Happiness is

the sun shining on my face, the bright bluebells in the garden, the sun shining through the trees, the veins on a leaf, distant laughter, delicate daisy petals, cats when they stretch and lounge in the sun, cherry blossom confetti,the sizzle in the pan, the first sip of wine.

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

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

Smudge the guinea pig


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

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.

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

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

It has been quiet…

…over this way and for that I apologise. It hasn’t been the easiest of weeks, and I’ve had a little bit of a blip in terms of anxiety and depression. This morning I didn’t even want to leave the house. I can’t work out whether it was too noisy or I’d overfaced myself with tasks (I’ve given myself a lot to do recently) but I hate having these little blips. I constantly forget I still HAVE anxiety and depression. I seem to think it should be completely gone and I should be over it and I should get on with my life but then it hits me and I feel like I’m back to square one. I’m exhausted (I think it’s related to the anxiety/depression) but I keep having to schedule naps in and I’m still tired afterwards. It sucks.

I guess I should give myself a break but I can’t help but think I should be getting on with my life now. Making myself feel bad isn’t helping, and I know that, but I feel like I’m stuck in a rut and I’m finding it difficult to get out.

Next week is my induction week for my MRes course I’m starting this month. I’m excited, but feeling very apprehensive as I have so many hospital appointments on the horizon and I don’t want my health to get in the way of my degree. I feel like I’ve had enough with that last year, and I’m currently on weekly appointments for pain, will be having mri scans, occupational therapy, physio and a meeting with an orthopaedic surgeon and orthotist. It’s getting to be a little intense, and it probably isn’t helping my anxiety.

Sometimes I’d just love to have a magic wand come and wave everything away; wave this constant pain away, wave the irrational thoughts away, the sadness and the guilt and the self-loathing away, the sleepless nights, the appointments…I guess all it boils down to is that I’m just not feeling my best currently. I’m hoping things will improve soon and that I’ll be able to stick to some sort of blogging routine. There’s so much I want to share with you all.

As always, thanks for reading, I’m sorry this hasn’t been the most cheery of posts.

I do hope you’re having a good Wednesday whatever you’re up to, and I hope to return soon with soon with something a little happier.

Heather x

tiredness associated with pain away, wave the Bad Thoughts aware, the irrational

it is time

it is time to stop torturing myself with poisonous thoughts

it is time to stop crying over things I can’t change

it is time I did things for myself

it is time to stop worrying about other people all the time

it is time to start being a little bit selfish

it is time to take control of all this

it is time to get back to being me


Hello there lovely person. This is going to be a little bit ranty (and very very lengthy) so if you’re not in the mood for that then don’t bother reading on (and come back soon for a happier, brighter post at a different time!).

Despite writing a post earlier this week see https://nosuperhero.wordpress.com/2015/05/11/anxiety-and-depression-toolkit/ things have been pretty difficult today. It’s been the worst anxiety-day I’ve had since starting my medication (which must be maybe just about a month ago). Naively  I assumed once I started medication my anxiety and depression symptoms would have disappeared. Obviously this is a stupid assumption on my part, but it’s taken me a while to appreciate that medication will not ‘cure’ it. It just helps. Don’t get me  wrong, it works fantastically most days but today was a major blip I think.

Stuff has been pretty stressful. Some of you may know I’m in my final year of undergrad so I’m currently tackling lots of essays (and of course most of my deadlines are around the same time) but I have to be honest, it’s not really my work that’s making things difficult. If anything, work gives me something to focus on, something to take my mind away from other thoughts and it’s generally easier to deal with than the other stressors. Things have been really bad with pain at the minute. I have Scheuermann’s kyphosis – if you’ve read my blog before you’ll probably have stumbled across this – but basically some of my vertebrae in my thoracic spine didn’t grow and ossify properly. Because of this i have a curvature in my spine of 70 degrees + (it’s been a long time since it’s been measured). A normal spinal curve is somewhere around 35-40 degrees, so the added curvature really causes problems along the rest of my spine and my ribs. My neck juts forward at an odd angle, and I have a hyper-lordosis (inwards curve) in my lumbar spine. Because of the curve my muscles have to work harder (there’s no abnormality as such with my back muscles) but they get extremely painful as they’re being stretched over a wonky spine. Basically my back hurts all the time. Some days are good: meaning I can manage my pain enough so that it doesn’t get in the way of living my life. However, some days are unbearable, to the point where even my strongest painkillers don’t always work. My back hurts all over, right up to the base of my head, and to my hips. I get a burning sensation around my spine which becomes very intense (something I’m yet to get looked at) and my muscles feel like they’ve taken a beating most of the time. It’s really very unpleasant. Back pain knocks you sick. I never realised how hard it could be to live with until I was diagnosed at 13. So there’s that. And there’s alos the fact that i have hemiplegia, a form of cerebral palsy. This also causes pain (my muscles on my affected side are always tight) but also impairs my motor skills. I have poor balance and weakness in my affected side. Having cerebral palsy is tiring because you’re constantly trying to work with limbs that don’t always do what you want to do or sometimes make you wobble and/or fall over. It’s difficult, but I’ve had CP since birth after i acquired a brain injury. However, this is another stressful thing. When you add my anxiety and depression to that, things can sometimes get completely overbearing.

