CBT in the Guardian

The Guardian have this rather funky little video explaining about CBT.
I watched it – I think it’s important that information like that is put out there – and then I felt a pang of anxiety.
The lady who has kindly allowed the BMJ (who made the film) into her OCD world describes some of the tasks that she was given to show her that nothing bad would happen if she didn’t was her hands ten million times. The example they show in the film is of her putting her hand down the toilet, then eating without washing her hands.
Now, I’ve been told I have “OCD tendencies” but I don’t know ANYONE that wouldn’t be knocked a bit sick by that. It’s the equivalent of throwing a tarantula at someone with a spider phobia and saying pleasantly, “now, how did that make you feel?”
I’m aware that they don’t have a huge amount of time to show everything, and there is a risk that people could have “information overload” but how hard would it be to say “this process is done gradually, exploring your feelings and actions as you go, with goals and tasks being managable” See? How long did that take?
If I had OCD and saw that film, I’d probably think “holy fucking shit, there’s no way I can do that” and resign myself to a lifetime of chapped skin and a clean loo.
CBT is done GRADUALLY, people, and if you really really struggle with a task, they look at doing it a bit differently, or more slowly.
Now, how did that make you feel?

Today

Today, I am agoraphobic. Today, I don’t go anywhere without my long suffering husband. I cling to his hand constantly, terrified of losing contact with him even for a moment. At home, I don’t answer the phone, I keep the curtains closed – and I certainly don’t answer the door. In fact, someone knocking at the door will often trigger a panic attack. The door is always locked.
On the rare occasion that I go out, my husband must be with me. I don’t trust anyone else. I must know in advance where we’re going, and in what order. Any deviation from that could trigger panic. I can’t stay out too long. I feel exposed and vulnerable, like I’m standing naked in the high street after drinking ten espressos. People are staring at me. I know they are. They think things about me – bad things – and I just want to escape. I just want to feel safe.
Today, I have lost contact with most of my friends. I no longer do the things I used to beause panic and agoraphobia have taken over my life. I can’t go out socially – god no. Just the thought makes my heart race. I can’t remember the last time I went to the cinema, and I used to love that. Now, the idea of being in a dark room with all those noises, images, and god – the people. I can’t deal with people.
Today, my daily life consists of trying to disappear, trying to hide. I don’t do much at home. I don’t have any hobbies any more because I can’t concentrate for long and I get angry and frustrated with myself. I often get depressed, but can’t take medication because it makes me sick. Home is my safe place, I know where things are, and that doors and windows are locked. I just hope the phone doesn’t ring.
Today, I have a medical for the Benefits Agency, and I’m bricking it. That bit, at least, is still true.

Woolfest 2007

I know, I know, I’ve been back over a week and I haven’t told you all about it. Truth be told, I’m utterly buggered, and now I’m home and don’t have that Iminent Goal I’ve sort of pooped out.
The thing I want to say the most is that you can’t put a price on good friends. These are people who look out for you without you even noticing it, who give you space without leaving you alone, and who really show they care. Thank you, Becky, Kath, Carrie and Andrea. I love you guys, seriously.
Becky and I set off on Thursday evening, our destination a beautiful campsite just outside Cockermouth (they do B&B too, Mr D and I are definitely going back someday). We got there around 8pm, and it was gloomy, windy and raining. Out of all the things I’d packed, stupidly I forgot a coat. For the most part, I was okay, and borrowed Kath’s afghan blanket and fleece jacket when I needed to.
Kath had arrived the day before with her husband, who’d left her there with the caravan all nicely set up for us. The weather was so atrocious that night, I think if we’d had to rely on the tent, I’d have gone to ask if there were any B&B rooms spare. The caravan was lovely, though, and we cozied up with our knitting, a bottle of wine and chinese food. Heaven.
Woolfest itself was the same as I’d remembered from last year, but a few people have said in hindsight that it was better this year – and I agree. I can’t put my finger on it. Maybe it was because I was with other fibre addicts rather than a bemused spouse, maybe it was the fact that (in Kath’s words) I was “seeing it with new eyes” because of everything I’ve learned about spinning etc since last year, and I knew what I was looking for. Maybe there was some other mojo at work. At first, I stuck with the girls, my anxiety okay, but I didn’t want to push it yet. We headed over to the raw fleece sale – Becky and Kath both wanted to check them out. I wasn’t so bothered – I had two raw fleeces at home that I needed to work on, and knew another wasn’t going to help. Carrie and I wandered off, and I slowly built up my confidence and wandered off a bit too.

