A quick update

A quick update

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Where does all the time go?, seems like every day I think “my god, I reallllllly need to do a blog post”, and POOF the day is gone. There is so much I want to do, so much I need to do and so much that probably needs to be done that I don’t even know about. So with all this going on my procrastinating really does not help.

On the flip side, I have managed to hand in my first two OU assignments on time :), tomorrow I start my third and final week of classroom training for my cognitive behavioural hypnotherapy course, and I have only had one anxiety attack in six weeks (yes, I am so proud). In truth, I think that what I have learned on my course has helped me a lot, not only learning how to deal with anxiety but also proving to myself that I can actually help others with what I have learned.

So what was once a dream a few months ago, is turning into reality. I am excited, scared, baffled and clueless as to what will happen going forward. I have ideas about what I wish to do (although they change slightly each day), I have plans for a website but no time/ knowledge etc to get it done. Basically with all this going on I should be as tense as a cat in a room full of rocking chairs, but I am not. I am actually rather calm, very calm.

Anyway, whilst I wish I could write more, I am out of time……… but I will try to write more soon…….. Promise……. 🙂

Moving forward

Moving forward

I have not had time, or to be more specific given time to do a blog update. For those of you that follow me on twitter ( @davesoapbox ) you will be aware that this past week I have started my hypnotherapy training. I am writing this sat on the train back to Cardiff and I must admit my brain is frazzled. In  the past seven days I have learned so much, not just theoretically but also practically and I am blown away. I do not intend this post to be a review of my training, but more an insight into how I am feeling right now.

I guess putting aside my tiredness I feel very positive. I have had this idea forming of what I which to do with my life and this course has been one of the main stepping stones. I was not ashamed to tell people my history, my motivation for trying to learn how to help others. I stood up and said “I know mental illness and despite what people say, there is so little help out there, I want to do my bit”.

I faced several personal challenges, a few of the practical exercises were close to areas of my life that are under review shall we say. I also had to do a lot of personal interaction, dealing with people on several levels from personal to essentially professional. I hope to think that I managed myself quite well, I believe I managed my anxiety. I admit there were a couple of times I did have to take some time to myself to address some anxieties but I was surprised to find that the practical sessions had a massive impact on my anxiety levels. I even managed to reduce my sugar intake during the week and even had glimpses of clarity.

Whilst the training was amazing, the people who I was training with were more so. Not only were they a diverse mix of academics, professionals and “lay” persons, they also represented a vast cross section of nationalities. I was so in awe of all of these people. There were Doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists, health care professionals and also people from the corporate world, I do not think I have ever been in a room filled with so many amazing people. The overriding thing though, was that each and every one of them was there with the client firmly in mind. Yes, some of them were interested in setting up a private practice but across the room, all of those there were so client focused and empathetic to the need for first rate care.

Above I did mention that the group comprised a variety of nationalities, being honest of the 28 people in the group, I would say more than half were from different countries. Having had the pleasure of talking to these people, it is apparent that the need for mental health care across the globe is becoming more of an issue. Also that more and more professional practitioners are using hypnotherapy in conjunction with CBT to deal with a variety of issues. Not going to go to far here (time for self promotion when I have finished my training) but having experienced first hand how effective pain control can be, I can’t wait to fulfil my idea of helping people learn coping mechanisms for the day to day challenges that we face.

Anyway enough of my excited ramblings, I am going to try to relax, time to do some self hypnosis……. leaves on the river……. time to stop the rambling thoughts

 

Peace and love

David

Why my illness is in a way my strength

Why my illness is in a way my strength

If there is one comfort to be taken from knowing what ails you, it can be the knowledge that you may not have been an awful person, just an ill one.  I look back on a life of arrogance and indifference to others, being viewed as self centred and uncaring. While I in no way wish to blame my behaviour on my illness, for I did what I did, and for it I shall take responsibility. However, when I relive the time when I caused others, friends, family and those who drifted into my orbit suffering, I can console myself slightly with knowing that more was at work than just my being a complete arse.

I do not have many friends, I do not regret this as being my friend often takes the patience of a saint. I can become so absorbed in things that life speeds by without my noticing, soon an unreplied message becomes a source of anxiety and gets pushed further from my mind. For a person who can go several days without noticing they have not left the house, not replying to a message in a timely fashion is often difficult. So friends soon fade into the background and I have learned that often it is easier to let them stay there.

