Visitor

I’m sorry I haven’t posted recently, I’ve had flu and was going to post about how being poorly affects anxiety. This, I think, is much more interesting, although writing it has taken a while because it increases the anxiety when I think about it…
At half past seven on Wednesday morning, Mr D went out to work as he always does, locking the door behind him. I took more notice of this than usual, reassuring myself that the front door was most definitely locked. Trying to be aware of it, so I didn’t start worrying later that he’d forgotten. I have placed a note pad and pen by each front window. I have left the blind in the kitchen closed. I have closed the bathroom door because it casts a shadow at the top of the stairs. I have brought my bag with keys and purse upstairs, and have the front door key and my mobile phone (fully charged) in my pocket. My anxiety was high.
Why?
Last Tuesday, at about 11am, someone knocked on the door. Well, “knock” is a poor choice of verb. “Bang” or “pound” might be better. I froze – then went to the front bedroom window to see if I could work out who it was. Normally, if it’s the postman, I can see their van. The person knocking stopped a moment, then rattled at the letterbox, which is brass, spring loaded and makes one hell of a clatter, before going back to pounding on the door.
There was another knocking – fainter this time, and I wondered if they’d gone next door or something, before realising that they were knocking on the living room window. I peeked out of the upstairs window as much as I dared to see who it was. I could see nothing. They banged on the door again – persistent and belligerent.
Then I heard them try to open the front door.
Words cannot describe how I felt – my mouth was dry, and that familiar hypersensitivity prickled my body. My chest tight, my heart pounding. I ran into the back bedroom that is used as an office and picked up the phone, speed-dialled Mr D’s number and when he answered I heard myself loudly whispering that “they won’t stop knocking, they won’t go away and they’ve tried the front door and…”
By this time I was in a full blown state of panic. I sank to the floor and sat against the wall in the bedroom, wanting to hide, wanting to feel safe. I could hear Mr D talking, yet again being my rock. He asked “can you see who it is?” and I stood up and peeped out of the window – in time to see a turquoise car pull off the drive. Yes, off the drive. I didn’t have my glasses on so couldn’t see a registration number, and because I was in such a state I don’t even know what make and model it was.
My afternoon was spent in a state of high alert – every car that went past I was aware of. I closed the blind in the office, and stayed there, hardly daring to move. I didn’t want to think about it because it was making me feel worse, but every distraction technique I could think of meant that if someone did try to get in again, I might not hear them. I was leery of putting the tv on in case the light or sound could be seen from outside. I didn’t want to put my mp3 player on because my headphones are noise cancelling ones. I couldn’t concentrate on a book.
Rationalising afterwards, and trying to figure out who it could be, I decided that it couldn’t be anyone I know – they wouldn’t be that cruel. Maybe a salesperson. We have some loose tiles on the roof, and sometimes builders knock to see if we want a quote. Maybe the police – but surely they would call out to announce themselves if it was that important? Plus in all of these scenarios, WHAT THE FUCK GIVES THEM THE RIGHT TO TRY THE FRONT DOOR???
I’m okay now. I think. I was thinking that this has knocked me back a bit, I’ve been way more anxious when I’m out, and on Friday when B brought me home from the knitting group, I was almost scared to open the door. However, nobody has been back since, so I’m inclined to think it was some kind of salesperson.
Bastards, whoever they were.

