Balancing Life

Howdy,

So I had the very unpleasant experience of an Endoscopy Wednesday to try and find out why I have acid re-flux a lot.  Everything looked healthy so still no answers and my last test is an ultrasound to look for ant kind of gallstones etc in my system. At this point it is starting to look like diet or stress is the cause. This is going to lead to quite a few changes after Xmas, or I should probably start right away.

I want to lose 1-2 stone in weight to get comfortably back into size 12 jeans rather than having to go up to 16 which I am currently refusing to do and my 14’s are near cutting me into 2… that can’t be helping. I’ve been trying to ‘be okay’ with my body in its current state but I’m not really sure if this is because I think its good for my head or I am just too lazy to do anything about it. Partially at least I feel like I’ve had enough mental health issues to deal with without adding body issues into the mix again.

My body just doesn’t seem to agree. It can be hard balancing all of life’s wants and needs sometimes. We all have responsibilities to others whether this is family, friends or the workplace and then we have internal responsibilities for self care & self compassion and it can be easy to feel overwhelmed by it all. Then we have purely external stresses which we know are going to affect us but we don’t know how yet… like Brexit. Its like a monster looming over the horizon and the politics of it is splashed everywhere its unavoidable. It is going to have a large effect on how many peoples lives run and most of us are powerless to effect it.

“Accept the things you cannot change and change the things you can”

Trying to sift through and work out what to ‘accept’ or put aside can be damned difficult. Working out what we need to do, what we want to do, what we ‘should’ do.  Sometimes it is about learning to put yourself first without the guilt of feeling selfish.

Self compassion tells us that it is okay to put self care first, that neglecting ourselves is only hurting ourselves and setting us up to fail because we constantly drain ourselves without replenishing our reserves. Self care always needs to be there at least in the background if not the foreground, reminding us to take care of ourselves. We live in a world that is so mentally destructive that even the best self-care regime can’t always save us from pain. I guess that is where the mindfulness idea of judgement free acceptance comes in. Mindfulness tries to teach us to work with ourselves and situations as they are rather than judge them and fight against it.

With everything going on I guess its not too surprising I’ve been hitting the feeling of overwhelm again, the break really didn’t last that long. Listing out the things that need prioritising can help you organise but sometimes it just makes the amount of things super scary.

  • weight loss
  • reducing acid in diet
  • healthy eating
  • exercise
  • work
  • social life
  • relaxation time
  • house tidying/cleaning

A common term used these days is the term ‘adulting’ which covers pretty much everything that required any level of adult responsibility. For many of us adulting is a plague we don’t want to do and can’t get away from. I want to game, read, write, listen to music, snuggle my husband and so many other things but what I have to do is go to work, go food shopping, tidy the house and keep it clean… and it just sucks.

I am trying to remove these negative connotations in my head and focus on the positives but its frigging difficult. Sometimes I think I am wired just to be a lazy ignorant bum and its only necessity that drags me out of it. I can’t imagine these days how I ever dragged my but through University enough to get a 2:1 never mind how I’ve managed to get two engineering jobs and hold onto them.  Fecking impostor syndrome.

So I was trying to create positive advice out of my current conundrum and I haven’t really succeeded. C’est la vie….

Something I’ve come to realise recently, or rediscover is how much anxiety lies to us.

I have had quite a few occurrences recently when I have been seriously wound up or anxious about something for days to the point of not sleeping or eating properly or being too distracted to do anything productive. Do you know what nasty bad things happened to me when the source of the anxiety happened? Absolutely nothing…

I stressed about the endoscopy and sure it was unpleasant but it wasn’t worth 3 days of completely freaking out for a  5 minute unpleasant procedure. I barely slept worrying what I was walking back into at work the next day after a day off… nothing bad happened. I worried on and off for weeks about a family get together and ran through how many ways it could go wrong… I actually quite enjoyed myself even though it was a little surreal as its been years since I’ve seen everyone.

Sadly I also managed to drink all the wrong drinks to stay sober and awake and seem to have made a particularly nasty acid making concoction with too much caffeine in my body so I both feel very sick and too wired to sleep even though I’m exhausted. It appears that’s how you get a blog post cos my heads full with nowhere to go. I to and fro about why I write these things, it helps me think through and process some things… I also hope it inspired others or just makes them feel less alone with the mental mess… I would love more feedback or discussion on posts but we can’t have everything,

So long and goodnight,

Bex

Not Okay

So…. right now I’m not OK… for a wide range of reasons. I also have a lot to be thankful for like my family, my husband and my friends. I am however going through tests to find out why I have acid re-flux including an Endoscopy this week, bleurgh.

