The Vault Regulars

Friday, September 27, 2019

Anxiety - Progress to date.

My holiday to Greece has come and gone. Sheila made our friends who live in Greece aware of my ongoing problem and forewarned them that i may be quiet, a little vague at times and basically not to be offended if i just had to leave at any point.

When we met up, the greetings were same as usual and they understood what was happening with me and fortunately they had also experienced a similar situation with one of their relatives. He had to be taken to hospital.

Our flight went without any problems, in fact i was asleep before we took off and i only woke up when the coffee was being served about half an hour in.

My first week passed with just a couple of days where i wasn't feeling good. For one full day and night i was shaking and feeling sick. I don't know what set it off but i just went to bed.

I had been told not to set myself any goals which were possibly unachievable. I decided that I wanted to get to running 5km and walking 10km before we came home.

I still find it difficult to understand how I got into this situation and the general public, which I include myself, have absolutely no idea just how anxiety and panic attacks affects your daily functioning. How the brain almost stops, how your energy disappears, how the muscles change, how eating changes, how breathing changes, how thoughts change, how dreams change. And much more.

Recovering from this takes time and that time differs for each individual. I'm lucky to have had great support from friends, neighbours and family.

Anyway, back to Greece. My first run I managed just over 2km and was shattered. Luckily we had a pool at the villa and sun beds to relax on. It was 35 degrees.
I didn't run the next day but we walked everyday starting off with short walks and by the end of the holiday we walked almost 15km of undulating paths without any problems.

Running was hard but again just pushing a little bit every time I finally managed 6km before we came home. So I beat my goals.

As the time to come home was on the horizon I started to panic a bit. I didn't know why, I just didn't want to do the trip. I had been so relaxed for the last three weeks and I was feeling good I didn't want to go backwards or remember where I had been mentally. But, as I kept telling myself, at some point I would have to face it anyway so get it done.
We actually had a good trip home without any real issues apart from a 40 minute delay leaving Kefallonia. All the transport clicked into place like clockwork.

The holiday did do Sheila and I a world of good. Im feeling more like my old self but I know the medication still holds me in the middle ground, I don't get over excited and I don't get depressed. In October I have to go back to the doctors and hopefully I can reduce the meds and ween myself off it altogether.

Hopefully by Christmas I will be fully recovered and I will start hiking again. In my 1st post about anxiety I said I doubt that I would ever backpack again, well I'm not giving it up without a fight. Hopefully next spring I will do some weekends out. They don't need to be long hikes, just short ones will do with a couple of overnight camps in familiar territory.

This will be my last post on this subject and if I have helped just 1 person cope then I'm glad I put it in the blog. Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Some improvement thankfully.

Sheila wisely suggested that we do a dry run to the airport. So a few days before leaving for Greece we got the train and did the journey. Although I was apprehensive things went ok.
Come the day we were leaving properly, the trains were cancelled. Northern Fail again.
Luckily a neighbour took us to the airport.

I felt ok going through passport control but once through I felt disoriented. Even though I had been through the airport dozens of times I wasn’t sure where I was. Only when we sat down did things start to appear familiar.

Apart from a slight delay with the flight everything went ok. I think I slept quite a bit.
Our arrival in Greece was without incident and we were through arrivals and into the taxi within minutes.

The first couple of days we just chilled out and then decided to do a ferry trip. On the way back I didn’t feel good and couldn’t stop shaking. My uncomfortable feeling lasted for a day and a night.

I was determined to start running on this holiday even though my energy levels are still low and my muscles ache. The first run was about 2km. My breathing was awful and I was shattered when I got back. The next run was only a little longer but I actually felt a bit better and my muscles not as sore.

10 days into the holiday and I haven’t had another bad day, but even better my running has improved to 5 km and with my breathing improving. Still my energy level is about 50% of where it was before all this anxiety started but it’s mentally helpful to know that I am improving faster than I ever thought.
The medication is still controlling my emotions but I am learning to live with it.

Let’s hope the next 10 days improve too.

Friday, August 23, 2019

My ongoing battle with anxiety and panic attacks.

It's been a while since i was on the Internet, writing or reading. Its not easy to know where to start but i will try and hope that my situation might help other sufferers.

Myself i consider to be level head, adventurous, someone who has seen much of the world. I love challenges and problem solving and always take the hard route rather than the easy way. I have always pushed myself, so the following tale came as a shock to all my family and friends as well as myself.

I had a few minor panic attacks over the last 5 years or so, they didn't cause me any real problems and considering that i got shingles i put it down to this and almost forgot about them. Just occasionally an attack would come on but they were infrequent and short lived.

Over the last couple of years our lives and plans had more or less come to a stop because of the ongoing health problems with Dorothy, Sheila's mum. She had had heart and kidney problems which caused all sorts of other issues and meant that we supported her in every way on a 24/7 basis.
As you can imagine, this caused much stress and anguish and you don't realise how it affects you because it creeps up on you and becomes the norm.
Everyone says you need to look after yourselves, but what does that really mean?

Late last year i started to have uncomfortable sensations in the area of my solar plexus. I eventually went to the docs and had a scan and blood tests. All results came back clear.
The sensations became uncomfortable and more frequent so i went back and the doc sent me for a more comprehensive scan and more blood tests. All came back clear.

