I'm on to wish you all a Merry and Fabulous Christmas as i don't think ill have a chance to get on before then.
I hope you are all in good spirits, looking forward to the get togethers, dinner and gifts. I truly hope you are all calm and can relax over the holidays and just enjoy this time. No fretting or anxiety. If some of you are stressing about journeys you need to make or things you need to attend, then i send you my most positive thoughts and remind you that you can do it.
As for me, well I've been working really hard on pushing my boundaries and while there have been some failures, there have also been many successes. To be fair theres only been on failure but I'm not dwelling on it too much. Briefly i will explain.
An early Christmas dinner was booked for 7 of us at a restaurant. It was brought to my attention more than once that it had been booked at a location JUST for me, so that I could be there. Whenever people discussed the plans i assured them I would be there. I didn't once allow myself to think it wasn't going to happen. I listened to relaxation Cd's, i worked on my breathing, i visualised the journey over and over again. And when thinking about going i felt ok, whereas in the past id have been nervous for days before it. And so i was gutted when i got in the car to drive to the restaurant and felt the old familiar anxiety kicking in with a little bit of nausea chucked in too. Circumstances on the day weren't ideal and so i backed out. I realised i wasn't doing this meal for me. I was doing it for everyone else. I wanted to be excited about it, and look forward to it, but it didn't happen. I was scared to say no to it, scared of the total disappointment and guilt id feel when i went home having failed. But i was fine. It just wasn't the right time and I know i will eventually be back in the situation where i WILL do it.
And although i did look at this as a down point, there are a lot of things that are now achievable again that weren't for a while. I'm walking much further, I'm driving further. I'm making appointments and sticking to them. I'm going to the supermarket on my own. Making plans with friends. And these things have been done with little or no anxiety at all. This is down to practice, not avoiding AND my little helper Rashelle.
Another achievement which might not seem much, was Nathans 1st birthday. I THOUGHT it would be less hassle to have it at home. I THOUGHT it would be a quiet affair with close family and so i THOUGHT it made more sense than to book some venue when he wouldn't have a clue what was going on. In the end Nathans party had over 20 guests (which doesn't sound much but looks VERY busy in my small living room). It took me 3 days of organising the house. Decorating the place with balloons and banners, shopping and providing a huge buffet, not to mention pres ants and of course the cake. And while this might usually be easy, it was rather stressful doing it with no help and Nathan constantly by my side demanding my attention. I never realised that by throwing the party it meant i never really got to enjoy it. I never stopped! Giving drinks, food, more coffee, cake etc etc. I had to make sure my guests were happy, which they were, but the whole things a bit of a blur to me. In the end though everyone had an amazing time and felt extremely proud of myself. I did all that all on my own. This a girl who used to be cowering in a bedroom in her parents house, scared to be left on her own for 5 minutes for fear of a total panic attack breakdown.
Following the party i then took Nathan to watch my nephew in his school Christmas concert. Sitting in a huge hall surrounded by hundreds of people i was proud to be there with my son. To do something 'christmassy' together. It got me in good spirits and it was more evidence of my improvements because a few weeks ago I'm not sure if i would have faced that, but I'm doing my best not to avoid things so much (minus the restaurant).
So as the party ended my focus moved to the next event. Christmas. Well it can be pretty easy for an agoraphobic to do Christmas shopping, as practically every shop has a website now. So that's never really posed a problem anyway. Yeh of course i do miss walking around the city centre, seeing the Christmas lights and hearing the Christmas songs playing from shop to shop. But hey who needs to stomp around in the freezing cold, wait in queues and fight with people over the last 'must have toy' on the shelf? That was always my excuse when i got invited shopping and to be honest i think id still do most of it online even if i could get out there. But anyway, with gifts easily ordered i decided to step up and offer my mother a break this year. Every year since, well every year since i can remember, my mum has cooked Christmas dinner. she never gets to sit and enjoy a meal cooked for her, shes harassed and tired and i figured she deserved to properly enjoy it for once. So Christmas dinner is at my house this year. I'm only cooking for 5 but considering Ive never cooked a Turkey this could be an interesting challenge. And again cooking it with Nathan wrapped around my legs should be fun too. But hey these are the joys of motherhood and i love it.
