The State of Me: Anxiety Issues

It’s hard to say I’m anxious when this lovely—but bitey—little monster is curled up on my lap every morning. But I am and it’s crippling.

I have medication—personally reserved for the biggest shitstorms or when I’m triggered—to take but most of the time it’s a constant stream of noise in the background which breaks my brain.

To give you an idea of just this morning:

  • It’s sunny, should I go into the city?
  • I don’t wanna go into the city but, equally, I need to leave the house to keep my sanity intact. Will a walk to the garage sort that?
  • My friend is calling, do I make myself available even though I hate the city/going in late on a Saturday.
  • Will they take this personally? I just don’t want to go in.
  • Do I get up or stay in bed?
  • Do I nip to the garage and get a (free!) coffee?
  • Do I ‘stay local’?
  • I don’t need to go to the supermarket, do I? Oh, gods please no.
  • I need to do at least two loads of washing, including stripping my bed (which I hate).
  • Do I want that coffee? I have no chocolate in the house …
  • Fuck, I just looked at my credit card. I’m a failure.
  • Is D going to hate me if I move and disturb him?

Today wasn’t even a bad morning. It was just normal. Some of this is my actual anxiety, the rest my PTSD and autism. It’s not a nice mix, as mental illness cocktails go.

Fortunately, I was on the phone with one of my BBFs who quickly reminded me most of my credit card (well 1/3) was the shopping I needed from Sainsbury’s. Because if I don’t feed the cats, they will eat me, and I have MySupermarket set up to email me whenever their chow of choice is on offer. Plus I needed a bulk buy of other household stuff like bog roll, kitchen towel, bleach and heavy things I can’t carry.

I get stuck in a recrimination loop most days. Usually, due to being starved as a child, it’s food related and panicking about not having a specific item in the house. Today it was chocolate. Because female and PMS is near constant for me. The point re the food (plus any obsession) thing is that I’m literally unable to function until I’m reassured I have whatever it is in the house, the good thing is the garage has a much bigger selection now than it did pre-makeover.

Another example:

Last night I couldn’t find my emergency roller tip for my cane. I have a sneaking suspicion I bought three, changed two out and had the last one lurking somewhere. Except my memory’s so damaged I can’t remember half of the last two years from the medication. I had a flash of the tip in its little bag but it was in none of the places I normally put these things. I only started thinking about it because I’m helping New Friend who needs a new cane and wanted to give her one of my older, larger roller balls as a stopgap until we can get her a long cane she’ll actually use.

It doesn’t matter, not really. I have a spare cane but I need to order new balls, I just can’t afford to do it right now (they’re nearly £6 each from the RNIB). I was trying to work out, when we get New Friend a couple of special-order long canes from Canada, if it would be cheaper to add in some balls with the order for me and her. Sadly the exchange rate is in US$ not CAN which sucks so not really. I could get them locally but Sensory Support is a pain to visit and last time I was told to just order them from the RNIB instead of getting them for free. Double sigh.

Oh, and I’m still refusing to patronise NNAB, which was the last place I got the balls, because they cancelled archery on us. I’ll visit if I have to but I really don’t want to. Plus there’s no guarantee their equipment centre will a) have them and b) give them to me for free.

Stuff used to be free. It was a heck of a lot easier. I suppose at least I know where to get stuff. That’s not disabled entitlement talking, BTW, it’s a literal case of all mobility aids used to be free. You’d ring a number, give your registration details, and whatever you needed would be sent out by second class post. It was awesome. Except for that one time where they put two folded canes through my letter box and said canes unfolded.

My hallway is only about a metre square between door and steps. If that. That was a fucking nightmare.

That was a fucking nightmare.

I have what I call anxiety twitches. They’re random ripples that just set me off. Yesterday it was because I stayed home, because I lounged in bed. I have issues lounging because, in my head (not the best place, obviously), lounging means laziness which is the stereotype of the benefit scrounger. Again this bounces directly back to my disabled imposter syndrome and the non-disabled concept of what how a disabled person should behave. This is a lot harder for me and New Friend because both of us have more sight than most people put together. But we’re both still blind. Technically and literally.

