Yours Mentally

Three days ago I stood outside my local cafe and hesitated before I opened the door.

‘Just sodding well go in, you loon!’ I bollocked myself.

I walked in and sat down at my usual table and within minutes the cafe owner was at my side, notepad in hand.

“Nice to see you! What can I get for you?”

‘Tea and toast please’

Five minutes later I was drinking my tea and was overcome with a sense of achievement.

I sent OH a text..

In the cafe. ON MY OWN! *smiley face*

I’ll forgive you for thinking ‘what on earth is the idiot on about now?’ but what if I was to tell you that it was the first time in over 12 months that I had been in ANY cafe on my own?

Being autistic, going into any public places requires effort due to my sensory and social issues but this post isn’t about my autism, not directly anyway.

The anxiety which has shadowed me from birth morphed into Panic Disorder in 2014, then General Anxiety Disorder and after three years of my body being constantly flooded with stress hormones, I had a nervous breakdown.

Definition: A nervous or mental breakdown is a term used to describe a period of intense mental distress. During this period, you’re unable to function in your everyday life.

At the peak of my illness,  I visited my GP ten times, A&E twice and the out of hours GP service twice – this was in a period of two weeks. EACH time I was convinced I would be admitted to hospital. EACH time, I was told it was anxiety.

When it came to symptoms, I had the works with my entire body from my scalp to my toes being affected. I felt sick ALL of the time and kept spontaneously retching. On one occasion I sat in the GP’s office retching violently into a cardboard bowl. She said I had a gastric bug but I’d been retching for the past three years (just not in public) so if it was a gastric bug then I was breaking some kind of record! Another time I was walking down the street and retched so hard I actually vomited over myself.

Barfing, not dancing, in the street.

My weight dropped into the 7 stone range and my muscles were starting to waste. I was starting to look like Skeletor, only less sexy..

My bowels woke me up at 4-5am with a ‘MOVE IT OR YOU’LL SHIT THE BED’ cramping in my lower regions. I’d also wake in the early hours shaking violently, not that it woke OH. Nothing short of the house blowing up would have roused him from his coma..

I couldn’t tolerate drugs, even painkillers. Come to think of it, even vitamins gave me gyp.

Palpitations? Don’t start me.

My mouth was sore but with no visible cause because I checked via a dental mirror NUMEROUS times. Yes, REALLY! You do things like this when you are mentally ill, see. You spend hours inspecting yourself and prodding your poo. Dignified, no?

I had test after test but all came back clear.

‘All those doctors can’t be wrong, Sweetie’, OH said.

‘They just haven’t found the cancer yet dearie.’ countered Fear.

By far, the most debilitating symptom was the feeling that I was losing my mind..

My grip on reality can be iffy at the best of times but this was in a different realm completely. I struggled to go out or be on my own. My stims became more noticeable and I had no control over them at all. My rocking went from my usual subtle movement to virtually falling off the chair-rocking and my lips were sore from frantically picking the skin off them.  I couldn’t see a way out and in my worst moment I actually wanted to be sectioned.

Yep, you read that right. I wanted to be thrown in the big house where they could put me to bye-byes and be there for me 24/7. I understand now just how poorly I was and If I hadn’t have turned myself around when I did, I may not have had any choice in the matter..

I threw everything at getting better. I did relaxation and yoga. I cut out sugar, caffeine, alcohol, gluten etc but none of it helped for long because I wasn’t accepting how I felt. I was fighting Fear ALL the way..

The breakthrough came when I was told I would have to have a colonoscopy. I was SO convinced I was coffing it that I accepted my fate AND all those weird and unwonderful sensations. I told myself to enjoy what time I had left because Fear could eff right off if it thought it could rob me of that too. With support from OH and a few good friends, including one who’s had a breakdown of his own, I began to see blue sky even in the shadow of my imagined death.

Beautiful Blue Sky

I stuffed food into my mouth and didn’t dwell on how crap it made me feel. I lived alongside Fear and accepted whatever it threw at me. What had I got to lose?

I started to put weight on and my tummy started to rumble again. I FELT HUNGRY!!

I told myself constantly that ‘whatever happens to me. I am here, NOW’.

Then my bum got invaded courtesy of the NHS, and everything was fine. I wasn’t dying (HURRAH) but I had to face the fact that I was mentally ill..

My weight is now back up to 8 and a half stone and my heart isn’t pounding all the time. The anxiety will always be there but I’m not in crisis anymore. I have taken steps to help myself, the biggest and most important being ACCEPTANCE.