We got a new permanent engineer at work and that’s amazing because we finally have more resource and he’s one of the nicest people I’ve ever met with loads of experience and knowledge… can you guess what my brain does with that? It feels relieved of course, because another person means the weight can spread out… but it also latched onto the excuse to feel bad about myself. Impostor Syndrome conveniently ignores that 25 year experience gap and jumps straight to measuring up and falling flat. Of course I’d never measure up, how could I with a 25 year gap? Brain gremlins don’t understand logic and common sense, but it can be used to counteract them.

I’m trying to bring a self compassionate view into how I am feeling right now, I learned a lot of tricks during my 8 weeks of counselling and for awhile it was going really well but something about the last week or two has put up a wall between me and those lessons. My sleep has dropped off, as have my energy levels and between doctors appointment and tests I’ve just had enough and my Xmas holiday isn’t for another 2.5 weeks. Too damn long… I need a faster way to recuperate, something that is properly restful on an evening so that I stop feeling like I just need to get to the weekend to recover.

Feels like I am on that slope again and I’ve lost track of all the equipment I needed to climb back up it… its there somewhere. I had to resort to a beta blocker today to calm my body down and that sucks but at least I have the resource there if I need it. I seem to swing from ambivalent/apathetic to everything is horrible and doomed and the problems in front of me are an insurmountable mountain.

Meanwhile I’m still toying with the issues I have over my appearance and weight… I am trying to focus on being healthy rather than a specific weight goal but I would also like my trousers to stop cutting me in two amongst other things… at the same time I keep going with the comfort food and my attempts to eat better are kind of half assed. My brain can only deal with so much so I need to let Something slide while I deal with the bigger issues but I’ve never been a patient woman. Then my attempts at exercise are being thwarted by the increased lack of energy, the SAD light I gained seems to give me a bit of  a boost in the morning but it still runs out by evening.

It is such a mess … but its life … and it won’t get any better… just how I deal with it. That said I am going to go enjoy snuggles with my husband, I do have some good perks 🙂

 

Mental Health Update

Looking back

It has been a pretty big gap again. I’ve started posts in my head and they’re gone before I get to a keyboard, something about showering or driving to work makes my brain go all thinky. My counsellor (yes I have one now, for at least 5 more weeks anyway) says its because I’m not focusing on the problem at that point so my brain feels free to think about things without pressure, it doesn’t sound that illogical really.

I’ve been having deep tissue massages, acupuncture, reading self help books and talking to the amazing friends I somehow manage to keep hold of. I’ve also lost a friend or two but most thankfully thats a severe minority. The acupuncture hasn’t directly affected my anxiety that I can tell at the moment but I can say its helping my periods ease up, reducing my acid reflux and regulating my bowels… that does leave more spoons for dealing with everything else. It is also £40 a session so I’m having to space them out :/

I finally got the courage (partly by the people I’ve been talking at work telling me it was time and I had to) called works health scheme and I had my third counselling session on Thursday. It is talking therapy which draws from CBT & Mindfullness amongst other things without being focused on any particular style. I also sent my blog link to my councillor so she could read my early posts and give her an insight, it felt scary but I guess it cut a few corners and I only had 8 sessions.

The first week was mostly me babbling on so she could see how crazy I was 😛 on week 3 it’s starting to feel like its getting going because in some ways we have to learn each other a bit before progression can be made. This is something I didn’t really get in the Leeds IAPT provided CBT sessions I had years ago. I didn’t have a damn thing in common with my counsellor and there was no real rapport there. It was all following a procedure, and once the sessions were over I’ll admit my follow through dwindled away. It makes sense when someone is guiding you through it but it’s too easy to shut down once on your own.

Going Forward

So I’ve got a few things to work on at the minute.

