Thursday, 29 March 2012

Agoraphobia Survey

Hi guys. I was contacted by a student who needs help with an agoraphobia study. If you have a few spare minutes i would be grateful if you could give your input. Its completely anonymous and only a few questions long. Thanks

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Fall in love with life again

I got a lovely email the other day from a recovered agoraphobic. After telling her story she said she has now fallen in love with the world again, and i can totally relate.
Ive said before that if you've suffered panic/anxiety/agoraphobia, i think it makes you a far more patient, understanding, APPRECIATIVE person and i stand by this. I remember when i was at my very worst, i would have given so much to go a simple walk. Something that most people will take for granted. And although i wouldn't wish this condition on anyone, i do feel quite lucky that i appreciate the simple things, and that i definitely fall in love with life all over again.
Im back on track! After the hospital episode i gave myself a good shake and started to work harder with my issues. One thing that had riddled me with guilt is that I wasn't doing enough for Nathan with regards to play dates and other social activities.
Well i found a suitable class and told myself we were going. I was nervous and many times could have backed out but i was adamant that we were doing it. He deserved it and i needed it! I told myself to stop putting it off, if i just DO IT, i will be happier, I'd feel less guilty, ill be getting myself out and mixing again and a ton of other reasons.
So the morning of the class came and my little legs were like jelly. I was on and off the toilet all morning and generally just wanted to call the whole thing off. I took the journey in stages. If i just made it to the building i would decide then if i could actually go into the class, but just get there at least.
Well i got there and entered the building. The class was at the back of the building AND up the Stairs (Typical, no fast escape route) but we did it. The room was filled with gym equipment and other fun things for Nathan. Slides, swings trampolines. He was so excited and running about crazy wanting into anything but the class does have a structure. So firstly we all had to sit in a circle, about 30 of us, and sing songs, do actions etc. Then free play where the kids choose from a massive toy box, and finally they are let loose on the equipment. Since Nathan is so small i had to take him round the circuit helping him. It was more of a work out for me than for him but this was probably better. If i had been sat at the side watching i would have had time to think, but instead i was so preoccupied with that i was doing i was totally distracted. There wasn't one point in the entire class that i felt nervous. I didn't want to run. I loved it! I was so proud i had got there and took Nathan myself. No one else. I wasn't relying on anyone else for a change and i was buzzing. I got to watch my son and play with him and i loved every minute of it. Don't get me wrong, when i first went into the class my legs were ready to give way on me, but i kept on going and soon forgot about the nerves. Nathan had an absolute ball and i told the women running it that we would be going every week from now on.
From there i had to meet my support worker and due to my confidence boost i went a huge drive. We went further than i have in the last year of meeting her. We went into shops, i casually browsed the shelves and then drove the long way home. She was impressed and i was buzzing.
The entire day PROVED once again that i can do it. That Ive wasted so much time sitting worrying and imagining the worst. I was actually annoyed with myself for not doing it sooner but i cant change that. For whatever reason, i didn't do it before but there's no point dwelling on the past. I can just concentrate on improving the future.
Its hard to break out of your routine. To do something different, especially when the thought of it makes you nervous. But when you do it the rewards are so worthwhile. Pride, happiness, a self of achievement, confidence. And from there it changes your future too. Since that day i literally lost a ton of guilt and i also lost a lot of the fear id built up since Nathan was born. When i was almost rid of my agoraphobia before i had a certain way of thinking. I was always positive. I frequently told myself 'I'm doing this, and so what if i panic. If i do i will cope'. And in that one day my thinking has become far more like that again, much more confident.
With a huge amount of fear gone i have been driving more and more. Walking further with Nathan. We've been back to the class, and will continue to go every Thursday. And i set all sorts of play dates with lots of other mothers. Nathan and i are meeting a lot of new friends. This means driving to new houses where i am not familiar and maybe not too comfortable, but i keep on going. And ill be setting myself all sorts of other challenges. Im excited!
The sun is shining more often and its very true, i fall in love with life all over again. I want to do more and more and i dont want to waste any time. But what i know is that i APPRECIATE these things. I enjoy them more than i ever would have before. And i get a huge sense of achievement from every little trip we take together. Life is too short to keep putting things off and i need to remember this. Looking forward to a fun filled productive year!

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

How not to cope in an emergency!

I dreaded writing this post. But i am always honest on here, and although I'm sure some may pass judgement, i felt it was important to tell the story.

I realise more and more that agoraphobia can be a very selfish condition. We need to make decisions to suit ourselves. We avoid certain tasks, days out, meetings etc to 'save ourselves', but be very sure this isn't what we want! Yes, to an outsider it may look 'lazy' or completely selfish, but believe me, avoidance is not something we enjoy, and we would much rather be living life along with the 'normal' people out there.

