Tuesday, 31 January 2012

With a little help from my friends

LIVERPOOL EDITION

This might be a bit of an epic post so fetch yourself a cup of tea or something and maybe a nice biscuit..

So Liverpool, land of the Beatles, the bizzies and Bread. OK I won't hold that last one against them. Its been a long time since then and Carla Lane has thankfully been banned from picking up a pen.

Was the first time I had met a lot of people that I know since i started writing this blog. Was interesting how many asked if they could talk to me about it. And not from a "is it OK to bring this up?" point of view but in a way that they could talk about their own experiences. The fact that this blog has made a good friend realise something about themselves in a positive way deeply moved me and I'm not ashamed that when I recalled it back at my hotel later I had a bit or a cry. Made me realise that this isn't as self indulgent and whiny as I sometimes think it is. So, NO, I don't mind talking about all this as long as you know its not the only thing I can talk about :-)

So the good stuff

- travelling was no problem. Was relaxed and barely gave way to any negative thoughts. When they did occur I was able to bat them away

- the Mingle itself was good, I'm not the greatest with large groups and felt more at home when only a dozen of us were left but enjoyed myself immensely. Got a couple of "cheer up , might never happen" cos I wasn't hanging from the lampshades but I took this in the misguided drunken way that it was meant.

- took public transport a couple of times and had no real problems with that. this was unfamiliar territory but I knew there were people with me and that helped.

The Not So Good

- Eating. I just couldn't eat with the knowledge that I'd have to travel somewhere by bus. So I avoided breakfast (although I never feel like it any day of the year) and only managed a little later in the day when my confidence was up (and I was bloody starving). I was prepared to have to travel back into town on the bus afterwards but in the end we went by cab. Even so, I had no problems.

- On the night of the mingle I had anxiety about being alone in the hotel when we got back, what if I had an attack etc. As a result when the lushes with me had the munchies for a McDonalds at 1am despite being hungry I couldn't join in. Everyone else did and it made me feel a real idiot and I got really annoyed with myself and tetchy. It made it appear like I was somehow not having fun or wanting to be there. And I did. When we got back to the hotel I was feeling anxious but my friends were there, I took a minute or two and managed to control things. I took things slow and had no real anxiety or panic for the rest of the night and had a great nights sleep

- Eye contact: I don't think I've written about this here yet but anyone who knows me will know that I rarely make eye contact with people. Even those who I've known for years. It can appear rude or that I'm disinterested but its just lack of confidence. I find it really really hard to maintain or make eye contact for more than a couple of seconds. This often means that I fail to recall or recognise people at big gatherings like the Mingle. Its something i really have to work on. In the past a couple of people (friends of friends aka bastards) have made me feel VERY self conscious about this which makes things worse. So please, don't take it as an insult or rudeness, I want to get better at this

- Self confidence in general. Despite people being pleased to see me, the hugs, the smiles, the conversations and everything I still felt that it didn't make much difference to people if I was there or not. Yes, pathetic I know. However, i really was touched by those who took the time to make me feel welcomed. That definitely outweighed the bad and so I put that down as a score-draw

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So all in all, I think I did OK. Those who were with me might like to leave comments or email me privately but that's all that was going on in my head. I realise no one really "enabled" me to do the trip this weekend as 99% of it was mental but to those who gave me their love, support and a shoulder to lean on - THANK YOU. 

A couple of notes that will only mean something to those involved

* H - thanks for the big hug at journey's end, was the perfect topper to a great mini weekend
* J - our friendship means a great deal to me, never forget that
* K - your calm attitude to the weekend (except parking) was a real inspiration to me, thanks

At the start of this month I was a wreck, no use to anyone. At months end I'm more positive, confident and optimistic than I have been in years.

I hope my friends will continue to inspire and encourage me as I move on up.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Getting strong today, a giant step each day

So I been doing good. Did a whole load of driving today solo and with others, in unfamiliar places with not a hint of anxiety.

Have been adopting some new daily activities to dispel any anticipatory anxiety. When I wake up I play a ten minute song selection that aims to lift me up, make me feel confident and alert and which I can associate with calm relaxation

Those three tracks are

Ladies & Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space by Spiritualized
Bridge Over Troubled Water by Simon & Garfunkel
Yes by McAlmont & Butler

I chose those because a) they are so familiar b) for me they have inbuilt endorphins and sunlight c) lyrically they are positive, cathartic and defiant.

Their familiarity means I can also use the time to recite some positive phrases in my mind as reinforcement.