And I am missing not having a dog which isn’t helped by my Husky fixation or BFF’s love of German Shepherds, though I do appreciate having daily lab/retrievers posted on my Facebook page. The lack of my own guide dog, however, it’s getting really bad now. I cried last night because I was on the phone to BFF and could hear Gismo in the background, chasing dream bunnies. He doesn’t yip, more grumble, but that noise, it still reminded me of Uni. Who used to gallop across the carpet and make tiny yip-barks of joy.

I’m still stuck on a waiting list and it’s been nearly eight months (unofficially). I know I need to wait, that compromising will just bite me in the arse for the next decade of my life. But I need a dog, Bramble hugs only go so far and I want my own. I have my friends and their dogs, but I’m not as fast as them, I’m constantly having to focus on where I’m stepping which means I feel slow which my anxiety translates to ‘I’m overweight ergo lazy’ as opposed to ‘I can’t see and have to slow down’. Friends are awesome but they have dogs so don’t have to worry about that. I also have to watch my cane in case I clip one of their dogs’ back legs.

I’ve always had anxiety, except it never bothered me because I was either busy or I could step around it: I had to go to London, because of work. Work was my shield. I could ring people because it was work-related because that was how stuff was done. Now I have a phone phobia and just seeing unknown numbers triggers me. I can make phone calls but it has to either be for someone else and in a capacity where my flowchat of answers is active (like ringing the DWP but always, in that context, for someone else) or it has to be a last ditch/no other option thing.

Oddly I’m perfectly fine ringing my power company …

Weird.

I prefer email/twitter/IMing because it gives me a minute to think before I reply. Ask me on the phone and I’ll capitulate and instantly guilt will set in because I’ve not had time to plan something out. I like planning. It keeps me sane. But, at the same time, my default is that while I have a plan, I don’t take precedence. All my friends know that if I’m not in the city, they need to factor in an hour for me to get to them. That alone stresses me because, in my head, I’m supposed to be psychically aware of everyone else’s plans, even though they’ve not told me. I’m supposed to spend my days sitting in cafes waiting for them to ask if I’m in for coffee.

And if I’m not, I feel guilty, because of my lack of foresight.

A couple of days last week I found myself with time and no one else in it. So I took myself to a boardgame night. I went in late, had coffee, did some writing, and then had fun. I got one of the last buses back, timing it with perfect precision. I was so proud of myself (especially as I’m never usually out past four pm). But then, a few days before that, I went to the movies on a Bank Holiday and, knowing the buses were on Sunday service, left the movie thirty minutes early so I wouldn’t have to wander Riverside or spend money in a bar while I waited for the next bus. Missing buses, even when I know there’s another one in x minutes, really stresses me out.

But then, a few days before that, I went to the movies on a Bank Holiday and, knowing the buses were on Sunday service, left the movie thirty minutes early so I wouldn’t have to wander Riverside or spend money in a bar while I waited for the next bus. Missing buses, even when I know there’s another one in x minutes, really stresses me out.

The point is, my anxiety is logical but still stupid.

Also, it doesn’t come with an off switch, not unless I take myself off the rails. Most of the time, unless it’s a calmly prepared but last minute thing I don’t have time to panic about, I just can’t. Not unless I’m very medicated and a Valium addiction is just not on the cards right now. I try to rationalise it, taking myself out of the picture or asking ‘What would Mhairi do?’ and then tone the answer down just a little. Sometimes it works but the contriction, it’s never going to leave me.

It is me.

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The Creatives’ Guide to Living With Bipolar Disorder: A Box of Bastet’s Makes Everything A Little Better

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Because sacred cat plushes really do cheer me up. I should have brought the entire case home with me from London. So, instead, I’ve been hugging my own cats and dogs; it’s the cheaper option.

Anxiety is a bastard.

Seriously, it’s been sneaking around like a ninja and jumping me when I least expect it. First thing in the morning and last thing at night seem to be the best times.

I know this is a side-effect, I can only hope it will eventually go away. For now, though, I’m stuck taking medication that gives me a couple of hours respite or finding a Bramble/Isis to hug. I keep crying, randomly, in front of my best friend and finding comfort in food (ramen FTW) and quiet restaurants with my headphones on and a good book playing.

Writing … well it’s been happening but I had the first tinges of burnout. That forced me to step back. I’m writing the bits I want to write, snatched scenes mostly in The Broken World. Jaada breaking codes, Jaada sensing the wrongness of history and making a friend whom she can never love but will love her regardless.