I very vividly remember a Christmas where i was an anxious wreck. Taking panic attacks throughout the day i couldn't even have my meal. Instead i was sat on the sofa beside the dining table, watching everyone else. Theres video footage of that Christmas and I'm sitting biting my nails with huge frightened eyes. Its so sad to see and i remember it clearly, but i feel i can say i KNOW that will never happen again. I think that was my first year of panic attacks actually so it was all so new and scary, now i feel like a veteran.
I'm all organised now. Ive got in all the food, the table is ready to be set. Nathans gifts are all wrapped and ready to be laid out. All i need to do now is cook. But i hope it goes well and i can give my mum an amazing day, and i hope my OCD with the cleaning can take a back seat for a while because already I'm dreading the dishes this meal is going to create (i MUST chill out!!!)
Well i suppose i should get off and head to bed. Its Christmas eve tomorrow and i am going to offer my gift wrapping services to my mum, who unlike me hasn't wrapped a thing. I really wish you all the best and if ANYONE is having the anxious not so good Christmas then please feel free to get in touch. x x x
Friday, 23 December 2011
Posted by Lynn at 21:49
Thursday, 15 December 2011
Posted by Lynn at 21:19
Wednesday, 30 November 2011
It is a new, far more positive Lynn writing to you this evening. Finally!
I wonder how many of you can identify with this scenario? Sitting in your home. Looking out of the window. Your feeling down. A bit depressed. Frustrated. Your mind is running 100mph questioning everything. 'How did i let this happen', 'Where do i even begin to fight back', 'Is this my life now...forever'? You start to sweat, you feel anxious. You worry your going to panic and you look out of the window again. 'If i could just get out there, even if i just went a walk'. But then the little demon on your head says 'Noo don't do that, you'll only feel like crap. It wont be pleasant. Much better to just stay indoors'.
That could easily describe a typical day when i was at my worst, but really its just the tip of the iceberg. When you allow yourself to be shut in that little world, your mind really does take over. And as much as the brain is a wonderful and amazing thing, it can also be a right old pain in the bum when left to its own devices.
When i was housebound i felt that i could always find ways to fill my time and that i rarely got bored. Due to this constant state of comfort I probably didn't have much reason to fight back and want more from life. Yeh i knew there was a big wide world out there and people were always commenting on what i was missing, but i guess it didn't really bother me. And then i got a little taste of freedom and how different life can be when your living outside of that box. Your days are filled with far more interesting and exciting things. Your mind is occupied with healthier thoughts and more positive experiences. Instead of sitting looking out of a window at the world and constantly fretting over things i SHOULD be doing. I was doing them, and so the anxiety left me and was replaced by a buzz and new lust for life.
Well sometimes life just gets in the way doesn't it (we had a death in the family, my car has broken down and been off the road for weeks). And our plans don't always go as we wanted them to, so for various reasons i found myself back in a darker place for a while.
Don't get me wrong, i didn't go back to being pretty much a recluse. Scared of my own shadow and constantly living off my nerves. But for a few weeks i did struggle. Believe me i can see now that 'cabin fever' does exist. When you are shut indoors looking at the same walls day in and day out, it has an affect! For me i became obsessed with my house being tidy. I wasn't kidding when i said before i felt i had OCD. My house would need to be immaculate and the slightest bit of dust or item out of place would need put right immediately. I think i have identified that this is just about control. I can control whats going on in my home. And since there were areas i felt i had lost control completely, i went a bit OTT with the things i could manage. So the house was forever perfect, however i did realise that if i was out there living a fuller life, the speck of dust on the living room table would seem far less important.
Guilt. I shovel it onto my shoulders and it weighs me down every day. Guilt that my son should be out doing more things but because of me he is held back. Guilt that hes watched too much TV that day. Guilt that he hasn't interacted with another child his age. Guilt that if i could get to a decent supermarket he could be eating a bigger variety of food. The list goes on, and that's only the list regarding Nathan. Don't get me started on the other members of my family or my friends.