The bigger problem is that of emotional attachment. I find that to stay in any form of control, I must limit how attached I become to people. It is hard to write this, so many words in my head and yet putting them into something that makes sense is a tough task. Many think that I simply do not care, the truth however is that if I let myself care, I might not cope. To feel that you have been let down or worse that you have let someone down, is a pain like an aching tooth, neither easily soothed or remedied.

To me the whole sphere of interaction is different, I rarely miss being in company, and even then, I find myself often lost within a crowd. I am like an atom, only so many electrons can orbit me at any one time. I know this is a part of my condition, a symptom, and therefore I am working to correct it or at least try to.

So with the above in mind, knowing myself as I do, would I chose to train to become a therapist? Perhaps first and foremost I wish to learn to help myself. So far on my journey, I have had to learn a lot for myself. I also seemed to have developed a keen interest in what I have learned and wish to know more, but more over I wish to help others. Maybe my knowledge of the hardships of mental ill health might make me a better therapist. Ethical boundaries must be observed and so my ability to remain emotionally detached and yet still supportive seem to be a good match. Hopefully by doing good for others will allow me more freedom from myself.

Finally my main driving force is the desire to help others to see that sometimes change can be effected. Maybe I will prevent someone else spending years destroying themselves because they think they are just a bad person. Maybe after years of being a destructive influence, I can live the latter half of my life being a constructive one. A lot of maybes, maybe they will come true.

Talking to myself

Talking to myself

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How many times have I sat here looking at a blank page, I am sure I have even used this opening in a post before. I want to write, I enjoy writing, the problem seems to be that I do not feel I have anything of value to say. Being realistic I am in a good place right now, I think of it as my recovery phase. That part of my cycle when I rebuild, when I start to have hope again. I still have some moments, periods of self doubt, periods of self hate, fatigue, anxiety, frustration, procrastination. I try each day to achieve more, I have started to look forward.

Next Tuesday I will again go and see my GP, firstly because I have come to the end of my meds supply. Secondly, so I can find out what happens next. I know what my problem is, I know how it affects me. I have even written my own care plan to deal with it, should it all go like it has in the past. I am so very scared of the future. Now, when I should be enjoying the lull in my condition all I can think of is the next time. Will there even be a next time? I am now so self aware of everything I do, everything I feel, how can it happen again? It might not but I do not think it wise to think that way.

Right now I have to think that what is, is, and always will be. The only way I can be sure that I can stay on top of it, is to never forget that I am ill. You see, the slipping has already started to show. I have stopped keeping track of my mood, my meds are no longer taken in a timely manner, I have become distracted. Failure to adhere to routines, to finish started projects, to stay on top of life events, these are warning indicators.

For me to function properly I need to have order and routine. Otherwise I will start to neglect things, let them snowball. Bills will go unpaid, things I start will go undone, gradually all these little worries will build. Not completing things will nag at me, reinforce the feeling of failure. I need to be challenged and stimulated, but not over tax myself. I become absorbed in things, but new things come along and I get absorbed anew. I have always failed so far in life, I am so scared that it will happen again.

I have made plans for a future, plans I have made before and failed to achieve. This time I must have faith in myself that I can see them through. Admitting I am ill helps, in some strange way it gives me a sense of hope. I know that being an arse was my way of dealing with my problems, I hope that in time I can become less of an arse and a more useful individual. I do not want to be the person I was, but habits are hard to break. Changing yourself is possible, but not easy. Finding the balance between useful self analysis and destructive self criticism is hard to find.

The page is no longer blank, I did have something to say, even if it was only to myself.

I am a work in progress

I am a work in progress

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Whilst I know my illness is a serious issue, I do find it amazing how one day I can be down and the next up. Last week I had a bad time, life was all doom and gloom. The negative definitely outweighed the good. This week has so far been positive, I have felt really good. Do not get me wrong, I still have “moments” but I have been a lot more positive, inspired almost.

I have started to exercise, which is never easy after a long time of idleness. I am eating healthier, and am starting to enjoy it (still can’t get rid of the sugar in coffee and tea though). I am also facing my worries, being productive, trying to remain motivated. They say having a positive mental attitude helps, I can’t say I am there yet but I am definitely trying.

