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

image
Smudge the guinea pig

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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)┬ábut 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