Aaargh, sympathy.

It’s not maybe the unpalatable truth that I’ve been skirting around thinking about all weekend, but I have realised this morning that I suck at sympathy. I really really suck at it. Not in being sympathetic or giving out sympathy, I think I do pretty well at that. But receiving. I run a mile from receiving sympathy.

The trigger for this revelation?  I got a card in the post. It’s in reply to the card I sent last week when I was trying momentarily to “man” up to my problems and apologise to someone for letting them down and then going all radio silence (my usual modus oporandi).  I put a note in, this little gem, in the card.  So, of course I’m going to get a reply of some sort, unless the person I sent the card to is completely heartless, which they aren’t.

I don’t know what the card says though. I have opened it. I peeked in, upside down, from the back (yes, I am the kind of person who literally hides behind the sofa when Dr Who is on) and confirmed that it is from who I think it is. But I cannot bring myself to read it.

I’m trying to process why. Why is it so hard to hear someone being nice to me.  I keep coming back to how it reminds me of the thing I hated most about being pregnant. It was n’t the tiredness, or the uncomfortableness sleeping. I didn’t really get morning sickness (sorry), I didn’t mind, giving up alcohol, kicking my lame part time smoking habit to the touchline, or being the size of a house. I minded the intrusion. The fact that everyone knew I was pregnant (well, after a certain point) and thought that they could talk to me about this, like they knew me.  I wasn’t ashamed of them knowing I was pregnant, but that didn’t mean I wanted people I barely knew to discuss it with me. The fact that it took over other peoples view of me, reducing me to a mother-to-be and erasing all other parts of my personality. The fact that I was expected to be excited about it and want to talk about it at all times. Sheez, I mean I was excited, just not on a constant state of excitement for nine months solid, that would be exhausting and make me more than a bit unhinged.

So what do I think will be in this card that makes me so reluctant to read it? I’m pretty sure they’re not going to be horrible, so I’m not catastrophising this. But I feel raw and exposed just thinking about reading it. The feels man, I can’t cope with all the feels. It’s too much. Too much fuss as my mum would say. She hates people fussing over her. I’m thinking maybe this is a sensory overload, aspie, type thing going on here. Which is going to lead me down the sidetrack of where to place myself on the spectrum.

But I wonder if also this is part of the problem in talking about all the shit that is going on with other people. Because I have been spectacularly rubbish at talking about all the things I probably need to talk about with other people. I don’t really feel able to tell anyone because I can’t cope with how the conversation will go. Hence this blog. Sometimes I can talk to my husband, but there are complications with that, especially when he’s been ill too.

Which brings me to, I dunno, another side track, a branchline, a conclusion, an action, whatever. I have been thinking about trying to find a counsellor/therapist again. One in the goldilocks zone. Not too Lovely But Just Lets Me Talk About The First Thing On My Mind And This Feels Like There’s No Direction, like the one I paid for. And not too CBT By Numbers Not Listening To My Answers Cos She’s Already Decided What I Will Be Saying, like the one I got through the NHS Anxiety service. Trouble is, I have no idea how to find such a person. So I need to add it to my to do list. Which is in a state of disaray as I have been in full on life avoidance radio silence mode for a while and I’m not sure I can even go there right now.

So. Well.  I have brain dumped. And now I will read another chapter of a book (and that is a story for another day). And then I will sort the washing out. And maybe, while I do all that, my subconsious will work it all out for me.


Advice or Query?

So, you may well not be au fait with the little red pamphlet of thorniness that is known to all British Quakers as Advices and Queries.  It is not a book of answers, oh no, it is not full of certainty or platitudes. Rather they are meant to be seen as a source of challenge and inspiration.

Today I found Number 11, which starts like so.

Be honest with yourself. What unpalatable truths might you be evading?  When you recognise your shortcomings, do not let that dissuade you.

(The rest of it uses language that may well confuse non Quakers, and a implies a certainty of faith in God that doesn’t reflect my experience, hence the partial quote).

