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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Mental Health And Me – An Update

This is the first update about my mental health since writing this post, and in the time between that post and this I’ve been to the doctors for a medicine review on the 22nd November.  Thankfully some of the symptoms that I had when starting my medication (Sertraline 50mg) have subsided, the sick feeling still comes and goes but isn’t a persistent feature of day-to-day life, the hot and cold feelings have gone, and the dizzy spells are getting less and less which is good.

I’ve now developed insomnia, which I do get from time to time but never like this, over the space of a few weeks I have not been able to sleep for more than half an hour at a time if at all which is really starting to get me down.  The flip side to this is that when I do sleep, I can sleep for the whole day which has happened a few times now (the latest being sleeping through the whole of sunday 25th November).

I have still been feeling anxious and still have these anxiety attacks along with panic attacks though I can not identify a reason why, perhaps if I could then I would be able to stop them?

I spoke with the dr about all of this, he said it may help to up my medication.  I’m now taking 100mg of Sertraline each day.  I still feel unable to go back to work, mostly because my concentration levels are still really low and I keep forgetting things (like when watching tv, the adverts will come on and I have no idea what I have been watching), I still can’t settle to read a book and I’m finding myself really tired even when I have had a good nights sleep.  All of these things create a frustration in me and I know I would find it difficult in work with these symptoms, and I would end up being angry at myself for not being able to carry out the tasks I need to, taking too much time over completing tasks and generally struggling with the day-to-day things I need to do.

I’m finding it pretty hard to motivate myself to leave the house or even have conversations with people.  I feel like I’ve become a bit of a hermit at the moment.  I did manage to go food shopping at 12:30am on the 21st November…the Asda supermarket by me is open 24 hours and because I couldn’t sleep I decided to put that time to good use.  The supermarket was really quiet with only myself and shelf stackers around.  I got to walk around at my own pace and pay attention to what I was buying.  Usually, if I go in the day time I run around like I’m on supermarket sweep, grabbing things and not thinking about what I need or want in order to get out as fast as I can.  This time I only bought what I needed and didn’t forget anything.

I’ve been taking the higher dosage of medication for the last 3 days and so far have not got any more, or bought back any of the side effects I was experiencing.  I just hope that these will help somewhat!

Mental Health and Me

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In a time where mental health is spoken about daily, by the hour and by the minute and in a time where there is, or should be greater understanding of the struggles and difficulties of others it can still be really hard to talk about our mental struggles.  And there is still a sense of shame about talking about our problems and also a worry that we will be defined by our illness or, even worse, treated differently because of it.

I’m writing this as I have recently been diagnosed with anxiety, stress and low mood, and consequently I have been advised to take a break from work and to start taking tablets to help me feel better.  I also have Aspergers which is part of the autism spectrum which means I process things a bit differently to others and certain things can cause me stress and anxiety on a day-to-day basis.  Normally I am pretty good at dealing with day-to-day stresses, whether it be too much noise, the lights being too bright, lots of things going on, lots of different things to do, worrying about whether I am doing things right, interruptions, the list of things goes on and on….  I have developed coping strategies for most stresses that I encounter and on the whole they seem to work.  Well, they have done until recently…I started to notice that the coping mechanisms that I normally implemented were not working so well…making lists and prioritising what needs to be done usually stopped me from panicking but I noticed that faced with several tasks to do, at home or work, I couldn’t work out what to prioritize and started to feel like I couldn’t breathe as there was “too much to do” and that I couldn’t complete any of it.  I found that I couldn’t concentrate, following conversations was becoming hard work, the background noise becoming too distracting and as loud as the person talking to me, even coming home to the relative silence of my home felt like sitting in the middle of a football pitch at half time.  I couldn’t read my book, I lost where I was and kept reading the same sentence or paragraph over and over, or forgetting what I had just read and having to go back a page to re-read it.  Even sleep, the one total shut off from the world wasn’t helping, I was waking up after having nightmares, sweating and gasping for breath, or lying there, so totally drained of energy yet unable to sleep as my mind just kept going over things that had happened. should have happened, could have happened, might happen…

And while all this was happening my skin was suffering too…I broke out with eczema on my face – on my forehead – right.between.my.eyebrows.  (Thank you body for giving me something else to add to my stress and worry list…).

I eventually, after months of pretending I was fine (I sort of made myself believe that if I got up and put a smile on and managed to go to work, I couldn’t be that bad and that it was “all in my head” and that it was just me…) went to the doctor.

The doctor that I saw went through a load of questions with me about my life, feelings, mood, work, sleep and eating habits along with lots of other questions.  He said that my eczema outbreak had been caused by stress and that he thought I was dealing with high levels of stress and anxiety based on my answers to his questions and how he read my body language.  He gave me a prescription for Sertraline tablets which will increase serotonin levels in my brain and make me feel better in due time.

I’ve now been taking the medication for a month or so now, originally I was on half a tablet each day which was then upped to a full tablet every day.  The side effects are not that good, I’ve felt sick, dizzy, hot, cold, thirsty, not hungry, my concentration levels are still really low, following anything on the tv or reading is really difficult and I can’t decide whether it’s the meds or the stress and anxiety still.  I have days where I really don’t feel like leaving the house or even seeing anyone and just existing in my own bubble, though I feel like that sometimes anyway because of my aspergers (though that sort of feeling comes after time spent with too many people and being a bit sensory overwhelmed…).  It’s hard to know what is caused by the tablets, what is stress, anxiety, aspergers, or me.

Sometimes I feel like I am just this bundle of diagnosis’ and it can be hard to sift through what is what to the extent it can become exhausting and overwhelming.  Sometimes I wonder if I am becoming my diagnosis/illness or is it becoming me?  Sometimes I just feel really lost in it all and wonder if I’ll ever feel “normal”, whatever that is?

I do  know that I am really grateful to my family and friends who I am able to talk to and who accept me for me.  I’m sure it can be difficult to converse with me at times,  I am not particularly good at explaining how I’m feeling either or putting words to what I’m thinking or feeling, so explaining how I feel can be hard work.  I’m also greatful that the doctor that I have been seeing is really patient and understanding, he doesn’t try to put words into my mouth, he sits and listens or will ask more questions to get a full picture of it all.

There is no shame in seeking help for whatever is going on in your mind, whether it is speaking to a relative or friend, a doctor or health worker, or anyone who you can trust.  If you notice that you are struggling with things then reach out and talk to someone.