Getting around

Agoraphobia (ag-uh-ruh-FOE-be-uh) is a type of anxiety disorder in which you fear and avoid places or situations that might cause you to panic and make you feel trapped, helpless or embarrassed.

Out of the many conditions that I find myself mired in, one of the most frustrating is agoraphobia. It prevents me from doing many things in life, and it creates a lot of awkward situations. Over time, I’ve gotten to know it, and constructed tidy boxes that I fit myself into, that let me live my small life. I know where my personal “potholes” are. Or in some cases, more like landmines. Small, simply because those boxes can be limiting.

I’m not sure why I felt compelled to write this. But I know that doing so today is leading me towards a cathartic aha moment. I can feel something snapping back into place, that was broken inside of me long ago. Why? I’m not sure exactly. I’ve been in personal therapy and physiotherapy, which is slowly wearing away at my stress levels, but also releasing new layers of hidden, vaulted up stress as I go.

Factually speaking, it’s affected me in a few different ways: mainly my ability to drive, take complex public transportation, and make plans with others.

Some background, for context… as a teenager, I was told that I wasn’t allowed to obtain my learner’s permit until I had achieved “straight A’s”, or at least something close to it. I wanted so desperately at the time to take driving lessons with my peers. At the time, I hadn’t considered the immense responsibility of driving, or rather, that my knack for finding distractions could result in serious consequences. So in the meantime, I took public transit. Back then, we didn’t have smartphones, so if I’d forgotten my book for reading, it was generally a long, boring, and nauseating bumpy ride with multiple transfers, sometimes followed by a mind-numbing walk home. An average person might not think of that experience as a big deal, but to me it was. To me, it was excruciating mental and physical torture.

There were also times I had to find my way to places unknown, which for my ADHD brain was quite intimidating. Attempting to navigate foreign territory (to me) could put me into a state of panic, and the prospect of being late due to my directional incompetence loomed incessantly. I can recall one time maybe five years ago when I took a chance and decided it would be worth seeing friends if I rode the streetcar. What a mistake. My smartphone had me exiting the streetcar in a wooded area restricted from cars, where you could transfer to other transit… which was fine, until I realized that the pathway to where I was headed? closed down! and I had no clue how to get around it. Using the blocked path, it was 400m to the restaurant and 2.2km to go around. I asked a bus driver what to do and he gave me a rather rude non-answer. At that point, I was starting to feel claustrophobic without a main road around me, so I got on the bus anyhow. Looking back now, I can see what really set me off. I have an anxiety trigger which is that if people are in a position to help me, and express indifference or unwillingness to help, especially if I’ve disclosed my anxiety issue, it sends me into a kindof overwhelmed fugue state where I cannot think straight. Anyhow. Ashamed, I called my friends in tears. Heart thudding in my ears, barely able to string coherent thoughts, let alone sentences… well, let’s just say I’m very thankful to have friends willing to meet me at the nearest intersection. Silver lining? Definitely a learning experience!

Eventually planning my own journey became more accessible, however, I learned rather quickly to avoid places more than a few minutes away from subway stops or main intersections. This meant that if I missed my transfer, I’d have somewhere to park myself that might be more interesting than a bench, and if I needed to ask directions, there would be people around. If I wanted to go somewhere farther afield, I only did so if friends came with me, or if they were willing to drive. These rules still apply to this day. In fact, despite working on it, I carry a lot of shame over missing on friend’s baby shower’s, birthdays or other events, simply because I didn’t have a ride there and it was quite out of the way. People chastise me for not making the effort, and tell me that I was an adult now… it shouldn’t be a problem… heck, I should be driving there myself. Life can be hard when that which you wish to heal from is unexpectedly reinforced every now and then.

When I was unemployed, this became an even bigger hurdle for me. At one point, I left the house barely once per week, and that was only if a friend or family member drove me, or at least drove me to the nearest train stop. I ventured out only when I had the mental energy, which I had to save up for days in advance, building myself up knowing that it would be torn down within a few hours. There were times that I turned even a free ride down, though that was mixed up with depression issues as well. Dark times I tell you.

