Monday, 24 March 2008

Anxiety - still winning the battle

Everything is boringly good here.

Friday was the best day. While I was out with the children, Marie made an appointment to see our doctor at the out-of-hours clinic - about 9 miles from our home. She rang me to tell me she needed a lift there, but due to heavy traffic, I couldn't get home in time. Much to my surprise, as I neared our home, I found out that she had made her own way there by car. Even more surprising, she then went into the clinic and saw the doctor - all by herself! When I was near the clinic, I met her on her way back home!

Then on Sunday, when we were all out in the car, I pulled into a petrol station to fill up the car. While I was busy pumping petrol, Marie got out of the car and walked about 10m over to the mini-supermarket attached to the petrol station. She then got some supplies and went to the checkout - also settling my petrol bill!

And yesterday (Monday) while we were at Marie's parents' house, she came out into their pretty large garden to run around the lawn, joining in the ball game I was having with the children.

All these events are totally NOT the norm for Marie, so things are changing around here...

Thursday, 20 March 2008

Beating the Anxiety Bully

Marie & I would like to thank everyone for their comments and messages of encouragement after the previous post. It's really boosting her self-esteem and inspiring her to continue to fight her agoraphobia.
She has also spent some hours reading her CBT for Dummies books. Reading is not one of Marie's main activities (except for various celebrity gossip magazines), so there is something going on!

Animations - camaro-02

Marie drove some more today. She's consolidating her territorial gain!

It's not earth-shattering progress, but there's a breath of hope in the air. Actually, it's stronger than that - Marie is starting to believe that she can have a panic attack and not die. Here's a snippet of what she wrote on her post on the "No More Panic" forum
(or you can read the whole post here, if you wish)...

[I am] starting to believe - for the first time! - that [I] can get [my] life back on track if [I am] very brave and stand up to the anxiety bully. And [I] found out that anxiety really does die whilst you are it's ok to try to do new things step by step...."

Hopefully, there will be lots more positive posts to follow!

Animations - smiley-13

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Marie is jumping up & down with joy!

Marie is pleased with herself today.

Here is what she posted on the forum she frequents.


As some of you might know, I suffer from agoraphobia big time. And since Christmas, I've been having a baaaaaaad time.

Until today !!!!!!

My doting hubby bought me a car some years ago, but the poor thing (the car, that is, not my hubby!) has hardly ever gone than ½ mile from our house!

Until today...

Today I drove...





What do you think of that???

I've been depressed lately, thinking about how little independence I have in my life, and how much hubby has to do. So, when I found out that he was working 8 miles away, I decided to surprise him by going there. When I got there, I waited outside the door of a store-room. When he came out & saw me, he nearly sh*t himself! But once he got over the shock, he was sooooooooooooooooooooo pleased with me!!!!!

It wasn't easy...

I wanted to go...but I felt too scared ..but I still wanted to go
...but there were the "what if's"...but I really wanted to I thought...

...I'm just going to go for it!! I got in my car, put on my fav cd, started the car...

...and just DROVE!

I followed another car so that I could fool myself that I wasn't on my own, but after a few miles, I lost him (her?) at traffic lights. I did think of the places that I could stop & ring hubby if I started to feel too panicky to drive, but stopping & freaking out in the middle of the countryside (I'm a country girl lol) didn't exactly appeal to me! After a while, it was closer to drive on to my hubby than it was to home, so it became easier to go the rest of the way. Then I started to get a buzz and excitement as I realised what I was achieving!!

So now I have to remember how good I felt achieving this little step, so that I can repeat it...and go on to do MORE little steps.

But in the meantime...

I'm jumping up & down with joy!


I'm pretty pleased about it, too!

Saturday, 15 March 2008

Panic attack - what should a carer do?

This morning Marie took herself and the children out in her car around our town, calling at friends' houses and local shops. She hasn't done this for a while, so it was a good omen.

In the afternoon, I had to drive about 25 miles away today on a family matter. As usual, the kids wanted to go "with daddy" too.

"Are you stopping on the way? What are you going to do with the kids?" asked Marie.

"I'm going to call in at a shopping centre on the way" I told her. "The weather is too bad to do anything else."

"I'll come too." said Marie. Encouraqing. Even though I knew that the shopping centre I intended to stop at was the type where you could park outside each store. It was the first time in ages that she had wanted to go to shopping anywhere.

So some time later, I pulled up outside a large store, parking about 5m from the entrance. We all went in. Marie had her usual aid, a large shopping trolley. Marie wasn't able to permeate the back end of the store, so I left her to explore that part of the premises in which she was comfortable, while the children and I carried on down the store. A few minutes later, my phone rang. I could tell from her voice, before she said "Help me, I can't get out of here!" that Marie had heightened anxiety. The children and I quickly went to the front of the store. The problem was that Marie couldn't get out of the store while holding on to her trolley. We helped Marie, who was exhibiting all the signs of an impending panic attack, to get outside, complete with trolley. The children and I then went back to our shopping activities.

A couple of minutes later, the phone rang again. It was Marie (no surprise there!).

"Why didn't you come outside with me?"

"Because I knew you weren't in any danger."

"Yes, but you knew that I was having a panic attack."

"Yes, but I knew that you weren't in any danger."

"I've been panicking out here. I couldn't get to the car. I've been screaming. People out here were looking at me as though I was a demented lunatic. I can't stand here all day!"

"Ok, we'll come out now."