I put the main change in my mindset down to sorting bad negative thoughts and feelings from the good negative feelings. It has amazed me how often my thoughts over little things are so very dark. I am the type of person who has a constant verbal monolog going on in my head. It gets on my nerves at times, always so negative. So I have started to rephrase things. “it will never work out, why bother”, has become “try it and see”. I no longer use “angry”, I use “frustrated”, “life is not shit”, “life is a challenge”. It is amazing how changing the words you use in your mind, can change the way you feel.

Introspection has also taken on this new thinking, I now look at things and try to draw out a different perspective. Last week I received an email that made me feel angry, this turned into a less than pleasant phone call, which left me feeling angry and negative. When I sat and looked at the whole thing I realised that my first mistake was feeling and responding with anger. I should have remained calm, and certainly not replied until I was so. I looked at what had made me feel “angry” and realised it was the tone of the email, but when I thought about it objectively I realised it was my fault. I had not done something I said I would, hence the email. Had I dealt with the issue before, the whole incident would never have happened.

When you are depressed, not being able to face things, not being able to think straight enough is common. Some people call it being lazy, or procrastination, the truth is that often even simple things can take on monumental proportions. Finding the motivation is hard, finding that motivation after you have put it off for a while becomes exponentially more difficult. Also the more we put off “until tomorrow” just makes it all worse, they are no longer single things, they gang up on you. Deadlines become doom days, the closer it gets, the less time we have. Soon it is on us or passed, the dread to answer the phone or open emails becomes scary. Quick run and hide under the duvet.

My family has always said that when things go bad, my response is to bury my head in the sand. I do not know why I do, I can have all the best intentions in the world, but turning them into actions is so difficult. Even when I do start to do things, the chance of them being maintained is doubtful. I am trying this time around but I am finding it a challenge. I think the main thing I need to bare in mind, is that it is a work in progress. I am not only learning to live on my own again, but also learning to live with my illness.

Maybe one more post

Maybe one more post

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I remember once being asked by a paramedic what it is like to suffer from anxiety and depression, I thought it a bit odd. However it is very easy to forget that just because medical personnel are trained to deal with mental health issues, they mostly concentrate on physical illness. I have often been asked the same question since and always tried to find a fitting example for how it feels. You can describe the symptoms, but we all tend to suffer in different ways. So just by giving my story, I do not feel that I am giving people a good idea of what it is like.

The answer came when I tried to explain it to my daughter, being only nine this was a challenge. Obviously telling her that Daddy had thoughts about killing himself was out, as was mentioning self-harming. So I had to come up with some kind of explanation that did not involve the details but captured the essence of mental illness.

I will explain to you as I explained it to her;

Take a deep breath and hold it (no cheating),

Keep holding your breath, easy isn’t it?

How about after a minute, still feeling okay?

Not so good now are you, chest starting to hurt, nose, throat? Body starting to rebel?

Okay now you are fighting, your body is really hurting now,

Still going, but I bet you are no longer in control, feel like you could burst?

The longer you hold your breath the more you will hurt, and you will breath, even if you pass out your body will breath. It is impossible to fight it.

Now imagine that those few short minutes are days, weeks or even hours. Welcome to mental illness. Sometimes you only have to hold your breath for a short time and get to breath, other times you get a quick gasp in between long periods of not breathing. That feeling you felt when you finally could breath, felt good didn’t it?

Okay now imagine that you had very little control over when it happened, imagine that someone else had the control; nervous? Imagine letting someone stop you from breathing whenever they chose. Not so pleasant a thought is it? The problem with mental illness is that whilst we do not physically have someone stopping us breathing, we do have ourselves. We allow ourselves to ignore things, bottle up emotions that we just can not deal with.

So in one instance I can feel totally fine, I can be fully aware of my problems and “accept” them. Then along will come a trigger, and this could be anything, some small random thing that alters my perception of all the other worries and doubts. It has two possible outcomes; the more common one is an anxiety attack. These can happen quite quick and despite myself, I miss the warning signs more often than not. They are generally short, about half and hour but they are intense. On the outside all can appear normal but inside I am crippled, I can still function but it takes a tremendous amount of effort just to do simple things.

