Categories
Anxiety Depression Mental Health Problems Mental Illness

CBT and working through

Just thought I’d provide a quick update re: counselling etc. Ages ago (when I first presented with MH problems) I probably mentioned having to have an initial assessment to see what things would be most useful. This time around was no different, and almost the entire session comprised of filling out scales to determine levels of anxiety/depression.

I have a lot of difficulty with these scales as I find it so difficult to assign emotions a numerical figure, but they are aiming to assess the degree to which said mental health problems affect your life. I suppose it’s very difficult to assess anyway, and I know scales are one of the only feasible options, but they’re so difficult to navigate. Scales exist in a similar fashion for pain management, and that’s perhaps why I find them so frustrating. I’m always filling them out, and I don’t always understand what they mean/how useful they are.

After filling out these scales, we had a quick chat about my mental health history. These chats are often the most difficult part of assessments; they take you right back to a time you’d rather forget. I always find it difficult to control myself when I talk about things from the past. I know it’s useful to address, but it never gets easier. It’s hard to admit that at one time I had difficulty leaving my room to use the bathroom, never mind leaving the house at all. Though I can appreciate how far I’ve come, it’s never easy to admit that I’ve really, really struggled in the past.

It’s completely my own complex, and I’m aware of that. It just hurts everytime to even think about it.

By the end of the assessment we’d decided CBT would be the best route. I’ve tried counselling, and at the time I had counselling it was extremely useful because I felt I just needed to talk and uncover all my deepest fears. Now that’s done, I don’t feel like it would be of any use. I need to learn how to control these feelings and physical symptoms, and CBT is the best fit for that.

We briefly talked about cycles of thoughts and resulting behaviours, and CBT will hopefully provide the techniques needed to break the cycles and work through the feelings as and when they occur. Thoughts will probably always pop into my mind, and I will always probably feel anxious about some things, but CBT works towards getting that to a manageable level. Recognising the physiological symptoms of anxiety is the first step, and hopefully I’ll be able to work through something to make things easier on bad days.

My first ‘proper’ CBT session starts next week, and I’ll keep you updated on my progress.

I hope you’re enjoying your day so far. It’s gorgeously bright and sunny over here, and I’m waiting for my coffee to cool before taking the first sip.

Mornings like these bring a smile to my face.

Look after yourself,
Heather x

Categories
Anxiety Depression General health and well-being Mental Health Problems Mental Illness Studying at University with Disabilities

Mental health, mentors and meds

Hello! I hope you’re doing okay. I thought I’d give you a little mental health update, which will be really useful for me to refer back to.

Things are starting to feel a bit better this end, and I’m hoping I’ll see even more progress. I’m crying a lot less – which is a great start – and I’m not as anxious when things don’t quite go to plan. I’m trying to handle things more calmly and think things through rationally, and this has been almost impossible at times, so things are definitely becoming more manageable.

I thought I’d had a blip, and at my last doctor’s appointment we discussed possibly upping my meds, but I’m getting back on track and powering through. I recently started seeing a mentor at university to keep my on track of work. One of my problems is I have very little faith in my work and abilities, so having someone to check in with every week is extremely helpful. It’s great to talk to someone who is completely impartial and she’s really kind and supportive.

I’m also heading back for another lot of counselling next week. I haven’t had a course of counselling for about nine months now, and I used to find it really useful. To make things more enjoyable I made the day all about me; I’d head into town, get some lunch, and sit in the sunshine whilst I waited for my appointment. I’m looking at these new sessions in the same way: they’re for me, and I’m going to get the most out of them. I’m hoping for good things.

I think I’m struggling with accepting the uncertainty of what’s to come, and that’s perhaps why I’ve been having really anxious days. I really like to know where I’m headed, and where I’m going in life, and at the minute I’m in an odd place where I need to look forward, but concentrate on the present. I suppose I need to learn that things will happen, but they’ll happen at their own pace. I’m in the middle of degree applications, job hunting and exploring all my options, and it’s all a little bit scary. I’m worried about coping with pain/fatigue, but I’m so desperate to prove myself.

I know I’ll work something out, but it’s hard not to worry about these things.

I know this is a really rambling post, but I’ll keep you updated on my counselling. Wish me luck!

Hope you’re having a great evening,
Heather x

image
Smudge the guinea pig

O

Ps hello from Smudge; she’s been keeping me company.

