Mental Health and Me – An Update

I went to see Occupational Health on Tuesday last week.  At the time I didn’t really see that it was necessary as I knew that the environment I was going back to in work had changed, there had been work done to the offices – new heating systems put in and walls taken down which meant that the seating arrangements and whole office layout had changed which had changed the dynamics of the team I work in.  I thought that, until I returned to work I wouldn’t know if that environment had affected me or whether it would.

I got ready on the morning of my appointment and the anxiety started to creep in but I managed to control it.  I was really anxious about the drive there as I’ve not really driven much since I have been off from work.  I was also really worried about the actual appointment, what I needed to say, whether I would forget to mention anything, whether they would see me fit enough to return to work and whether I would be allowed to return to work full-time.

When I arrived I had to fill in a form with all my details on it, it was a quick form to fill in and taking time to answer it seemed to calm my nerves a bit.  I was 10 minutes early so I thought I would have to sit and wait but the doctor was able to see me straight away.  I think this helped too as I wasn’t able to start overthinking things.

We talked about how I am feeling now, how I was feeling, my medication, anything that may have triggered my anxiety, stress and depression and what sort of things I was doing to overcome my illness.  We talked about my worries about returning to work and how I’m still not sleeping properly.  The doctor was really lovely, she asked lots of questions and listened to my answers without brushing them off, and she gave me some really useful advice.  She also said that I would be ok to return to work on an extended phased return as she felt that it would be better for me.  She suggested that for 2 weeks I work a total of 12 hours over 3 days, the next 2 weeks increase to 15 hours over 3 days, the 3rd week 24 hours over 4 days and the final 2 weeks to work 30 hours over 5 days.  After that period of time I could then resume working 37.5hrs a week.

A report was written up and a copy was sent to my employer.  I spoke with my line manager on monday this week, it was the final day of being covered on my sick note and we discussed my return to work for Tuesday.  I decided, with her, that I would attend work at 9am and we would have a meeting to discuss my phased return.

So, yesterday, I got ready for my first day back.  I was really worried about going back, namely about how my work colleagues would be with me, where I was going to be sitting, if I could remember my log in details for my work computer and about what was going to happen during the day.

I arrived at work, found my desk, my computer took an age to fire up as it had been switched off for some time, then I had problems with my computer screens (I use 2 for work), I then got locked out of the system as the password I did remember didn’t work.  Eventually I was able to get into the system!  I spent time sorting through my emails (all 600 of them!) then I had a meeting with my line manager, we needed to fill in some paperwork about returning to work, then my overall manager joined us to discuss the Occupational Health report.  She said that it was a really positive report and that she could see that I was taking steps to help myself which was good.  We then discussed my phased return.  Both my managers agreed that the proposed return was a good idea and that they had worked out a timetable of hours and days for me to work which was nice, and they asked what sort of hours I preferred – I said mornings, as eventually I would need to be getting up in the mornings to come to work anyway and a routine would be really beneficial to me and probably help with my sleep patterns.

After the meeting I went back to my desk and managed to do the work that had been allocated to me before it was time for me to go home.  My work colleagues were lovely and all said hi and had a chat with me.  One of my work friends had left a note on my desk welcoming me back and put a little Hello Kitty figure with it.  That really made me smile and was such a lovely gesture to come in to.

I’m back in work tomorrow and really looking forward to it.  I just have no idea what to wear!  This time last year it was freezing in the office but now the heating has been upgraded it seems warmer so I am unsure how to dress.

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I Broke Up…with Facebook

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Back at the end of 2018 I came to a rather abrupt decision, not just to leave Facebook, but to walk out and never go back.  Facebook and I are over, we broke up and I never want to see it again (*disclaimer*…at least for the forseeable future…).

So, on the 5th January, after leaving a message up on my Facebook for a week prior saying I was leaving and should anyone want to stay in contact to inbox me their mobile, and after downloading all the information that I wanted to save from my account, I hit the delete account button.  Facebook does, kindly, let you know that it puts your account into de-activation mode for a month incase you want to come back within that 30 day period…helpful, but no.

And this wasn’t a decision I had truly thought about and mulled over, I just decided that I was fed up of the social media platform, just like that, there was no decision to be made, I’d had enough and I wanted out there and then.  A few friends were pretty surprised as I’d spent half my degree years working on projects about social media and proclaimed my love for Facebook pretty much daily for the past few years.

And here I am now, just over a month into not having a Facebook…do I miss it?  Not particularly, though in the beginning I would pick up my phone and not really know why.  That habit was quite a worrying one as I had not really noticed how much I used to pick it up to check Facebook and it was a pretty hard one to break too.

