Tag Archives: anxiety

The Pearls of Age

I’ve always liked the company of older people, and felt a little less at home with younger folks (who are more unpredictable in some ways).

Mum was talking about things from her childhood. She remembered buying dresses… they were taken ‘on approval’, and delivered in boxes and tissue paper. She kept missing trams and jumping on while they were on the move. The conductor would say “you’re not supposed to do that!”

I said I remembered double-decker buses with the door at the back with stairs — they had bus conductors with ticket machines. Mum said admiringly, “you’re quite old too!” and I said “thank you.”

I’m fascinated by any nuggets of wisdom older people decide to share… they are individual but have the ring of truth. Like from the rather worried old lady who said you know you can be perfect, but you must expect to make mistakes. Be kind to yourself. (I have a horrible habit of lying awake at night counting the very many mistakes I’ve made. Sometimes I think wistfully about Ally McBeal’s boss who said tactless things, then in the next breath he would mutter “bygones!”)

Liz Smith (elderly actress) had a lot to say that I was interested in. She said you can’t know why people react the way they do; it’s probably connected to things that happened to them. It’s rare to have true friends; people who know exactly who you are and what you’re about.

Liz wanted to talk with other passengers (while on her cruise) but couldn’t bring herself to make the first move — she was convinced they wouldn’t want her. I feel that more and more, even on the internet; I hesitate to comment, email or join in as much as I used to. I used to have an opinion on everything, but now I watch everybody else making mistakes and putting their foot in it, knowing that this time it isn’t me. More and more I decide it’s safer to pretend I’m not even here!

Perhaps it’s all part of getting older.

A friend and I were having a discussion recently — we were saying how we used to blithely do things that now make us curl up in horror and amazement. We were not mountaineers or explorers… but she used to ride rather nervy horses over jumps she wouldn’t even consider these days. Whereas I used to fill in those email letters that asked for your mother’s middle name!! Perhaps along with age we learn fear… but hopefully other, more positive things as well.

I wonder what pearls of wisdom might drop from my lips when I’m over 80 — everything I’m doing and thinking now takes me closer to those truths! It’s an interesting thought.

Deaf Anxieties

BADD logoI unintentionally missed ‘Blogging Against Disablism’ Day (BADD) 2009 as well as BADD 2008 (May 1). Last year everyone said that BADD 2008 was the best yet, and I couldn’t help thinking, “I drop out, then everybody remarks on the rise in quality!”

You won’t get rid of me that easily, though. I have various ideas rattling around in my head like peas in a drum but never seem to have time to capture them. Also it becomes harder to talk about personal experiences (apart from light, everyday accounts). In any case, I hadn’t forgotten about BADD. My thoughts this year concern anxiety and depression issues amongst the deaf.

I was born deaf (to hearing parents) at a time when children (certainly in the UK) were discouraged from signing. Thus I was brought up orally, wearing hearing aids from around the age of 6. My first hearing aid was a box that clipped to my clothes. If you accidentally caught the wire with your hand, your earpiece would be yanked out of your ear — made you feel awkward.

Of fairly dominant personality as a young child, I tended to be the ringleader in my primary class at deaf school. I wasn’t afraid to voice my thoughts concerning whatever we were discussing or watching, and the rest of the class would say “yes, we agree with Diddums!” It was a sweet class, now that I remember…

At home I regularly challenged my sister (also deaf) even though she was older and stronger. We fought like cat and dog. As time went by, I became quieter and less inclined to argue. I saw that as a positive, more peaceable quality, but took it so far the other way that I began to wonder! I was losing confidence in my own understanding of what was going on, and it’s hard to take a stance and support it when you worry that you missed something important.

Anxiety surfaced quite early, though not enough for panic attacks at school — thankfully, I was free of that particular problem till I was 19. One day, when I was old enough to go shopping without adult supervision, there was a particular album I was after. I went into a store and handed the assistant a note of the record I wanted, and fidgeted while waiting for her to check. They didn’t have the record in stock. I thought I had disguised my nervousness, but at home my friend surprised me by saying to my older sister “she was so flustered!” and waited for laughter. She didn’t get the reaction she hoped for, as my sister said nothing — but I felt bad about being flustered and being caught out in it.

