Thoughts from within a Depressive Episode

I wrote this piece while I was experiencing a particular bad (for me) depressive episode. Thankfully it didn’t last long but I needed to write my thoughts down (somehow I found the motivation to do this) in an attempt to make sense of them. So I apologise in advance for how, well depressing, this post is, but I think it’s important to share these thoughts and experiences, it’s the only way we can break the stigma.

Up until now I have discussed anxiety a lot more than depression. It’s because anxiety is a constant companion, it’s always there. Not one minute goes by that I’m not anxious, just some days my anxiety levels are more manageable. I guess I’m so used to it being there, it has become my normal.

But depression is very different for me. Depression appears when I’m exhausted. It appears when I let my guard down. It appears when I least expect it and it comes on so suddenly and with such force that it scares me. I can be excited and happy one moment, and utterly miserable and desperate the next.

Depression takes the fun out of everything, even the activities you love and the people you love to spend time with. Everything feels very muted and dull. Depression is exhausting and all-consuming, it’s impossible to focus on anything else. Depression is isolating, you feel alone even when you are surrounded by friends. Well meaning friends and loved ones may do things to try to make you laugh or to cheer you up but the truth is, your depression is yours alone, it’s your burden to bear. I’m not saying other people can’t help you, I appreciate the attention and care others focus on me when I’m depressed, I need to know I am loved.

Depression is frustrating because often you have no idea why you are depressed. Depression makes me feel weak, pathetic, a failure, a burden. Depression makes me feel unloved and unlovable. It amplifies even the smallest problems to make them feel like they are impossible obstacles to overcome. Depression makes me angry, bitter and resentful. I have no patience with myself or others. I overreact – small things that wouldn’t normally bother me, feel catastrophic when I’m depressed – like it’s the end of the word. I’m short tempered and irritable. I lack any motivation which isn’t like me at all, in fact I’m quite the opposite normally. But when I’m depressed I just can’t be bothered.

It’s a cliche to say a dark cloud consumes you but that’s exactly what it feels like for me. A dark, heavy, black cloud of smoke that clings to every atom in my body – the cloud is so dense I feel like I can smell it on my skin. The dark cloud seeps into my mind and makes it impossible to think clearly, it warps my thoughts. I have an overwhelming need to cry, yet I don’t have the energy to cry. Even sobbing is too much of an effort – I just can’t be bothered.

I love to read but even that is to much of an effort when my depression hits, I don’t care about anything – I just can’t be bothered. I can lay for hours in the same position, lacking the motivation to move. Time passes unnoticed, events mean nothing. Everything moves in slow motion, I feel like the life has been drained from me. I become very self destructive when I’m depressed, I personally don’t care if I come to any harm. I don’t care if something bad happens, in fact, I welcome it. I seek out dangerous situations, I participate in destructive behaviours, I don’t care if I live or die.

Depression is like a parasite feeding off your insecurities. It eats you from within, it drains you. It steals your self worth and your confidence. It zaps every ounce of energy and motivation from you. It takes your life. My mind goes to some very dark places. I experience dark thoughts. Images flash into my mind – images of horrible things happening to myself and loved ones. It seeps into my dreams so I don’t even get a break when I’m sleeping.

I personally find depression worse than anxiety but I think it’s because I’m not as well equipped to deal with it. I’m not used to dealing with it 24/7, like I am anxiety. It’s also so far removed from the person I normally am. Depression turns me into a stranger, I don’t recognise myself. I don’t like myself when I’m depressed, I don’t like the person I become. I would like to get to a place where I can accept the person I am when I’m depressed, rather than be judgemental or critical, but I’m not in that place yet.

But depression does allow my body and mind to have the well needed rest that anxiety makes impossible. So I try not to fight it and and just accept the depression is going to be around for a while. It’s not a nice feeling but if it’s here to stay I might as well get the rest I desperately need.