On a personal front, I’m trying to see my friends, cancel anything in the least bit stressful or triggering and just take it easy. I’m not depressed but anxiety still wears you down. I keep having to remind myself that if I was a diabetic I wouldn’t spend half an hour debating whether to take insulin.

I wouldn’t mind but it’s not like I have the ‘traditional’ panic attack. I don’t hyperventilate; I shut down and I run. My instinct is hard-wired, after decades of abuse and PTSD, to ‘run the fuck away to somewhere safe’. Fortunately, I have understanding friends and this usually happens when I’m not in their company.

Right now I hate being alone because it makes me worse, sitting in public is only slightly better but I need my headphones and a distraction (yay music and books). Being at home bring with it added stresses but at least I can write distraction-free.

But I want food I’ve not cooked, coffee I’ve not had to nip out and buy. This necessitates outside and doing things. It doesn’t help that my body clock’s alarm is set in the region of 5:30am either. I miss lie ins.

At least I’m doing the smart thing and trying to reduce things which might make me worse. Also coffee. Turns out Mhairi has been having the baristas replace my caffeine shot with decaff … sigh.

I don’t even care but it does mean the IBS hasn’t been quite so crippling. So there’s that.

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The Great Name Change of 2016: The Last Hurdle (AKA WTF Aren’t We Done Yet?)

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A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a list of who I needed to notify. It was a long one but I’ve been doing it in dribs and drabs updating as I go. My GP hadn’t updated my records, for example, and after a month (and because I happened to be in there) I asked them if they could do it. Ten minutes later I’m officially Asha Bardon on my prescriptions/NHS records. Fifteen minutes later I got them to remove the miscellaneous middle name they’d forgotten to remove.

It does turn out that GP records/mental health services and hospitals don’t talk to each other which means on my next visit to the Norfolk and Norwich (also coming up), I’m going to have to go through this all over again with them. At least the mental health people done it their end.

Hopefully, a deed poll and my passport should be it and the hospital records will update. Done.

This morning, as my railcard is due for renewal, I had to ring them and ask how to change my name (as I don’t yet have confirmation from the DWP they’ve even received the stuff I sent them; that’s for Monday). I need my benefit paperwork reissued in my new name because, now and again, I actually have to whip it out. In the case of a railcard, it’s easy: they’ve seen my Certificate which confirms I’m in fact blind so the deed poll which I emailed over should enable them to simply update the name on my account, allowing me to then buy myself a nice, new railcard.

That’s the theory anyway.

My big task for this week is to tell the Land Registry. In theory this should be easy, in practice it looks like I’m either going to have to make an appointment and go to Peterborough (!!!!) or go to a solicitor (again) and get the forms filled out/my title deeds updated. At this point I’m not sure which is easier so I’m going to wait for a local solicitor to ring me back with a quote/ring the Land Registry to double check. I like double checking and the awesome thing is, due to my own preparedness, I have all the proof of identity paperwork you could ever need from bank statements to council tax bills.

I’m, honestly, quite proud of myself just on this one front.

Seriously, changing your name is actually quite a minefield and I’ve done it in nearly three months. Yes, I still have to ring the DWP (boo!) but once I have the paperwork, it means re-applying for my Blue Badge at the end of the year should be easy. I am, however, a little scared of the cost possibly associated with this Land Registry business (I have a healthy fear of solicitors/the cost of legal services). But I signed up for this, I knew what I was getting into and it’s still worth it.

Interesting point of note on another front. Remember how I said Paypal doesn’t let you change your name? Turns out they do, it’s just horribly worded on their website. I rang them up after, due to opening a shiny new account, they decided to hold some money I’d been paid for a short story for THREE WEEKS (which is forever in Internet Time). Now having had a Paypal account since ’02 (holy shit!), I didn’t realise Paypal is basically like a bank/your credit rating: the more transactions, the longer you use them, the more they trust you.

As Asha I was a new customer and they, for all intents and purposes, had no idea who I was. So I explained my situation. No problem, they said, send us your documents, we’ll update your original account to confirm Lesley is now Asha and continue purchasing crap from the internet as you usually would. Once the funds in your new one clear and you’ve withdrawn them, close it and just update old account with new email address and you’re done.

