Wednesday, 26 June 2013

One Week Later

Hello every one, first off I'd like to thank everyone who has taken the time to read my previous post, I cannot believe the response I have had. I have spoken to so many people who have been though something similar. To know that I'm not the only one, has been so reassuring. So what has been happening in the past week? Well I feel like I am starting to feel much better. The fact I can go to the supermarket and not feel like I need to chase my mum about like a little kid. Honestly thought we were going to need wrist reigns at some point. Now - I am free!! Woo! I don't even just mean in the supermarket sense, but even being able to go a walk to the shops if I fancy, or go and meet friends. I feel a lot more confident in being able to go out by myself, although it is still a work in progress. I have still had to coax myself in to going out, in the past week the thought of going out has been a bit scary, but in most cases when I go out I have a great time, no panic attacks, and if I do feel anxious it kind of passes. 

Two weekends a go I would say is when I really noticed the difference, being able to go shopping and be comfortable - well as comfortable as you can be in a mall with artificial lights and central heating on in June. I went to my lovely next door neighbours wedding. Which I enjoyed so much, I was able to be fully in the moment, and the thought of leaving never crossed my mind, where previously this would have been racing through my head. I also got some good photos with my folks. 

Also lets just take a moment to look at how big my hair is in the first photo in this post, compared to how it looked later that night. Honestly my hair doesn't hold volume. Haha! 

I do at some point want to talk about hypnotherapy as this is what has helped me turn everything around. I am going to speak to my hypnotherapist first though, because I want to make sure I'm writing about it properly. Got to do these things right, after all.

I was also trying to think about what other tips I have picked up. Breathing is amazing, like I know in general it's grand, but breathing properly really sorts out your body & mind. Nice deep breathing, is really relaxing, and can be done anywhere. Although I used to feel a tad self conscious doing this in public, I was worried someone was going to be over and be like - 'how far apart are your contractions?, you're doing great'. Thank full this never happened. Exercise is rather good for you, I used to roll my eyes at this because my sofa is almost attached to me - oh the shame. I started swimming when I was running out of options of things to help, bought myself a proper swimsuit and goggles, and went for it. It was the only thing that I actually enjoyed enough to make me want to leave the house. It's nice because it makes you aware of your body, and how the movement of my arms and legs, functions of my heart and lungs keep me moving, and my head above water (haha in all senses). 

Another wee tip I follow, is to have faith. Can be religious if that's your thing, but faith in other people, and if you can do it, faith yourself will help you get through. Seeing the good in people always makes me feel better, and stops me thinking about negative people/situations. If I think about someone I don't get on with, I try to thing about their good points, maybe a skill they have or I dunno, good at their job or something, and it makes me feel better about that person, and I feel pretty good about myself for being the bigger person. Before you know it you'll be feeling better and go for wild nights out with your best pals. This is a photo of me and my bestie Michelle on Thursday night. Actually going out for a drink and staying out to get tipsy is progress - as I said to my therapist 'I feel like I've released the beast'. Uh oh.

Obviously I'm not saying go out and get plastered, but being able to go out for a couple of drinks and being able to relax is something I enjoy. Ooft serious bit there, but anyone who deals with mental health will tell you that drinking is not a wise idea. 

Also having a song that makes you feel better helps psych you up for the day, or even help if you're out and about. This is mine, and I think the title is so appropriate. 

Thanks again for reading, 

Heather xxx

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Have You Seen Me Lately?

This is kind of a different post from me today. Obvs including the massive font - but that's just for easier reading. Let me just start by saying I really have to explain myself, I have been MIA since 31st March. That is a very very very long time in the blogging world, where most people seem to manage to post most days, or even once a week. So I can only apologise for those of you who have been following my blog. So where have I been?! Well I have been in what I can only describe as a hell of my own making. 

