A Perpetual State

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything, namely because I haven’t had the time. January passed in a blur, with the full throttle of wedding planning, work being a constant state of manic, running everyday for Mind and needing to eat and sleep in that time. January soon rushed me by and the year seemed to be off to a flying start. Therapy is also kicking in, we’re tackling the main compulsion I have, avoidance. If anything is difficult or makes me feel uncomfortable my immediate reaction is to flee, run as far in the opposite direction as possible. This stems from an acute sense of failure, of letting people down and if I run, I’m in control of that, I’m failing but on my own terms. Needless to say it’s not a lifetime strategy and difficult things in life need to be dealt with as they aren’t just going to go away if I ignore them, in fact they tend to get worse.

Now, like I said the year was going well, I was forcing myself to do the things I was avoiding and the sky didn’t fall. But it fell a different way all the same.

My nan, 82, and other than a dodgy knee and slight forgetfulness was a fine bill of health, I saw her every other week for tea and cake as she excitedly asked about my wedding, future children, nieces, my sister’s new house and only last Thursday I was talking to my dad about her being a witness at my wedding and seeing her Sunday. Roll around Friday, February and a phone call informing me of nan’s heart attack. I’ve never asked someone to repeat something out of shock but I couldn’t believe it. I went to the hospital, sat there with family as we waited for a few hours for sporadic information. It seems a quick eternity, we were seen for a total of 15 minutes over about 6 hours but we weren’t angry, we knew the doctors were busy and would be doing what they could. Finally, I got to see her, give her a kiss and tell her I loved her, hopeful, forever hopeful all would be fine, it had to be, she would live to 94, that’s what she had always said. Went home, slept and waited some more and over the day news came, it wasn’t good and that evening, I was informed she was no longer with us.

Since then, I’ve felt every emotion, currently in disbelief, a bad dream, can’t be true. Not my nan, she was superwoman, so proud and strong, it’s one cruel joke and I can’t bring myself to correct it. I’m exhausted, I’ve slept for about 10 hours a night, wake up like I’ve not slept at all, my brain a fog and I can’t comprehend how the world just carries on, how they can’t understand the magnitude of what’s happened, why are they ok?

I know after losing Fluff at Christmas it will be a matter of time before OCD grabs hold, tell me I’m grieving too much, too little. People are bored of me talking about it, people have it worse and I should just get on with it. In a sick way, I’m looking forward to it, I want something else to go on in my head, instead of this perpetual state of exhaustion and what should have been.

I’m always happy to chat and if you would like to reach out, please see the ‘Contact’ tab, however I am not a mental health professional and if you would like this support please see the ‘Support’ tab.

Alcohol

It’s Dry January!

December is a month of excess, end most days too full and gin heady. Sleep soundly to wake with no alarm and no agenda for the day.

New year’s eve ends in a passed out state as I can’t just have a couple. Roll around January 1st and we have dry January.

It’s a mixed bag. It’s great to wake with no headaches and the extra calories are not missed albeit replaced with Christmas chocolate. However, there is a sense of anxiety. I’ve said it before I have a complicated relationship with alcohol, I use it as a way to avoid actually dealing with problems, as a way to get to sleep if I’m a bit anxious, need to be early or am somewhere new. Use it to loosen up and quieten the mind when I’m in a social situation. Tipsy Serena can talk, sober Serena sits and mutters awkwardly and rather than face it, I have a couple.

Dry January allows none of this, I must do it all without drink and to be honest. It’s been easy so far and I’ve not missed it but I’m starting to panic, will I do it? What happens when I drink again? Will I go back to my bad habits? I don’t want to become an alcoholic, a liability, a drunk, but I also want to be able to drink and not feel guilty for it, scared of it. I want to be like normal people.

I’ve mentioned before that many people with OCD are sober because drink makes it worse. Drink raises your heart rate and can cause anxiety making the symptoms of those that suffer worse. I don’t want to be sober forever, I just want to be sure I can be if I want to, I want to be certain. OCD certain.

I’m always happy to chat and if you would to reach out to me, please see the ‘Contact’ tab, however I am not a mental health professional and if you would like this support please see the ‘Support’ tab.

Happy New Year

Happy New Year!

