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


Louis said...

Children will scare the daylights out of you from time to time and in the end it is usually a small thing for them to get past and you get a cold for a week. Not totally clear from your post about the missing boys. I would have busted someones backside for being gone over time and not checking in with mom. I do think you are overly hard on yourself. your boy did have his dad, mre than onnce my wife made trips to the doctor or hospital alone because i was at work and twice my boy had to have stiches during these trips. Both small things and he picked out two of his stiches on his way home in his carseat. The point is a trip to the doctor does not require both parents and mothers do not always have some inner strenght or knowledge no one else possesess about the baby. Nathan was good and you need to let the guilt go and just keep working on moving into places that challenge your limits. They are you limits you know. they are not set by a disease or a condition. they are only set by you. Once again congrats on a good post and pats on the back for honesty. Take a peek at my facebook page and see my new granddaughter. :)and lynn, give yourself a break.

Lynn said...

Thanks. I do understand what your saying and in many families that would be fine. But remember I've been on my own with Nathan for so long. I am the one who comforts him and calms him. His dad doesn't do that. Not that he can't. Just that it's always been me and with the slightest whimper he will hand Nathan back. The boys being out wasn't their fault. It was 4.30 on a Sunday afternoon. They weren't to know they'd be needed at home. They appeared at 630 for dinner as planned. I left you a message somewhere. Either on Facebook or email to say congratulations on the new arrival. I hope it's all going well x

Lynn said...

Thanks. I do understand what your saying and in many families that would be fine. But remember I've been on my own with Nathan for so long. I am the one who comforts him and calms him. His dad doesn't do that. Not that he can't. Just that it's always been me and with the slightest whimper he will hand Nathan back. The boys being out wasn't their fault. It was 4.30 on a Sunday afternoon. They weren't to know they'd be needed at home. They appeared at 630 for dinner as planned. I left you a message somewhere. Either on Facebook or email to say congratulations on the new arrival. I hope it's all going well x

Anonymous said...

I am an agoraphobic and always believed that in an emergency I would magically 'forget' my agoraphobia. My husband was very ill 2 years ago and I let the ambulance take him and I didn't go to the hospital once. I vowed to get better and it would never happen again, but I haven't got better. My mother was an alcoholic and I remember loathing her weakness and selfishness but agoraphobia has as big an impact on those around one. My condition affects my husband as much as if I were an addict. Maybe I'm addicted to fear. Your post in which you discuss habit rather than fear really got me thinking. I think if I had the courage to take the first step I'd be OK. But I don't take the first step. Perhaps I don't want to change. Good luck to you, I wish you every strength and all the very best.

h.k said...

Hey Lynn. I have been following your blog since the past 8 months or more. Seen Nathan grow during the months I've joined in. Hes become a big boy now and I hope hes doing well now. I was once an agoraphobic and to me it seemed like I was always the punching bag for people because I was an easy target. I knew I would have to hear it from family, friends and people in general for not making up to my commitments. I lost on a lot of things cause of it. I always felt guilty like 24/7 like you mentioned in this post for not being there for people when they needed me. Maybe your situation is far bigger as I am not a mother as yet but I SOOOOOO KNOW THE GUILT!

I am now cured Alhamdulillah! Fully cured. Recently traveled abroad and now I go out everyday and many times a day. I just want you to know that this CAN go away and it WILL! So for you and all the rest who are suffering from it there is hope!

I remember once everything seemed so dark to me that I would cry nights away for the pain I am causing to my own soul and my near and dear ones.

However today I am where I can tell you all that there is an end to this tunnel. There is light and there is a wide world out there once we get out from there and you will for sure! My prayers will always be with you and all the rest who suffer from this.

Lynn said...

Anon - The first step only has to be tiny, but its the hardest. I think most of us have formed habits due to our problems. I will be writing a post soon about some challanges i set myself this week. Things i had been putting off, because the thought of it was scary. but i succeeded and in doing so ive just gone from strength to strength. Ive lost a huge amount of fear and i just want to do more and more. Dont give up. Dont out it off. Mark a date on the calander.. this day i am going to do -----' Make it SMALL. You will feel good for it.

h.k - what a fantastic comment. People like you give hope and inspiration. If you ever feel like telling your story then feel free to email me. Its rare to come across someone who is 'cured' and id love to pass on some hope to the readers. My email is lynn_jackson@hotmail.com

h.k said...

Hey! I've emailed you. Its from my work id though so it might just land in the span folder. A lot of the times my emails get dunked in the spam folder so I won't be surprised. Hope Nathan is feeling better.

Anonymous said...

