Gardening!

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I am not in the same league as some of the gardeners here on WordPress. Frankly, I am in awe of their horticultural prowess.

I do however have a few meagre RHS qualifications and occasionally some Latin names find their way from the dusty crevices of the grey matter. Alas, give me houseplants and I’ll kill them. I will kill them by either forgetting about them or overloving them.

I suspect historically that happened to a few relationships as well. (Obviously I didn’t actually kill the boyfriends, although I’d have liked to have thrown a few plates, vases and saucepans at some; but that might have made me seem a little unhinged, and I’m obviously not that.)

Yesterday however, and back to the gardening, I took the train from London and came (sans mon husband) to visit my parents-in-law. The reason: Obviously to enjoy some time with them, but also to help with their garden.

And garden I did!

Yes, it was chilly. Yes, my nose was a little sniffy and my ears turned attractively scarlet in the freezing cold, but it was glorious! And I thought I was a fair-weather gardener…

Fresh air and exercise has culminated in a tidy garden which has cleared out the cerebral cobwebs and frankly I crave for more. The sense of achievement has left me feeling unattractively smug and faintly pleased with myself. So if anyone wants to put me in my place or their garden needs sorting, you know where I am … well, sort of. Although, there’s limited internet here so if you’re horribly rude I won’t be able to retort quickly back or indeed give you my address. Bother! 😉

Katie x

Do you have green fingers?

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Anxiety, Excitement and Looking For My Knickers.

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Anxiety … It starts with butterflies, then the clammy hands, tingling feet, dizziness and nausea, until finally in order to prevent passing out I have to either lie down or somehow get my head lower than my heart. Usually this involves bending over so far that it looks as though I am interested in looking at my knickers.

These deeply unpleasant sensations also occur if I am too hot, dehydrated and/or haven’t eaten enough.

Embarrassingly this happened on my second date with The Colonel. I had been a teensy bit overexcited, had forgotten to eat all day and was wearing a rather natty little dress of the faintly Grecian variety with lots of lengths of fabric wrapped round me. Alas, I think I had bound myself up slightly too tightly, and promptly had a little fainting episode. Not awfully sexy having your not-quite-boyfriend shove your head between your thighs, but I suppose I should be grateful that he didn’t give me a fireman’s lift and douse me in cold water.

I digress … my point here is this. Apart from the dehydration and lack of food causes for these symptoms, I have found that more often than not, my brain is confusing anxiety, with excitement.

Now this anxiety is really just a way of my body and brain recognising that there is a potential danger. It is simply preparing for fight or flight. As we know, in times gone by, the Sabre-toothed tiger approaching the entrance to the cave required some serious action. A delicate fainting, reaching for the smelling salts or practicing my breathing techniques would probably have resulted in ‘Kitty’s lunchtime’.

However, it’s perhaps a little unnecessary to have these rather extreme reactions when I am standing on a chair to change a lightbulb, or kneeling on the kitchen unit trying to reach the top cupboard. It can be a fairly long winded task to change a lightbulb if every few minutes as the adrenaline starts racing through my body, I have to be upended and forced to look at my knickers again.

So I have taken to changing my thought process.

Each time I feel those dizzying, clammy, nauseous feelings of anxiety I say (out loud) …

“Oooh! I am so excited! What fun I am having!” several times and then repeat, and again …

Now slightly simple, unhinged and odd I may well be, but slap me down with a feather, it jolly well does the trick. And dare I say it, on a par with, if not better than, my previous deep breathing exercises.

It appears that by forcibly telling myself that I am excited rather than fearful repeatedly whilst doing the stressful and loathsome task, I can overcome the need for a little lie down or reach for the sick bucket.

So I shall persevere with this and fingers crossed it could be the way forward … I suppose the only worry is if I try to incorporate both past and previous remedies. I suspect that by saying, “Oooh! I am so excited! What fun I am having!” whilst my head is up my skirt and I am heavy breathing, I may well be sectioned or frankly, arrested.

Katie x

How does your anxiety manifest itself? And what do you do?

 

Do You Feel Sorry For Yourself?

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Well I do.

I’ve got a stinking, sneezing, coughing cold and my husband has sent me to bed whilst muttering about ‘pestilence in the house’.