For a while I was convinced the real anxiety started when I was 19, which was when the panic attacks began — but when you look back far enough, you realize the seeds of it were always there.

Take my first day at the local High School… the babble of children in those echoing corridors and gym hall! When my sister introduced me to the deputy head, he asked me a question and I didn’t answer — too transfixed by the seething mass around us. “She’s overwhelmed!” he said.

While still in high school, I remember telling a visitor from the deaf school that I wasn’t happy in groups of people, and she did not seem surprised at all. I was afraid she would tell me to get on with it and not be a silly… but she didn’t. She filled in the blanks for me where I stopped talking, and I went home thinking how maybe she had seen this happen before.

People would advise me, “just ask for a repeat” or “tell people if you didn’t hear,” and I blamed myself for not doing that… but it was hard to interrupt a conversation without being rude, and the conversation would go on and on until someone stopped it to ask me something. ‘Just asking for a repeat’ wasn’t easy either, because sometimes you wouldn’t understand no matter how often it was repeated, and the person doing the repeating would start to go pink with frustration and embarrassment. So you would bow out by pretending that you got it. In the end you didn’t ask for repeats at all unless it was unavoidable… you already knew what would happen, and that you would be asking people to repeat everything all the time.

In the end, being in such a group meant being bored, embarrassed, and thinking a great deal less of myself. It made me feel different because people observing the group would look at you as being the only one not talking and laughing. I would long to be on my own or with a close friend, doing something I wanted to do where I would feel competent and at ease.

The quality of the sounds I heard also seemed to play a part. At university I loathed the dining hall… people shuffled about and scraped their chairs, clattered cutlery, clashed trays and dinner plates; laughed and chattered. It was all too loud; too echoing. I ‘froze’ a few times and was unable to finish my food. Soon my friend began to recognize the signs; I remember her saying, “oh, I know that look! Let’s go.” We worked out the quietest times to eat, which were usually after everybody else had finished.

In my late 20s, waiting outside a cinema in a long queue, I was fine because I was with friends. Then I got tense. The anxiety rose, and rose, and there seemed no reason for it… till a car waiting nearby roared away and left us in peace. That was when I realized it had spent the past five minutes vrooming and revving loudly. It was a busy street and I hadn’t really been paying attention at first, but it seems the noise got to me anyway.

Perhaps the hearing aids have played a part in my anxiety… amplified noise: formless and unhelpful. It seems to me that I’m more relaxed when I don’t wear them at all. Everything’s silent and people float past as though in a dream. Once I was in a long queue in the bank when my batteries quit; I normally hate queues and banks, but this one time I was almost euphoric. If I can’t understand someone, they have to write it down — the pressure to make reasonable (and correct!) sense of what I hear is somehow not so great.

Where Mum is concerned, it’s amazing how much I absorb of what she is trying to say even when I can’t hear her voice at all. Recently I’ve not been wearing my new digital hearing aids because both filters gradually got damp (stopping them from working) and my clinic hasn’t laid in any spare parts at all. They said they didn’t think they would be needed ‘this soon’. The old analogue hearing aids didn’t have these wretched filters… it was easier to dry them out ourselves. These ones will NOT dry out at all, so I have a bit of a bone to pick with modern hearing aid designers! They may be better hearing aids, but they’re also less usable.

Without hearing aids this past while, I have communicated with my family by writing, lip-reading and gesturing. As we are learning the British Sign Language alphabet, I decided to try it out on Mum, signing the name of her fat cat…. MOLLY. She got it right away, and said “Molly”, pointing at the corner of the house where Molly normally hangs out. “Fatso,” she added affectionately (without writing, signing or repeating it), and went upstairs! I didn’t hear her voice but I knew perfectly well what she said.

