Shyness

I was incredibly shy as a child. But when I talk to strangers I have no problem communicating. This got me thinking. Does my childhood shyness have a link with my adult anxiety?

I found this article on shyness and I think I have come to the conclusion that shyness in a child could lead to problems in later life.

The article says that shyness can lead to:

  • Substance abuse
  • Damaging relationships
  • Difficulty attaining goals
  • Anxiety and depression

I can say yes to all of these.

I am a recovering alcoholic, have used drugs in the past, have a history of food disorders and can get easily addicted to just about anything, including writing blogs.

I have relationships with abusive people, people who are damaged in some way. I find relationships with “normal” steady, caring people difficult to maintain

I agree with the difficulty attaining goals issue, but only after having read the explanation. Withholding ideas and opinions and letting others take credit for any I might have is a definite yes. If I am congratulated on doing something well I will often offer up the fact that another person helped me and it was a joint effort. And I know I have anger issues. I know that I don’t always know how to express anger or annoyance and can sometimes appear to behave like a small child.

I can also agree with the causes of shyness:

  • A parent or guardian who is over critical
  • Over protective parenting
  • Traumatic life experiences

I had over protective, critical parents. I believe they were over protective because of my illness as a child (traumatic life event).

I mentioned in a previous blog that as a child I was instructed in what to do and say and what not to do and say. I was told I didn’t want things that I thought I wanted. It was all a bit confusing. But I have recently remembered something else. If I went to see a friend, when I got home my mother would ask all sorts of questions about the family and what they were up to. I could only ever answer “I don’t know, I didn’t ask”. It continued into adulthood. If I spoke to my mum and said that I had met a friend recently she would ask lots of questions. I had usually been talking about the things my friend and I were interested in so I was still unable to answer. I realise that this made me feel as if I had failed in some way. And I suppose that somewhere in my unconscious I was nervous about what I should say to people. Because I didn’t want to let my mum down but I invariably did.

In my anxiety blog I went in to detail about my childhood illness and the physical and emotional fallout that resulted. I believe this is why my parents were a little over protective. They would tell me that I couldn’t do things, I think, in the belief that it would shield me from disappointment. But this resulted in me believing that I couldn’t do anything and that I would be dependant on other people for the rest of my life.

This is not true. I can do things. Sometimes not very well, but I am able to look after myself and look after other people. I live on my own at the moment, and I’m not looking after myself properly, I’m not looking after my flat properly. But this is not because I can’t. It is because of my current state of mind which leaves me feeling anxious and unmotivated to do practical stuff like cleaning and eating. I have moments of activity, but just now I’m in “I can’t be bothered” mode. And this is ok. For me, now, I am doing the best I can and that is good enough. Anyone who tells me otherwise will soon know that they have said the wrong thing!

So what is the answer?

The trick is to try to determine if shyness is making life difficult. Children will not be able to tell us. Having been a shy child I know that I didn’t realise that anything was wrong, and even if I had, I would never have spoken up about it.

So the responsibility is with adults. Parents, teachers, friends’ parents, anyone who regularly comes into contact with a shy child can quietly monitor their progress. I would like there to be an atmosphere where one adult can say to another “I’m a little worried about your son/daughter” without the parent getting defensive or angry that someone has dared to criticise or judge.

Parents do not see how their child behaves at school or with their friends. Teachers do not see how the child behaves at home. Parents of the child’s friends may not be aware of shyness because the child is probably relaxed and “normal” when playing. So everybody has to talk to each other openly and honestly. Then maybe something can be done to try to prevent a shy child from developing problems in later life.

 

 

My research diary – The Citadel by AJ Cronin

20th October 2017

I’ve started reading the eBook I bought earlier. It is cited as being influential in the setting up of the NHS.

Published in 1937, I am hoping it will give me an insight to conditions before the 1940s. AJ Cronin knew what he was talking about:

“Born in Cardross, Scotland, A. J. Cronin studied at the University of Glasgow. In 1916 he served as a surgeon sub-lieutenant in the Royal Navy Volunteers Reserve, and at the war’s end he completed his medical studies and practiced in South Wales. He was later appointed to the Ministry of Mines, studying the medical problems of the mining industry.”

Cronin, A. J.. The Citadel (Bello) (p. 2). Pan Macmillan. Kindle Edition.

I also discovered that there is a 1938 film, so I watched it.

The story begins with a newly qualified doctor (Andrew Manson) arriving for his first assistant post in a mining community in Wales. The doctors’ sister (Blodwen Page) explains that the Mine has 3 doctors on its list, of which her brother is one. The miners have money deducted from their wages to cover medical costs. This money is paid to the doctors according to how many patients they have registered with them. But Andrew discovers that Dr Page is bedridden and he is expected to run the practice alone. The fees from the miners are given to Blodwen Page and Andrew works as a doctor on the salary of an assistant.