2006 review of the year

And what a year it’s been!
In January, I got That Letter. It’s clear that this had a profound impact on me, but reading back my emotions go from disbelief to anger to a resigned sadness that affected everything else. However, January also showed me that there are still Incredibly Decent People in the world, when I got an email from Wonderful Legal Secretary, offering to ask her boss for advice for me. He ended up representing me pro bono, and the rest his history.
February, I had some kind of bug, and although I didn’t talk about it much, my GP was inclined to think it was a gallbladder infection because I was puking the most massive amounts of bile EVER.
In March, I started CBT. I remember that first appointment with J, telling him that I didn’t think this was a good time because my mind was all over the place regarding my appeal. He advised me to “see how it goes” and I did. Progress has been slow, but it’s still been progress.
By May, however, most of my focus was on Incapacity Benefit. At the time, there was a lot in the media about proposed changes to IB, and what I learned about how IB assessments are done left me both relieved that it wasn’t just me, yet horrified at how many people had been treated so badly by the system – at a time in their lives when they needed support and guidance. I know of at least one person who didn’t appeal against his IB decision because of the amount of stress and negative impact it would have on his health.
In June, it was all over. WLS contacted me to let me know that I’d won my appeal, and that my money would be backdated. There are still no words to describe how much I appreciate her help and support during that time.
The summer seemed to be mostly about getting rid of my anger over the whole appeal thing, and getting back to normal so I could continue with CBT and concentrate on that. By September, I was embarking on a new stage of my CBT journey – practical exercises. From that first attempt, I felt like I was finally moving forward – six whole years since Panic Attack Disorder started.
In October, I had my five minutes of fame when my blog was mentioned in The Guardian, and I indulged in a knitting frenzy for National Knitting Week. The Teddy Bear’s Picnic raised money for a local hospice, and thanks to the lovely B, I made the biggest leap so far with my therapy by going with her.
November and December were all about trying not to get depressed thanks to the dark days of winter. However, I had the most colourful yarn ever and have knit a pair of socks with it. (Incidentally, Opal have re-released this yarn as “rainbow“)
I’m glad I wrote this. I thought a review was a bit passé, but it’s shown me that 2006 wasn’t the washout I’d thought. All I could think about was the first six months being a Complete Waste thanks to that IB decision, but I guess that makes my progress even more impressive.
Stand back, 2007, I’m comin’ at ya…

Don’t say “I told you so”

I knew the town would be packed out yesterday. People thinking “ooh, must go shopping” and trying to avoid Saturday. We needed some bits and pieces, and although Mr D said, “I’ll go by myself if you want” I decided to go with him, because hell – you never know what you might need in M&S’s food hall…
We got there fairly early, and the town itself was busy but I could deal with it. As we walked from the car park, I made a note of saying to Mr D “look after me” which is my code for saying ‘I don’t know if I’ll manage very well, and I need to know you’re really switched on to my anxiety’. I know he already is, I guess it’s just my way of being Absolutely Sure. We made our way along the high street, chatting about rubbish, and I was fine.
In M&S, the food hall is at the back of the store. It was busy when we went in, but still do-able. My focus was on getting a small trolley – it makes me feel safer somehow, and I don’t go supermarket shopping without one. As we went further into the food hall, my focus became fuzzier – what did I want? Where was it? Things that I thought I knew started to get lost in a fog of “OHMYGOD where the FUCK did all these PEOPLE come from???” It was half past nine, and the queues for the checkout traversed up the aisles towards the back of the store. And people WEREN’T MOVING FOR ANYTHING. We needed breadbuns, which meant a marathon fight through five rows of people like that. Yelling “EXCUSE ME PLEASE!” fell on deaf ears. The anxiety grew. I turned to Mr D. “Sod this,” I said, “just dump the trolley and let’s get out of here.”
Mr D insisted on taking the trolley back to the proper place, which (in my mind) seemed to take even longer. “I need to get out, please – just leave it there” I begged, as he stood waiting for people to move so he could put the trolley back in the line with the other ones. The world was swirling. “I NEED TO GET OUT! bollocks – I’ll meet you outside.”
The journey to the front of the store is a bit of a blur. I remember people walking towards me – so many people – please just MOVE. At the doors now. Two sets, and in my panic I try to get out of the one that’s locked. I hit it with my fist, retreat and try again. Suddenly, cold air. I hit some railings, and sit down, head in hands, foetal. The panic washes over me, and I feel sick. I can’t breathe – my chest hurts. Now Mr D is here, talking to me, telling me it’s okay.
I sit like that for a while, until my breathing starts returning to normal. I feel numb, aware only of his voice – and the fact that my backside is cold from sitting on the icy concrete. I get up and my legs feel like jelly. I’ve been crying, and my glasses are fogged up. My chest still hurts, and I feel utterly spent.
This morning (Saturday), Mr D has gone back to M&S for opening time. And this time, he’s gone by himself.

