Sunday, 27 January 2013

Mission Impossible 4: Ghost Protocol

To start... I would never call myself a fan of Tom Cruise, though I have seen the vast majority of the films he's been in, anyway.... that's beside the point.  The Mission Impossible films, for me, have been very variable in quality, so I can't call myself a fan of these either.  So you may wonder why I watch them.  My primary interest, well for the first, was because it was Mission Impossible, based upon a tv show I loved and one which has an awesome hummable theme tune, and because of who was directing them.  The first one was OK as film, but not really like the tv show at all, the second one I really disliked, even though it was directed by John Woo (Hard Boiled, The Killer), and the third I quite enjoyed and being a fan of JJ Abrams I didn't expect it to be shit, I wasn't disappointed.

With this one, my expectations were quite high, Abrams producing and Brad Bird (The Incredibles, Iron Giant) directing his first live action feature.  I was not let down.  For me, this is the one that is actually most like the show it's based on.  The story is... The IMF team are implicated in a terror attack on the Kremlin and now on the run, they must stop the Swedish scientist/terrorist hell bent on surreptitiously starting a nuclear war to create a better world from the ashes.

The action set pieces are really good and in particular the Burj Khalifa scene, which is incredible, though a difficult scene for me to watch as I have a huge fear of heights and I was only watching on a wide screen telly.  Whatever your opinions maybe about Mr Cruise's acting ability, he really puts his all into the action scenes and has big cajones for hanging and running on the outside, 120 odd stories up, of the tallest building in the world.  Kudos to him.  The rest of the cast are very good.  With Jeremy Renner now a member of the team, it wouldn't surprise me if if took over the leading role, if they continue and if Mr Cruise decides to step aside.  There is some nice humour throughout, mostly supplied through Simon Pegg's character.  The direction is great from Brad Bird, but seeing what he did with The Incredibles, it's not really a surprise.  Oh yeah, the female member of the team played by Paula Patton, I think should be considered for the female Expendables movie, she can really kick arse.

A top Saturday night film.  8.5/10

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Step 3 - Techniques for controlling your panic

I will state now that I am still trying these out myself and finding the ones which work for me, also there is the practise of them and maybe finding a combination of techniques that will work.  So a work in progress..... Anyhoo there are a few things the book highlights and perhaps there's something for you if you suffer panic attacks or even to help you if you are having an anxious moment for whatever reason.

Hyperventilating (over breathing) is something you'll want to get under control and 2 methods are given...

One being the paper bag technique. This is so you can reduce the amount of oxygen you are breathing and increase CO2 which will help calm you down.  I think you are probably well aware of this, though getting paper bags these days isn't easy, so cupping your hands over you nose and mouth is an ooookkk substitute.  Just remember to take normal breathes and keep doing it until you start to relax, oh and if you begin to feel light headed, then stop.

The other is slowing your breathing.  This technique is all about stopping you from taking short breaths which make you hyperventilate and have a panic attack.

The way to begin and practise is to focus on your breathing.  What you do is place your hand over your stomach and breathe by expanding your stomach when you breathe in and reduce any movement from your upper body (the shoulders and chest).

So you breathe in , though not too deeply, hold for ten seconds, but if you find this too difficult for as long as you can, then slowly breathe out.  Then the next breathe in to the count of 3 and let it out to the count of 3.  Continue to do this for a minute, if you still feel panicky, try it again.  Best to practise this until you get it right and find it easy to do.... something I haven't quite mastered yet.

The other technique is Distraction... and there are a few things you can try.  These are the ones on the book, but you may have some of your own.  Essentially these are to take your focus away from thoughts of panic, so you can gather yourself/thoughts.

The elastic band - Have an elastic band loose around your wrist, if you feel yourself getting panicky, pull it and let it smack your wrist.  This is like a mild version of that beloved movie technique of getting a character to stop freaking out.  You know the slap to the face.  Now please don't do this, for one that wouldn't be nice for the slapee and also for you, the slapper, who'll get clocked in the face or bollocks if you have them.

Counting - Try finding things/objects to count that are in your vicinity.  Not one for me really.