I experience such extremes of emotions. My highs are very high but my lows are depressingly low. I can get excited like a child on Christmas day but in a second I can fall into deep despair. I’m always going to be an over emotional person but that’s not always a bad thing as I’m able to empathise with others. I am able to truly enjoy the happy times and I’m able to love deeply and unconditionally.

For me, anxiety and depression are opposites. With depression I feel very low. Everything feels very slowed down, including my thoughts and reactions to things. Everything feels very muted and dull.With anxiety, everything feels very heightened. My thoughts speed up and I experience everything at 100mph. My reactions to most things can be very extreme and I’m on edge and jittery – my whole body vibrates due to the adrenaline coursing through me.

But they are both just as debilitating. I am lucky in the fact that my depressive episodes are a lot less frequent now than they used to be. My depression is a lot milder and therefore easier to cope with than a lot of people I know. I admire anyone who has the strength and determination to continue to ‘live’ despite struggling with depression everyday. If you are one of those people, please don’t underestimate the achievements you have made just to survive. And never feel ashamed to tell your story. Take care x

Do you suffer from depression? What coping mechanisms do you have that help you to deal with your depression?

 

Guest Post : ‎Sefik Villasante‎ – My Story


My Story of overcoming the dark and desperate times is one that I hope can show others that there is a way out to the other side ! It was Sept 2016 and after 12 years of striving and seriously hard work and sacrifice I achieved a promotion within a huge U.S Multinational Company . I was ecstatic nothing was going to stop me I had the position the pay the title and the plaudits that I had richly deserved . Along with my family wife and children we could all share in my success!

9 months later I was a wreck ! 9 months of 17 / 18 hr days 5 days a week a culture that was far from supportive , toxic in nature , a work force hell bent on undermining you and your position had left me broken .

One of my main strengths was my confidence my ability to present and interact with the workforce and my passion and belief in the company and what it could bring to further my carrier and growth of the business .

I was left hiding on the ware house, wanting to hide away , keep quiet not be noticed and physically unable to even open up and email or log into my p.c . Every moment of my working day was miserable it was consuming me the fear of work the heaviness of failing the 10 cups of coffee a day to try and pep me up , the utter hate of the alarm going off at 04.30am and that drive into London it was desperate time.

I had noticed a definite down shift in my mood 2 months before I went to the G.P explained my situation and yep 150mg of Sertraline were was the answer . No No No pill could get me through this the work , culture and 18 hour days were relentless !!!

So driving home 9.00pm at night on a Friday I said I cant do this anymore H.R don’t care , manager doesn’t care , the company doesn’t care well then I will show them !!! Maybe this will make you listen and take notice !!!

I attempted to drive my car into the central reservation of the A40 , it made perfect sense I was exhausted I would blame the company show the world how I had been broken I was crying out for someone to take this seriously !!!! Something made me pull away at the last second .Was it luck , an angel , and hunch , or the last bit of reasoning I had in me that said you don’t have to do this ?? I pulled into the hard shoulder and had a cry and a talk to myself .

How could I tell my wife , my kids , work , my friends , family that I had failed !! Yes I had failed , failed failed failed failed !!! Everyone else but me opinion mattered but my own !!

Fast forward and after I sent an Email to my Boss explaining I couldn’t do this anymore , I felt a weight had been lifted . I myself had acknowledged I was in a bad desperate place and needed help .Never has watching a U Tube clip resonated so much . “The Black Dog Syndrome” Perfect in every way .

18 months of counciling , Self Compassion Groups , Mindfullness , Self Confidence Groups , CBT , Richmond Fellowship service , and a 6 month spell with a Physchatrist and of course understanding that medication is not taboo its a requirement for some .

I was under the impression a month away from work was all that I needed and I will me back to normal . I dosent work like that it takes time a lot of time and work and changing your values and your old way of thinking .