Sadly, driving myself was not an option by then either. In college, I did have my learners permit for a brief time before I let it lapse. I went through all the in-class lessons, the in-car lessons… the extra in-car lessons… the extra extra in-car lessons… and still, I did not feel confident behind the wheel. I studied, but I had no vehicle to practice on outside of paid lessons and so I went into my test feeling like a fraud, and oh boy did it show. I definitely did not pass that test, and I had no idea how to fix it. I still don’t. At the time, I felt as if the examiner did his best to intimidate me. Now, I’m not so sure, but I do recall that there were some things that could have been handled in a gentler, more accommodating way.

Nowadays, I am willing to try again, however, I’m not able to pay for lessons and I’m certainly not willing to put the vehicle of friends or family at risk of falling prey to my SQUIRREL! syndrome.

The idea of creating financial distress for myself or others in having to replace a vehicle or worse, in causing bodily harm… well I find it all terrifying. I’m prone to fits distractibility and often find it impossible to concentrate. As well, I have only so much “focus” in me, and worry that if I tap it all out whilst driving, I won’t be much use afterwards.

It’s ok. I’m pushing forward, very slowly and in my own way. I’m poking holes in the potholes. and I am proud of how far I’ve come.

Thanks for reading

~jitterful~

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On finding forgiveness

When I was a child, I had absolutely loving parents. But I don’t remember much from those days. It’s more like facts that have been committed to memories. A certain knowing of emotions that my brain has recorded happening.

Maybe its because I’ve been in therapy, and as you know, therapy has the potential to bring up all sorts of emotions and other boxed up things that my lovely brain has sequestered away in an effort to protect me. Only those boxes are many, and I have only so much storage space.

What I do know of my family is that none of them understood my challenges. I’d try to explain, with the limited vocabulary I did have as a child, but that wasn’t the age of enlightenment with adult self-awareness, much less in children.

I have family who almost definitely suffer from anxiety or ADHD, which in hindsight makes me somewhat sad. They don’t care to fix themselves, or even acknowledge it, preferring to chug along, bearing the weight of all that burdens them. I am not a medical professional who can diagnose them so take my opinion with a grain of salt! We don’t talk about it, as they’ve dismissed my diagnosis as hogwash. and yep, I have shown them the report. Because apparently the tests from 30 years ago were fruitless, and that is all the proof they believe in.

They knew there was something “wrong” with me back then. I was sent for all sorts of tests. IQ tests. Hearing tests. Learning disability tests. Blood tests. So. Many. Tests. And ALL of them came back inconclusive. Every single one.

So my mother decided she knew what was best for me. She did everything she could to drag me through the years, forcing me to write lines until my spelling was up to scratch, somehow jamming it all into my head by rote. Fighting with me day in and day out until I did the thing, whatever it was, that needed doing at that moment.

I appreciate all that she did. I love her for it. I am humbled by her strength.

and yet… I have a hard time finding forgiveness. For making me feel so alone.

It’s ridiculous that I should have expected her to validate my feelings and anxieties. Isn’t it? She couldn’t grasp the intensity or depth of my barriers. I didn’t have the words to tell her. So why then am I still so angry?

I’ve read about parenting techniques for ADHD. There are tons of self-awareness hacks and articles around… and I think to myself that if she had executed all of that in interactions with me as a child, maybe I wouldn’t have grown this anxiety disorder. Maybe it wouldn’t have festered in me like a cancer that I’m struggling so hard to navigate.

Maybe if I hadn’t been told that I needed to try harder, and that the world didn’t care if I found things difficult… maybe if it wasn’t constantly mentioned that I could focus on video games, reading my novels, or watching tv for hours, so I shouldn’t have a problem focusing on my chores and homework… maybe if achieving good grades wasn’t the pinnacle of success in their eyes… and if that hadn’t been the reason life milestones such as obtaining a drivers licence were withheld, like a golden carrot… maybe then I wouldn’t have flinched everytime they spoke to me. and I wouldn’t have unknowingly taught my body that internalizing the stress of those conversations was easier than finding a way to expel it. Maybe then I would have found ways to overcome my disorder, and left it behind in childhood like so many others I know.

My anxiety stemming from ADHD is such a complicated beast. It hangs over every conversation I have with my family.  It’s more malleable than a black dog (depression). I don’t know what to do with it. I’ve mentioned it to my therapist. We are unpacking it little by little.

