Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Stay Positive

Hello bloggers!

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...

Go out.

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.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Digging Deeper

Well hello everyone. How are you all getting on? I realised I better get in touch to update you on my change of meds and anything else that's been happening. So where to start....

The meds. A letter of referral has been sent to my doctor to advise my medication is reviewed and surprise surprise i have heard nothing so far. Of course I am fine with this and just play things by ear. When they are ready to make the changes, i will do as i am told. Someone commented on my last post saying that I shouldn't do it 'cold turkey'. I totally agree and that's not something i would ever consider. i think when you've been dealing with mental health issues for a long time you realise how to handle somethings, but if there are people out there who have been put on a medication and suddenly start to feel normal again, my advice is simple. Do not just stop your medication. You probably feel better BECAUSE of your medication and to stop them suddenly could lead to withdrawals, and withdrawals can be quite uncomfortable. With any medication do what your doctor recommends because at the end of the day, they know more about this stuff than we do.

Anyway in the mean time Ive been feeling much better and much more positive than in previous posts. We have reached the time of year i least enjoy but its not bothering me too much. Nathan and i are doing great and enjoying our little home and our routine. We had his first Halloween, which involved the blissfully unaware Nathan dress as a skeleton and we had his first bonfire night. He saw a few fireworks but to be honest he was more interested in playing with some random object at the time, he really does go into a little world of his own. He is so big now and looks much older than his 11 months. 11 months! But surely it was only last week we got home from the hospital!!. It will be his 1st birthday on the 14th of December and i am holding a party for all the family at home. I would have booked one for elsewhere but i feel that since he is only 1, home is fine. He can be lord of the manor and play with his new presents while us adults eat cake and take pictures. I'm sure he will enjoy being the centre of attention. I am not trying to be a martyr here but may i just point out that Nathan turning one also signifies over a year since i had a full nights sleep. What is a lie in? I haven't had one since.... well i cant remember. Nathan has never spent a night away from me and so every morning i awake to the sound of him ready to cause havoc...and cause havoc he does. I think i must have also changed approx 700 nappies. The joys eh. But that's motherhood for you and i love every minute and when he hits that 1 year mark i will be so proud of both of us. Him for being my special favourite person in the world, so clever, so beautiful and always entertaining. And me for my first year of being a mum.

Ive gone on before about my opinion on agoraphobia recovery and how i think its very much down to the individual. I found that therapy's i had tried for example EFT, TFT, EMDR, CBT, and lots of other abbreviated things didn't help me as much as i hoped. I found that when i took the bull by the horns myself, that's when i made the best progress. Maybe it was just the right time, but whatever i did back then opened up a whole new world of possibility to me. From being housebound and pretty much not doing anything for 5 years i was suddenly out having a life again. Doing all the things i never imagined possible. I acquired a new lust for life and an inner buzz that made me want to do more and more and more. I did get to the stage where i questioned... so am i cured now? I knew i was going in the right direction. My life was fuller, my anxiety pretty much non existent, but i still had limits on where i could travel to.

But life ain't easy. Oh no just when i thought i had it sorted i was met with setbacks. I swore to myself that if a day came that i didn't feel like going into a certain shop or felt any sense of panic, i would not avoid it. I was strong now and i would fight and fight until id chased those fears away again. But suddenly i was pregnant. I was tired. Exhausted. I didn't feel fear when thinking of doing things, and so i didn't do them as much. Thinking it was ok to do this as i wasn't avoiding things for agoraphobic reasons. But obviously the less i done them, the harder they were to do again. I realised to my own surprise that I had gone backwards. And to realise this when you have a new born baby isn't really ideal. So the guilt kicked in. This gorgeous little bundle of mine deserves the world, and here i am uncomfortable to take him to a park. Ive told you these things before and for sure my world has got smaller and smaller again. Then came the relationship issues. So to cut a long story short this year has been a hard one. I very hard one. My focus has gone from more important issues and Ive relapsed back into that frightened unsure nervous person again.

And so it was perfect timing when i was told about a girl who works with people with phobias. I had already got through the toughest part of the year and with a new determination to focus on my agoraphobia i figured it would be a good time to find out more. I was told that this girl has fantastic success rates, has helped countless people with phobia and/or anxiety. Takes great enjoyment from her job and doesn't do this for financial gain. She does it because shes a good person who enjoys using her skills to help people better their lives.