Dr Denny, the assistant  of a rival doctor, describes the conditions:

“There’s no hospital, no ambulance, no X-rays, no anything. If you want to operate you use the kitchen table. You wash up afterwards at the scullery bosh. The sanitation won’t bear looking at. In a dry summer the kids die like flies with infantile cholera.”

Cronin, A. J.. The Citadel (Bello) (pp. 13-14). Pan Macmillan. Kindle Edition.

After working for Doctor Page for a month, Andrew discovers the reality of healthcare in Britain:

“Denny at first had aggravated him intensely by his weary contention that all over Britain there were thousands of incompetent doctors distinguished for nothing but their sheer stupidity and an acquired capacity for bluffing their patients. Now he began to question if there were not some truth in what Denny said.”

Cronin, A. J.. The Citadel (Bello) (p. 28). Pan Macmillan. Kindle Edition.

Andrew and Denny discover an outbreak of Typhoid Fever, and they identify the source as being a well. The two of them advise all of their patients to boil the water before drinking it, and with treatment the epidemic comes under control. But their efforts to deal with the source come to nothing:

“It’s the main sewer that’s to blame. It leaks like the devil and seeps into half the low wells at the bottom of the town. I’ve hammered at Griffiths about it till I’m tired. He’s a lazy, evasive, incompetent, pious swine.”

Cronin, A. J.. The Citadel (Bello) (p. 21). Pan Macmillan. Kindle Edition.

There is an interesting section of the book which didn’t make the film. It is about a suspected case of madness. One of the miners had been:

“acting strangely lately, getting into trouble at the mine, losing his memory. He had turned quarrelsome and violent. ‘I don’t like it, Manson.’ Bramwell nodded sagely. ‘I’ve seen mental trouble before. And this looks uncommonly like it.’”

Cronin, A. J.. The Citadel (Bello) (p. 58). Pan Macmillan. Kindle Edition.

The patient had set upon his wife with a bread knife and Andrew receives a note asking him to attend as two signatures were needed to “certify a lunatic”. Andrew attends the patient and examines him:

“He went over to Emlyn and at first he hardly recognised him. The change was not gross, it was Emlyn true enough, but a blurred and altered Emlyn, his features coarsened in some subtle way. His face seemed swollen, the nostrils thickened, the skin waxy, except for a faint reddish patch that spread across the nose. His whole appearance was heavy, apathetic. Andrew spoke to him. He muttered an unintelligible reply. Then, clenching his hands, he came out with a tirade of aggressive nonsense, which, added to Bramwell’s account, made the case for his removal only too conclusive. A silence followed. Andrew felt that he ought to be convinced. Yet inexplicably, he was not satisfied. Why, why, he kept asking himself, why should Hughes talk like this? Supposing the man had gone out of his mind, what was the cause of it all. He had always been a happy contented man – no worries, easy going, amicable. Why, without apparent reason, had he changed to this!”

Cronin, A. J.. The Citadel (Bello) (p. 60). Pan Macmillan. Kindle Edition.

Andrew diagnoses thyroid deficiency and after successful treatment the patient is returned to his former self.

After a while Andrew has an argument with Miss Page over money. His frustrations about his assistant status lead him to give notice and leave the practice. He finds a post as a qualified doctor and applies for it. He is interviewed by a committee which is made up of medical experts and miners:

“About thirty miners filled the room, seated, and all of them smoking, gazing at him, with blunt, but not unfriendly curiosity. At the small side-table was a pale quiet man with a sensitive, intelligent face who looked, from his blue pitted features, as if he had once been a miner. He was Owen, the secretary. Lounging on the edge of the table, smiling good naturedly at Andrew, was Doctor Llewellyn. The interview began. Owen, in a quiet voice, explained the conditions of the post. ‘It’s like this you see, doctor. Under our scheme, the workers in Aberalaw – there are two anthracite mines here, a steel works and one coal mine in the district – pay over a certain amount to the Society out of their wages every week. Out of this the Society administers the necessary medical services, provides a nice little hospital, surgeries, medicines, splints, etcetera. In addition the Society engages doctors, Doctor Llewellyn, the head physician and surgeon, and four assistants, together with a surgeon dentist, and pays them a capitation fee – so much per head according to the number on their list. I believe Doctor Leslie was making something like five hundred pounds a year when he left us.’ He paused. ‘Altogether we find it a good scheme.’ There was a mutter of approval from the thirty committee men.’”

Cronin, A. J.. The Citadel (Bello) (pp. 96-97). Pan Macmillan. Kindle Edition.

Andrew accepts the job offer and the house that goes with it, on the understanding that he is engaged to be married. The miners prefer a married man attending their wives and daughters. Andrew proposes to his girlfriend and is able to take up the position of GP with immediate effect.

To be continued………….

