It’s been quite a while since I updated this blog and I’ve been feeling guilty for neglecting it. In a strange series of events, I had lots of good mental health related things happen around October last year.
Through the power of Twitter, and the wonderful Yvette Caster, I had an article about agoraphobia published by Metro online. It all happened very quickly and was incredible to see and hear people’s reactions, and for my writing to be able to reach so many people. You can read the article here –
I’m always up for talking about my anxiety disorder, I will discuss my panic attacks until the cows come home, and I have no problems talking about depression. But I struggle to be honest about agoraphobia. I call it ‘the least sexy’ of my mental illnesses.
I’ve since had two more articles published by Metro and will hopefully have more in the future. Here are the links –
They can also be difficult to witness happening to someone else, not least because you feel powerless to help. This is what it’s like to live with agoraphobia Everyone experiences them differently; there is a long list of symptoms from shaking and sweating to palpitations and dizziness, and everyone copes with them in their own way.
I need to stop thinking that everything was perfect before I became unwell. This is what it’s like to live with agoraphobia No, I didn’t have to deal with all the symptoms, and everyday living was relatively easy compared to now – but life before my diagnosis was no picnic.
I also got approached by Andy Walton of the Now and Afterwards blog to do a Q & A for his Spotlight Project. I couldn’t believe that he wanted my input alongside such wonderful contributors to the mental health community; Hope Virgo, Doll Hospital and Mental Movement Zine for example. You can see the interview here –
An up and coming UK blogger, Laura articulates with raw honesty what it is like to struggle with panic and anxiety disorders, and is she is empowering a lot of people in the process. Describing herself as a part time writer and full time worrier, her blog I’m Fine Thanks offers a first person narrative of her experiences.
Gosh that’s a large photo of my face.
I focussed on those things rather than my own blog because my brain is quite busy being anxious and can only concentrate on so many things at once!
I had a very busy but lovely Christmas, spent with family and friends. It was genuinely lovely, but verged on the absolutely ridiculously hectic, and I had a feeling it would catch up with me at some point. After New Year, a time that I kind of hate due to all the hype but actually really enjoyed this year, the reality of ‘normality’ sets in. Most people get the ‘January blues’ in some form; it’s dark, cold, most of us have drunk too much and we’re all extra poor. Added to that was the challenging weather and the fact that I live on a farm and had lots of hungry, cold animals to look after, plus snow drifts and frozen water supplies. I don’t know if these things caused it, or whether they just exasperated it, but I got the January Blues times about 50. And they didn’t stop at January.
I was, for want of a better term, “a bit of a state”. I suddenly wasn’t capable of much at all, my anxiety got worse and I seemed to be losing all of the progress I’d made. I struggled to eat and lost a lot of weight. I had to bail on plans and turn things down and I know that I pissed off a few people in the process – for that I am genuinely sorry but there really wasn’t much I could do about it. It’s a bit of a blur now as I think I block out some of the worst times. I spent a considerable amount of time crying on my bedroom floor and wondering if I really needed to exist anymore. Was there anything in life that was going to be worth feeling like this for?
I have flatly refused anti-depressants (SSRI’s) since they were first offered to me 6 years ago, being too scared of potential side effects, or of making things worse. But this time, this… whatever it was… this combination of being incredibly sad, lonely, frustrated, anxious, exhausted and terrified – it was desperate times and it called for (what I deemed to be) desperate measures. I’ve tried basically everything except SSRI’s, and they had now been recommended for me by a Psychiatric Nurse, Psychiatrist, Doctor and Nurse. So, with a lot of support from my nurse and her phoning regularly to check on me, I tried the SSRI’s (Sertraline, to be exact).
I won’t lie, the side effects were gross. I felt very sick and struggled to eat for a couple of weeks, but that was manageable. I had a few different minor side effects, but the worst was a HUGE increase in my anxiety. The irony!!! My generalised anxiety made a comeback with a vengeance and it was ferocious. I’d almost forgotten just how horrible and debilitating generalised anxiety can be. My brain just would not shut up; my thoughts were swirling and unstoppable and firmly lodged. I couldn’t pause them, not even for a minute. It took around a month before the generalised anxiety subsided. Of course, the added issue is that people with anxiety will obviously be anxious about starting new medication, so it’s difficult to tell if you’re having actual side effects or anxiety caused by the worrying! But I stuck it out because I had been warned that the anxiety would probably get worse before the SSRI’s started working.
I started to see positive changes, just little things at first but I’m seeing more and more, and I can increase my dosage when I want to, to see if they can help me even more. They aren’t a ‘cure’ and my anxiety hasn’t gone, but it is more manageable. I was hoping to combine starting the tablets with starting Psychotherapy but of course I’m still on the waiting list for that… I’ve actually got an appointment with a private therapist next week because I know that it’s beneficial for me to be seeing a therapist and I’ve already been waiting for 9 months on the NHS with who knows how many more months to wait. But that’s another story.
So, whether it’s the drugs, or just some time passing, or my perseverance, or a combination, I’ve managed to shake off whatever it was – some kind of depression-anxiety hybrid that I could happily never cross paths with again! 2018 did not start the way I imagined, but then you rarely envisage a meltdown as part of your ‘new year new me’ thing… it was more of a ‘new year, same me, massive meltdown’ situation.
Sometimes I write these posts and then I look back and think, why did I write that? Why would anyone want to know about that? Why would anyone be interested in the fact that I had a shitty time, everyone has shitty times! But that’s kind of the point, everyone has bad times. I think about the comfort I get from people like Beth McColl and Ruby Elliot (aka Rubyetc), among others, who are very honest about their bad times, and I remember that if you see someone going through a bad thing that you can relate to, it makes you feel less like you’re facing it alone.
Also, I usually end my blog posts with some kind of disclaimer about not writing for attention or sympathy, but I’ve decided that I won’t do that anymore, as all I’m doing is apologising for myself, when there’s nothing to apologise for.
Keep on keeping on. X
P.S. Andy recently launched a new zine called Swirl and it’s awesome. It’s a joy to read, which is saying something considering it focuses on worry! Check it out here x
Swirl Zine is an uncomplicated, empowering guide to managing worry and rumination.