Hmm, looks like I have some homework/discernment/thinking to do then.  The first part seems hard enough. The second part might just be the killer. (Except, of course, I’m not supposed to do it on my own, I have just omitted that part of the advice.  And herein lies part of the problem).

By Way of Explanation

Depression and anxiety are terrible things.  You think that you’ve left them behind and then all of a sudden they blindside you and you’re back with them again.

When they hit me I shutdown, I go into firefighting mode, I focus on my children, on feeding them and washing up and all the day to stuff. Everything else, the bills, emails, telephone calls gets pushed to the wayside and piles up.

Then, when I start to feel a little better, I peek out at the wreckage of my life and feel overwhelmed, unsure where to start. Sometimes it tips me back into anxiety. Sometimes I ignore it until I feel stronger. Either way, the longer I leave it, the worse I feel, the more ashamed, the guilt grows and knaws at me. It’s a terrible coping strategy and one I’m trying to change.

I so do not like modern technology

I discovered a new thing to add up to my Ways in Which I’m Fucked Up List this evening. Video calls. Who’d’ve thunk it. Actually, considering my sporadic issues with answering the phone and  my ongoing inability to watch anything with more personal content than an archaelogy documentary without at some point sticking my fingers in my ears/ shutting my eyes/ leaving the room,  it was kind of predictable with hindsight. Bloody hindsight.

Not sure that would’ve helped anyway.

There I was, on the sofa, merrily using an e reader app on my laptop to read a book, when my laptop made a horrible, insistant, sound that I’d never heard it make before. Slightly freaked I bashed at keys trying to work out what was going on and I realised that my sister-in-law was trying to connect a video call via facebook messenger. The sister in law that never seems to use facebook, is now using it in a function I don’t know existed. I fumble my way through some Grant Your Camera Permission type screen in time to see that she has hung up.

A nice, calm, short, text based interaction confirms that she was in fact trying to see if they could contact us that way. I  let her know I’m going to extract my husband from bedtime and we’ll call back. I know I need my husband for this somehow, anyway, it’s his brother.

I go upstairs and settle a slightly hyper girl and in the middle of some random new ritual involving 17 teddy bears, and then go and try and extract my husband from The Boy’s room. The Boy is feeling clingy and has inveigled The Man into his bed and is lying there wide awake not looking like he’ll settle any time soon. I tell The Man that  I need his help with something and he manages to get away a couple of minutes later.

I explain the situation, press the call back function, suddenly realise I can’t do this. I. Can’t. Do. This. So I mthrust the laptop at him muttering something like “I can’t do a video call, I can’t talk with myself on the screen” and scarper.

It turns out that was not enough of a chat to explain.

He keeps trying to get me to come and sit next to him on the sofa and look at our baby niece and join in the conversation. He tells me he’s changed the view so we can only see there end now.  I have no way of saying to him with my brother in law and his wife listening that I simply cannot do this.  I lurk nervously outside the room, pacing. In answer  to questions thrown my way about a planned trip I grab the calender and throw it around the door at him, then I go and wash up. With the door shut (I nevr shut the kitchen door). Washing up is good. Washing up is calming.

Feeling a bit calmer, I make it back to the living room and sit on the floor, facing my husband, eyes closed, fingers in ears, trying to remember to breathe. I manage to take one hand away from my ear and make a fist and put it on my head, hoping that he knows the symbol I learned as a teenager that means “I’m invisible, behave as if I’m not here” (yup, I did some minor forays into Live Roleplaying in my youth). Surely that has cropped up in our 20 years together. Surely.

I start to relax a little. I open my eyes. I look at him. I reach out my foot so it’s on the edge of the sofa. He squeezes it, not giving my position away. I can do this. I just have to keep breathing. In a minute I’ll be able to take my fingers out of my ears. He turns the laptop screen around, I panic, but he’s just showing them the dog, not me. Still, my anxiety rate has shot back up.

Then he talks to me, and of course they can hear at the other end, asking me to sit next to him and see our niece on the screen. He doesn’t understand after all. I feel paniced, betrayed that he’s given my position away. I know  this is illogical, that nothing bad can happen, but that is knowledge is not taking my panic away, and the thought of my in laws knowing how crazy I’m behaving is making everything worse.