Observations

If this is based in truth, it seems that the system is inadequate. The miners, or shall we say the end users, seem to have too much influence in the running of the practice. Andrews employer, Dr Page, is kept on as a GP despite the fact that he is unable to perform his duties. This is the result of his patients loyalty allowing him to stay on the company books. This in turn affects the status and pay of Andrew who is running the practice alone but not receiving the financial reward or professional recognition for doing so. There is also the possibility that Dr Page and his sister rely on the fees from the mining company and would not have the financial means to retire.

There are a lot of examples of incompetence by doctors and Public Health representatives. I have also picked up a sense that most of the GPs either don’t know or don’t care about the symptoms of their patients and are happy to fob them off with ineffectual remedies. There seems to be an attitude of “things have always been done this way, why change now?”. This distrust of new methods becomes more apparent later in the book.

Till next time.


As a footnote, the father in law of my Great Aunt was a doctor and surgeon from the late 1880s. He died in 1938. So I’ll see what I can find out about his career. The information I have at the moment suggests that he had a surgery in Yorkshire and also worked at the hospital. He left £21, 267 12s 11d to his daughter. The equivalent value is about £610,000. They were wealthy enough to have a governess, a cook and a private nurse (I’m not sure if she was just for the family or whether she also worked in the practice) and they could afford to go to Australia for a holiday (I think there were relatives there).

 

 

 

Patience, Positivity and Power

For anyone who is experiencing low mood, intrusive thoughts, concerning behaviours or heightened emotions, the 3 P’s – Patience, Positivity and Power – can be used to help, whether it be for yourself or someone else.

Over the years I have managed to put some coping strategies in place. But there are times when my logical brain stops working and my emotional brain takes over. This is when I need help from other people.

When I start to struggle I need to be patient with myself. I am very good at telling myself off for not being able deal with it. And this is where other people can help you. If you are confronted with someone who is struggling, saying “you’ve been here before, you know what to do” does not help. The point for me is that I know I have been here before but I can’t remember what to do. I’m giving myself a hard enough time, I don’t need others reinforcing the idea that I am useless. So be patient. You can say things like “you’ve been here before, what helped last time?”. Or “last time when you felt like this x, y and z helped. Do you remember?” You can even say this to yourself. I sometimes repeat mantras or pretend I am talking to a friend or therapist and I imagine the advice they would give me. By doing this you are offering positivity.

Positivity is key. I think I am an optimistic person, but when it comes to myself I only have negative thoughts. And they are invasive. They cloud my judgement and influence my behaviour. Negative thoughts spiral ever downward into deep dark places that for me become dangerous and scary. And when I am there, negativity breeds like rabbits. One thought leads to another and each thought reinforces my feelings of being useless, a burden to my family, why am I even on this planet?…..

Positivity is power. My negative thoughts are not me. They are part of a belief system that was instilled in me at a young age. I am trying to challenge these beliefs. So far I have had mixed results, but it is early days.

Power over my thoughts and behaviours, that’s a weird concept! But for many people this is normal. People who are confident and have self belief. I have moments of confidence, times when I believe I can do anything, but they don’t last and to be honest, they scare me. It is not natural for me. But I have to nurture myself. And when I can’t do this for myself others can help me. Other people can remind me that I am in control of myself. I am allowed to choose how to behave and how to think. Someone once told me that my anxiety is a monster, a being that wants to control me. I have the power to banish the monster. I realise that I have heard this before. In a support group I used to attend, people would talk about their illness as a separate being – a monkey on their shoulder – and they would describe their power struggles with the monkey.

The last few days have been difficult. I isolated myself from people and wanted the world to go away. There are many reasons for the way I felt. A series of events, thoughts and emotions. But yesterday I started to climb out of my isolation and today I feel more positive.

There is hope. And with the help of other people I will get through this.

 

 

Asylums

I have a hobby: researching my family tree. It is a very addictive hobby which keeps me busy when I’m not writing about mental health. My two interests came together when I found where a very distant relative by marriage had died. She died in North Spring House in 1953 at the age of 75. She had survived her husband by 32 years and had one son who was a weaver by trade. She left her son £515 15s 4d, which in today’s money is about £8,900. In 1953 that would have been equivalent to nearly a years’ wages for a tradesman. Or two horses!

When I googled the address it came up under a different name – an asylum which later became a mental hospital.

North Spring House appears to have been half a mile from the main hospital building. The area is now partly used as a campus for students at the University of Huddersfield.

“Storthes Hall Mansion, built in about 1788 as a private house for the mill owning Horsefall family and located closer to Kirkburton centre, was converted into an asylum in 1904, renamed The Mansion Hospital and run independently as a hospital for people with learning disabilities. It closed in 1991 and was eventually converted back to a private residence.”

wikipedia.org/wiki/Storthes_Hall

“In the early part of the 20th century, part of the Kirkburton hospital was devoted to treating shell-shocked World War One soldiers, but most of the patients were ‘pauper lunatics’ who were detained under the Lunacy Act 1890.”