So, why did I leave?  That’s what you have all been waiting for me to answer right?  Well, it was a mixture of things, one being the endless amount of hours I spent scrolling through my feed (and we are talking around 2 hrs a day) and not really getting anything out of it aside from frustration borne from seeing the same things posted over and over again, whether it be videos, memes or articles.  No longer was I connecting with friends, I had no idea what any of them were up to in real life as no one seems to share any snippets of their life anymore, and surely that is the one thing that Facebook is supposed to do, after all, their tag line is “Facebook helps you connect and share with the people in your life.”.  And when people did share something personal it always seemed to be a smug photo of them on holiday/at a fancy restaurant/showing off a new purchase/whatever and to me it sort of felt like people were gloating and bragging and, honestly, I really hate that (not to say I’ve never been guilty of that).

Facebook breeds meanness, I used to be in a lot of groups for one thing and another and, while people were encouraged to share things, like, for example, something they had made, the amount of mean comments that were posted underneath made me feel a bit insecure and not wanting to share.  I was always taught that if you have nothing nice to say then not to say anything and that is a transferable skill…it works on-line too.

Then there is the whole censoring what you say, not for any political reasons or anything else, but because half the people you work with are on your Facebook friends list and you don’t want them to know certain things, or that you can’t say something because it might upset someone else and it all just becomes a headache.

And don’t get me started on algorithms and that Facebook controls what you see from which friends…

I think what it all boils down to is that I just became really irritated with Facebook and it left me feeling not too good about myself, wasn’t giving me anything in return of any sort of value, it wasn’t enhancing or enriching my life and when that happens, whether it is a real relationship or a relationship with a social media platform I think its time to call it a day.

Since I have left Facebook I have been reading more blogs and articles online that I’m interested in, writing and working on my blog more, creating more and just enjoying time where I have noting to do for what it is – simple, quiet downtime.  And its been brilliant.

Will I ever return to Facebook?  At the moment I can’t see that happening any time soon, I’m still getting to grips with Twitter and I’m pretty happy with Instagram, but it’s not something I would rule out entirely.

Time To Talk

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Today is Time to Talk Day, an initiative bought about to help end the stigma that surrounds mental health.

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http://www.time-to-change.org.uk

I decided that Time To Talk day was something I wanted to get involved with as mental health is something I have had dealings with over the course of my life and the stigma that surrounds mental health has always created a barrier that has stopped me from talking about my mental health.  And this stigma seems to be really silly, we all  have mental health, whether it is good, bad or you never think about it.  I think it is time to start having the conversations about our mental health, just as we do with our physical health, we need to normalise all health issues to the same level.

So, today I am going to share with you my mental health story. (You can find other posts about my mental heath here)

On a Monday morning, back at the beginning of September 2018, I got up to get ready for work and I just couldn’t do it, I couldn’t face the idea of getting ready or even leaving the house to go to work, I felt dizzy, a bit sick and really panicky.  I already had a routine appointment with my doctor booked in for that morning and I managed to leave the house and get to it.  I sat in the doctors waiting room and just didn’t feel connected to myself, it felt like an alien had taken over and inhabited my body.  I got called in to the doctor’s office and just burst into tears.  I told him how I was feeling and we went through a series of question and answers and he eventually told me that I had anxiety, stress and depression.  I was prescribed medication and given a note for 2 weeks away from work and asked to return to the doctor for assessment at the end of that fortnight.

Those first weeks away from work went by in a haze.  I got up, took my medication and either slept or lay on the sofa, I couldn’t carry out tasks very easily as my thought process was jumbled and everything felt too hard.  My concentration levels dropped which meant that I had difficulty in reading a book or even following a tv show.  I don’t know whether that was down to the medication or whether that was my brains way of shutting off in order to heal itself.  I told this to the doctor on my next visit.

I had a lot of side effects from my medication, from feeling too hot or cold, feeling sick, shaking, headaches, bad stomach, feeling like I was going to pass out, lack of appetite, I can’t remember them all now.  The worst was feeling really wobbly and light-headed all day, so much so, that I didn’t trust myself to get into the shower or have a bath.  I was really worried that I would fall or pass out but really needed a shower.  In the end, I had to ask a friend to come around and stay while I had a shower incase I did fall.

Over time my medication was increased as my anxiety levels were still really high and I went on to have further side effects from the medication which have now gone as my body has got used to the ingredients.

I still have problems, sleep is an ongoing issue.  Despite how tired I am and what I have tried, I am not sleeping very much day-to-day, but when I do sleep I am loosing nearly 24 hours as my body and mind try to catch up.  I have been referred to a mental health worker who will be working with me to improve my sleep soon, so hopefully, I will be able to sleep for a full night again.  I still feel anxious, worried and feel the panic start to set in but I have a few coping mechanisms which seem to work well for me.  I have had a few anxiety/panic attacks (you can read about the worst one here) but generally I am able to take control of them as I feel them coming on, distracting myself by doing something I enjoy seems to help a lot.