I have my fourteen-year credit history back.

YES!

Seriously, of all my online accounts, my Paypal account is one I’m particularly attached too.

I am, however, just a tiny bit knackered. Also, due to the whole medication withdrawal thing, I have a tiny bipolar-fueled obsession. It’s not mania but I do associate it with a mix of my various mental illnesses. I do actually have OCD, fueled by the joy of the autism spectrum (my psychiatrist called them ‘tendencies’). Sometimes they’re smart (get a tattoo/get debt free/become a journalist), other times they’re questionable (buy a PS4). They’re also slow burners but do eventually go away (like the PS4 one). Unfortunately, while they’re here, they take up my entire line of thought, to the point of distraction.

This is fine if it’s something cheap/achievable. This one is totally nuts.

I want to tell my family about my name change.

Except I’m not wanting to do this out of pride (I wish), I want to tell one particular family member I don’t like that much just to see their face, hear the reaction in their voice … and possibly get disinherited. That bit, well it doesn’t bother me too much, but as far as I know, thanks to locked down social feeds/the fact my phone hasn’t yet run off the hook, they don’t actually know yet.

I was planning to wait a bit (incoming orphanhood) but this desire, it’s niggling at me. To the point where that and a mix of anxiety woke me up at 1am and valium can’t do anything for obsession. I know it’s a bad idea (as gratifying as it might be) but that doesn’t mean it’s going to fade overnight.

And so we continue on. This last mile has got to be the easy bit, right? A couple more people to phone, a possible solicitor visit (sigh) and that’s it?

I really hope so.

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The Creatives’ Guide to Living With Bipolar Disorder: Would I Like to Talk about my Anxiety?

12724643_1763824533839088_612201933_nThis fortnight has not been great. It sounds silly but it’s only when Uni goes her on much-deserved hols (and the cats take over again, as is their right as Rulers of the Earth), that I realise how much I rely on her emotionally. After all she’s a crap guard dog but she does, to her credit, growl menacingly now and again and, at least, tries to eat the Waitrose delivery man as he carries my groceries in.

We’ve established a firm ‘eat them after the food has been unpacked’ rule.

She can do scary when she needs to and that’s all that’s important, especially as she’s as protective of her territory as I am. I protect her from potential dogs which might hurt her (aka any small/yappy dogs that she thinks might even me slightly suspicious) and she protects/consoles me.

Now if she could just get people’s credit card numbers and sort codes when she’s being fussed for the other 98% of that time … but, ah well.

Yesterday morning she got to catch up with Bramble (I got hugs, which helped given the 10mg of Valium I’d just taken post-panic attack). That makes, like, my fifth in two weeks and I am not a fan. Drinking is normally my way out of this (oddly I don’t want to get addicted to Valium) but I’ve made a conscious switch to a very nice Normandy apple juice with fizz in it from M&S. It look like cider, tastes like cider and, for the price of four cans of cheaper hooch, I can get two bottles which will last me a couple of days.

If it helps me with my alcohol … issue, I’m all for it. Failing those, I’m cutting back on coffee and going for a cheaper option, these nice Innocent lemon/lime/apple drinks. Now the weather is sort of warming up, there are mornings when I want a cold drink not a mocha. Plus my meds are making me stupidly thirsty so I’m drinking water like a fish anyway.

But yeah, the anxiety is not good and it’s the most random things: loud noises like the doorbell unexpectedly going off and the Oven of Doom at Starbucks (it sounds like something counting down in a Bond movie), the kids playing outside who find the need to commentate every time Uni goes out to pee, my phone ringing, Uni’s toileting habits (though she’s under the weather today so I couldn’t pick up even if I tried). Uni crossing paths with D and shaking as she sits at the bottom of the stairs.  Oh and people.

Oh and people.

Not having Uni and it being a little harder to get off my estate due to electric works, it meant I stayed in a lot more. That, in itself, didn’t make me anxious, in fact it was almost comforting. I was able to settle and focus on finishing Ash Seeketh Ember (it’s nearly 30k, with one chapter left for me to write). Normally focus is a huge problem because Uni needs to go out every four hours or so and, if we’re out, she’s distracted by other people, many of whom she knows.

