I guess I dropped the ball on that one?

•January 10, 2017 • Leave a Comment

So the last sentence of my previous post was about hearing from me in the new year. Should I try to pull off claiming that I didn’t say exactly WHICH new year I was referring to? I wish I could say so much has changed in my life since starting this blog.. but it really hasn’t. Life does look quite different than it did 2 years ago, some pretty massive life changes have occurred, but I’m still 100% agoraphobic. And I never did get that book I was going to work through and review.

 

Quick life synopsis boiled down to a top 10 list –

  • Been working full-time from home since February 10th 2015
  • Grandma passed away June 25th 2015 (which I stated in a previous blog post was my biggest fear, more to come on that topic)
  • Mother and all of her own battles (which you may be familiar with if you’ve read previous posts) moved in later that day and this time for the long haul
  • Saw my father for the first time in my adult life on July 3rd 2015 and have been building a relationship with him since (more to come on that topic)
  • Been nourishing other family ties (yet continuing to disappoint in some major ways, more to come on that topic)
  • Stayed in touch with my best friend for the most prolonged period of time since the start of my twenties
  • Set myself up with a counsellor online at one point (lost touch with the mental health worker in a rather anticlimactic fashion, the one who inspired me to start this blog)
  • Friendship with the bipolar neighbour ended horribly and ironically on Thanksgiving 2015 (more to come on that topic, not one of my finest moments)
  • 7+ year relationship ended officially on May 22nd 2016 (a long unhappy and unhealthy situation that was ending slowly but should have ended years before that)
  • Tested the whole concept of meeting someone online and have since been (surprisingly and amazingly) in another serious relationship since October 24th 2016

 

 

And yes – there’s that agoraphobia always looming over everything I do and every decision I make; affecting every relationship and curtailing every opportunity. Why does it always feel like I’m at the starting line of this journey through agoraphobia, no matter how long I live with it? I’ll elaborate on the topics I mentioned in my next post. Which will not be left until 2019. Tata for now!

 

 

 

Last two weeks of 2014, in summary.

•December 31, 2014 • Leave a Comment

So Christmas went well. Nice and quiet, family and friends, gifts and food, left overs to make into mini versions of the meal for days later. Amidst the merriment, I think I might be turning into one of those people who are negatively affected by the holidays, which I always thought was ridiculous. I kept asking people around me what I was supposed to be doing, I felt a kind of open ended urgency which didn’t feel like anxiety to me.

Later I made a few conclusions as to why that might have been – this year I had prepared for Christmas very early to avoid all the last minute flipping out, and now that my mother is here with us it’s more like making Christmas for residents instead of guests. And we were missing one from the family for the first time. Over all in the end it went quite fine though! I was also incredibly surprised and touched by a loving gesture from my best friend, who probably doesn’t feel like she’s my best anymore. She sent me beautiful flowers from across the country along with an inspirational note ending with “you can’t give up”. It’s amazing that she hasn’t given up on me yet.

On Saturday I was invited to girls night at the new neighbours apartment, the one I met at the Christmas party a couple of weeks ago. I went for an hour. We talked, we laughed, we ate pizza and all was well. Another baby step, going slowly and cautiously out of my comfort zone. I was starting to worry that, like all of my other friendships, eventually my agoraphobia would rear its ugly head and I’d start turning down invitations to do anything outside of our apartment building and then I’d stop getting invited and become that person who was almost a friend.

Then I went over again last night for us to do manicures on one another and something pretty interesting happened! She shared with me that she is bipolar. And has had some rather extreme experiences with it. I had no idea! But what a relief, honestly. Not only a relief that she was the first to open the subject, but also to see a peer who’s also afflicted but still managing to live a full life. It was also a revelation that she simply laid it out there, she spoke freely and unashamed of her experience with mental illness. She’s the second person in the recent past to come into my life and show me that maybe all this time I’ve been wrong, that it is possible.

I shared with her a small bit about what I’m going through. I’ll have to have another good talk with her about it and show her some things I’ve been reading so she gets a better understanding, she might not have tried to force me physically outside today if I would have been more open during that conversation. Or maybe she actually cares and I should just let go and be forced. Maybe even choose it and do the forcing myself. Im going to get the book “Unagoraphobic” by Hal Mathew http://unagoraphobic.com and will be blogging through it in the new year. I guess I should mention I’m neither being paid to mention the book nor endorsing it in any way at this time as I’ve yet to read it myself.

With under an hour left of this year, here’s hoping for a year of stability, hope, courage and joy. And sugar and spice and everything nice! All the best to you and yours! You’ll hear from me next year 🙂

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A funny thing happened

•December 13, 2014 • Leave a Comment

It appears that there had been a schedule mix-up today (well, actually I’m just still awake from yesterday technically). I didn’t see the mental health worker as planned. She’s been coming to meet with me right here in my home once a week for the last couple of weeks. I’m so lucky to have finally discovered/become eligible for this service so no matter what happens I will choose gratefulness. I didn’t hear from her, and as much as I would have loved to have gotten to talk with her about some other issues than anxiety and agoraphobia, I forged on ahead with my baby steps. Actually now I have a little something extra to report back to her when we do get in touch!