I typically do very little in the week between Christmas and New Year and this year was no different. I ate too much, drank too much, slept a wonderful amount and spent the entire time with family. It’s also the first Christmas day I’ve spent with Gary, we woke at home, went to my families then boxing day and went to Gary’s family. It was lovely.

It was a weird one really, after Fluff died before Christmas, our house lost all festivity. We no longer turned on the Christmas lights and I broke a tradition of mine to decorate Christmas cakes as I simply didn’t want to. Feeling down overtook feeling festive for several days and we moved my sister in whilst we were away to keep Patch company as I panicked for him being on his own so soon. The break away from the house did me good, when we came home last Friday I knew Fluff wouldn’t be here. It was weird and there still is a gaping hole where her playfulness would make us smile and keep her brother on his toes but it doesn’t feel so raw. We’ll miss her, pets are a great gift in life, they love us unconditionally and give us so much more than we could ever give to them.

OCD naturally attacked, was I grieving too much? Too sad? Not sad enough? Talking about it too much? People are bored, stop talking, you’re being stupid. It gets everywhere, even grief, when I’m angry at the stranger that killed my little one, when I’m sad I’ll never cuddle her again, OCD attacks. It’s a cruelty but it offered me some comfort, being as sad as I was it provided a sense of sick evidence that I’m not for the moment the psychopath I so frequently fear I could be.

Looking forward, I start the year dry, January always is a mostly dry month for me. It’s proof to my self that I can do it. I’m currently anxious about it, 2 days in and I’m worried I won’t make it but I’ll persevere. It’s the only way to get through it.

I’m always happy to chat and if you would like to, please see the ‘Contact’ tab, however I am not a mental health professional and if you would like this support please see the ‘Support’ tab.

Medicated

I’m now being medicated and can feel that it has kicked in, gone is the incessant fear of impending doom and it’s been replaced with a gentle anxious hum that lives as an undercurrent beneath my skin.

It’s an odd feeling as generally it makes me feel no different, I still enjoy the same things, still do the same stuff and am annoyed by the same things it’s just not as urgent, still urgent but not as urgent. If that makes any sense! I’m able to sit with the anxiety more easily rather than do anything to get it out of head, it doesn’t stop the anxiety at all just makes it easier to manage.

I’m still faced with the same issues, I still lie awake last night as I was due to catch a train this morning anxious that if I don’t get a good night’s sleep all hell would break loose. I still took the sleeping tablet and was disappointed in myself for it. Anti-depressants aren’t removing all the problems at all and are in no way a fix, it’s just showing me it can be easier.

I went to a therapy session Tuesday, am doing CBT to try and retrain some of my thinking. I have all of the negative thinking patterns ingrained in my thinking. I jump to conclusions, I catastrophise, I see things in black and white, generalise, personalise situations and look for danger. I’m essentially a walking ball of negative, if there is a worst outcome I will find it and this is where the anxiety comes from. Predicting the future and predicting it will always be bad, ignoring the many millions of times it’s gone well and even if things have gone wrong, ignoring the many millions of times that I coped and it was ok. Simple things like I met a friend for coffee just now and feeling guilt for not working, despite being a hard worker and being entitled to a break. I have a belief that people should work hard and therefore I must always work hard despite this not being possible or healthy. I will still make up the time and work late most nights but I’m still being very hard on myself and comparing myself to perfection when perfection doesn’t exist.

Well this has been a rambling post so I apologise if it’s a mish-mash of words but it’s a how an anxious mind works!

I’m always happy to chat and if you would like to talk please see the ‘Contact’ tab, however I am not a mental health professional and if you would like this support please see the ‘Support’ tab.

A week in the making.

Well, what a difference a week makes.

I’m in no way better, in fact I feel generally more anxious than I was last week about everything but I’m making steps.

I have a therapy session next week, am doing a little CBT each day, back on the medication and focussing on feeling more positive each day. Even started meditation! It’s quite relaxing, just need to keep it up and fit it all in.