My friends have their own lives to lead. Their own families and jobs and children to care for. I noticed i was getting a bit p****d off when they hadn't phoned in a while. Or if they didn't reply to a text quick enough. I would sit about, looking out the window, fretting, jumping up to wipe some more dust, and then resent my friends for not being there to keep me company. Don't they know that my son would really like to play with their kids? Luckily i got a grip of myself and remembered... i am not their responsibility. They are living their lives just as they should. They are good to me and I'm grateful for each and every one of them. But sitting about thinking, and thinking, and thinking, well u just drive yourself crazy.
So whats the answer? If your anxious and wishing you could go out. And feeling nervous wondering how to fight back. If your wondering if your going to be like this forever, cause it seems so impossible and its never going to change...
I hope that doesn't sound patronising, because believe me i know how hard it is. But i also know from so much experience, that the thought is ALWAYS worse than the actual act itself. Little baby steps, no matter how minor they may seem, need to be celebrated and noticed. Its about taking control of your life again.
Its literally only been about 2 weeks since i got back into the swing of things. Through my focus, my therapy and my determination I am back out there. You know i do go out everyday and would never spend a full day in doors, but it was becoming more of a chore for a while. Now though i go out for a walk, or a trip to the supermarket and i come home buzzing. What i do may be small, but it feels good to know that i done it, and i took my life back even for 5 minutes instead of sitting about the house obsessing.
More than once in the past week have i walked further than usual and caught myself saying 'i feel totally fine here'. Its a great feeling. At home I'm not sitting around obsessing. I'm not focused on the negative thoughts and piling on the guilt. Nathan is happy and not at all bored and fed up... it was me who was bored and fed up. I'm not fixated on my friends not calling as much, in fact Ive hardly even looked at my phone. I'm generally just feeling more positive and much brighter. Things were starting to feel a bit hopeless and impossible for a while, but why do they need to be? They don't. I can get out there and do whatever i want. I have the power within me and so do you. It might take a little bit of practise but its completely possible.
Still doing my therapy on a Thursday i am discovering more and more about myself. And although its things Ive always known, I'm starting to pay more attention. For example, i do everything fast. I whizz around the house like I'm on drugs when I'm doing my housework. When i cook the dinner i have the dishes done as I go. When I'm playing with Nathan, I'm already thinking about when ill be tidying toys away. Its a fast paced, tiring way to live, and no wonder I'm always so tired!
When i go on my walks i will try to push my boundaries. Even if i go a street further at a time. But what i would do is, id walk along where i was comfortable, and when getting to a new stretch of road i would run out and then back again to where i was comfortable. To me i was still making the achievement because i had reached the place i wanted to be, but there was no enjoyment in it. And so last Thursday on my therapy we walked slowly to the point where i started to feel uneasy. And we just stood. We talked and we tried a few techniques to reduce my anxiety. I did feel quite uncomfortable at some points. We were standing on a long straight road and so when i turned around i could see how far I had walked, but more importantly i could also see how far i would need to walk before i was back home. This is the part i don't normally like. And so my head started 'what if i cant make it back', 'what if i get dizzy'. 'what if my legs turn to jelly and i cant walk'. But i stood there and tried to hush those voices, and I'm learning that the more i practice this, the easier it is to silence those thoughts. When i asked myself those scary questions i simply answered with 'None of that is going to happen, but so what if it does, I'm gonna be ok'. And instead of rushing home and whizzing about as i would usually i slowly walked home and felt fine. But this is down to practise!
I know it sounds a bit too simple and its easier said than done but whoever came up with the phrase 'practise makes perfect' was speaking sense. The only way we are going to get results is by doing these things over and over and giving our positive thoughts some power. They don't really get a chance to be heard if we are just sitting about worrying and not actually putting anything into practice.