  • still have to finish reading the self care project
  • start my 365 days of self care diary (this was released in september)
  • find some guided meditations for tension release
  • write some form of ‘trigger map’ to try and pinpoint the different things that give me trouble, then for each trigger I can assign a coping mechanism so I have a plan I can refer to about how to cope with different situations rather than having to try and pick them out of a jumbled mind.
  • give some time each day to focused relaxation, something that is meant to make me feel calm and peaceful and not just distract me
  • make sure I have relaxing activities to fall back on, hobbies that don’t include the requirement for adrenaline

One thing we looked at was the stress bucket analogy which was interesting in itself. Just in the session I wrote down a few things at the top of the bucket that add in stress and had one thing that immediately came to mind that releases some of the pressure. This highlights the need for the trigger map mentioned above. It should be the featured image for today if I saved it properly.

Musings

Something I have realised is how much I’ve learned about myself over the last year. Through the self care project, the blurt foundation, anxiety united, anxiety uk, counselling and various other sources I’ve had to analyse how and why I react to things. If I hadn’t I never could have even partially recovered from my burnout earlier in the year nevermind function normally.

I still can’t predict exactly what will make me hit the feeling of overwhelm and the need to shut down or run away. The sad fact is my bucket is full and because its sat at the top it doesn’t take much at all to make some water splash over the top.

This week I had a shutdown in KFC of all places, my food order was delayed and they hadn’t bothered to tell me so when I asked they said it would be 8 minutes and I said something along the lines of ‘why the fuck didn’t you tell me that sooner I have to be back in my car to go back to work in 10 minutes’ and I couldn’t exactly take KFC back to eat at my desk. I wanted to run out of the place, despite the fact that I was hungry and they already had my money, I just wanted to walk out and not deal with the problem, I told them to just give me some food so I could eat and didn’t care what it was.

A few weeks ago I was playing a board game with friends & other gamers at the group. We were trying to work out a new game and while it was fairly simple I was talking through how the move should play out and someone interfered moving pieces for me, I moved them back and told them to let me work it out and they interfered a second time. I’d had it, I took me piece off the board sat back against my seat told them to play without me and proceeded to play my phone game until the game was over and everyone had moved away due to the discomfort my shut down had created.  I didn’t go to the next event and I’m not sure if I’ll go to the one after.

I can however use breathing meditations to pull myself out of an anxiety attack and if I really can’t calm myself down I have beta blockers on hand to reduce my heart rate and adrenaline.

 

 

Burnout & Impostor Syndrome

Burnout

It has been awhile, the main reason for this was I had a burnout, or as close as you can get. Thankfully I realised before it was complete and it took me a couple of weeks to get back on my feet not 3 months… if you want a bit more info on burnout this one of the articles I read before realising I needed to take time off sick to recover and couldn’t avoid it anymore. I ticked all the boxes and it was only getting more desperate, if I’d left it longer I might have had a total collapse.

Signs of Burnout

So its been a rocky few weeks. I had two weeks off work entirely, the first week of this was a lot of doing nothing while feeling guilty that I should be doing something. Sleeping, eating, showering with some back to basics of looking after myself without any major emphasis on Doing anything. I didn’t even pick up the housework since I was home (I have a very understanding husband who agreed with this fact). It took a solid week of this before I woke up with any energy or real emotion, a sense that I could do or achieve anything. I had rested my way back up to baseline normality (for me) and could finally start building myself back up. This may sound like a long time to some, or no time at all to others but I know from reading up that it could have been a Much longer process just getting to that stage.

I had since that afternoon I talked to work and told them I couldn’t cope anymore and needed the time away been planning on calling a mental health line they had an arrangement with. I knew they would help and it would be useful for me, but at that stage I couldn’t face talking about how I was feeling to some stranger on the other end of the phone line so I put it off and off. It was most of another week until I could make that call, I got advice about talking to work and choosing a phased return and to stand my ground at implementing the changes I needed to stop me ending up right back in the same state. I was supposed to call back once I’d made those arrangements with work and assess for face to face counselling… I didn’t.

I’m not sure why at that point other than my number one rule in life seems to be if its not in your comfort zone procrastinate until its too late or something worse has happened. I am trying to be an advocate for open honest conversations when it comes to mental health, but whilst this is my goal it is still out of my comfort zone. However, once I open that gate a little it ends up with a flood or what I sometimes call ‘verbal diarrhoea’ where everything just spills out in a hap hazard fashion and usually more than was intended, sometimes more than was smart, gets said.

