Sunday, 27 January 2008

Coming out of Depression

Marie's depression eased significantly as soon as she went to her parent's house. I expected this. She's left a place with responsibilities and demands she couldn't deal with and has gone to a place without them. She doesn't sleep or go online as much as she did. She doesn't need the escape so much.

She has decided to use this time at her parents' house to work on her agoraphobia. She's also renewing her relationship with her bike, riding around her parents' garden and a short distance down the road (albeit accompanied by her father). With no fixed routine and no children in tow, Marie can now go out when she feels like it and try going into shops, caf├ęs etc. She doesn't have to worry about anyone else's agenda. With this in mind, she's decided to stay in Weymouth for a few weeks - hopefully to return as a more complete person. I'll visit her with the children at weekends.

We didn't visit her this weekend because our home really needed tidied and cleaned. Two of my older daughters helped me by amusing the children and assisting with the cleaning. I managed to make the house more manageable so that the forthcoming week would be less of a challenge. I also gave the kids some valuable time by taking them out (the weather here has been superb for the time of year - the daffodils are beginning to sprout already!) into the fresh winter air. Today, with two daughters and 3 grandchildren, we went for a long walk in a local forest. Everyone came back covered in mud (especially Collette's dog) but it was a very enjoyable interlude.

It's just typical of life that next week I will - unusually - be at work in North Devon and away from home for 10 hours each day. I feel somewhat guilty that the children will only see me for a couple of hours a day, but after the weekend I will be working at home or in the building adjacent and my hours will be much more flexible. I'm just glad that we had such an enjoyable weekend.

Although Marie and I converse a couple of times every day, and the children talk to her at least once, we'll all be glad to see her next weekend. Hopefully she'll be feeling lots better and we'll be able to look forward to her returning here in a positive frame of mind.

Thursday, 24 January 2008

DEPRESSION & agoraphobia

Marie has depression.

She rarely has it, but she's got it now.
It started on New Year's Day and has got progressively worse.
She thought about how crap her life was and started crying.
Now she has cries easily and often.

She withdrew from her "normal" life.
Her sleeping time increased dramatically & the rest of her day was spent online.
She wasn't interested in her kids, her family or her home.
She decided to stay with her parents for a while.

The good news is - she's not so scared of her parents' house.

But the children & I miss her.


I am working (for 2 weeks) at a branch of my business in North Devon.

This is the sort of scenery in this area, a few minutes' walk from where I work.

These pictures were taken at 890' (22.61m) above sea level.

Isn't it the scenery wonderful?

How can life be so simultaneously beautiful and crap?

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Ghosts - a new anxiety

Mid-morning, on a quiet residential street. Maureen is opening the gate to her driveway and her next-door neighbour Fred is walking past.

"Hello Maureen," says Fred, flashing her a friendly smile.
"Oh hello Fred," replies Maureen who has just noticed him and is securing the gates in the open position. "Did you have a nice Christmas? Lots of family around?"
"Yes, very nice time indeed. My daughter Jane and her family came to stay with us for a few days over the holiday period." Fred's house, like Maureen's is capacious and seldom fully used.
"We had Karen staying with us and then Kim and Gary her family and his family all came here for Christmas dinner, so we had quite a full house," says Maureen.
"Yes, we noticed that you were having a fancy dress party on Christmas night. We thought it was a good idea. Victorian theme, was it? Or Georgian?"
"Victorian? Georgian? What made you think that?" Maureen looks puzzled.
"Well, you know that we have a clear view of your upstairs landing and hallway, don't you? On Christmas night Jane called out to me and her mum, 'Look mum and dad - they're having a fancy dress party next door. Come and see the costumes!' We had a look but all we actually saw was one lady wearing an old-fashioned fancy dress and a bonnet. She was walking along the hallway. I thought that it looked like a Victorian outfit, but my wife thought that it could be Georgian or even older."
"I don't know what you saw," says Maureen, but we didn't have any party, fancy dress or otherwise. Just people over for Christmas dinner.

It's Fred's turn to look puzzled.

"So who do you think we saw that night...?"

There is no answer to that question, and the question hangs in mid-air.

Maureen is aware that her house has a reputation for being haunted, although she has never had any paranormal experiences herself. Her daughter had reported feeling "drawn" down the first-floor hall towards the end bedroom. The last owner of the house claimed that she had seen some objects move of their own accord. A man had been found dead in the house many, many years ago, and Maureen always assumed that the ghost - if there was such a thing - was this man. Now she has some new material to consider...

Maureen is Marie's mother, and this is the recently acquired family home in Weymouth. We used to spend one weekend a month at Marie's parents' house - the old house - but Marie has never felt totally at home with the new house. Too big for comfort for an agoraphobic. Joseph, who has never been told about the house's history, spent a week here in October and since his return has refused to go to sleep unless the light is on and his bedroom door open. Too scared, he says, but he doesn't know what he is scared of. Coincidence? I am ambivalent about this. Insufficient evidence. But for Marie, this has given birth to a new anxiety, and I think our weekends in Weymouth are, at least temporarily, over.

Friday, 4 January 2008

Current level of Agoraphobia & OCD

Marie's current level of agoraphobia is a little bit better than at the start of 2007, and has changed in some ways since I first went out with her in 2000. Her attitude to her condition is better too - and better than in 2000, so I'm predicting further improvements this year (yes, I know this is risky!). Her ocd hasn't changed much.