I have been off from work for around 4 months now and I can feel my old self starting to return.  My concentration levels are increasing and I’m finding that I am able to do more things.  I am finding myself enjoying things that I used to and am preparing to return to work.

I think that the main thing I want to say is that if you are feeling stressed, anxious, depressed or start to notice that your enjoyment in life seems to be shrinking then it really is worth speaking to a medical practitioner.  There is no shame to be had by saying that you are not ok, and seeking help for it.  I have also been blessed with having family and friends who I have been able to talk to and who have supported me through this period of time which has really helped me, whether it has been a phone call to ask how I am, a text or a visit, going shopping or cooking for me when I have been unable to, having a support network has really aided me along the way.

If you need to talk, there are lots of places you can turn to and a host of on-line support available as well as groups that meet in person, to find out what is available to you in your area Google is a good place to start.

And if you ever need someone to talk to, you can always drop me an email – my.colourful.life@outlook.com.

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Mental Health and Me – An Update

I spoke last month, in my mental health update here, about wanting to return to work in February and issues that I still had that were hindering returning to work, namely my problems with sleep.  At the time of that update I was waiting for a referral to some kind of therapy programme which may help me with my sleep issues.

I have now spoken with a member of the mental health team who went through an assessment with me and had a lengthy conversation about my sleep.  We spoke about how I wanted to return to work as I was feeling much better emotionally and how frustrated I am that sleep is now the biggest problem for me.  We identified some possible reasons why I’m having trouble sleeping including worry about returning to work (how it will affect me, what will happen when I’m back at work, others attitudes to me, as well as the general anxiety around my return), that my brain may not be getting enough mental stimulation now I’m getting better – a sign that returning to work would be good for me, how I am going to cope at work and having coping mechanisms in place, as well as anxiety about getting back into a work routine and balancing my work/home life.

We spoke about medication and the option of increasing the dosage during my return to work phase and seeing if that will help with sleep, and we spoke about having a key worker who would work with me 1 on 1 with issues I may have.   I said yes to both, so now I need to return to my doctor once the assessment has been recorded in my notes and request a dosage increase and wait for a letter regarding my key worker.

I have also been referred to Occupational Health by my manager so I can have a chat with a medical practitioner with regards to returning to work and what things work could put in place to support me in returning including a phased return which my manager suggested.  I have the appointment on Tuesday.

In all, I’m feeling pretty optimistic about everything.  I would have liked to return to work this past week but realise that there are certain things that need to be done before I can return.  I also think that implementing a phased return would be really helpful as it means I would be returning gradually and I won’t be feeling so overwhelmed by it all.

I will post an update once I have seen the Occupational Health practitioner and know what is going on more!

My Hobbies and Interests

I thought I would share with you my hobbies and interests on the blog today as a way of getting to know me a bit better.  I find that knowing what someone enjoys doing, what their hobbies and interests are lets me get to know them on a bit more of a personal level.  So here are my hobbies and interests…

Arts and Crafts

I’ve always been into arts and crafts, from a very young age you would find me at the table with a paint brush or coloured pencils and crayons grasped in my hand creating masterpieces for people’s fridges!  My Grandma nurtured this instinct in me, both her and my Dad share a love of painting, and I used to go to her house and we would have a fantastic time painting and making things with toilet rolls, glitter, glue and plasticine.  That love of art saw me gain an A in GCSE art, then a D in A Level art.  I continued with my love of art and discovered scrapbooks and card making, photography and jewellery making which helped me no end when I studied a Foundation Degree in Art, Media and Design and then a Bachelor’s Degree in Photographic Art.

Currently I am enjoying candle making which I find has been really good for my head space since I have been off with stress, anxiety and depression.  It is something that I can lose myself in and has a somewhat medative quality to the processes (melting the wax, adding dye, scent then pouring the wax).

I have also started a lettering journal as I have found a love for hand lettering and really wanted to create a book of different hand lettering styles that I can use in my bullet journal and in other crafts in the future.  I have been sitting of an evening with a hot cup of tea and sketching out different alphabet styles which has been really relaxing and fun.  I have found it to be a great way to empty my mind of all the thoughts I have had during the day and helps to prepare my mind for bed.

I am intending to go over the pencil lines with pen at some point and add some colour and notes to the pages.

Reading

I love reading, being all snuggled under a blanket and getting lost in another world is one of my favorite things to do.  Unfortunately, since my mental health took a nose dive I’ve not really done much reading.  My stress and anxiety have decreased my concentration levels to a state where I found that I couldn’t follow a story and kept reading the same thing over and over again, I’d lose my place and get distracted easily which has been super frustrating for me.  I used to read at least a book or 2 each week but since september I have not read a full book.  I started reading The Snowman by Jo Nesbo back in september and am still reading it now.  I did manage 5 whole minutes the other day which I was pleased with and feel that is a sign to me getting better slowly.