The room he complains is smelling of Olbas Oil, to which I respond, “It’s either that or I’ll not be able to breathe.” He appears to be contemplating the two options. He also keeps picking up tissues with thumb and forefinger and carrying them with an extended arm and a grimace to the bin whilst holding his breath. And when I sneeze, he asks if it’s strictly necessary.

Sympathy is not his forte. If I had the energy, I’d hit him with a shovel.

Of course the benefit to being in bed is that I can tap, tappety, tap away to you without any guilt for once, and dare I say it, I’m already feeling remarkably better. It’s either that or the fact that I’ve poured half the bottle of Olbas oil onto the bed so I can breathe and perhaps the paracetamol might be kicking in.

So I pathetically mop my fevered brow and wish that I looked like Meg Ryan with a cold in ‘You’ve Got Mail’ (a chick-flick gentlemen, so you’re forgiven if you haven’t seen it) instead of a pink-nosed snuffling, truffling little piglet. And downstairs the Colonel has the hoover going and I’m sure I can smell disinfectant, but it’s gone awfully cold. Dear God he’s opened all the windows. Oh well, the house will be clean, but let’s face it, Mother Teresa he is not … bless him!

I wonder if he’ll come to bed in a face mask … or perhaps the smell of the Olbas oil that I accidentally spilt on his side of the bed will send him shuffling off to the spare room … hmmm …

Katie x

Any cold remedies you’d like to share?

Is It All In The Mind? …

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Let’s not beat around the bush here, my brain is a simple thing.

It is not made up of intense masses of grey matter jostling to be the first to find the answer to a question, to read and understand the contents of a (proper, grownup) newspaper, to remember anything politically intelligent, to finish (or even start) a cryptic crossword puzzle … No. It is not.

My brain is more about fluffy clouds of marshmallow trying to remember my children’s names and their dates of birth which is considerably tricky when under pressure (ie when someone asks me), where exactly I parked the car and even more worryingly why I have just walked upstairs for the second time – (what precisely was I planning on doing up there?)

No, I am not the brightest spark in the box and yet I have discovered this sad fact appears to have the most marvellous consequences, side effects if you like. I shall expand.

I have found that if I am having to do something that I don’t like (ie most things that don’t involve cups of tea, ginger nut biscuits, reading, writing and games of tennis) and therefore don’t want to do, I can trick my simple little brain into making the required task completely bearable.

So, to use an example here on holiday in France … Each and every day, in order to reach the empty part of the beach that the family like the most, we need to cross a river called the Huchet. This for me is on a par with putting pins in my eyes, eating my toenails and sucking on a random stranger’s too. It is not only freezing cold, but it is a murky shade of greeny brown where there is no likelihood of seeing ones toes and in terms of how deep it is, well apparently that has something to do with the moon, suffice to say, it varies from above knee level to (I’m about to cut my) throat deep. Unpleasant? Very, very deeply and with no pun intended.

However … If I distract myself sufficiently, it is bearable and I can wade across without too much of the drama queen in me squealing, complaining and writhing my body in the agony of it all. And how do I distract myself? I sing. I sing, just as I sang when cycling up those wretched mountains that the French call hills, not so long ago. I sing anything that I can remember the words to and anything that I cannot. Nursery rhymes work well, hymns and yes, happy birthday to me have all been uttered from my pursed lips as I step on tiptoe through the grisly, cold dark water.

If it’s truly bad, then I use another of my senses … touch. I flick my thumb nails onto my index fingers and dig in, hard.

If it’s worse than truly bad, ie up to the neckline, then I also start to use deep breathing.

So I’m puffing, singing and finger flicking and well knock me down with a dead fish floating past, we’ve reached the other side!

Now forgive me for being just a tad simple, but aren’t these tactics exactly what we use when we’re having a moment of anxiety or a panic attack? Are we not told to breathe in slowly and deeply? When we’re angry and seeing red and about to explode, did our parents and teachers not tell us to count slowly to ten until it passes? When we’re in labour (sorry gentlemen) are we not required to huff and puff our way through it? What I’m trying to say is, are these not all simply distraction techniques until the moment of unrest or pain has disappeared? Is our mind truly stronger than our body?

“It’s all in the mind,” my father used to say about seasickness. And yes, strangely, if I was kept busy out on deck, I never had any moments of queeziness, but perhaps hardly surprising when you’re clinging for dear life onto a mast whilst at a 45 degree angle to the angry sea and death is looking you in the eye.

Is it truly all in the mind and we can use distraction to obliterate any unpleasantness? Is this how mad people can walk across hot coals?

