Not Avoidance Again…

ImageSince writing the last posts on Avoidance, it is pretty much all that is going through my head right now.  I’m not so much looking for closure, but a clearer focus on where I am at right now.

Does Avoidance work or does it feed the monster?  Sometimes it does help.  Cancelling a night out, or declining an invitation to visit a particular friend, can bring instant – even beneficial – relief.

However, at other times, the fear for whatever we avoid can multiply beyond all reasonability.  I have had experience of both confronting and then latterly avoiding the same situation, with entirely different outcomes.

Twenty-two years ago, I was a victim of a particularly gruesome and terrifying attempted murder.  Back then, the anger – and a core survival instinct – fuelled determination to recover, both physically and mentally.

At first, going out amongst strangers was a horrendous experience.  The usual confident and friendly nature was lost.  Any trust in fellow-humans, annihilated.  I was only 28yrs old and had just separated from a 10-year relationship.  There was a determination – a desirenot to allow this tragic incident to quash any chance of leading a normal life again.

Daytime anxieties were a challenge but achievable.  Going out after dark, particularly to pubs, clubs or restaurants were an entirely different story. 

In the beginning, nights out would only last 5-10-15 minutes, barely enough time to finish one drink.  A close friend was a brilliant support, but watched helplessly as I melted in utter terror of our fellow revellers.  With sweat trickling down my back, we would scuttle back to the safety of home.Image

I didn’t give up, but tried repeatedly until eventually we had a full night out doing pub-crawls and then one or two nightclubs.  It is certainly proof that the textbook advice really does work.  If I could recover from that, surely I could get through anything… right?  No, WRONG!

It was the millennium – a time when many of us had big ideas for fresh starts and new adventures.  January 2000, I am 37 years old.  Life is good, work fantastic.  Something dreadful happens, involving my assailant and there is an explosion of interest by newspaper and television programmes.  It hits me like a ton of bricks.Image

It might all have been a delayed reaction.  Not only did I avoid becoming reclusive all those years ago, but I had also been avoiding the grief and coming to terms with what had actually happened to me.  Predictably, it culminated in my very first mental breakdown.  All the seeds of multiple phobias return with a vengeance.  This time, I couldn’t or wouldn’t fight.

A year ago, a Psychiatrist told me I am suffering from Agoraphobia.  Agoraphobic?… Me?…this same courageous person who previously put up such a determined fight to survive and recover?  How ridiculous!

From roughly the same situation came two entirely different approaches and outcomes.Image

Reading other people’s blogs and reflecting on my own situation, avoidance appears to play a major role in the life of everyone experiencing mental health problems.  I believe we all possess the Knowledge of exactly what needs done in our lives to conquer the root of our avoidance. We have the insight to decipher what will work for us, and when the best time is to apply those changes.

However, the important fact that I am just coming to realise and accept, is that we cannot change overnight.  If we have awareness of our avoidance, then we are on our way to conquering our fears and should feel proud.  If I were to throw myself into battling ALL my fears, it will probably lead into another mental breakdown. 

Therefore, while avoidance can be our foe, it is also our friend and protector.  In my own case, firstly, I need to want to get better before I can challenge avoidance.  Somehow, somewhere, I need to find a desire to change.Image

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14 thoughts on “Not Avoidance Again…

  1. dharmagoddess

    Wow. What you’ve been through! there’s a big part of me that believes so much of the after effects of trauma truly do protect us when we need it. I agree with your assessment of avoidance and timing, though in my case I often wonder if I do more harm by pushing myself due to both internal and external perceptions. Further, I wonder how accurate those perceptions are due to the convoluted nature of the “leftovers”. Ergo, if my judgment is impaired how can I trust myself? There are no answers, of course.

    BTW, I really appreciated your point that we cannot change overnight. Even if we could, it wouldn’t likely be positive or sustainable.

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  2. Lauren

    I appreciated your reminder about things not changing overnight as well. I saw my psychiatrist today, and that is one of the things she tried to hammer home to me; that this is a long road, not a short walk. She also pointed out that if I keep doing what I’m doing now, the outcome won’t be a good one. My long, drawn-out point is that your posts about avoidance have been very thought-provoking. I appreciate the fact that you put yourself out there, and at the same time invite us to look at ourselves. I think you’re dead on about the first step being to recognize it, accept we’re feeling it, *then* try to find a way to change it — at whatever pace works for us. Sorry to ramble so much, lol.

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    1. Cat Post author

      Thanks for your comment, Lauren…. You can’t write as much as you like!

      When we become aware of something that we should be applying to our life, it is so easy to beat ourselves if we’re dragging our heals. Your Psychiatrist is so right – recovery from depression and trying to change, takes time

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  3. Red

    ” I need to want to get better before I can challenge avoidance.” That line speaks volumes. I know I have a fear of stepping out of what I know. No matter how destructive it may be I know the rules of the game and it is easier to continue in the madness than face something unfamiliar.