I run from the room. Go up to my room. Lie face down on the bed in the dark, dry sobbing. Goddammit I can’t even cry properly. I can’t distract myself with my book, he has the laptop. Or noodle online.  I check the bedroom, his tablet isn’t here, that’ll be with him downstairs then. I try and think what might calm me down, I could phone my friend, I have a landline phone here, only her number is on my mobile in the living room.

I feel paniced, anxious, stupid, ashamed.

It passes. Of course it passes. I even manage not to yell at him when he’s finished talking and comes to explain how everything was ok, that I needn’t have woried. He explains, like he did downstairs, that he’d minimized the image we were sending, that I wouldn’t have had to see it. I explain that I knew that and it was still a problem. And I manage, somehow, to gently remind him that he knows what a panic attack feels like and logic doesn’t help when you’re having one.

So now, I’m processing my latest crazy. Alone in my room. Wondering what my in-laws think of me. Mulling over how Asperger’s ish this behaviour is.

Happy Fucking Valentine’s Day.



When the phone rings, my heart jumps

On Monday my mobile rang, I didn’t recognise the number. This panicked me. I didn’t answer it. Then I texted the number to my husband at work to ask him if he knew it. Then the home phone rang. I felt hounded. But I managed (just) to listen to the message. It was someone arranging details for something I’m helping them with. So I rang them back (I’m ok once I know who it is) and all was fine.

On Tuesday, I was out all day. When I came back from school with the kids the answerphone was beeping. It’s really loud, which on a mildly bad day is helpful as it’s irritating enough for me to listen to the message rather than ignore it. On Tuesday it freaked me out. I turned the power to the phone and answerphone off. I managed to tell my husband just before we took the kids out and asked him to listen to it and catch us up. When he caught up he didn’t mention it. We dropped the kids off at their group, he didn’t mention it. We went to the pub, he didn’t mention it. I thought it must be really bad and he didn’t want to upset me or was waiting for the right time. Eventually I asked him. He’d forgotten about it, because it was an automated voice saying “goodbye”. I’d been stressed about a cold call.

Today I was in when the phone rang. An 0845 number. I let it ring. Then the answerphone started beeping. I covered it with a cushion, closed the door to the room it was in and put music on. After my husband got back he said “there’s no message” (i.e. they hung up, just not quite in time). Still mildly stressed about this one as it was an “official” number and I don’t know who they were.

This is my life. Well, it’s not, it’s a sliver of my life. A ridiculous sliver. A stressful sliver. But not all of my life. But it casts a big shadow over the rest of my life at times.

Tomorrow I have to answer a phone call at 11am. This will be hard. The number will be unavailable. This will make it harder.

Why do I have to do this? CBT. It’s not a planned action to get me used to answering the phone. It’s my second appointment. The first, the assessment was in person. I told her about my trouble answering the phone, amongst other things. At the end she made the second appointment. Then she told me it would be by phone. Apparently the second appointment always is.

I was too stunned to ask why. To ask if, for me, it could be in person. I just was checking, would the number show? (no, it’s from a dr’s surgery, it will show as withheld). Could she text me first? (no, boy did I feel stupid for asking that, I realised straight away from her face it would be a big no no (and yet my dentist text me from their system to remind me of appointments)). Could she leave a message and I ring her back? (can’t remember why no for that one).

Now as the date nears, I just feel cross. It feels insensitive, inflexible, nonsensical (we’ll help you with your anxiety about, amongst other things, answering phone calls, by phoning you up).

And then Bitchface pipe’s up with “how dare you get cross about this? Fiona gets to be cross about how badly she was discharged from hospital, she’s properly ill and was in a real state and they were negligent. You on the other hand, just need to pull yourself together”. (It doesn’t help that blogspot wouldn’t let me get past identifying I’m not a robot to leave a supporting comment and I’m too ashamed to post on her facebook post in case our mutual friend works out I have anxiety).