Don’t be so bloody hard on yourself…

Okay, the format of this may seem a little odd. First thing this morning, I started writing a blog entry about how I’d done with my CBT in the last couple of weeks, ahead of an appointment with D this morning. I never finished it, and now I’ve come back from my appointment, Things Have Changed. What I’ve written in normal type (aside from this bit) is what I wrote first thing – in italics is what I’ve realised since I saw D.
* * * * *
I suppose it was bound to happen – CBT is frustrating the life out of me. [this is because I have very high expectations of myself]
Firstly, I’m not getting out to do ‘therapy’ as much as I should. In the last fortnight since I saw D, I’ve managed maybe three or four purposeful expeditions, and one of those was last night, at the last minute. Part of the problem is that life gets in the way. We had all that trouble with the car, which (and I won’t bore you with the details) only got worse, resulting in Mr D driving around for a few days illegally because of a garage’s incompetence. All non essential journeys were cancelled, and that included ‘therapy’. Mr D has been worrying about his dad, who isn’t well. Mr D’s mind has been everywhere but on my therapy.
[okay, so things happen. I need to accept that it’s not always going to be a perfect therapy scenario]
On Thursday, we went into town. I’d said “look, we really need to do something” and we’d decided to go to the retail park. Unfortunately, the weather was atrocious, and when Mr D got home from work, he said he’d rather not go there because there’d been an accident and the police had the road blocked off. Plans changing suddenly doesn’t help my anxiety. Mr D suggested that all was not lost – our town centre opens late on Thursdays up to Christmas.
I tried to unravel my mind from the swirling thoughts of “hang on, this isn’t the retail park” and we set off. I think everyone in town had the same idea, because it was really busy. The car parks were so busy, that we only found a space in the third car park we found. In my head, busy car parks means busy streets, so my anxiety was rising steadily.
When we’d planned to go to the retail park, I’d said I wanted to go into Staples for something, and said I would use that as my therapy. As we walked along the high street on Thursday evening, I wondered out loud if Stationery Box was open – and exclaimed “oh good!” when it was. Something was at least going to be the same. Maybe it was my fault that I didn’t spell it out to Mr D. Inside the shop, he stuck to me like a damn magnet. I said “can I not do this by myself?” and he backed off a couple of steps. I ducked round a corner and he followed me, almost instinctively like the Old Days. I found what I wanted, went to the till and paid, and we left the shop.
I was frustrated, and mentioned it. He didn’t hear me. I said something else, and had to follow it up with “HELLO??” to which he responded, “wha? sorry, I was miles off…” I got angry, and said “fuck it – I can’t do any therapy if you’re like this” and quickened my stride as I always do when I’m cross. He didn’t say anything about it, and I didn’t try anywhere else.
[so, in spite of the fact that my anxiety was high, I still TRIED. The fact that I was wanting Mr D to sod off so I could do it on my own was a GOOD THING]
On Saturday, we were going somewhere else, and by the time we got to some shops, everywhere was too busy. On Sunday, we had a chat about what was happening. I’d been building up frustrations about how much I was doing for a while – and had actually started worrying that D would discharge me if she thought I wasn’t trying.
[this is my silly melodramatic over-reacting head. Of course D isn’t going to discharge me. Maybe if I sat there sullenly and said “I don’t give a fuck and I’m not going to try” she would, but not because I didn’t live up to my OWN expectations!]
Monday, I went into Borders, and managed to get a DVD and wander about the store while he was upstairs. We went into M&S, and for some reason, my anxiety was higher, but I stayed there for a while, telling Mr D why I was wandering around in a seemingly aimless way. It seems that Monday’s experience was the best of a bad bunch.
[in fact, what really happened was me trying incredibly hard IN SPITE of the obstacles in my way. Even with my low mood, I managed to do quite a bit, and I persevered.]
* * * * *
I told D all of this – including the bit where I was afraid she’d discharge me. She smiled a little, and said “that’s over reactive thinking…” After listening to her opinions of how I’d done, it made me realise just how hard I am on myself. I mentioned that I’d done little things – for example on Sunday in Morrisons (supermarket) while Mr D was at the till, I realised that the latest issue of the knitting magazine that I get would be out. On a whim, I said “I’m just going over there to get my knitting magazine, you stay here” and went to get it. It wasn’t far, but it was busy. I’ve always had this feeling that my ‘therapy’ outings should be structured and planned, and when I said meekly “do these things count?” to D, she replied “of course they do!”
Towards the end, she asked what I wanted to do for therapy before our next appointment. I thought for a moment and said “I want to do this last fortnight again – but this time without being so bloody negative. Try and look at the positive things I did.” It’s frustrated me that I can’t accept that I did well in spite of things going wrong, and I needed someone else to point this out to me. I also need to stop the whole “so-and-so doesn’t count” because dammit, it does count. I just read back a couple of posts – “I didn’t treat [Harrogate] as ‘therapy’.” Why not? It was big and I achieved something!
I need to start again – and this time, I’m going to be kinder to myself.