Visualisation - Essentially seeing in your mind somewhere pleasant and relaxing you like or would wish to be.  Like, for example, sitting by a flowing stream on a lovely warm sunny day or sitting on the beach hearing the lap of the sea/ocean.  Another slightly different way to visualise is to see yourself putting your anxieties into a balloon  and watching them float away.

Intellectualising - Is the final one.  Just kinda of trying to think rationally about it.  Acknowledging the feelings/symptoms in a logical way.  Self examine the experience, rate it.

One I have used in the past was talking with someone, whether a person near me or over the phone and actually speaking of phones, I fond playing with my mobile can be a good distraction.

The book recommends writing down on a piece of paper, that you keep with you,  the ones that work for you and using them in combination.

Next chapter/step is about changing your unhelpful thinking.

Friday, 25 January 2013

Ups and Downs

Yesterday my befriender came to the house for the weekly helping me to get out.  I was feeling a little nervous/anxious, though not in the same manner that I have done over the past... I can't remember how many years.  It didn't prevent me from leaving the house and I managed to get further than last week.  However, I couldn't shake the anxiety, well I did... sort of around lunch time, then in the late afternoon early evening it came back again and then I just felt like shit and mentally I was totally exhausted.  I woke up this morning still feeling slighty anxious and still having the feeling of fight or flight adrenaline.  I really needed to do some relaxation today, so I prescribed myself a day of listening to music.  An album which I have found very useful, over the past 12 years, when I need to release such tensions and also when I am angry/fucked off is Slayer's God Hates Us All.  Most of the lyrical content is pretty violent, so I thought I would give you an example, a tamer one, well lyrically at any rate.  Warzone

I realise for most people, listening to something like this would probably make them feel more stressed, but when you just go with it and feel the intensity of it, scream/shout/sing along with it, the feelings of stress or anger are pretty exhausted away.

Now I am feeling more chilled this evening I have been listening to the absolutely lovely Natasha Khan aka Bat For Lashes

and this one from her latest album and one of my favourite songs of last year

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Remember don't speak too soon!

Well I had to go and say I had had a few nights good sleep, where I actually felt quite rested.  Idiot!  Last night was a shit sleep.  Had my usual themed nightmare... being chased, but always high up trying to keep myself from the ground.  Though this time I was using stilts as well.  Fuck knows why. Stupid Brain! I woke up thirsty, like I hadn't drunk fluids for a month.  After that I was either feeling too cold or too hot.  Now feeling tired and mildly anxious.

Oh joy!

Moan over.  Normal service will resume shortly.

Friday, 18 January 2013

2 More Assessments! (and not exam like ones, they are looking to assess my needs :) )

Yesterday I had 2 assessments, one in the morning and then another in the afternoon.  It probably sounds like I am complaining about them.  Far from it, though going over the same questions and having to keep explaining the same things over and over occasionally gets frustrating, but that's only a tiny irritation.

The first assessment was from the Access team nurse.  I was asked what I would like help with.  Most of all I'm hoping that the nurse will be able to help and support me in managing my IBS better, it contributes greatly to how I feel and to my panic and anxieties.  As the nurse has IBS too, I am fairly hopeful.  The other thing the nurse wants to arrange is a psychiatrist appointment.  I'm not too keen, because I am not interested in taking pills to manage the anxiety. Also about 6 or so years ago I had a psychiatrist assessment and I was told I was suffering from Social anxiety, which couldn't be further from the truth.  Anyway, not keen at all, I think it's a waste of time.

The afternoon one was from the support workers who'll give me extra help in getting out.  Initially it'll be twice a week, but maybe more.  Though they only give 6 weeks worth of help.  If I require help for longer... then I would have to contribute financially.  I have no idea how much, they couldn't tell me, only that a finance officer would come to the house and go through all my bank, credit card statements and look at all my expenditure and work out how much spare cash I have.  Frankly I don't want someone doing that.  Luckily I still have the MIND befriender who can help for up to ten months.