So, these things are not a competition. I know that. Well, part of me does. I am genuinely worried about Fiona and powerless to do anything. I’m also grateful I’m not in that situation. But at the same time, I’m a bit pissed off about the added stress I’m feeling this week caused by the people that are supposed to be helping. I’m 80% sure that I’m not whining.

All in all, I’m not feeling particularly positive about this process. Which isn’t great as it “starts” tomorrow. I’m trying to push these feelings to one side, trying to give it a proper go, to give it chance to work rather than giving up on it before it starts.

In the meantime, I’m still struggling with phone calls. And don’t even get me started on emails…

One down, one to go

So, yesterday, I saw the GP. I did not make my excuses to the receptionist and leave, despite having to wait what felt like an intolerable 15 mins while part of my brain was screaming “run away from here, now”.

And I spoke to my GP, probably rather incoherently, there was a lot of tears and staring at the desk to avoid eye contact. At one point he asked me to stop rubbing my eye so much before I damaged myself. Anyways, I don’t think I explained myself as clearly as I might have liked, but I reckon I got the basis of my message across.

And he talked to me about North Korea and UKIP (establishing my anxiety wasn’t at world events) and leopards in trees (how our brain evolution hasn’t caught up with modern life) and why I should have a woodburner (to get rid of the piles of paper that stress me out). We also talked about the Boy quite a lot. I’m pretty sure we overran my allocated 10 minute slot. Oh and he said he didn’t think I was properly depressed, just having a hard time of things.

And he asked me if he should prescribe me something and I managed to tell him that I hate it when medical professionals ask my opinion on treatment options (if they’re not sure with all their training, how the hell am I supposed to know). So he prescribed me some pills, antidepressents (I read on the packet later, he didn’t call them that), SSRI, to increase my seretonin levels, at a half dose (that is associated with panic attacks according to the leaflet).

So now I’m officially bad enough to try medication. Based on my past thoughts I should be pleased that finally I’m “properly” ill and not just malingering. But actually it’s pretty scary. The leaflet looked pretty scary.

Hubby told me to take a more manly approach. Which it turned out, doesn’t actually mean, Man Up, Stop Whining, Take it. Rather it means, act like a man, don’t read the instructions, don’t think, don’t worry, just do.

So I did.

More on that another time I think. Today I’m about to go and see the counselor again that I saw a couple of times last year.

Seems I was really organised last week. Beginning to wish I’d been a bit more lax.

And so it grinds on

I’m trying to ignore my stress. Next week I will deal with it I tell myself. Next Week. After the birthday and the associated party. Next week.

The trouble is the stress doesn’t like being ignored. It makes bubbles in my stomach. It makes it hard to concentrate. Yesterday it made me scared of the front door, I kept thinking I could see a person outside about to ring the doorbell and upbraid me for letting them down. I lurked in the back half of the house, kitchen door shut (it’s never shut), so I could convincingly pretend to be out when the doorbell rang. Which it didn’t. I had the kids in the back garden after school so they didn’t run and answer the door to the non existent ring and give the game away. Which wasn’t all bad, being outside, in the fresh air, gardening was mainly good for me (aside from trying to supervise two medium size children who wanted to help with secateurs and garden shears).

And it makes me tired. Really tired.

But good things I have done. I emailed the counselor and asked for an appointment. And today I made a GP appt for Monday after having forgotten to yesterday. Now I just have to go. And talk to him. Which I’m not looking forward to. At All.

Less good things, haven’t opened my email in 2 days as I’m so scared of it. So no idea if I can have appointment with the conselor. Haven’t spoken to husband as he was stressed out about stuff enough himself.

So, today I’m trying to do little bits of dealing with it to the best of my abilities. To help myself where I can and work up to the harder stuff. And I’m sick of this. I’m sick of it going on so long. It is years now. Years. I don’t want to live the rest of my life like this. I have a sort of fantasy about moving away and restarting, rebooting my life without the anxiety, except I can’t even enjoy that because I know it wouldn’t solve anything and I’m not up to organising it.