Still Reading and Much More

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It has been awhile since I blogged. I have felt fine, guilty, wasteful, disloyal and then fine again for not needing to blog. Yet today as I received another reminder to pay for my blog domain, and yes finally decided to pay it, I feel moved to blog a little.

 

I am doing fine, my OCD is still with me but perhaps less rampant. I still have my perfected avenues of avoidance, but I also have the ability and will to talk myself off an emotional ledge when required.

 

I am not dependant, nor do I find it necessary, to share how I feel with others often and I am accustomed to safeguarding myself. I take no medication for my mental illness anymore and am currently receiving no formal therapy. I will review this with a professional in June to see if this is still advisable.

 

Most days I am fine, but there are days, as we all know when interractions with others or incidences, can rock the boat and in those situations I find I need support but less so and not for too long.

 

For example, recently I wrote a five star review for a book I had finished reading and usually after doing so I am met with either an expected silence from the author or a friendly and appreciated thanks (not compulsory, my social awkwardness prefers the silence), however on this occasion I turned to social media to find the author had complained about me to an admin on a Facebook book group alledgedly accusing me of giving away a spoiler. Something I have in my over 1500 books read and reviewed, never done. I disagreed, at most I had said a main character (not named) had died and in the crime thriller genre thats hardly news, but removed the post and reposted how much I enjoyed her book and apologised for the alledged spoiler anyway.

 

It is fair to say the incident stuck in my craw and I will think twice before interracting with or reading another from the author in question, who was on my Facebook friendlist at the time of her complaint, I have since removed her.  I don’t need this sort of negative interaction.

 

Drastic? Possibly. I blocked her too. Why? Because she has contacted me and interracted with me on numerous occasions on social media when she asked me to read or review yet in this case she made a complaint to a third party, who incidently is a good friend of mine, rather than using other less inflammatory channels to get her point across, hence losing a fan and a reader.

 

In the past I would be upset, possibly tearful and lamenting all of humanity and smoldering over this for days if not weeks, but today I remain resolute that I did nothing wrong and I don’t know what this individual is going through, however, I do have my own issues and there are plenty of other books to be read so I choose to no longer risk being at the mercy of someone elses’ ire or opinion of what constitues a damaging spoiler. I make no apologies for my reaction and actions I subsequently took.

 

That is progress in adversity for me and I am fine with that. Others may have handled it differently, may disagree with the whole spoiler question and be subsequently more laid back about the whole interraction, but I am me and this is what I do. I am no longer second guessing myself.

 

 

OCD Status

It’s been a while since I wrote about mental health, or more specifically, my mental health. I left group therapy at the end of November this year. It felt like time since early summer and after putting in a lot of thought and reflecting on where I stood in my biannual review with the group I set my mind to leaving.

The last week or so I have been undergoing, what I now realise, is a process of leaving that is pretty much part and parcel of the therapy I have had. I have been down, volatile, self-doubting but I have also felt lighter, self-aware and stronger. I appreciate my personal journey with OCD has not concluded and I may require more therapy in future but I am no longer taking any antidepressant or anti-anxiety medications and I feel in tune with my mental health needs.

It seems 2018 will be a very different kind of year for me in a lot of ways but I don’t regret the journey I took with psychodynamic group therapy and I am so thankful for sharing that journey with everyone who was part of it. My relatively active social life is part of me I reclaimed through therapy and will no doubt be a portal of continuing to be a happier me.

What Do  You Do When You Are Tugged Down The Rabbit Hole (again)? #mentalhealth #depression #weekendblogshare

Most of the time I manage to maintain a sort of equilibrium, but occasionally I slip into a darkness akin to what it would feel like if the dementors in Harry Potter were real. In fact, the depression I am currently suffering from is real. It takes a lot of insight and self-awareness to realise a low mood, flat effect and compulsive pessimistic thoughts are not quite a facile lifestyle choice.