“The hall was also home to women who were locked up for having children out of wedlock. Many had to spend the rest of their lives there.”

examiner.co.uk/news/west-yorkshire-news/plea-memories-storthes-hall-hospital-8592761

In 1967 and 1968 a committee appointed by the Leeds Hospital Board deliberated over accusations against staff at Storthes Hall and another hospital.

“The allegations which covered a thirty-two week period, were of serious violent assaults, with fists or weapons, against male patients of all ages, committed by four of the five named Male Nurses; and condonation, indifference and apathy on the part of the fifth Male Nurse; against unnamed Doctors and Charge Nurses, that they colluded and conspired to subject patients to physical violence; and against those responsible for the running of the Hospital—(the Medical Superintendent was specifically excluded on the fourth day of sittings at this Hospital)—that they had a mentality only slightly better than that of those responsible for Belsen Concentration Camp; that the Hospital was like Belsen because it was a “brutal, bestial, beastly place”—it was a “hell-hole”.”

sochealth.co.uk/national-health-service/democracy-involvement-and-accountability-in-health/

Due to lack of evidence it was found that none of the accusations could be proved. The recommendation of the committee was:

“We recommend a review of the nursing staff establishment; and, in addition, the making of improvements in the methods of selection and early training of those recruited as Nursing Assistant. We further recommend that, wherever possible, bed-complements of wards should be reduced.”

sochealth.co.uk/national-health-service/democracy-involvement-and-accountability-in-health/

This BBC documentary provides an interesting overview of mental health treatment in the UK:

Continue reading “Asylums”

How to get help in a crisis

There seems to be a lot of coverage of mental health issues and talking about emotions. Which is brilliant.

But how easy is it to actually get help if you are in crisis?

The first step should always be your GP. A GP can listen to your symptoms, prescribe medication, order tests and refer you to more specialist services. The first two, listening and prescribing, are relatively quick. Medication can take a while to start working effectively, but often the knowledge that something is being done can make a huge difference. I know this because the last time I increased my dose I went back for a follow-up appointment a few weeks later. The doctor asked how I was feeling and I told her how wonderful everything was. She then told me that the increased dose won’t actually kick in for another couple of weeks!

Further tests, usually blood tests, can help to diagnose if it is depression or another condition that has similar symptoms. So it is important to follow this up.

Referral to specialist services is something that takes time. On the Transparency Indicators for NHS Trusts there are indicators for:

  • People waiting less than 6 weeks to start treatment
  • People waiting less than 18 weeks to start treatment

If you’re anything like I was and you’ve struggled for years without knowing what’s wrong or what can be done about it, when you need help it is urgent. Six weeks are an eternity if you struggle to get through one day.

So this is why you should seek help as soon as you think you have a problem. This is easier said than done. I struggled for 2 years, probably more, before I sought help of any kind. And when I did get help I was sent to hospital.

If you are in crisis, you can only access the crisis support team if you have already been referred by your GP. Local charities may only help if you have been referred by your GP.

Once you are in the system you can access other services. Referral to a Mental Health team, access to psychiatrists and therapy and access to a crisis support team. These all come with a waiting period. So the trick is to get in the system before you need help. Which doesn’t make sense. To me.

However, there are options open to you if you don’t have a referral: 

Listening and emotional support services via telephone or internet.

Emergency or Out of hours GP appointments

Accident and Emergency

Support Group

Counselling (fee paying)

See our How to get help A-Z page for details. Please tell us of any other services that you are aware of or that have worked well for you.

Alcohol Addiction – is there still stigma?

The Heads Together charity have launched a new initiative to help people talk about mental health. This video provides facts and statistics about how effective their campaign has been so far:

But this got me thinking. How long does it take for stigma to disappear?

I can only draw on my own experience so I have chosen alcohol addiction as an example.

In June 1935 a Stockbroker and a Doctor had a conversation which would dramatically change the lives of thousands of people around the world. That conversation developed into what is probably one of the first examples of a support group led by sufferers for the benefit of sufferers. Alcoholics Anonymous was born.

By 1939 they had produced a book which talks about alcoholism in detail. What it means to be alcoholic, how it affects the lives of the sufferer and those around them, and importantly, how to live an alcohol free life one day at a time.

82 years on from that initial conversation, is alcoholism still viewed with suspicion? Are people still saying things like “you need to have more self-control” or “if you loved your family you would stop drinking”?

Unfortunately, I believe some people still have these attitudes. I have met people who try to push alcohol on to me. They say things like “a little one won’t hurt”.  Actually, one sip of alcohol could kill me. Not immediately, but over time, slowly and painfully.