I went outside with my mother when we had a PSW visiting to push grandma in the wheelchair. We went to the corner store to buy peanuts to feed the squirrels that beg bellow the balcony. My mother had wanted it to be just us two, but unfortunately she doesn’t quite provide the level comfort that she thinks she does for me. Usually she’s a major cause (or trigger or something) of my anxiety. Also half of the time she’s in drug related withdraw so it’s like I’m taking care of her too. Anyways, had we not brought grandma she would have been left in the apartment alone after the PSW’s shift was over fifteen minutes later. I would have really payed for that one! So we all went.

I felt slightly uncomfortable but not particularly panicked. I voluntarily took the slightly longer and much more outdoor way home while my mother returned via the underground parking lot to avoid the bit rain and cold weather. I socialized at every opportunity, I spoke with my new neighbour who is about my age and very outgoing and nice. She was someone I had also spoken with at the Christmas party but I didn’t realize she lived right beside me at that moment. She and I had split the left over veggies and helped clean up with the building manager that night.

I really should have taken the opportunity to warn her and apologize in advance about all the noise that comes from my place. Grandma starts screaming when she wants anything at all, no matter what time it is. My mother screams right back at her. Health care service people tend to filter in and out. The people who live right across the hall from me once said that all of the ‘voices’ in my apartment led them to believe we ran a business here, and also reminded them of ‘back home’. They’re Lybian. My apartment reminds them of civil war.

I also got to meet the new owners of the store and welcomed them to the neighbourhood. It was their first day today. It was a nice time, weirdly enough. And I think grandma enjoyed herself for the little bit of time she spent outdoors since she hadn’t been going anywhere when she was getting sicker with her cold. Now she just has a dry cough and is finally sleeping. I’m going to finish an episode of Grey’s Anatomy and try to get to sleep too before it’s no longer night!

One day at a time

•December 11, 2014 • 1 Comment

Last night was the annual Christmas party in my apartment building’s lobby. I almost forgot about it since grandma came down with a cold, which in her condition, can lead to more serious things. Originally I had planned that we would dress in matching festive colours and start a Christmas carol sing along there. We went down anyways but she didn’t want to stay so the PSW (personal support worker) took her back upstairs. But I decided to stay.

I was actually waiting for the mail delivery lady to be done with her letters and move on to the parcels incase something I had ordered had arrived (I’ve become an expert at online shopping, I can even get groceries online!). There wasn’t anything there for me, so at that moment I decided to stay this time to socialize and to practise being alone outside of my apartment in a crowd.

I felt only slightly uncomfortable but over all it went fine. It was still physically inside of my comfort zone but I’m not going to discount it since it was something I decided to do that was both out of the ordinary and for the sake of my mental health. I keep having to remind myself, baby steps.

I always find it interesting that I can have these unusual feelings going on inside of me and the people around me seem to have no idea at all. I’ve been completely unmedicated for years now, but when I had tried sedating myself into being able to work or attend appointments or shop, I think people didn’t really notice either. It makes me wonder what I’m not aware of about other people.

So just a short post for today, tomorrow I’ll recount how it will have gone with the mental health care worker after our third appointment. The first time we just talked, the second time we went outside but not far at all, this third time I wonder what we’ll do or where we’ll attempt to go together. She seems to believe in me more than I do myself!

New Directions

•December 9, 2014 • 1 Comment

A mental health worker has advised me to start journaling. So, from now on, maybe for a short while, I’m going to turn my barely-read blog into a journal. And I, a journalista. If you’re not interested in reading a random girl’s account of her troubles, I’d stop right here if I were you. It’s quite possible that your problems are harder, scarier and worse than my own in every way. But I have to try, so here goes my first journal entry. Any positive comments or suggestions are welcome. If you’ve been through something similar, I’d like to hear about your journey, what you’re doing to manage, or how you got through it and out to the other side safely.

I’ll begin with why I’m speaking to a mental health worker in the first place. For anyone who’s read my previous two posts, you might not be surprised at this news. I’ve been suffering (shamefully and quite alone) for years with something I’ve come to understand is called agoraphobia. Wikipedia says something about it meaning ‘fear of the market place’, but I’d describe it more like a all-consuming fear when outside of a specific, often extremely limiting, comfort zone. For me, that means I cannot leave my apartment complex (and sometimes even the building) without being struck with an inexplicable and overwhelming sense of terror. Panic attacks.