I am lucky to have an excellent sounding board in a therapy group I deeply care for, but when in session I focus on others and pragmatic problem-solving rather than expressing what I feel. Circling emotions is easier than expressing them. It’s a fear of being ashamed of showing my true emotions that hold me back. I know I would tell anyone else that they have nothing to be ashamed of when expressing how they feel in a depressive episode, but convincing myself is harder.

It’s been a long time since I found myself feeling this low and I frightened myself this morning when I woke to utter the words, “I want to die.” I have no reason to feel this way. I am well supported, feel pleasure from doing many things as hobbies, I have the freedom to choose to do anything I wish, but alas that voice in my head tells me I’m not a doo-er. My reading has slowed since my mental health began to deteriorate early this year. For the first time I find myself behind three books in my Goodreads Reading Challenge. It’s taken me weeks to write a suitable blog post about the truth of my mood.

When in therapy there’s a special type of shame that comes with failing to remain optimistic. It’s seriously like I’m failing a course, but I cannot deny how I feel and I no longer have the energy to push it to one side. I’m circulating a crisis, but I’m not being furtive about it. If I was having an acute asthma attack it wouldn’t carry the shame I’m burdened with for having an acute depressive episode, and why not? Administering drugs to ease someone’s airways is heroic as opposed to acknowledging the darkness in their thoughts, which at best is indulging narcissism at worst aiding laziness, if you ignorantly believe anyone would want to feel this way.

I’ve been open and communicated my concerns about myself, now I have to rely on that old adage of time and the new mindfulness based cognitive behavioural techniques I have read and championed. Not so easy when I feel I’m being smothered in a lead curtain of impending doom.I’m tired of being me and no amount of reminding myself how lucky I am, the miracle that is life is so rare and precious, can convince me I have a purpose. 

This too shall pass, they tell me. Eventually. 

#Mindfulness February #mentalhealth

Every now and then I suffer from mental fatigue. The bouts of mental fatigue are more regular at the moment, largely due to averaging a few hours of sleep daily for the past few months. 

Some days I don’t like dealing with words so I colour to ground myself and clear my mind. The following is the result of one of such day. 

Physically I am enduring frequent hot flushes and headaches, although these do not affect my daily activities as much as they affect my sleep. 

Maybe I need more mindfulness days? 


#MentalHealth Review #OCD 

Despite being seen three times a year by a psychiatrist to review the nuts and bolts of my OCD, depression and anxiety and the effect prescribed fluoxetine and anxiolytics are having on my general health, I now have another sort of review in my psychodynamic group therapy. Every six months we take stock of our goals, risks and achievements. I volunteered to go first in this new uncharted territory of therapy as it gave me less time to dwell on it and arouse the many critical thoughts that may have disabled me from benefiting from this event.

Reviewing myself or letting myself be reviewed, as a group activity, was odd, firstly because it is the only time, unless you want to have the spotlight in group, you are thrust into the group’s crosshairs. I was grateful for only having a week to ruminate over what initially felt like a bureaucratic hoop, but in all fairness I think I forgot about it by the weekend and only brought it back to mind the morning of my next session. 

Refusing to be cowed and rendered defeated by my thoughts I considered the individual points of the review in my allotted fifteen minutes at the start of the session and found that, without being completely aware I was doing so, I do actually keep a mental ledger of where I was at the start of my therapy and where I am now. With so much food for thought from each session over the weeks months and now years my mind has mulled over the problems presented to me, not just about my own psyche, but those reflected to me by others around me. I consider it one of my greatest achievements to take into account the way others might see me differently to my perceived view of myself and find I am able, albeit in an analytical fashion, to accept these observations to reflect and think about without drowning in a sea of my self-made negativity. 