Categories
Anxiety Depression Foodie things General health and well-being Hull Bloggers Mental Illness

Giggles at Kardomah 94*

Hello! Here’s another Kardomah 94 review; I know, I just can’t get enough of the place! If you’ve been reading over the past few weeks you’ll know I was asked by the lovely Hannah if I fancied checking out some live shows at Kardomah 94, which is a restaurant and venue space right in the centre of Hull. The first – Backstage in Biscuit Land – was a magical, eye-opening journey into the world of Jess Thom who lives life with Tourettes syndrome. The second – Giggles: Greater Good Project – is a combination of mental health awareness and a heavy dose of comedy to delight and educate in equal measure.
image

We arrived at Kardomah 94 hungry and ready to try some of the tasty-sounding pizzas. When we saw Backstage in Biscuit Land we caught a glimpse of the pizzas – huge, stone baked ones, covered crust to crust in an array of toppings – and we couldn’t wait to try one for ourselves.

image

We started the night the proper way, with a bottle of refreshing Brooklyn Lager. The atmosphere once again didn’t disappoint; each of the tables was studded with softly glowing candles, a delightful array of art hung up on the restaurant walls, and a soft hubbub and clatter of crockery from the open kitchen. What more could you want?

image

image

Kardomah 94’s menu has a selection of pizzas with something for everyone, and various snacks and nibbles available for those who are fancying something a little different. Their specials board sported homemade favourites like spicy chilli con carne, and I’m positive even the fussiest of eaters would find something they’d love. I’d been running around doing various errands during the day, and a pizza with a beer seemed like a heavenly combination to me.

I went for the aptly named Sir Albert Gelder pizza; a stone baked, thin base topped with crisp pancetta, blue cheese and a honey drizzle. Drew went for the Hullawaiin (because he’s one of those people that thinks pineapple on a pizza is a good idea…it’s not my cup of tea, but it did look great.) Again, this was generously topped, and wonderfully crisp, and both went down a treat with a beer.

image
The Hullawaiin
image
The Sir Alfred Gelder pizza

What I really love about Kardomah 94 is its setting; overlooking the historic guild hall on the edge of Hull’s historic Old Town, it is truly a hidden gem. Kardomah 94 hold various events every month – some in association with the University of Hull – and it’s the perfect place to come to eat, drink and learn a thing or two.

image

It’s bound to be a hit during Hull’s City of Culture Year in 2017!

image

After our dinner and drinks, it was time for the event itself. Mental health – and mental illness – are very close to my heart. I’ve been dealing with anxiety and depression for a while, and know people close to me who have really suffered in the past. Events like these are essential to spread awareness. I think we’ve come incredibly far from our draconian views on mental health, and though this should be celebrated, we should always strive for more. I’ve been on the receiving end of comments – even from people who know me – which illustrate a complete lack of understanding. I’ve been told to snap out of it; to stop crying. To stop worrying because there’s nothing to worry about. To cheer up; to buck my ideas up. That – though I may not believe it – other people have it worse.

If only it were that easy.

I don’t talk about what triggered my mental health problems on here, but it wasn’t easy, and I don’t think I’ll ever forget it. The amalgamation of certain things in my life – including the traumatic event, living with chronic pain and a brain injury plus everyday stresses – are a difficult and turbulent mix. Telling me the above things is no use. It doesn’t help. If anything you’re just making the situation worse by adding a healthy dose of guilt and self-loathing into the mix.  

You are talking to someone who can cry for hours at a time, or – on very bad days – won’t leave the safety of my bed. Telling someone with a mental health problem that they are better off than somebody else completely undermines the difficulties they are having. It is not useful.

It probably is true. But it does not solve the issue. It does not stop.

The Giggles event was founded to raise awareness of mental health. I’m becoming more confident talking about my difficulties, but some people aren’t so keen on sharing. Mental illness still conjures up images of strait jackets and ‘mad-woman-in-the-attic’ imagery, but is many as 1 in 4 people will have a mental health problem in any year. That’s a huge number. And yet – for many – it is still incredibly difficult to talk about. I’ve been met with resistance when I want to talk about my problems. I’ve been warned that people may prejudge me because of my mental health problems, and that I should stay quiet.

