Friday, 18 September 2015
Do I have to go outside?
I've mentioned it before that I have anxiety issues and most of the time I'm cool but going outside isn't hard for me it's just I'd much rather not be not inside... Oh yeah, totally nailed that sentence. So I just though I'd write it out what I sometimes feel and how I cope. I think it might help me. So this is more for me than, you guys.
So let's say I want to go out I'll start preparing at least a day before. I'll tell my husband I'm coming to see him or I'm going to town on the Monday morning and then actually manage to do it on the Tuesday or even Wednesday. My two friends and both have set times and days that we meet up and they rarely change because they know I will most probably flake on them. I hate being a flake.
I have to ready myself to go outside by myself, like mentally prepare. Its got harder lately. I don't get to "just pop out" I wish I could, it would be the most amazing thing to just decide I'm going outside. I plan my route - even though I take the same route and visit the same places and same shops, I still plan it out in my head. I write a list on paper (I used to do it on my phone but I don't connect with typing as much as I do with actually writing), tbh I will probably write it a couple of times to make sure I've written all the things I need to do/buy. First thing in the morning I set out all my stuff; clothes, makeup, pushchair, baby food - whatever I need when I'm out I set it out neatly and check it three times. I set out half an hour early for my train because rushing stresses me out and make being outside even harder. Then while I'm out, I don't like crowded places; I will actively walk back out of a shop if it has too many people. I don't care if I needed something. I cannot do it. I'll do what I need to do and then jump back on my train home as soon as I can. Get home and then I'll be shattered for the next few days, I don't know why being outside takes so much out of me. It tires me so much. And that's a good day. Like no tears or attacks. That's most of the time, like I've gotten to the point where there is more chance that I'll just be okay with being out as long as I'm all prepared and well timed, I can be like "it's fine, everything is cool".
Every now and again I'll be having a bad day or I am jumpy and I can feel a panic attack building, so let's say it's been a super difficult day. I'm trying to define a "bad day"... Umm. So the last one I can remember was after the first time I was out after someone had yelled something quiet racist at me whilst driving past (I'm terrified of yelling, I can't deal with raised voices. I automatically shut down), I had been ill so I was feeling fragile, my baby was in his pushchair because I didn't think I was safe to carry him so he wasn't close, I think I was arguing with someone and I'd not slept because of it so I was pretty fragile but yeah it just sounds like a bit of a shitty day for a normal person but that is honestly enough to just make me not leave the house because I feel so vulnerable. I know its pathetic so don't start. I know it stupid and I should just pull myself together and man up but I can't, I've got better at it and I will keep getting better and if you want to have a go at me, you can go a fuck a cactus and eat a teacup.
So yeah I have a few things I do to keep me grounded. It's taken me years to find them, I took ideas suggested to me, that didn't work and altered them so they were more me, if that makes sense.
1) My son
This stemmed from the whole "call a friend or family member" thing instead I concentrate on my son, this is the most effective, for me; I will point out things and spell them, I'll stroke his hair, anything that keeps my focus on him; as long as I'm focused on him I can usually calm myself down. I'll play with his chubby little hands or kiss his little fat face. I'll have him in his carrier on these days, just so he is closer to me. It makes me hyper aware of my breathing and emotions because I know he can feel it and I don't want him to feel like I am so I have to calm down. It took me my entire pregnancy to get it right, I would be able to feel him get stressed and start moving about in a really jabby, sharp way so that how I knew I was upsetting him too and I couldn't take it. I felt like I was hurting my baby so I would do whatever I had to do to calm myself down. But now I can focus and it works pretty much every time.
So, breathing exercises have never worked for me, personally, sometimes they've even made it worse but I love to sing and to sing you have to control your breathing, so I sing to my son. Like I'm not saying starts screaming out AC/DC on the train but I'll quietly sing his bedtime songs to him, like 'la vie en rose', 'a wonderful world' and 'dream a little dream of me'. This usually buys me a little time and calms me down for a while or at least slows my breathing.