I seem to have found the reason, or at least the theme to my anxiety. The things I get really anxious about are all things I can control, exercise, food, work. I can control how much I exercise, what I eat and how much I work. Problem is, it becomes something I have to do and don’t enjoy it. Now, I say ‘have to’ with a pinch of salt, I get that we have to work and exercise but I mean I actually cannot stop. The moment I stop, I panic and I’m not giving myself a break which is only going to put me in hospital.

The reason I’m doing it, I have so little control over the OCD that I think I’m trying to find something I can control, something I can manage. Life unfortunately doesn’t work like that and whilst I can control all of this, I’m not happy, I’m not enjoying life and I’m not facing it. I’ve written it down to cover it off with the therapist next week, my need to be in control and being responsible so hopefully we can get somewhere.

I’m always happy to chat and you can drop me a message on the ‘Contact’ tab, however I am not a mental health professional and if you would like this support please see the ‘Support’ tab.

I need help

So tonight, as a sit awake at half 3, wired. I’ve had two herbal sleeping tablets, a few shots of gin and nothing. I’ve cried, unsure why anxiety isn’t letting me sleep.

I’ve decided I do need to go back on anxiety medication, just to get me started. I have a therapy session booked in with a CBT therapist in a couple of weeks and I’m doing a little CBT each day but I need help. I can no longer do this on my own.

The last week has been tough, the presentation made me realise how little I have dealt with this, passing it over to the side and I’ve been overwhelmed this last week.

I’m feeling pressurised by my job, I want to do well, I enjoy it. The people are lovely and I feel valued, for the first time in about 3 years I want to work hard and I want to acheive. But it does mean I’m adding an additional layer of stress to myself but regardless I enjoy it. Plus I’m busy, being idle is my enemy, I’m no good at it.

So back to now, I’ve not had a great week, I’m actually scared to go to bed. Scared of a bad nights sleep, scared to toss and turn. Why am I scared? Poor sleep equals poor performance, poor performance equals failure, failure equals disappointment and I don’t want to let anyone down. So slowly, after the last week, my sleep has got worse. I have plans in place to help my anxiety but unfortunately they require waiting. Doctors, therapists, even sleeping tablets and alcohol need time to work, I needed a now.

I rang the samaritans. To be honest, I felt like a fraud, I’m not suicidal. I have thought about it this week as the anxiety is so great I see it as my only way out, the only way it will end but I would never do it, not in my current state. I wouldn’t do it to those around me. But I needed to talk, I needed to say to someone I feel really, really shit, I can’t even do the basics. And he was great, I mean he has no idea what phone line he is answering, I was probably quite a nice one, I just needed a chat but I dread to think who was on the line after me. We spoke for about 40 minutes and he calmed me down, I started the call a crying mess and ended it still a mess, but a mess that can get through it all. I’ve got this far, I can do so much more. I need to remember eaeach day just how strong I am, OCD and anxiety doesn’t make me weak, it makes me so much stronger. I’m just having an incredibly tough time, he also said I needed to be kinder to myself. I give myself such a hard time, expecting nothing less than perfection which I cannot achieve. I need to stop striving for what everyone else has and focus on what is right for me. I’ve spent years focussing on what others expect of me I’ve neglected myself. I put a front on that everything is ok, it’s not, I’m not ok and that’s ok. I have terrible self esteem my weekly running mileage is creeping up because I’m desperate to be skinny as everything will be ok then but I eat shit because I feel bad about it all. I still enjoy the runs but there is so much pressure to do it that I can’t miss one. Still, we’ll get through it, we’ll go on medication and I’ll go on medication, I will get better.

I’m always happy to chat and you can drop me a message on the ‘Contact’ tab, however I am not a mental health professional and if you would like this support please see the ‘Support’ tab.

And so it begins.

As expected, doing the OCD presentation a couple of weeks ago brought up all kinds of feelings and I entered last week just feeling anxious.

Every day, anxious about something and it was the urgent kind of anxiety. If we don’t do the washing now the world will go to shit kind of anxiety. It also messed with my sleep, I’m used to not being very good at sleep but it’s fair to say I’ve not handled it properly. Like my OCD symptoms, I’ve bumbled through them, crying through the bad days hoping to hell it’s only short.