The one I have latched on to most is "The only way out is through" which really applies to panic and anxiety
I've seen the quote attributed to many people including Robert Frost and  Helen Keller but whoever coined it, ir works for me

This has all been helpful and I predict that the Liverpool trip should go much more smoothly

This is starting to feel good

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Singing, hard times ain't gonna rule my mind no more

So, fresh from my second CBT session so thought I'd get some things down before other things (like the end of Sunday's Sherlock - wha' happen?) get in the way

I've come to realise that I have a fear of fear so If I take that fear away there will be nothing to fear

So on my upcoming trip to ver 'pool these are my various fear points

1) Travelling to and from - having a panic attack that depite knowing is harmless will require medical help.
And we'd be on a motorway\road\miles from help. Which I don't need and would do no good even if it were right next to us all the way. Just writing that feels so dumb but these are the thoughts that drive the panic.

2) having a PA whilst walking round on guided tour of cultural hotspots, making a tit of myself and feeling embarrassed and pathetic
3) Same with Mingle itself
4) Having PA whilst at hotel and  therefore - see 1

Now all this is completely irrational. I'm going to work hard on facing up to it all before the trip in various ways. AVOIDANCE will not happen! However an ace up my sleeve is that at all times I will be with people who know this stuff and know all I need is to calm down and take it easy. I hope I will not need their assurances but know that they will be there if I need them

I don't want to have to rely on anyone to start coping with all this and changing my ways but I must have faith in people more. I ALWAYS fear the worst and worst ALWAYS does not happen. There is a lesson there. 

There may be moments of uncomfortableness on the way but will not feel as bad if I avoid things and let the anxiety stop me. If I keep repeating that I may start to believe it.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Getting to know you, getting to know all about you

So this week I had my first Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (hereafter known as CBT to save finger erosion) session. I suspect the first session is key as if you and the councillor don't click and trust each other then its not going to work.

Luckily the lady (Heather) has a great sense of humour, knows about music and we really got on well. It was very much a personal vomiting session where you try and give her as much info about yourself and whats ailing you. It was great to unburden some of that stuff, not that it was upsetting but there were a couple of things I hadn't verbalised before and in doing so I gained a bit of insight

The hour flew by and she gave me some stuff to read. Although a lot of it didn't apply to me I did recognise quite a bit of what I do on a regular basis. Catastrophizing, in particular, where you expect disaster and danger to befall you just because it has before. Yep, that's a biggie. along with Overgeneralizing in which you take one experience or situation that is bad and extrapolate that out to every time that scenario or similar comes up.

For instance - one of my fears when I am tense and stressed in public is that I am going to throw up -it'll be a mess, embarrassing, all the attention will be on me, I'll disgust people, I'll feel ridiculed. However in all the times I have had low level stress to full blown panic attacks its never made me vomit. Not once. Sometimes being ill and vomiting can lead me to have panic as I'm short of breath and feel like crap but that's cos I'm ill. The stress doesn't make me do that. So why is it a fear?

But, as a wise man said, reading a few of these CBT theories did give me a bit of perspective. No, not too much fucking perspective. just enough. I tried to think of how many times in the past 20 years I had a full blown screaming I am fucking dying you bastards sons of bitches panic attack.

I think its 10

Maybe 9

and three of those were in the space of an hour so it's arguable that they just count as 1.

Lets say 10 for ease of calculation. So it 20 years there are 7305 days (with leap years n all that balls).

So even if it was 1 panic attack a day that would still mean 7295 days when I didn't have a classic panic attack. yes I've had degrees of panic but only A PANIC ATTACK on 10 days outta 7305. If someone could work that into a percentage then you did better at maths in school than me.

But what it made me realise that despite all these years of worrying about having  a panic attack the likelihood of it happening is really really remote - if the fear of panic attacks is what I'm suffering from then I'm concerned about a remote possibility. And a couple of those attacks would have been when I wasn't on medication to help me with the stress and you could double whatever the percentage\possibility is.

(Seriously, can someone work it out? Is it 42? Cos that would SO make sense)

So armed with that knowledge I have tried to get on with life in a normal way and I think its already made a difference. Drove into London on Friday with no trouble at all, not even a flicker of thought in the panic direction. Anytime over the past couple of days where it has arisen I have just batted it away. I'm going to put myself to the test a bit more over the next week but I FEEL like I'm getting somewhere. Fingers crossed.  
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So I booked the hotel for the Liverpool trip today so its all systems go for that in a couple of weeks. Have a strange mix of excitement and fear that will hopefully stay on a low level. I'll be travelling up with some great, nice, friendly people so that will help a lot

Thanks again for all your kind comments\mails n tweets. I'll shut up now

Sunday, 8 January 2012

With a little help from my friends

So went out Friday night to meet up with a bunch of like minded nerds, freaks and downright lovely people in that there London place.