CP gives people a heightened startle response. Basically I sometimes jump at things most people would think aren’t a problem. My fight or flight response is triggered by stupid, every day, mundane things. Sounds include (but are not limited to): sneezing, coughing, laughing, shouting, cars beeping, ambulance sirens, dogs barking, fireworks, gunshot in films and door bells ringing/people knocking. Sometimes having people walk towards me makes me jump. It’s not just jumpiness, but an overwhelming sense of dread and fear that collects and pools in the pit of your abdomen. My heart rate shoots up (as it would if I were to be in serious danger) and it completely sucks because I have no control over it. Turns out anxiety makes these reflexes worse, which is  obviously just what I needed.Useless, eh?

Yeah so there’s that. And there’s also the residual things that contributed to my anxiety going on. It was a seriously traumatic time (not saying that to be overly dramatic) but it shook me and it’s taken a while to come to terms with it. I don’t want to bring it up because it’s very unpleasant, but only occured just over a year ago so it’s still very fresh. All these things combined is a recipe for disaster, I’m certain.

So, back to today.

I live next to the communal areas in my house. That’s fair enough, but recently I’ve had a big issue with having to deal with people’s noise levels in the morning (bear in mind the littlest things startle me, especially when I’m asleep and they wake me up) but it’s getting a bit ridiculous. I love my housemates to bits but it’s so unfair for people to be making so much noise it wakes you up. This has been happening for months, I’ve mentioned it before but nothing changed.

Today, I completely and utterly lost it. I snapped. I couldn’t handle it. Emerging from my room with sleepy eyes, a ridiculously racing heart and tears welling up, I shouted at people. I swore. I told people I couldn’t deal with this anymore. It’s got to the point where though I appreciate people need to be up, it doesn’t excuse people making a ridiculously loud sound, capable of waking others.

Being in pain means painkillers. Painkillers mean drowsiness. Drowsiness means I need sleep, and I need sleep more than ever at the minute. My body is reaching breaking point, and chronic, severe pain makes me irritable. I’m a mess. I hardly eat unless Drew cooks for me, and some days I’m so anxiety ridden I don’t want to leave my room to even make a cup of tea. Everything is too much and I’ve had enough and today was the final straw.

I don’t feel good about shouting at people.

In fact I feel humiliated, embarrassed and stupid. I feel like I’m in the wrong. I know we’re all guilty of being so wrapped up in our own lives that we forget the needs of others but I’m always so anxious about upsetting people. Making sure i make as little noise as possible is key for me. I don’t sing anymore (I’m classically trained so like to sing a good song now and then)  because I worry people will get angry or sad about having heard me. I tiptoe through the house, I close doors gently, I’m careful about making drinks in the kitchen at night etc. If  I’m having a bad day, I leave the house so that people don’t have to put up with me being in pain. i hate the thought of making someone feel in any way uncomfortable, so much so I sometimes go without rather than risk it and have people be sad. I’d like to think I’m considerate; I really try to be. I don’t leave any dirty pans or pots in the kitchen because people shouldn’t have to deal with my mess. I also don’t even leave my shower gels and shampoos and toothbrush in the shower because, again, I worry it’ll take up space that someone else might really want to use. These things sound stupid, i’m sure. But it’s the way i do things because I’m so fearful of a negative reaction (confrontation is a HUGE trigger if you haven’t already guessed).

Despite all this I haven’t had one morning without being startled awake in over a month. it’s awful. And coupled with the fact I have pain a lot at the minute, it becomes seriously detrimental missing out on sleep. I’ve asked politely before, numerous times, hoping for a little bit of consideration and respect in the morning (explaining all of the above)  but I don’t feel like I’m getting it. Today shook me up so much this morning i cried hysterically during the shouting and immediately afterwards. When Drew came over to visit me I panicked because when i heard a knock at the door i didn’t know it was him, and i was petrified at the thought of having to leave my room and see someone i didn’t trust.

I sat under my blanket and teddies and cried, before deciding I better check who it was, albeit very reluctantly and with tears streaming down my face. Thankfully it was Drew, who gave me a big hug and sat with me for a while. He made me some lunch and a drink and just generally cheered me up and calmed me down. I’m so grateful for Drew. He really is amazing with me and i couldn’t ask for anything more.

Today was just terrible. And now I’m sat in my room again hoping i don’t need to go to the toilet or anything because I don’t think I can face anyone. I’m hoping this passes and I’m hoping I get it under control. It’s a gnawing, awful feeling. Anxiety can be just so incredibly debilitating.

After this morning I’m hoping for some consideration as I approach this final, painful, stressful hurdle. I know i can do this  and I know the end is in sight but i just need to have some patience with myself.

I treat myself as if I’m superwoman: I rarely remember I’m no superhero. I can’t do it all and it doesn’t hurt to take a little time out every now and then.

Sorry for the poor writing and everything. I hope you’ll forgive me.

Hopefully I’ll check in next time on a brighter note. Look after yourselves,

Heather x

Happiness is…

This post will be an amalgamation of things that have made me happy over the past few days. I did say I’d post every day but since I’m in my third year of university I’m currently swamped with essay writing and reading (so I’m not surprised it didn’t last). However, here’s some happy things:

1) getting on track to sort out my anxiety/depression (FINALLY). I’m now feeling so much more positive and I’m hoping I’ll be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel soon

2)eating my only easter egg of the year

3)cooking a tasty dinner of pan-fried salmon fillet with mash, samphire and homemade lemon-cream sauce. It was really delicious and such a treat

4) going to the pub for a few drinks with friends. Even though there was an incident that made me feel very uncomfortable and anxious, I got through it and still had a good time overall

5)bumping into friends I don’t see very often. It’s always a lovely surprise.

What’s made you happy recently?