Strange (or not) as it sounds sometimes it is almost like I feel scared of getting better, because then I run out of excuses to be rubbish. Which runs me into the second half of today’s blog.

Impostor Syndrome

Blurt: On Feeling like an Imposter

I think this is one of the things that gets in my way the most…I’m a fake, a fraud, I don’t deserve help because even my struggle is fake… sound familiar? I don’t feel good enough to be a friend, a co worker, a wife… I don’t even feel like I can do being mentally ill ‘right’ or I’m just not unwell enough to warrant the help even though I’m barely managing to get through each day sometimes.

In my head everything I do would be done much better by anyone else, anything I know is understood much better than someone else. When I get something right its dumb luck, when I get something wrong well that just proves how much of a fake I am. When I am struggling it is because I am not good enough, because I am just faking it so of course I can’t do it. Still sound familiar?

This is all impostor syndrome and I have had it since my late teens. It often goes hand in hand with being a high achiever, we make ourselves unrealistic goals almost with the sole purpose of destroying ourselves when we don’t make them. We wouldn’t hold anyone else to these same goals and I myself have found what I would call a complete disaster and failure perfectly acceptable ‘your only human’ behaviour from anyone else. We are often much better councillors when it isn’t ourselves in the picture. I often try and think of how I would advise a friend if they were in the same situation. The difference in standards can be startling and it isn’t because I feel so good about myself…

This as I have come to realise is my largest hurdle in life, my working life is the most affected but it bleeds into all aspects of life.

Getting Help

I have been trying different things to help myself. As most readers know this blog was inspired by my first attempt at self help by reading the Self Care Project in my post > Hello

I have also been trying deep tissue massages to relieve tension and of all things acupuncture after several conversations with a friend who seemed to think it could cure nearly every ailment I have… I’m sceptical but I am willing to give it a go. My way of thinking is that it sends messages gallon the nerves to promote certain self healing or corrective reactions in the body that it hasn’t been taking care of by itself… it can’t hurt.

I sent in a self assessment to Leeds IAPT in May for counselling. I just got a response back saying I qualify for CBT but the waiting list is 9-10 months… I knew the system was overloaded but Jesus! That kind of puts pay to my idea of waiting for help from IAPT so now I have to jump back out of my comfort zone and call the helpline that work gave to me for counselling.

I keep convincing myself I can bring myself round through this that or the other without anymore help and no matter how much I prove to myself that won’t work or I can’t be self sufficient it creeps back in as a thought. I think, and I am not saying this is right, that for me it feels more like admitting weakness and failure than anything else. But look back at that waiting time, there are 10 months worth of people in the same situation as myself.

Modern life makes us sick… the news makes us depressed… life just feels like its going down the shitter sometimes. So focused on money and career that we forget to live. Or we choose to live entirely for other people and let ourselves fall by the wayside. If we then choose to do something for ourselves we are selfish horrible people… Sometimes it feels like there is no way to win.

I have to learn how to live with and like myself, appreciate my achievements and give myself the breaks I’d give others.

Renewing my Self Care Commitment

It has been to put it lightly a pretty horrible month or so and I’ve put myself through a pretty unpleasant roller coaster. I do find it amazing how sick our minds can make our bodies feel. It is also fairly remarkable how easy it is to slip and drop off a good self care routine even when you are trying to keep it in mind. I want to thank my friends and people I know for continuing to put up with me while I have a bit of a meltdown, I know it can’t be easy.

Medication

So as you can probably tell by the featured image, I’ve been back to the doctor and had my medication change. Increasing my citalopram to 40mg was from my current viewpoint a big mistake, it didn’t help with the anxiety and made me feel physically worse.

So I’m going back down to 30mg were I was reasonably stable at one point and introducing a new friend called beta blockers. My doctor described these as a way to reduce the physical manifestation of anxiety, this should make me feel less ill and more able to work around the way I am feeling.

Relaxation

So as part of trying to improve my body I have booked in a deep tissue massage. I am hoping this will set my muscles on the road to recovery from the extreme tension my anxiety has been putting them under. I am also trying heat packs across the neck/shoulders and meditation whilst dropping off in bed to release the muscles. I have been trying a product called Rescue Remedy but I think all I’ve managed to achieve with this is getting dozy and sleepy, either way with the change in meds I am going to cease using these.