My therapist also made a really interesting point about how anxious people are generally always living in the future. We are worrying about whats coming. 'what if i panic', 'what if i don't feel good. 'what about that party i need to go to', 'I'm gonna have to go out', 'how am i going to pay that bill'. We are always worrying about whats to come instead of living in the now. And so this is what we are working on at the moment. Getting me to 'live in the now'. We done a few exercises that stopped my mind racing and brought my head into the now. And when she asked me how i was feeling i can honestly say i felt fine. I felt calm and at peace with myself and it was a lovely feeling. I'm going to be learning more about this, and mindfulness and i will share anything that i think will be of interested to you, or anything i think might help. But judging by how much my mood has lifted and how much better i am feeling about myself then I'm sure there will be plenty more upbeat posts to come. I really was going back down that old anxious, crappy road. Filled with self doubt and hopelessness. Frustration with myself. And even though in the past i felt i was literally rid of agoraphobia completely, i suddenly lost the belief that could be possible again. But i was wrong. Its completely possible and this time it can stick... so hang on in there people. Its NEVER has bad as you think it is.
Posted by Lynn at 23:28
Friday, 11 November 2011
Posted by Lynn at 17:56
Wednesday, 28 September 2011
Uh oh the dreaded day has come! The day the doctor decides to change my medication.
Probably seems like nothing at all to most people. For years Ive heard of other people doing it with no worry at all. But those people weren't me. Me the neurotic, obsessive, control freak. If i am late even by an hour in taking my tablets, id panic. But wait.... id never be late taking the little blue pill. I am far too uptight for that. I have an alarm set to remind me everyday to take it at the SAME time. Obsessive? Yip! Ive even heard people say 'I wasn't feeling too good today, and then I realised I have forgotten to take my tablet for a few days'. Excuse me?? How can you forget such a thing. I have realised that while i thought I was quite a chilled person in some areas, I am very highly strung in others.
There is absolutely no need for it, like with many things in my life. I have never felt a pill is the cure. But for years I have happily taken mine thinking 'ah its not doing me any harm'. Never mind the fact it probably isn't doing me any good either. 10 years Ive been on this stuff. 10 years is a looong time. Ive often been asked how long i have been on my medication and when i respond my answer is met with a raised eyebrow and a suspicious look. After 10 years why haven't my doctors changed it? Why have I not wanted it changed? My answer has always been the same, 'its never been a good time'. Always an excuse with me hey. But for years i was housebound and thought maybe the medication were keeping me sane. maybe without them Id have been an emotional wreck. Ive never been prone to depression, maybe that's because of the pills? Then my recovery began. Well I best just stay on them while i focus on my recovery. I don't need to deal with withdrawal at this time, wait till im stronger. Then Something else would come along.
We did discuss coming off them when i was pregnant but i was told they wouldn't harm the baby and it really wasn't a good time to be perhaps be feeling more anxious.
So here we are. The day has come. And how do I feel about it? Well I'm scared of course. Maybe someone else would take it in their stride but i know how my mind works. I don't know what the doctor will suggest. Will they lower the dose at first, or will they tell me to miss a tablet out here and there? Either way, on the first day that medication is lowered or missed i will be a nightmare. I'm wise enough to know it might be fine, and while its happening I will need to distract myself, keep busy. But I'm big enough to admit I ain't looking forward to it. Once again its the fear of the unknown but what i do know is that I am willing to do it.
This happened because i decided to take the bull by the horns and start fighting back again. I met with a nurse yesterday and discussed my latest situation. How ive maybe stepped back since Nathan was born. And so her first concern was my medication and contacting my doctor. Oh Lynn Lynn Lynn you did ask for it really. On a positive note i do want this. Ive heard a few people over the last year who have been put on a medication that really HAS had a positive affect on them. They are feeling happier, more positive and are out doing more than ever. Now i am not suggesting a pill is the cure, because I have ALWAYS felt its about us putting the work in. But when Ive been speaking to these people I couldn't help but wonder if it was something i should think about. Something to give me a little kick up the bum maybe. So now it looks like its happening anyway. I will no doubt keep you informed of any changes and lets keep everything crossed that its a success. At the end of the day, even if its a horrible experience, ill get by. Always do. I was bad enough trying to get ON these tablets and if i can handle that then i can deal with some heightened anxiety as i go through these changes. My medication is 30mg Seroxat a day. For my American readers I think its the equivalent of Paxil. In the 10 years since I was first prescribed this, medicine has changed and there are far more preferred drugs for people with anxiety/agoraphobia. Id go as far to say that my doctor probably wouldn't prescribe my pills to anyone these days.