Well Ive met so many therapists and tried so many things that i guess Ive been a bit sceptical in the past. Ive often met with people with the thought 'wow they might cure me' but quickly became aware that NO ONE is going to cure us. The only person who can do that is US but there is nothing wrong with getting a bit of advice and a helping hand on the way.

And so i met with the 'life coach' last Thursday. I expected someone arriving armed with a pie chart cut into sections... Relationships, finances, hobbies, etc and to to help me find fulfilment in the areas causing me problems. But it was nothing like that. I immediately liked her and can see why she has such a success rate. She is a warm, caring beautiful person who immediately puts you at ease. Instead of me feeling my achievements were nothing special, she made me feel proud of myself and gave me a much needed boost. We done some NLP exercises and i genuinely could feel some of my anxiety reduce. Thinking about driving distances would initially make me feel tense, but after some work on these issues i realised the tension and nervous tummy were settling down. The session lasted 2 hours and was all based on my anxiety, my past panic attacks, memories of fear etc. Talking about where all my 'issues' have come from really did help me see things a bit clearer and make a lot of connections where i hadn't noticed them before. She explained to me that the work we did would be making changes in my head, or my sub conscious if you like. And so i was to let it all happen naturally and just see how i felt. Well in the days that followed I felt very tired and on one day all i did was cry. I don't cry unless I'm reeeeeally upset, it takes a lot to make me cry. But as i shed the tears i felt i was having a great release. A release i really needed.

In the following week i knew i had to try a few things to see if changes had been made. But i knew, as did the therapist, that i wasn't gonna be 'cured' in one session. Not when Ive had my problems for 10 years now. But i went out and tried a few things and although i could see things clearer i was still hitting a bit of a wall. For the first time in ages i found myself questioning how on earth i ended up with this. Why do i have the behaviours that i do. Did i get this because i am just a worrier. or could it be that my life experiences have caused me to behave in certain ways and make certain decisions? Am i gaining some sort of benefit from being agoraphobic. I have 2 inner dialogues. One which wants a life and to get out there and do so many things. And i have another who tells me 'oh don't do that you might panic'. It took me a while to realise that both of these sides to me want the same thing. To be happy and to be at peace. They really need to get together and have a chat. They might like each other and stop arguing.

And so my next session came and i expected the same kind of work but this time it was quite different. It turned out she had read my blog and learnt a lot more about me in the week that had past, and in learning new things we started to dig a little deeper. People have often said that the way to deal with your problems is identifying where they come from, working through these problems, past experiences etc with someone i.e a therapist, and in doing this you will release them. Well again i doubted this and figured there was no point in rooting around in the past because it is what it is. Whats the point in wasting time talking when i need to be doing something more practical, i.e going out! But as we chatted i made connection after connection and realised so many parts of my past and my thoughts could be having an effect on my present. Who'd have known i have major confidence issues. Who'd have thought i don't have much self respect. That i don't see myself as very valuable. That when treated like a doormat or hurt id just think 'oh well maybe that's all i deserve'. Like i said Ive had sessions in the past and its not done much for me, hasn't stirred many feelings. But as we chatted i found tears rolling down my face. I felt a huge sadness and yeah OK i felt a bit sorry for myself. Ive beat myself up about so many things for so many years. Ive carried a lot of guilt. I don't take compliments well and i expect most people wont like me. Why? A cried a few times and when she left i felt that id made some kind of discovery. I think my problems as far deeper than i ever imagined. I think there are many 'issues' that Ive maybe never recognised before, but in noticing them i did feel less confused. Lighter. And after a few exercises we did i immediately felt a sense of 'i am worth something. and i don't deserve to be treated like crap'

So although the thought of a long journey still makes me uncomfortable i am finding a little candle burning inside of me again. Just a little flicker. But i can see that in working together, and working on my own too, its gonna get brighter and brighter. And in dealing with all sorts of issues its going to have a positive outcome in where my life is right now.

I will of course keep you posted on my future challenges. The girl/women/therapist/life coach has a website and no doubt will have no problem with me linking you guys to have a look but ill get her go ahead first. I am nervous. But i am excited about the doors opening for me here.