Sometimes her message eludes me entirely, but other times I know when she’s said something I wasn’t necessarily expecting. That doesn’t make it a perfect or relaxing way to communicate, and I wish that we had been allowed to learn sign language at school. And not just us…. everybody! I still haven’t learned, partly because my growing anxiety and discomfort in group situations has stopped me from attending courses. That is a vicious circle in itself. I have always felt that communication is more important than how we communicate, though I can’t offer myself as a good example. Doubtless it’s because I don’t have that extra resource that I feel it so strongly.

We borrowed two British Sign Language books and a video from the library. One of them is quite an old book from 1988 — British Sign Language: A Beginner’s Guide by Dorothy Miles. It received two reviews on Amazon UK; neither of the reviewers seem impressed. Personally I enjoyed the potted world history of deaf people in education and society. I had a rough idea of some of it, but didn’t know everything described there. It was a shocker, and I found myself growing angry. Perhaps I shouldn’t have, as I haven’t read around a lot on the subject yet, and most people have been doing their best by their own lights, but it hit home anyway. I have been affected by some of the policies described in the book, and not in a positive way.

It brings to mind a Dean Koontz book (Seize the Night). My favourite, laid-back, surf-loving character, Bobby

“… didn’t trust those he called ‘people with a plan’, those who believed they knew how to make a better world, which seemed always to involve telling other people what they should do and how they should think.” [1999 paperback, p192].

In our history and present there have been plenty of people with a plan for the deaf, and it doesn’t seem to have a lot to do with acceptance. It’s no wonder that many of us end up with problems, emotional and otherwise.

Searching the internet for articles connecting deafness and social anxiety, I came across this piece in The Rebuttal: Deaf Phobias. I was pleased because it says much that I’ve been thinking for years, and up till now I haven’t found all that much on the subject. Mum said, “misery loves company” — but I prefer the line that popped up in a film about C.S. Lewis: ‘We read to know that we are not alone.’ I hadn’t thought about it as such… I think of reading as an escape. But it’s true, isn’t it? It’s why I go on the internet and scratch around to see if others are thinking and experiencing the same. There aren’t always answers for our problems; at least, not immediate answers… so it helps simply to know there are others, and that I’m no different from anybody else.

Diddums Comes Rushing Up

I took the Overcoming Low Self Esteem (Melanie Fennell) book back to the library. I read it in one sitting (which apparently isn’t the best way to make use of it, except perhaps as a first reading). I believe my self esteem isn’t that impaired… if it was, would I have a blog?

We are supposed to rate how much we believe our own statements, so I asked myself for a rating for that one:

“I have healthy self esteem.” 80%.

Some of the book was interesting and even amusing, but when I tried to follow the exercises, I made myself a ‘vicious circle,’ remembered one that the cognitive behavioural therapist and I were trying together all those years ago, wrote down “we focused on the wrong one,” and then stopped. I couldn’t make myself do any of the rest.

The one we were dealing with in therapy was the big bewildering one, the going out and panicking; it wasn’t any of the individual events that all added up to make this one big Snowball. It’s of interest to trace back and think about why you might have felt a particular way in a specific situation; less helpful to say “the world won’t come to an end if you do have a panic attack.” I know it won’t… but it doesn’t stop me feeling that I don’t want to be there.

I agree with Elizabeth from 1sojournal that we’re all full of self-doubt; in this world it would be hard to avoid. But I also have a certain confidence in myself. I believe that, given time, adequate resources and enough space, I could solve problems and work things out. It’s mostly in my communications with people that things go wrong.

I’ve seen a lot of posts by others saying the same thing. They can get by perfectly well with whatever their specific problems are, and it’s only where other people (or their structures and arrangements) come into the mix that things take a nosedive.

I don’t know if that’s low self esteem or something else. I don’t think all anxieties will be due to that. I started life believing it would be a certain way, and that everything would be straightforward, and soon discovered it was anything but!

I can’t give a fair opinion of the book unless I follow its suggestions and guidelines, which I didn’t do, for reasons of my own. It led to some interesting trains of thought, however… the idea that we have personally-developed ‘rules’ which cause distress if we break them. Some are obvious; others less so, and might not make a lot of sense when examined.

Do you know what your ‘rules’ are?