What really is important to you , what do you value , is money the answer to everything . What I’ve understood and this is key is that Money dosent bring you happiness it brings you choices .Success dosent make you Happy , Happy makes you Success !

Yes its been tough very tough for 18months I didn’t tell anyone I hid away pretended I was working from home, working nights on the lap top I was living a secret life . But as soon as I let my story out and told the world the support I had was amazing. It was like I was given a 2nd chance and new direction and new me ! Ive changed direction , had the confidence to leave a carrier of 14years start all over again at the age of 42 see my first sports day , xmas play go to a parents evening do the school run , tuck my children into bed sit around the dinner t able the list goes on and on .

Never live your fears don’t say you cant go on there is a way out i’ve done it . Suffering from chronic depression and anxiety is not taboo its reality and its a sign you’ve tried so hard, so hard and taken you to the edge you havn’t been a grazer you’ve been a decent individual !!

Help is out there in may forms and through many amazing people and groups , reach out to those closest to you and never give in and go to that dark place that you would be better of not being hear ,

You are Amazing You are Beautiful You are a Parent Brother Sister Aunt Uncle Son Daughter , You can achieve all you want never loose sight of that !!

Sefik

XXX

Why do so many people still refuse to believe Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) exists?

I would like to start by saying a big thank you to everyone who has left kind and encouraging comments, your support means so much to me. The last 48 hours have been exhausting and a real eye opener. I didn’t realise sharing my story about the realities of living with severe ME would stir up such a mix of emotions and reactions from everyone. The purpose of my post was to raise awareness and start a discussion about ME, so in that respect it was successful.

My local Newspaper (The Eastern Daily Press) published my story on website and Facebook yesterday and it caused an argument on their page. Comments saying ‘ME doesn’t exist’ and ‘we are all just lazy’ have been removed from the post. It’s upsetting in this day and age that people still deny ME exists, and just think we are lazy. I have all the motivation in the world but my body isn’t able. Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) has been recognised as a neurological disease by the World Health Organisation (WHO) since 1969, so why do so many people, including medical professionals, refused to believe it exists? Are 17 million people just lazy?

It’s a stigma we, The ME community, face on a daily basis. Why do people have such strong views about an illness they haven’t experienced and have no knowledge of? Why do strangers feel they can judge me when they haven’t lived my life? Do you really think I would choose to live my life from my bed, to be excluded from everything I love?

Apart from the non believers I have been inundated by messages offering ‘miracle cures’ for my illness. It’s so upsetting to know there are people out there preying on the desperate and vulnerable. There is no cure for ME (yet). If what they are selling was a cure, everyone would be using it – it would be all over the news and no one would be sick anymore. Not only are they ripping people off, they are also giving them false hope.

I have also received many comments from well meaning individuals asking ‘have you tried this?’ or ‘My friend had ME and this cured her’ I know these comments come from people who want to help me and I’m thankful for your concern. When you live with an incurable and largely untreatable illness, you are desperate and will try most things. I will absorb your suggestions but please don’t force your views and opinions on others. Please don’t judge me if I choose not to take your path or try your suggestions. It’s exhausting, and if I tried everything suggested to me I would be broke and, probably, no better off health wise. Yes, I have tried many remedies, some have improved my health, like CBD oil, but most have made no impact. Sometimes acceptance (and no, that doesn’t mean I’m giving up) and rest are the best options, for now.

Lastly, to the people who have judged me based on one post – I hope you never have to experience life living with severe ME. I hope no one close to you is affected by this devastating illness, and I hope someday you choose to leave your prejudices aside and spend some time educating yourself about ME. My hope is that through education you will learn compassion and understanding. We, the ME community, don’t want you sympathy, we just want to be heard and believed. We have spent so many years ‘missing’, forgotten and dismissed, ridiculed and judged – It’s now our time in the spotlight, our time to be believed, our time to be heard, our time for fair treatment and our time for action. Thanks for reading. Take care x

If you would like to read the post that sparked all this interest, here is: My Story- the realities of living with severe ME.

https://www.ajourneythroughthefog.co.uk/2018/05/my-story-living-with-severe-m-e/

#ajourneythroughthefog #chronicillness #MECFS #mentalhealthawareness#fibromyalgia #blog #MyalgicE #Chronicpain #spoonies #missingmillions#MEAction #meawareness

My Story – Living with Severe M.E.