I received an email the other day which some of you may be interested in. Admittedly I haven't checked the website out yet but the women was telling me some of the readers might find it helpful. It seems to be only American but its called Healthtap. They sound quite interesting and you can check out the website or the mobile app. Certified in 82 states they put '5000 Doctors at your fingertips' and according to my email, its free! So maybe take a look and see what its all about.
Posted by Lynn at 20:41
Friday, 16 September 2011
Posted by Lynn at 00:11
Tuesday, 9 August 2011
I read Nathan a bedtime story every night and so as i settled down tonight with a new book I couldn't help but laugh when I discovered the story. Not what I expected really.
'Scaredy Squirrel' by Melanie Watt. The first page describes how the little squirrel is too scared to leave his tree. He much prefers life at home, surrounded by the things he enjoys. And although his daily routine is always the same - Wake up, eat a nut, admire the view, eat a nut, admire the view, eat a nut, go to sleep - he is perfectly happy because the world beyond scares him. But even while he never leaves his tree, he has a little emergency kit... just in case. How many of us have one of these kits? A brown paper bag, medication, or mine, an ipod, wet wipes, puzzles....
One day a bee scares the squirrel and it knocks him out of his tree. He is terrified at first but after spending an hour or so in a bush playing dead, he realises that nothing bad is going to happen and so he starts to venture out more. I thought it was a very accurate description of an agoraphobic/anxiety suffers life and so i shouldn't have been surprised to discover that the author never leaves her apartment. In the authors note, it tells that she prefers to stay at home and write children's books. And judging from the amount of them on Amazon, Melanie is doing pretty well.
Are there agoraphobics out there who don't miss the outside world. Quite like the way their lives are, and just get on with it. Looks like there are, in fact I'm sure i was one of them for a while.
Which reminded me of another artist who recently contacted me via email about his talent. Charles Bryant is an American singer/songwriter and long time agoraphobia sufferer. After years of trying to get finance to make an album (and being refused) he has finally released his first CD. Visit his website www.charlesbryantmusic.com and check it out for yourself. Having listened myself i found a beautiful soulful voice and as a lover of acoustic guitar, i did enjoy the 'Agoraphobic Waltz'.
Charles wants to reach out to others and has even started his own outreach program ADAO (Agoraphobic And Disabled Artists Outreach), details of this are also on his website (or will be soon).
It saddened me to hear that this very talented man has difficulty performing in public and it makes me think things like 'what a waste', and 'its such a shame', things that have been said about myself over the years. But hopefully this talent wont go unnoticed if we all have a listen, enjoy and spread the word.
Posted by Lynn at 18:41
Sunday, 26 June 2011
Posted by Lynn at 18:38
Thursday, 19 May 2011
Posted by Lynn at 21:49
Monday, 11 April 2011
Posted by Lynn at 20:17
Monday, 21 March 2011
Well last week was hard! Anxiety was very present and you all know how scary it can be when you've been rid of it for a while. I am, without doubt, my own worst enemy! I managed to give myself an emotional beating by thinking about problems over and over and over again.
The weather was typically poor with very dull sky's and rain and then to top that off we had a day of heavy snow.
I was stuck at home although as usual i made myself walk everyday, even just a little. I was fretting that I'm not doing enough outside, Nathans not getting out enough. Is this the agoraphobia coming back (although its never fully been gone). Is this going to get worse? No I wont let that happen i will fight it. But what if its too hard? This went on for a couple of days non stop until i was fit to be tied!
Why do we do this to ourselves. It is so frustrating because I knew the whole time I was just thinking about things too much. Fretting about things that probably wont even happen and making things seem far worse than they need to be. God its so exhausting!
Eventually the anxiety came, thanks to myself. At first i was even more anxious wondering how i would cope with the inevitable panic attack, as i have never had one alone in my new house OR while I'm with Nathan. But soon i talked myself round and decided i would ride it out and that it would actually be a good thing if it happened, as i need to learn to face it again, and tough it out on my own. So i got my panic attack essentials ready. My wet wipes, for the sweats. A magazine for distraction, a glass of water and my ipod for music distraction or some Apps i could play with. Even the app for panic attacks which is a last resort usually. Oh and always in my mind is 'I will video the attack' as this in itself would be a good distraction tactic. Of course when i finally faced it and was prepared, i was no longer in such fear of it and so the panic attack never came. I did have a few mini flutters, but that was all.