I get super twitchy and my hands go into overdrive when I'm having an attack or one is building, when I was like 13-17 I would pinch my skin to the point my nails would punctured the skin or Id wring my hands until they got sore so I realised I needed to keep my hands busy. I was buying some presents for my siblings and I saw a little tub of pink playdoh and it sorta clicked in my head that this might help, so I got a tub. Depending on how bad I feeling the ball gets smaller, I find a smaller amounts easier to squish quickly in between my fingers. I call them my playdoh days. It kind of works on two levels- the smell of it makes me feel little and that's really helpful and then squishing it satisfies that urge in my hands to do something.
These things work for me, they have taken a while to get right and they take a little time to get used to but they help me.
On the rare days where I have to go in an emergency and I may struggle with an anxiety attack (panic attacks are different), sometimes I can get to and from where I need to go and only be tearful with my breathing, heart rate going slightly fast, other times the second I know I have go out and I start to get ready to leave the house, it starts. My hands get sweaty, my heart starts beating hard, my breathing gets faster, I feel a bit dizzy, I get edgy and I'm even more easily frightened than normal. I've noticed that my hearing gets sharper, I hear little noises that I normally wouldn't be bothered about. By the time I've reached the door, I'm almost in tears. I can usually get outside before I actually start crying. I'll get to where I need to be and be in a full blown attack. My heart goes crazy, I can hear it beating so loud in my ears. My breathing is just not working, I know in hyperventilating but I can't stop it. For me everything becomes for vivid and it some how makes it scarier. People, faces, colour, sounds and movement become terrifying. It's weird like I can see and feel everything all at once, it's like an overload. Before figured out how to deal with them I would hide in a bathroom until I calmed down. Then I started calling someone that knows how to deal with my attacks and they calm me down, my sister has always been able to deal with my attacks, idk why but she's always just been good at it. I've taught my husband what to do although he has only seen them a few time and that's usually when I have had nightmares. Now like I said I use those three things.
I'm sure I look weird hugging my baby, squishing playdoh and singing but I honestly don't care. I realised I probably look just as weird crying against a wall, unable to breathe. I've been struggling with this kind of thing for a long time but I've gotten so much better at coping. Things like talking and facing fears/triggers have really helped me and I've had my husband by my side every step. He supports me when I'm afraid and holds my hand. He will judge a situation and see if it is better for me to not be there or to face it and he is almost always right. If I say "We need to leave now please" he will always listen. Like I remember when he took me to like a festival type thing, God I was so scared, but he held me tight and made me concentrate on him and didn't get annoyed at me when I had my eyes shut and was holding on to him for dear life. I wanted to do it, we had done some warm ups so like we had been to a few outdoor events with lots of people, I went along with him when his mates wanted to meet up and go out. That was really hard. I mean we were still in a booth and in a quieter area but I was there and I didn't feel like I was going to die. I was in a confined space, full of people I didn't know, I could barely hear myself for the music and it was relatively dim. All the things I'm terrified of. As you can tell I'm great on a night out hahahha :| it was hard but when I got home I was like "omg I did it and I'm not dead" and it helped me.
What I'm trying to say is find what works for you, have someone who helps you whether that be partner, family, friend, counsellor or whatever. Talk, facing and sharing what scares you isn't being weak, it is the strongest thing you will do.
If you see someone hyperventilating or having an attack - gently walk up to them, keep your body language as open and soft as possible and ask them if they are okay. If they ask to be left alone, please try not to get offended- they currently feel like they may be dying. Or if you you don't feel like you should and you're in a shop or something, maybe alert a member of staff or security. So many times people have afforded me their kindness and and time and each time I am ever grateful. I've been touched by the concern of a stranger so many times. You make a difference to my day and you honestly make it into so many of my stories. When I go home I tell my husband and he thanks god that there are people in the world who haven't lost their humanity and can empathise with strangers.
Thank you to Leah and Cat. Both of these lovely women took time out of thier day and stopped to make sure I was okay. You are a few of the people I managed to get the name of, you guys made me feel like it's okay to be the way I am <3