Counselling

I applied to Leeds IAPT a couple of weeks ago and I expect it to be twice as long again before I hear back. In the meantime my workplace have an agreement with a counselling company so I am going to give them a call and see what kind of help they can offer.

Exercise

I know this helps, but I’ve been so drained and inclined to give in to that feeling and sleep that I’ve let it slide away. We have a rowing machine, treadmill and set of free weights in the house and I have a gym membership at exercise for less and yet… yeah…

So right now I feel sleepy and my eyes feel tired and I want to have a nice nap… so what I am going to do once I have finished writing this is make a cup of tea, pour myself a pint of water and get set up watching an episode of supernatural while I have a walk of the treadmill. It may not be a hard session but I am going to get myself moving.

Sleep

I’ve ordered some lavender pillows from a friend that I am hoping will help with the sleeping. It seems to be working for my partner but we are only on day 3. Another thing I am doing is restricting caffeinated drinks after 6pm i.e. preferably non. I’m not a fan of decaf so I have some herbal infusions and naturally caffeine free Rooibos if I want a hot drink. Also experimenting with the use of Horlicks

I want to resume being in bed by 10pm giving myself a chance at 8 hours sleep maximum in the hopes that I get 7 or more rather than just over 6.

Eating Habits

My diet hasn’t gone so well along with the exercise, too many easy option takeaways and not enough vitamins etc. Been trying to keep up my increased water intake but that’s always going to be a struggle for me. We’ve bought in salad materials for lunches, I got half way there today by making sandwiches but due to a low mood last night didn’t make enough time for the salad side, but steps forward.

Social Life

I often have issues with gearing up my head for large social situations, loud pubs and drinking rather than a quiet sit and chat are more of a challenge. Part of my way of dealing with this is I try to get to events early so the noise etc can build up around me rather than walking into a wall of noise and people.

I often have an urge to draw back and not put people out having to talk to me, or just avoid situations where I can as I often do, put my foot in it or make a fool of myself. This doesn’t mean I value my friends any less or that I don’t want to spend time with them, just sometimes it is harder than other times.

I’ve been keeping up with the Kitty Cafe, it gives me something to look forward to every week even if I may want to yell abuse at First Bus some weeks for failing to get me there.

Hobbies

I’ve not been making it to my creative writing group for a little while now, hoping in the next week or two I can get back on track with that once my energy levels are back up. I’ve gotten in plenty of TV with binge watching Star Trek Next Gen and Supernatural but I’ve not had enough concentration for Anime which is annoying because we are part way through quite a few series I really want to pick back up but dubbing is just bad and subtitles sadly take more effort.

Self-Care

So, I never got past chapter 5 in the Self Care Diary that inspired this blog, something else I have to rectify. I also have all the things I’ve stated above, so there is a plan of action floating around I just need to piece it all together. Wish me Luck!

Anxious Minds

So its been a hell of a journey since my last post. I’ve started 5 or 6 posts and then they’ve trailed off without getting far enough to be worth posting. I guess it started feeling like I had nothing to say, and then when I did have something to say I either couldn’t word it right or didn’t feel like anyone would want to read it. Having similar struggles with this post but I guess I want to get the ball rolling again.

I increased my dosage of citalopram with doctors advice to 40mg  and tbh I think its only made me feel worse. After a visit to the doctors last week we discussed and he thinks this is because my anxiety is currently the overruling issue rather than the depression and I can’t exactly fault his logic. I’ve also been having troubles with considerable acid reflux so I’m having tests to see what is causing it, no fun at all. Annoyingly I’ve stopped taking the anti acids and stopped the anti histamines I was taking and it seems to have eased off a little bit, though its not gone so I guess the tests are still worth it.

Either way, the doctor has suggested (depending on the test results) that I go onto beta blockers to help with the anxiety side of things. But that appointment isn’t for a couple of weeks so on advice from a friend I have some Bach rescue remedy due tomorrow to see if it helps at all, Who knows maybe if it works well enough I can avoid the beta blockers, but I doubt it.

Since increasing the citalopram I seem to have had a constant tension in my scalp, neck and shoulders. I have also had a reasonably constant feeling of fuzziness in my head and issues with focus and clear thought. I am hoping that if I can dial back the anxiety I can dial back my citalopram dose again and get rid of this sensation… but I don’t actually know if the citalopram has caused it or if it is a side effect of the rampant anxiety.