I think for about the past 13 to 14 years (my god that seems like a long time, it's not been constant thankfully) I've had quite a struggle with anxiety related depression, and self harm. It has been pretty sh*t, I've left uni and gone back so many times. I knew I had the brain power to do uni, but the way my anxiety worked was for a wee voice in my head to second guess my ability, and tell me I wasn't good enough. When I think about this now it's quite upsetting, I know many people who found strength in being able to study, work hard and achieve great results. This is not how it went for me. I didn't go to lectures because I hated being in a room full of other people, comparing myself to them being overwhelmed by how much more 'into' the subjects they were than I was. The idea of going to a lecture hall for me would be like walking into an exam for other people. Can you imagine trying to do that every day? Don't even get me started on going to the library and taking books out, that was pretty scary for some reason. Oh and exams, I missed one of my first exams at uni because I had been so worried I threw up in the library. Aces. I know I sound like I'm joking my way through this, but it's sort of a coping mechanism, and to be honest mental health problems can be ridiculously debilitating. 

I was lucky during my time in Glasgow from 2003 -2009, that I lived with a very caring group of girls, who really helped me during the times I was at my lowest. They were also the first ones that I confided in about my self harm. There are only so many times you can make excuses about cuts on your arms and legs. At first it was the self harm that made me want to get help. I tried CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy)  at The Priory, as I was told this would help with my type of illness. I found CBT to very useful in helping me deal with my negative thoughts, and replacing them with more positive ones. I attended The Priory as an outpatient for a few years, for different lengths of time. Firstly when I was about 19, and later after my Gran died when I was about 23. In 2009 I couldn't handle living in Glasgow anymore, I fled to my parent's house, and have remained here since.

From 2009 to 2012 I was working for my Dad full time as an office junior, I was also DJing on Friday and Saturday nights in Glasgow. At first I really enjoyed this, working gave me a structure that I didn't have when I was at uni, I had money and I was still going through to Glasgow at weekends - so it didn't feel like I was missing out on anything. I began to feel that I needed a change, and in 2012 I looked into different courses, to hopefully find my true passion in life. At the start of this year I had been feeling ok, and if the future Heather had come to me and said -'look out -you're headed for choppy water!', I wouldn't have believed her. I felt fine, maybe not as happy as normal, maybe needing a change of scenery, but that was it.

PANIC ATTACKS. Up until about last August if you had asked me what I thought a panic attack was, I would have said something that makes your breathing weird, then you breathe into a paper bag, and then you're ok. Well I found out that was rather wrong. The first time I had one - I thought I was dying. I was on a train heading home from Glasgow, sweat was dripping off me, I was shaking, I felt like I needed to go to the toilet or throw up - either way it felt like something was going to be leaving my body very soon. I started to check my pulse because I thought my heart was going to stop beating/or had stopped beating - (as I said I thought I was dying). On the journey I didn't know if I should actually get off the train and go to hospital, or stay on and head home. I waited till I got home, but still felt awful. 

I never for one minute appreciated how much of a physical affect a panic attack has on you. In the days after I was left with lingering chest pains, which only made my anxiety worse. In my mind, it was a sure sign I was having a heart attack. At this point I was able to continue to work and see friends, but this didn't last. Soon the panic became bigger than me. Took over completely, and left me unable to leave the house by myself. My amazingly supportive Mum became my security blanket on the ocasions I did need to leave the house. 

From August last year till February 2013 I was off work, for the most part unable to go anywhere. When I did go out, it was a case of rushing to the doctors and getting back to the sanctuary of my living room in a big sweaty mess. I spent most days in my pjs, and went days without showering, I thought I could avoid leaving the house if I didn't get changed. When friends came through to see me, it meant so much, but it was still so stressful, walking to meet people off the train was a big event. I was starting to feel really down, because I was trapped in my house, the outside world was overwhelming, and frankly dangerous. I felt like everyone was off having an amazing time going on with their lives, but I was stuck on pause. Waiting for this feeling to end. 

I went back to work on 1st February, and a month later I had to be signed off again. I had really tried to get better by getting back into working, and socialising. Getting the train home from work was terrifying, and about an hour before I finished I would be getting stressed out about walking up to the train station. I honestly believed my heart was going to stop beating, and I was going to die. My Mum would try to help me reason with my thoughts, but I couldn't get the thoughts of something terrible happening to me out of my head.