There were many times when depression tangoed with the anxiety and I thought I would slip further into insanity but my mind is stronger than I could ever have imagined. It’s healing itself, especially now I understand that magic word, acceptance.

So, yeah, I went to the cafe alone. It was a GINORMOUS step and I’m PROUD of me. I know that recovery is a long process and there will be setbacks along the way but that’s ALL they will be because I’ve accepted fear for what it is.

We need fear. It stops us from being reckless but fear should work for us, not the other way around. That jumped up little git needs to know it’s place, innit.

If you are reading this and are struggling with mental illness, know that you CAN get better. It’s your thoughts that have put you where you are and it’s your thoughts that will set you free.

Yours, mentally

ACCEPT

 All Images Via Creative Commons

Ageing With Autism

Did you know that over 700,000 people in the UK are autistic and most of them are adults? Much has been written about children and autism but there is very little information about ageing..

Most autistic people have additional problems such as depression, anxiety, sleep issues or learning difficulties and on top of all this comes the ageing process – which can be shit at the best of times.

Being diagnosed at 46, I understand myself as the child that I was and the adult that I am now but what next?

What will happen to me when I’m old?

A positive thing about diagnosis is that it’s given me permission to be myself. Pretending to fit in is exhausting but I have confidence to be me so I no longer have to work quite so hard at existing.

*does air-punch*

However, the way my mind works is that I dwell on the past and overthink the future. The future causes me concern because I fear being put in an old peoples home where I would be forced to be social. I’m not saying that every autistic person will feel like I do as we’re all different but as far as I’m concerned, it would be hell.

I’m not completely averse to being social but it has to be on my terms and I reckon I’d die pretty flipping quickly if my need for solitude was not respected or understood.

Also..

I don’t want to sit on a plastic chair and watch shit TV programmes.

I don’t want to play bingo.

I don’t want to eat my food with everybody else.

I don’t want to go on day trips to the fucking seaside where I’ll be asked if I need a piss every five minutes.

No ta.

I’m sort of hoping I’ll vacate this planet via my own home but you don’t always get what you want do you?

I get that oldie homes work for many people. The social thing probably keeps them alive longer but not me. I’d be bagged, tagged and laid out on the mortuary slab within a week!

As I age, I will most likely need more medical intervention. I mean, I’m creaking like an old barn door now so it’s a given. One problem with this is I struggle with verbal instruction, not because I’m slow, but because my brain can’t process more than one verbal instruction at a time so when medical professionals start reeling off instructions at one million miles an hour because they are SUPER busy, my brain goes screen saver and I just remember the first part or nothing at all. I need them to understand this about me and either slow up or write it down and when I request this of them I don’t want to be considered an awkward git.

One example of this is when I recently went for a Dexa scan. The radiographer fired out about four verbal instructions in one go. My brain went blank and I froze so he got up from his chair and physically moved my legs into position. He didn’t ask if he could move my legs for me and I resent that. I felt stupid. In the past I have been called stupid when I haven’t responded to verbal instruction. Now I understand why I struggle. I’m NOT stupid but people ARE ignorant.

I want healthcare professionals to understand that unfamiliarity makes me incredibly anxious which exacerbates my sensory issues, like pain threshold. I’m not being pathetic or difficult. I’d like them to treat me as they would a member of their family. That applies to everybody, regardless of autism, because we ALL matter. Would that radiographer have been as abrupt with his own mother? I don’t think so!

Although I’ve known I’m autistic for the past four years, I wasn’t able to say it. Had I have had the diagnosis it when I had that scan, I would have been able to explain about the verbal instruction (or OH would) and I wouldn’t have been made to feel like a tit.

The first children diagnosed as autistic are now middle-aged and I think it’s very important that we research how the autistic person changes physically, emotionally, cognitively and socially as they age. Most people need help in old age so it stands to reason that autistic people will require more support and understanding of their individual needs. I still fear old age but not quite as badly as before I was diagnosed..

The fear I have about not being here for The Boy is one I have the most trouble with. How will he cope without me? That thought physically hurts me but my job is to make sure that he can survive on his own. We’re on a path, him and I. He’s growing up and I’m growing old. I may still be 16 in my head but my body is convinced it’s 109. However, while I still have breath in my rapidly ageing body, I will do ALL I can to support my son. The day he no longer needs me will be a heart stopper but that’s what I’m aiming for. Not for my heart to actually stop cus I’d be dead like, but for him to be independent.

