Anxiety disorder

NOTE FROM CHARLIE: So, as you may be able to tell, I’m not the author of this post. Unfortunately, I’ve been left in a state today where I’m not able to write a post for the blog, so I asked Heather to write something for me. And so she wrote a little thing on various Anxiety Disorders, as you’ll soon find out. I should be writing next weeks post, but until then, enjoy this post 🙂

 

I’m going to be writing about anxiety disorder. Anxiety is the main symptom of several conditions, including panic disorder, phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder and social anxiety disorder. I have had experience of all of the above, which is what makes this a topic that I know a fair amount about.

Generalised anxiety disorder is a long-term anxiety that is non-specific, and is almost constant anxiety, resulting in both mental and physical symptoms.

With social anxiety disorder you become very anxious about what other people may think of you, or how they may judge you. You fear that you will act in an embarrassing way, and that other people will think things about you, or judge you, that you’re stupid, ugly, crazy and so on and if you go to the feared situation you become very anxious and distressed, possibly resulting in panic attacks. (A topic that I’ll certainly write about at a later date)

For me, my anxiety disorder was the constant throughout the last four years of my life, peaking and falling at various times. For now, I’m in recovery, but I’m going to tell you about my experience with anxiety.

Leaving the house is something most people do every day, at least once. But at one of my lower times, it was as if there was an invisible wall there. This is a pretty common analogy used to describe anxiety, but it’s almost as though there’s a wall there, that you can’t see, and you don’t have any idea whatsoever how to get over it. Everyone else can just walk straight through it, and they don’t see why you can’t, you just have to stay there and watch everyone else leave. For me, leaving the house was like climbing a mountain, and when you’d left, it didn’t get better, everything just got worse and a lot more difficult. Everything was new, and scary, and there was always the constant familiar “what if?” scenarios running through my head, accompanied by the threatening “[bad thing] is going to happen”. Hence, leaving the house wasn’t ideal for me, but I had to do it, and conquering that made everything else seem achievable.

Being told “you can do it!” is not only helpful, but frustrating, and it seemed impossible at times, but as I’m often told, anything is possible.

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The Downwards Spiral pt2

This blog post is a continuation of one that I wrote last week and therefore it’s recommended that you read that one first, if you haven’t already. It can be found HERE. This post can [mostly] stand alone, however, but everything will make more sense if you’ve read that first. Anyway, on to the regularly scheduled content.

 

 

At the end of the last post I mentioned two things: “the minor breakdown of my mental capabilities” and Executive Dysfunction. In this post, I hope I’m going to be able to explain these two most awkward concepts that I’ve ever attempted to explain, so apologies in advance if this gets confusing, off topic or just doesn’t do the job. Here goes…

Let’s start with Executive Dysfunction. Or more accurately, let’s talk about its antonym, Executive Function. So, “What is Executive Function?” you may be wondering. “Executive functions is an umbrella term for the management (regulation, control) of cognitive processes, including working memory, reasoning, task flexibility, and problem solving as well as planning, and execution.” (Thanks Wikipedia!). Let’s take this apart and work out what it means for my life, and therefore this blog post.

The first point ties in closely with the other half of this blog post, and as such will not be fully addressed. Most of the points mentioned for “the minor breakdown of my mental capabilities” will be valid for this as well. Therefore, we will begin with Working Memory, and another definition with the help of Wikipedia: “Working memory is the system that actively holds multiple pieces of transitory information in the mind, where they can be manipulated.” What does this mean? As some may notice, this sounds very similar to the idea of Short Term Memory, which may help simplify things for people. Every time I mention Working Memory in this post, you may find it easier to read “Short Term Memory”.

Problems with my Working Memory have only started to become obvious within the last month or two, and are one of the most recent problems that I’ve had. They manifest themselves most prominently in matters of conversation, where I’ll sometimes forget what has been said to me, even if it was only 10 seconds or so prior. A good example is something that happened in a conversation I was having recently where I repeated the things I was saying 20 seconds or so after having said them for the first time, without realising I was doing so.

