The thing about anxiety is it sucks the joy out of everything - I thought depression was bad! I've got this constant churning in my stomach and my mind and body is on red alert, waiting for something bad to happen. This isn't me. I keep telling myself that there's no need to be anxious. Everything is going ok. I am safe. But still the dread and fear persists.
And the fight or flight mode is not good for managing fibromyalgia either. It's like a double whammy of crapness. I'm getting desperate now, something needs to change. I've requested to up my dose of Sertraline, although I'm worried it's this that's giving me the anxiety. Hamster on a wheel anyone?
I've been working really hard trying to stay in touch with my mind and body to calm the anxiety, but it is one uphill struggle at the moment. Anxiety is ruling my life! It dominates everything I do and every thought I have. Thankfully I'm still sleeping ok. That hasn't deserted me. I've been doing lots of the CALM app sleep meditations to help. I wish I could shake myself out of it. I'm even worrying about my commute and the parking and my walk to the office - and all this before I even start my day at work.
I did manage to take a hike on my weekend off, out in the country away from people. That did me some good. Thinking about something other than the churning in my stomach was a nice change. I thought challenging myself would distract me and it did. I had to focus on getting around the circuit at Old Winchester Hill without tiring too quickly (thanks to fibro). I managed it in just under an hour.
Something needs to change, I know that, whether it's my job or my medication dose. I'm waiting for my doctor to come back off holiday so I can talk to her again.
I went back to work and I'm literally taking it one day at a time. I don't let myself think too far into the future because then the panic sets in. I'm watching Billy Connolly's "Does" series and trying not to be afraid of Life. "We pass this way but once.." The anxiety has left me with this dread, which I'm relieved to report is slowly easing as the new anti depressant gets into my system.
Other than that, not a whole lot else to say this week. I braved my PIP application online in one sitting. It's something I've been thinking about for a while due to fibro and mental illness. We will see how it goes..
I still haven't read Reasons to stay alive; that note at the bottom there reminded me.
This book is a collection of Matt's thoughts and feelings which is a really interesting way to write and publish a book. The first quarter of the book made me feel quite anxious - the worry upon worry upon worry about the state of the world and the people in it - but then I got into the rhythm of it all and picked out some gems I could remember for my own mental health battles.
I used to have the constant worry (which I now know is anxiety) about the world, but this dissolved when I hit my teens and the depression sank in all of a sudden, completely throwing me off course when I was about 13. I now have what Matt describes in the chapter "Crash" where my mind feels cluttered all of the time. I guess this is still a form of anxiety.
I also like the chapter "A note from the beach" and the ending of that chapter "Just be. Just beach." I try to remember this when I'm feeling overwhelmed with work or house projects. The other thing I try to remember is that I am everything and nothing. A single moment and all eternity. Matt talks about the universe and how it is so much bigger than us. He talks about the sky and just looking up and staring at it to anchor himself. I think about both of these things when I'm trying to combat anxiety and when the situation I'm in is making me feel trapped, but really it isn't the be all and end all, it just feels like that in the moment. This too shall pass as my therapist always says.
It's been another busy week of my car going into a different garage to attend to a different repair, lunches with friends, extra shifts to pay for all this car debt, decorating the spare bedroom and spending time with family and finally going to see the latest Downton Abbey film, which I loved!
In between all of this, I am getting one side effect in particular from Aripiprazole. Honestly, you can't win with mental health meds - you find something that fixes your mood, only to have it cause this irritating restlessness instead. The CALM app is becoming my saviour. I'm using it most nights to meditate before bed and try and calm my mind and body.
This past week I've been doing a 7 day practice to soothe pain, narrated by Oren Jay Sofer who is one of the CALM app's meditation teachers and authors. It's been about finding balance with emotional, physical and mental pain. It is so easy to get tangled up in pain and discomfort to the point it takes up a disproportionate amount of our time and energy. This practice is learning how to soften the intensity by redirecting our attention. I think of people walking on hot coals here, although they choose to do that!
My takeaways are sensations, compassionate awareness, investigating and visualisation. I'll explain..
In one of the lessons, we had to focus on the sensation of our breathing and then explore physical sensations (like touching my lips together) to distract ourselves from the pain whilst meditating.
Another lesson was about compassionate awareness. Connecting with the warmth and kindness of a favourite person. Putting a hand on my heart to practice receiving self compassion. And imagining a younger version of myself that I could send compassion and empathy to.
A good reminder was investigating my pain. Notice the sensation. Where is it? How big is it? How does it feel? Then we would take a break and return to neutral reference whilst continuing the meditation.