After my years of experience with them, I’ve come to expect them now, even when I attempt to venture out to the corner store or go for a walk outside for some air or exercise, especially alone. Anticipatory anxiety. It fuels the panic and adds to the cycle of avoidance, it also serves to shrink the radius and tighten security at the borders of said comfort zone over time, making every step seem like an impossible jump from the heights of a tight rope. I’ve been hearing from several sources that I will at some point need to take a ‘leap of faith’. It feels more like a tumbling fall into an endless abyss than a leap, a jump or a even step. But I’ve started taking baby steps (I’ll discuss that later on in the post).

The worst part is that this condition has prohibited me from being able to seek medical help like one might do if, say, they had a disease or injury. In fact, I’ve seen many people close to me thrive, against the odds, with severe physical set backs. Let’s start with grandma. She’s 82.5 years old, she has esophageal cancer, she didn’t catch it early, the cancer treatments she took last summer left her almost bed ridden, she can’t take care of herself in any practical way, she can’t eat anything, she has a tube surgically implanted in her stomach for me to put her medicine and liquid diet through, she has a PICC line surgically implanted in her arm where the chemotherapy infused and which could be used now for intravenous hydration, she wears diapers, she hates all of this deeply.

But lately, miraculously, she’s been going out on a regular basis in her wheelchair with visiting service people* (I try to get her out too from time to time, but as you’ll hear more about, even that’s a huge difficulty for me). She’s been able to walk from one end of the apartment to the other, unassisted, for about two weeks. She often does it unsupervised, against my desperate requests and her own better judgement, usually in the middle of the night or early morning which restricts my ability to rest properly. She’s more active now than she was even a year before getting her diagnosis. She makes plans. She manages to maintain friendships. She doesn’t live in fear.

Next, my uncle. He’s 53 years old. He para glides for fun. That means he jumps off of mountain tops, flies through the air and lands in the middle of nowhere. About six weeks ago, he went on a road trip from Edmonton, Albert to the Rocky Mountains of British Colombia. The first jump went well, so he decided to jump again. The second time, he sustained a compound fracture in his right leg. That means that due to the force of impact at landing, he broke bones and they pierced through the skin. He was hours away from the nearest hospital. In the middle of nowhere there is neither ambulatory service nor cell phone service, so being the resourceful and brave person my uncle is, he fashioned a cast out of a cardboard box and his jumping buddy had to find a way to get him medical attention.

After hours of driving through those mountains (which is not a smooth, easy drive, and must seem absolutely endless when you’re bleeding and in excruciating pain) they finally came upon a hospital. There, he had a botched surgery. After driving for many more hours on that long road home, he had a second surgery where metal was implanted into the leg to help set the bones back in place. When I spoke with him today, he was on his way to yet another follow up appointment, driving alone with the wrong foot (which is probably illegal) because the hole is still in the right foot from where the bones broke through. He refuses pain medication. He told me that the doctor had never seen someone who didn’t faint at the sight their own bones or from exhaustion upon arrival at the hospital. Our conversation ended when he pulled over nonchalantly to get a haircut. He’s aware that he has an incredibly long and painful recovery period to get through. But he manages. He doesn’t complain. He doesn’t live in fear.

So take it as a testament to how much these panic attacks and their ramifications have affected an otherwise healthy and functional individual that at age 25, for no other reason than fear, has not been able move from this spot in her life for a very long time. I live in fear: fear of the next panic attack, fear that the inevitable next attack will push me over the threshold from being a partially functional person to an institutionalized patient, fear that one day I’ll feel the full extent of the time, friends and opportunities lost, fear that the ‘best years of my life’ are being wasted, fear that the painful realization (and guilt and grief that follow) that my family isn’t there for me because I wasn’t there for them will eventually ruin any bit of mental stability I might eventually gain some day. My biggest fear of all is that my grandmother will die. And she will, maybe soon. According to modern science she shouldn’t be here right now. So I’m forcing myself in new directions. It certainly feels quite pathetic that a young girl with unlimited potential (in theory) should live like this. You, my dear reader, can join me on my journey if you like. Welcome, please do come in, have a seat. Buckle up.

Instead of continuing my rant about the horrors of panic attacks or complaining about my miserable life, let me tell you that I’ve actually been incredibly lucky for several reasons. My current life situation has allowed me to essentially survive comfortably enough when it comes to finances in my home, without having to work outside of my home. I’m well aware of how lucky I am for that. Being a care giver has given me a great sense of purpose – trying to keep my most beloved family member alive and comfortable the best that I can. I’ve also learned a whole lot and accumulated plenty of hands on experience with health care, having been thrust into the situation with little preparation and the doom of a prognosis of four months to one year before I would be alone in the world. It’s been almost two years now. Had I had any idea that this was not to be a sprint but a marathon instead, I would have gone about it slightly differently.