Trying to explain the complex emotional and behavioural issues that an alcoholic endures is easy, but only if the listener is another alcoholic. To the uninitiated it all sounds very strange and contradictory. Because it is. Nothing about why a person drinks themselves into a comatose state on a regular basis, someone who regrets everything that has happened in drink, someone who uses alcohol to free themselves of the guilt associated with their alcoholic behaviour, none of it makes sense. Unless you are an alcoholic.

For most it is easier to endure the embarrassment and hurtful opinions of non-alcoholics than it is to explain. Do we need to explain ourselves? No, we don’t need to, our personal alcoholism is just that, personal. But imagine if we were able to find the words to make other people understand. Imagine if all non-alcoholics had the capacity and understanding to accept us as we are, individuals who are doing our best to overcome our problems and live a full and happy life.

I would like the world to be a place where people are accepted on their own terms. I want there to be no discrimination of any sort – race, nationality, religion, money, sexuality, mental health, physical disability or social status.

I can see that the world is becoming a more accepting place for many. I want acceptance for all. I don’t want this to take another 82 years to accomplish.

My research diary

9th October 2017

 

 

It’s been a while since I felt able to do research. I have tried to get other people involved in helping by joining Helpfulpeeps, a website that puts people in touch with each other with the aim of helping each other. No cash involved. I have had a little interest and am still hopeful that help will arrive.

I think I have discovered that researching the services on offer in the UK is not my strong point. So I have decided to concentrate on the things I find easier to do, writing blogs and reporting on news items.

I have decided to turn my attention to researching the history of the NHS and how it was before the NHS came into being.

This sounds like a project more suited to my strengths as it involves history. I have already found a useful article in Wikipedia which I will use to guide me through my research, and I have bought 2 books (another love of mine) which I am hoping will provide some information. The first book is The Citadel by AJ Cronin, which I have downloaded as an eBook. Apparently, this novel published in 1937 instigated criticism about health care in England and it is cited as being  important in laying the foundation for the NHS.

The other book I have ordered is The Dawn of the Health Age by Dr Benjamin Moore. It was published in 1910. This synopsis is a quote from Amazon:

“written by an Englishman, it applies to conditions in the United States as well as in Great Britain. The author endeavors to demonstrate the necessity for an entire remodeling of the present system of medical service in the interest of the whole community, by showing that thousands of lives and millions of money can be saved every year if disease is attacked on scientific principles “instead of being dallied with as at present.” Dr. Moore advocates a system of state medicine by which competent physicians are made officers of the state for the suppression of disease…”

This sounds quite interesting and useful as a reference point. I just hope that it is easy to read as I often find my attention wandering.

That’s where I’m up to at the moment. I shall try to keep you posted as to my progress.

 

 

Me, anxiety and panic attacks.

Part 3. Panic Attacks

I’ve explained about different forms of my anxiety stemming from events in the past. Now it’s time to bring it up to where I am now.

I am sitting indoors. I last went outside on Thursday (it’s Sunday today), and that was only to go to take some rubbish out. Even that simple task makes me feel anxious. Once I’m inside again my breathing becomes quick and shallow and I have to calm myself with a cup of tea and a cigarette and often some sort of distraction, like watching TV.

It wasn’t always like this. There was a time when I would go anywhere and do anything. I would go on holiday on my own. I’ve been on Safari in Africa, I’ve been to China and Nepal. I flew over Everest. All by myself. Thinking back, I did have moments of panic before I went. Thoughts of “what am I doing? Why am I doing this? I can’t do this” would race through my head the day before I left. But I always did it. Often I would have a day or two of depression whilst I was on my travels, usually around the middle or towards the end of the trip. But I did it. And mostly enjoyed it. I was free and doing whatever took my fancy. I was in control of me.

So what changed? I think I know what the trigger was but I still don’t understand why my anxiety has stayed so long. I have always had “breakdowns” scattered throughout my life. Periods of weeks or months where I become unable to function and living becomes excruciatingly hard. But in the past I have always got better. I have always rebuilt my life and gone back to work and functioned.

Christmas 2012. I can’t remember why, but I had a mini crisis. I was lower than I had been for a long time. But I recovered and went back to work and got on with my life. Then in January 2013 my mother had a stroke. This, I think, is the trigger. I remember feeling very scared. It was the first time I had acknowledged that my parents would die. I had a strong bond with my mother. She was the centre of my world. The concept that she would leave me was unimaginable. Her stroke came with complications because of an ongoing condition she had. DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) was talked about.

It was an incredibly emotional time. And what made it worse was that her personality changed. Sometimes she was childlike and needed looking after. But mostly she was angry and frustrated, and because of her near childlike state, some things she said weren’t censored between thinking it and speaking it.

And that wasn’t the only problem. My dad had never had to look after himself before. Mum was in hospital for 6 weeks and he had to be fed and looked after. My sister and I were run ragged between the two of them. We both worked, my sister had a family to look after, there was very little “me time” for either of us.