I usually manage my sleep, if I need to get up early with herbal sleeping tablets and if I can get away with it, a large gin. Now usually it’s not enough gin that I’m passing out drunk, it’s more of a extra large measure enough to take the edge off and allow some calm in my mind. I’m almost certain it acts as a placebo as I can usually sleep about 10 minutes after the gin sans juice meaning it’s unlikely to have actually done anything at all but I feel better for it.

That is until the morning, when I wake utterly despondent I’m unable to sleep normally like the snoring Gary next to me. Why can’t I sleep like everyone else? Why do I have to be different? Ordinarily, that night I won’t have to wake early the next day and I go back to normal, however not this time. Not because I had to be up early, but because I’m ready to tackle this.

I resolved, contacted OCD Action for support, contacted a therapist and started reading a CBT book and actually started doing a bit of CBT each day.

We’ve ran into a problem mind, therapy, they don’t exactly fit the schedule. I work Monday to Friday normally 9-5 depending on where I’m travelling to and so do therapists. I found one that works Tuesday night, exactly the time I have running club which helps body and mind for me so I’m in a bind. They also cost a fricking fortune, I want to go private as I’ve not had great experiences with the NHS near me and the current wait time is about 6 months. But they’re charging on average £80 an hour! £80! Now I get it, I should look at this as a long term investment, small injection of cash now and long term health, forever. But seriously, no wonder we have a mental health problem in this country, most people don’t have that kind of money, £320 a month! That’s nearly half my mortgage. It hurt that private treatment is restricted to the wealthy. The problem is that they’re in short supply, there was a list of perhaps 2 or 3 CBT therapists within a half hour drive of my house. If I lived in central Cambridge the number ups to 10-12. That’s not many really, in Ely there are about 25,000 people meaning about 6,000 people will have some form of mental health problem annually and 3 private therapists and I looked, no NHS therapists. Disgraceful. I’m now looking into ‘virtual’ therapy, see if that helps. If those with mental health problems find the strength to seek help, there bloody well should be help available.

I’m always happy to chat and you can drop me a message on the ‘Contact’ tab, however I’m not a mental health professional and if you would like this support please see the ‘Support’ tab.

Presentation

Well I did my presentation and I think it went ok! I’ve never spoken that openly about OCD before, essentially told a group of strangers my fears around being a paedophile. It was daunting and I did tear up, need to sit down and just read my notes for a bit to get through it but it’s done.

Afterwards people came up to me to thank me, congratulate me and tell me their stories. One has very similar fears, several were concerned for their children as they could see things happening that we adults hide so well. They sought me out for reassurance wanting to feel better. I got asked if I felt better for being diagnosed. Yes I did, for a moment as it meant I wasn’t a dangerous person just an ill one, then reality hits of being mentally ill and the burden that goes along with that, the stigma people would now place on me. They sought me out for diagnosis, I do this, does this mean I actually have OCD? Sorry but I have no idea, I’m not a doctor and I’m not going to advise you.

I received several thanks, calls that I was brave and even a hug. I did feel immensely proud of myself after I had done it, something I have kept silent for so long up there for all to see. Stood in front of people telling them my ultimate flaw, open entirely to their judgement, I was so completely vulnerable but yet I wasn’t scared. Nervous yes as public speaking is horrendous but scared of what they would think, no. There was no need, I’m already my greatest critic and think the worst of myself that it doesn’t matter what a stranger thinks of me. I’d purposefully told friends not to go, I didn’t want their judgement, their eyes on me as I said these words, couldn’t handle it. Gary was there, of course he was, he always is and it didn’t bother me. There’s nothing I would have said up there that was new to him and I know he loves me in spite of it all.

It left me exhausted, like a therapy, an intense exposure session I felt lighter yet shattered. I lay on the sofa all afternoon and dozed, I was drained. Now a few days on, it’s a distant memory, confined to the corners of my mind. It’s not something I would want to do again but it’s certainly something I’m glad I did.

I’m not a mental health professional and if you would like this support please see the ‘Support’ tab but if you want to talk, I’m happy for you to reach out via the ‘Contact’ tab.

Sorry I’ve been quiet

It feels an age since I wrote anything here, to be honest I’ve been cheating on my blog. I’m speaking at a mental health get together thing this weekend so my mind has been focussed on writing my presentation for that. The presentation is now all written, just need to learn it! I don’t want it to sound like I’m repeating it parrot fashion however I also don’t want to stand there with no clue what to say, sweating as random strangers stare at me. Therefore I’m aiming for well rehearsed winging it.