I have never formally looked at what therapy is doing for me in such depth verbally or mentally, so viewing myself, my thoughts, emotions, goals and progress in this way clarified what my goals are from here on out. It was encouraging to see the positive work my ever chattering mind can do, even when I don’t feel in focus of the sessions I have weekly. It appears, as I have always suspected you don’t need a therapist to be with you daily but a mental voice that represents a therapist does exist in my cognitive choir. This maybe why I don’t feel defensive about the way I feel or come across and am altogether willing to consider the effect my behaviour has on others and on myself. 

To date I am grateful for the increased self-awareness I have developed in therapy. I am glad I appear to cope with the depression and anxiety I have more constructively whilst being more aware of their origins. Each session seems to increase my arsenal of tools to augment or mute my analytic thinking and self-reflection leading to a neuroplastic change that benefits me a little at a time. I am burdened with fleeting dark thoughts on a daily basis but I am finding more balance with the lighter thoughts I seem to be able to generate. 

I may have a few chronic illnesses, but my OCD and whatever else keeps it company, has to date affected me the most in my life and I have tools I am getting better at handling to cope with the condition. I know what my next step is in my self-development, and here’s hoping I generate the impetous to take it before the next review. 

#Non-Fiction #BookReview Sane New World: Taming of the Mind by Ruby Wax #Fridayreads #self-help 

​I found this book immensely helpful in understanding my depression and anxiety and piecing together the physiology and psychology of living with mental illness. Ruby Wax goes from the evolutionary viewpoint of why we are anxious to exercises helping us to retrain our minds to focus on the here and now. 

If you aren’t a Ruby Wax fan you may not get on with the style in which the book is written but as a sufferer of mental illness and cynic I found Sane New World filled in blanks for me and gave me a level of understanding of my illness that I had previously struggled with. By no means is this book a replacement for medical therapy and as lightheartedly it is presented it is actually on my shelf of go-to manuals, which I refer back to for exercises and reference when the need arises.

I was heartened to find myself already doing some of the things Ruby mentions in the book when it comes to dealing with negative thoughts and am delighted to have pages of exercises to try to master to help with my anxiety, depression and OCD. 

I found this to be a good book to begin building my personal mindfulness arsenal and am sold on the technique as Ruby cites a number of studies and references to back up her endorsement of Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy. A definite must-read for those suffering mental health issues, provided you like the humour Ruby Wax. 

Links To Book:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Goodreads

When Change is a Good Thing

I have always considered myself not someone who adapts well to change, to the point I consider any change the enemy, but recently I have been compelled to consider that change is very much what I needed in order to progress on a personal level. 

Although the thought of change inspires much insecurity as I contemplate all the things that could possibly go wrong or the worst case scenario, I am also denying myself the opportunity for many positive events when I resist change. 

The same I feel applies when I dismiss others opinions and ideas out of hand without considering them seriously and if I didn’t take a chance and trust people by letting them into my life. Not everyone is going to leave a positive effect on me, but by closing myself off I’m definitely locking out all he potentially positive experiences that may be heading my way. 

I firmly believe a lack of any sense of responsibility for the choices we make, in other words, blaming others for my problems is not in anyway helping me to attain peace of mind, improvement of my mental health or happiness. Likewise complaining about everything and having no gratitude for anything is a sure way to let yourself down. I’m glad and grateful to experience change to rectify these negative habits which had been festering over the last couple of years. 

Currently, although I’m not completely comfortable with change, I do not dread it and am open to new experiences and models of thinking, which may work better for me. I am looking forward to making my own changes on my own terms.

Dismantling Alienation

There have been two instances this month where I felt I didn’t fit or matter. The first one was early this month where I had bought two tickets to hear someone famous speak and when the talk commenced I felt totally alienated and out of place. It started with the speaker pointing out the talk was for those that looked like her. I definitely do not fall into that category because of my race. I tried to put my misgivings aside and listen and even raised my hand seven times to ask a question, but I was overlooked on every occasion.What I thought would be a thought-provoking evening was a cheap, commercial and a superficial gimmick to move product. I will never look at the speaker the same way again.