My family looks down on me for not having a ‘real job’, but few people really know what full time (24 hour) care giving actually is. This is real work, just without monetary compensation. On some level it probably aggravates my condition that I cannot leave home for more than maybe an hour or two at most, even if I really wanted to, without being needed here. Most times, if I leave the room to take a shower or to eat or clean the apartment or take a phone call or even get something from another room for her, and even after a pep talk about me being right back, she starts screaming, unsure if she’s been left completely alone in the world.

So, not only do I not leave the apartment, I don’t leave her side most of the time. I spent the first six months of her care sleeping beside her on the sofa until my back couldn’t take it anymore, and I need my back to lift her. I juggle the laundry basket and her in the wheelchair every other day when we go to the laundry mat on the second floor. There are countless other little things that add up. To top it off, the effects of sleep deprivation and neglecting self care in general over the past couple of years haven’t helped matters. So if you’re not on guard for your own health, or if you’re depressed or in some other way afflicted, the cycle feeds on itself. Some people (like my family doctor) have claimed that I use being a care giver as an excuse for not going out, like as if I enjoy being trapped in this hostile environment and have no plans or hopes or dreams.

Incase anyone has gotten this far and isn’t sure what exactly I mean by ‘care giving’, here’s a quick outline of what I do: all personal care (washing, dressing, diaper changing, managing the tube in her stomach for medications including morphine and other dangerous drugs as well as the liquid diet, managing the tube in her arm which was at one point chemotherapy-infusing, and wound care for the tubes) assessing for and coordinating all of the health care services, making all of her important decisions in her place as her power of attorney like managing finances as well as all other household operations, completely limiting my own social life even inside of my own home since I can’t have, for example, dinner guests or company, and trying to keep her happy (that’s probably the hardest and a whole other post). Remember, she hates all of this, which leads her to give off the impression that she’s completely ungrateful for the effort, to put it as nicely as possible.

Due to the fact that my grandmother is palliative, we’ve been able to access many home health care services for her, which are actually our only resources. A specialist visiting doctor, symptom management nurses, hospice workers (and at one point volunteer visitors), a physiotherapist, occupational therapist and dietician earlier on in her care, *personal support workers and now, mental health care workers have all been involved in my mission to take care of grandma from home. Unfortunately, the reason that the mental health care worker was dispatched to our home this time was because we’ve had an unexpected death in the family recently. The first time it was to help grandma and I prepare for her own demise. The manager of these services agreed that it would be useful for grandma to get to work out her feelings about having lost her oldest child, my aunt. After an attempt at talking with grandma about her feelings, something that’s never been an easy task, the mental health care worker and I got to talking. And as it is now, we’ve made our third appointment to address my anxiety and agoraphobia.

It’s really great to have found someone professional to talk to about my personal issues, who really listens and offers educated advice, and who (to my amazement) was once herself agoraphobic. Just getting to meet someone for the first time who has been in this spot and who is now so far from here, that was incredibly encouraging in itself. I called her my angel the first time we met. We haven’t done a lot of work yet but I’ve made my start with the some baby steps as I mentioned earlier. Firstly, I’ve begun intentionally taking basic care of my physical body, as ridiculous as that sounds. I’m trying to get enough sleep, trying to eat healthily and often enough (and not just after midnight after grandma is in bed), trying to cut out caffein and unnecessary sugars, trying to maintain proper hydration, trying to maintain my appearance as I do with grandma as well as that of my home, trying to practise calming exercises and techniques like yoga and meditation, trying to get in some daily walking (not far ofcourse), trying not to burst out in anger or sadness when provoked, trying to get outside and remain outside as long as possible. Step one – I’m trying.

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Another inconsequential post

•February 2, 2013 • 2 Comments

 

So my grandmother is a bigger football fan than your dad. And anyone’s dad, brother, uncle or coach.  Combined.

 

Yeah that’s right –

my almost 81-year-old,

proud Canadian,

Presbyterian church-going

GRANDMOTHER.

 

I think she would be pretty offended if I didn’t mention that she usually hates ‘American football‘, as opposed to the original ‘Canadian football‘.  We’ve already celebrated the season-end ‘Grey Cup‘. This year just so happened to be the 100th anniversary, by the way. Take THAT Super Bowl XLVII / 47. (Looks like America didn’t event everything there ever was after all.)

 

Anyways, this means one thing and one thing only for me: it’s baking time. Tomorrow I will be hosting a Super Bowl party for her and some rather unusual, wayward* guests. I posted a photo earlier today of one of my most requested recipes (Apple-Caramel Phyllo Cups). One might say “Well THAT’S not a football party kind of food!”..

 

Well, to that I say “I dare you to taste one!”

 

Let the games begin.

 

 

(*my best friend came up with that fitting term)

Just A Thought

•February 2, 2013 • 2 Comments

Many of life’s failures occur

when people don’t realize

how close they are to success

when they give up

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