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.

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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…)

Twitterings

Over to the right there is a shiny new box – my Twitter feed.
I have an incredibly shiny new mobile phone, and the contract comes with a gazillion texts each month, so I’ll be able to update you all on my CBT progress AS IT HAPPENS.
Can you stand the excitement?

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.

Bargain Betty

I seem to have a bit of a knack for finding bargains. I found the Lomo LC-A for £2, I’ve found a rigid heddle loom for £3.50, and a bag full of Rowan yarn for 75p. When I found the loom, Kath said, “we should rename you Bargain Betty”. And so, dear reader, she has inspired a new category.
My latest finds are a Monsoon dress for £4, and an unbranded skirt for £2.50.
*takes a bow*

Walford, E20 DF118*

I’ve told you all about my brush with dihydrocodeine addiction, and how withdrawal from the same led to the panic and agoraphobia, so when someone said to me, “I know you don’t watch soaps, but so-and-so in Eastenders is taking dihydrocodeine, and it looks like becoming a bit of a thing” my curiosity inevitably pricked.
I saw Monday’s episode, and didn’t think much of it. The character at the centre of it, Dr May Wright, (Albert Square’s current GP) is by all acounts a bit of a cow, and she periodically snarfed a couple of tablets from a prescription that she’d stolen. It seemed a bit excessive given that there’d been no previous evidence of her taking it, but that was it. At the end of Tuesday’s episode however, there was a scene where she was in her flat, pouring a glass of red wine. There was a bottle of tablets on the table, and she opened it and took some. After a vague pause, she tipped the bottle into her hand again, tapped out a few more tablets then took them. You don’t actually see how many tablets she took, but the meaning is clear – it’s more than a normal ‘dose’.
She swallows them dry, then takes a drink from the wine glass. The scene (and the episode) ends after a couple of minutes, so there’s no time to show the potential effects of taking an “over the recommended dose” amount of dihydrocodeine with red wine, but the attitude of the character is flippant, and at no time is any impression given that she has technically overdosed. The perception is that she is taking them for the sheer hell of it, and she doesn’t appear to have any qualms about it at all.
Of course, given my history, I’m bound to feel a little ‘icky’ about this. Maybe it was inevitable that I’d think the programme makers irresponsible. Maybe I worry that people will think chugging back several dihydrocodeine with wine is okay, and maybe that’s overreacting a bit. Maybe the next episode will show her in a dazed and confused state with a raging headache and massive regrets – although ‘spoiler’ websites don’t seem to indicate that will be the case. I don’t know, though. I still worry that what happened to me could happen to someone else. I know how easy it is to get addicted to opiate analgesics, and I sure as hell know the nightmare of recovering from that addiction.
Honestly, I know it’s only telly, I know the programme makers need to have a little dramatic licence to make a storyline work, and in this case, the drama is exacerbated by the suddenness of its onset. I’ve heard that programme makers ‘speed up’ the natural progression of events to keep the audience’s interest – but isn’t it a little bit stupid to name the drug then treat its use with such disdain?
Of course, the story hasn’t reached its conclusion yet. I’ll keep watching to see what happens, but I’ll bet anything she doesn’t have that hangover.
*E20 is the fictional postcode used in Eastenders, DF118 is another name for dihydrocodeine.
edit, 11th May:
Well, of course she didn’t have a hangover. The first scene she’s in, she’s doing an early morning house call and looks as fresh as a daisy. Bah.

What is this “blog” of which you speak??

God, I’m such a rubbish blogger.
I think part of the excuse, er problem is that at the moment I have so many things going round in my head that it’s difficult to put them down into a coherent set of paragraphs that I’m happy to publish. I’ve tried a few times, and given up. Let’s hope this isn’t one of them.
There’s such a lot to tell you, dear Internet, it’s unreal. Firstly, and I guess most importantly, Mr D has a new job. He has gone into business with his ex boss, S and they are doing contract metrology. I won’t even begin to explain. It’s geek and engineering and maths and it helps to be a little bit anal. The upshot is that 1), Mr D has been concentrating on the business more than anything else, and 2), money has been a problem. You don’t need to know the details, but it has been a little hairy recently, but hopefully things will settle down now as the business is gaining clients and recognition and stuff.
As a result, over the past couple of weeks my ‘therapy’ has been a bit lax. I’ve tried really hard, but when you’re worrying about money and you don’t have your partners full attention, it can be a pain. I have been making progress, and I have been doing things, but I’m scared it’s not enough. See, there’s something I haven’t told you.
Several months ago, I was asked by some of my lovely knitting group friends if I wanted to go to Woolfest with them. Last year, they went for the whole weekend and camped, and had a marvellous time. I dragged Mr D for the day last year (having only found out about it the day before) and loved it but felt guilty that there was nothing to interest him. How wonderful, then, to go with people who can enthuse with me over spinning wheels and fibres and weaving and and and…
The agoraphobia. Gah. I talked to my therapist and told the girls that I’d love to come, but it was all dependent on my therapy. They all know about the agora and panic, and they’re all cool. So, my therapy has been with an end goal. To go to Woolfest with the Girls for the weekend. My psych says it’s good for me to have a goal, and at the time I remember thinking it would be an excellent thing to work towards, but if it all went pear shaped it didn’t matter, because Mr D could drive me over for the day anyway. However, the closer it gets (eight weeks last Friday) the more vital it seems to be that I succeed. I CAN do it. I have to remind myself of the incredible leaps I’ve made in the last year. This is the final few steps – but in a way, it’s like that final point where you’ve trained for the parachute jump and you know what to do – but you need to actually jump out of the plane…
I have set myself an intermediate goal, to go to the Post Office and post something. I have a half way point which is the newsagents, and I’m slowly building up to get there. This week, I am walking to the edge of the estate (about 5 minutes walk) and standing by the road sign until my anxiety lessens. Next week, I’ll cross the road. It’s a busy road, so feels like a massive step in itself. After that, I’ll go into the newsagent. The Post Office is about another 3-4 minute walk from the newsagent, so the goal then will be to walk nearer to the post office.
It’s called “graded exposure” and the idea is to repeat the task until it becomes less anxiety provoking. You stay in the situation until your anxiety goes down, and if you do it carefully enough and with the right back up it doesn’t feel so enormous. I haven’t walked to the newsagent or Post Office by myself in about seven years, and of course, in that time, I’ve been ‘conditioned’ to think that it’s incredibly scary and I’ll have a panic attack. It’s all about not pushing yourself too hard, but still pushing yourself. As Æsop said, “slow and steady wins the race”