I had been referred to a nurse who deals with mentally ill people, quite early on, she gave me lots of sheets on panic attacks, and relaxation exercises. These were quite useful, breathing technique which would help me calm down if I was having a panic attack, however it didn't remove - what was now a fact in my mind 'there is something really wrong with you - you are ill, and something bad is going to happen'. I ended up being referred to a psychiatrist, I finally felt that I was getting the help that I felt I needed after months of going back and forth between my doctor and the nurse. I had a full blood test, and the test confirmed that I was A-OK, I also had previously had an ECG which proved there was nothing wrong with my heart. Both of these facts reassured me, and it was also really great to speak to the psychiatrist as this is what they deal with every day. She allowed me to realise I wasn't going mad, and helped me see a light at the end of the tunnel. In the weeks running up to this I would have said I was at my lowest, and suicide did cross my mind as my only way to stop feeling like this.

In the past month I feel like I am coming out of the darkness, and moving towards the light. Will we call it dusk? Ok - right now I am in dusk. What I would say has helped me personally has been hypnotherapy. The results have been pretty amazing. I feel like I am getting almost back to my old self. I feel stronger. I can now help my brain work out when I feel anxious if it's something I need to be worrying about or not. I'm still not super happy about going out by myself, but I am getting there. And I can see that it will get better with time. I will get my independence back. I have also made a lot of lifestyle changes as well, I have started exercising, eating regularly, limited the amount of caffeine I drink, and I try not to drink alcohol too often. When I was becoming increasingly anxious I found myself drinking a bit more, which made me feel crap. I'm also trying to find constructive things to do with my time, trying out some new hobbies. I've always fancied horse riding, so I'm looking into giving that a go soon. 

One of the weirdest things that happened to me when I was ill last year/this year was that I had to stop listening to music, music made my skin crawl. I could hardly listen to music with out feeling physically sick. Music had been my reason to get out of bed in the morning, I never saw this happening. When I had been down before I had always found my comfort in music, this really unsettled me. In the past few weeks I have been able to listen to some music again, and as I write this I am listening to an old playlist and am rather enjoying it.

I should also mention that I am on medication, as well. This has been a long road to find something that has worked for me. Some medications that some people swear by, really did nothing for me. I am also on a combination of a few tablets.

I am not really sure how to end this post, I am not magically better. I do feel better today, and I can hope that continues. I appreciate that I might not tomorrow, but now the good days seem to be outweighing the bad. Which after days with about 80% bad, and 20% good, this feels better than I could imagine. I hope that if you are reading this and feeling low or panicky that it helps to know you are not alone. If you are reading this and you've never felt this way, I hope it helps you understand if you know someone that has these problems. I know that mental health is somewhat of a taboo topic, but it is something I wanted to discuss to help break a bit of this down. 

If you would like to learn more I recommend these sites. If there are any that I should add, or that you recommend please let me know.

Samh -
Mind -
Human Givens -

I would also like to thank some people who have been amazing through my illness, I wouldn't have got through this if it wasn't for you, and I am so grateful, mostly that you have put up with me in the non-showering jammas days. Caitlin, thanks for coming and sitting with me, I enjoyed watching lots of Horrible Histories. Chris, thank you for helping me keep my chin up, driving me to appointments and having a drink with me when it was needed.  Dave, I'm sorry DTI didn't work out how we hoped but I think our friendship now goes beyond DJing haha. Dan and Lorna, thanks for coming out to see me, and bringing a taste to glasgow to my home town. Dezzy, thanks for spending Xmas time with me, New Years was pretty special. Eve, thanks for your visits, hopefully we can do some fabulous fashion stuff soon. Hannah Toptee thanks for coming to see me on your visits to LGS. Michelle - thanks for the tea afternoons, and coming to look after me when I was a panicky mess. Megan, thanks for keeping in touch via our Skype dates, I really enjoy them. Scott Simpson, thanks for being there and liking my pizza. I am so honoured to have Kenneth and Elizabeth as my parents, they have been amazingly supportive, even when I was really struggling. My Scott always makes me laugh even in the dark days. I am now really worried I have missed people out. If I have give me a bop on the nose the next time you see me. 

Thanks for reading this. If you want to ask me anything, leave me a comment and I'll answer the best I can. :)