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    1. Cat Post author

      Hi Red
      Almost 2 yrs ago, I went to see my Psychiatrist, feeling distraught because I had come to the realisation that I didn’t want to get any better. Somehow, re-joining life feels so unappealing for so many different reasons. Initially I thought perhaps I needed a change of antidepressant, but 18 months down the line, that has not materialised. Where we are supposed to find enthusiasm for life, I do not know!

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      1. Red

        My 2 cents, for what it’s worth…I believe that with all the advances in science and medicine we still know so little about the workings of the brain. I also believe that when people experience severe trauma the brain rewires it’s self in an attempt to process the even(s) and survive. It changing how life is viewed. I believe that as we age the need to “belong, fix in” is not as strong as it once was, I see the world so much differently than I did when I was young. I don’t really want to be apart of the angry masses. I don’t want to keep up with the Jones or Smiths. So I think I may understand a little of how you are feeling. Do I have the answer to your question, no, but maybe it is move about getting comfortable in our own skin that about finding enthusiasm for life, maybe when the skin fits the enthusiasm will find us.

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      2. Cat Post author

        Hi Red
        Maybe part of my problem is that I have never been materialistic or hold any big ambitions. The additional depression, PTSD and BPD completely smothered any enthusiasm for life.

        Thanks for your feedback, it is appreciated

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  4. Frank Charlton

    Think of it like weight loss, or building a house, even. If you do it suddenly, it won’t be reliable and won’t last. The fact that you’re thinking and writing so much on the topic is a positive sign in itself, my friend. Small steps.

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  5. stacey1979

    I was given a diagnosis of Avoidant PD at the same time as Borderline, which I suspect came about purely because of the BPD. My emotions would get the better of me in certain situations so I would avoid those situations – simple! I still do it, even though I know it doesn’t help long-term. Some of my fears I’m facing up to; I’ve managed to drive myself into Dundee once, and I drive Lovely Boyfriend to Aberdeen airport for his trips offshore. But every time I do it, it’s a sweaty, horrible nightmare and I’m not keen to repeat the experience more than absolutely necessary. I’m sure there’s more I “could” do if I really put my mind to it, but sometimes I think I’m having to put my mind to so many other things day-to-day, why would I put myself through even more guaranteed stress? Life with BPD is finding that happy medium; the life that keeps you relatively stable. Yes, a lot of that means avoiding stressors, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. So long as you learn to face up to the problems in day-to-day living, we shouldn’t be forced to deal with more. This is especially pertinent because I’ve just received a “Limited Capability for Work” questionnaire through the door…I avoid unsuitable work because I know what it does to my mental state. I’ve got a lifetime’s experience of depression and stress to show for it. Trying to explain that to the DWP, however…sigh…digressing.

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    1. Cat Post author

      Many thanks for sharing, Stacey.

      You know, sometimes certain things can be staring me in the face and it can take some time for the penny to drop. I am newly diagnosed BPD. I don’t know enough about it because I tend to shy away from reading too much into things. Of course, I have heard of Avoidant PD but, until now, have not really considered it could also apply to me…. Something I need to speak to the Psychiatrist about next week.

      What you say about dealing with things bit by bit is spot on. We need to find our own way of dealing with MH.

      OMG… a Capability for Work Q…. The Bams!! Whenever I write mine, it is like writing a book. I put absolutely everything down and then some more. Thankfully, I have been lucky with medical points but there are so many people pushed back to work when they are clearly not ready.

      Dundee? Yuck! I moved to there back in 1980 for work – I lasted about 18 (long) mths. I’ve stayed in many places throughout the UK. Dundee was one of the worst. At the time, it was recovering from a huge depression. There was a lot of poverty and a few housing slums – Whitfield being one. It holds vivid memories of a time when I “came out”. The only gay venue was a once per month disco in the grounds of Camperdown park (I’m sure that was the name). Anyway, they arranged these monthly nights much like illegal raves. Publicising the date and time only ran the risk of a number of “gay-bashings”. Mmmm… Dundee wasn’t the best place to come-out!

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      1. stacey1979

        Hey Cat – Sorry, PMSL at Camperdown being used as a gay venue (yes, you got the name right!).
        Yeah – I had to go through this whole palaver with the DWP last year. At the ATOS medical, they gave me 0 points and the nurse recommended I was fit for work…a nurse who confused bipolar and BPD and had zero background information on me…otherwise she’d never have needed to ask the question “Have you ever tried to kill yourself”. I’m hoping they’ll leave it at the questionnaire and not put me through the whole trauma again.
        I’d definitely discuss AvPD with your psych. Like I said, I think it’s a symptom of the BPD more than anything else, but it might open up new ways of moving forward?
        All the best,
        Stacey

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        1. Cat Post author

          Yes, Stacey, the BPD diagnosis did open up new ways of looking at many things. I’ll make a point of reading more about the AvPD before the appointment on the 10th

          Lol…was laughing at the Camperdown bit…. Dumb old me didn’t even give it a thought! By the time we got to this venue (which I think was a golf club), we were usually up to our knees in muck!

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