I know that one day, I need to sit mom down and have a conversation. But I have this ideal in my head that I want to do that when I’ve found some measure of success in making my disorder submit to defeat. I get that it will always be there, obviously. I mean “success” in finding ways to live my life despite the disorder, and living it well. Except what if not having the conversation is part of what holds me back? They’ve been so unwilling to hear me in the past. What if they still won’t listen…

Most of all… What if that conversation is the one that will free my resentment and allow me to forgive. Yep. There it is. The nugget I’ve been so hesitant to acknowledge. Can you tell I have a hard time letting go of things? Both physical and mental.

And I just figured out. I need to find a place where I can have that conversation, and be ok with their lack of understanding. I need to accept my family’s refusal to see all of me. That will take awhile. and look at that! I just bought myself a bunch of time whereby I can procrastinate, guilt-free. Sweet!

Well I feel so much lighter now. Thanks for reading.

~Jitterful~

*Not yet edited. Will come back for that later. Sorry for any parts that don’t make sense.

Just keep floating, if that’s what it takes

Another attempt at daily writing. Today, it’s just a progress report, but I think it will be useful simply putting my fingers on the keyboard. If you’re reading

My energy has been up and down lately.

Working with a new physiotherapist, who is helping me with the fascia issues. Training me to get rid of the knots myself. Cheaper in the end, instead of having to pay someone every time. Just another tool in my belt. There are so many. I wonder, will any of these tools make a difference? when will things finally change for me… I’m learning new things every day, which means forward movement. Doesn’t it? Seriously, I am asking because I’m not sure if it’s a line I tell myself.

I put in an inquiry to another therapist who can look at the set of my jaw to determine if that’s causing issues as well. I’ve had mild vertigo since I was a child, and issues with my feet, so that could be causing a lot of… well, everything wrong with me. Yes, I am exaggerating. But I can dream. Because if that is THE answer, I hear its an easy fix! Only one way to find out. Spend more money! Oy. I’ve been spending a lot of money on therapies, both physical and mental.

Is it worth it?
I do feel that things are better now than they were a year or three ago. It’s hard to say without a day per day comparison. I do feel the consequences of my actions more now, in that I’ve scaled down heavily on my social activities. The loneliness that created is no fun for me at all. Starting friendships anew is hard. So I guess I’m struggling to sort out whether my lonesome state is contributing to my anxiety, and how, or if my current levels stem from other places.

As well, I feel like being in hypno/talk therapy has me in a constant state of mental discomfort. Honestly, confronting my issues is distressing! it has to be done, but holy fudgebeans is it ever exhausting. We had a rather short-lived success in surging my mental energy levels, but that tapered off within a week or two. Still, it gives me hope.  My therapist says I’m more functional now than when she first met me a few short months ago. That’s something. Right?

I think the lesson I take from my entry today is to keep on learning and growing. I might not ever get better, but if I stop trying, then I definitely won’t. I hate the “nemo” phrase of just keep swimming. It doesn’t acknowledge one’s effort. I would rather appreciate that I can swim, or on a bad day, that I can simply float… as long as I am doing the best I can whilst still being kind to myself. I’m a pun fan, so will have to come up with something catchier one day.

On that note… off to my next therapy app in a few minutes. Thanks for reading!

Grateful for me

Today I am feeling grateful for self -awareness and personal growth. and technology. Oh how I adore technology! The places we will go.

When I was a child, I suffered from symptoms of ADHD, but I had no diagnosis until much later in life. It left me feeling so very alone and confused, always out of my depth. I believe that between having no diagnosis, and those I trusted most telling I wasn’t trying hard enough, when I felt that I had nothing left to give, my anxiety disorder was inevitable.

Fortunately, the age of internet has saved me. I can now multitask like no other, flipping from one tab to the next! I can play games on my phone, keeping me entertained, and sane, during long transit rides. and I can find directions to almost anywhere, on my computer or my phone!! As an agoraphobic, reliable directions are a lifesaver. Or rather a panic attack prevention tool #nojoke.
It’s helped me developed my knowledge base, my soft skills, and find networking opportunities. It allowed me to earn a certificate from an out of province University! After my Bachelor’s degree, in town, but yeah, it was a fabulous experience.
I’ve also made it a priority to stay updated on new research findings, coping strategies, and lifehacks for ADHD and anxiety. Internet gave me a place to vent, and find friends who supported me, and showed me that I am not alone.
I don’t know where I’d be without internet. Or my phone – and I don’t mean that as a millennial phone addict, honestly 😉

All of these things have made my life so much easier, and allow me to function better in various ways… mostly in allowing me to focus, recharge my energy levels (self-care ftw!), or minimize my anxiety. The part that gives me real feels? Knowing that today I am a 1000x more evolved as a human than I ever thought possible, and being ok with the fact that the journey is far from over.