As someone with an outstanding Long Term Memory, both explicit and implicit, it seems very odd that I’m able to do this. However, I have devised a work around that allows me to remember things quite well. If there’s anything that I need to remember that I encounter, whether it be in a conversation or otherwise, I do what I can to commit it to my long term memory. This way, I’ll remember what I need to know when I need to know it. It does mean that I’m flooded with thoughts every now and then, but it’s worth it in the long run.

Next comes Reasoning, which I will put together with Problem Solving, Planning and Execution, as they seem to have a reasonable similarity between them. This was one of the first set of problems that I noticed; first occurring back at the end of 2013. As someone who requires control and knowledge over the events that occur around me (see future blog posts for more), I often find myself planning a great deal, creating main plans of action, and then various contingency plans to deal with the possible events that could cause the main plan to action. When I started to find this more difficult, and actually making the realistic plans take place became a flip-of-a-coin event, I knew something was wrong. Now, instead of planning all the time, I find that I have to make one plan and improve it until it works well enough to get by. Not so good.

Finally we get to “the minor breakdown of my mental capabilities”. I’ve been thinking for a long time about how to write about this topic, and I came up with a lot of blanks; routes that do manage to talk about this, but not to a point where I was satisfied with the final result. So just a heads up that this may not be an amazing explanation, but I’ve done what I can.

The ability to use your brain properly is one that’s incredibly underrated; most people don’t even think about how useful it is. However, think about how it feels to have something “on the tip of your tongue”, where you know you know of something, but you can’t remember what that something is – the frustration felt there from the fact that your knowledge is there but you cannot access. Now take that feeling, and make it last for days at a time, for a week on end. That’s how it feels for me right now. I find it increasingly difficult to complete tasks because of it.

I know what I need to do, but I can’t do it.

I know how it needs to be done, but I can’t do it.

I know that I have the knowledge, but I can’t do it.

I know I have the skills, but I can’t do it.

I know that I can’t do it.

 

This is Charlie, signing out.

The Downwards Spiral

Two weeks ago, due to various problems, I missed my first blog post deadline. Instead of a long, decently written post about a part of my life, I posted a single paragraph with a link. Over on Twitter, some of the amazing people saw this, and were concerned for how I was, asking whether I was ok and similar things like that. However, I don’t think that anyone was actually given a full rundown of the specific parts of my current condition that caused the missed post, although I may have given out the information in small, fragmented segments. So I decided that I’d make an entire blog post upon it, so that everything is said in one place as opposed to over various random Twitter Conversations.

 

When telling stories, I find it’s often best to start at the beginning, so I think that’s what I’ll do. Not to the extreme beginning (my birth) of course, but to the first point where the relevant information can be found. For this story, that point happened about 5 months ago, during the New Year period. It was around the time of New Year’s Day that I noticed the fact that I’d been having more and more bad days, ones where my senses would overload at a greater rate, which would most likely be due to the increased acuity that I seem to gain on such days. I’m not entirely sure why this happens, but my current theory is based upon the idea that on these days I’m much less able to filter my senses as well as I usually can, meaning that a lot of the very small stimuli which I can mostly just about ignore (for all of my senses except my hearing, at least) are no longer hidden by my brain, and as such it seems that I’m just more able to use my senses.

Anyway, I digress. I feel that after noticing this, the downwards spiral in which I’m trapped truly began (it may be sometime before if you take into account tricks of the mind such as Selection Bias or Confirmation bias). The more astute readers may have noticed my decision to use the present tense, which suggests the continuation of this spiral from when it began until a point of time in the future. This is because the trend continues to this day.