The panic attacks returned with a vengeance and i was having one or two per night. They were getting stronger and longer lasting and in some instances i wasn't sure where i was. I was in a right state.
Sheila helped me through them and i went back to the docs. She said it seems like anxiety and i pooh-poohed it, saying theres nothing mentally wrong with me. Anyway she stuck with it and convinced me to try some tablets called Sertraline, only a low dose of 20mg once per day.
She said that they are not good at first but after 2 weeks i should start to feel better. She said she would call me and that i had to see her again in 4 weeks.

The tablets were awful to live with, i thought i was going backwards. Those first 2 weeks must have worried Sheila to death. Again, i was in a right state. My energy levels were zero and the feeling of sea sickness was constant. At times i just lay in the reclining chair with my eyes closed and saying nothing. Sheila would convince me to eat but i could only manage a spoon full of soup and that was it.

During this period we decided that we couldn't get through this without professional help. I plucked up the courage and rang an organisation called Looking Ahead. I had an interview within a couple of days and the result was that i needed CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy). The interview lasted 45 minutes and at the end said that there was a waiting list of 5 months. I needed help right now. I couldn't wait 5 days never mind 5 months. This really deflated me.

We decided to go private, whatever it cost. I needed help.
I managed to get an appointment to see a therapist at the Pall Mall clinic on King Street, Manchester within 5 days.
I was scared to death getting into Manchester on my first visit, but it was the best thing i could have done. It's not easy when you feel so bad but you need to have an open mind and a willingness to help yourself. I had both.

After an hour and a quarter i came out with a smile on my face. The first smile in weeks and weeks. This was only the first of many steps i needed to take but i was happy that i had made a start. I had been told that you do need to like the therapist and be able to talk openly. I was quickly put at ease and i found the therapist easy to talk too.

I was given homework and a training regime to retrain my brain which had gone back to the days when all we did was fight or run. I saw the therapist every week and gradually started to make progress.

My energy levels were still poor but i had to go for a walk on my own 3 times a day, just short distances and about 15 minutes. I had breathing exercises to do and muscle work. The short walks were a means of convincing the brain that i could do this and there wasnt a lion waiting around every corner. This will probably sound odd to readers but the brain rules everything and mine wasn't sending messages out normally, retraining the brain takes time.

After a few weeks of therapy and self training i felt that i could go out for longer walks with Sheila as well as doing the short walks on my own. The longer walks were only 30 minutes but they encountered friends and neighbours. I was dreading that and having to tell people. As it happens everyone has been so supportive even though they couldn't understand how i had succumbed to Anxiety.

We had been invited to a friends 70th birthday party but because we were going to Scotland for a month i had said we wouldn't be at home. Now that Scotland had been cancelled i felt we should go and show our face. It was the wrong decision.
I stood at the bar with a non alcoholic drink and friends were coming over for a chat, i could see their lips moving but the words were a few seconds delayed and i found that i was looking at them vaguely. I started to panic and told Sheila i had to get out, which we did. That night i had a panic attack and the following day was awful. I just crashed out.

Over the following weeks there were numerous similar experiences and taking on new challenges like going shopping or a quick trip to the pub was quite daunting. We met our local landlord one day when out on a walk and we told him what was happening. He couldn't believe it. I said to him that i needed to come into the pub and just have a coke. So that night i gritted my teeth and nervously entered. Straight away the landlord said "a coke Alan" and with some shacking i managed it.

The second time i went into the pub we met a person who told us his mum had just died and he was suffering anxiety. Well i just burst into tears and left immediately. That put me back a bit and i couldn't wait for the next therapy session.

A few weeks later and the tablets were controlling my emotions better i decided to go for a walk in Moses Gate Country Park, a place that i had never been before. When we got there i found that i had left the map at home and was so annoyed with myself i let it spoil the day. Usually this wouldn't have bothered me, an email to the therapist calmed me down.

Everyones anxiety is different and so i can only explain my experience. Anxiety is like waking up in a dark tunnel which is sloping upwards. I woke up somewhere near the bottom of the tunnel the route out is upwards but there are many obstacles to get out. I couldn't see the obstacles but the therapist and Sheila helped me overcome them. You cannot get through the obstacles alone you need help.
If you try and do this alone it's easier to slip out at the bottom of the tunnel and that's where you find the horror. The motorway bridge, the river, the cliff, your worst nightmare. The trouble is you don't know you are there or why.

At this minute i am not quite out of the tunnel but i can now see the hurdles i have to overcome. Its still not easy and i still need help. My therapy sessions are over but i can contact the therapist at any time. Sheila and I are going to Greece very soon and 3 months ago i couldn't see us going.

Hiking is a no no at the moment, i'm not allowed to plan anything that i might fail at. I had to stop reading blogs because of the frustration they caused. Backpacking is something i might never get to do again, i will just have to wait and see how i progress. Hopefully the change of scenery in Greece will assist me to get better.

Thanks to everyone who has been supportive of me at this time. You know who you are.
Without Sheila and the therapist i dread to think where i would be. But i am making good progress.

Never stop believing, never give up hope, this is only temporary.
Thanks for reading.

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