I have questioned many times, would i continue to avoid doing something in extreme circumstances? What if , god forbid, one of my immediate family was to die. Would i gather ever fiber of strength and courage and attend a funeral? Out of respect, grief, love, and to support my other family members. Ive always assured myself that I would. I would have to. I remember my fiance saying that if he died, i wouldn't be at his funeral. I was disgusted, 'Don't be so stupid!!! OF COURSE I WOULD BE' (cheery subject eh, and i still say id be there). But the reality is, it is quite amazing just how much we can avoid.

I always remember talking to an agoraphobic mother who couldn't walk across a street. In fact, she doesn't really walk more than 5 steps from her car, her safety net. I asked her what she would do if she was standing in a street and seen her daughter wander off onto the road. Theres a car coming. Would she act first and think later? Would she run down that street and grab her daughter, taking her out of harms way? I wasn't a mother myself at the time, and i assumed her answer would be simple, 'Well of course id just run and get her, it would be automatic', but instead she told me she didn't think she could do it, and would call for her husband instead. I remember i judged her. And i might be wrong, but i still think that in that situation she probably WOULD act first and think later, but it brings me to my own story.

It was a few weeks ago now and Nathan hadn't been feeling too well. I was totally exhausted after a couple of days of nursing him, lack of sleep and everything else having a sick child entails. I hadn't even had time for a shower as he just wanted to lie on top of me most of the time. So i got him wrapped up and decided to take him for a walk. My mum joined us and we noticed Nathan was drifting off to sleep and so she suggested that she would keep an eye on him, if i wanted to have a shower and even nap for an hour. God bless grandparents!

I didn't hesitate. I had a loooong soak in the bath and climbed into bed, secretly hoping for more than an hour. I woke up a couple of hours later feeling a little better but got into a panic when i noticed I had several missed calls and text messages from my mum. I called her immediately and was filled with dread when she told me that 'Nathan isn't right at all Lynn. Hes gotten worse and his breathing isn't right. I'm really worried and i think he needs to go to hospital'.

Well i felt sick, but again i calmed myself by thinking 'mother knows best, Nathans mum, ME, not his gran'. Yes he'd been poorly for a few days but i knew within myself that he was ok, and that with plenty of rest, he was going to be fine and get over it. Its just a cold!'. Shes just panicking i thought. And so i threw on my clothes and ran to check my son. I was more concerned when i seen him though. She was right, he wasn't looking too good and his breathing was definitely not normal. He was panting rapidly as though he'd just ran for miles, and his eyes looked lifeless. I called the emergency doctor and began talking through his symptoms. All the while i was getting him into his pram and racing back to my house to get him comfortable, or to see what was decided. 'How long has he been like this'? 'Check him for rashes', 'Take his temperature'. I was getting more nervous but still tried to calm myself by saying it was just a virus and they will tell me to put him to bed and give him plenty of fluids. And so i answered question after question, checked him all over, there was no rash, and then eventually the doctor asked me to put the phone to his mouth to check his breathing.

'No that isnt right at all' she said. 'I am trying to decide if i should just send you an ambulance'.
Well........ that was me, a nervous, shaking mess. An Ambulance! Seriously??? Oh my god this cannot be happening. Whats wrong with him? Is this serious? And then the little selfish agoraphobic voice kicked in. 'I don't want to go to the hospital'.

I am totally aware that the usual response to this would be to accept the ambulance and rush your child to hospital. Not giving the journey a second thought. Just get them their quick!! No matter what it takes. In the end she advised me that instead of an ambulance, i could make my way there myself. Emmm yeh ok Doc!

In hindsight, an ambulance would have been better. Id have gone it there, hidden in the back, with medical staff working with Nathan straight away, and also to help me should i need calming down lol. Circumstances that day were not ideal. I had my nephew staying, and also Nathans step brother. And so before i could leave i had to find them, as they'd gone out. Calling their mobile phoned, proved useless. Why do they never answer??? But on the plus side, Nathans dad was here and so we got him into the car immediately. It was decided that his Dad would make his way to the hospital and i would find the boys, and head to the hospital as soon as i found them. Again, in hindsight, i could have called my mum and asked her to hunt for the kids, while i headed to the hospital with my son. But that selfish little agoraphobic in me was GLAD to the excuse to stay. This is what i am ashamed of. I didn't know what was wrong with my son. I didn't know if it was serious (although i had a feeling he was ok), but i still hid. I still avoided. I am furious with myself. Nathan deserves so much better!

I started running round the streets looking for the boys, but to be honest its a bit of a blur. I was in a daze. Every inch of my body was trembling and i really didn't feel i was on this planet. I was totally gone. I called Gerry and got no answer on his mobile, which made me worse. I was imagine all sorts of horrors. But eventually he sent me a text saying they had arrived at the hospital and were waiting on the doctor. This was about 4.30pm. I text constantly, obsessively. What on earth was i going to do to stay sane while i waited for the kids to appear... and so i cleaned. Like a women possessed i cleaned!! And i tidied myself up. I might need to actually go to the hospital and so i best be prepared! And i prayed. 'Forgive me for the times i wish he would stop crying. That I said i needed a break. That i lost patience. Please just see he is ok. I will never complain again'.