The annoying thing is that I would have had this kind of help a year ago, however, because I was accepted onto the waiting list for CBT, I could no longer have any other mental health service.  It's because the Access Team is secondary care and CBT from the IAPT team is primary  careand you can't have both at the same time.  Which I think is ridiculous, it would have been more beneficial to have had that support while having the CBT.  So I ended up waiting for almost 8 months with no support at all.  Anyhoo there's no point being annoyed about it, what's done is done.  Onwards and upwards.

On a brighter note I have actually had a few good nights sleep this past week and I am feeling less lethargic during the day.  I am hoping this continues....

Sunday, 13 January 2013

The Hunger Games and Goon

The Hunger Games - Set in an dystopian nation called Paneem. A nation divided into 12 segregated districts and ruled over by an ironfisted government from the nations capital, a wealthy metropolis. The reason for the segregation... to quell any further uprisings, which arose after a terrible event. An annual televised games, which the districts are forced to watch, acts as a reminder and an offering from each of the districts, whereby each district offers 2 youngsters from a lottery.. they'll have to try to survive from being killed by their opponents and win prestige for their district.
Around the time this was released in the cinema I had read and heard many people comparing it to Battle Royale, a future world where one class of school kids are annually chosen from a lottery and are dumped on an island, forced to kill each other, only one can get home.  Initially I was quite dismissive of this film because of the comparision and because I saw and loved Battle Royale when it came out, some 13 years ago.  So, while yes, there are similarities, it's not a proper reason to not watch, otherwise no one would watch anything again.
Anyhoo I digress... I was presently surprised by how much I liked this. The acting was mostly very good, notably from Jennifer Lawrence, as Katniss Everdeen the heroine of the story, who offers to take the place of her younger sister, and Stanley Tucci, as Caeser Flickman, the chatshow style master of ceremonies.  A new acting talent was discovered by the casting director, that being the amazingly styled facial hair of Wes Bentley's character, Seneca Crane who is the director of the  televised extravaganza.  Whenever Mr Bentley was screen all I noticed was the beard. Thankfully Mr Tucci was brilliant enough to not be upstaged by his comedy nashers and beautifully coiffed hair.  The only other minor quibbles for me were the comedy future styled clothes of those who live in the capital city, they look like the outrageous clothes you'll see from the catwalks at fashion shows and that the distinctions between each of the districts reminded me of worlds from Star Trek where everyone wears the same clothes and have the same attitudes, but as I say only minor things.  The direction was deftly handled by Gary Ross, not known for this type of action, given that the only other films he directed were Pleasantville, one I highly recommend by the way and Seabiscuit, which is a bit Meh.  Some could complain that the level of violence has been sanitized, but honestly it wouldn't have added anything if it had been as bloody and graphic as Battle Royale.  What mattered more was whether I cared enough if characters died or not and I did. 
Having not read the book, I can't tell you how faithful this adaptation is.  I like it and  I will be certainly watching the second part Catching Fire.
Goon - A bouncer, kinda outcast by his intelligent Doctor family and  not happy with his life and dreaming of being an ice hockey player like his hero Ross 'the Boss' Rhea, even though he can't skate or play hockey, gets a surprise life direction change.  At a local ice hockey game with his best friend, who's there filming it for his online hockey review show, he punches out a player who went into the crowd after being taunted by said friend.  The manager of the hockey team hires him to be the team's go to defender, essentially there to take out opposing team players.  From there he goes to the big leagues...
Sean William Scott, Stifler from American pie, as Doug 'the thug' Glatt, is pretty good in a film that while not the funniest comedy ever made, is very likeable.  It isn't the most original of sports film either, the same ups and downs and the eventual showdown in the final game, between Doug and his hero Rhea, this isn't really a spoiler.  However, it's a sort of sweet film, in a bone crunching, bloody kinda way.  It's likeable, with a few a chuckles.  Nothing more, nothing less.


Saturday, 12 January 2013

Panic and lifestyle

Step 2 -

This is about ensuring the lifestyle you live is the best it can be, as I have found out over the years that what I eat, not getting proper amounts of sleep, over long periods of time and not exercising all have contributed to my anxieties, stress and therefore panic attacks and agorphobia.

