Monday, 23 February 2015

Agoraphobia FREE Clinical Trial. Worth A Read

Take part in a free clinical trial testing an app which contains CBT and other help for those suffering Agoraphobia.  The above link has more information.  I was contacted by email and it does sound like it could be worth a shot.  Ive signed up out of curiosity and agreed to pass on the link... so here you are :) 

Monday, 16 February 2015

I'm alive!!

Apologies at the huge gap between posts. No excuse im afraid apart from being tired/lazy. Also I had wanted to share a bit of a 'bad phase' I went through, and for a long time I just didn't feel comfortable writing about it. 

I had discussed the problems regarding my separation anxiety in a previous post. Well it got worse. Much worse. I got to the stage that I could not face nathan going to his new nursery place at all. I had to admit what was going on to the staff because I physically couldn't put him on the school bus. The anxiety on the days leading up to nursery was awful, but on the morning when he was about to leave I felt so ill. The anxiety was so strong that I literally could not see a way out. 

Because of this I was experiencing crippling guilt! I felt I was utterly failing nathan as a parent. He NEEDED to go to these special classes as he needed help and support with some of his development/behavioural issues. I also needed him to get that help because as a single parent I was finding our days exhausting and challenging. I needed him to see the correct professionals to teach him better ways of coping and help him avoid temper tantrums and meltdowns. (Diagnosis is ongoing but autism is still expected) 

So I was worn out mentally. And I started to feel really flat. Down on myself. Negative. We were just entering the winter and so the dark nights were creeping in. I had a feeling of dread. How was I gonna get through the next few months. I had noticed the stress in my life was taking physical effect on me. Suddenly instead of being relatively free of anxiety, I was feeling it every day. 

It began slowly. But eventually I was feeling the worst anxiety I have ever had. The second I opened my eyes in the morning my mind would start racing. I would be worrying and thinking of all kinds of things. My stomach would churn but mostly I felt like I had a lead weight that just never left me. My heart would race. I was very irritable. Uncomfortable in my own skin. I couldn't eat at all. I would try and force myself but my mouth would completely dry and the little I did get down would make me heave. I don't think any words will ever really express how I felt. But I was scared. In a constant state of fear. 

I didn't feel able to deal with Anything or anyone. I was nervous doing the simplest of tasks. Always on edge. Never at peace. Never rested. I felt totally vulnerable and lost. I wanted someone to scoop me up in their arms and hold me tight. Tell me everything would be ok and they were going to look after me. I wanted someone to come into my bed at night and spoon me and not let go. 

The one thing that I was able to do was sleep at night. I was so severely mentally exhausted that my body just shut down. 

Looking back I have no doubt that I had a breakdown. In the past people would use the term 'nervous breakdown' and I totally understand that now. Luckily I think these can probably range in severity and mines was probably 'just a little one'. 

Firstly I stopped giving a shit about the nurserys. I couldn't deal with their pressure. I don't think anyone realised that it took me all my strength to simply make breakfast and get nathan and I dressed. I told myself that this was going to pass. Whether it took time or drugs ... I was able to stay positive! And I was willing to do whatever it took. 

My doctor put me on 40mg of propanolol 3X a day. It really helped. I remember lying in bed one morning and reaching for my pills. As my heart battered in my chest I swallowed a propanolol and waited. After about 20 minutes of turmoil it was like my heart literally melted and calmed. It was enough to help me face the morning. 

Now if this all sounds dark and scary that's because it was. But in the mental health field, Doctors or therapists will always ask if you have considered suicide. I have not. I want to live. But living with my symptoms everyday was horrendous. I just wanted to get better and for the feelings to pass as soon as possible. I had no idea how to make it go. But It was like I gave up and started waving a white flag. Instead of suffering in silence I reached out to friends and family. And I accepted I needed help this time. 

I was terrified of any child services getting involved and saying I was unfit to look after my son. I was scared that I would need to go live with my parents and would end up housebound again. I was scared I couldn't be a mum anymore. I had every unrealistic and catastrophic thought you can imagine. Until one day I just thought 'what will be will be'. If I need to go live with my folks then I'll do it. And I'll fight hard to get back on top of things and return home with my boy. I knew in my heart I wouldn't lose my son because even on my worst days, Nathan came first. His routine did not falter. And so I realised that I was stronger than I gave myself credit for. 

I can honestly say I fought and I fought hard! I thought I was losing my mind. 100% I believed I should be in a hospital on drugs. I have since discovered that people who have suffered nervous breakdown are often put to sleep for weeks and I can absolutely appreciate that. Your body and mind need to heal and there were certainly times I felt I needed nothing but bed rest and TLC. I could have reverted back to a child. Broken and fragile and my mind constantly crying out 'please help me'. But I had no option but to keep going. I lost so much weight and I looked dreadful. I knew it at the time but it was only later that I realised how worried everyone else was by my appearance. 