Maybe now would be a good time to talk about the spiral itself. Over these last 5 or so months, my condition has been very slowly deteriorating; as time goes on, I get worse. Very slowly, but with an unmatched certainty, I have been finding it more and more difficult to deal with life. The main problems I’m having are: a large increase in Executive Dysfunction (I’ll talk more about this in a blog post in the future, so ‘keep your eyes peeled’ (Odd idiom, but I like it) for that), increased problems with Sensory Integration, lack of motivation to do almost anything and a minor breakdown in my ability to think (the most irritating of the three – it’s unlikely many will understand what this is like)

Regarding sensory issues, anything I used to find problematic has become increasingly so, by quite a large margin. What used to be a bearable volume for me has become only slightly sub-overload levels. Since I’m still currently a student at a secondary school, it should be easy to imagine why that’s a particularly irritating problem, when classes can become much louder for no particular reason.

However, going back to the timeline of the story with a less than smooth segue, this problem was made less prevalent when I was granted blanket permission by the SEN department at my school to wear earphones during the school day. Although this doesn’t fully alleviate the problem, it’s meant that I’ve actually been able to stay in lessons, as opposed to just walking out because I couldn’t deal with it (fortunately something that I’ve never had to do).

However, the story does not end here. While my sensory issues may be being dealt with to some extent, they did not fill the above list, and as such there’s yet more to mention. If I remember correctly, the next issue I’ve had to deal with is Avolition. About a month ago, around the beginning of April, I started to lose any interest in doing anything, and found that even when I did manage to finish things, I rarely found any pleasure in doing so. The sole exception was talking to my friends, and spending time in their company. Talking to people like Heather and my friends over at Twitter has been the only thing I have found truly enjoyable over the last 5 weeks.

The final component in this tale, as it stands, is something which I’m not entirely sure I can put into words; the minor breakdown of my mental capabilities. Therefore, along with Executive Dysfunction, it will be discussed in a future blog post after I’ve had longer to think about it. For now, though, what I will say is that it’s not something I enjoy going through in the slightest. But you’ll have to wait to see why… 😀

Anyway, this has been a small look into how I am at the moment, so all the people who I talk to over at Twitter no long need to ask me how I am, as I can just direct them here. Thanks for reading.

This is Charlie, signing out.

OCD Blog Hop (April)

As readers of my blog will know, this month I have the pleasure of hosting the OCD Blog Hop for April, for which I chose the theme of “What incorrect stereotypes do people have about OCD?”

This month, we have three posts; one from @Ellen_White_, one from @lauramac_drums and one from @FightAgainstOCD. Unsurprisingly, they all mentioned the ever present stereotype of OCD = Loving to clean.

 

First, we have Ellen’s post, which talks about her general thoughts upon the matter, even managing to be positive about the future! Her post can be found HERE.

“It does make me really happy though, that there are plenty of people out there trying to make a difference to the misconceptions of OCD. The more we educate, the less likely people are to make comments and judge on stereotypes that they have in their heads.”

 

Next, Laura’s post, which talks about how OCD is portrayed in the media, as well as a popular phrase that many people use, and once again manages a positive comment at the end! Her post can be found HERE.

The good thing is that we can change the stereotypes. It’s an uphill battle for sure but it’s possible! Through awareness raising and talking about what OCD is really like, we can have an impact and help change people’s views. That to me is the most important thing.”

 

The final post comes from Shania over at Fight Against OCD, and contains a fantastic little rant about the problematic #OCDProblems tag over on Twitter. The post can be found HERE.

“We don’t choose to be like this. Honestly, who in their right mind would choose to be like this! No one. So don’t tell us to “just stop” because that only makes us feel like we can’t come to you when we need help. We see what this puts our loved ones through and we feel what it’s putting us through. If this was as easy as flipping a switch, none of us would have OCD.”

 

Next month’s hop will be hosted by Shania, and I should be taking part in it, although I’m not sure when that post will be published. Either way, I should have a post up next week, so I’ll see you then.

This is Charlie, signing out.

#jrchearing

Unfortunately, due to my slowly increasing Executive Dysfunction and the stress of returning back to school after a 2 week break, I’ve been having problems managing to translate my thoughts into a format that is consistent with the quality and length of my previous posts. This means that I’ve not been able to produce any writings that are of upload-worthy status, so there will be no new entry this week. Sorry about that. However, that does allow me to bring attention to something very important, which you should all know about. Click HERE, and you’ll understand why.