If I had grown up in a different, long ago era, I can’t imagine how I would personally survive. Meh. That’s a conversation for another day. Or maybe it’s something I’d rather not contemplate – something I learned from anxiety research… focus on the positive, try not to catastrophize, and if I get caught in a downward spiral reach out for help but don’t judge myself harshly.

Wow. Imagine that. How far I’ve come?

Yes. I am amazing. Not moreso than other people, not lesser than others… just simply… amazing. For that I am grateful, and humbled. On a bad day, I may lose this perspective.

Funny that, after writing all of this out, I’m oddly proud of my millennial status.

Thanks for reading, if you’ve got this far.

Peace and love to all xo

~~Jitterful ~~

 

They say to just write

Everyday.

Sure, that sounds easy enough. What could be easier than getting words down on a page? Even children can do that. Right? Except most days, I have no idea what to start with. What topic to pick. They all sound so mundane in those moments. Sometimes I envy the imagination of youngsters.

On a good day, I’m flush with writing thoughts, as they flit through my mind and are forgotten faster than my eyes can blink. These are the days of course, when I am nowhere near a computer, and when my medication is working the way it should… when my mental energy isn’t sapped, but keeping me high like a bird.

So I try to outsmart myself, and write them down, on paper, because Evernote or other apps just don’t seem to work for me. And then later on, the next day, or even that evening, I look back on those jotted scribbles, and suddenly they don’t sound so inspired anymore.

And I sit there, reading the sad sad list, judging myself for lack of creativity. and willpower, like a wilted flower. Sighs. It is time to put the notebook away, to be taken out when serendipity allows me the pleasure of inspiration and time to do this thing I really do enjoy… write!

My Top 5 Energy boosters

5 Energy Boosters

Over the years I’ve collected various tricks to up my energy when I need it, and I thought, I should blog about this! Not only will it help me keep track and knock off my ten minutes a day of writing, but maybe it will help just one person out there. So here they are, my top 5 energy boosters.

  1. Caffeine. Duh! Mostly tea and coffee. Java in the morning once I’m at work, and tea most other days. Be careful – I wait til my “get up and go” internal juice is spent. The body produces natural cortisol when you wake up, and caffeine too early in the morning could replace that process
  2. Vyvanse for adhd. Ok so this one isn’t readily available on the market freely. However I’m impressed with how much it helps so really needs a mention. If you have adhd, going the natural route is tough and vyvanse is merely a dopamine upper. It isn’t like an anti-depressant where they aren’t sure exactly how it works –  it’s a pretty clean and straightforward process!
  3. Aromatherapy – A friend gifted me the Saje Revitalizing Remedy and it works wonders! I also have their peppermint oil, and some others from doTerra. Love it!
  4.  Exercise – It sounds counterproductive, I know, but once I get over the initial slump, the momentum really keeps me on a roll! This one takes a lot of effort.
  5. Cat naps – Nothing better than a quick snooze. I also find that positive affirmation or hypnosis recordings are amazing. Bonus if you can down a quick cuppa joe just prior, so that the caffeine will wake you up within about 20 minutes leaving you super refreshed! Coffee naps are a real treat 🙂