Foreword:
Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (M.E.) is an incredibly isolating and debilitating condition but I don’t want your sympathy, that’s not why I’m writing this piece. All we (the M.E. community) ask is for understanding and education. We want to be taken seriously by medical professionals and for funding to be made available to research this devastating condition. M.E. has been recognised as a neurological disease by the World Health Organisation (WHO) since 1969, so why do so many medical professionals still deny it exists? It’s estimated that 17 million people worldwide suffer from M.E. How many more have to suffer before action is taken?

If you want to learn more about Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (M.E.) please click here: https://www.actionforme.org.uk/what-is-me/introduction/

My Story – Living with Severe M.E.

My name is Jo Moss, I’m 43 years old, I live in Norwich (UK) and I have been missing for 12+ years.

Like millions of others – I live my life from one darkened room, I rely on carers for even my basic needs and I feel isolated from the outside world.

My M.E. Story starts in my teenage years. I didn’t get a sudden onset of symptoms like many sufferers, instead mine was gradual. I had always been a sickly child but in my teenage years my health deteriorated. I had a succession of infections including throat, ear and chest infections along with numerous bouts of tonsillitis. Hormones also triggered debilitating migraines which completely incapacitated me for days at a time. I had numerous operations for a number of health conditions which I believe weakened me. Shortly after this I had a particularly bad case of the flu and I never really recovered.

I struggled with overwhelming fatigue and flu like symptoms for years before I was finally diagnosed with M.E. Every GP I visited, begging for help, blamed my poor physical health on depression and anxiety, and just prescribed antidepressants or anti anxiety meds – I was even diagnosed with PTSD by one doctor. I was finally diagnosed in 2006 by a new GP who had just transferred from the local M.E. clinic to my doctors surgery. She was great and referred me to the clinic. She was very supportive but sadly, she left soon after.

At the clinic I was taught pacing and went through a course of CBT but that was about it, they did however write to my employer explaining what M.E. was and how best they could support me, which was great. I worked in the finance industry before I became ill. I loved my job, I loved having a purpose and being busy.

I was still mobile at the beginning but my health continued to deteriorate due to a lack of treatment and support, and stress brought on by having my health benefits removed. I was assessed as 100% fit to work at a time when I could barely function or care for myself. I had to appeal, which took 18 months, it was so stressful and exhausting – it broke me. I have been virtually bed bound now for 5 years.

Unfortunately subsequent doctors haven’t been as supportive – many have just dismissed me. The usual practice is handing out antidepressants and painkillers but I’m intolerant to most prescription meds and the side effects are just too severe. I had one doctor tell me “Your fatigue is caused by over sleeping”. I had another GP tell me “If you don’t get out of that bed soon, you are going to die in that bed – sooner rather than later” I sobbed for 2 days. Unfortunately incidences like mine are not uncommon for M.E. sufferers.

I now live my life from my bed. I am lucky to have a very supportive husband, family and friends. I have care workers come to assist me twice a day which takes some of the pressure off my husband. It’s weird having strangers walk into your home, it took me a long while to adapt to that. I have always been so stubborn and independent so asking for help is challenging for me.

The realities of living with severe M.E:

* I live in a dark room with blackout blinds and thick curtains. I wear earplugs because even normal levels of sound are painful. I’m confined to my bed 97% of the time.

* I can’t stand or sit up long enough to prepare food for myself so I rely on others to do this for me. I can’t sit or stand for more than 5 mins due to weakness, pain, palpitations and dizziness.

