SMALL STEPS ARE MASSIVE

Agoraphobia is undoubtedly one of the most misunderstood anxiety disorders; with many people assuming it simply means ‘being afraid to leave the house’. However, agoraphobia can be better defined as an intense fear of being in a situation where an escape is not easy. For me, this has included using cash machines because of the length of time you’re stuck waiting for your money and can’t leave; it has included being in elevators, cars, trains, cinemas, using pedestrian crossings; not being able to stand still because of the need to keep running; being unable to cross the road because there’s too much traffic, and a million other small and complex things that would take me way too long to list; but equally impacted my life beyond belief. The result of all of these things was what left me housebound. It wasn’t that the outside world was a scary place to me, it was that my disorder had gradually dictated all the things that I couldn’t escape from and the only option I had left was to remain inside. Leaving the house for the first time isn’t the end of agoraphobia, it’s merely the start, the first step; because agoraphobia is all of those things. Agoraphobia is being too scared to cross a bridge and it’s feeling like you’re going to faint when you’re waiting in a queue. Agoraphobia is being feeling suffocated when crammed in a small room and feeling lost and vulnerable in an open space. Agoraphobia is most definitely not simply ‘being afraid to leave the house’. But by adding together each small step, things can and do get better. Because small steps are massive.

 

#MHAW2015 LET’S TALK MINDFULNESS: PART 3

Now that you all know what Mindfulness is and were it comes from, I guess the next thing you should know is who Mindfulness is for?

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Would it be useful four your mum, your daughter, your friend or your neighbour? Would it be useful for you?

There is a very simple and quick answer to this question – yes. I mean look at the pointing finger.

On the whole, Mindfulness is used to treat people that suffer from depression-based mental health conditions, and the breathing exercises that a person will adopt when learning the practice is also fantastic for people with anxiety issues.

So this covers depression, generalised anxiety, phobias, panic disorder, OCD, PTSD, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder – and so much more.

Really though, it can be used to treat anybody – mentally healthy or otherwise. I think everybody could do with a little less stress in their lives, right? And the best thing is, Mindfulness can be used on anybody of any age, which could dramatically improve the services that young people receive. Doctors are quite rightly reluctant to give out medication to children, and you’re stuck in between adult and child services when you’re a teenager – which in my case meant that at fifteen years old my counsellor had me looking at drawings of dinosaurs to help me understand anxiety – it wasn’t fantastic, let me tell you.

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Whether or not Mindfulness would work for you is a completely different and more complex question though. Firstly, do you like the sound of it? Is it something you’re open to or does it just sound like nonsense? And secondly, can you do it? Mindfulness takes a lot of practise and dedication, do you have a strong enough desire to give it all the time and attention that it takes?

Whilst it could be useful to you, if the answer to these questions is ‘It sounds like rubbish and I have no time anyway’ – It isn’t for you. But don’t worry, there are still plenty of things out there that are.

If you’re still on board so far and want to find out more, come back tomorrow for more info on how Mindfulness actually helps.

Thursday: What Mindfulness does to help you
Friday: Does Mindfulness actually work? Pros and Cons
Saturday: Success stories
Sunday: My experiences with Mindfulness

love lauren x

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Diagnosis one year on

So I’ve just realised that it’s been a full year since my diagnosis of BPD and Cyclothymia a couple of days ago. It seems like forever ago because so much has happened – both positive and negative.

For me, the label of a diagnosis is priceless. It shouldn’t take a label to be heard, but it does. And in my experience, doctors are much more receptive now than they ever have been in the past. I don’t just get shoved on the first anti-depressant they can think of, and they no longer tell me ‘every girl your age has ups and downs’ (which by the way is the most infuriating thing anyone has ever said to me!). But now they pay attention, you can literally see them sit up straighter when they talk to me, and they discuss options rather that thinking there’s a miracle solution in one tiny little pill.

I’ve started this blog since the diagnosis as well which again has been completely priceless. When I press ‘publish’ on my screen I let all the thoughts I’ve written down go. I’ve also ‘met’ some incredible people who are genuinely every bit as nice as they initially seem. So many of you have helped me over this past year and hopefully occasionally I’ve been able to do the same for some of you.

The negative of the past year of course is the agoraphobia which reared its ugly head into my life 11 months ago now. That’s my hardest struggle at the moment and to be honest I barely notice the depression and other symptoms I face – because I’m so drained and consumed by the constant terror.

I can’t say it’s been a good year because it’s been far from it. It’s been one of the most emotionally draining where I’ve felt completely defeated, but I posted this picture the day I got diagnosed – and I’ll always stand by it.

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Hypnotherapy 1

So today I had my first course of Hypnotherapy.

I’ve had it in the past as a young child for something more medical, but this is the first time I’ve had it for my anxiety, and therefore (ironically) I was a bit anxious about it.

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My agoraphobia is so ingrained in me and the way that I live my life that I’ve just got to the point where I can’t continue with how things are and need to change. I can’t travel on trains, buses, sometimes in cars – I can’t go in tall buildings, elevators, big open spaces, closed in spaces – I can’t do anything really. Everyday is a living nightmare.

So this was something I really need to do. I’m at the point of desperation for some help.

Today we spent about an hour talking and then had a 40 minute hypnotherapy session and it went really well. It’s a strange feeling. I felt calm and relaxed – sleepy even, and it felt a lot quicker than it was. I assumed the session had only lasted 10 minutes, so I was surprised when I was told it had lasted 40.

The thing I was most afraid of was not being in control – that’s why I suffer from agoraphobia anyway – but it wasn’t like that. I was in complete control of my body (or I felt as though I was). I could hear everything that was going on; I felt like I could have got up and walked out if I needed to. It was just a deep meditative state.

