I’ve been writing this blog entry for
three er, four days now. It’s not the usual procrastination thing, but a “where the hell am I going with this?” thing. If some of this comes out disjointed, I apologise, because I’m writing down all my thoughts, but don’t want to publish everything. Suffice to say, all of this will be discussed with J when I next see him.
This CBT lark is er, interesting. Imagine me saying that in a guarded sort of voice, because although I really want it to work, it’s challenging everything I ever thought about me and my health. It’s almost like saying the logical and natural behaviour that I’ve demonstrated over the last five years has been (although logical and natural) misguided. I’ve taken the path of least resistance to reduce my anxiety levels as quickly as possible (ie by running away) and by trying to keep myself safe, I’ve perpetuated the problem.
When I kept saying during my benefits appeal that I knew I needed to be in a positive place mentally to do this, I was spot on the mark. To challenge my innermost instincts – ones which have dominated my life for the last five years – is incredibly hard. The therapy is also challenging why I do certain things, and the way I do them. A good example is this blog. Why am I writing it? Is it because I want to give an insight into my experiences (as I’ve always maintained), and to put my thoughts and feelings into a tangible form, or is it because I need validation, or a platform to say “look at meeeee!” J doesn’t make these assumptions, just gets me to think about everything differently. I’m trying to take these comments on board in the spirit in which they are intended – just thoughts thrown out in the air to make me think – but there’s that little bit of paranoia in me that says “where did that come from? he must have thought it to say it, so maybe that’s what he thinks of me – maybe that’s what everyone thinks of me..” But then J has also queried my need to not be judged and my need to know that people like me, purely in the respect of getting me to ask “what does it matter what other people think?”
I suppose I’ve always been that way. Doesn’t everyone have some degree of desire to be loved and appreciated? I believe it’s a rare person who can go through life with a steely “don’t give a fuck what people think” attitude, someone who’s so confident in themselves that they never ask for an opinion. We all have insecurities some are just more prevalent than others. I know my family history has a lot to do with it, and without going into detail, I guess it’s become habit that I seek affirmation in what I do.
However, this is not why I write this blog. Okay, it’s nice when I get messages from people offering cyber-hugs and support, but to be honest, if I have a bad time I have a small circle of friends online who I know I can always turn to. I don’t write a blog that may or may not be read so that some random stranger might feel the urge to write and tell me it’s going to be okay.
This entry has gone in a totally different direction to what I originally planned. I was going to write about the thought processes of panic, and what J is suggesting. I guess this whole validation theory has got my back up more than I thought. Oh well, at least I have a topic in mind for my next entry.
I was early for my appointment on Thursday, a combination of determination to tell J how I felt and the usual being over prepared for something. As I sat in the waiting room I looked at the posters on the wall. Among the usual posters for the domestic violence group and the fibromyalgia group were a series of new posters proclaiming “there’s no healthwithout mental health – how’s yours?” (just peachy, which is why I’m in the psychology department…) I love these ‘stating the obvious’ type of poster. One said, “there are many things you can do to improve your mental health, try: meeting new people.” Other suggestions were “relaxing and making time for yourself” and “developing new hobbies and interests”. While I appreciate why they make these things and put them up, I can’t help thinking that they’re just making blanket and rather vague statements suggesting things that the patient is probably *way* beyond.
J is a very approachable guy, which is why I have been so torn about this. I get the feeling that we are on the same wavelength, and that I can talk to him and be honest and open. That, as any therapist will tell you, is incredibly important. I talked to him about how I felt, even that I’d had difficulty writing down all the anxious stuff – and he sat and listened, then said that it was all understandable and made sense (thank god he doesn’t think I’m a flake) and that I could “see how it goes” before deciding. It wouldn’t be failure, it would be being honest with myself.
We also talked about the tape – which was sitting on the table mocking me. As soon as I saw it, I’d said something like “oh shitting buggery” before advising J that I was liable to swear a lot. J told me that I was in control, that I could withdraw my consent at any time, or he would stop the tape whenever I asked him. At this stage, I was more worried about how I would feel if I didn’t give it a go than anything else, so I consented and he pressed the button.
We talked about stuff, about my panic and how I react to stressful situations. As usual, there’s a lot that I promptly forgot once I’d left the room. Towards the end of my appointment, when J had switched the tape off and we were talking about me coming back again he said something like “…and there’ll be no more of that”.
“No more of what?” I asked, puzzled. “The tape” J said. “You’ve got the hard part over with.”
