Mental Health and Me – An Update

I wrote about my anxiety/panic attack around a week ago and since then I have re-visited the Dr.  I spoke in my last update, (back in November), about how I wasn’t sleeping very well.  This is still an ongoing issue.  A lot of the time I feel too awake to sleep and yet to asleep to be fully awake, it’s affecting my thoughts and reaction times, my emotions, mood, energy levels and levels of motivation.  And if I’m honest, it’s really starting to piss me off.

I have spoken to the dr’s that I have seen about not sleeping, the first thought that upping my dosage of sertraline from 50mg to 100mg per day would help, the second one spoke about sleep hygiene and other lifestyle things (like no caffeine of an evening…), the 3rd dr I saw said it was likely due to the increase in my medication and to just “hang in there” and as my body gets used to the dosage then my sleep should return.  And it felt like no one was really listening to me, like they were all offering ideas and things but nothing to really get to the root of the problem.

You see, I don’t drink coffee of an evening, in fact, I now really only have 1 or 2 cups a day and that is in the morning, I go to bed when I’m tired, my room isn’t too hot or cold, there is a supply of fresh air into the bedroom, its dark enough in my room, its quiet enough, I don’t watch tv or play games before I go to bed, I don’t have harsh lights on in the bedroom… I’ve tried having a warm bath before bed, a hot shower, a warm drink (like herbal tea or hot choc), I’ve tried leaving all the house lights off as its getting dark and going to bed when the natural light has faded, I’ve tried essential oils, Ive tried meditation, reading, not reading, just lying there doing absolutely nothing, and still I can’t sleep.  And when I do sleep, it’s either a few snatched hours here and there or I lose a whole day because it’s almost like I have passed out from lack of sleep to the extent where I will sleep through alarms and my phone ringing.

And so, the last doctor I saw, a few days ago, sort of bore the brunt of my frustrations, maybe because I had been awake for 2 days straight, but I think it was more to do with being so frustrated with not being able to sleep, and I told her exactly how I was feeling.  I want to go back to work, emotionally I’m feeling a lot better than I was, but how can I return when I’m not sleeping which means I can’t think straight, have this awful brain fog a lot of the time, end up sleeping through whole days and just can’t seem to do anything without it taking a lot of concentration and planning to do so.

And she was lovely.  She really seemed to understand where I was coming from and all the intricacies involved with not sleeping and we went through several ideas to try, as well as referring me to therapy to see if we can overcome this problem.

I’ve got until the end of the month off, the doctor said that it would give the therapy team a chance to sort an appointment (or appointments) out for me and hopefully I can return to work in february.

I left the drs feeling a bit of relief that my lack of sleep was being taken seriously by someone.  The other drs, though they had been good, I don’t think that they had really understood how not sleeping was making me feel or even quite how bad it has become.  And in all honesty, I feel that it was down to me and not explaining it to them well enough for them to understand that it’s not just a case of not sleeping every now and again, that it’s a constant thing that is getting worse as time goes on.

So, I’m feeling a bit better with the outcome and just have to wait for an appointment to be made with the therapist and see what happens then.

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Handmade Christmas Gifts

Now that Christmas is over and the presents have been given I can share with you the things I made as gifts this year!

Wax Melts

I made these for my Mum using left over candle wax, they are scented with cherry Bakewell scent.  I used silicone ice moulds to create them and, while it was an experiment to see if it would work, they turned out perfect so I was really pleased to be able to gift them to my Mum.

Candles

The purple one is baby powder scented and I made that for my lovely neighbour.  The red jar one is cherry Bakewell which I made for myself, the layered one in the same picture is bubblegum scented (which I also kept as it was leftover wax from another candle), the candles in the glass mugs are scented with Tranquility, Sticky Toffee Pudding, Cornish Coastline and Cherry Bakewell which I gave to my brother Ben and his wife Egle.  The three jar candles are vanilla custard and cherry bakewell scented which I made for my 3 step daughters.  The jar candle on its own is bubblegum scented which I made for my little brother Richard.

