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.

Journal #3/4 The importance of eating (healthily)

Journal #3/4 The importance of eating (healthily)

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I am guilty of not eating properly, I just do not feel hungry most of the time. I know that I should eat more and also that I should eat better, but I do find it difficult. It is amazing how even simple things become a challenge, I know that is should, I just don’t. Since my breakdown and the breakup of my relationship I have noticed that I have lost weight. Initially this was great because I was carrying a bit extra, and now my clothes fit again.

A good friend has advised me that I need to eat, and eat better, healthier things. I have tried and have surprised myself at my ability to make healthy interesting. I do not however eat as much as I should, I also do not drink as much as I maybe should either. A quick look on my favourite NHS Choices website and I am surprised to find that I could actually be suffering from malnutrition. Now I thought malnutrition was only for those poor people starving not something that I could be at risk of. Turns out that losing 5-10% of your body weight in 3-6 months (when not trying to) is a possible sign of malnutrition.

Looking at the symptoms, it becomes even more concerning:

Sometimes, weight loss isn’t obvious because it occurs slowly, over time. You may notice that your clothes, belts and jewellery gradually feel looser.
Other signs of malnutrition may include:
feeling tired all the time and lacking energy
frequently getting infections
taking a long time to recover from infections
delayed wound healing
poor concentration
difficulty keeping warm
depression 

(copied from NHS Choices)

Okay so I have noticed my clothes “fit” better, feeling tired all the time and lacking energy? Yes, I suppose I feel like that most days, but I have depression. I have not been physically ill recently so the next three I cannot say I have noticed. However poor concentration again I have put down to illness/meds, difficulty keeping warm? Thinking about it I do feel cold quite often.

Oh look what is last on the list, depression?? Has to me wonder if poor eating is actually feeding my depression. I know that my bouts of depression are getting less frequent. but I am pretty sure that on bad days, I am less inclined to eat. I hear people talk all the time about healthy eating and now I think I have probably been a fool for not heeding their advice. I would be interested to hear what others who suffer from depression think. Am I just stupid, or is it common for us depressive to starve ourselves without really noticing?

Anyway I have resolved to pay more attention to my eating habits, though I hope that my spare tyre does not return. I quite like fitting into my clothes again.

Do you know what anxiety is to me?

Do you know what anxiety is to me?

imageEver wondered what it’s like to have an anxiety attack, well read on becuase i am in the middle of one right now. For me it starts with a feeling, almost like the feeling you get before a storm. I’ve come to know this trigger and it lets me prepare, I have anything between five minutes to half an hour. The initial symptoms are a slight feeling in my stomach, like butterflies but not so intense, my muscles will start to tense slightly and I will get a pressure around the area of the right synus/behind the eye.

I know I have to relax, this is important, no matter how intense the desire is to tense up I must try to relax, breathing deeply helps and counting each breath. this concertrates the mind off any thoughts. This point in the attack I still have no idea what has triggered it. Whilst I can still pretend to act normal it becomes very difficult. I would become intense or snappy but inside screaming. These are the worst, these are the attacks that would lead to self harm but I can’t do that so I must try to relax

As I type this I am feeling it, alll the muscles in my fingers and toes are tensing up and those in my legs, just have to relax and breath. It will come in waves now, different muscle groups but the same intensity of tension, because i’m writting this I am not concerntrating on the cause so it is difficult. Head aches, chest still tight, desire to scratch my skin off is so overpowering but I breath, during these kind of attacks are when I am most suseptable to self harming, so glad I am learning to control them.

Easing now, breathing through it and I can feel my muscles relaxing, it has passed. Scared and nervous now but with each breath I have more control, I have beaten another one. don’t even want to read this through.

spelling is probably terrible but I don’t want to change it

I’m okay

I’m okay

One normal day does not make you well

One normal day does not make you well

A normal day, yes that’s right a normal day. wake up get daughter ready for school, put her on the school bus then back home for a cup of tea and first meds of the day. Then sit in my chair check twitter for about the sixth time this morning (please tell me you read my last article) and ……….