I don’t want to. I shouldn’t have to, because my mental health problems are just another facet of my experiences, just like having cerebral palsy, or the fact that I’m a fiend for chocolate and gin.  Events like these are exactly what we need, and so many of us need to know that it’s okay to speak up.

image

image

The venue space was again rustic and cosy, and as we sat down in our seats we knew we’d be in for a great night.

Gary – the compere and founder of the event – opened the show, and had us all warmed up for one of the more ‘serious’ parts of the show. Fay came on and openly discussed her experiences of living with borderline personality disorder, or BPD. She explained the ‘black and whiteness’ of the disorder; the perpetual conflicting emotions she has over seemingly everyday events. She was eloquent and open, determined and steely with a refreshing outlook on her own experiences. As she noted, many people have heard of depression and anxiety, but it is these mental health problems – the ones that are most misconstrued and misunderstood -that become truly difficult for people to talk about. It was incredibly wonderful of Fay to come and share her story with us, as though these things need to be discussed they aren’t necessarily easy to share. I think I speak on behalf of the audience when I say I was incredibly touched to have a brief insight into her world.

image

Next up we saw a myriad of comedians, some of which have had their own mental health problems in the past. These comedians spoke frankly about their experiences, but left us laughing. We also participated in a raffle, and all of the proceeds went to Mind, who do a fabulous job providing services to people with mental health problems when they need them.

image

It is a scary time for people who rely on mental health services to get by. This year will see yet more cuts to mental health services across the country, and as someone who has had to access such services multiple times it’s really worrying to think that these vital services may be taken away. These services are there for me when I’m at my worst, and allow me to discuss my darkest thoughts when I fear no one else will listen.

image

Although we had a laugh and a giggle at the event, mental health problems are no joke.

At their most devastating, mental health problems can be life-threatening, and I will always support events like this. Now more than ever we must try to find a way to overcome the issues we face; and supporting local services is one step forward. Hull and East Yorkshire Mind strive to do everything they can for people in the local area, and with our help they can continue to implement support and strategies to help those who need it most.

image

Thanks so much to Kardomah 94 and the Giggles: Greater Good project for having me; I can’t wait to see when you’re next hosting an event.

What do you think of events like these? Would you be interested in attending something similar?

I hope your day is going well!
Heather x

Categories
Anxiety Depression General health and well-being Mental Illness recovery Studying at University with Disabilities

Happiness is…

Snuggling up under the duvet, the smell of coffee in the morning, waking up early and having sun shine through the window, making new friends, getting things done, leisurely walks, helpful nurses at my hospital appointments, squeaking guinea pigs first thing in the morning, cooking, feeling positive

Categories
Anxiety Depression General health and well-being Mental Illness

I am confused

I’m unsure whether I’ve had a mental health blip. I don’t know.

I wish I did know.

Yesterday was strange. I had a meeting with a disability officer and I ended up crying in front of her. I suppose the tears were a result of relief and sadness. I explained everything that was bothering me – preparing for the future, dealing with constant pain, worries about not completing my dissertation to a high standard – and I then felt really stupid for letting everything get to me. Hopefully I’m getting help with the pain management as she’s referring me to a course that’ll help me to deal with all the stress that chronic pain brings. I’ll just have to wait for that.

I spent the rest of the day with that familiar anxiety swirling round right in the pit of my stomach, but I persevered. I got on with stuff. I did everything I was supposed to.  In the evening went out for a drink and a catch up, and left feeling happy – completely at ease  – and everything was lovely. But today I’ve woken up feeling dreadful.

I have already cried. I have a seminar to attend this evening.

Whenever I go for my medication review I always forget these things. I tell my doctor that I’m doing fine – which is mostly true – but often forget to mention these crippling episodes of anxiety. My dreams are so vivid at the minute that I wake up genuinely convinced they were part of my waking life. I’ve never had dreams so lifelike before.

I’m just really confused. I’m dreading today; it’s awful outside and I’ll be coming home in the dark. I’m already wanting to get back into bed but I have reading to do and work to finish.

Even if I did get back into bed I’d feel too anxious to sleep or relax. I’m feeling a strange mixture of confused and ridiculous.

I hope it passes.

Categories
Anxiety Depression General health and well-being Mental Illness recovery

Happiness is…

The blossom on the trees, bright sunny days, the jolt of caffeine in my morning coffee, the smell of baking bread, laughing with my mum, the smell of well-loved books, the scrawl of bright blue ink from my pen, the crinkle of a packet.