Knitting Saved my Life!

I know, it sounds like something that should be in my email spam folder – “Learn to kn1t! Results Gu@ranteed!”, but this morning as I was starting to write a post about going to B’s other knitting group last week, it occurred to me just how much knitting has been a part of my ‘therapy’. There are so many ways in which balls of yarn and pointy sticks have helped me.
Firstly, knitting gives me things to think about. I am an obsessive thinker, and while I have nothing constructive to think about, stuff goes round in my head that is both toxic and futile. Problems that are years old and have already been labelled as ‘unsolvable’ go round and round, rehashing the same old crap, getting upset by things in the past. I’m not saying I should “get over it” but frankly I’m not helping myself by obsessing. This is where knitting comes in. Obsessive bad thoughts come into my head, and I try and concentrate on learning a new technique. Look at a pattern that I thought was a bit too advanced for me, and work out in my head how to do it. Hash out a knitting problem, or work on an item while listening to something on my mp3 player. I had tried music on its own. U2 yelling at me that it was a “beautiful day” or something, yet still the bad thoughts seeped in. I’d turn up the volume to drown them out, but succeeded only in giving myself a headache. Sprinkling a liberal amount of yarn and bamboo into the mixture seems to help.
The self critical aspect of me has been kicked into touch by knitting too. As I finish something, I invariably put photos on flickr, and it’s so nice to get comments from complete strangers complementing my work. My self confidence is rubbish, and it’s lovely to get that little boost. This is something that shows a lot at the knitting group, too.
When B said she was starting an evening knitting group, I rejoiced knowing that I could get there. I knew about the monthly Friday morning one, but with Mr D working during the day, it would be virtually impossible to attend. Every journey at that point relied on him, I needed him to not only take me, but to stay with me and then bring me home again. When I asked if he’d take me to the Monday group, he was happy to – it meant that I was getting out and meeting people. He’d take whatever book he happened to be reading, and fight off the ladies er, attempts to get him knitting, and he was fine. At first, only B knew about my panic and anxiety, and I was happy with that. To be honest, I didn’t want anyone else to know. There was still that worry that I would be treated differently, or people would ‘back away slowly from the crazy lady’. As it turns out, I couldn’t have been more wrong – these are some of the lovliest people I’ve met.
A couple of months ago, the conversation drifted on to pets, and I realised that I had some photos of the cats – on the moo cards that I’d had printed, with my website and email address on the back. Before I could think, people were cooing over my kitties, and enthusing about how cool the cards were. I mumbled something about it being “just my blog” and suddenly I was giving them away. Maybe I subconsciously wanted people to know – maybe I felt comfortable enough for them to know, in a Haley Joel Osment “Sixth Sense” kind of way – “I’m ready to tell you my secrets now.” Still, I worried for a while about what they would think, and berated myself for opening up.
One thing that’s very apparent when this kind of mental fart happens is that people who knew you before behave very differently. I guess a lot of it is lack of understanding and lack of communication (which is difficult on both sides) but it still makes me nervous when I tell anybody. The only change I noticed once the knitters knew was a sense of understanding and compassion, but other than that, nothing changed. This means a hell of a lot to someone who can get incredibly paranoid…
Last week, B picked me up and took me to the Friday group. I was a little bit anxious, but it was nothing out of the ordinary, and once I got there it was just like the evening group – only with more daylight. I had a great time, chattered non stop (K and CA, next time tell me to shut up if I go on!) and was able to show off my first complete Jelly-Tots sock, complete with groovy heel.
Maybe I would have found other things if I didn’t knit, but right now, knitting is an integral part of my recovery.