I spent a small fortune, of course. My goal had been to get as many different fibres for spinning as possible, and (off the top of my head) I got small bags of cashmere, milk protein, bamboo, linen, ramie, cotton, tencel and Crokeback angora. I also got a larger bag of baby alpaca, something that I do intend to spin, but for now I’m just going to stroke it every now and again… I also got some yarn – some handpainted hemp in a gorgeous green colourway. I also got some handpainted kid mohair/silk, but only got 50g of it, so might have to mix it with something else to make a shawl or something. To be honest, it’s very much like Rowan’s kidsilk haze, only varigated.
Two days was wonderful, and flew over. Although three of us took our spinning wheels, only Becky did any spinning – the rest of us were too tired! It was lovely on Friday night just watching Becky spin – there’s something very soothing about the rhythm of a spinning wheel. Aside from anything, the baby camel/silk she was spinning was incredible! You can see the finished result here – I’ve seen it “in the flesh” and believe me, it’s utterly gorgeous.
It was also really cool to meet a few knitting bloggers I’d heard of, especially Artis-Anne and her daughter Kath, who are both really lovely.
So, what about the anxiety? Well, I only got properly anxious once. ONCE! Becky had gone to a lecture, and Carrie and Kath had gone to a workshop. Andrea was around somewhere, but as she only came for the day on Saturday, she was off on a shopping mission. I had her phone number, but wasn’t sure where she was. Rather than instinctively trying to find a familiar face, I decided to stay where I was. My anxiety grew as I realised for the first time I was actually on my own. However, I managed it, telling myself that Andrea was only a phonecall away, and it wasn’t long before we met up anyway.
In all, the whole thing was a resounding success, and now I just have to find another goal. I guess my maxim from now on will be “I managed Woolfest, I can do anything
More photos on my flickr set.

Iminence

Firstly, thank you all for the comments and encouragement – it means such a lot, and is a terriffic boost. You lot are lovely 🙂
Anyhoo.
We set off tomorrow. TOMORROW. Eeeek!
Actually, I’m really excited – and hanging on to what D said about the physical responses to excitement and anxiety being exactly the same. Every time I get butterflies or feel my heart pumping, I tell myself it’s excitement. And so far, it’s worked!
I’m as ready as I’ll ever be, I have a sleeping bag and various other bits and bobs, I’ve made lists, I’ve started packing. Well, to be fair, I started packing a couple of weeks ago. My excuse is that I didn’t want to worry the cat by getting my backpack out at the last minute…
My biggest worries now are the weather (we’re taking our spinning wheels, and can’t exactly spin in the rain) and my stupid spine. Lately, my neck has been playing up, and a good 60% of the time I have pins and needles in my right arm. My grip is shocking, and my shoulders hurt. It’s probably stress related tension having a knock on effect on the arthritis, but it’s annoying. Plus, it means that I’m not sleeping well, and as I’m Absolutely Shattered from the whole CBT thing, I’d planned on plenty of naps to restore my strength for all the running around and oohing and aahing at Woolfest.
I will be fine, except my left knee keeps giving way, like it’s “dead”. It’s hard to work it out, because I just don’t notice anything until the feeling comes back (by which point it’s too late), then I get that really cold pins and needles feeling, right under my kneecap. It’s made me fall over a couple of times, so I’m mentioning it here in case the Girls think I’m pissed. It makes no sense, it coincides with the neck thing, but I’d have thought that nerves in the knee originate from the lower back. I don’t know. Just let me know when they invent spine transplants…
This is probably going to be the last blog entry until I come back. The plan is to take a notebook and write stuff down, then let you all know the gory details when we get back on Sunday. Tonight, walking round Sainsburys and wondering what else I needed, I realised that this was the LAST OPPORTUNITY to get Stuff. I stopped myself from putting one of everything in the trolley, and got a couple of things I’d thought of.
I shall stop fretting any… second…. NOW.