Home Interiors

I have put this as one title though it includes painting and decorating, upcycling and DIY!  Since I moved into my own home I have been obsessed with all things decoration from upcycling my chairs and my lamp, to choosing colours to paint my rooms.  I have really enjoyed all parts of making my house a cozy home that reflects my personality and I’m on the look out to create some more lovely things for my home this year.  I already have a project lined up for the summer months that involves a lot of sanding, painting and cutting of wood!

Planners and Diaries

You may have seen my post Preparing for 2019 where I spoke about the diaries and planners I had ready for 2019, and I suppose you could call it a hobby or interest of mine as I’m forever on the search for the perfect planner for my life, even now, with the planners and diaries I already have for 2019 there are a few that I’m still looking at (hey, you can never have too many right?!).  I love to be organised and find that writing things down helps them to stick better in my brain rather than using my phone calendar and I have a lot to remember from bills that need paying, blog posts to write, household things and doctors appointments, along with making notes on what I have done that day, work things, dates, places to visit etc my planner can get full pretty quick!  I had used a bullet journal for a few years as I loved the creative side to it, designing layouts, doodling and painting on the pages and adding things in but eventually fell out of love with that method, especially in the run up to Christmas where I seemed to be too busy to make layouts and it all sort of slid off my radar.  While I still like the idea of a bullet journal I decided it wasn’t really the right method for me and have gone down the pre printed, multi diary/planner route for this year as I think having several planners/diaries for different aspects of my life may be a better option though only time will tell!

Blogs and Blogging

While I may not have been reading books at the moment I have been reading lots of blogs and blog posts.  I love reading about people’s lives, things people are doing, outfit posts, posts about products, creative posts about art and making things, recipes, lifestyle and all manner of other things.  I sit down each morning when I wake and, accompanied by my dog Roxy, and a coffee I catch up on the blogs I follow, sometimes I search for topics that I am interested in and read a few posts that catch my eye and I feel like I have caught up with friends.

Since starting this blog I have really enjoyed the freedom it has given me to express myself and share bits of my life, what I have been doing and thoughts and feelings.  I have found it to be really therapeutic, sitting in front of my laptop and composing posts, taking photos and planning topics to write about.

What hobbies and interests do you have?

 

How I Stay Creative

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Being Creative

I’d love to say that I’m always creative and have ideas going round in my head all the time, but like all energies, the creative energy that generates ideas ebbs and flows as unpredictably as a river after a heavy rain.  I have days, weeks, and rarely, months, where I seem to be forever creating and crafting and the ideas seem to keep on coming at me, but I also have times where my ideas and passion for creating seem to dry up and shrivel away to nothing.

In the past, staying creative was easy – university provided me with loose themed projects to work on, our own interpretation of the topic was hugely encouraged.  It made thinking about topics and things to do incredibly easy, in some ways it took that ability away from me.  I found it easy to come up with creative ideas when there was a topic presented to me.  We had group chats about our work and the direction we wanted to go in with our projects along with feedback from our peers and lecturers.  We focused on research, trial and error and then the final outcome.  Having other persons input into our ideas really helped.  But now I’m alone and away from group discussion, the onus is on me to continue with being creative.

After I finished university I had this itch to continue to make things but had no real idea of how to start and what to do with this energy inside me.  I had very little skill in knowing how to use this energy and formulate it into solid ideas.  I dealt with it in the worst way possible.  I sat and did nothing, letting this feeling fester and then wither.  While I did continue to take photos and create other bits and pieces here and there, it was nothing like having a project and something to really focus on.

And then the fear started to creep in.  Fear that what I was doing wasn’t good enough, fear that what I was producing didn’t have a point, fear that my ideas were limiting my work and without discussing my ideas and getting feedback and opinions that my work wasn’t somehow validated.  So I stopped.  I stopped creating, I stopped thinking, and I felt like I had lost a part of me.

What really got me back into creating and being creative was social media, I found some Instagram accounts that I liked, I joined Facebook groups where my interests were embraced and where people shared their work with others.  And I slowly started to re-gain confidence in myself and my ideas.

Now, to stay creative I read articles that are related to my interests, I read blogs about crafting and art, I follow lots of Instagram accounts that are working in a similar way to me, and I research skills I’d like to learn.  There are so many craft ideas pages, tutorials and step-by-step instructions on the web that have helped me to.  Lots of the big hobby stores have pages of ideas to read about too, which help.

I keep a notebook of ideas, my phone holds lots of web links, I have saved articles on my pc and I am subscribed to websites that email projects I may be interested in that I can refer to when I hit a wall which helps me to overcome an “artists block”.  I have realised that I don’t always need the guidance of others to help me create and I follow my own set of rules.  I no longer care whether what I create has a point, means something or whether others will like or understand it.  I create for me.  That’s how I stay creative.

 

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.

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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