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. 

Destroying Cynicism #mentalhealth #marriage

I often think how much bleaker life would be if the husband and wife team we make up didn’t exist. At my lowest point, during my most self-destructive storm, my husband is patient, sincere and constant. I am shielded by him a lot of the time, but I learn a lot from him too. I really have no idea where he gets so much strength, but I’m so grateful for the support I take for granted, if I don’t stop and think. I realise cynicism is poison and instead I’m grateful for all the little things that make me happy. I am grateful I can say I’m happy.

We met around this time 15 years ago. Time has passed in a blink of an eye. I am fortunate to have married my best friend. Cliché, but true. We were friends first and then we married seven months after meeting. I trusted him with my life right from the beginning. Before I fall into murky waters by acting in a way that does not reflect who I am genuinely and the poison gets into my veins, he reminds me by example how to be forgiving.

I may lose confidence in myself, my friends, my abilities and my health but I never lose confidence in my marriage. We face everything together. Keeping myself optimistic and functional is heavy lifting hard work. I am lucky to have a tower of strength, whom I look up to (literally and figuratively) and is there for me always. I rely on myself or my husband for most, if not all, of the emotional support I need.

Looking back we have been through a lot together, but this year is the best year yet. I say that almost every year. My husband helped me changed my priorities after I became unwell. This was hard work because I knew no other way other than my destructive one. I was prickly, critical and ungrateful, but he showed me what’s truly important. I can totally rely on him at all times, but more importantly now I can rely on myself too not to go spiralling out of control with rage or depression. Even if we have argued about something it never changes the fundamentals between us.

I’m not sure who I would be without him or if I would even be here. My life would have shortened dramatically, I think. It would be a deep chasm of despair to be without him. I didnt marry until I was 28, being single was my default before we married. I know what it feels like to be emotionally and physically drained without any help and I am immensely grateful I always have someone who will be there for me emotionally and physically. 

Coming home to a dark empty room or flat was my norm, accepting help and being honest with myself was hard. I was taught to value myself by my husband, he shared the mental workout I constantly have to do to be happy. He’s seen me at my worst and my best and still wants to be here. Having one person in my life to whom I can bare my soul and still find love and acceptance is the most valuble gift I will ever have. Its a gift I get all year round and for that I’m truly grateful.

The Origins of My Positivity

This Autumn has been a season of stock taking for me as I have felt its time to reflect on how far I have come in various journeys of the past few years. As I conducted this stock take, in private and in group, I was asked a question by someone who is facing similar struggles to me about how I overcame my emotional hang ups.

Not having realised until I reflected that, yes indeed I accept myself for who I am, mistakes not withheld, I tried to retrace my steps. I’m by no means finished in my journey of self discovery. Firstly, I think I had to see the pain I was causing myself by my harsh judgments and impossible goals. Then I had to pare back my expectations to what do I really need to be happy. This was hard because I had to face the fact that a lot of what I was aspiring to wasn’t making me happy. The happiness I was seeking was there, if I would just open myself up to believing I deserved it.

I was put in a position where I had to build myself up again as I had fallen to pieces. When you have been at rock bottom you know it’s not a place you want to go again. Luckily, I used my depression as a springboard knowing I could not put myself and my husband through that again. 

None of this happened overnight and it is impossible to lead a life where you can be free of criticism. There is always something someone will criticise you about. The criticism more often than not comes from a place where someone is struggling with their own issues.