Journey there was tough at times. I counted 7 times I had to deviate from my route to take a deep breath and calm down. Yet I still made it there in plenty of time so no harm done

Once I was parked, sorted, in the pub and amongst friendly faces I was fine. I think thanks partly in response to what I've been writing here people were keen to put me at my ease. I didn't feel I couldn't talk about what I'm going through as they knew most of the gory details. The evening flew by as it always does and although I was already feeling a bit tired from the journey up I hope I didn't let it show too much. I still have to work on not being so self conscious and shy but maybe that's just me.

Journey back 4 stops\detours needed but the thing is, I coped with it all. I was absolutely shattered when I got home with the mental effort it had taken but I'm oh so glad I braved it all

My next challenge may be a similar trip up to Liverpool. Whether that be by train or car remains to be seen but in both cases, these good kind people I know have offered to travel with me to make it easier. I find that very touching and makes me glad that I'm doing this blog if it means I appreciate more the kindness of my fellow human and huwoman. Bless your cotton socks. Having you lot by my side is making a hell of a difference.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Its been a bad day, please don't take my picture

Past hour or so have been nasty. Stressed for no apparent reason and having to do deep breathing and feel like a pathetic scaredy cat. Its really draining and fecking awful. I hope I can pull myself together to make it up to London tomorrow for Mingle duties and such. Wish me luck peeps.

And my appointment for Monday to start CBT been put back til Wednesday. Balls.

thanks for all the kind feedback to my first post. Means a lot.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Ain't no way for a boy to be/ Ain't No way to set me free now

"Some guy on the net thinks I suck and he should know
He's got his own blog" - Ben Folds\Nick Hornby

'A Working Day'  from the album 'Lonely Avenue' released
on Nonsuch records (2010)

In the Metallica documentary 'Some Kind Of Monster' which i first saw in a tiny cinema in New York, the band and their therapist outline a "Mission Statement". One of the lines is “As we experience ultimate togetherness, we become healers of ourselves.”. None more Tap.

So maybe I should explain why this exists

I've suffered (and boy, have I) with panic attacks, social anxiety and general anxiety for the best part of 20 years. Some times have been better than others. If you don't know what many of those terms mean then Google em but here's a few helpful links

http://www.mind.org.uk/help/diagnoses_and_conditions/panic_attacks

http://www.social-anxiety.org.uk/

http://www.nomorepanic.co.uk/

These will all give you an idea of what happens but can't really put you in a sufferers shoes. Let me try. I don't get full blown attacks that often but when it happens - my heart races, I feel like I can't breath, my throat tightens, eyesight goes blurry, become lightheaded, feel like i am dying, chest pains and "pins n needles" in my hands, feet, legs and face.

As I said that's the worst case scenario. On and everyday basis - and that's a bit misleading cos some days I'm fine - it means tension in certain situations and a need to escape (nausea, nervousness and shortness of breath).

The worst thing thou is that over the years I have developed coping mechanisms. Anyone who has ever been out with me will notice I prefer to be on aisles at gigs \ cinemas and theatres so I can leave if the panic gets too much. Same with crowded areas, I like to be near a door or way out. The nausea that comes with social anxiety often means I don't like to eat until I feel safe so if I have a concert in the evening I won't have anything to eat for most of the day and only afterwards when I feel no reason to fear.

If you're now thinking how pathetic this all sounds then I can only concur but if I didn't have these and many more things in place then I wouldn't have been at many events with people who know me and quite possibly you wouldn't be reading this as you wouldn't have met me.

I think fear of embarrassment and inability to control myself are at the very heart of all this but more than anything is when panic occurs that there is something medically wrong with me. There isn't. And the panic attacks won't make it happen. It feel like it but it won't. So if you like I have panic attacks out of fear of panic attacks even thou they cannot hurt me. Dumb, eh?

Well starting as soon as possible (ie when the world sobers up into a New Year) I shall be undertaking a course of cognitive behavioral therapy which aims to make me think about my panic in a different way and deal with the feelings to show me how much control I have over them. It means I'm probably going to have to grit my teeth and face the fear a bit. This doesn't mean suddenly stopping my medication, changing the habits of half a lifetime but it will mean a bit of concentrated work. Which will probably be invisible to everyone else but inside me it will be all systems go.

There is very little anyone else can do when you're in your most panicked state. The best things someone can do is not feed into your panic by believing that you are ill. A simple arm round the shoulder and a squeeze of the hand can be all that's needed.

To my pals, friends, acquaintances and amigos reading this I guess I've started this blog so that I don't feel like I am alone dealing with my demons. Whether you read it or not isn't important, just knowing that people know about it is what counts. Its strange, its annoying, its not normal, its frustrating and its weird. No change there, eh?

In time I hope that this blog will become like most others with musings on gigs, films, music, books and things I think about at 2am (sadly perfectly SFW) but until then I got work to do. I don't want my anxiety to define me but letting it rule my life has got to stop.