I fought back by making sure i was out even more each day, it is clearly not good for me to ever be stuck in the house too long. And i went visiting people to keep myself and Nathan entertained. Also i went a drive and pushed myself a bit further as i know without doubt I'm feeling a bit more on edge because I know i should and could be doing more than I have been. It all helped and the anxiety passed. I was able to kick back at night with the knowledge that I had fought and won, and that i had done enough that day. Enough for who? Well enough for me because it seems i like to give myself a really hard time!
The rest of the week was much more relaxed but i have definitely taken a step back recently. Its such a nightmare but all we can do is preserve isn't it. There have been a few times where i have been walking and thought 'hmm I'm not feeling too good so i will just not bother going to... wherever' but i plod on anyway because i know that's the kind of avoidance behaviour that got me into this mess in the first place. I feel less guilty about Nathan because I have such great family that they are always offering to take him places. He goes out with me everyday and each grandmother once a week so he is doing and seeing everything he should be at his age. I just look forward to doing so much more. I need to get off my own back. Hes only 3 month old for goodness sake. The distance he is travelling shouldn't even be an issue!
On Friday i got a bit of worrying news. If you have been following the blog for a while you will have read me talking about my little nephew Luke. I sing his praises all the time as we are so close and he is more like a brother to me. Luke was born with spina bifida and is wheelchair bound but really he lives such a full and normal life. He is a fantastic little guy and brings happiness to so many peoples lives. However Luke has always has very sensitive hearing and doesn't enjoy things like fireworks or loud noises. Lately the bell ringing in school has been bothering him and so his parents were going to get his hearing checked again. But on Friday it went a little further. When the bell rang he suddenly got himself worked up. He couldn't breathe and it looks like he took a panic attack. Well.... this is one thing we never want to happen to any of our loved ones. Don't get me wrong there have been times i have wanted certain people to experience JUST ONE so they can see how horrific it really is. But not the kids! Poor Luke was screaming in the playground and luckily his grandfather who had just taken him to school was nearby. When he finally got to him Luke was screaming 'Don't leave me'. It took an hour and a half for him to be calmed down. Apparently he has sweat on his top lip and was shaking for a long time afterwards. So to me it definitely sounded like a panic attack.
He was taken to the doctors and the doctor gave some good advice. Well in my opinion it was good advice. His mother was going to keep him off school for the rest of the day but the doc told her to take him straight back. Since it was Friday he may has spent the weekend dreading going back and getting himself into a tizzy. The doctor explained what the breathing problem was, he hyperventilated, and told him the trick of using the paper bag. He also explained that we shouldn't make too big a deal out of this. Act normal. Because really we don't want to scare Luke. He is a sensitive wee soul and actually very easily spooked. Thankfully he went back to school and was totally fine. I called him later and although i didn't want to make too big a deal out of him i tried to explain casually that i have had many attacks myself and that they aren't so bad once you learn to cope with them. I should mention this has happened to Luke once before and so you can see why we are worried this is the beginning of a longer problem. If it was a one off due to the bell we might not be so concerned. Anyway, he wanted to come and stay with me that night. Whether that's because he wanted to talk about dealing with panic or because i am such fabulous company i don't know ha. I asked him to explain how he felt when it happened and told him about the first time i took one and to be honest he looked at me like i had 2 heads so clearly our experiences werent very similar, but id still say it was panic nonetheless. We all know it can come in many forms.
We will all be keeping a close eye on him from now on...but just from the side where he cant see us. Lets hope it doesn't happen again. How heartbreaking to watch these little innocents deal with something so horrible and to feel completely helpless. I think that's what scared me the most was that i couldn't just make this go away for him. Because really the only person who can make panic attacks go away, is the person who is taking them. So fingers crossed for little Luke.
Posted by Lynn at 18:20