Marie cannot in 2008 and could not in 2000, where that has changed -
  • Be alone anywhere if I am more than 20 miles away
  • Be alone at any time
  • Walk outside our building except to get into a car
  • Walk more than 2 metres from a car in an open area
  • Go anywhere, except by car and accompanied by a safe person
  • Go into any large building - e.g. supermarkets, the doctors' surgery, hospital, office blocks
Marie can and could/couldn't in 2000, where that is different -
  • Stay at home on her own (new!) as long as she knows there is a safe person available nearby and I am less than 20 miles away.
  • Marie was unable to be alone anywhere in 2000
  • Drive ½ mile on her own.
  • Marie couldn't drive in 2000
  • Go out in a car, with a safe person, almost anywhere
  • Walk up to a quarter of a mile away from the car along streets with shops (which are open)
  • Marie could only walk 2-3 metres from the car
  • Stay in any non-threatening place (e.g. a house) with a selection of "safe" people, as long as they can drive and there is a car close by
  • Marie could stay in any small building - e.g. a pub or shop - as long as there were other people there
Marie's OCD means that -
  • She needs her shoulder bag, mobile phone, heavy coat/jacket/jumper, a bottle of flavoured drink and her keys before she can go anywhere
  • She needs to know where all the above items are, when she is indoors
  • I have to carry my mobile phone around at all times if out
  • I didn't have a mobile phone in 2000
  • Our cars must be parked close to our house with unobstructed access to the public road (Marie gets really stressed if anyone parks - even for a short while - in front of either of our vehicles)
  • Marie didn't have a car in 2000 and didn't need a car to be parked beside our home or any other building she was in

Thursday, 3 January 2008

Pleasant deceit...

Marie has an agoraphobic friend in Scotland called Lyn.

It was 17th December, and the phone rang. Marie answered and then asked me to take the call. It was Lyn. We had spoken a few times before.

"Hi Robert, I hope you don't mind me taking up your time, but I need some help with a present for my dad. I want to get him a bicycle, but I don't know anything about them.
I can't get to any bike shops with my agoraphobia for advice, but Marie says that you know a bit about them. Could you advise me what to get?"

Well, I had got a bike for Marie a few years ago (which agoraphobia has prevented her from using) and did some research on
the subject then. So I asked Lyn the pertinent questions -
-Was her dad a keen cyclist?
-Was he going to ride it mostly on roads, or off-road?

-Mostly on roads but on tracks too. No heavy duty off-road use.
Then we established Lyn's budget.

So I ended recommending a Marin hybrid bike. It's very strong, but
extremely lightweight. Front suspension and hard tail. Semi slick tyres for road and light off-road use. Lots of gears and very comfortable riding position.

My Bike

Lyn thanked me profusely.

I thought no more about it.

But on Christmas Day, Marie presented me with this bike. Without knowing it, I had been describing the bike most suited to my needs. We had got Joseph a bike for Christmas and I had mentioned to Marie that I would need to get a bike now, so that
the two of us could go out cycling. So she thought "How can I find out what bike to get him?" and enlisted Lyn's help. It was a pleasant deceit, don't you think?

Joseph's bike

A Happy Agoraphobic Christmas

For Marie, Christmas is not much affected by agoraphobia. Especially this year, when due to Marie being able to stay at home on her own most of the time, I could get out to buy those last-minute items without having to drag Marie & all the kids with me.

Christmas Eve is wonderful here in our little town. The Town Brass Band plays carols & Christmas music in the streets during the afternoon (part of the time right beside our home), The Choral Singers sing, and the Town Crier rings his bell and (very loudly) wishes everyone a merry Christmas and a happy New Year. In the evening, Father Christmas performs his annual tour of the town in a sleigh (towed behind a car, because the reindeer would be frightened on the streets), listens to the children's wish-lists and gives small gifts to all kids who are brave enough to approach his sleigh. Yes, our little town has a very seasonal atmosphere on Christmas Eve.

The only casualty of agoraphobia was the Christmas Eve midnight service at our local parish church - a large event in our little community. I had been asked to help out in the organisation of the service and even though I'm a disbeliever, I like to support community events. However, because all Marie's "safe" people were either in bed or actually attending the service, I had to reluctantly decline.

As usual, Marie & I hosted the family Christmas meal. Traditional fare. All my family visited except for Jenna & her family who were in Ireland, so we had 13 for dinner. Marie was busy tidying up the aftermath of the kids opening their presents and I had started to prepare dinner when the first of our guests arrived. So I just continued to prepare dinner and ended up cooking it this year. It's not the first time I've done it - the last time was just 2 years ago (there were 17 for dinner then!) - but it was my finest Christmas dinner to date. In all truth, however, Marie's Christmas dinner last year was a little better. I'm not upset by this - it'll be a good reason why she should do it in 2008!

Our Christmas Day passed off very successfully with everyone seeming to have got gifts that they wanted - or better!

Next day we went to Marie's family home where lots of her family had congregated. All her close family were there. With no meals to prepare/serve, it was a very enjoyable, restful day for Marie & me. We returned home late with the car absolutely full of gifts - mostly for the kids - but great ones for Marie & me, too.

Then on Thursday, Jenna, husband Colin and my granddaughter Elisha came from Ireland to stay with us for a few days...bearing even more gifts!

All in all, a really good Christmas season.