That’s what any parent aims for.

Some autistic people never achieve independence and that must be so hard for parents to deal with but I can only tell our story and independence is a possibility given the right support.

I’ve managed to survive for almost 47 years without support. However, it’s been hard and I don’t want him to struggle as I have. Once he’s living his life independently, I’ll embrace codgerdom in all it’s glory until Death points his bony finger my way and says in his best Sean Bean accent “Come on lass, let’s go ‘ome”.

And off I’ll go.

Thanks for reading.

Image Credit

Spectrum Sunday

 

A Few Tips To Ease Your Anxiety Symptoms

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In the three years that I have had GAD (General Anxiety Disorder) I have trawled the internet and read countless books searching for ideas to ease my symptoms so I thought it would be a good idea to share what’s worked for me.

So, in no particular order..

Sugar

While diet doesn’t cause anxiety it’s fair to say that certain foods, like sugar, do aggravate the situation and making a few dietary changes can greatly improve symptoms.

When you have an anxiety disorder you can become hypersensitive to your body. Even small amounts of sugar can have a detrimental effect on the body because it’s absorbed quickly into the bloodstream. This causes an initial energy surge but once it wears off the body has to increase the production of insulin in order to remove the sugar from your blood stream leaving you feeling like a bag of shite. Cutting down or eliminating refined sugar from your diet will address the imbalances which trigger panic attacks and will improve your body’s ability to cope with stress.

It’s a good idea to learn bout how much sugar is in the foods you are eating. There is a smart phone app called Food Smart which allows you to scan the barcodes to see exactly how much sugar is in a product. It’s been quite the eyeopener!

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Mornings

Our bodies naturally release cortisol in the morning as we wake from a prolonged period of sleep. This is known as the ‘cortisol awakening response’. Non-anxious people wake gradually over a few hours whereas anxiety cases (like moi) get woken abruptly with the cortisol screaming “WAKE THE EFF UPPPPP ARRRGGHHH!!!”

Imagine having Slipknot waking you up at 5am with their screamiest song (plus scary masks) and you’re somewhere near.

Normally, cortisol is present throughout the day but at a decreasing level, the lowest being in the evening preparing us for sleep. It will spike during short term stressors like an argument or a near miss with the number 57 bus then subside again. The anxious person has consistently high levels of cortisol throughout the day which is unpleasant to say the least.

The best thing I’ve found on waking is to get up and move about – even if it’s 4am. I find that walking helps to burn some of that excess energy off. Lying there only makes me feel crap and if I try to doze off, I only end up having insane dreams of headless horses or toilets that don’t flush. Freud would have a field day with me, no?

I blog. I clean. I use the energy to my advantage and GIVE ANXIETY THE FINGER!

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Dr Google Will See You Now

Not everybody who has anxiety will have health anxiety but a good number unfortunately do.

Me, for one.

The problem is that anxiety presents with such a plethora of symptoms that it’s hard to believe that you’re NOT dying of something particularly nasty but instead of making an appointment with a GP, the cyberchondriac makes an appointment with Dr Google whose diagnosis is usually terminal. The sufferer then curls up into fetal position and awaits certain death only moving as far as their PC in order to post on anxiety forums which are full of threads like..

‘Pain In My Toe. Cancer?’

And..

‘I’m dying’.

Occasionally some desperate sod will upload graphic pictures of his/her poo for reassurance that they are not dying but as much as I understand and empathise with health anxiety, I really don’t want to see someone’s toilet massacre on my PC at 6am!

Or ever.

My advice would be NOT to Google your symptoms but if you really must then type the word ANXIETY alongside whatever symptom it is.

Instead of trawling though pages about diseases you imagine you have.. spend a good few hours researching the condition you DO have? Learn about anxiety and why the body reacts the way it does. Educate yourself!  It will also remove a lot of the fear and once you’ve done that you’re on the road to recovery.

Google isn’t all bad though because you will find great anxiety websites and podcasts.

The Anxiety Guru and Anxiety Slayer  are two excellent podcasts which are informative and help to normalise anxiety symptoms. Well worth looking up.

Exercise

In my opinion, the WORST thing you can do with anxiety is sit on your backside and do nothing. That’s a sure way to keep you in the anxiety/fear loop forever and ever, Amen.