Hi Lynn,

I just came arcoss your blog and this post reminded me of when back in 2001 when I was very screwed up by agoraphobia my father had surgery and I wanted to visit him in the hospital and I when I got there I could not find a way to get to his room without having to get in a lift.

I couldn't do it. I couldn't get in and I left crying, ashamed and mortified that my dad was suffering and I couldn't get to him.

That next day I contacted an anxiety disorder clinic and set about getting some decent help.

Today I love my life. I am free and happy. Like you say sometimes it is when life smacks us a litle we move forward to better and better things.



Anonymous said...

very touching story, and it takes great courage to share something like that. i have a very strong sneaking suspicion that I would react similarly in such situations. I have always dreaded even thinking of those realistic scenarios, for fear of what i would or would not do...

Anonymous said...

I think that you are so strong for starting out with playgroup n hope it is all going well.

I spent two years only leaving the house to visit/look after my ill mother and got steadily worse, when she died I made it to the hospital a few minutes to late and when I got home I just mentally collapsed and locked myself away in my bedroom.

I am so ashamed to admit that I didn't go to Mums funeral. my sister who has young kids moved her funeral 100 miles down to hers because her youngest gets car sick(which I understand) and I just could not face it. My brother in law also rang the day after she died and shouted at me because I asked for a favourite hymn of mums to be incuded and my sister and him are atheists. I just hid away for nearly two years. My dad who divorced mum wont speak to me and my sister has even banned me from sending the kids Christmas presents because of it. They also wont tell me where her ashes are as they say if I didnt care enough to go to funeral I dont deserve to know.She also took all the family albums and every belonging so I find myself with a few dozen pics I had but no young family ones and her bible to remember her by. If I had just got out the front door on her funeral things would be so different. I still cant make it out the door even downstairs is an achievement.

I wish I could escape but I cant even see a doctor,she even came to the house because she was worried about me but I couldnt make it down the stairs to let her in. Stories from comments and your blog make me feel so weak compared to you guys but give me some hope that there may be a way out.

mental health girl said...

Wow what a situation, i totally understand it has crossed my mind and you honestly don't know how youll react or cope till your faced in that situation, there was one time my mum found a lump in her breast it was this year and her having anxiety wanted me to go with for surport, well i suffer with agoraphobia and anxiety too but i was so worried about her and scared i wanted to be there for her,i think physically pain of upset takes over but you still get the little voice of anxiety trying to talk you out of it, i made sure i did what i had to do to be able to cope as we do in our situation, and got my dad to have a day off work to drive us there so that put alot of worry to rest knowing i didnt have to think about the journey there and back on a bus and having the car up there, i understand the guilty feeling you have the day before i went to the hospital with my mum she rushed to a health clinic for a second opinion i started off by walking up there but as soon as i got to the door and started waiting my anxiety went mad and i started feeling faint so i went home and left her, cos of my anxiety, i felt terrible cos she was so scared and was waiting there on her own while i was at home, but you doing your best for your son now and in other situations will make up for it, we can't think of it as being selfish cos we wouldn't ever choose to be like this out of choice xx

chris said...

i love the honesty here , its easier for online writing than any other way and good for us to be open, i don't agree it's selfish to be agoraphobic though , i think thats the guilt talking , i have suffered this crap for a long long long time and it has fluctuated a bit , right now i am in a real pickle cos i need hospital but cant face any of it , the whole business of being ill has set my nerves back to square one so its a catch 22 situation, i have avoided hospitals every time and feel the same guilt , especially when my daughter had problems , her mum was with her though , same way i ask myself will i be there for funerals , i doubt it , same way i don't leave the front door now , i feel suicidal with all the pains my body has from back and leg problems , and not being able to face the appointments , i ask myself why am i being punished so much , i agree that the way is little steps but can relate also to even these being impossible feeling , i thought maybe a medicine might calm me but theyre either un-noticeable or make me so sleepy and hungry and even they they dont calm me , even i am finding it really difficult to find a therapist to help me emotionally , they all say you have to go to them , why was i born i wonder , or what did i do in a previous life ? this article raises some valuable points about the inevitable emergency situation , and i can relate to the lady avoiding it , the combination of the trauma at the time and the anxiety already felt everyday makes these times unbearable , i wasnt born like this , it was a thing that grew from a small seed , but now its so huge i cant possibly manage , its all about escape , and wanting to get back home , and now that i can hardly walk a few steps and dont drive i have no power of escape , life is short and ive wasted so much of mine by giving in to these fears , all i can do is to wish others to get better and not waste their precious time left , i fel like a caged animal that wouldnt want to leave even if the door were opened , but rather stay inside and cower and think about all the things that can go wrong , until finally they really do start going wrong , i wish you all the best recovery , and to achieve your aims and be happy...chris