One of my ‘rules’, I think, is to be the ‘finder’. I was the youngest in the family (sometimes feeling left out due to lack of age), and we would go on rambles, and so it was wonderful to be the one to discover a flower, shell, mushroom or fossil that nobody else saw. The vexing thing was that I rarely did… or if I found something, it turned out to be something perfectly ordinary, like a piece of quartz.

When I was 5 or 6, I read a short story about four-leaf clovers, and forever after I was always looking for one. My class was taken on an outing to a farm, where I found a four-leaf clover which I gave to my teacher to look after. At the end of the day I was surprised and hurt to find she didn’t have it any more… she had just dropped it. To me it was a magical thing, a rare find. It was like finding a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, and I thought she would be as happy as I was. 😀

I don’t know if it’s a ‘rule’ as such, but… I rather think it is. Nothing makes me happier than to be the one to answer a question; find something; make the best suggestion; think of the nicest name. I can’t say I come crashing to the ground if I fail, but that’s because there’s always the next time…

Pulling My Head out of the Sand

I saw somebody writing about passive-aggressive characters, and I thought “what’s that? Is there any difference between one type of aggression and another?” I remember a friend telling me years ago (when I was having trouble with a client’s dog) that a dog who is aggressive through fear is the least trustworthy. Opposed to which other types of aggression, I wonder? I suppose some dogs are aggressive because they wish to control, and it’s not out of fear.

Anyway, I went and looked up ‘passive-aggressive’ and got completely sidetracked (sorry!) when I came to a list of passive-aggressive traits; apparently one of them is procrastination. (Perhaps if I looked further down, it would say ‘tendency to be sidetracked’ is another).

I never saw procrastination as being aggressive. Possibly, though… you might use it to annoy, or to avoid issues you didn’t want to accept or agree to… such as the example of spending so much time getting ready for a party that it’s too late to go (or nearly over when you do).

I’ve done that… but it wasn’t aggression so much as social phobia, communication problems (poor hearing) and being in denial. I decided I could and should go, but when it came to the point, I really didn’t want to.

Talk about hiding your head in the sand.

Glancing at the labyrinth of links to this trait or that, to this personality disorder or that, I started to think “we all have something like this going on; we might say ‘this is an unbalanced thing to do’ but it doesn’t mean we are not normal!” I think most of us are unbalanced in one way or another, often due to the types of experiences we have gone through. I actually typed ‘personality disorders don’t exist’ into Google, and was rewarded with a direct hit to someone else’s thoughts along these lines. It’s not like saying “you don’t have any issues; just deal”… it’s more like saying “OK, you have issues, and society itself has issues, and sometimes it’s society’s issues that impact on you…. and it doesn’t mean you are ‘not normal’ or beyond help.”

These are just random musings of mine, backed up by very little research…

Anyway, I decided it was long past time that I dealt with my own tendency to procrastinate. It usually means I spend far too much time doing things I don’t need to do (like changing my blog template, looking up what ‘passive-aggressive’ means or watching Frasier reruns) and not enough time doing new things (like maybe go up into the loft and set up my knitting machine. Or bake game pie. Or write a book). All these things I never leave myself any time to do because I’m (1) wasting time; (2) fighting fires (e.g. scrambling to get my tax figures in before Christmas).

If anyone has read any genuinely helpful books on procrastination and time management, please let me know!

I dug out my most recent ‘to-do’ list (2003) and found there are some things I still have to do, whereas other things are completely out of date.
These are some of the things I meant to do in April 2003 (two years before I began my blog):

  • Find out about organizing teddy bear shows
  • Look for the Baghdad Blogger
  • Encourage my chat list to talk
  • Movie of Sharky (my Oriental cat who died early this year)
  • Baby sunlotion on Fusspot’s ears (they were like pale pink shells)
  • Straighten lino in kitchen (gah, I remember how it ballooned up where the heavy washing machine had trapped it)
  • Put a tag on the Bridal Wreath saying “please do not prune”
  • Return cat trophy to next show
  • Space loo

Space loo? What’s that?