I was very hard on myself. “Should” became a common thought. I should be able to look after everyone, I should be able to do more…… The reality was that my mental health suffered. I had regularly been going to a support group, but the group got the worst of my anger and frustration and I stopped going. I stopped being able to go to work. Every morning my anxiety would tell me to stay at home in bed. This wasn’t a new phenomenon, I have battled with that for as long as I can remember. But this time I couldn’t get myself out of it.

So I would drag myself to see my dad and we would go to the hospital together. Then I would try to stay as calm as I could whilst my mum took out her frustrations on us. And I would excuse her behaviour because she was ill and in pain and she couldn’t do the things she used to be able to do. I tried to tell myself that it wasn’t her fault. And when I didn’t convince myself of that fact, I blamed myself. I told myself I wasn’t good enough.

March 2013. Mum is allowed home. The house is now all geared up with disability aids. We had carers organised to look after her. I thought things might get better. But they got worse. She only used the carers for mornings and night time. The rest of the day was down to me, my sister and my father. And whatever we did wasn’t good enough. This wasn’t new either, but it was more apparent this time. We all struggled. And I took it on myself to be the person holding the family together. Only I wasn’t strong enough.

I would go to my parents house and do as much as I was able to, but her words and behaviour often upset me. I would regularly go home in tears. Tears for me is a near convulsive body experience that I find exhausting. I would tell myself and anyone who cared to listen that I wouldn’t put myself through that again. But I did.

So now when I go out, I start to get anxious the night before. Then in the morning I feel a huge dread stopping me from going. Sometimes I give in to the fear. But often it is something important I need to do and not going would let people down. So I battle with myself, drink copious cups of tea, smoke endless cigarettes and change my mind dozens of times. I have found that it is slightly easier if someone comes to pick me up. I will often have a panic attack once I’m in the car, but if I remember to breathe and try to distract myself, it generally goes. Eventually. If I have to walk somewhere (I don’t drive), then I usually start to panic at the end of my road, which is a few hundred feet away (0.1 mile). As I turn the corner my breathing starts to change, my heart starts to flutter, my palms become clammy and my thoughts start racing. If I meet someone walking the other way or even in their own front garden, my symptoms become worse. I don’t know why but it terrifies me. Then I arrive at my destination hot, unable to breathe and terrified. A sit down and a cup of tea will usually calm me, but my anxiety is likely to reappear at any moment, depending on the situation. The journey back home is similar, maybe a little less extreme, but a hot drink and cigarettes are needed. Often, once home, I will curl up in bed and sleep. Anxiety is exhausting.

Different situations produce different levels of reaction, but it is rare that going out doesn’t cause some degree of panic. Even sitting inside where I am safe and in control, I panic over thoughts, things I should be doing, people, anything. I get my groceries delivered. It is the easiest option for me at the moment. But even that causes panic. I like the grocery delivery because it is one of the few times I interact with people. I am getting used to the drivers and we often chat and laugh. But once they’re gone anxiety returns, and I don’t know why.

The worst panic attack I have ever had was in June of this year. My dad wanted to go on holiday, it was the first holiday he’d had for years and after my mothers’ death in January he was ready to go away somewhere. I went with him as a companion. I had all my usual anxiety and fear, but I had tried to prepare myself for it happening. My panic started soon after he had picked me up. This is normal I thought, just breathe. Dad was talking to me but I couldn’t really hear what he was saying because I was just concentrating on me. Then I started to feel nauseous and opened the window. This had happened before, it will go, just breathe. The next thing I became aware of was tingling in my hands and fingers. So I started shaking them to get the blood flowing and I stuck my head out of the window and tried to concentrate on just breathing.

But then my hands locked into a strange, slightly painful position. I could not move my hands. They were clenched and they had stuck that way. And I felt physically ill. I can’t describe how I felt, all I know is that I was terrified. I got my dad to stop the car. I was sitting in the front and desperately needed to get in the back seat and lie down. But I couldn’t move my hands to take the seatbelt off or to open the door. So my dad had to help me. I managed to get out of the car. I struggled to open the door to get in the back seat because my hands were still not behaving properly. But I got in the back seat and lay down and closed my eyes. My body slowly started to relax and I fell asleep. I woke up about an hour later. I was fine. We stopped for lunch and I got back in the front seat. The rest of the journey wasn’t anxiety free, but it was manageable.

I haven’t worked since March 2013. My hobby (researching my family tree), this blog and the Facebook page are the nearest things to work I’ve done since then. It’s not stress free. I often find myself struggling, so I stop, watch TV or go for a nap. Then I come back to it when I am ready. With work I had deadlines, but with this I just do what I want when I feel able to. I just have to be careful that I don’t push myself too hard. But I have people around me who tell me when they think I’m doing too much. And I usually agree with them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Disability Benefits

If you’re aged 16 to 64 you could get between £22 and £141.10 a week by claiming Personal Independence Payment (PIP).