Rightly or wrongly I felt I didn’t matter and could not rethink the evening as being vaguely enjoyable. It was constructive in one way only: I got a smashing present to send someone as their nominated Secret Santa. They say you should never meet your heroes and they, whoever they may be, have a fair point. After that evening I will not be actively seeking out works from that particular speaker again and I feel I really must develop a better sense of detecting sincerity from people generally, as my sincerity meter is evidently way off. 

I didn’t let my feelings fester into making me feel worthless, which is where they would have headed usually. In the past I took things as my fault due to my misconception of the topic, but in this case I realise my expectations were too high for this mercenary individual to live up to. Noble cause, unworthy messenger.

The second time I felt I just didn’t fit, I was doing it to myself. There was no one facing me telling me I was wrong, it was just a gut feeling. Rather than react to it in any contentious or inflammatory manner, allowing it to escalate to the point it obliterated what is positive, I stopped it. I thought it may resurface, because I’m never sure how effectively my distraction technique works, but I haven’t had a chance to dwell on it much as my social diary filled up and I kept hearing all the sound advice I’ve been given to let moments of insecurity pass. With time it did feel like water under a long forgotten bridge. Next month the incident and individual probably won’t even come to mind.

Now I know I’ve made positive steps to adapt and have grown emotionally as I can let the negativity pass. On reflection I think it’s time to find voluntary work I can physically and mentally manage.

Point of View Differential

When it was first mentioned to me in Autumn this year that I was going to be referred to an organ transplant team, I didn’t think I would see anyone until 2017. Maybe Spring 2017. I’m not complaining or dissatisfied in any way with my pulmonary hypertension care. This isn’t my first rodeo. I know referrals take an age. I still have had no news from the endoscopy unit regarding the OGD I am being considered for and that referral went in September. I was surprised to be sent an appointment to go to the Pulmonary Vascular Diseases Unit in December having already seen them in October. 

Not sure why I was being recalled, I assumed maybe they wanted to do a right heart catheter. However, I left feeling maybe I wasn’t totally clear on how precarious my health is at the moment. Two things in particular made me anxious; the offer to start nebulizer iloprost, which I declined as I felt too well to jump to the next phase in treating my PH and the follow up request to the transplant team. As always I was reminded I could call the unit at any time if things deteriorate.

As is sometimes the case, the day I was in clinic, from my point of view, I felt better than I had last time I came to the clinic. I did still have to stop three times on the way to the PVDU from the hospital car park, but I had no nagging cardiac chest pain. Despite the sleepless night before, I felt well. I was happier with my shuttle walking test and felt I had improved, maybe not significantly as far as numbers go to anyone else, but enough to not make any clinical decision regarding any change in my treatment imminent. Enough to make it feasible to park somewhere not too far from disabled spots and walk to my destination. After all, I managed 260 yards. That’s 60 yards more than a relatively well blue badge holder.

However, reading this month’s clinic letter I’m marvelling at just how different my perception as a patient is to the experience of my symptoms compared to the clinician I see. My 30 yard improvement in the shuttle walking test, which I saw as a personal triumph, was described as “similar” to my previous score of 230 yards. There was an overall tone of precaution in the letter that sent my over-analytical mind into hyperdrive.

I still think it’s absolutely implausible, if not impossible, to get into seeing anyone as a new patient in clinic in 2016, as we are so close to Christmas. However, I suppose it should be business as usual despite holidays officially. But it’s not like I need a transplant this year or next year, is it?  Why the hurry? 

As a patient,whose symptoms of pulmonary hypertension aren’t as good as last year my instinct is to hibernate until Winter is over, but luckily my fatigue isn’t shared by the clinical team, who behind the scenes are planning their next moves in terms of my treatment. With a great deal of effort I have convinced myself there’s nothing to get anxious about. After all being prepared is good. However, the nagging chest pain has been back in the last 24 hours and I’m beginning to wonder what those minor ST changes in my ECG anterior chest leads were. It’s not that minor, when it’s your ECG.