There is a link between being physically active and enjoying positive mental well-being. It causes chemical changes in the brain which positively alter your mood. Even a fifteen minute walk can make you feel better. ANY exercise is better than none.

I walk as much as I can and do yoga. I ALWAYS feel the benefit during and afterwards even if I might not feel like doing it to start with. It’s the knowledge that I WILL feel better that has me reaching for my coat or yoga mat no matter how crap I feel.

Your body WANTS to move. It NEEDS to move to keep all your bits functioning effectively.

You have all these stress hormones whirring away inside you and they need to be diffused so work with them and SHIFT YOUR ARSE OFF THAT SOFA! Go for a walk in the sunshine or a jog if that’s more your thing. Put some funky music on and flick the duster about. Whatever floats your boat. JUST DO IT!

Be well and think positive thoughts.

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Health Anxiety & Me

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It’s three years since my first nocturnal panic attack and in that time my anxiety has developed into generalised anxiety disorder, health anxiety with some depression.

My nature is to research so there’s not much I don’t know about anxiety and the havoc it can wreck on the human body. Three years ago I was 10 stone, today I am 8. The weight loss isn’t due to the anxiety alone though..it’s also due to having made dietary changes to try and alleviate some of the symptoms such as palpitations. I avoid sugar as much as is possible and don’t drink alcohol anymore. *weeps*

A few weeks ago I decided to cut out wheat and replace my usual bread with gluten free. The next day my anxiety level went from a 7 to a 3. I had no ‘brain fog’ and the burning mouth syndrome I’d had since July last year disappeared. On top of that I had energy but it was normal energy, not the nervous kind I usually get with the anxiety. The second day was the same so I figured I was onto something with ditching the gluten. I’m not allergic to gluten but I do think I have become sensitive to it just as I have become sensitive to certain other foods, drinks and products.

Unfortunately I didn’t take into account what a dietary change like that would do to my already sensitive digestion system. Having replaced my bread with GF foods made from rice flour (combined with having to take calcium supplements for Osteopenia) I became, er, bunged up. Now in a non-anxious person this would not be a problem. Just neck a few laxatives or up the fiber and Bob’s your uncle but with a lunatic like me it’s not so simple.

I didn’t have constipation, you see.

I had bowel cancer.

So I decided to sod the GF diet off and eat my usual bread and within twenty minutes of eating it I felt sick and exhausted with a migraine. I forgot to mention that since going gluten free, my migraines have all but gone too.

So I went back on the GF diet.

After a few tricky toilet sessions I went to the GP. By this time I was feeling fairly unwell but in my head it was because I was dying. I sat in the doctor’s and told him outright, “I feel as if I’m dying!” as if I have first hand knowledge what it feels like to die..

I also had a ‘feeling’ in my right hand side that had been niggling at me for a few months which only added fuel to my fearful pyre. It wasn’t even a pain but because it was different my lunatic brain homed in on it and made it terminal totally bypassing the less sinister (and more likely) things it could be.

I saw a locum doctor that day who was very supportive and reassuring. He checked me over and told me he couldn’t find any reason to admit me to hospital. I was that sure I would be admitted that I’d cleaned the house and wrote a list of instructions for OH. The fact that people who are genuinely dying don’t tend to whip the hoover round beforehand was lost on me at the time..

The word ‘anxiety’ was brought out for the TRILLIONTH time and I broke down crying. How could I feel this ill and it be anxiety? The doctor was kind and told me ‘Don’t worry, we will get you better’. This was in contrast to the previous week when I had a panic attack in front of another GP who simply carried on writing while I hyperventilated in the chair. Helpful, no?

Unsurprisingly, I left the locum doctor feeling much calmer than when I went in. That’s what happens see.. you go in full of fear and with a bit of reassurance suddenly you’re not at deaths door anymore..

Until a few hours later when the ‘what if’ gremlin pops up again. THAT ANNOYING LITTLE SHIT!

I should point out that another GP had already ordered an abdominal and pelvic scan because of this sensation in my side..

Meanwhile poogate got worse and I ended up having a phone consultation with a GP because I was convinced I was having a prolapse. But he obviously had my nutter notes in front of him and sounding unconcerned told me to take some Lactulose and if I was still worried on Monday to go in for an examination.

The ‘prolapse’ turned out to be a bit o’ stubborn poo so no botty-fingering was required. Phew!