* I only shower once a week because it is so exhausting and painful and my husband has to help me. I have learnt how to shower quickly but it still exhausts me for days. We had to convert our bathroom into a wet room because I was too weak to get in and out of the bath.

* I used to have very long hair but I had no alternative but to cut it off because I couldn’t manage washing and drying it myself. My hair was also very painful on my skin. I can’t sit up long enough to have it cut or styled, so my husband shaves it once a month using a pair of clippers.

* My husband and my carers do everything for me – cooking, cleaning, personal care etc. I’m so thankful for this but it means I lose my personal space and control over my environment.

* A common myth about M.E. is that we sleep 24/7 but this isn’t always the case. Even though I’m exhausted all the time I struggle to sleep or even rest due to pain, muscle spasms, dizziness and palpitations. I constantly feel agitated – in a state of unrest.

* Everyday objects are too heavy for me to lift, like kettles, standard crockery and jars (I use plastic ones), I can’t even open the fridge.

* I can’t watch TV or even listen to the radio – it’s too exhausting and painful.

* I’m alone for long periods of time because social interaction is exhausting and painful. Some days I struggle to communicate due to exhaustion and cognitive problems caused by M.E.

* I only leave my bed to go to the bathroom and I only leave my house to go to the hospital. I haven’t been outside for months, it’s just too exhausting and I’m too weak.

*I pay for every activity I do. Post-exertional malaise (PEM) is a key symptom of M.E. that causes a spike in symptoms and a massive energy crash after what, to other people, would be minor exertion. This means, if I choose to spend a few minutes talking to a friend, I’m likely to ‘pay’ for it for days afterwards.

* M.E. is not just fatigue. There are a myriad of symptoms including: muscle and joint pain, dizziness, flu like symptoms, swollen glands, Post-exertional malaise (PEM), hypersensitivity to noise, touch, light etc, muscle spasms, cognitive problems (brain fog), sleep disturbances, shakes and tremors, weakness, headaches and migraines.

* M.E. doesn’t just affect me. It also has a huge impact on my husband’s life. Not only does he care for me but he also has to put up with ‘strangers’ (care workers and medical professionals) coming into our home. He has to be quiet all the time and physical contact is limited. His life has to involve around me and my poor health. His social life is also restricted – in some ways it’s just as isolating for him as it is for me. He has to watch me suffer knowing, apart from being supportive, there is very little he can do to relieve my pain and suffering. He married an able bodied, active woman and has had to make a lot of adjustments because of M.E.

Before I became sick I had a very active social life. The boots in my photo represent my character well. I’m a rock chick who loves live music, dancing, singing, laughing and drinking with friends. I miss this so much, I even have vivid dreams where I’m singing so loudly I wake up with palpitations. My subconscious mind still craves stimulation even if my physical body cannot tolerate it.

M.E. has stolen so much from me but the most frustrating part about this debilitating illness is not being believed, and not having a voice. We are not just ‘missing’ – we are ‘forgotten’. That’s why I started my blog ‘A Journey through the Fog’ 6 months ago- to give myself a voice, to raise awareness and to try to reach out to others who are suffering too. Thanks for reading. Take care x

#ajourneythroughthefog #chronicillness #MECFS #mentalhealthawareness#fibromyalgia #blog #anxiety #depression #meawarenessmonth#millionsmissing #meaction #chronicpain #spoonies#MyalgicEncephalomyelitis #MyalgicE

Millions Missing 2018

Every year an event called ‘Millions Missing’ takes place in Countries across the world to raise awareness of ME and to help make the invisible, visible. Millions Missing is staged on International ME Awareness Day – the 12th May and there are many ways you can get involved.

#ajourneythroughthefog #chronicillness #MECFS #meawareness#millionsmissing
#meaction #unrest #MyalgicEncephalomyelitis
#spoinies

Mental Health Awareness and ME Awareness.