Bonus – My Top 7 Sleep tricks

  1. Avoid excessive consumption of bread or pasta – ugh. All that wheat really makes me feel lethargic. I am definitely not a gluten free girl but loading me up with the stuff can be too much.
  2. Melatonin – These tablets work wonders when I’m having trouble falling asleep. I only use these if I know I’ll have time for a longer sleep, so atleast another 7 hours after taking them (because often it’s already been a few of me tossing and turning!)
  3. Magnesium – Not quite as fast acting, but if the melatonin doesn’t work for you then this may do the trick. I also love the fizzy citrus flavours most of them have.
  4. Meditation – A few minutes of mindfulness or hypnosis recordings, as I said above, will put me right out. I haven’t used this recently, as I need to set up my speakers – wearing headphones to sleep means I forget to remove them. I hate tangled cords…
  5. Lavender – Aromatherapy or anything with a quality lavender scent (not the lab created variety) is very relaxing and makes snoozing so very easy
  6. Hot milk – I haven’t done this in awhile either, but oh my is it ever effective! Microwaving milk reduces the sleepy inducing effect, so be sure to heat it up in a saucepan. Throw in a splash of cocoa for flavour, or whatever pleases your ‘buds!
  7. Chamomile – Have you ever tried the loose whole flower type? Not in the bags! For years I thought it was nasty, as the bags don’t impart much flavour, or rather, much satisfying flavour. I promise you the loose version will change your life. Anyhow, I save this for occasional use, as I adore the taste and scent, but I’m afraid the calming effect will be lost on me with too much use. It can also be used as potpourri!

*These opinions are my own. I have not received compensation in any way for any remarks

My Symptoms

Symptoms vary, and so do their intensity. Often times I am able to hide it from others. The last few years as my coping methods wear thin, hiding my anxiety has been more difficult… so much that I have developed physical symptoms that have been rather overwhelming to deal with.

I’ve had to be more vocal lately about it, and in an effort to destigmatize the issues, and be honest with myself, I’ve simply told people the truth when I feel that I can handle it. I fear that people think I’m weak, or that I’m using it as an excuse to be lazy, but that is the perception I’m trying to change.  We have a lot of work to do it seems, as my doing so has abruptly ended many conversations. I guess people don’t know how to respond to a declaration like that.

These conditions impacted me in the following ways. I am sure I am missing a few:

  • Extreme forgetfulness, even from one moment to the next
  • Inability to focus, even if I know a task is important
  • Inability to start or complete tasks – this has nothing to do with my desire to complete the task
  • Occasionally blurting out things that should never be said
  • Lack of awareness in how I affect others
  • Awful time management
  • Missed deadlines
  • Easily overwhelmed
  • Requiring excessive “me” time to recoup mental energy
  • Anxiety when it comes to taking transit
  • Anxiety about learning how to drive
  • Poor execution of plans or events
  • Lack of tidiness
  • Low self-confidence
  • Maintaining personal connections with friends – this is a complicated one, I don’t fully understand it
  • Extreme body tension – since childhood
  • Difficulty breathing due to body tension 
  • Cancelling plans at the last minute (usually a combination of symptoms from above)
  • Circumstantial depression relating to my life or adhd/anxiety circumstances
  • Anxiety paralysis or mental exhaustion – essentially after a long day or week, I get home and my brain literally turns off, even if I have reminders on my phone or people contacting me with an action item, it somehow gets forgotten or missed**Please note that not all of these symptoms are present at all times**

My Treatments

Many of the resources I have discovered are quite expensive. Now that I finally have semi stable employment, I have been able to dabble in that area. It is too early to say if the therapy is effective. Of course, I have also been paying for adhd medication the last 3+ years. The first 1.5 years was an adhd/anxiety medication which I had to discontinue. I am now taking only adhd meds,  along physical and psycho therapy. After writing that all out, it sounds like a lot. I feel as if it has been rather slow going.

As well, my mental health barriers are resistant to traditional therapy.  Trust me on this one thing – I have tried. I have attempted all the methods I have been able to find and afford. Heck, I could probably write a book on it. If you have questions about why traditional therapy is ineffective for me, please please please ask! I plan to write another post about that down the road.  That said, I am very aware that I need to work on myself, and find ways to get around my resistance. I am committed to making it happen. Unfortunately, these things take time (and for someone like me, that part is not easy to digest).

My latest endeavour has been hypnotherapy. It has been interesting so far, and shows promise.

There is other therapy that I can try that works with biofeedback, and adhd coaches who are trained to help me approach my type of issues, however those are more than triple the cost of hypnotherapy and as I mentioned above, at this time I cannot afford it. Coaching is much better without the anxiety component anyhow, which is why I’m trying hypnotherapy first. If hypnotherapy does not work, I plan to save up my pennies. If the hypnotherapy works, I may also be able to engage in some traditional psychotherapy.

In the meantime, scientists are conducting all sorts of research on the brain relating to mental disorders, anxiety and the like. It is my hope that the cost of therapies that may be useful to me will come down in price soon.