Knitting and Stitching and PEOPLE oh my!

It nearly didn’t happen, and in the end I’m amazed we actually got there.
On Saturday morning, Mr D took the car to the garage for its annual MOT test. I admit I got upset when he phoned me to say that it had failed its emissions test, and needed a new catalytic converter. At a cost of around £160, it would mean that Harrogate was out of the question.
“..but it’s not that long since we had a new one put on!” I whined.
“about two years” he replied, “and they don’t last forever”
I ripped through the house like a mini tornado trying to find the paperwork for the old one – I did, and looked at the warranty. It had a week left to run. Cue massive sighs of relief, and general swearing.
That night, neither of us slept very well, and Mr D wasn’t feeling well. Inwardly my heart sank as I thought “we’re not going to get there”, but thankfully by morning he was feeling okay and the trip was back on again.
The journey there was straightforward and uneventful, and we found the car park easily thanks to a map I printed out from the Harrogate International Centre’s website. Except they hadn’t bothered to mention that it was a ‘coaches only’ park. Thankfully, there was a security guard there who gave us directions to the actual HIC car park underneath the Exhibition halls (which isn’t mentioned on their website at all).
The halls themselves were set out as you would expect, except there were several of them – and they were all laid out the same. Some traders had more than one stall, and unless you paid for an “exhibition guide” you were more or less an explorer. I didn’t mind too much, until the part where I said, “lets go back to so-and-so, they might have it…” and had no idea which direction to go. I guess the biggest obstacle for me was the people. I expected it to be busy, and had been advised to go on Sunday because it was the quieter day, but it was still incredibly busy. My anxiety levels were through the roof, and a few times, I stopped and looked at things I wasn’t remotely interested in just to ‘ground’ myself.
For people interested in any crafting stuff, Harrogate was the place to be this weekend. Obviously, there was more than the knitting and spinning stuff that I was looking for, but it was still interesting to see other things, and most places had demonstrations or stall holders working on their particular craft. I managed to hold a conversation with Debbie Tomkies, and learned to my joy that dyeing wool doesn’t necessarily have to involve nasty chemicals as I thought (you need to ‘fix’ the dye, and this is normally done with alum powder). My first purchase was a kit including 12 different colour dyes and fixatives for both animal and plant fibres. I fear for our kitchen…
I had a chat with a lady from the Spinning and Weaving Guild, and I sat for a rest on the spacious Rowan stand where they had sofas and coffee tables, where you could knit (they even had yarn and needles if you made a donation to some charity or the other). I on the other hand, pulled out the jellytots sock that I’d take with me. Trust me to be different.
I didn’t treat Sunday as ‘therapy’. It wasn’t a structured or meticulously planned thing; I definitely went with a ‘see how it goes’ attitude. However, I managed to put into practice some of the CBT stuff (albeit consciously ‘staying in the situation’ until my anxiety lessened). As with the Teddy Bear’s Picnic, I cheated a bit by distracting myself, but I’d like to think it was just distraction, not avoidance.
One interesting thing I picked up on was something that drove home how negative I am about myself. While we were there, I saw C, a lovely lady who owns a small yarn store in town. I knew she’d be going, so it wasn’t a surprise to see her, and she said she was glad I’d made it, and well done for getting here. I said thank you, I was glad too, but it wasn’t until Mr D and I talked in the car on the way home that it hit me just how profoundly different our attitudes were. While C thought I’d done well to go somewhere so busy, my thoughts were (as usual) something along the lines of “bloody hell, I should be managing this without even thinking about it”.
Maybe I should give myself a bit more credit…