Pencil Boxes

I made these for my twin niece and nephew James and Ellie.  I had bought them time telling watches in pink for Ellie and blue for James to help them learn to tell the time but when they arrived they were just in plastic sleeves.  I wanted to be able to gift them in something that was a bit more special so I purchased a load of gems and plain wooden pencil boxes from Hobbycraft along with some Modpodge and set about creating them.  I already had the Hello Kitty and Nemo flat back bits in my stash along with glitter so it was applying the modpodge and glitter, another layer of modpodge, gems and another coat of modpodge and leaving to dry before placing their watches inside and wrapping.

Journal

I made this bullet journal/diary thing for Mum because she is never without her diary.  Even when I was small I remember her always having her diary to hand and writing all sorts of memos and things into it.  I made her this so she can log everything she needs to and carry it about day-to-day.  I included a future log, a monthly overview for each month, weekly shopping and to do lists, a recipe for each month, a section for reflections on each month and lots of other things.  I even included a different holiday for each day using images that I found online (though I can’t seem to find a link…) I think she really liked it!

What did you make as gifts for people this Christmas?

What I Did – How I Celebrated The New Year

Happy New Year!  I hope you all had a good evening seeing out the old year and welcoming the new one in.  And I hope you all had a lovely first day of the year too!

I celebrated the arrival of the New Year with my neighbour drinking prosecco and cassis then singing Auld Lang Syne at the top of our voices in her front room before we came back to mine and sat talking and drinking far too much Eggnog!

When I woke on New Years Day I got up and started to prepare veg for lunch as I’d invited my Mum, Dad and brother (Richard) up for food.  I cooked mashed potatoes, roast potatoes, broccoli, maple roast parsnips, peas, carrots, stuffing, yorkshire puddings and a quorn roast.  Richard is allergic to mycoprotein so I cooked him a sweet potato and spinach nut roast.

I had already set the table the day before and added a scented candle to each place setting that I had made (Mum’s was Baby Powder fragranced, Dad had a Sticky Toffee Pudding one while Richard and I had a Fresh Linen scented one).  I used fairy lights to dress the table and a candle stick that I had bought from Ikea.

For starters I served beetroot and spinach burgers, which had a vegan cheese middle, on a bed of salad with a vinaigrette dressing.  For dessert I served a vegan chocolate Torte with soya squirty cream.  Mum bought up a bottle of wine which we shared and we also had Belvior Raspberry Presse.

Once we had eaten we all sat and chatted, Dad and I had coffee that I made in my french press (Hot Lava Java coffee – yum!)

Once everyone had gone, Roxy and I had a little snooze then I got up and started working on some artwork for the 64 Million Artists January Challenge that I had signed up to after Christmas!  The challenge is to create a piece of artwork based on prompts that are emailed to you daily for the whole of January which you can then upload to social media using the #TheJanuaryChallenge.  If you are interested in signing up then click here.

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Why I Don’t Care for Modern-Day Self-Care

You only have to search the likes of Instagram and Pinterest for self-care and you are met with a barrage of posts about hair care, exercise, make-up, face masks, luxury bath products, fashion, jewellery and all sorts of other things that to me are less about self care and more about “treat yo’ self”.  It’s all sorts of flowery, feel good stuff that in itself is fine but is not really what self care is all about.

There are loads of self-care journals on the shelves now too, many giving writing and creative prompts for you to fill in as and when you choose.

And while these things can help us feel good about ourselves and assist in feeling happier and more positive on a day-to-day basis, they don’t really address the issues we face when we have mental health issues.

When you are in the pits of a mental health illness (for me that would be anxiety, stress and depression) disorder/illness/issue the last thing on your mind can be to pick up a journal and write or create.  Your only instinct is to survive and get through the episode and out the other side.  Housework, basic hygiene, eating and even sleep cease to be important and having someone tell us to take a bath with a luxury brand product is not helping in any way, shape or form.  When it is too much effort to even get out of bed and make a drink and see to our basic needs this is where I have to disagree with modern-day self-care.

I read something, a list of self-care “tips” when I had my anxiety attack the other day which gave really “helpful” advice such as “Get more sleep” and “Have a deep and meaningful conversation”, “light a scented candle”, and even “Close your eyes and rest for 5 minutes” and I got really angry.  If I could get any more sleep I would, trust me.  I have tried and failed and having some poncey list telling me that this will help just infuriates me.  As does the advice to have a deep and meaningful conversation, for me, when I am in desperate need of self care, talking to someone, let alone having a meaningful conversation is laughable, I just want to be left alone.  Lighting a scented candle, when I’m having a period of anxiety just magnifies the anxiety I already have so that really isn’t helpful.  And I’m sure whoever came up with “Close your eyes and rest for 5 minutes” has never experienced stress or anxiety or any other condition where being able to rest would be great if we could totally unplug our brain and our racing thoughts.