Okay so four hours later I wake up from my nap and realise that I really better do something constructive as my other half is in work and I am more scared of her than my illness so commence operation do something constructive. Success, just coming out of the shower when she got home, look honey I’ve done things. So not in dog house, partner has headache so get her pills and her and daughter snuggle up on sofa watching tv (well one was).

So I’ve had a good day and been feeling good and not feeling bad. Thats right no bad thoughts, I felt normal, better, a fraud, hell was I even ill. Yer was I ill or just putting it on, maybe I am just a lazy git, taking advantage of the situation. That’s it, yes I had a bit of a breakdown but come on surely I should be back in work by now? Hell what a useless sack of waste I am, here we are trying to work out how we are going to survive the month on pennies and I’m sat on my butt, popping happy pills and playing the mental illness card.

What a useless person I am, why the hell do people put up with me, why don’t I just take that knife out the top draw and……

Then you realise your still not well, you put the knife back in the draw and get on with life. Just because you feel good for a few hours don’t assume your well and most of all when your illness plays games with your life, don’t let money become more important than life.

Self harm

Self harm

WARNING – THIS POST CONTAINS INFORMATION AND IMAGES THAT MAY BE DISTURBING

I have been skirting around this subject for a while now mainly because I was unsure how to write it. As I see it the term ‘self harming’ is one of the biggest stigmas that mental health sufferers face, especially those who are younger and mainly effected. The most common image I expect that comes to mind is cutting, this is often confused as ‘failed suicide’ but self harm often has nothing to do with suicide. In fact self harming is often a coping mechanism which helps those with suicidal thoughts release tension.

Self harming is not confined to cutting, any form of harm committed against oneself can be self harm. hitting, slapping, scratching, burning, pinching, the list goes on. Those are just the infliction of pain, alcohol and drugs are also another way of self harming. Self harming is about control and release, by inflicting pain it can let a sufferer release some of the tension or pressure building inside them. It is not a cry for help, in fact most people who self harm go to great lengths to hide it, even becoming very creative in how they do it. I know someone who uses a piece of ribbon which is pulled tightly underneath the finger nail to inflict pain, you would never know.

From a personal perspective thinking back I have used self harming in several variations. Drugs and alcohol were always good and as both readily available and “socially” acceptable I could drink myself into oblivion or get out of my mind for a while. I have also been known to cause myself pain by hitting, pinching etc mostly in times of great stress or anxiety but I never seen it as self harm.

During my last trip into darkness I did turn to scratching. Now just to clarify cutting is generally the use of a sharp instrument like a knife or razor to inflict cuts, scratching can be either with the nails or a blunter implement to inflict pain. Think of it like being scratched by a cat, painful but less blood is drawn. I personally chose a small jewelers screwdriver about 1.5mm wide, this allowed me to scratch but not leave to much of a mark. It started as more of a graze, leaving a welt on my back, but soon the strokes got harder and started to break the surface. I chose my lower back to start with because it would be easier to cover up but it soon became difficult not to overlap and I also couldn’t see my handy work.

I started on a Saturday however by Sunday I had moved onto my forearms, I had learned that doing it fast gave an intense blast of pain, doing it slow and controlled gave a longer more “satisfying” pain, I was making a conscious effort to prolong the pain until my anxiety eased. Every mark was the result of a need to control my growing anxiety and deteriorating mental state, each one a story in itself. I had also started using the sharper edge and was starting to go deeper so I started doing it on the top of my forearm. This was strange because my self harm was happening because I needed to get through the weekend until the Monday when I had planned to get help or get dead. It was so well planned I was worried that if I continued by my wrist I might accidentally go to far and end it early, as you can imagine I was not in a rational state of mind. So in the short period of two days I managed to inflict the damage shown below. Now I’m a forty-year old man who did this so when you hear about self harm in the future, hopefully you wont just think teenagers and you might have a bit more understanding of why it happens. Mental health suffering is often done alone and with shame, imagine breaking your leg and yet still trying to go about your day with nobody noticing. I’m sorry if this post is disturbing but so is the truth about mental health.

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