May is going to be a busy month for me. In the US, the whole of the month of May is dedicated to Mental Awareness and in the UK, Mental Health Awareness week is the 14th to 20th of May, so I will be doing everything I can to spread the word. But May is also ME Awareness Month, ME Awareness Week (7th-13th) and Fibromyalgia Awareness Day (12th). It’s like buses, you wait ages and then 3 come along at once.

I would love your help in raising awareness over the coming weeks. Would you like to share your story? Or maybe you have an inspirational quote or an informative article you would like to share. Please get in contact if you would like to get involved in any way, I would love to hear from you. Take care x

Why having ME/CFS makes me dread the summer.

After I read the news that the temperatures in the UK were going to reach 27 degrees this week, my anxiety levels rose dramatically and panic set in. I hoped I would having longer to adjust to the summer – what happened to spring? – but I need to face the fact summer is here. I’m sure most people reading this are thinking: What is she moaning about? Summer is glorious! All that sun, warmth, days out, the beautiful colours of nature etc” – but it’s not so glorious for me.

The last few months have been good for me – probably the best I’ve had in the last 5 years. My health is improving, I’m doing a lot more and achieving so much, but I’m fearful that is about to change. Although the cold weather brings a lot of pain, it also allows me to do much more. I used to love the hot weather, summer was always my favourite season but now I dread it.

I dread the hot weather because it aggravates most of my symptoms, and restricts my ability to carry out even the smallest tasks that, during the winter I have no problem doing. The hot weather causes so much exhaustion, it zaps every ounce of energy from me – and I don’t have a lot to begin with. I have problems regulating my body temperature – it’s a common symptom of ME/CFS. In the winter it’s easy to warm up by turning up the central heating or using heated throws, but during the extremely hot weather it’s very hard for me to cool down. I use ice packs and fans, but that’s still not enough.

When I overheat I get very dizzy, I feel like I’m going to pass out. Have you ever got so drunk that when you lie down and close your eyes the whole world spins out of control? Well that’s what it feels like when I overheat – even when I’m lying down I feel like I am are going to collapse. My heart rate increases as my body tries to cool itself down but this only increases my temperature.

Any activity, even speaking, causes palpitations and increases my body temperature. I shut down during the hot weather because I’m fearful of overheating, so I avoid doing even slightest tasks. Once my heart rate and temperature increase it takes hours to calm my body down. I am also hypersensitive to light, direct sunlight causes pain and heat on my skin causes a flare of my Fibromyalgia pain. The heat also causes migraines which can last for days.

The air is so hot and dense I struggle to breath and it’s unbearable for me. But having a panic attack in this environment is my worst nightmare. The usual symptoms of a panic attack – increased heart rate, difficulty breathing, sweating, dizziness – are magnified 10 fold by the hot weather and my inability to control my body temperature.

After all the improvements I’ve made over the last few months I don’t want to go backwards. I want to continue this positive path but I fear the next few months are going to be very challenging.

But am I overthinking everything as usual? Is my fear of the hot weather the real problem? Is my anxiety making my physical symptoms worse? I know I cannot control the weather so why do I get myself so worked up about it?

Do you struggle regulating your body temperature? Do you dread the hot weather? Do you find the hot weather exhausting? Do you have any tips for keeping cool during the summer? Or do you love the hot weather? What do you love about summer?

EDIT: I wrote this post 4 days ago (before the heatwave) but I hadn’t got round to posting it because the hot weather has hit me so hard. I have had a migraine for 2 days now and I have crashed quite badly. I guess it answers my question; Is my fear of the hot weather the real problem? But I will not let this defeat me. I am now looking at installing air conditioning in my room (I will find the money!), I am determined not to let the hot weather ruin all the positive steps I have made over the past few months. Take care x

#ajourneythroughthefog #chronicillness #MECFS #mentalhealthawareness#fibromyalgia #blog #anxiety #depression #dread #selfcare #love #heatwave#summer

How to recognize anxiety in yourself.

