Agoraphobia | Panic Disorder | Dysfunctional Coping | Moving Towards Health | Personal Introduction

An introduction video and first video to be uploaded to the Somerset Adams YouTube channel. In this video, Mark briefly talks about his own experiences with panic disorder, agoraphobia, anxiety symptoms such as derealization and more. Mark is still in the process of recovering from this condition or these conditions and will go into more detail about personal experiences, alcohol use, drug use, smoking, exercise, getting fitter, healthy eating and so on in future videos and just brushes on some of these topics during this channel introduction video.

Agoraphobic Nomad | Focus and Refocus #2 Mind Exercise

Focus and Refocus #2 Mind Exercise

To illustrate how the mind will give you, or reflect back at you from the outside world, from what you consciously focus on, here is a simple mind exercise which will demonstrate this fact:

Wherever you are, whether sat in a room, out and about, or wherever you may be, consciously think of a colour. While thinking of your chosen colour, notice how all the objects in your environment with this particular chosen colour, seem to ‘pop’ out or resonate with far more emphasis in relation to the objects which are not of the chosen colour. For example, if you choose to think of yellow, all the objects coloured yellow will seem to be highlighted, with everything ‘not’ coloured yellow, fading into the background. You may also notice that this exercise seems to take no effort to little effort to achieve the results stated here.

In essence, by practicing this technique for long enough and focussing on the colour of your choice, which in this case/example would be yellow, will result in seeing a world of full of yellow objects, or at least will be the dominant colour being reflected back at you from the ‘outside’ world. The conscious process of practicing focus on the colour will eventually transfer into the ‘automatic’ part of the mind, thus becoming a habitual ‘program’ or learned skill.

This mind exercise shows in a simple way, how what we focus on will affect how we see the world around us and applies to everything we choose to focus on. Unwittingly, we all use this method of thinking and somewhere along the line, all of us who developed anxiety conditions focussed on the feelings of anxiety at the expense of all the positive things which we have in our lives. We gradually, over time, created a world which reflected mostly or only anxiety back at us.

The good news is, we can use the same method to train our minds to focus on what we want reflected back to us. Again, this will take practice, in the same way we unwittingly practiced focussing on the feelings of anxiety and an anxiety provoking world at the onset of our ‘condition’.

Another wonderful aspect of this method and once the realisation of how this part of your mind works becomes knowledge through experience, is that you find you have a choice in how you wish to see the world, or your own world. Some of us choose to see beauty in the world, whereas others choose to see the world as a depressing place to live. Both view points in reality are most likely true and to ignore the ‘bad’ things (for example, injustice, cruelty, etc.) which happen in life would be morally wrong from my point of view, but what I am talking about here is strengthening the part of ourselves which sees the positive aspects of the world and of our lives at a healthy psychological level. I am not promoting apathy. I am promoting a healthy mind which benefits the individual and who/what the individual is associated with. I believe by developing a healthy mind, strengthening a positive view of ourselves and of the world around us puts us in a stronger position to deal with the ‘darker’ aspects of reality, including our anxieties, concerns and so on. This is the way I ‘choose’ to see things and of course everybody is different and everybody can choose their own realities in which they wish to live, for better or for worse – I choose the better!

Have a wonderful day!

Agoraphobic Nomad | Focus & Refocus

Focus & Refocus

Since experiencing the agoraphobic condition along with panic disorder I have, over the years, employed the method of ‘distraction’ to avoid, or escape any feelings of anxiety and/or panic. Although distraction has served me on many occasion to decrease the feelings of anxiety, I have found it has limited effect and has only helped to ‘take the edge’ away from the ‘unwanted’ thoughts and feelings . ‘Distraction’, in this case, is of course, looking for something to keep one’s mind occupied to force one’s mind away from the thoughts and feelings of panic and anxiety. Most of us know how hard it is to try not to think about something, which maybe fearful, disturbing and so on. Distraction takes a lot of mental energy and the ‘unwanted’ thoughts/feelings pretty much always return.

I have always felt uncomfortable with the term ‘distraction’ as relating to a method to ‘deal’ with anxiety and here’s the reason why: To me, distraction suggests an avoidance, a ‘running away’ from, an escape from your thoughts and feelings and essentially an escape from your own self. The conscious mind seems only to have a limited amount of power to override any thoughts and feelings which are stored in the ‘automatic’ thinking part of the subconscious/unconscious mind. On a more ‘down-to-earth’ level, it may be easier to understand the automatic thinking part of the mind as a program, or an assortment of programs (see the post entitled: Retraining, Installing and Reinforcing Thought Patterns & Behaviours) which have been learned over the years.