I've always struggled with visualisation as a concept, but I liked the suggestions when using it for soothing pain. They made sense to me. Visualise the feeling of compassion like a weighted blanket - and I love my weighted blanket and rarely meditate without it. Another lesson - visualise a warm, golden light stream filled with soothing, healing energy flowing through your whole body, bringing ease and relaxation deep into your bones. Allow your body to rest in this light. When you're ready, allow the visual to fade. Let the light dissolve into your body. For some reason, this one worked well for that restlessness and for the constant fibro pain in my back.
The whole series just got me thinking about things in a different way and that's what I like about CALM.
I'm finding Aripiprazole leaves me a little restless in the evenings, so it's been difficult to settle down to watch some tele on the sofa after a hard day's work. My body says I need to move whilst my brain is exhausted. That being said, I am loving my Friday night's triple bill of comedy and satire with Here We Go, Have I Got News For You and then The Other One (and before that, Not Going Out), all on BBC1.
Well, as May and mental health awareness month draws to a close, I've been thinking a lot about the things that have helped me this month. This has probably been my steadiest month for over six months in terms of stabilised mood and actively taking care of my mental health on a daily basis. My mood has been rock steady even though I'm flying at work with hitting targets and this would usually send me into a tailspin of reckless activity. I've used the CALM app religiously to help me get off to sleep and for meditation, and their monthly chart with a daily mindful focus has helped me take one day at a time. I put together a folder of the people who influence me in a good way and I also displayed my old writing files in my study so they are easily accessible when I need some inspiration. I did the monthly MIND activity they popped through my letterbox as you can see from the photo above. I decided to print and display some of my favourite pictures from the last 18 months. I've been slowly working towards my goals for the year and keeping in regular contact with my therapist and GP, knowing that the virtual Safe Haven is only a phone call away. I hope to be discharged from the Community Mental Health Team soon. I think I have the medication situation under control now. I've decided it's best for me to take it in the evenings, even though my psychiatrist insists it's better in the mornings. I find I get even more restless early on in the afternoon if I take it in the mornings and I feel an increased anxiousness. I'd rather be asleep when my body wants to attack me like that! I do think the benefits of Aripiprazole overrule the negatives at the moment, although I am fully aware how this can flip.
What a week! I've seen the best and the worst of people this week and my stress levels and resilience have been tested to the limit. My engine gave up on the way home last Tuesday, completely out of the blue. The garage say they found diesel in it, but how did I drive 3/4 of a tank on diesel? The car would've spluttered and died shortly after leaving the forecourt, plus you can't get a diesel nozzle into a petrol tank on a car. It won't fit. I've been royally screwed over by my local Morrison's garage and it's going to cost in excess of 3K and there's absolutely nothing I can do about it. This is when I wish there was someone in my life who I could turn to and ask "what do I do?" I really miss that support from my dearest. Driving in the dark when you're being towed is an experience I wouldn't want to repeat in a hurry either. The car has no power steering so picture this - I'm knackered after a day's work, I'm hungry, I've been waiting over an hour for the AA man to rescue me and then I have to steer my car to the garage with no power steering whilst fatigue kicks in and pain is already present. I honestly don't know where I got the strength from.
The next day I had to get taxis to and from the next lived experience group for the new hospital, where we were meeting for the first time, after all the online sessions. I didn't want to miss it because we were going on a journey using our senses to give our thoughts, experiences and feelings on how the new hospital should look and feel in a sensory capacity. We worked through touch, taste, smell, hearing and seeing. The picture above shows an example of the touch exercise. I loved the way we could relate everything we did to colours. I found that immensely helpful. I learned in my Trauma Stabilisation group that smell and taste are the two strongest senses for grounding quickly, but that doesn't work for me. Touch is my strongest sense.
Anyway I ordered a new engine after cancelling my latest mental health team appointment. I couldn't face it and I couldn't let them see me stressed out! I need only good reports for when I approach the first fertility clinic again in the autumn.
I then endured five days of work and a particularly gruelling weekend of abusive and barmy customers, even being sexually harrassed on Sunday and having to call the police. Seriously. Give. Me. A. Break.
I did hit my second target though so that's something to celebrate, despite feeling incredibly triggered. I had a good chat with my therapist today about all of this and I can now see what courage I've had to come out the other side of this week still doing ok and keeping myself well. I'm currently listening to a beautiful playlist on CALM to wind down for the day. Talk again next week!
Blogging is an amazing concept so here I am giving it a whirl. You'll get words. You'll get pics. Sometimes a vid or two. You'll get tongue in cheek, the odd humble opinion and an honest insight into my travels and writing life. Maybe even a few gems along the way. I'll be musing on home turf as I see more and more of the UK and sharing my experiences further afield on holidays and adventurous trips across the globe.