I can recognise all of these in me except procrastination. I have a complete inability to procrastinate. I’m so impulsive – as soon as I think about something I have to do it. If I wait, my mind just runs through the ‘task’ in my head over and over again, thinking about every possible outcome. These thoughts become so obsessive that I cannot concentrate on anything else and they can last for hours or even days – it’s exhausting and often triggers a panic attack. So I have learnt just to do it when I think about it – where possible.

#ajourneythroughthefog #chronicillness #MECFS #mentalhealthawareness#fibromyalgia #blog #anxiety #depression #selfcare #love

Your Illness does not define you.


I read the following Tweet yesterday and it prompted me to write this post:

“I often see posts along the lines of ‘my chronic illness is a part of me, I’m not my chronic illness’. If that works for you and makes you feel better – I’m happy for you. But it doesn’t work for me. I am my illness. It is me. We are one. It takes over every inch of my life.”

This was my reply:

“My chronic illness is very much part of me but it does not define who I am. I am defined by my kindness, my intelligence, my compassion, my sense of humour, my creativity, my stubbornness and my strength – not by the pain I have to endure.”

Yes, ME/CFS, fibromyalgia and anxiety seep into every part of my life. They influence most of my decisions and my actions. But there is a big difference between your illness being part of you and it defining you.

Please don’t lose sight of who you are. Chronic illness (and mental illness) steal so much from us but don’t let it steal that from you.

#ajourneythroughthefog #chronicillness #MECFS #mentalhealthawareness#fibromyalgia #blog #anxiety #depression #selfcare #love

Be proud of every step you take.

About 5 years ago I had a physical and mental breakdown. At the time I didn’t realise quite how ill I was, as I had a complete disconnect from reality. I was exhausted, my body was fighting back and I didn’t know how to cope with this mentally. My physical health (I have ME/CFS and Fibromyalgia) deteriorated to the point where even speaking caused palpitations and tremors.

The lead up to this breakdown was a particularly stressful time. I was battling anorexia, I was fighting an appeal after having my health benefits removed, my husband had just been made redundant and I was scared I was going to lose my home. I couldn’t understand why my body and mind were failing, I felt like they were betraying me and I didn’t know how to cope.

I was so exhausted that even when resting I had adrenaline coursing through my body, I was in constant fight or flight mode which caused even more exhaustion, made it impossible to rest and sleep, and also heightened my anxiety to a level I had never experienced in my life up until that point.

To try to understand what was happening to me, and in an attempt to ground myself in reality and save my sanity, I started writing a diary.

It’s been over 4 years since I wrote in my diary. I put it aside, too scared to reread what I had written, fearing my raw thoughts and feelings would trigger another breakdown. But I now feel strong enough to face these fears in an attempt to understand what caused such a catastrophic event in my life. What was my mindset? What were my fears? How did I rationalise it? How did I survive it? What will I unearth? What will I learn?

The following are some excerpts from my diary:

The last 6 months have been horrendous. I didn’t realise how mentally and physically ill I had become. My body and mind, after years of stress, anxiety and abuse have given up on me. I’m just surprised it didn’t happen sooner. I’m coming to realise ’the signs’ have been around for years. All problems are linked to anxiety and control, ‘FEARS’ I am fearful of everything.”

“I know I have come a long way but the journey is far from travelled. I should have seen the signs three years ago.”

“Well, I’m learning a lot of very hard lessons about myself. Time to accept I’m currently losing my lifelong battle with anxiety. I need a chill pill, I need to lighten up.”

“Haven’t slept in days. My ME/CFS Is horrendous. Not surprising when sleep and rest are the most important things for recovery. I keep forgetting and confusing words, it’s quite comical really.”

“You are safe, You are calm” [I used to repeat this to myself over and over again when I felt like I was going to die, it was my mantra and the only thing that kept me alive.]