I don’t have any massive insights or words of wisdom right now. I haven’t kept up with the self care or even finished reading the book I harped on about. I’ve not given up but at the same time I’m not exactly going anywhere but one step forward and one step back  means I’m not going backwards anymore… right?

Gender Stereotypes & Mental Health

Okay… so this could be a tricky one. I’d like whoever reads this to keep an open mind, I am not trying to say my way of thinking is correct or that anyone actually has to agree with it, I just want you to try and keep an open mind. Also it is going to be a little stream of consciousness like so bear with me.

I have a lot of friends who are LGBT+ and I’ve had issues with my own femininity in the past. I’m cis gendered, which means I am comfortable with the gender I was born with but I don’t fit a lot of the stereotypes that come with my gender. I recently cut my hair very short and since then have received criticism and compliments both about my hair including insinuations that I must be a butch lesbian amongst other comments. Yesterday a tyre blew out on my car and I posted on fbk about it and I got comments about ‘girl power’ and how unusual it is for a girl to change their tyre. I admit I struggled getting the nuts off cos damn they are tight and had to call my husband for advice as he’d shown me what to do but I hadn’t done it solo before… but why does gender even come into it?

I’ve always been into things that aren’t considered girly, and if as a cis-gendered person I can be made to feel uncomfortable and question myself how hard must it be for people who don’t fit into that pigeon hole of ‘normal’. What is normal anyway? I am a gamer, I am into computers, I don’t do makeup or shave my legs and I don’t feel the need to jump up and down and scream at every exciting thing in life. I don’t sleep around, lead guys on or play games… flirting can be fun but only if both sides know that is all it is and if not its dangerous waters. (Note I’m married and happy with my partner at this point anyways).

This lack of girly behaviour made me unusual at my school were 3 girls dropped out pregnant, it also made me a case for sexual harassment from other students on top of the normal bullying, thankfully it never went far enough to be traumatising, just irritating.  Also being forced to wear skirts was a hell for me, I always wore shorts underneath to save embarrassments but I so wish trousers had been in. Apparently during primary school the other kids thought I must be a lesbian because I wasn’t interested in guys, hell I just wasn’t interested in anything until one particular guy got my attention in the final year of senior school, it just wasn’t on my radar. I know plenty of people who are a-sexual still going into their 30’s, there is nothing wrong with it. There are people who enjoy casual relationships but don’t need a partner and prefer it that way.

Being outside the ‘normal’ can easily feel persecuted and the need to hide the extent of your ‘wierdness’ can be exhausting. There is also the social pressure to fit in, that leads you to think ‘maybe I should try and fit my gender a bit more’. When you already live a life of anxiety and depression then societal pressures about gender and who you like so don’t need to be added on top. I have enough issues and my friends have a lot more from stereotypes to outright sexism or homophobia.

Why does gender matter? Why does who you fall in love with matter? Aren’t we all just people? I feel like life is too short to live with all this hate, how does the way we live effect you? Why do you feel the need to judge? Some people can take comments and brush them off and for some people it can be soul crushing and lead to a steep mental health dive. I have an anorexic friend who suffers the same issue of random strangers judging them and making comments that are either outright hurtful or that they think would help. It doesn’t even have to be gender issues, just anything visually unusual.

I am proud of who I am, I don’t feel like I should need to hide who I am or who I like but I also know that sharing information with the wrong people is still dangerous in this world. I love people, I don’t care what shape, size, gender, sexuality or religion they are as long as no one tries to pressure their views onto me we are all good. All I care about is that people are healthy and happy and so very few of us are. Modern society prosecutes and pushes us until we break, and there is no shame in breaking its only human. Hell 6 year old children are being treated for depression these days, mine didn’t hit until I was 16 with GCSE’s and my first death in the family.

You never know what someone is going through, how close they are to breaking. You never know where their insecurities lay. Some people will show it openly but a lot of people hide and have coping mechanisms so people don’t see. This is something I always try and consider (and don’t always get right) when interacting with people. Don’t hold bad days against people, don’t give up just because they are struggling because that is when they need you the most.

A friend once posted a quote “being well adjusted to a broken world is no good thing” so for those non-adjusted people amongst us, keep strong.