Fall Back

I’ve been trying to write this for a week. The reason why may become apparent as I progress.
Last weekend across the country, people engaged in the twice annual ritual that is Changing the Clocks for Daylight Savings. For most people, this is at worst a minor irritation, at best (at least at this time of year) an extra hour in bed. For thousands of people who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, however, it acts almost like a switch, a harbinger of what winter has in store.
I suppose there are two schools of thought on this. One, that if winter depression is inevitable, then no amount of ‘being positive’ is going to help. The other is that if I’m expecting it, then it’s bound to bloody happen. This year, I decided that I’d try and ignore it, concentrate on other things – metaphorically stick my fingers in my ears and shout “la la la I’m not listening”. The problem being that when depression hit, it hit hard – like a sledgehammer to the stomach. My first indicator happened a couple of weeks ago. I was just sitting watching the local evening news with Mr D, when a report about a court case came on. The reporter recanted details of the evidence, and before I knew it, I was sitting there in floods of tears. There were many other incidents – I cried at the episode of Doctor Who, with K9 and Sarah Jane. Near the end, the Doctor says “you’re a good dog” when he realises that K9 will have to destroy himself to save them. (for the uninitiated, K9 is a robot dog) I’ve seen that episode so many times, I know that the Doctor rebuilds K9 in the end, but it didn’t stop me from blubbering.
Anticipating the inevitable, I got my SAD light out. I always work up to it slowly, increasing the time I leave it on by five minutes every few days, because if I leave it on too long, it makes me nauseous. Unfortunately my misery is accelerating at a faster rate than the light can keep up with, and I’ve found myself thinking it’s utter bollocks and it doesn’t work anyway. Luckily, I’m persevering rather than throwing it across the room..
On the clock changing front, I have been unable to sleep past 5.30am. My body clock is screwed, I start getting tired around tea-time, and by 7pm am looking longingly at the clock to see if it’s feasably time to go to bed. Last Sunday, I deliberately stayed up, forcing myself to stay awake, thinking it would mean I slept later in the morning. How wrong I was. I went to bed with a stinking headache and still woke up at 5am.
On Tuesday, I saw J’s replacement, D. I’d really wanted to write this thing about the clocks changing so I could tell you about her, (or at least our appointment) but everything’s felt so much harder, and I’ve ended up doing my usual depressed thing of ignoring Everything. Anyhow, D is lovely (she did my initial assessment back in early 2005) and I think once I get over my stupid thinking (ie “ohmygod she’s going to think I’m stupid, or there’s nothing wrong with me, or what if she expects things I can’t do” etc etc) I think I’ll be fine. I told her about the negative thinking thing – how I’m always hard on myself – and we’re going to look at that too. My anxiety was high, as expected seeing someone new, and I was so self conscious. I ended up telling her about the thing in the Guardian, and my blog, which she seemed to approve of, then I gave her one of my moo cards which I’d had printed with my website address on. Afterwards I couldn’t help feeling a bit silly – maybe somehow she would think that it was a bit too much – and as I type it occurs to me that she could read this. Ah well – even if she does, I often put things down here that I can’t express properly during appointments because my brain seems to go to mush and forget most of my known vocabulary. I see D again at the end of the month.
Finally, because I worry about people finding my blog and thinking it’s all Doom and Gloom, I figured something out. At the Teddy Bear’s Picnic, I started working with the most Gorgeous Sock Yarn Ever, and we decided that the colours were reminiscent of sweeties, but we couldn’t figure out which ones. I worked it out – Jelly Tots. Ergo:

