Sunday, 20 September 2015

The anxious dyspraxic guide to cities and busy places

Following Matt's blog about being persistent I thought I would talk about city life and share some of the things which have helped me. I know quite a few people who have dyspraxia also struggle with anxiety and feel overwhelmed in busy places. I also know quite a few people who just have anxiety who also find cities overwhelming. I think the word anxiety is used way too freely these days, there's a huge difference between being a bit worried and having an anxiety disorder, it can be crippling, I wouldn't want to put anyone through anxiety, it can be horrible.

Whilst moving to London has given me a lot more opportunities, I've met some amazing people and I've had some incredible memories, it's also been quite overwhelming for me as life goes as so much a faster pace and there's so many more people. Firstly I just want to say that if you're reading this blog and think "this is me" there's nothing to be embarrassed about, you're not any less of a person and you're not alone. I used to keep things like this hidden for so long as I thought by admitting to it would make me come across as less as an adult. Some people feel more comfortable in cities and some people naturally don't and that's ok.

Up until a year ago I didn't have the confidence to go anywhere in London without my lovely boyfriend, buses, trains, tubes, trams you name it,  even though I was excited to see him, everything else in simple terms terrified me, and I would find every irrational thought and worse case scenario if I was going to do it myself. Even now if it's somewhere new, we will both do the route together a few times and take note of any familiar landmarks, especially as I also have a fear of escalators so need to find alternative routes. Lucky for me my boyfriend has a good sense of direction and knowledge of cities.

Everyone with dyspraxia and/or anxiety may have different things which make them worry or feel overwhelmed some which could be: being in crowds, sensory overload, getting lost, judging the distance between the train and the platform, the thought of others pushing and loosing your balance, automatic doors closing on you, having to take a different route, sometimes just everything can seem overwhelming. I was finding myself having a lot of meltdowns and anxiety attacks during my journeys, and as well was avoiding situations sometimes too, I was also having lots of the physical anxiety symptoms too.

Changing thoughts from negatives into positives can take a long time, I'm still on that journey myself, battle with them every day but very slowly starting to manage my anxieties. Different things work for different people, I've found seeking professional help beneficial to me as some of the strategies I used back home up north weren't helping. One was to take my dog for a walk after work, sadly he's stayed in Burnley with my parents.

From the moment I get on the bus to when I get off the tube at the other end I listen to music as it blocks all of the background noise out, if I feel myself getting overwhelmed and panicked I take myself out of the situation for 5 mins away from anything and anyone and try and get myself to calm down by using breathing techniques to try and ground myself, if there's lots of people on the tube I close my eyes (whilst sat down otherwise I would go flying) finding a distraction can help like reading a book or magazine or one of the free papers. Having someone who understands even if it's only one person who you can explain how you feel to help rationalise your thoughts.

I've also forced myself to self care and self soothe as it can take a while to calm down afterwards, it took me a long time to realise I deserved to look after myself but I'm slowly learning techniques. I also find having something to look forward to planned can help as like a reward to yourself for doing it. I got advised that having a mantra can help you find the strength to fight that anxiety, each to their own, if you know me well I love a quote, my personal favourite at the moment is, "being brave is being terrified and doing it anyway." Not for everyone but finding something which can motivate you in a positive way can help.

The world isn't a dyspraxia friendly world and there is help out there, there can be disabled railcards, and people at stations which can give you assistance, don't be scared to ask for it if it helps and if you need someone to come with you on journeys if it makes you feel more confident and calm.

I hope some of my advice might help, keep fighting, you're stronger than you think you are, you can do this!

I found this image which describes why some people with dyspraxia and other neurodiverse differences find "new" so challenging, but hopefully over time I will start to see the adventure and excitement over new.

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