How am I? Ok I think, I’ve been nice and anxious about several things. Started the new job and loved the herbal sleeping tablets which are a habit I need to kick, I’m at least not mixing them with alcohol so that’s a step. However my will power is weak at half 1 in the morning when I need to be up before 6 and the anxious sweats are not fun. I’ve also started dreaming about the wedding next year, so far it’s included the hotel not having my room and needing to bunk in with my mum and step-dad followed by my dad getting drunk with the chef and refusing to walk me down the aisle. If this is how it is a year out, I can just predict how bad I’ll be next year. Goes hand in hand with this, naturally I’m panicking about Gary, do I love him? How do I know? Can I put up with his bad habits forever? When will I cheat on him? Will we end up hating each other? I’m powering on regardless, trying to ignore the thoughts. I stayed away from home the other day at a sales conference and I was terrified of cheating on him. It’s not unheard of me to hook up with a colleague on a night out and so the evidence is there to say I have acted that way before, why wouldn’t I do it now? Do I love Gary enough? Who bloody knows.

I’m also feeling the pressure, the thought of children is suddenly becoming very real, this time next year I’ll be a wife and society immediately starts asking you when you’re going to have kids. I mean, my sister-in-law got married at the beginning of this month and I’ve already asked her when she will have my little niece or nephew. I don’t feel ready at all, I’m exercising a lot to try and burn off my little belly without reducing the amount I eat and I won’t be able to exercise as much with a child, will I hate the way I look? I don’t like my body now, it depresses me and I don’t feel attractive, will this only get worse?

So there we have it, I haven’t been here but I’ve definitely been struggling. There’s a lot going on and I think writing the presentation has brought to the fore unresolved feelings that I haven’t wanted to face the feelings. If I put them down here I have to start processing them, see them for what they are, whereas leaving them in my head I can just brush them to the side.

So sorry I’ve been quiet, I’ll try to be more talkative going forward!

If you’d like to chat, feel free to reach out via the ‘Contact’ tab, however I am not a mental health professional and if you would like this support please see the ‘Support’ tab.

World Mental Health Day

It’s World Mental Health Day i.e. my time to shine!

How great is this?! Every radio station I’ve listened to, website I’ve been on and Instagram story I’ve seen today has been on mental health and encouraging people to talk. Naturally I got involved and chucked my two cents in because mental health is my bag, sharing a post about needing to be ok with not being ok and focussing on talking. It really is wonderful see people of all shapes, colour and creed humming the same tune for a day and wanting to make a change.

I’ve received work emails about numbers I can call if I’m struggling and groups I can reach out to. I’ve seen giant companies sharing initiatives on how to improve your own mental health. The best thing, I heard on Radio 2, stories of attempted suicide and methods people used to get them through the dark days.

Hopefully, and this is everything crossed, looking up to the sky as I count my lucky stars, it continues. Typically speaking, humans are creatures of habit, we resist immediate change and I know one day of let’s all talk isn’t going to all is a sudden cause an onset of sharing. But it’s a start at least, the fact that it was so prominent in the media means that here in the U.K. at least we’re taking it seriously and beginning to bring it out in the open.

Lots of people come to me to share their mental health concerns and it simply shows how many people it affects, the variety of people it affects and how so many of us bury it deep out of shame or embarrassment. I’m hugely ashamed of my OCD, I hate the illness with every fibre of my being and will clam up when asked about it. However I know that being ashamed and embarrassed is not going to change things, I’ll still have OCD whether I shout about it or not. Just shouting about it makes me feel better so I’ll only get louder I’m afraid.

As ever, my message is one of talking, in whichever guise suits you. I find talking through my hands to a blog is the best way for me to express my mental health concerns. Yours may be speaking with a friend, therapist, writing it in a journal, just get it out somehow. Find what works for you and express yourself. You matter and you are not alone.

I am always happy to chat and you can drop me a message on the ‘Contact’ tab however I am not a mental health professional and if you would like this support please see the ‘Support’ tab.