…aaand breathe

I try hard not to read the Daily Mail because I end up getting far too shouty, and I know there is little point in commenting on something written therein, but I get angry with articles published that are misleading, one sided and downright irresponsible – especially when concerning mental health issues. And, when TV psychologist Oliver James writes an article entitled “Therapy on the NHS? What a crazy waste of £600 million!” I can’t help myself, even when I bear in mind that 1) Oliver James has recently had a book published and is therefore likely to want a load of publicity, and 2) this is the Daily Mail.
Dr James is an outspoken person at the best of times. He has made unethical and potentially damaging comments in the past – most notably about Peter Mandelson. Now, he turns his attention to the general public, poo-poohing CBT – one of the most successful treatments for mental health issues such as anxiety disorders, depression, PTSD, and others. He doesn’t merely question the efficacy of this treatment, and provide links to evidence – instead he dismisses CBT as a “crazy waste” of money. He supplies anecdotal ‘evidence’ to support this. He spouts ‘facts’ about relapsing after CBT without backing them up. He comes out with impressive sounding phrases like “research has shown” without going further to say who researched what and where the reader can learn more.
The validity of his claims are questionable, however more worrying is that these claims have been published in a widely read national newspaper, and basically say “having CBT? Don’t bother – you’ll be just as bad as ever in a couple of years…” According to biographies all over the internet, Dr James has had clinical experience, so he should know that the mind is a fragile thing when it is being assaulted by a mental health problem – in other words, the very minds that CBT can probably help. He should know that many people with depression and anxiety disorders frequently have a negative image of the future. CBT is hard work mentally, and I can’t help wondering how many people would give up if they read an article like this, written by a psychologist who has featured on “This Morning” and written successful self help books.
If Dr James is so against CBT, why not research it properly? Why not suggest possible solutions to the perceived problem? Dr James advocates Cognitive Analytic Therapy instead of CBT, yet studies have shown that in Generalised Anxiety Disorder, CBT was more effective. Dr James suggests that “where patients have been examined two years later, at least half of panicky ones have relapsed or sought further help.” yet makes no reference to the fact that CBT is an ongoing process – and techniques should be practiced long after the patient has stopped seeing their therapist. I personally would like to see research into how many people expect to be ‘cured’ (indeed James uses that word in the article) and go back to their normal lives. How many people didn’t really realise that they would need to practice CBT techniques to keep their symptoms at bay or help stem a relapse. But rather than suggesting that patient follow-up should improve, James dismisses the entire therapy.
He talks about CBT as though it’s as structured as a course of antibiotics. In fact, CBT is tailored to the individual. The principles are essentially the same, but because the problems that CBT can help are so diverse, obviously individual patients receive individual care. The three cases he refers to in the article do sound as though they are very disillusioned with their experience of CBT, but this could be for a myriad of reasons, not because CBT “doesn’t work”.
I really can’t understand why he has written the article in this way. It’s certainly not been written with the best interests of sufferers in mind. Why be so negative? What does he stand to gain from approaching it in this way? At the start of the article, he talks about how CBT is inexpensive, therefore would appeal to the government. Maybe it’s an incredibly round about way of saying the government isn’t spending enough money on Mental Health Services. If this is the case, I’m sure there are a million other ways of doing it without saying ‘CBT is a load of crap’.
I’d like to think that Daily Mail readers would have more sense than to take this somewhat vitriolic rant at face value, but I don’t know. When you factor in things like third party recanting, and the strange way in which these illnesses mess about with your emotions, you have a rather worrying mix. The media’s enormous reach has the power to cause much harm – just look at the MMR vaccine controversy.
I’m not writing this because of my own feelings on CBT. Having been ‘in the game’ for a while, I know better than to advocate one particular treatment over another. CBT seems to be working for me, others may find that it’s not for them. I personally think it is up to the individual and their therapist to come together with a plan for therapy that is most suitable for them, their problem, their personality and their lifestyle. If your therapist suggests CBT, have a go and be open minded. If they say something or suggest something you don’t feel happy with, tell them. Good communication with your therapist is paramount. Remember, even though it doesn’t work for some people, it does work for a hell of a lot of others. Have a look here for some success stories where CBT was used to help people with Social Anxiety Disorder. Hopefully, it will redress the balance.
Finally, please for the love of all that is sacred, can the media get their facts right about how much disability benefit is? £750 a month? I bloody wish…