Instead of using ‘distraction’ or avoiding unwanted thoughts and feelings which is in effect still focussing on what you ‘do not want’ and in essence keeping the thoughts and resulting feelings alive, I have found focussing on what you ‘want’, is far more effective. Look for things which excite you and interest you – something which is more interesting than the thoughts and feelings which promote anxiety. For example, think of all the positive attributes you have, what positive activities you want to do, where you want to be, what makes you happy, etc. Immerse yourself into an interesting hobby or topic and take it with you in your mind and if you can, into the situations which provide a stimulus for anxiety. For me, when I go out and push through my own boundaries, I think of where I want to be, what I want to do and the life I want to live. Alongside this, choose something which is interesting to take with you while you go out and about or are faced with situations which provoke anxiety. For instance, I have started taking a camera out with me, while pushing through boundaries. I can find something interesting and take photos of what I find interesting and focus on using the camera itself and at the same time, reminding myself of the life I want to live.

There is a difference between ‘distraction’ and ‘focus’. It may appear as if the focus method is the same as distraction, but there is a huge difference. In this case, distraction is avoiding, whereas focus is embracing. Focus is concentrating on what you ‘want’ whereas distraction is focussing on what you ‘don’t want’. So, focussing on what you don’t want, gives you what you don’t want and focussing on what you want, gives you what you want.
I have found, after years of using distraction methods, that the ‘unwanted’ thoughts or thought patterns do not change, but focussing on what is wanted does create new thought patterns, or programs. This is a skill and like any other skill which is to be learned, takes practice and repetition. Gradually, through effort and repetition, the new thought patterns, programs, neural pathways – call them what you will, will strengthen and override the old non-self serving thoughts, creating thought patterns, programs, neural pathways, etc, which will serve you!

Have a wonderful day!

PS: Will soon post a simple mind exercise technique which illustrates how your mind will give back to you what you feed it.

Agoraphobic Nomad | Retraining, Installing and Reinforcing Thought Patterns & Behaviours

Retraining, Installing and Reinforcing Thought Patterns & Behaviours.

    When developing anxiety disorders, you consciously and unconsciously ‘trained’ your mind with thinking patterns which were not beneficial to your well-being, emotional and physical state. Through repetition, these thinking patterns took their place in the part of your mind which is responsible for ‘automatic’ responses, behaviours, thought patterns, etc. For example, to take a ‘down-to-earth’ example, which many of us are familiar with: when learning to drive, I found it quite awkward and unnatural to navigate my coordination with all the tasks required to drive a car. Through conscious repetition to learn this new ‘skill’, or thinking pattern and behaviour, I found myself being very capable with the skill, learned behaviour and thinking pattern. Most of us will know that the transition of learning to drive by consciously employing the techniques to do so, soon became an ‘automatic’ habit, skill or behaviour. Most of us will know that this newly learned skill, habit or behaviour became automatic, without thinking about it consciously, in a relatively short period of time.
    This is the same for any learned thought process, skill, habit, behaviour and so on. If you ignore the negative and positive aspects and implications of whatever habit or behaviour which has been learned, you will realise you can feed the area of the mind or brain, which is responsible for ‘automatic’ behaviours and thoughts, with anything you choose to and will produce the corresponding and related thoughts, feelings and behaviours from the initial conscious ‘learning’ process. Whether positive or negative, the behaviours, thought patterns, etc, have been learned.
    This is good news, as once you become aware of the transference of conscious thinking affecting the automatic part of the mind or brain, you can choose and learn new ways of thinking and behaviours which are beneficial to you as an individual. In the same way you have learned ways of thinking and behaviours which have not benefitted you in the past, you can now choose to create new ways of thinking and behaviours which will positively benefit you, through repetition. Repetition is the ‘mother’ of all skill!
    It has already been proven through science that neural pathways are developed in the brain with developing skills, habits, thought patterns, etc. The neural pathways are reinforced through repeating the behaviours, patterns, etc.
    Even with experiences which happen from outside of yourself, which you may feel you have no control over. You can choose to interpret the experience in a positive way. If you feel the experience has had a negative impact, you may choose to interpret the experience in a positive way. For instance, what have I learned from this experience? What are the benefits I can take from this experience? How can I improve myself from this experience? There are so many ways to change your viewpoint, eliminate or diminish thinking patterns and interpretations which may result in feeling anxious, depressed or other feeling states which do not benefit you in healthy ways. Be the person you want to be and choose to be!
    As I have already written in previous posts, I have employed many techniques, new ways of thinking, which have benefitted me tremendously. Through all of the years of experiencing agoraphobia with panic disorder, what I have learned through experiencing and researching the condition, through the ups and downs, has not been in vain, or I choose to learn from it and do something about it!
    I have created small posters which I have taped to my bedroom wall. The posters remind me each day and every time I walk by them, of the techniques, skills and methods I want to ‘program’ into my mind and brain. This serves to reinforce the thoughts, behaviours and so on, to create healthy habits, skills, thought processes, neural pathways, or whatever anybody wishes to call them, to lead to a healthier state of mind which can only lead to a life which the individual chooses. My posters are tailor-made and personal to myself and I will reinforce, refine, add to, simplify, etc, over the course of time, if that means an improvement towards my recovery, health and well-being. I have also colour-coded each poster to form an association between the particular colour and the content of the poster. I have used the colours of the rainbow in sequence to make it easier for me to recall the information leading to further reinforcement. This method works for me and others may find methods of association which are more suited to themselves.