I didn’t take the Lactulose either. One because I am practically a medication-phobe and two because I figured it best to try and clear my pipes via my diet. So I upped the fiber, water and switched my calcium supplement from carbonate (which is known to cause constipation) to citrate.

Needless to say, I was able to perform.

After that I was back to normal, well, normal for an anxiety- ridden lunatic!

The rational stuff was all there in my head. I’d changed my diet radically and wasn’t having my usual amount of fiber as I’d been averaging five slices a day. Combined with the calcium, it was no wonder I got bunged up. While I convinced myself I didn’t have a tumour blocking my bowel, there was still that ‘sensation’ in my side.. so I was back to dying again.

So I had my abdo scan and was 100% SURE they would find something wrong. I figured if it wasn’t bowel cancer then it must my gallbladder about to explode, yes?

No.

They found nothing wrong.

I hassled the bloke who did the scan..

“Are you absolutely sure?”

I even questioned him on the size of my kidneys!

I’m sure it chuffed him no end to have his expertise questioned..

I’m not dying.

Not today anyway..

What I do have is health anxiety.

The sensation in my side was real enough but was most likely due to muscle tension. I tend to hold my stomach in a lot with anxiety and only became aware of this by doing progressive relaxation. Because I am so sensitized, I am aware of every little ache and pain. Since doing those exercises, it’s, er, kind of disappeared.

I have tried to add a bit of humour to my situation but health anxiety is no joke. It’s mentally exhausting. I hope you don’t read this post and think ‘You need to get a grip, Mrs!’. If only is was that easy, ducks! I don’t want to be like this. Nobody wants to be like this, trust me.

I understand this post may be a bit tmi for some people but I wanted to show how something simple like constipation can be turned into something terminal by the power of thought. It’s called catastrophic thinking. A headache becomes a brain tumour. A cough becomes lung cancer and so on. Not everyone who suffers with anxiety will have health anxiety but for those who do have it, it’s yet another fear to overcome.

I will overcome it though.

“Bran thought about it. ‘Can a man still be brave if he’s afraid?’
‘That is the only time a man can be brave,’ his father told him.” Game of Thrones

Image Via Creative Commons

Hello Hurricane

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I HATE this time of year. It’s the time where things start to change as the school prepares for the new term in September which I remember only too well from my own school days.

*Twitch*

When it comes to The Boy, there is a pattern. He starts the school year in a state of anxiety and by Easter he begins to settle down. After the last half-term things start to deteriorate as preparations for the new school year begin. This year has been different because he hasn’t really settled at all. He is increasingly unable to do his lessons in the classroom and ‘incidents’ are happening on a daily basis.

The school can’t try any harder than they do to support him. They are always thinking of new things to try and whatever isn’t working they change. It’s just that school life is getting harder and he struggles with having to do things that he doesn’t want to do (demand avoidance) but he has to do certain things or there is no point him being in mainstream and despite his difficulties he’s happy there.

He’s been struggling at home as well and the other week he had the MOTHER of all meltdowns.

A fellow autism mum and good friend used the word ‘hurricane’ and that nailed it perfectly for me. It certainly looked like a hurricane had hit his bedroom.. At one point he was in danger of hurting himself so I intervened whereas I usually allow him to work through the meltdown himself. It was then he started yanking at my hair (which farking hurt) and slapping me. As a parent you take the blows because you understand that your child is out of control due to being overwhelmed and you’d rather they hurt you than themselves. It’s a reaction. It doesn’t make it OK. It just explains it.

As soon as I felt his body relax, I stepped back and allowed him space to calm down.

The storm had passed, for now.

To hear the child you love scream that he hates you and wants to die is hard to take. It’s hard for ANY parent to take. No matter how many times he loses it, it never gets any easier. It’s not you they hate. It’s how loss of control makes them feel.

There was this moment where he declared he was ‘going to die’ and theatrically threw himself face-down on his bed. It the best bit of am-dram I’ve ever seen and at any other time it would have been hilarious but he was hyperventilating and knowing how this works I’m pretty sure that at THAT moment he probably did think he was dying…

He is theatrical in the normal way. He is expressive with a wonderful vocabulary range. If he can learn to get a handle on his anxiety, he will make a good actor one day (and there are lots of great actors on the spectrum) but this wasn’t a performance. It was real. It was him struggling against the tsunami of emotions within him and it was heartbreaking to witness.