The amount you get depends on how your condition affects you, not the condition itself.

You’ll be assessed by a health professional to work out the level of help you can get. Your rate will be regularly reviewed to make sure you’re getting the right support.

PIP is made up of 2 parts. Whether you get one or both of these and how much you’ll get depends on how severely your condition affects you.

Daily living part

The weekly rate for the daily living part of PIP is either £55.65 or £83.10.

Mobility part

The weekly rate for the mobility part of PIP is either £22 or £58.

Terminal illness

You’ll get the higher daily living part if you’re not expected to live more than 6 months. The rate of the mobility part depends on your needs.

How you’re paid

All benefits, pension and allowances are paid into an account, for example your bank account.

I worked until 2013 when anxiety made it impossible. I receive PIP, but it’s a horrendous and scary process. The last time I went for an assessment there was a man in tears. He was having a panic attack. He just couldn’t cope. I was quietly panicking inside too. This is a phenomenon that is normal for me: when I see a GP about my mental health I always worry that they won’t believe me. Because it’s not always visible. I always feel under pressure to prove to them that something is wrong. I get anxious and clammy and prone to tears. It is a recurring fear even after all these years.

We are lucky that in the UK we have access to financial help from the Government if we are unable to support ourselves financially. Unfortunately, receiving that help is not always straightforward.

I get that the Government do not have a bottomless pit of cash available and need to know that it is being given to the right people. And I understand that there need to be rules to minimise the chances of giving money to people who are able to earn money for themselves. This is not in doubt.

What concerns me is the increasing number of horror stories I have come across. A lady in a support group I’m in posted about how her PIP has been stopped because she appears to be able to cope. She suffers from a mental illness. She has probably spent her entire life “appearing to be ok”. That doesn’t mean she is. She is distraught.

So I’ve taken another look at the form you have to fill in. This is a specimen copy.

This form is geared towards physical health. It is very difficult to explain your state of mind by simply answering these questions. For example, question 3 is about preparing food:

pip
What I want to say to this is:

“I don’t need any special aids but due to my food disorder I struggle to feed myself. I am able to cook but I often find that I can’t be bothered, or I forget, or sometimes my head will say that although I’m feeling hungry I don’t actually need to eat.” So a and b will both be NO, and then a long rambling explanation goes in the any further comments section. And so it goes on with questions like “Are you able to wash yourself”, “Yes, but I often can’t be bothered and I’m only going to put my nightie on again at bedtime so what’s the point?”

There is an area on the form where you have to list your medication and health professionals. Surely this in itself is an indication of your levels of fitness to work? It seems that nobody follows this up. At least, I don’t have any evidence from my own experience that this happens.

This is a Last Leg Correspondents report that covers PIP from the point of view of someone with cerebral palsy:

I have a solution which will work for the physically ill and the mentally ill. It is a simple idea. This is for people with an ongoing condition, ongoing meaning, a specified number of  years. Let’s say 2. The initial form could have a box asking how long you have suffered with your illness or condition. There could be another box to give the DWP consent to contact your GP. If you have a genuine ongoing condition there will be copious notes and letters in your medical file which support your claim. These notes can then be given to a neutral GP/specialist to read. This is to get a 2nd opinion. If there is any doubt, a medical assessment can be arranged. If the 2nd opinion concurs with the GP notes, you are automatically entitled to financial support. That’s it. No assessment, no trying to prove you are ill. The trick here is for the DWP to liaise with the medical profession and it is down to the DWP to prove that a person is NOT ill. Yes, there is probably extra work for the DWP going to hundreds of GPs for information and then reading the opinion of the doctor who has conducted the 2nd opinion. But the pay off is that the DWP can then concentrate on the people who are actually trying to cheat the system. So in my mind this is a win-win situation.

I realise that I haven’t covered the financial side, I haven’t thought of a solution for that yet. But does this sound like a workable solution? What are your thoughts?

 

Me, anxiety and panic attacks.

Part 2. Social Anxiety.

This article about depression and anxiety is spot on.

I left the last blog promising something about my social anxiety.

There are a few reasons for this anxiety, one of them being that I think it stems from things that were said to me as a child, things I now know are not true. I am only just working this out for myself and I expect there will be a lot of emotions around it, but I’ll try my best.

As a child I was painfully shy. I remember being afraid of almost every adult I met. And as I got older I became awkward around other children too.

Part of it is to do with feeling different. I have been told a story about my attitude when I was 3. I was attending what was called in the 70s a Play School, which would probably be termed today as going to a Childminder. Because of my developmental issues I was still in nappies. I must have been aware that everybody else was a similar age to me but none of the other children were wearing a nappy. Apparently, one day I told my mother that I didn’t want to wear nappies any more because no one else did. I knew at 3 years old that I didn’t fit in. As I got older my differences became more apparent and more upsetting. I distinctly remember riding a tricycle when all my friends had ditched their stabilisers and were riding bikes properly. I was always aware of why I was different, I had been told the story of my illness many times, but I don’t think I understood. All I saw was that everyone around me could do things that I couldn’t do.