Journey of the Something

I’ve fallen behind with the blog again. Not by much – not compared to my usual marathon sabbaticals, but enough to be sitting here with two or three half written blog posts in Notepad, that really should be published in order.
The truth is, I am mentally exhausted. I am trying so hard to go further, push myself harder, that I’ve tired myself out. I look at the text box on my blogging software and the letters turn to mush before my eyes. I write a couple of sentences, and my concentration wanders onto anything – usually nothing.
On Thursday 30th May, I walked to the corner shop by myself. I went inside, and bought a pint of milk and a rather delicious chicken sandwich. An achievement that warrants a blog post all of its own, and indeed, I had mostly written a blog post all about it. Then on Friday 1st June I did it all again, and waited at the edge of the estate for Becky to collect me for her knitting group. Monday saw another knitting group, followed by a grand outing with Becky and her two daughters to the Botanical Gardens. Another blog post. Somehow, I fell behind, and now I’m sitting here at 7am on a Saturday Sunday, thinking “Crap, I really ought to get my skates on and write”.
I need to write. I need to document all the things I’ve been doing, partly so I can tell D my psychologist when I see her on Tuesday. The plan had been to write about each outing in detail, because if I said, “oh yeah, I’ve managed to go to the shop then walk down as far as the post office, cross the road and walk back home” it sounds like I’ve not been doing anything in between and I could do this all along. I’m supposed to be trying to convey what it’s like recovering from agoraphobia. Saying “I went to the shop yesterday” doesn’t quite do it.
The plan was to do “graded exposure”, build up slowly with an eventual goal of going to the Post Office to post Something. I have been doing this, and managing well – thinking about what I’m doing, making a note of any negative thoughts, considering how I feel. On Friday, I walked to the shop and bought a sandwich again, then walked further down the road towards the Post Office. I felt like I was a million miles away from home, exposed, vulnerable. It’s a strange sensation doing things like this when you haven’t for so long. I know it will subside the more I do it, but right now, it feels weird. When I came home, I thought about when to post the Something at the Post Office. I decided against Monday, simply because it would be so busy, and I think the first time I do this, it needs to be on my terms.
So, yesterday morning as Mr D was getting ready, I wrapped the Something, put it in a jiffy bag, addressed it, and set off. Going with a purpose seemed better, somehow. I think this was partly because this was my End Goal – and I was doing it. When I’d mentioned to D about doing this before Woolfest, it seemed so distant and unreachable, but now here I was, striding off with a purpose. The more steps I took, the more I reminded myself that I’d already done this (barring going inside the Post Office) I’d gone this far, I’d managed and not freaked out.
I walked into the Post Office, and the chap behind the counter greeted me with a cheery “Good morning!” He’s a lovely bloke, with a wicked sense of humour and always has a cheerful smile. He weighed my parcel, I paid the postage, took my receipt, thanked him and went. That was it – my Something was on its way. Walking back, I don’t know if it was my imagination that I had a spring in my step. I’d done it – I’d gone to the Post Office, and no-one had died, the sky hadn’t fallen, and I hadn’t panicked.
I need to keep doing this, but there’s only so much I can do at the Post Office before the postmaster thinks I fancy him. I might chuck stuff on ebay, so my therapy is lucrative in more ways than one. Whatever else I do, I can’t stop now.