This meltdown was a result of preparations starting for the new class. It’s a bigger class size and a new teacher. He was worried about it but didn’t know how to express it in a positive way so it came out in a meltdown. He has since visited the new class and THEY HAVE LEGO, FOLKS so he came out smiling.  An added bonus is that one of his teachers from this year is also going to be teaching in the new class along with the new one. So the familiarity of her and his long suffering SST (who hopefully will follow him up through school as long as he needs her) will help to lessen his anxiety. The school are using social stories and the usual strategies to help him with the transition but the real test will be when he goes back in September.

The last few weeks of the summer term are all about change and change is one of the things in life that he doesn’t handle well. Even the nice changes do his head in. However, I have faith in the school that they will do their best for him but most of all I feel sorry for my son who is struggling with the fear of change, just like I did. SODDING GENETICS!

It’s never easy for me to write about my son this way but it’s part of his autism and the meltdowns are part of our life, at least, they are for now. The meltdowns are not who he is. They are a reaction to a world that he struggles to cope with. If his world was constant there would be fewer meltdowns but it isn’t constant. Things change. Sometimes unexpectedly and sometimes planned but changes ALWAYS affect him.

The thought which consoles me the most is that he is not alone like I was. Nobody helped me because nobody ever knew there was a problem. I was the invisible girl when it came to the teachers but not invisible when it came to bullies. I stood out like a belisha beacon to those bastards…

My boy’s autism is IN YOUR FACE visible and the positive thing about that is that it gets him the help he needs.

We’re strapping ourselves for a fight to get him to where he needs to be. My bandana is on. I don’t have Sly Stone’s biceps (or penis) but I’m strong where it counts. My anxiety is sky-high but I’m working on that, like triple-bagging my cups of Chamomile tea and taking time in my day to stare at fluffy clouds and tropical fish.

Breathe, just breathe.

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Got Through Another Meltdown!

Image Credit Via Creative Commons

Sons, Sand & Sauvignon

 

 

Send In The Clowns

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I was an anxious child and constantly imagined I was dying of something horrible. One day I noticed lumps on my wrists so I worried myself sick thinking of all the terrible things it could be when in reality they were my perfectly normal wrist bones. I wasn’t dying but I was suffering from anxiety and unfortunately the anxious child grew up to be an anxious adult.

You see, I’m a worrier. Glass half-full? How about glass smashed to smithereens all over the floor and shards sticking out of my size fours?

Anxiety in some degree is a constant but every now and then Blind Fear shows up doing a Slim Shady singing, “Guess who’s back, back again Fear is back, tell a friend”. At this point my body is screaming, ‘ENOUGH WITH THE WORRYING ABOUT STUFF YOU CAN’T CHANGE, YOU TIT!’

So Fear showed up about six weeks ago..

The signs had been there for a while. I was unable to complete the simplest task, struggled to read a sentence (let alone a book) and I’d lie in bed for hours with irrational thoughts zipping around in my mind. Not to mention that EVERYTHING (and everybody) irritated me.

I ignored it all.

In the last 7 years I have had to cope with a divorce, moving house (3 times) The Boy’s abrupt entry into the world and my mother’s abrupt departure from it, The Boy’s autism diagnosis and getting married. Oh, and the menopause. Stressful, no?

Things came to a head when I woke up one morning at 5am with a racing heart that refused to calm down. I’d been having occasional panic attacks for two years and I’d always been able to calm myself down but not this time.

This time it was different.

This time there was something wrong and I was terrified.

I woke OH up and begged him to phone an ambulance. At first he refused because he was used to me having panic attacks but quickly relented after I bellowed, ‘PHONE AN EFFING AMBULANCE!!!’ in his face.

Within twenty minutes the paramedics came and stuck things all over my chest.

‘Am I having a heart attack?’ I asked, my eyeballs bulging with fear..

“Doesn’t look like it. It’s just that your heart’s beating very fast and it’s jumping a bit so we’ll take you in to get checked out”

‘Jumping a bit’? It felt like I’d got sodding Diversity in there!

So I lay in the ambulance hoping for some comforting banter from the paramedic but he kept yawning and looking at his watch (you don’t get that in Casualty, folks) so I tortured myself with a bit of hardcore hypochondria instead which worked an absolute treat in keeping my heart rate through the roof.

To keep the story within an acceptable word count, my ECG’s and bloods were fine so after four hours of hyperventilating while listening to some poor sod making noises akin to a distressed Yak, I was given a beta blocker and told it was psychological.

“Not dying then?”

“Not today”.