Somehow, in the midst of my anxiety last time, I’d decided that he would be taping more than one meeting. He only needed to do one…
Yesterday, I started writing a post about how J, my new counsellor, had asked me to write down all the negative shit that goes through my head when I’m anxious. I thought I’d blog it because it gives another little insight into how my head works right now. As I wrote, I started feeling incredibly crappy, which isn’t surprising when things like “I’m useless” “I’m stupid” “why can’t I manage this shit?” “I’m going to die” come out.
I have a funny feeling that J is going to go through each one and counter it with logic. The thing is, I do this all the time already. “I’m not stupid, I just have depression and things seem more difficult right now. Give yourself a break, already”. “I’m not useless, I do all kinds of things that I take for granted, I should give myself a bit more credit”. See? How easy is that? It doesn’t help, though. The useless and stupid thoughts are ingrained, I’ve always had poor self confidence. How can I erase thirty odd years of that?
As I sat there thinking, I wondered whether this is really the right time to be doing this. How can I concentrate on what is probably going to be a difficult road to recovery when I have this benefits thing looming over me? Despite everyone’s assurances that I have a damned good case, I still have that nagging doubt that I’ll fail the appeal, and the consequences of that are just too hard to even think about. If I continue with my counselling and I fail, it’ll be harder to do it next time around. I can’t help thinking it would be better to say, “put me back on the waiting list, I’m not ready for this”. There’s another reason for my negativity and doubt. J is a psychology student. Although he’s a fully qualified counsellor, he’s seeing clients as a psych student, therefore needs clinical supervision. This means that he has to tape some of our meetings.
I’m not sure how I feel about this. At the time, I said that although I didn’t like the idea, I understood that it was necessary for him as part of his ‘training’. The only people who will hear my witterings on tape will be him and his supervisor, but when I feel so ridiculously self conscious anyway the thought of being taped makes me want to puke. Unfortunately, if I’m not comfortable with it and can’t deal with it, I go back on the waiting list to see someone else. I was ‘pulled out’ of the waiting list to see J, because it was felt that I was an ideal candidate for him (fools). I guess I need to know that I’d go back to where I was on the list, and not right back at the end.
For this whole therapy thing to succeed, I need to feel comfortable, and I’m not. I hate this – it feels like I’m making excuses, and given that I’ve gone on and on all this time about how I want to get better, I also feel like a bit of a fraud. I see J again tomorrow morning, and shall talk to him about it.
I wrote this in notepad whilst I was trying to figure out how to get my site back up
You know that saying about waiting for a bus then they all turn up at once? This is my blog. In fact, changing webhosts and having a brain spack trying to get my blog back up has been a boost for Things Happening, because they’ve all waited until I’ve no means to tell THE INTARNET.
In an hour, I meet my new counsellor. In June last year, I had an assessment with the psychology department and the deal was that I would go on the waiting list for CBT. I was told that it would be hard work, and that it would last no longer than 8 weeks or so. That day, I realised that I would need to be in a Good Place mentally to do this, and spent the rest of the year trying incredibly hard to not get depressed again. I know that sounds a bit weird – it goes like this. Any time I started having negative thoughts, I made myself do something else. I played a happy song and sing along to it. I knit some bright pink socks. Anything that will put my mind elsewhere, and away from the negative and intrusive thoughts. I seemed to spend the whole time on the verge of a mental precipice, afraid that one false step would see me tumbling over the edge into the abyss. As it turned out, someone else pushed me.
It’s fair to say that for the last couple of months, I haven’t been in that Good Place. Strangely, it seems to have kicked me hard since I handed over my appeal statement to my solicitor. Somewhere inside my head, I’ve heaved a sigh of relief, and relaxed. A bit too much, because I lost control of the depression. The symptoms are the usual suspects, coupled with a lot of anger over the situation – and I am absolutely knackered. My physical health has suffered, and I think this year so far, I’ve had about two or three weeks of wellness where I’m not suffering from a D&V bug, or a neck spasm or a bad cold or a back spasm. Those well times have been spent feeling exhausted, feeling the need to recover completely – but it never happens, because some other health thing always happens.
I am worried that the psych bloke will think I’m feigning to get out of the work, or that I’m not suitable for the therapy or something. I’m worried that my brain won’t work properly, or that I’ll bugger my back again just as I’m getting somewhere. Most of all, I’m worried that I’ll fail.
Do not start thinking “hmm, I should write something in my blog but nothing’s happening”, because this is known as Tempting Fate.
Fate happened at around half past three this afternoon, when that big silver car decided to overtake at a place where there was clearly no room, and without checking for oncoming traffic. ie oncoming traffic being us. He swerved back into his lane, but it was too late. I’d seen him.