It wasn’t scary at all and I feel much better about my next session. I’ve booked three sessions in total as that was the reccommended number for agoraphobia – so hopefully I can begin to start overcoming this demon.

It just goes to show, we don’t have to live this way. It’s not a conscious choice to be scared, but it’s a choice nevertheless, so if we can train our brains to think differently – anything is possible.

lovelauren

Feeling sad and defeated

Last year I took a placement year from university, where I worked for an exhibitions company. I abolutely loved it and shortly after one of our exhibitions at the NEC, I was asked to return the following year to work on the show again.

That’s a big thing. It’s a company that I absolutely loved working for and could potentially work for after uni. And I must have done a good job to have been asked back.

Fast forward 10 months, and agoraphobia has taken it’s form. Today, I got the sweetest email from my boss last year inviting me down for free travel, accommodation, food and nearly £500 for a few days work. Nevermind the fact I’d get to see my friends again that I haven’t seen for around 6 months now and all the venue staff and contractors that I got to know during my time at the company.

And I can’t do it. I can’t go. Because I can’t sit on the train. And I have no other means of getting there.

That is the only thing stopping me from going, and I really want to go.

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It’s just so frustrating, but it’s a role that needs filling so I couldn’t keep putting off answering her in hope of a magic cure just around the corner, or let her down last minute.

It’s a shame but I have to think about what I’m capable of. And right now I’m not capable of sitting on a train for two hours. It’s as simple as that.

lovelauren

I have Agoraphobia

If you read my earlier posts, you’ll see that I say time and time again that I have Claustrophobia. In a nutshell, I’m scared of being in confined spaces. But there was always something that didn’t add up with the term Claustrophobia – there was always something more to it than just that and I couldn’t put my finger on it.

Problem is, for me, it doesn’t have to be a confined space. It can be a space that’s metaphorically confined. Such as a cinema or an exam. I can get out. But it’s not the done thing to do. Or it can be a large space that I can’t get out of. Like a train.

It’s only very recently that I stumbled across an actual definition for Agoraphobia.

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If you’d have asked me a year ago what Agoraphobia was, I’d have said quite simply ‘the fear of going outside’. But it’s so much more complex than that.

It’s the fear of being in a situation that you can’t escape from or get the help you need.

If I’m in a lift I can’t get help if I need it. If I’m on a train I can’t get off if I need to. If I’m in an exam, I can’t run out if I need to. If I’m in a queue, I can’t just leave and stand outside for a second. I’m trapped. But not actually trapped. 

For some people, they equate safety with home – and that’s why Agoraphobic’s have a reputation for having a fear of leaving the house.

For me though, I can leave the house. Outside is OK for me. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t feel comfortable somewhere isolated where I couldn’t get phone signal, but the average street is OK. But I can’t do buses, trains, sometimes cars, planes, lifts, cinemas, exams, long queues, and most recently – I can’t go higher than the first floor in a building.

It’s the most draining and inconvenient thing I’ve ever gone through. It’s only been within the last nine months that it’s got terrible and it’s just a living nightmare.

I can’t go home from university to see my family. I can’t get a bus into town. I can’t go on holiday. I can’t go to lectures at university because they’re like a cinema setting. I can’t even go to seminars if they’re on the top of a tall building.

It’s the most isolating phobia and illness I’ve ever come across.

The reason for writing this post is to impart some understanding. I guarantee half of you reading this now will also have the same connotations as I did about the phobia – ‘people with that don’t leave the house’. But it’s a complex and frustrating and terrorising fear that’s so difficult to comprehend until you have to face it yourself.

It’s not something I’ve really spoken about much; I tend to focus much more on my BPD and Cyclothymia. But now I think it’s time that I battle this too – and therefore it’s been added to my fact sheet page for you guys to get more info – BPD, Cyclothymia & Agoraphobia Fact Sheet

lovelauren

The worst person for the job.

So a while ago, I put my name down to volunteer with Student Minds. It’s a charity which helps students in the UK deal with mental illness and they do a lot of work with the university that I go to, Leeds Beckett (or Leeds Met if you’re a good person).

Anyway, today I received an email asking for volunteers this Thursday to run a stall on campus. And I said yes. In fact I jumped at the chance because I love helping with things like that and I’ve had nothing to do for the last couple of weeks.

But the tile of this post is ‘The worst person for the job.‘ And you might think I’m a good person for the job because of the subject and what I do here on By Lauren Hayley.

However – and it’s a big and slightly comical however,

There is a very obvious and valid point that I’m the worst person for this job and my boyfriend is finding it quite hilarious that I even agreed to do this in the first place (because it is literally my worst nightmare).

If we refer quickly to my All About Me page, you’ll come across Number 5 pretty quickly:

5. Balloons freak me out and I can’t eat anywhere near them or touch them.

Now I don’t think you quite understand the severity of this. It’s not that I’m scared of balloons, but I hate them. For as long as I can remember I haven’t been able to touch a balloon without gagging, I can smell them from a mile off (I’m like a police dog when it comes to balloons) and I will not eat anywhere near one. They’re just yuck. I know it’s weird. I was a very strange kid.

And yes, I know I study Events Management. Events need to stop featuring balloons – that’s all I’m saying.

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…I was going to add a picture of a balloon here but I just couldn’t do it.

Following on from that: the description of what’s happening on Thursday:

We are going to have balloons so that people can write negative messages or something that is upsetting them (such as being stressed about exam results or nervous about starting semester 2) and then they are going to pop the balloons to release the negativity.

Shit.

Shit.

Triple shit.

lovelauren