Categories
Anxiety Depression Mental Illness My Life

Med Chat

Hi there. Hope your Sunday is going well wherever you are. Today Drew and I are having our own little Christmas, complete with Christmas sweaters , ginger bread houses, crackers and all the trimmings. You’ll just have to wait for all the details I’m afraid, but I have high hopes!

If you’ve been reading you might be aware that I’ve been using medication to keep the symptoms of my depression/anxiety under control. I started on fluoxetine which worked well to suppress symptoms, but unfortunately I had disturbing intrusive thoughts so my doctor and I decided to try something different called Sertraline. I’ve been taking it for about eight days now, and so far I feel okay; still having wobbles, but able to do the things I need to without panicking/crying all the time.

Medication for mental illness can be a controversial issue.

There are people who don’t believe in using medication, people who think of it as the ‘easy option’, people who couldn’t praise it highly enough, and there are people who don’t even think mental illness is necessarily a valid illness that CAN be treated with medication.

Like most young people, I’ve always been wary of medication.

From a young age I’ve been prescribed various medications to control pain in my spine, and some of these meds are strong and come with warnings and side effects. It has taken me a long time to accept having to use them. They are not the easy option: they aren’t necessarily good for you, they carry warnings of addiction, sleepiness, euphoria…the list goes on.

I didn’t want to ever become dependent on painkillers – and I still do my best to cope without them – but I don’t want to be made to feel bad for choosing to use them on bad days.

Pain, depression and anxiety can have a seriously negative impact on quality of life. Each of them usually accompany the other; the parts of the brain that deal with each are similar if not the same.

When I’m in pain, I’m depressed. When I’m depressed, I’m in pain.

Pain makes me sluggish, tired and lethargic. Pain makes me feel guilty because I can’t do ‘normal’ things. Pain makes me feel bad because I can’t pluck up the physical strength to tidy the house or cook or wash my clothes on bad days.

Depression, anxiety and chronic pain are a toxic mix.

Before I started medication for my mental illness I was an absolute mess. I could barely leave my room; the thought of having to see my housemates filled me with horror. It was nothing they had done; it’s just the anxiety/depression would convince me they hated me and that they didn’t want to see me, or hear me, or generally be around me.

You see, depression and anxiety can whisper nasty little lies in your ear. They make you feel worthless. Empty. Alone.

I’d do anything to avoid bumping into my housemates. I’d listen carefully to make sure I didn’t bump into them in the corridor. I showered when everyone had gone to bed. I couldn’t go shopping without Drew. I couldn’t cook, and didn’t always eat. When I made it into uni (with Drew walking me in) I panicked and wound up hysterically crying and having to leave, because the thought of being surrounded by people filled me with terror.

I was not the person I am now.

I didn’t want to stop to talk to people. I wanted to hide away from everything: so I did. The majority of my days were spent in floods of tears under the duvet.

It was a terrible time.

These episodes very rarely happen since I’ve been on medication. I have off days – of course – but I can definitely function. I CAN do the majority of things I need to do.

Shaming people who take medication to control their mental illnesses is not helping anyone.

I don’t believe any one has the authority to tell me when/why I shouldn’t take my medication. You might not agree with it, but it’s not your choice. It’s mine.

Medication has allowed me to feel (at the very least) a little bit like myself again.
I’m happy most days. I laugh. I smile. I tell rubbish jokes and I love doing my makeup and cooking and eating. I love watching documentaries and playing on my ds and reading books and discovering new things. 

Depression made me forget my love for these things.

I am no longer empty. I feel like a person; I have emotions – positive, happy ones – and at the height of my depression/anxiety I was a horrible mixture of sadness, emptiness, guilt and panic. Happiness was a distant memory, and I was unable to feel it.

You might not understand why I take medication to control my illnesses. You might not agree with it. You might even claim they’re just a placebo.

But if they help me, why question them?

You don’t necessarily know what goes on in my head, or what has happened in my life. It can be a dark, miserable place. And as long as medication keeps me feeling okay and allows me to live life, I’m going to take it.

All I’m asking is that people be a little bit more considerate. Don’t judge what you don’t understand.

I know this has been a little heavy, but it’s been weighing on my mind.

