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

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.”

 

What I miss about my life before ME/CFS.

I am getting a pair of shoes ready to send to this year’s Millions Missing event. I have been asked to attach a tag with the following information; My name, how long I have been ill and what I’m missing. The ‘What I’m missing’ part got me thinking about the life I have left behind and my emotions hit me like a sledgehammer. So what do I miss?

I miss the simple things – the sun on my face, the breeze blowing in my hair. I miss walking to the local shops just to browse. I miss meeting up for coffee with my best friends and putting the world to rights. I miss sitting in the park watching everybody rush by as they go about their busy lives.

I miss growing my own vegetables – watching a plant grow from seed is so satisfying. I miss nights out with my husband. I miss work. I miss having a purpose in life. I miss being needed. I miss the seaside – the salty smell of the fresh breeze. I miss family gatherings – weddings, birthdays, even funerals. I miss crafting – there is something so rewarding about creating something out of your own imagination. I miss shopping. I miss buying clothes and shoes just because they are pretty – not practical. I miss long relaxing baths.

I miss getting drunk with my friends. I miss music – loud gigs where you have to shout to be heard, even when you are standing next to each other. I miss getting dressed up, doing my hair and makeup – I miss feeling pretty. I miss nature – watching birds bobbing around on the ground looking for food. I miss the vivid colours and the sheer beauty of the world. I miss my Mum, she also has ME/CFS and fibromyalgia so we hardly ever see each other. I miss cooking and baking. I miss caring for my husband and spoiling him with treats I have baked. I miss the satisfaction of a clean house. I miss my tidy house – I hate the clutter I now live in.

I miss travelling – the excitement of discovering new places. I miss making plans. I miss talking for hours about everything and nothing. I miss singing and dancing around the house. I miss laughing so hard my cheeks ache. I miss being spontaneous and carefree – not having to worry about the payback from my adventures.

ME/CFS has stolen so much from me but I have also gained a lot too. Being ill has forced me to pause and think. My life was so hectic and busy before, I didn’t have time to enjoy or appreciate the small things. I have learnt patience and mindfulness. I am thankful for every smile and every happy moment. I have gained so many friends online who have supported me through the tough times. I truly appreciate my dear friends who have stuck by me through everything life has thrown at me, and my life is enriched by their presence. My husband and I are closer than we have ever been and I have learned to appreciate everything about him. I have gained a better understanding of me and ME. I have found my voice and I will continue to write as long as there is someone listening. I am stronger because of what I have endured. Take care x

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

The doubts and fears are creeping in.

I’m very unsure of myself at the moment. Doubts are creeping in and I’m being over critical about everything I write and everything I post. When I’m like this I get so indecisive and I overthink everything.

Do I sound patronising? Does it sound preachy? Do I sound whiny? Does anyone even care? Why wasn’t that post popular? Why didn’t it get many likes?

I’ve had a lot of success very quickly with my blog but not everything I write is going to get a lot of attention. Not everyone is going to like all my posts, I write about a myriad of subjects which won’t be relatable to everyone. But my anxious brain isn’t always rational, and doesn’t always see this logic, and at the moment it’s taking over.

I think it’s important to challenge these voices, so I decided to write about it.

My blog is actually a selfish endeavour. Yes, I want to reach out and help others, but essentially I’m talking about myself in every post. It’s a platform to give myself a voice, to try to make sense of my life by writing about it. All I’m doing is writing about my own experiences and if other people can relate to them, and gain comfort from knowing they are not alone, then all the anxieties linked to my writing are worth it. But it’s actually quite scary to write about your innermost thoughts, fears and failings, and then publish them for the world to judge.

I’ve long since accepted that my anxiety is always going to be present, I just need to find a way to not let it take over. I was so fearful to start my blog because I was convinced people would judge me – What makes me qualified to discuss these topics?, Why would anyone listen to my thoughts and advice? What makes me so special? But the truth is – everyone has been so supportive and I’m truly grateful for that.

I’m also anxious that people will think I’m only writing this post in attempt to ‘fish for compliments’ but that’s not my motive. By writing about my fears I take away their power over me. By acknowledging my anxieties I hope I can somehow make sense of them.

If I let anxiety rule my life I wouldn’t have even started this blog, I wouldn’t have met all you lovely people and my thoughts, that are now written down, would still be churning around in my overactive mind. If I let my anxieties take over now I wouldn’t be able to write another word, and that would be very sad. So instead I need to try to look past my insecurities and look at the positive steps I have already taken.

When I started my blog I wrote: “I really don’t know the direction this blog is going to take and exactly what I’m going to talk about, but half the fun is not knowing and the prospect of the journey ahead.” My impulsiveness and excitement at the time didn’t leave room for my anxiety to barge through, somehow I need to find that strength and enthusiasm again.

My blog has given me purpose in my life, something I haven’t had for a long while and I’m not going to let anxiety steal that from me. So for now, all I can do is continue to be myself – continue writing about the subjects that interest me and that affect my everyday life. And hopefully along the way I can touch some of your lives too. Take care x

Do any of my fellow bloggers have any wise words they would like to impart? How do you overcome your anxieties and insecurities about your writing? And to all my followers; Do you have any subjects you would like me to talk about?

