Thursday, 31 July 2008

Agoraphobia and more Austrian students

Last year, Marie decided that we should become a host family to students attending an English language learning summer school. So in July, Agnes and Alice arrived. And in August, we got Julia and Anna. Marie liked our hosting experience and decided that we should repeat it this year. Since she's still suffering the "settling in" side effects of her medication, it seemed like a useful diversion for her.

It's an area where agoraphobia doesn't interfere much. It's also an excuse for Marie to spend lots of money redecorating and furnishing a bedroom. And, like last year, it was all carried out in a hurry.

I meet Sarah, Johanna & Karin

First of all, I had to clear out all the old furniture & carpet. Then the workmen arrived for a few days. Next was the selecting of appropriate furniture. Since I wasn't going to be sleeping in the room, I gave Marie a free hand with the design. Everything was ordered online, of course, since Marie is currently not able to visit even small furniture stores. Delivery after delivery arrived - all items needing assembly and/or fixing to the walls. Guess who got the job of assembling the flat-pack furniture? And putting up curtain rails? Yes...yours truly. Now I know why I was given an electric screwdriver for Christmas!

Johanna & Orla became great friends

A couple of days later, our students arrived to occupy our new "Pink Room". It's not all pink - there's a little white too. But definitely not a room for the boys. Well, not the straight boys, anyway. At the last minute, we were asked to take 3 students. We agreed, intending to put the third girl in a different room, but since the 3 were close friends & wanted to stay in the same room (and the room was big enough to accommodate 3 beds), I had to hastily organise an extra bed.

Sarah & Karin about to go on a deep sea fishing trip.

They had a really good time & were very successful.

The girls were a pleasure to have. Chatty, cheerful, good with the kids, clean, tidy, polite...the perfect guests. Marie, the children & I really enjoyed having them stay with us. There were tears from them and Marie when, after 2 weeks, it was time for them to return to their homes.

Here we all are in the "Pink Room".

However, three more are staying here next week!

Friday, 18 July 2008

Syncope and Reflex Anoxic Seizures

Here's a picture of Orla sitting on my knee eating birthday cake. The occasion is the family party to celebrate her 3rd birthday, last weekend.

It's just coincidence, of course, but just after her 2nd birthday I wrote a post about her fitting episodes...and here I am, a year later, writing about them again. That's because she's recently been having them more frequently. Is it also a coincidence that they became more frequent when Marie's anxiety increased significantly?

The fits are all very similar in character. Orla has an unexpected bump/pain/injury; she cries; the crying stops; she goes completely limp, like dead; her breathing and/or her heart stop(s); she turns white or blue; suddenly she comes "back to life" and resumes crying, during which she is inconsolable but requires being held close; there is a recovery period (the length of which can vary from several minutes to a couple of hours); everything goes back to normal. The thing is, I just can't get used to her "dying" in my arms. Even though I know that it won't last very long...but it feels like it is lasting very long. My relief when she resumes crying is tempered by the knowledge that the recovery is distressing for her.

RAS sufferer called Nikki added a comment to my previous post on this subject and I found it very comforting. (Blogging has its rewards!) Also, since I know that many RAS sufferers go on to suffer from anxiety conditions and/or depression, I can try to make sure that Orla has the best chance of avoiding that.

But I still can't get used to it....

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Fighting Anxiety to see the New Baby

And this is the reason that we went to see Marie's sister.
She had just given birth.
And this was the result.
A litle miracle, like all babies.

Marie had almost given up hope of seeing her new nephew any time soon.
Her anxiety level was too high to contemplate a 3.5 hour trip.
But then the citalopram kicked in.

Orla was enthralled.
Her Dora doll was immediately renamed Raphael.
He had his nappy changed, and lots of bottles of milk.

But next day, Dora had become Dora again.
Ah, the vagaries of children!

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Medication for Anxiety

After a while, Marie got quite upset at the new, unexplained and unexpected deterioration in her condition.

Her first instinctive reaction was to retreat from the world until the nasty thing went away. It soon became obvious to her that this was, in fact, making her worse. She started having panic attacks for no obvious reason - sometimes several in a day. She was anxious all the time. She was unable to work. She started to become afraid to go out in the car with me - even the short distance to Joseph's school. She almost completely stopped functioning as a mother. Her days were either spent sleeping or online, talking to other sufferers. Eventually Marie decided that she would try anything that might help. It was the constant state of anxiety that was getting to her the most. So, for the first time ever, she rang that doctor and asked if there was some form of medication that she could take to alleviate her anxiety. Marie was always against taking medication; her theory was that if they worked, then she would have to take them for ever to prevent the condition returning. Better to be "cured" without meds, she believed.

The doctor prescribed Cipramil (citalopram). To be reviewed after 4 weeks or so.

The first two weeks on meds saw Marie get even worse, but her doctor and online friends, many of whom had taken/were taking citalopram, told her that this is normal and fades away after 2/3 weeks. And they were all correct. Marie's anxiety level is much lower now. So much so, that we were able to go to Brighton to see her sister - unthinkable a few weeks ago. She has resumed her previous rĂ´le as fun mummy.

Oddly, Marie's monophobia has neither deteriorated nor improved over this period. Weird world, isn't it?

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Agoraphobia & Anxiety get even worse...

My blogging hiatus is over. For the moment at least :) Free time, always a precious commodity, has become very scarce. Looking after an agoraphobic wife, my immediate family and business, while also attending to my wider family when required, has exhausted my free time and most of my energy...

For Marie, things have gone from worse to worse.

She is almost housebound. Her only escape is by car and she is even becoming anxious about going out that way. Gone are the days of driving trips to the shops/scool/friends' houses. No more visits to shops or any unfamiliar address. She is constantly in a state of anxiety. Not only is she regularly irritable with me, but also with the children (particularly Orla), who cannot understand what is going on. I have had to increase my parenting time and duties, which has caused me to pay less attention to my business.

Despite the inappropriateness of the timing and with only a minimal effort on my part, my business has been expanding. While in strictly financial terms this is good, in logistical terms it is an unwelcome extra burden.

At the end of May, the children and I spent a quite enjoyable week in Ireland, visiting Jenna, the only one of my children that doesn't live near me. Here is Joseph in front of her house.
Jenna now lives in a typical sprawling urban housing estate (with all the inherent problems of this type of area). In social terms it's a retrograde move, but now that she has much more contact with her mother she seems happier and that's all that really matters.

Orla and Elisha (my grand-daughter, 13 days younger than Orla) enjoyed each others' company.

They are both "Dora The Explorer" fans, and here they are sleeping with their "Dora's" in "Dora" night-clothes.

We went out as much as we could and the children had a terrific time. The highlight of our trip was a visit to Marble Arch cave complex.

The weather was wall-to-wall sunshine, while back in the southwest England cloudbursts and other extreme weather conditions were prevalent - this was the (very welcome!) opposite to the norm.

Marie went to her parents' house where she (she told me) she had an "okay" time. She seemed glad to return home. Anticipatory anxiety (about my impending trip to Ireland) was no longer a viable reason for her heightened anxiety and no substitute reason was offered. It's a mystery.

Optimism is waning. Does it show?