At this point I’d calmed down. Death wasn’t pointing his bony finger at me so I was able to relax and then came the realisation that I was wearing my skanky dressing gown and reindeer slippers. Oops!

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Slippers of shame.

My dressing gown hadn’t seen the inside of the washer for about three weeks and it had various stains on the front.. mostly tea but one was curry. The Boy had attached a ‘Good Work’ sticker to me at some point so I covered the yellow stain with that TOTALLY forgetting that the doctor had already seen it along with my cactus-legs and scary no-make-up face.

THE SHAME!

You don’t care what you look like when you’re convinced you’re about to shuffle off your mortal coil, at least that is my excuse. *cringe*

The next two weeks were a blur of particularly nasty side-effects from the beta-blockers and then anti-depressants of which I managed ONE before telling my GP where to shove the rest. The drugs don’t work, they just make everything worse – some bloke from Wigan once wrote.

The drugs made me feel as sick as a dog and one day the sight of one of Mary Berry’s recipes actually triggered a panic attack. So I chose to come off medication and address my stress levels. That’s not to say that medication doesn’t work at all because it does work for many people. Alas, not me.

In those first weeks I existed from one hour to the next. The nervously knackered tend to think in minutes and hours as opposed to days and weeks. I became obsessed with my symptoms. My heart raced and there were moments where I genuinely felt I was losing my remaining marbles and would be carted off in a snug fitting jacket but I kept telling myself that they were just sensations caused by adrenalin. There were rare moments where I felt ‘normal’ and that in itself would trigger a panic attack!

In my lowest moments, I miserably thought I was broken and would never know normality again, or at least normality as I know it. Fear really messed me up this time!

I know about anxiety (am bit of an expert) and I understand that the worse thing you can do is lie on the sofa every day. Daytime TV is shit for one and I knew I was heading for trouble when I caught myself watching Jeremy Kyle’s (non) Emergency Room. So I pushed myself to work with the panic attacks by doing housework or walking the dog in order to burn off some of the adrenalin. I felt abysmal but knew that I would feel slightly better afterwards and slightly was better than nothing. At night I’d wake up with my heart racing but I’d breathe it out. If sleep still eluded me, I’d get up and clean something.

I’ve also removed all the news apps from my devices. It’s not that I don’t care what’s going on in the world, it’s just that my mind can’t take anymore grim faced drama. Recovery lies in understanding how a tired mind can affect the body. My body is working as it should. It’s reacting normally to me bombarding it with adrenaline with my negative thinking.

My recovery also lies in humour.

Gone are the police dramas and murder mysteries, for now at least. Happy Valley (a misnomer if ever there was one) remains unconcluded in my Skybox and I’ve turned to comedy to give my body the endorphins that come from having a good old belly laugh.

It’s therapy.

Optreden Rolling Stones in het Feijenoordstadion, Rotterdam; Mick Jagger , kop *2 juni 1982

Fear doesn’t like humour because laughter chases it away, if only briefly.

I imagine my fear to be Mick Jagger and when my heart starts racing I visualise him doing his ‘rooster strut’ and can’t help but smile. The effect is instantaneous and it takes the edge off my fear. Similarly in Harry Potter where the children take what terrifies them with scary bastard Bogart and make it funny. I think there’s a lot to be said for sending in the clowns when it comes to mental health. However, it’s not lost on me that many of the clowns themselves suffer from anxiety and depression.

It’s taken years to bring me to this point and there isn’t a quick fix, especially without medication but hopefully CBT will succeed where drugs have failed. I realise that my negative thinking has got me into this state so changing how I think should help to get me out of it.

Or maybe a lobotomy.

Worrying doesn’t take away tomorrows troubles, it takes away today’s peace.

Image Via Creative Commons

Image Via Creative Commons

mumturnedmom

 

Misfits and Meetings

COS_09

When it comes to school – I do the necessary. I drop The Boy off in the morning and pick him up at home time. Sometimes I go in to calm him down if he’s having a particularly difficult day, though I should add that it’s at my request that they phone me.

Some parents do other stuff like going in to read with the children and going on school trips etc., I don’t. Not because I’m a lazy cow who’d rather be sat at home watching Jeremy Kyle point at chavs – no- it’s because I have social, sensory and anxiety problems.

In every playground you will see the ‘perimeter ‘hoggers’. These are the lone wolf parents who lean against walls and railings looking at their phones trying to be invisible. I am one of those people.