The other outcome is a depression relapse, these are more significant, possibly lasting several days. Often these will be the result of a “self-hate” trigger, and are much harder than the anxiety to control. My mind will basically give me a mental “kickin'”. Every aspect of my life will be turned into a negative and as most things in life are linked, it grows. If you have ever been hit in the face with a snowball, you will know it hurts, and yet we all know snowballs are just lots of tiny little pretty snow flakes.

Logical thought becomes difficult; you can function, you can even operate perfectly “normal”, but inside you are consumed. If you are lucky you are just numb; unlucky, you are desperate for some form of release. Different people have different ways of handling the release, but very few do so in a non-destructive way. Drink, drugs, self-harm, starvation, over-eating and many other ways in which people try to escape their own minds. Sometimes they do not even know they are doing it to themselves, until it is too late.

I hear a lot of talk about “self-help”, CBT, mindfulness, meditation and various other ways to beat these problems. The trouble with “self-help” is that when you have an anxiety attack, it is on you before you have a chance. Yes, you can use these techniques to help you recover, but the damage is done. Go back to the holding your breath exercise, that point you reach, when you’re burning inside, that is the attack, the deep breath you take after is the recovery. It is kind of worse with the depression because you know that you can do these things, but you don’t. Depression saps your will to live, it drains you of emotion and feeling. You are not just sad, you are numb. In my case depression stems mainly from self-hate, when you do not even like yourself, why ever would you do anything to make things better. The vicious circle goes around and around, you can relive every “mistake” in your life in vivid detail. It does not even matter if you were truly at fault, with depression, everything is your fault. It’s raining, your fault, can’t find something, your fault and on and on it goes until you are bursting…….

So I guess when I see people advocating the “it’s all in your mind, you can do it” motivational bullshit, I really want to explain the holding your breath thing to them. People who are driven and expect others to hit their high standards and frown upon those that don’t need to remember, no one is the same as them. Pouring scorn onto a friend because they have found help in a bottle, telling them that they need to take a leaf out of your high achievers book. That will not work, in fact, the last thing anxiety and depression sufferers need is to have their noses rubbed in it.

How do I get out of it? Well for starters I use medication, without my meds I would be a complete mess, I know that for sure. Secondly I am open and honest with my family regarding how I feel, I do not hide (much) from them. Thirdly I have built around myself a good support network of people who know and understand me and what I am going through. Finally I accept that I will have bad periods, not every day will be brilliant, or even good. Some days will absolutely suck, some days there will be thoughts in my head that I would not wish on my worst enemy (if I had one).

I also find writing helps, the day before yesterday I was ready to tear this blog down. The very though consumed me and hurt me deeply, this blog is me. From just after I left hospital this blog has been my diary, my release. I have been accused of having an ego complex for wanting to share all the gory details, but in reality all I want is for people to see. I want people to understand that while yes, I am not well, I am not a psychotic maniac. Just because I have some dark stuff going on in my head, it does not make me incapable of living. In fact, if it came to an emergency situation for someone else, I would have no problem coping. I have to care more now about others, because them needing me is what keeps me going. I can offset my self-hate by doing good, I am not the best, but I will get better. One day I will have nothing left within me to hate.

Is it time to shut up shop?

Is it time to shut up shop?

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Those of you who have read my blog before will know that I tend to be open and honest, this blog has become a big part of my therapy. Unfortunately since I broke up my relationship, I find it difficult to write. No, being honest I am afraid to write what I am feeling. You see I have a daughter and I worry that if I was to actually write how I feel sometimes, I would be prevented from seeing her. So I bottle it up, I do have someone I can open up to but often I hold back because she has problems of her own. So I find myself with a dilemma on my hands, do I shut up shop?

Now you are all wondering what kind of ego maniac feels he has put all his deepest, darkest fears online? Well yes, I can just write it all down for myself nice and private but I also know how important it is to share. The thing about mental illness is there are volumes of textbooks written about by experts, but very little from the real experts. I made a commitment to myself to speak out, now I am at an impasse. One part of me wants to just shut my mouth, the site and just deal with it. The other part wants me to continue.

So there you go, probably my shortest post ever (phew I hear you say). So much I want to say but as you can see I am hampered. So if this is to be goodbye for now, I would like to thank all of you who have read my ramblings. I would also like to thank all of you who have left such lovely feedback, you are all amazing. Finally to the person who has helped me so much, a massive thank you. Even without this blog, I hope we remain friends for a long time to come.