I became obsessive about 'what if I can't go out again. What if I become housebound'. This is where the fight began. Instead of getting up in the morning and slowly facing the day, I felt I urgently needed to go out to prove that I still could. I would frantically get nathan and I dressed and get into the car. Id go a quick drive and then go home. I had proved my negative self wrong and I had  Successfully gone outside. And so I would be a little calmer at home. It was good that I had become stubborn and point blank refused to be beaten, but that urgent need to do it the second I opened my eyes only added to my stress and discomfort. 

I would comfort myself by constantly telling myself I wouldn't be beat. That I felt so utterly ghastly at home, that it couldn't be any worse outside! So I would push and push and push. And I pushed every single day. I pushed myself and ended up driving further than I had in years cause I was so bloody stubborn. But This needed to be dealt with. 

During this spell I went out daily and stuck to my entire routine. My house was cleaned. Meals made. I made myself presentable. I even attended a meeting alone with 5 different women to discuss Nathans development. (That was tough. I think I just sat and nodded while counting down the minutes, but I did it) The special nursery was sympathetic. And patient. (Nathan attends 2 nurseries. One near by 5 days a week and another in another town. The one in the other town is a special unit and this is the one I was struggling with ) But I knew my time was limited. And eventually they told me if Nathans needs were not being met then other people would get involved. (Social/child services). 

A support worker and now friend, appeared and begged me to let him
Go. I explained I still didn't feel strong enough. I was starting to get maybe 1 hour a day where I didn't feel so bad. I was seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. But I was still vulnerable and weak and not confident enough to face the next challenge. I just needed more time! 

I don't know what she said to me that day but suddenly I said 'just do it'. And from that day on nathan hasn't missed a single class! 

It was a turning point. I gained a bit of confidence. I used to look for excuses for nathan not to attend the unit but now I found I was ready to be stubborn. He was going whether I liked it or not! It started with Babs (the support worker) taking him in her car. I felt comforted by the fact I could phone her and tell her to bring him home if my anxiety reached an unbearable peak. Eventually with Babs there for support, I put him on the school bus. And finally I stopped needing babs at all. There have been days when he's been unwell and it would have been acceptable for him to stay off. Ive still put him on the bus. I cannot break this streak! There have been days when he's in a mood and crying and screaming that he doesn't want to go. Ive still put him on that bus. When he would leave I would pace and fret. Id ride the anxiety. And Id watch the clock until he'd be home. I never seen it as a welcome break. A time for a tired mum to finally put her feet up.  Now.... I do :). I love those 2 days a week when I pop him on the bus. I can watch trashy tv, bathe alone (unheard of) or even better, go back to bed for a precious and rare lie in! 

Determined to kick this issue ive let him
Go on trips with his grandparents and other family members. In the past, the distance they took him would have been an issue, but not now. Now I see any trip as a challenge. A welcome challenge. Another ball for me to knock out of the park and celebrate.  

I'm so delighted at how things have turned round because there was definitely a point where I felt this was impossible to fix. I felt no hope and seen no way out. But the confidence boost has been medicinal to say the least. And with it the guilt began to fade. I am a good mum! I have fought back for my son. Go me! 

Suddenly I had one full day anxiety free. And soon I had 2. And so the dark cloud was passing. With the support of Babs. My friends and family, I got better. 

I began seeing a psychologist and I asked him if I was the craziest person he'd ever met. He just laughed and said 'what do you think'? And I knew I wasn't crazy. I was tired. And I was anxious. That's all! But I'll never underestimate the power of anxiety. That period of my life was so frightening that I don't like to talk about it and it has taken me till now to write about it. 

Another source of help at this time was my old Claire Weekes book 'self help for your nerves'. She reminded me that you had to face your fears. Be willing to suffer the symptoms of anxiety to desensitise yourself. Her words gave me hope and courage to at least TRY. I knew I had nothing to lose. My sanity was already packing it's bags and heading for the hills. 

I made myself eat and drink as much as I could. If the lead weight in my stomach was away even just briefly, then i shovelled food in my mouth as quickly as I could. I knew I needed it. I needed the energy and I needed the strength it would give me. 

The whole experience lasted about 3 months. The most severe relapse I have ever faced. When it hit me it was all new and I couldn't tell what was going to happen next. But now I know if it come back, I won't be so frightened. I now know that it does pass. And although it felt never ending at the time, I did get through it. And so if it ever returns I'll have that reminder under my belt. A positive confirmation that I didn't have last time. 

We had a Happy Christmas and New Year and I entered 2015 with a positive head on much tougher shoulders. But there was a lingering worry. 

My parents and nephew had finally decided to visit my brother in Australia.  And although I was delighted that they were making the trip I also realised that for the first time in my life I would be completely on my own. My family are literally 1 minute walk away and so I always have the comfort of knowing 'if the shit hits the fan' they are right there. I barely need them, but just the knowledge of them being there has helped me at some difficult points. To go from 1 minute away to literally the other side of the world, for a girl who's been suffering with separation anxiety, was a huge challenge. 

Was I going to be strong enough and after those difficult months not so long ago, was it too much too soon?