So take it from me, if you are suffering from stress, anxieties and or panic attacks, it's crucial to get these things sorted out, well as much as possible.  Just to add, frankly it's probably best that you do these things regardless.   It's not the cure, but they're contributing factors which can't be ignored.

So the first thing looked at is Exercise -

Yes  that often dredded word.  However, as said in the book and what I am finding out is that it helps with releasing tension, when done on a regular basis it may increase our ability to cope with situations we find stressful.  There are possible benefits to sleeping better, if you go out, chances of meeting new people, that's if you join a gym or club.  A benefit I am beginning to find is it's helping me with controlling my breathing.  Part of having a panic attack is feeling out of breath or hyperventilating, so slowly building exercise to where you are used to getting out of breath and learning how to breathe normally is very good for these situations.  The book doesn't say which type of exercises to do, just find something you'll enjoy doing and preferrably with someone else, and for those of you with a smutty mind, yes that could be a good exercise too :D

It's best to start with gentle exercises and slowly build it up so you don't do your body damage.  Try to exercise everyday or at least every other day and maybe have little rewards for doing well and continuing on.  Due to my circumstances I do a couple of miles on my exercise bike and I also lift weights.  Not terribly exciting, but I am beginning to get some fitness back.

Next is diet, with basic things to do and not do...

It's best to eat meals at regular times of the day, so your blood sugar levels are not erratic, as this can effect mood and anxiety levels.  Eat enough fruit and vegetables and make sure you drink plenty of water during the day, something which I actually do.  Anxiety can be increased through over consumption of caffinated foods and drinks.  So have restraint with things like coffee, chocolate, tea, fizzy drinks, etc... Yes I know, but if you want to help reduce anxiety, then it has to be done.

The book also mentions other stimulants like alcohol and cigarettes, which should also be reduced.  Luckily for me, I never liked alcohol and couldn't stand smoking.

Sleep is something I haven't managed to get right.  Either through my own fault, because of staying up too late or I wake up through the night, because of thirst, feeling cold/hot and sometimes nightmares which have me waking with my heart pounding.  I just don't feel refreshed, even when I have slept fairly well.  Frankly, I wander around the house quite lethargically much of the time, though some or much of this could be from my general situation.  I'm hoping I'll be able to get stability with my sleep, because when I go through periods of getting little sleep, my panic feelings increase and how I cope or lack of increases greatly.

The recommendations are all about unwinding before bed.  So things like trying to slow your thinking down about or hour or so before bed, you know know strenuous concentration, a warm bath/shower, trying to leave worries for the next day and stuff like that.  An effective thing to do is relaxation.  The book suggests you find activities you enjoy which you can do on a regular basis, so anything like walking, fishing...  just do something where your mind switches off from day to day stuff.  This is something everyone should do, a little me time.

I have been trying a relaxation audio, though not enough, I must do better.  Essentially you sit in a comfortable chair, with as little noise as possible, preferrably quiet and without interuption, and slowly working down your body tensing each part, holding for a few seconds then releasing and relaxing and then moving on.  So begin with your face muscles, then the neck and shoulders, then hands and arms, then stomach, onto the thighs and then your calves and feet.  I think it works better with an audio, but it does work without.

The next step is all about techniques to control panic attacks.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

When are you anxious and identifying panic triggers

Overcoming Panic and Agoraphobia - Step 1

This first step is essentially about monitoring and noting down when you have panic feelings and attacks, so that you can identify things like specific situations, places, etc...  Like with any type of problem, breaking it down makes it easier to deal with and I guess it can make it seem less daunting to tackle.

The first 2 exercises we asked to do is to make seperate lists of symptoms when we feel anxious and depressed.  This is used as a reminder so that symptoms of these don't get confused with genuine physical symptoms.

Next is looking at which types of situations and connected worries/fears are the ones which most likely set off panic attacks.  Basically just noting the date, the situation, for example being at the checkout in the supermarket or it maybe a particular person, then rating the panic attack on a scale of 0-10 and finally rating how well you coped with it, again on a scale of 0-10.