And then I started thinking about what self-care really is, it’s about being a friend to yourself, the best friend, the one who tells you, honestly, that you stink and forces you to take a shower, wash your hair, brush your teeth or do the washing up.  I’ve been there, and I have had no care for washing, brushing my hair or teeth, staying in pyjamas that I’ve been wearing solidly for a week, having no energy or motivation to do anything except lay there and avoid everything.  And I’ve been the one that has forced myself to go and shower, and it may have taken me an hour but I’ve done it, and, do you know what?  Just that simple act of standing under running water and getting clean has helped me feel a teeny bit better.

So, heres some advice.

Eat regularly, don’t worry if its healthy or not, even if it’s a bag of crisps or a few haribo at least you have eaten something.

Drink.  Water is the easiest.  Set an alarm on your phone and try to take a few sips through the day.

Brush your teeth.  Just this small act has made a huge difference to how I have been feeling.

Tackle one task at a time…if the bins are full then empty them.  If the sink is full then take your time and wash everything.  If the counters are grubby then clean them.

Change your clothes, if not everyday then at least every other.  It really feels like the greatest accomplishment.

Force yourself to shower or bath, even if its only 10 minutes, it will help.

Self care isn’t about long baths, lie ins, scented candles, journals or anything like that.  It’s about existing and really getting to the root of the problem, being your own best friend and doing what is best for you.  So, sorry to all you modern-day self-care lovers, but that stuff aint working for me when I’ve hit a real low.

Recipe of the Month – January

In my opinion there is nothing better, at this time of the year, than settling down with some toast and a lovely, hot bowl of soup while your favorite programme plays on the tv.  Today I am sharing my favorite Vegan Tomato and Bean Soup recipe that is easy to make, nutritious and filling.  The recipe was found on http://www.veganrecipeclub.org.uk and they have some really wonderful recipes on there to cover almost every type of meal imaginable!  It’s such a fab resource of recipes and would be super helpful to any of you attempting Veganuary this year!

Heres the recipe…

 

  • 900g/2lb plum tomatoes (Or you can cheat and use two tins of chopped! If so, start at no. 4) *
  • 30ml/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 275g/10oz onions, roughly chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 900ml/1½ pts/3¾ cups vegetable stock
  • 30ml/2 tbsp sun dried tomato paste (or just blitz about 3-4 whole SDT with water)
  • 10ml/2 tsp paprika
  • 15ml/1 tbsp cornflour or ½ tbsp arrowroot (arrowroot is GF) – mix to a paste with a little cold water
  • 425g/15oz tin cannellini or other small white beans, rinsed and drained
  • 30ml/2tbsp chopped fresh basil**
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

* I always use tinned tomatoes just because fresh tomatoes seem to get eaten as soon as they are purchased…

** I don’t always have fresh basil to hand and have used dried basil in its place, but please check the date when you opened the dried herbs as they can lose their potency once opened.

Additional things I sometimes add are oregano, thyme or vegan Worcestershire sauce.

Method…

  1. If using fresh tomatoes you will want to prepare them first.  To prepare them we need to peel them and then chop them.  To peel them it is easiest to place them in a bowl of hot (just boiled) water, then plunge them into cold water after around 10-20 seconds, then peel with a sharp knife.  Then cut into quarters.
  2. Heat the oil in a large pan, I use the pan that I am going to make the soup in because I hate washing up!
  3. Add the onions and garlic and lightly fry before adding the tomatoes and the tomato paste into the mix.  I usually add the tomatoes once the onions have softened and become transparent.
  4. Add stock and season with salt, pepper and paprika.
  5. Bring the mix to the boil then leave to simmer for 10mins
  6. Add the cornflour (this will thicken the soup slightly)
  7. Drain and rinse the beans and add to the mix, stir through
  8. Taste and adjust seasoning, add basil then serve!

This recipe will serve 2 people easily!