Agoraphobic Nomad | Thoughts, Emotions & Physical Body

Thoughts, Emotions and Physical Body

When I first started to feel high levels of anxiety and experience panic attacks, many years ago, I learned how, and became aware of my thinking and thoughts which were affecting my emotions and feelings. I became aware of how thoughts, which often ‘run’ automatically, would appear, seemingly from out of nowhere and induce a corresponding ‘feeling’ state.

However, it hasn’t been until recently, I have ‘tuned into’ how my body reacts to my thoughts and emotions.

Over the years, I have ‘tried’ relaxation and meditation techniques, but I never seemed to come away with anything of therapeutic value, or anything which would reduce the feelings of anxiety in the long term.

Recently, I have decided to go back to relaxation and meditation ‘exercises’, or at least combining a tailor made method. I have been conscious of monitoring my bodily reactions to thoughts, during every day relaxation/meditation practices, as and when they arise. I have been practicing for about four weeks now and am becoming more and more aware of my thoughts affecting my emotions and the resulting bodily reactions, whether pleasant or unpleasant.

To become aware of bodily reactions (ie: heartbeat, breathing, tension, relaxed state, etc.) has been invaluable to me, as with this awareness, I can pick up cues from my body to highlight thought patterns, which may or may not be in conscious awareness at that moment.

I think people, prior to developing anxiety conditions, may either be out of touch with what their body is trying to tell them, or choose to ignore what their body is trying to tell them. I think, due to ignoring or being unaware of the body’s reactions, anxiety increases (or the body ‘shouts’ louder), until the individual has no choice, but to listen to what the body is saying. Of course, thoughts, feelings and physical reactions are all linked – they all affect one another.

The thoughts, whether automatic, or consciously chosen, obviously need to be changed to more healthy ways of thinking, if inducing unnecessary feelings of anxiety and the thoughts which evoke healthy feelings and a relaxed state, obviously need to be reinforced and employed.

Being aware of how my body behaves in response to thoughts and emotions has been a weakness’ of mine for ever since I can remember, but practicing the new techniques as I have mentioned, is increasing my awareness of what happens in my body, leading to more control or choice with how I think and feel.

I would certainly suggest to others’ experiencing anxiety conditions to find the connection between thoughts, emotions and the body, or mind, body and emotions, to become aware and to transform towards a healthier mind, healthier emotional state and calmer physical state.

Agoraphobic Nomad | Goals & Mindset

Goals & Mindset
I have found a huge obstacle to overcome when dealing with my own anxiety and agoraphobia, is trying to tackle the ‘problem’ or situation as a ‘whole’, for example, I want to be better ‘right now’ and go to the places I want to go at ‘this instant’ and do the things I want to immediately without any anxiety, or at least feel able to deal with the feelings and carry on regardless. Of course, this is most likely unrealistic and I haven’t found a magic wand to disappear the feelings of anxiety and panic as of yet! ?
I have noticed, in pretty much all areas of my life, I have wanted to achieve a goal immediately, however large the goal was. For example, when I was working as an electrician and had a house rewire to carry out, my mentality or approach would be to rewire the whole house. My goal was to rewire the whole house. This would actually be quite overwhelming, as it would take some time to achieve the goal, thus creating a feeling of non-achievement, for the days I hadn’t reached the goal of completing the house-rewire. This mentality was how I dealt with everything I did, learning songs/techniques for guitar, painting/drawing a picture and so on. I would always set myself up for an immense ‘mountain to climb’. Often, I could not even see the top of the mountain.
When having a goal which may only be achieved in the distant future, it seems to be less overwhelming to break the ‘big’ goal into smaller goals. For instance, when I was to rewire a house, it would have been more beneficial for me, to break the full house rewire into smaller goals, such as breaking the house down into daily achievable goals, for example, rewire kitchen, living-room, bedrooms and so on.
Breaking tasks down into smaller goals which are achievable in the moment has many positive effects, including a sense of achievement, increased motivation, decreased procrastination, elimination of feelings of overwhelm, satisfaction and so on.
You can break your goals into smaller and smaller goals if that is what is needed. I now know, I need (and needed) to break my goals down into smaller goals and will split a ‘big’ goal up into many, many smaller goals. I even approach chores as goals now and feel happy or satisfied when each small goal is completed. I also seem to get more done, instead of setting myself too large a goal, being overwhelmed leading to procrastination, lack of motivation, etc.
I have also applied this way of thinking to my anxiety condition and if I feel I have set up a goal which is too overwhelming, I will break it down into even smaller goals which are achievable. This seems to have a huge positive impact with maintaining positivity, achievement, confidence and so on. It is also good for your well-being to be mindful of your achievements, in whatever form they take, and give yourself praise after each goal is achieved.
This is such a simple change in mindset and for me has been invaluable to my sense of well-being and for years, I could not see the ‘wood for the trees’ with my previous way of approaching the way I went about situations relating to this post.
I’m still quite the procrastinator, but things are improving and am practicing and building on the small goals I have set myself, learning new and healthy patterns for well-being and recovery.