Mine are numerous. The one that sticks out firmly for me is connected to my fear/phobia of nausea/vomitting.  Something I actually haven't done since I was 7 years old. I have IBS, which can get very bad, I can feel like a can/bottle of something fizzy that's been shaken, but no release for the pressure, which makes me feel very nauseous and because of my vomitting fear all the more heightens my panic.  Fucked up eh!

As the book points out, many situations share common anxiety inducing characteristics.  The characteristics are

Escape not possible - anxiety inducing because if you have a panic attack you feel you need to get out of the situation quickly.

Embarrassment - it's not particularly pleasant when people around you look at you funnily when you are having a panic attack

Help not available - When you suffer with panic attacks having someone you trust with you or on the end of the phone is a comfort.  So when you don't have that it's anxiety inducing.

Going Crazy - it's when you think the feelings will spiral out of control, for example, you'll faint

Losing control - Some feel they will lose control over their bodies and may hurt someone and when in crowded places this can intensify.  Not something I have had anxieties about.

So the suggestion is to have a checklist sheet with the panic inducing situations and then 4 or 5  columns, ticking the characteristics you have for each situation.

And finally for agoraphobics rate 0-10 all the situations you go into very reluctantly or in my case as with most, avoid.

I have known most of this already, well I have had this long enough, but I hadn't ever rated them and put them down in such a way to begin to pick them apart to tackle them.  So I guess we'll see how this works as I go on.

The next step..... is about altering the things in my life they contribute/worsen the panic attacks 

Thursday, 3 January 2013

The book I'm reading to help me

As well as getting external help I am also reading a book, recommended by the CBT therapist I had, called Overcoming Panic and Agoraphobia by Derrick Silove and Vijaya Manicavasagar

The first part of the book just describes what panic attacks, panic disorder and agoraphobia are, what are the things that cause them and how the different methods of treatment are.  The remainder is a six step programme which uses Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) techniques in dealing with panic attacks.

So I shall be following each step and seeing how it goes.

Panic disorder and Agoraphobia

I realised that I have neglected to say what panic disorder and agoraphobia are for anyone who may not know.  You'll have to excuse me as my brain isn't always very focused due to my panic disorder :)

Okidoke... I'll start with panic attacks, I imagine many of you could have possibly experienced the odd one or two during your life.

They are unexpected bursts of severe anxiety which come with physical symptoms and thoughts of dread.  A total sense of fear which is very overwhelming to experience.

Some symptoms -

shortness of breath, tightness in the chest, shaking, feeling week, sweating, tingling or numbness in hands or feet, racing heart, feeling dizzy, nausea, hot or cold flushes...

Panic Disorder -

Is when the thoughts and fear of having a panic attack dominates your life and how you live it, making you feel even more anxious.  At one stage I was having as many as twenty panic attacks a day and I began to avoid certain situations and places where I was having them.  So my overriding thoughts were anticipations as to whether I was going to have another panic attack. which eventually led to my becoming agoraphobic.  I stoppped going to places to avoid having another panic attack, this happend over a number of years, places where I felt safe became fewer and fewer.  The only place I didn't get them was at home, well that is until 8 years when I did, then the only place I ever felt comfortable became like a torturous prison.  It even got to the point where I was afraid to be alone or at least not able to talk with someone on the phone.  It was that way up to about a year ago, though I do get they occasional fearful thought.

Another assessment

This morning I received a phone call from my local access team, they deal with local mental health, asking me whether I was ok to have an assessment, because they'd just had a cancelation. I have been waiting to hear from them for over a month, so it was a welcome surprise.  Within about half hour the assessor knocked on the door.  The assessment took about 35 mins, it's just questions so that they can ascertain which things to focus on so I get the best possible outcome.  It's standard questions about whether I'm on medication, am I taking care of myself and there is a questionnaire asking whether you have thoughts of self-harm, if you are self-harming, whether you are a danger to anyone and even whether I set things on fire, etc... Many of these questions I am surprised anyone would actually admit to them, even the lady doing the assessment said so, but hey ho :)  I should get someone coming out once a week to help me get out.  Not sure yet what other things but I'll know soon ish, probably another two or so weeks before I hear again, but it's positive that I get more help and at a time I am fully ready for it. :)