My coats have pockets which disguise the fact that I am constantly fiddling with my keys. If I’m not fiddling with my keys I am looking at my phone – sometimes I am doing both. I look at the parents who socialise with ease and know it will never be me, not unless I have lobotomy anyway.

The thought of being jammed on a school bus with noisy kids is my idea of hell and when I was asked if I could help out I had no choice but to tell the truth.

‘I’m having a panic attack just imagining it. I’m not great with crowds and I have anxiety problems, you see. Sorry!

The school are understanding of this now and don’t ask anymore. I feel sad but accept that I have limitations and to push beyond those would do more harm than good as they would have a hyperventilating lunatic to look after as well as the children.

Thankfully The Boy has his SSA and he probably copes better without me in those situations as he could pick up on my anxieties no matter how much I tried to mask them – especially if a full blown panic attack was to occur.

However, when I heard that our SENCo was setting up a group with the parents of children with special needs, I knew I had to be part of it. I was apprehensive but knew the group would be small and that my friend would be there. She’s very lovely and reassuring, bless ‘er.

Having missed the first two meetings due to being elsewhere and, er, mixing the date up – I finally made the third.

Even something as trivial as this causes me anxiety especially when it’s something I haven’t done before, (fear of the unknown), but my mind was made up. I was going to do it because the school has given us so much support and I wanted to give something back.

So the day came and I ran through my notes.

Have something to eat so tummy doesn’t growl like a bastard.

Take reading specs.

Pen and paper because you know you’ll totally forget everything that’s said.

Wear hearing-aid to avoid saying ‘Eh?’ all the time.

Have massive wee before you go.

Drawing on my years of coping skills I went in earlier than the others. I find it hard to walk into a room with people in it I aim to be first in whenever possible. There were six of us in total – so a nice small group which I can cope with.

Heart clanging away I waited for the others to arrive.

I recognised one of the other mothers as a lady who used to work at The Boy’s nursery, (where he was first suspected of being autistic), so there was only one parent there who I didn’t know, at least by sight.

First job – tea and cake.

After years of practice I can now drink in front of strangers but food is still iffy. So the flapjacks were a no-go area for me. Better safe than choking to death having breathed in whilst trying to swallow, eh?

I may not have felt entirely comfortable but I was there.

Most people will consider this an insignificant thing. ‘It’s only a little meeting yer silly mare!’ but I know there will be others who will nod like mad. ‘Oh yes! That’s me too!’

It felt good to be in the presence of people who understand what it’s like to have a child with conditions like autism. They understand the daily challenges and judgement by ignorant gits. I’m used to the feeling of not belonging because I’ve never fitted in anywhere, (hence the misfit reference), but for the hour and a half I was there I didn’t feel quite the “misfit missy”as I usually do.

The school supports our son but they also support me. If I go into school to comfort him and the hall is full of kids catapulting themselves over the vaulting equipment the receptionist takes me around another way to avoid my anxiety levels going orbital. It’s a small thing but means that I am better mentally equipped to deal with my son’s meltdown.

I’m passionate about autism awareness so I really need to be as proactive as I can. My next goal is to attend the autism show. Don’t get me wrong I have been to crowded venues in my time – sometimes it’s required a nip of the hard stuff and sometimes I’ve gone in cold but it’s always been a struggle which is why I tend not to bother now.

It will be crowded and my anxiety will be off the scale both before, during and after but I figure that even if I was to lose the plot – it wouldn’t really matter because most people there will have seen much worse.

My drive comes from years of being ignored or misunderstood at school. Without doubt I have a learning disability and struggled every day of the ten years I was there. Nobody saw my distress and as a result I left school with nothing to show for it. Going through the SEN process makes me realise that, with support, I’d have been capable of much more. As it is all I have are a bunch of ‘if onlys’.

If only I’d have been allowed to stay in at play-times my anxiety might have lessened to a degree where I could take in information in order to learn.

If only I could have entered the class early and left after everybody else then I would have been spared the anxiety of being pushed and shoved in crowded corridors.

If only I could have worked in small groups – I might have learned something except fear.

If only I’d have had somewhere to escape to when it became too much instead of having to endure the stress, the stimulus and the bullying.

If only somebody would have seen beyond ‘shyness’ and recognised that I needed help.

How different my life might have been..

I point blank refuse for my son to go through that.

But thanks to an amazing school with teachers who care.. he hasn’t.

Image Credit Public Domain CC

Sons, Sand & Sauvignon