Clearly, with my simple little brain it works. If for you it does not, then you can pride yourself in the knowledge that you are a clever sausage. I’m rather jealous, but then again, perhaps you just need more intellectually stimulating distractions. Perhaps you could do the cryptic crosswords instead? Just a thought … Oh, and could you explain to me how to do them?

Katie xx

How clever are you?! Can you use breathing or singing to fob off anxiety, stress and pain? Or do you have another trick?

Getting The Anxiety Under Control

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Odd, but true …. Since the scuba diving experience (Scuba Diving With Anxiety) I appear to have control over my anxiety. (My left ear is deaf as a post, but this I can live with.)

Just because scuba diving was quite frankly an opportunity for me to impersonate a mermaid whilst jumping into the Finding Nemo film doesn’t make it any less of a moderately extreme activity. One teensy mistake, and oops, out of oxygen and poof! You’re dead. Yes, I know what you’re thinking and I agree, I’m sure there are safety procedures galore, but the fact of the matter is, we need oxygen to survive. Personally I’d put it up there in the dangerous category alongside jumping out of an aeroplane with a parachute that one of my children has sewn together.

Now, this having been my first dipping of the toe into the scuba diving world, I was unsure as to whether at 12 metres down, if trouble arises, one can just bob back up to the top or whether eardrums burst and a case of the bends follows … no clue, but in fact, my ignorance probably worked in my favour. Because, it meant that there was no option but to use breathing techniques to get my panic attack under control, and under the expert tutelage of the rather delightful ‘French Kevin’, I did.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve practised my breathing during yoga whilst down-dogging with the best of them; bottoms in the air, the huffing and puffing from neighbouring mats sounding rather like a maternity ward; but in truth I’ve only breathed on a rather superficial, shallow level.

Realising the gravity of the situation and understanding fairly smartish that I HAD to deal with something deeply uncomfortable, and potentially life threatening, I didn’t faff around with pretending to blow on a little piccolo, oh no, I took on the entire brass section of the orchestra. I was no longer Katie, wife of the Colonel, cake maker, gardener and peacekeeper, I WAS KING OF A SODDING GREAT TUBA. I huffed, I puffed, deeply, slowly, deeper, slower … all I could hear was air moving in and out. I focused, I concentrated, I breathed.

And erm … I hate to say this … but it worked.

We’re talking less than ten minutes.

A bit like going out for a walk in the fresh air when you’re feeling a bit blue does make you feel better (even if you want to hit the person who suggested it with a shovel). Annoyingly, it does work.

Why is it annoying? Because it implies that my depression and anxiety have been ‘in my head’ if you’ll excuse the pun. And they haven’t … It’s a disease, a proper disease in which medications, therapy and doctors have had to intervene. So how does something so basic as breathing beat every pill hands down?

You see, the breathing and focus took over the fear. The breathing and focus were stronger than the panic. The breathing and focus won.

So when being in a tiny cramped minibus with a low ceiling and a claustrophobic panic attack found its way crawling up again, I started blowing on my tuba again. (The Colonel did look a little quizzically at me, I can live with that and the deaf ear). Minutes later, all was fine. The moment had passed. The rest of the journey was unremarkable, not particularly comfortable but frankly no more so than for anybody else. I suspect that it’s also slightly a case of having done scuba diving, taking a bath with a mask and snorkel on is simply child’s play.

There have been a couple of other moments since, and again blowing on my tuba has each time, more and more quickly reduced the anxiety to nothing, no more than anyone else has on a day to day life.

It works.

It’s hard work fighting a war with yourself, your mind, but we’re so much stronger than we actually give ourselves credit for.

Remember, it has to be done with gusto … passion … intensity. Put down your piccolos, pick up your tubas and remember, the purpose is to make the breathingand focus win the battle against the panic and anxiety. Give it a go … a really loud, pushing out a baby, blowing on a tuba go. Happy days!

Katie xx

Scuba Diving … With Anxiety … Really?

 

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I’m sitting here with a large fresh juice, on a ridiculously comfortable sun bed on a ridiculously beautiful beach feeling as though I’ve simultaneously conquered Everest, become the next JK Rowling and saved the human race from drowning in a sea of plastic. In a nutshell, I’m feeling a teensy bit pleased with myself.

I have scuba dived, or is it dove … frankly I don’t give a hoot.