My 2008 to-do list (written today) includes:

  • Finish Middlemarch (then get rid of it)
  • Read Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway (then get rid of it)
  • Get rest of the rubbish out of the garden… then check neighbours aren’t still dumping it
  • Reframe the cats’ certificates – rescue their medals
  • Write up dream blog posts (illustrate one about the monkey peanut spider)
  • Try out portable DVD player (it was left out in the rain)
  • Check Mum’s memory chip

Now… to start on this to-do list!!!

Actually, I can already score out the first entry, which was ‘write blog post about to-do lists’.

(Do you think this list is actually getting me anywhere…?)

Anxiety Blogs and Jolly the Trolley

During the Blog Monsoon (see last post but one) I found a nice collection of ‘anxiety blogs’ but they’ve actually been pretty quiet. I’m careful not to read them with too much absorption anyway, as I’m terrified they will set me off again! “Don’t think about the hippopotamus.” I’ve been so much better recently that the other day I was whizzing along the street in a total strop about something else. That’s good news.

Jolly the Trolley is still in tow. Mum tried to get me to leave him in the car, but I wouldn’t. I’ve picked him up and carried him, though, which means I’m not really leaning on him. I’ve got fond of him and have started saying encouragingly “come along now” (much to the bemusement of a nearby three-year-old). I also call him ‘him’ without thinking.

Yesterday I said to Mum, “the reason his long handle is rather stiff and I can’t collapse it back down is that he’s got a metal stud down here that’s gone rusty. I better treat it with WD-40.”

Mum, peering intently, said, “mm. I suppose you better.”

When we were in town, feeding cats and buying overpriced ink cartridges, we were crossing the road and Jolly the Trolley got so anxious about the waiting cars that he collided with Mum’s ankles. When we reached the safety of the pavement, Mum spun round and threatened to give him a good smack if he did it again. We both took a step backward.

It surely isn’t just us, though… have a look at this photo of Jolly the Trolley. Do you see a large toothy grin?

Jolly the Trolley

You sheltered me from harm
Kept me warm, kept me warm
You gave my life to me
Set me free, set me free
The finest years I ever knew
Was all the years I had with you

If there’s someone you know
That won’t let you go
And taking it all for granted
You may lose them one day
Someone takes them away
And you don’t hear a word they say

(from Everything I Own sung by Ken Boothe)

Edit Feb 2008: Comments for this entry when it was on Blogigo:

1. Pete wrote at Sep 22, 2006 at 21:18:
nice to put a face to the name 😉

2. bluestone wrote at Sep 22, 2006 at 23:12:
ha! I do see that smile!

3. kateblogs wrote at Sep 23, 2006 at 17:48:
Yip a definite smile 🙂

4. Pacian wrote at Sep 23, 2006 at 18:01:
I also see a nose and a pair of sunglasses…

5. Diddums wrote at Sep 23, 2006 at 18:30:
I guess he needs the sunglasses because he’s looking up into the sun so much of the time.

6. Sacha, from IrkedMagazine.com wrote at Sep 25, 2006 at 15:58:
AHA! So THAT’S what Jolley the Trolley (J.Tro?) looks like! Handsome bugger, he is…!

I dig the way you write, Diddums.

Get in touch; come write an article for IrkedMagazine.com…

Nastiest Phobia of All

Once I watched something flat and uninteresting on TV about a well-known personality. I didn’t know that she suffered from various anxieties and phobias. Having experienced similar things myself, I wanted to know more. For her, it’s flying, travelling, crowds. Surprisingly little was said about all that – more was said about her stalker! I don’t think he should have been given the coverage, and she said she didn’t want to talk about him. I didn’t want to talk about him either – or listen to him talking!

My dissatisfaction with the programme got me surfing the internet and I found this: “Agoraphobia is known as the ‘mother of all phobias’.”

I didn’t know it was referred to as that – I don’t hear it often. The article warns against agoraphobics throwing themselves into some program that claims to cure phobias in minutes. Well good grief, I’m a complex person; I can’t be mended with superglue. Meanwhile it’s reassuring to know that others know what I already know.