i wouldn't like my body changing, that I wouldn't like the lack of control over my body, but its not like that. Yeh threes been a few times i have been scared, but really I have taken it day by day and coped very well. In around 5 weeks time my baby will be here and i feel already its the best thing i have ever done. Don't let agoraphobia take away your choices. Especially not something as big as this. I would say if you are housebound then now probably isn't the right time. But don't rule it out in your future. When i was housebound i thought i was the worst agoraphobic in the world and saw no future outside of my home. I NEVER imagined for a second that I would one day have children even though it was the main thing i always wanted in my life. If you aren't housebound but can travel relatively well, can make appointments and have a good support system around you then i would say go for it. I am very excited about my future once the baby arrives and look forward to sharing it with you all.