I was a mermaid. I was a mermaid for forty minutes on a coral covered reef surrounded by every imaginable and remarkably-coloured, shaped and sized species of fish, darting here and there, feeding, playing, whatever it is that fish do, whilst they were apparently oblivious to the presence of a couple of visitors in their habitat.

I knew it would test me. Suffering from anxiety, I knew there was a strong possibility of a panic attack or six. I knew that a panic attack under water would most probably be the end of my career as a mermaid. However, on a more positive note, if I was able to control this, I would indeed have conquered my very own Everest, to say nothing of being a superhero.

A video, a lengthy instruction in the pool, lots of information later and before I know it, I am perched on the side of the pitching boat, and being expected to just drop backwards into the sea. I understand that I am safe. I know the logic, I know the drill. But dear God!

It’s like that horrendous game where someone stands behind you and you have to fall backwards into their arms with the belief and trust that they will catch you. I’ve never done it and never will do it, trust not really being my forte. However, I am now having to believe in the knowledge I have been given, the experience of having done it in the swimming pool and I simply have to have faith in myself. Flippin’ marvellous.

Ordinarily, this would have been the perfect situation for a minor meltdown. However my instructor ‘buddy’ was waiting in the sea, my husband (aka the Colonel) was watching with a look of delighted anticipation and the other group of divers were waiting for me before they could go. No pressure then. I took one final look of unadulterated terror at the man helping me, and closing my eyes, holding my breath, (both completely unnecessarily of course) and dropped backwards into the heaving dark water.

Its quite a surprise really when you think you should be dead and in fact you’re most definitely alive. Kevin, my French (and alarmingly good looking) instructor was there, as promised, and I was apparently unharmed, also as promised. Quite extraordinary.

Together French Kevin and I made our way slowly down the line into the depths, with much stopping, starting, squeezing noses (well, really just mine) and sorting out of ears refusing to equalise, alongside trying to keep the emotion under wraps. Despite the multitude of shells with goodness knows what creepy crawlies living inside them and some rather slimy seaweed all attached to the line, I was not letting go. I was beyond getting squeamish over a few beasties … I was so out of my comfort zone I’d need a train, a plane and a bicycle to get me back, for I had bigger fish to fry … I had Betty the Demon to contend with.

Finally we reached the bottom where Kevin had previously explained that we would just sit for ten minutes to adjust. Without the task of equalising to focus on, the panic started almost immediately, roaring around in my brain wanting to take over. Betty the demon is screaming with laughter, heart racing, fear taking over, fear winning. I need to escape. I need to get up, get out. I am afraid. I am desperate. Panic has successfully gripped me by the throat and my shallow, fast breathing is making me nauseous, faint, hot …

Kevin’s hand touches my arm. I hold onto it tightly. He understands. He holds me and with his free arm indicates for me to look into his eyes and mimic his breathing. It is slow, it is controlled. In slowly, out slowly. Repeat. In slowly, out slowly, repeat.

His unwavering stare is reassuring, but odd because it’s not the Colonel’s and he’s awfully close, but hell, right now he’s lucky I’m not sitting on his lap and clinging to his neck like a limpet (thank God for small mercies). My breathing is copying his rhythm, the panic is subsiding, Betty is stomping off, muttering obscenities at a lost opportunity to come back into my world and my head is starting to nod that all is getting better and I finally manage the O.K. signal.

I start to look around, I start to see the wonderful underwater world around me. And the more I look, the more I relax, and the more the breathing becomes normal. We head off, everything is slow and peaceful. Together, we point out the weird, the wonderful, the unutterably beautiful. We share the experience and though this is a normal event in his day to day life, he clearly expresses delight in showing me the glory of this unexplored world.

The corals, the constant movement, the peeping of eyes from deep within a crevice, the darting movements of the fish alongside an overall slow waving motion of the current moving everything in its path and of which one has no control, during which all you can hear is your breathing.

In slowly, out slowly. Repeat. In slowly, out slowly.

This is mindfulness, this is real breathing, this is living in the moment.

The grinning Colonel was waiting for me. In truth, I don’t know which of us was the more exhilarated, the proudest.

And now the sun is dipping down over the horizon, the light is changing and the fishermen are moving slowly across the water in their narrow boats. What a day. Yes, what a day.

Katie xx

Have you scuba dived?

How did you cope? Did you find it easy or not? Any tips?