Quickly i got another text. 'Lynn hes fine, you need to calm down. The doctor has checked him and they arent too worried. Put the dinner on, we will be home soon'.

Hmmm i started to relax, but of course the guilt didn't leave me. I should be there. My son needs me and i am not there. Yes he has his daddy. But its ME who pacifies him. Its me he wants. Thankfully the other 2 kids turned up and my immediate thought should have been, ok i can go now. But i didn't. I text Gerry who informed me that they would be coming home soon, and so there was no point going to the hospital. Of course i felt relief, but it still didn't feel right.

I cooked the dinner, and they still weren't home. I waited. I prepared Nathans fresh pajamas and sorted his room. They still weren't home. Eventually i received another text telling me they were in the children's ward waiting for a paediatrician. What on earth was going on? If he was ok they'd have been home by now. It was now past 7pm, his bedtime AND he hadn't eaten since lunch time. I called the hospital and spoke to the ward nurse. I ranted on about how Nathan must be starving, could they please give him something to eat, and stop trying to give him juice, when hes ill he wants milk, and not from a beaker but from a bottle. I SHOULD have been there telling them these things. Holding my boy and making sure he was ok. But i was sitting doing it via phone. And i felt like shit. No other word for it. I felt shit.

Another text 'Lynn they are going to monitor him for an hour and if he doesn't start drinking they are keeping him overnight'. Well that's that i thought. I have avoided the trip but now its inevitable. I WILL NOT leave Nathan without me over night. We have NEVER been apart at night. I wont leave him in that strange place wanting his mummy. If they tell me my son is being kept in, then i have no choice. I'm going. The agoraphobic me was saying 'how on earth are you going to get there'? 'Will you be able to relax and stay the night'? And all the unwanted thoughts were telling me i couldn't do it. But i also had my rational thoughts telling me that i would get there. I may be uncomfortable, but i will get there. And once there id do my best. Should i really be struggling, i am in a hospital so there's help available'!

I eventually got the text saying they were on their way home. It was 1am. Nathan had been gone for 9 hours! I tell myself that if i had known he would be gone for 9 hours i would have went. But would i have really? Yes had an ambulance came id have went, but after that, what would have got me there? I felt guilty, sick, useless, ashamed. You name it. But it doesnt change the fact that i wasnt there.

If i hadnt sent Nathan to the hospital at 4.30 i know i would have at some point that evening, because when i finally got him back in my arms i was quite panicked by his breathing. It was much worse and he was making a horrible noise too. In the end we were told he had bronchioitis, but that there was nothing they could do. they could give him oxygen but his oxygen levels were ok. And so it was the usual advice... bed rest and fluids. I made a bed on the floor beside his crib. I wasnt leaving his side. I watched him most of the night untill i eventually gave into sleep.

I know that i was judged. No doubt about it. My own parents judged me. The said that they truely believed that if it was concerned Nathan i would just have gone. Yeh well i had beleievd that too. And yes circumstances meant that I had excuses. I had the kids to find. From about 5.30 onwards i was told he was waiting to come home. But i know within myself that im making excuses. I should have been there. Had i not had anxiety, i would have let my mum find the boys, i would have gone to my sons side even if it meant he was released as soon as i got there.
And no matter what anyone says i will always be ashamed. And of course i worry. I worry about next time. I hope that time never comes but i have a son here. What about when hes playing football and falls awkwardly breaking his ankle. Or decides it would be interesting to push something tiny up his nose and it gets stuck. What will i do then?

It just spurs my recovery on again. I need a good kick up the ass! No more procrastining. Life is too damn short for wasting time. Get out there and get your life back. The winter slows me down, without a doubt i do much less. The spring has started to show itself now and then, and on those bright sunny days, its actually amazing how different i feel. I'm happy, cheerful and i want to do MORE. I was also struggling with Nathans lack of friends. Kids his age who he can play with and so I've become a beg a friend. I have no shame in asking a mother with a child of similar age if she would like a play date. We have had one already and have another 2 mother/toddlers lined up ha. Also i have enrolled him in 'gym joeys'. A play group which is on weekly and although its a bit out of my comfort zone and ill have all the usual obstacles to get over, we are GOING!!! I am gaining confidence again and i am excited for the months ahead. I might actually make some friends! This in itself bringing a whole lot of other problems (do i tell them about my anxiety, what about when they invite me out to somewhere that's completely beyond me. But hey ill deal with that later).

In the meantime Nathan got better. He was back to his usual crazy, happy, boisterous self within a week. And he passed his bronchiotis onto me. That's payback right there lol