When we got outside, we could see that Marie had eventually managed to get to the car. She was sitting calmly inside.

Nothing more has been said about this incident, but I would like to know from panic panic attack sufferers - should I have behaved differently? Your opinions, please.

Monday, 10 March 2008

After the weekend

Here is my daughter Collette and her fiancé, Neil. They are to wed in just over 5 weeks time (which is, of course, causing anticipatory anxiety for Marie).
On Friday evening, most of my family gathered at Collette's (and Neil's) new house for the dual purposes of having a look round the house and celebrating Colleen's birthday.
The new house

The house has a non traditional layout.
The ground floor has a garage with a couple of rooms behind. The next floor houses the living and dining areas and the kitchen while the top floor has bedrooms. Bathrooms and closets are liberally sprinkled throughout. This will be a good house for Neil & Collette if they have a row; one can stay on the bottom floor and the other on the top, thus avoiding close contact until they make up. ;-)

Marie coped with this unorthodox layout very well with just a slight pause before climbing upstairs to the living room. Enjoyable revelry ensued, accompanied by copious amounts of food and drink for those that wanted it. A good time was had by all, and Marie was able to relax and join in.

Marie looked stunning at the christening.

Next day found us in Weymouth at a local church where our nephew Sachin (Marie's sister's son) was to be christened. On initial inspection, the church and its hall were not suitable for agoraphobics. The entrance to the church was too far away from the car park, and the entrance to the church hall - the venue for the after-christening party - was at the end of a path roughly 20m from the car park. Cunning was required. I found a grassy area just round the corner from the church door and parked there.
Later, I drove up the path to the church hall door and parked on the lawn in front of it. Fortunately, no-one objected.

Both buildings gave Marie problems. The church was huge both in area and height, and the christening ceremony had nearly concluded before she was able to get close to the baptismal font.

Sachin wanted to play with the water in the font!

The church hall was an even bigger challenge. There was an entrance hall to cross before entering the main hall. This took Marie about 30 minutes and was successful only with the use of Sachin's pram. It was about an hour later when she felt comfortable enough to relax and move around the hall a little. So in the end, she had an enjoyable day; I, on the other hand, spent the day looking after the children.

We stayed at Marie's parents' house but I'm sad to report that no ghosts were in evidence this time. On Sunday the children played on the nearby beach with their grandad and at local playgrounds with me while Marie had a restful day in the company of her family and her best friend Claire.

In my spare moments, I looked through "Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Dummies" and the "Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Workbook for Dummies" (click on the pictures for more details). Neither is easy reading! However, I realised that I didn't need to read all of the books - just those parts pertaining to Marie's problems. This means that Marie will be able to start to use the books immediately while I continue to read the rest of the books. Marie and I are going to look at the first exercise this evening.

Once the writing exercises are complete, Marie must begin her "exposure" sessions. Planned exposure therapy has always been a no-no for Marie, so we'll have to see what happens when we get to that bit! I explained to her that when she pauses at the start of a building and waits until she is comfortable to enter, she is, in fact, practising exposure therapy - albeit on a small scale. She understands this, but I can sense an unwillingness to go down this road on a planned and timed goal-driven basis. Time will tell!

Friday, 7 March 2008

Agoraphobia & Depression (2)

So it's not a major breakthrough. It's not like the anxiety problem has gone away. But there is a little chink of light becoming visible...possibly at the end of the tunnel of depression?

Marie drove her car today. Just her and Orla. Not far. Just to the flower shop close to our home. Very close, actually. But even though she had some anticipatory anxiety, she did it.


A little parcel from Amazon arrived this morning. There was a book inside - "Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Workbook for Dummies". Marie had ordered it. She wants me to help her to work her way through it. We've been here before - a new idea/scheme/therapy - and it has come to naught. But...underlying this is the desire to improve life and the belief that it can be improved.

The depression isn't winning.

This evening we go to Collette's (Collette is daughter #4) new house for a little party to celebrate Colleen's (Colleen is daughter # 2) birthday. From there we go to Weymouth to stay with Marie's parents for the weekend. Her nephew Sachin is to be christened tomorrow and there's a party afterwards.

I am hopeful that Marie will be on better form next week.

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Agoraphobia worsens and Depression returns

Marie’s depression didn’t stay away. She’s not as bad as she was at the start of the year, but she’s not too good either. She’s living here, but it’s like she’s in her own world a lot of the time. When she's not sleeping, you can find her in cyberspace, either in a chat room or on MSN. Joseph has noticed that his mummy is behaving differently and has asked me why is mummy like that? Orla’s behaviour has deteriorated. She’s got chicken pox, so she’s confined to home. She’s uncomfortable and gets bored and has to create a fuss just to get noticed. Both kids are stuck to me like glue when I’m at home.

Marie’s agoraphobia has got much worse too. We went out last Friday and she wasn’t able to walk more than 4m from the car. Even to look in a clothes shop – her favourite activity! There’s such a difference between how she is now and how she was, not so long ago, shopping at Clifton. On the occasions that she made it into a shop this time, she couldn’t get past an invisible line about 1m inside the door!

And she has stopped going out in her car.

Marie had been doing EFT exercises and she believed that it was helping her, but over the past couple of weeks she hasn’t been able to motivate herself to do her “homework”. Whatever help EFT had generated previously has totally evaporated now.

I have been totally unable to help her. I feel useless!

One good thing – her recently acquired ability to stay at home by herself hasn’t left, so I have been able to get the children out of the house now and again. Things could be worse!