“I’ve got to get over the notion my body is trying to poison me. I’m lucky it’s working at all after what I’ve put it through.” [I had forgotten about this, but I think it was linked to my anorexia. Anytime I ate it aggravated my IBS and caused so much pain, I felt like my body was attacking me.]

“Just when I think I’ve got the hang of something my neurotic mind starts questioning it, it’s my anxiety causing everything.”

“I need to sleep but every time I close my eyes I see the demons.”

“I’m going stir crazy in the house, I need to escape.”

“I stayed comatosed all day trying to avoid a panic attack. Even the slightest movement causes dizziness and palpitations.”

“I didn’t realise how detached I’d become from my own body.”

“I haven’t written in a few days because I’ve been so weak, exhausted and depressed. I truly hit rock bottom. Every little improvement I make only makes me realise how ill I was in the first place and how far I’ve got to go.”

“The last 6 weeks have been the longest of my life. I have been in a daze, out of touch with reality. Sleep deprivation along with anxiety, exhaustion and pain drove me to hit rock bottom. Suicidal thoughts are uncontrollable, I’m not sure I’m strong enough to survive this.”

“I put too much pressure on myself. In my attempt to do ‘anything’ to make myself better, I have pushed myself to break, physically and mentally.”

“My muscles are burning but I keep shivering. I’m so scared I’ve done irreparable damage and this is what my life is going to be like from now on. I cannot contemplate the rest of my life in this torture”

“You f*cked up again!”

“I’m not sure how much longer I can put up with this pain. I need it to stop, I need a break, I would try anything at this point. Please make it stop.”

“I managed to stay calm enough to sleep after taking sedatives, diazepam and sleeping tablets. I know, not good, but I was desperate for a few hours peace.”

“It’s now 6am. I’ve been keeping calm and trying to sleep for the last 8 hours. All I’m achieving is getting more tired, shivery, panicky and frustrated.”

“I’m gonna take today as it comes, no expectations. I’m shattered so hopefully I can just rest and keep my anxiety at a minimum. I’ve given up on thinking I can tackle my anxiety on my own, that will come with medical treatment – just keep it at a manageable level.”

“If I can just stay calm and get some sleep tomorrow will be a better day”

“You’ve come so far, don’t be so hard on yourself, you are doing the best you can.”

“You ARE strong enough to survive this”

What comes across from these words and my handwriting, is how desperate and manic I was. I wrote pages and pages of rambling text, desperate to expel the constant barrage of thoughts from my head, hoping that if I wrote them down, my mind would give me a break. But the more I wrote, the more active my brain became. I was riddled with guilt and convinced it was my fault I had become so ill. I wish I could go back in time and give myself a big hug and say “You have done nothing wrong, it’s going to be ok”.

Even with the trauma I was going through, I am amazed at how positive I was still trying to be. I have always been an optimist but I don’t know how I found the strength to continue to fight through the pain, fatigue, insomnia, confusion and all the scary symptoms that came along with the breakdown.

I ultimately realised, that to get better I had to stop fighting. It was the accumulation of years of fighting my own body and mind that had lead to my breakdown. I now know the importance of rest, self care and reflection, but at the time resting seemed like giving up. Once I stopped fighting, the depression set in, but I will save that discussion for another day. I have come such a long way since those dark days and I often underestimate the achievements and positive steps I’ve made. I don’t give myself time to pause and reflect on the strength it took just to survive. I don’t give myself credit for the life challenges I have survived and continue to battle. I’m still very ill but I’ve come so far and I’m proud of myself for that.

So, from now on, I will take time out from each day to reflect on how bad my health was and how far I have come. It’s an important part of my recovery, which up until now I have neglected. I urge you to do the same. You may not be as far along on your journey as you want to be and there may be times when you take a few steps back, but please celebrate all your achievements, however small. You are doing the best you can. Take care x

“Don’t wait until you reach your goals to be proud of yourself, be proud of every step you take.”