To be fair, the panic attack wasn’t big, and didn’t last long – but I still felt stupid and knackered and fed up. Why can’t I just yell “stupid bastard!” like everyone else, then get on with life? I hate stupid primeval conditioned responses.
I just telephoned the benefits advice line to get a claim pack for DLA. I am shaking, I got my words mixed up, and my heart is racing. But hell, I have no problems using the telephone..
A few minutes after writing that, the phone rang. I think there is a dent in the ceiling where I hit it…
I woke up yesterday morning after a night of fitful sleep, and surreal dreams that emulated the crazy thoughts that had been swirling around my head for the last week. I was totally wound up and emotional, dreading my appointment, convinced that I wouldn’t keep my coffee and valium down.
The clinic was running late because someone was on holiday, but I found some trashy glossy magazine to read and looked at the pictures. I’d taken a book, but I just couldn’t concentrate on reading it. Bitching about Callista Flockheart’s dress was easy…
I think it was the Nurse Manager who examined me – she told me who she was, and I approved, but can I hell remember what she said. She was really nice though. Soothing, calming yet not condescending. My husband came into the exam room with me, and sat by the door looking like he was about to puke. The Nurse went through a form with me that they’d given me to fill in – everything on it was in Dr H’s referral letter, but they made me write it all out again, because the consultant “preferred going by a set format” or something. Of course, the abuse history was all in that letter, and I didn’t want to take any chances. At the bottom of the form, I wrote in capital letters: “please note: history of childhood sexual abuse” and “panic attack sufferer”. It worked, because the Nurse was brilliant in explaining things.
She did a physical exam, which was just the same as Dr H’s. She chattered to me the whole time, telling me that she could feel the lump, but it didn’t feel like anything that could be bad. She said lots of women had lumpy breasts naturally, but said I did the right thing for getting it checked out.
As I got dressed she said she’d speak to the consultant and tell him what she’d found. She said normally on a patient’s first visit, the consultant wanted to do an exam himself, but given the circumstances, he was happy for her to do the exam and report back.
When she came back, she said that they were almost certain that it was just a benign lump, maybe an inflamed mammory gland. They said they wouldn’t do a mammo, because 1) it probably wouldn’t show anything up because my breast tissue is too dense, and 2) it wasn’t worth putting me through exams that I didn’t need, given my history. So, no needles, no ultrasound. That was it. They said to keep an eye on it, but don’t self-exam too often!
I’m grateful that Dr H told me what I could expect. It helped me feel in control of the situation. Since I saw her and she made the clinic appointment, I’ve told myself “it’s my body, I know I need to get it checked out, but I can always say no…” Self empowerment is vital for abuse survivors, and believe me, it really helps to know that you are in control, and can say “no” at any time. The fact that the nurse explained everything she was going to do and why was such a help, and my telling the clinic about my history was vital. At the end of the day, I could have kept quiet about it, and gone through private hell while a male doctor examined me. As it was, I said something, and was met with fantastic empathy and caring.
I would encourage anyone in a similar situation to do the same.
I wasn’t going to blog about this. It’s too personal, it may be nothing, and thinking about it makes me feel sick. But, like I’ve said before, I’m here to blog about my life and how panic, anxiety and agoraphobia affect it, and if finding a lump in your left breast isn’t panic inducing, I don’t know what the hell is.
I posted a few days ago about how amusing the google ads that were being shown on my site were in relation to my health.
The more I think about it, the more inappropriate it seems to have a blog about life with panic attack disorder and agoraphobia, and adverts for ‘cures’ running down the side of the page. So, I’ve deleted it completely.
I do get viewers who, according to my web stats, search for things like “panic attacks” and “venlafaxine” and get to my site. This is partly why I have links like tAPir and Venlafaxine Healing on the right. These are sites I have used myself, and have found to be a great help. This is the way links on my site will stay. Sites pertaining to health will be ones I have used personally, or checked out myself. Not adverts based on random keywords.
I wanted to make a comment about this news story, but I keep on deleting and restarting because I am just so lost for words. There is so much that bothers me about it – where do I start?
Okay, firstly, what was wrong with accepting the girls apology? Second, how on earth does an “anxiety attack” warrant a visit to the Emergency Room, let alone $900 worth of medical treatment? As I understand it, the visit to the ER took place the day after the girls left the cookies. How is that an anxiety attack? Anxiety and panic attacks are sudden, a surge of adrenaline within seconds of the trigger. Either this woman or the media need to clarify their definition of an “anxiety attack”.
Obviously, my opinion is formed from reading some of the various news items on this story, and I am not remotely qualified to diagnose this woman’s health issues by reading them, but something just isn’t right. It pains me that yet again, something in the news pertaining to anxiety has tarred sufferers with that negative brush.