All By Myself

The latest Twitter thing – “in Borders ON MY OWN!” doesn’t quite explain it.
Yesterday, Mr D and I went to the big retail park out of town. We’d gone into M&S where I’d found a massive stainless steel stock pot for £7.60 (bought for dyeing yarn in) and we’d bought things like wine and potatoes – then the man on the bakery tempted us with just-out-of-the-oven cheese scones. The bastard. We decided to take these things back to the car, but as I have a cold I balked at the idea of walking all the way back to the car, then retracing my steps as we went to the shops further away from M&S.
“I’ll tell you what – you take the stuff back to the car, and I’ll meet you in Borders”
I wish I’d taken a photo. I thought about it, but the fake shutter noise is incredibly loud, and I felt conspicuous as it was. To get to Borders, I had to go past a massive sports shop, an enormous Argos, and a dirty great travel agents. Not to mention the BANK HOLIDAY CROWDS.
I did feel odd, that familiar strange sensation that something was missing (yeah, Mr D!) or something was wrong. I cheated slightly and cut the corner off, but I would have done that anyway. In Borders, I went straight to the magazines at the front. Carrie Anne had found a copy of Spin Off Magazine in Borders, and I crossed my fingers and held my breath that they had a copy. They did – and I grabbed my prize and wandered off with a smug grin.
A blog entry about wandering around Borders book shop may sound a bit passe. In reality, I was aware of my heartbeat, the fact I was fiddling with the press stud on my jacket sleeve, my senses were heightened – I could hear everything louder, see everything brighter. I was anxious, but I rode it rather than run away. I went upstairs and looked at the craft books (how predictable!) then looked at the DVD’s. I was looking for one in particular, and there was a man standing Just There where I needed to be. I said “excuse me” and we swapped places. I didn’t chicken out, I didn’t turn and go a different way, I faced him. Albeit for a second or two, I faced him.
It felt like I was in the shop for hours, but eventually Mr D turned up. I was relieved, but then I walked off and left him to pay for my magazine! I felt shattered afterwards. It’s amazing how physically tiring this thing can be. It’s also worth pointing out the effect that this has on people around you – Mr D later commented that it seemed to take him ages to get the stuff to the car and find me in Borders. I guess the time slowing down thing goes both ways..
I shall leave you with a shiny photo of my shiny stock pot:
IMG_0210
(note strategic placement of the 50p Gap Jacket…)

I’m just really friendly, you know

Last night, Becky and I were invited to Alison’s house. Alison is an incredible quilter, her work is amazing, and I’ve never seen anyone with so much passion for her craft.
I don’t ‘do’ going to people’s houses. It buggers about with my anxiety, and to be honest, I nearly didn’t go. I’ve only met Alison a few times at a monthly knitting group, and I don’t think I caught the whole conversation and thought that there would be Other People there. In the end, there was just the three of us enthusing over fabrics and yarns (Alison recently went to Liberty’s and brought back some gorgeous fabrics) and it was lovely to natter with other people who could be passionate about buying a knackered shirt in a charity shop and cutting it up because we like the fabric.
Becky rang before she set off to my house, and when I’d got ready I made a decision. Usually, when she picks me up for knitting groups, I wait outside the house. It’s something that I can use as therapy – to get used to the whole “being outside” thing – and it doesn’t seem so bad because I’m waiting for something. Last night, I decided to start walking towards the edge of the estate.
I set off walking, feeling pretty okay. I was on the look out for a dark green car – my only anxiety was that she’d not see me and drive past. It was raining, and as usual my glasses needed windscreen wipers. I was trying to think of how I felt, so that I could write it down for my next meeting with D, when I saw a green car. I waved enthusiastically, a grin on my face because I knew how proud Becky would be. The car didn’t slow down. As it got closer, two burly pit-bull-esque blokes gurned at me. What could I do? Well, I continued waving as they drove past. I have no idea who they were, and they did look confused. It was a rather priceless moment – and my reaction?
I just burst out laughing in the middle of the street.
Writing this, I’m thinking of how I would have reacted even six months ago. Probably “I’m stupid, I can’t even see the right person, I want to go home..” It may have escalated into full blown panic, as I fretted over who the people were and whether they were going to stop the car further up the road and confront me. My reaction last night is a big step, I think.