It is a new, far more positive Lynn writing to you this evening. Finally!
I wonder how many of you can identify with this scenario? Sitting in your home. Looking out of the window. Your feeling down. A bit depressed. Frustrated. Your mind is running 100mph questioning everything. 'How did i let this happen', 'Where do i even begin to fight back', 'Is this my life now...forever'? You start to sweat, you feel anxious. You worry your going to panic and you look out of the window again. 'If i could just get out there, even if i just went a walk'. But then the little demon on your head says 'Noodon't do that, you'll only feel like crap. It wont be pleasant. Much better to just stay indoors'.
That could easily describe a typical day when i was at my worst, but really its just the tip of the iceberg. When you allow yourself to be shut in that little world, your mind really does take over. And as much as the brain is a wonderful and amazing thing, it can also be a right old pain in the bum when left to its own devices.
When i was housebound i felt that i could always find ways to fill my time and that i rarely got bored. Due to this constant state of comfort I probably didn't have much reason to fight back and want more from life. Yeh i knew there was a big wide world out there and people were always commenting on what i was missing, but i guess it didn't really bother me. And then i got a little taste of freedom and how different life can be when your living outside of that box. Your days are filled with far more interesting and exciting things. Your mind is occupied with healthier thoughts and more positive experiences. Instead of sitting looking out of a window at the world and constantly fretting over things i SHOULD be doing. I was doing them, and so the anxiety left me and was replaced by a buzz and new lust for life.
Well sometimes life just gets in the way doesn't it (we had a death in the family, my car has broken down and been off the road for weeks). And our plans don't always go as we wanted them to, so for various reasons i found myself back in a darker place for a while.
Don't get me wrong, i didn't go back to being pretty much a recluse. Scared of my own shadow and constantly living off my nerves. But for a few weeks i did struggle. Believe me i can see now that 'cabin fever' does exist. When you are shut indoors looking at the same walls day in and day out, it has an affect! For me i became obsessed with my house being tidy. I wasn't kidding when i said before i felt i had OCD. My house would need to be immaculate and the slightest bit of dust or item out of place would need put right immediately. I think i have identified that this is just about control. I can control whats going on in my home. And since there were areas i felt i had lost control completely, i went a bit OTT with the things i could manage. So the house was forever perfect, however i did realise that if i was out there living a fuller life, the speck of dust on the living room table would seem far less important.
Guilt. I shovel it onto my shoulders and it weighs me down every day. Guilt that my son should be out doing more things but because of me he is held back. Guilt that hes watched too much TV that day. Guilt that he hasn't interacted with another child his age. Guilt that if i could get to a decent supermarket he could be eating a bigger variety of food. The list goes on, and that's only the list regarding Nathan. Don't get me started on the other members of my family or my friends.
My friends have their own lives to lead. Their own families and jobs and children to care for. I noticed i was getting a bit p****d off when they hadn't phoned in a while. Or if they didn't reply to a text quick enough. I would sit about, looking out the window, fretting, jumping up to wipe some more dust, and then resent my friends for not being there to keep me company. Don't they know that my son would really like to play with their kids? Luckily i got a grip of myself and remembered... i am not their responsibility. They are living their lives just as they should. They are good to me and I'm grateful for each and every one of them. But sitting about thinking, and thinking, and thinking, well u just drive yourself crazy.
So whats the answer? If your anxious and wishing you could go out. And feeling nervous wondering how to fight back. If your wondering if your going to be like this forever, cause it seems so impossible and its never going to change...
I hope that doesn't sound patronising, because believe me i know how hard it is. But i also know from so much experience, that the thought is ALWAYS worse than the actual act itself. Little baby steps, no matter how minor they may seem, need to be celebrated and noticed. Its about taking control of your life again.
Its literally only been about 2 weeks since i got back into the swing of things. Through my focus, my therapy and my determination I am back out there. You know i do go out everyday and would never spend a full day in doors, but it was becoming more of a chore for a while. Now though i go out for a walk, or a trip to the supermarket and i come home buzzing. What i do may be small, but it feels good to know that i done it, and i took my life back even for 5 minutes instead of sitting about the house obsessing.
More than once in the past week have i walked further than usual and caught myself saying 'i feel totally fine here'. Its a great feeling. At home I'm not sitting around obsessing. I'm not focused on the negative thoughts and piling on the guilt. Nathan is happy and not at all bored and fed up... it was me who was bored and fed up. I'm not fixated on my friends not calling as much, in factIve hardly even looked at my phone. I'm generally just feeling more positive and much brighter. Things were starting to feel a bit hopeless and impossible for a while, but why do they need to be? They don't. I can get out there and do whatever i want. I have the power within me and so do you. It might take a little bit of practise but its completely possible.
Still doing my therapy on a Thursday i am discovering more and more about myself. And although its things Ive always known, I'm starting to pay more attention. For example, i do everything fast. I whizz around the house like I'm on drugs when I'm doing my housework. When i cook the dinner i have the dishes done as I go. When I'm playing with Nathan, I'm already thinking about when ill be tidying toys away. Its a fast paced, tiring way to live, and no wonder I'm always so tired!
When i go on my walks i will try to push my boundaries. Even if i go a street further at a time. But what i would do is, id walk along where i was comfortable, and when getting to a new stretch of road i would run out and then back again to where i was comfortable. To me i was still making the achievement because i had reached the place i wanted to be, but there was no enjoyment in it. And so last Thursday on my therapy we walked slowly to the point where i started to feel uneasy. And we just stood. We talked and we tried a few techniques to reduce my anxiety. I did feel quite uncomfortable at some points. We were standing on a long straight road and so when i turned around i could see how far I had walked, but more importantly i could also see how far i would need to walk before i was back home. This is the part i don't normally like. And so my head started 'what if i cant make it back', 'what if i get dizzy'. 'what if my legs turn to jelly and i cant walk'. But i stood there and tried to hush those voices, and I'm learning that the more i practice this, the easier it is to silence those thoughts. When i asked myself those scary questions i simply answered with 'None of that is going to happen, but so what if it does, I'm gonna be ok'. And instead of rushing home and whizzing about as i would usually i slowly walked home and felt fine. But this is down to practise!
I know it sounds a bit too simple and its easier said than done but whoever came up with the phrase 'practise makes perfect' was speaking sense. The only way we are going to get results is by doing these things over and over and giving our positive thoughts some power. They don't really get a chance to be heard if we are just sitting about worrying and not actually putting anything into practice.
My therapist also made a really interesting point about how anxious people are generally always living in the future. We are worrying about whats coming. 'what if i panic', 'what if i don't feel good. 'what about that party i need to go to', 'I'm gonna have to go out', 'how am i going to pay that bill'. We are always worrying about whats to come instead of living in the now. And so this is what we are working on at the moment. Getting me to 'live in the now'. We done a few exercises that stopped my mind racing and brought my head into the now. And when she asked me how i was feeling i can honestly say i felt fine. I felt calm and at peace with myself and it was a lovely feeling. I'm going to be learning more about this, and mindfulness and i will share anything that i think will be of interested to you, or anything i think might help. But judging by how much my mood has lifted and how much better i am feeling about myself then I'm sure there will be plenty more upbeat posts to come. I really was going back down that old anxious, crappy road. Filled with self doubt and hopelessness. Frustration with myself. And even though in the past i felt i was literally rid of agoraphobia completely, i suddenly lost the belief that could be possible again. But i was wrong. Its completely possible and this time it can stick... so hang on in there people. Its NEVER has bad as you think it is.