Have a great day wherever you are; chirpier posts will be up soon, I’m sure!
Heather x

Categories
Anxiety Depression Mental Illness Studying at University with Disabilities

A weight has been lifted…

…from my shoulders. Yesterday I came out of uni positively beaming. The day went well; I presented a conference paper and people really seemed to like it. They asked all sorts of questions. They seemed like they were genuinely interested. And most of all, I felt – for the first time in a very long time – that I was WORTH IT and that my work IS valuable in some way.

It was just the boost I needed.

My Mres dissertation is a chance for me to amalgamate my two passions; English literature and disability studies. I have become increasingly passionate about the study of disability and to be able to study it through literature is amazing. It’s literally the perfect degree.

What I really needed to know was if my work, no matter how small, can contribute positively in some way. I feel like it can, and it’s truly reignited my passion. I really want to contribute to this. I really want to feel like I’ve done something amazing.

My peers probably don’t realise how much their feedback means to me, but after months of self deprecation and loathing and having absolutely no faith in my ability to produce work it was everything I could have hoped for and more.

Amongst all the hospital appointments and pain and anxiety and depression to know I can do something is the most liberating, freeing thing.

I am feeling really good; and it’s such a fabulous feeling.

I hope you’re well whatever you’re doing,
Heather X

Categories
Anxiety Depression Mental Illness

Meds and TW: Intrusive thoughts

It is my aim to be as frank as possible on here. I think being honest is incredibly important; not only for me, but for anyone who reads this.

When I talk about dealing with mental illness and disability I do it for two main reasons: firstly, this is a place for me to express my feelings. It is almost cathartic being completely honest, because it helps me to deal with things. I used to be someone who bottled things up for days at a time, only ever expressing emotion when things got to much and I broke down in tears/lashed out in fits of anger. This wasn’t healthy and I’m trying to change that. It just so happens that this is a great way to be upfront and honest. Secondly, being honest is the right thing to do. I don’t want to lie about my experiences. On the whole, things are good right now, but when things aren’t I don’t want to sit here and pretend they are. it’s doing myself a disservice.

This post might be a little surprising/ridiculous and you don’t have to read it if it isn’t your cup of tea. You can hang on and wait until I post something else; that’s the beauty of blogging. But today I am going to be totally upfront because it is important for me.

If you have been reading you’ll know I’m currently on medication to control the symptoms of my anxiety and depression. Without this medication, I cannot function. At my worst, I couldn’t leave my room without panicking, nevermind leave the house. So yes, they have been fantastic at minimising these panics. I also cry far less than I used to: if I remember rightly it was at the end of my second year when all my assignments were due in that things got Bad. I remember having to write an essay on Chaucer’s Wife of Bath Prologue whilst taking breaks out to cry.

Seriously. It got that bad.

Fluoxetine has been one of the wisest choices I’ve ever made; I can go out, I can go shopping, I don’t always feel terrified; although of course I have bad days. But fluoxetine has been brewing some nasty little intrusive thoughts. And – annoyingly- this is the only problem I have with it.

It doesn’t seem like much, but these thoughts have been disturbing to say the least. I’ve never acted on them (if i did it’d be an absolute disaster) but it doesn’t make them any less terrifying. They’re usually triggered by seeing sharp objects; knives in particular. And i get this little thought in my head that goes ‘hey, I wonder what would happen if you just stabbed yourself with that? you know. just a little bit. You should, you really should. Just try it!’  

wow. okay.

So of course these had to stop. At first I was worried about mentioning the thoughts in case they became so concerned they decided to do something drastic (I know, I don’t know, don’t ask) but I did, and turns out they’re just changing my medication, so that’s easy enough. So long fluoxetine, you’ve served me well (sort of).

Sertraline; I hope you’ll be good to me.

I hope you’re having a good Thursday.

Heather x

 

Categories
Anxiety Depression Mental Illness My Life Uncategorized

Happiness is…

  1. wrapping up warm in the crisp, cold weather, 2. frothy coffee the first thing in the morning, 3. meeting new people and putting names to faces, 4. sharing tapas and laughter and drinks with Drew, 5. that bubbly, lovely feeling you get when sipping on cava, 6. cosying up under blankets and watching rubbish tv, 7. knowing your best friend is coming to visit, 8. feeling Happy and not Sad, 9. feeling like I’m getting somewhere with hospital appointments, 10. slowly starting to feel at peace with taking meds and everything else.

I know it’s all going to be okay.

Heather x