Picnic Ponderings

Apologies for not posting sooner, but truth be told, I’ve felt utterly wrecked all week. I’ve been going to bed at 8pm because I’ve been nodding off on the sofa, then not sleeping properly because both my neck and lower back have been painful. So, my brain has also been fried and concentrating on anything for very long has been hard.
Meanwhile, I’ve been trying to write something that makes what I achieved on Friday sound like I was climbing a mountain. In the end, I’ve decided that the right adjectives aren’t out there, so just imagine, okay?
By half past eight on Friday morning, I was aware of every car going past, even though B wasn’t due to pick me up until 9.30. I packed and repacked my huge wicker basket with knitted food, stuff to knit while I was there, my mp3 player, a little tin with my tablets in, a bottle of water – the list goes on. When I thought I was ready, I stood at the window, my thoughts swirling. “Do I take that yarn? Maybe I should take a book – what about…” and so it went on. Eventually I said out loud to myself – “stop it. There’s only so much room in the car…”
The car journey was uneventful anxiety wise, we chatted about all sorts of things which helped, and affirmed the knowledge that B is very understanding. In fact, B should stand for brilliant. She reassured me by telling me what and who would be there, and told me that there were quiet corners in the place where we would be (an old converted church). I’d be lying if I said it didn’t feel strange being out without Mr D, but even stranger, I didn’t feel too terrible about it. Of course, I felt like something was missing, but once I got there and saw all the familiar faces from the knitting group, I was fine.
I took a few photographs, and sat down with the knitters. At first, I fumbled with bits and pieces, noticing that my hands were a bit shaky, but eventually settled down with the most Amazing Sock Yarn Ever. Casting on and doing some of the rib helped me concentrate. I know that’s avoidance rather than dealing with it – but to be honest, I didn’t care. I just wanted to enjoy my day.
A woman from the local newspaper turned up, and once she’d interviewed the organisers, she frustratedly lamented that her photographer had gone missing. My inward sigh of relief was shortlived – she pulled out a compact camera from her bag and announced “I’ll just take a few photos”. That, I thought, was a perfect opportunity to nip to the loo…
Four hours went over so incredibly quickly. When a voice piped up, “right, d’you think we should start packing up?” my response was “what, already???” Just as we were about to take things out to various cars, a flustered young man walked in and announced he was the photographer for the local paper. Torn between staying and lusting after his camera (a Canon EOS 1D if you want to drool with me) I chickened out and opted for the comfort of the lavatory again. When I later told Mr D, he joked that now I’ve been in the Guardian, the local rag isn’t good enough!
I know it sounds so utterly ordinary, but it was a big step for me. Plus, the ordinary-ness means that it was a success. No panic or madness, unless you count accidentally stealing Carrie Anne’s lemonade..

Anticipation

I thought I’d mentioned this, but looking back on my old posts, it seems I haven’t.
As I mentioned a bit ago, this week is national knitting week, and my knitting group have been busy knitting items for a Teddy Bear’s Picnic, culminating today in an exhibition and sale. On a Friday. Whose idea was that? When I found out, my response was “great, Mr D will never get time off work” but as the weeks progressed, so did my CBT.
About three weeks ago, I spoke to my friend B. She is my yarn guru – she has a market stall selling some gorgeous stuff, she runs weaving classes and the knitting groups, and I knew she would be going to the exhibition. I’d talked to her before about my CBT, and got the feeling she really understood. People like that are in the minority – usually it’s between “pull yourself together” and “back away from the crazy person”, but B was fine with it.
So, I asked her. “can I come with you?”
I explained that so far, I only go anywhere with Mr D. This could be part of my therapy – just outside my comfort zone. I said that I might back out, and she shouldn’t worry. People, B was lovely about it. She said that it was okay, and that even if I felt like it was too much, she’d bring me home. That understanding has meant that I’m sitting here waiting for her, and although I feel anxious, I’m also excited, expectant, eager.
I shall let you all know how I get on…