(Written June 2015).

Agoraphobic Nomad | Walter the Pigeon, Fight or Flight & Desensitisation to Fear

Walter the Pigeon, Fight or Flight & Desensitisation to Fear

Around a week ago, a pigeon landed in the back garden at the house where I live. The pigeon had an injured wing and was obviously in distress. I was in the garden at the time and was careful not to add to any more distress to which the pigeon was feeling. I went to go and get a handful of cornflakes to see that he had food. I walked slowly toward the pigeon, so as to drop the handful of cornflakes in front of him, so at least he would have something to eat. Even though I tried to be careful, not to make any sudden movements, the pigeon was very frightened and in a state of panic. He flapped his wings and ran into some ivy which was draping from the garden fence.

I made sure I kept my eye on the pigeon (who I named ‘Walter’), while he was in the garden, hoping he would make a full recovery. I looked on the internet to see if there were any animal/bird services who would maybe pick him up and take him into care, but the problem being, birds are very hard to catch, even if they are injured and are needing help. I decided to keep checking up on him while he rested in the garden, made sure he had food and to make sure he was safe.

Over the course of a few days, Walter was becoming less fearful, more used to me and it came to a point where he would no longer run away from me when I went to give him his cornflakes. He was still slightly on edge and cautious of me, but no longer as distressed as he was on the first day he flew into the garden. On the first day, I could see the ‘fight or flight’ mechanism in full operation, except poor Walter couldn’t fly with his injured wing and had to resort to running into the ivy and hiding amongst the leaves.

I could see, over the period of a few days, while I checked up on Walter, his fear of me was diminishing. I could see he was forming a new habit, or was learning through experience that I was not a threat to his existence. On the first day we met, I was an object of fear, but a few days in, I was transformed into being an object to be cautious about and not an object to cause Walter full scale panic. I noted, in a relatively short time period, the intense fear in Walter had diminished over a few days after being exposed to my presence at frequent intervals. I could see a desentisation to fear in progress, right in front of my eyes. Walter gave me confidence in my own ability to diminish my own sense of fear and high-anxiety triggered by certain situations through repeated exposure to the object/situation of fear.

After a few days, Walter’s wing had healed enough for him to fly and he flew off into the sunset to live his life again.

Life’s teachers can come from the most unexpected places, times and situations.

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(Written June 2015).

Agoraphobic Nomad | Positive Input

Positive Input

Whether you are feeling low, unmotivated and sad, or in high spirits, motivated and happy, listening to music can be a good way to lift spirits or boost existing happiness and contentment.

I remember, when I was younger, I listened to quite a lot of ‘dark’ music and would play this music repetitively, thus creating a dark place in my mind. Conversely, listening to uplifting and positive music can lift the mood and make a person feel good.

It’s a lot easier, apparently, for a human-being to remember phrases if they sing them, rather than reading a phrase or talking a phrase. We probably all know this ourselves through experience. Marketers and advertisers know this, which is why we often see or hear many adverts on the TV and radio using medleys and sung catchphrases of their products to ‘get’ into our minds. For example, I, like many others, find the ‘Go Compare’ TV advert/commercial highly irritating with the operatic sung catchphrase of the company, but nevertheless, the advertisers have done their job very well as I will not forget who they are and what they do.

Knowing this and being aware of how music (and information) can affect our mind and well-being, we can choose what we wish to put into our minds. If we are aware of how our environment affects us at a subliminal level, we can choose what we want to be influenced by, whether that be negative or positive. For me, I prefer to choose the positive!

Here’s a song which lifts my spirits and feel free to add your own:

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(Written June 2015).