 

This is Charlie, signing out.

Hearing is believing

The following post will make use of sound to demonstrate a small amount of what SPD is like, so if possible, I advise that you use headphones.

Sensory processing disorder (SPD): a condition that exists when sensory signals don’t integrate to provide appropriate responses; the various types of sensory information are processed by multisensory integration. (From the Wikipedia article on the subject: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sensory_processing_disorder)

 

I realise, that to most of you, the above definition is likely to close to useless, since terms such as “multisensory integration” aren’t exactly in common use. So instead of trying to pull apart what is said there and put it into more human-friendly terms, I invite you to try an alternate path to reaching understanding. Unfortunately, this post is limited by the medium in which it has been created and shown, and therefore is only able to present auditory and visual stimuli for this, and therefore can only show a small part of what the experience is like, and will only do it for a short period of time. To get the full effect, all of the senses would need to be stimulated in a way that could help people understand simultaneously, and the effect would need to last for a prolonged period of time. However, I do think I can provide a small, limited demonstration.

First of all, before I proceed with this, I’d like to thank Letters From Aspergia for including the website I’m about to use in her list of list of ambient sound generators which is sent to those who subscribe to her mailing list (which I recommend, by the way), which is mentioned HERE. The website to which I’d like to direct your attention to goes by the name of “Ambient Mixer”, and it’s THIS page specifically that I’d like to use. If you open that link, what you’ll find is a mix of sounds designed to replicate those found in a traditional restaurant. If you go into such an environment, and hold a conversation with someone sitting at the same table to you, it’s likely that these sounds, the background ambience, will be ignored to some degree. The sounds themselves will not disappear, but you will not notice them, or they will seem much quieter.

This process, the natural filtering of unwanted sounds, is one that most people go through subconsciously, meaning that most will fail to realise that it has even taken place. For those with SPD, though, this process will not be as effective, and sometimes may never even take place. Instead of being able to select the sounds that are desirable and important, all of the sounds in audible range will be heard. Combined with the natural increased acuity that some Autistic people have, this can be quite a significant problem.

So, why do I bother to put the link here, and then draw your attention to its contents, as opposed to simply just describing the experience? Well, I’ve always believed that people find it easier to understand things that they’ve experienced, so I have a challenge for you.

This may not be possible for all readers, but for those who are able, in a different tab or window, open a video of someone talking. Then, in the background, listen to the sounds that were linked at a level similar to that of the person talking, erring on the side of being louder. Now, try to listen to the talker, understand all of the things they say. If you find it difficult, or are unable to do it, you now know what it’s like to experience some of the auditory problems that lots of people have to have to deal with when they have problems with their sensory modulation.

Since this is such a big topic, I’m going to split it up into a few small parts. Therefore, as opposed to being the 1000+ words that my posts normally have been/will be, this shall be much shorter. In the future, you can look forward to more posts about this topic, which will be listed at the top when they have been created. For now, however, I bid you farewell.

This is Charlie, signing out.

OCD Blog Hop Theme (April)

The regular readers of my blog (If there are any, I’d like to thank you for your support. It’s appreciated.), will remember that I posted an entry for the March OCD Blog Hop last week. Now that post has finally been made, a theme can be chosen by the host of the next hop. This month, I have the pleasure of hosting.

The topic that I have chosen for this month’s hop is:

What incorrect stereotypes do people have about OCD?

Now while I won’t be creating a post for this theme, anyone else that feels up to a challenge is welcome to write about it. Maybe Heather will post something about this theme, if she feels up to it. If any of you do feel particularly daring, and create anything about this theme, please leave a link to your post in the comments down below.

The final post containing all of the submitted works will be published at 17:30 on Thursday May 1st, so if you’d like to be featured, please submit anything by then. I look forward to reading what you can come up with on this, my chosen topic of discussion. Until then…

This is Charlie, signing out.