Little things like that, well it has a bigger effect on me than it does her.

For starters people move out the way of a person with a dog. I’ve spent several days walking bang into people without them either moving or, instead, suddenly stopping dead for no reason. With a dog, I’m basically Moses doing the Red Sea trick. Dogs are more adaptive and Uni, barring small dog alerts, can help me move much more fluidly.

At the same time, I’m a lot faster with my cane simply because it’s just me. There are no loo breaks, no need to snuffle at that nice bit of grass or endure people going ‘Aw a dog! Can I pet her?’. That said I’m also getting a lot more assertive by saying no because she’s lying down and it’s taken me five minutes to settle her. This is thanks to Mhairi who’s almost been giving me an advanced course on dealing with people without swearing at them (I’m not actually allowed to tell someone to F off, as much as I would dearly like too nigh on daily’).

Uni’s tartness, it’s a part of her character and I wouldn’t change that for a second. She’s my dog and they all come with their own individual characters, the closer we come to the end of her working life, the more I value her. She’s a curious creature but, at the same time, she’s always looking for me when people pet her, not for permission but to make sure I don’t run off. That’s love right there.

I had a phone call from the Wellbeing Service (I got passed over to them a month ago, right before everything kind of went to shit) and they politely explained I’m going to have to wait for therapy (mainly talking/CBT) which is fine by me. I waited a year for my Asperger’s diagnoses, I waited three for my bipolar 2 and over a decade before I was formally registered as blind. I can do waiting, I just hate that every phone call seems to come at the tail ends of intense periods of anxiety and stress.

So my plan for this week is short story revisions, getting Ash done and proofed and watching as much YouTube as possible. It’s the little things that help, right?

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Writing on the Move

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I’m somewhat infamous for working out of my local Starbucks. It has warmth, WiFi, coffee on tap and baristas who adore my canine companion (aka entertaining her while I try to write). Plus my anxiety means I find home … well, while it’s my sanctuary, I feel trapped while there so would rather surround myself with people who exist but whom I don’t need to talk to. Plus Uni gets so much fuss that I am all but ignored. I’m a self-confessed introvert, spending too much time in my own company, it’s not great for my mental health. I need to be out in the world and Starbucks is the perfect place as I can work but also be surrounded by people.

The big problem for me is the combination of my eyesight and hunching.

Seriously, there was a point when my local Starbucks had these couch like sofas and they were low so I could get them to move a normal-height table. I looked off  but it was comfortable. Now they have one long bunkette which is great for my back but raised me so I’m back looking down on my computer screen. Oh and I have reading glasses which I sorta need to use.

So I backed Roost on Kickstarter and I was overjoyed with the result. I still have to wear my reading glasses but the screen is now on a comparative level with my eyeline and much more comfortable as a result. My MacBook Air is now positioned in a way which means, with pages zoomed in, I can work comfortably enough. People have actually come up to me an enquired about my awesome bit of kit (my Starbucks attracts a lot of patrons and their laptops).

Oh and I can appreciate the awesome Sailor Moon stickers decorating the inside 😀

I bought myself a new backpack this week as well. The only downside to the Roost was the case for my keyboard, mouse etc (which is awesome as it contains everything from a lightening cable to the Roost itself) was almost too big for my previous, well used, backpack (an Incase model I got when I first bought my MacBook Pro). This one has pockets galore, a mesh on either side so I finally have somewhere to stash my mug/Klean Kanteen (this was a stupidly important thing in a new backpack) and so much room. Oh and I can fit Uni’s crap (her ragger, bowl, vet book) in there as well.

Aspie Me likes having everything I need, from medication through to my electronics. It’s also been raining a lot recently (to the point where the prevous backpack just got sodden, dripping water right down my back). I accept no backpack is waterproof but this one seems to have a better shot and being able to carry my stuff is a bonus; I feel … naked without my computer, my diary … (I’m a Passion Planner Ambassador and bought a smaller compact version last year because my bag was too small for the A4 version).

Basically this means I can now tackle the world and the bag/contents feels heavy but I’m used to carrying weight on my back (it’s the easiest way when you have a guide dog/cane). This set up feels natural and has already saved my MBA from coffee spillage so the Roost is earning it’s keep already.

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