Then I went to school. We had Physical Education where we had to do a balance exercise. PE was held in the school hall which was also the dinner hall and the gym. At lunch time everyone sat on benches, and in PE these benches were used to practice our balance. I would watch all my classmates breeze through it. Then it came to my turn. Balance was one of the things which didn’t come naturally to me. I would only walk the bench if the PE teacher held my hand. Which was the exact opposite of what they were trying to achieve. I might have been able to do it but I was scared and everybody was watching. The older I got, the more excruciating PE and Games became.

Another thing which made me feel different was my absences from school. As a young child I had quite a lot of physiotherapy. Once or twice a week I would be taken out of school to go for private physio lessons. Which I hated. My school friends would naturally ask where I had been, and I would tell them that I was ill as a baby and needed to do these special exercises. All of which reinforced the feeling of not being like other children.

Is it any wonder I used to drift off into space and just live in my own little world from time to time?

Now this is the tough bit to explain. I have always believed that I was loved. My family life was full of hugs and kisses and happiness. But at the same time it wasn’t happy. Only I didn’t realise. Till now.

Things were said to me as a child that I believed to be true. I was innocent and trusting and believed everything that was said by people that I loved. Those insights became the core of my personal belief system and even though I am starting to challenge it, my belief system is still integral in my thinking and behaviour.

I was instructed in everything. What to say, what not to say, how to behave, how not to behave. I was told that something I did or said could have the consequence of nobody wanting to be my friend. I was told that if I was feeling sad or troubled “don’t tell your friends about it, put on a big smile and pretend”. Apparently, no one wants to hear my problems, no one will be interested. Another thing I believe because of these words of wisdom is that people are only doing things for me out of kindness or pity. Never because they love me and want to help and are generous and giving. I learnt instead that people take pity on me. Which makes me annoyingly grateful. All the time.

I have a theory that the person who told me these nuggets of wisdom wasn’t maliciously or knowingly misguiding me. I think that she was passing on her own ways of thinking and behaving without realising the implications. I think she genuinely thought she was being helpful and was shielding me from harm.

But it backfired. An important part of growing up is to try to do new things and to fail at them. That is how a child learns. It is hard for the parents because they can see what is going to go wrong. But a child has to find out for itself. “Ok, that didn’t work, next time I’ll try it differently”. I think that because of my limitations and my fears, my parents didn’t want me to get upset about failure. So I’d be told “you won’t be able to do that”. So I didn’t try, and then it turns out that they were right, I can’t do it. But maybe, if I had tried I might have found a compromise that suited me. I was always too scared to try anything.

So how does all of this fit in with social anxiety? I see now that I was scared of being and scared of doing. I wasn’t allowed to be myself because I had to follow the rules of behaving properly, otherwise I wouldn’t have any friends. And I didn’t talk much because I was probably too scared I would say the wrong thing, because then obviously, the world would explode. And I hadn’t been primed for every conversation the world had to offer, so I actually had no thoughts or words of my own. I so desperately wanted people to like me, I tried so hard to be…. actually I have no idea what I was trying to be. It sounds like I was a puppet doesn’t it?

But none of this makes sense. As a person, in my natural state, I am kind, loving, a good listener. I realise that I collected friends who were outcasts. Children who were flawed, different. I gave them love and a shoulder to cry on and they gave me friendship. I stood up for them when people were unkind and I listened to all of their troubles. It never once occurred to me that other people could do the same for me. I lived in my huge smile and everything is wonderful attitude because I wasn’t allowed to say “actually, I’m feeling a bit sad today”. There was so much sadness and fear and confusion going on inside, only I hid it so well that even I wasn’t aware of it.

I am beginning to realise how harmful the words “nobody wants to hear your problems” are. I spent my life feeling unimportant outside of the family unit. I was always less than, not good enough, I didn’t matter. So when I worried about something I didn’t tell anybody because it’s not important, it’s only me.

I hated parties because when you got to a certain age you didn’t play games anymore, you had to stand around and talk! At senior school, break times didn’t include playing, they included chatting. I was completely out of my depth because I had nothing to talk about. The puppeteer wasn’t there to pull my strings. And I was (and probably still am) a chronic people pleaser. I find it hard to make decisions because I’d rather do whatever makes other people happy, even if I hate it. The other option is to do something I want to do, and that is insane, unthinkable. Because I don’t matter.

But that’s daft. Because I do matter. Despite myself, people love me and enjoy being with me.

I’m the only person who doesn’t enjoy being with me.