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

The ME/CFS Community needs your help.

The reason I started writing about my experiences was to raise awareness of invisible illnesses like ME/CFS and Fibromyalgia, and to try to reach out to help others who are suffering like myself. I often feel I’m not doing enough to raise awareness, so today’s post is an attempt to rectify this. ME/CFS has the biggest detrimental affect on my life so I’m going to start there. Can you help me?

*What is ME/CFS?

Currently it is estimated that some 250,000 people in Britain are affected by ME/CFS. This figure is estimated to be 17 million worldwide. Yet there is still very little known about this illness and only minimal funding has been made available for research into causes and possible treatments. Patients are still commonly misdiagnosed or told the symptoms are all in their head. There is currently no cure and no universally effective treatment. Those treatments which have helped reduce particular symptoms in some people have unfortunately proved ineffective or even counterproductive in others.

http://www.meassociation.org.uk/about/what-is-mecfs/

*An ME/CFS Revolution

Since the release of the incredibly powerful film Unrest, I feel like a revolution is happening within the ME/CFS community. Our illness is finally being discussed in the mainstream media and we are finally being taken seriously. For years we have fought so hard to have a voice but we have gone unheard.

The ME/CFS community is a community of Fighters. We have had to shout (not literally) to be heard and to battle the stigma of not being believed, and to raise awareness, because if we didn’t do it we would be forgotten.

I have had to fight every step of the way. I had to fight to be taken seriously or just to be listened to by doctors. I had to fight to get a diagnosis. I had to fight to get treatment or access to the medication that could ease my pain. I had to fight to get the health benefits I need to live. I had to fight to get the adaptations and mobility aids I need to function.

I have to fight the stigma and the non believers who say it’s all in my head. I have to fight the pain, the exhaustion and the frustration. I have to fight to stay alive, to battle the often overwhelming despair at not knowing what my future holds. I have to fight when I’m at my most vulnerable and weak.

As a community we are stronger than even we realise. In the midst of despair we do not give up. We may be shut away in darkened rooms but, thanks to the internet, we keep fighting from our beds. We write blogs, books and poetry. We create documentaries and videos. We create art, compile petitions and organise demos. We organise fundraisers and support each other at every opportunity. I am so proud to be part of this community.

Will you fight with us?

But sometimes we don’t have the strength to fight. Is there any wonder that the suicide rate is higher with ME/CFS sufferers than the general population? We spend so much of our life fighting, there comes a time when we don’t have the strength to fight anymore.

What I’m asking all of you, the non ME/CFS community, is; Will you fight with us? Help us raise awareness. Watch and share the film Unrest (it’s now available on Netflix). Talk about ME/CFS at every opportunity. Join the MEActionUK Network. Ask how you can help. Get involved with the Millions Missing UK events which are occurring around the globe on the 12th of May. Help us raise funds to enable research into this debilitating condition and possible treatments. But most importantly, believe us and don’t give up on us. Thank you for taking the time to read this post. Take care.

Please share and help me raise awareness.

#ajourneythroughthefog #chronicillness #MECFS #mentalhealthawareness#fibromyalgia #blog #anxiety #depression #selfcare #love #meaction#missingmillions #unrest

Why does my husband stay when my chronic illness makes me such a burden?

I found this piece particularly difficult to write as it stirs up some very raw emotions and fears which, although I try my best to ignore, are a constant source of anxiety in my life.

Everyone living with a chronic illness or mental illness, that impacts greatly on their life, and who has a partner, has asked themselves these questions multiple times;

Why does my partner stay with me? What do they gain from our relationship? What can I offer them as a ‘broken’ partner? Why do they put up with the daily struggles when they are not their own? Why don’t they opt for an easier life and walk away? How can they still love me after everything they have had to endure?

I have asked myself and my husband these questions many times. I am lucky enough to have a supportive and loving partner but surely even he has his limits?

When my health is at its worst, I’m not an easy person to be around, in fact I’m not even a nice person to be around. Pain makes me grumpy and short tempered. Anxiety makes very hard work, I constantly need reassuring about even the smallest details. Exhaustion means I am unable to do the fun things couples do together, that we used to do together. My hypersensitivity means I shun away from conversations and physical interactions because they are just too painful. Depression means I isolate myself and push him away. We, as a couple, have had to make a lot of sacrifices and adaptations to our life because of MY illnesses.

I am riddled with guilt for everything I put my husband through, for the life he has lost and for the burden I am to him. He married an able bodied, healthy woman, he didn’t sign up for this. I feel so guilty for all of this, but I do what I can within the limitations my ill health places on me. We all feel this guilt. Jennifer Brea touches on it in her film Unrest, which documents her struggles with ME/CFS. In the following conversation she has with her husband Omar, she states;

Jennifer; “I feel like I’m robbing you [of your life] and I’m hurting you.. I think that’s just really hard…”

Omar’s response; “All I can tell you, love, is I am so grateful that you are in my life. You know if I can talk to you? If I can like hold you tight…. I’m good.”

So, why does my husband stay? His response has always been the same; “Because I love you.

He has continued to love me even when I hated myself. He’s continued to love me even when I pushed him away. He has continued to love me even when I’ve snapped at him for no reason. He’s continued to love me even when I shut myself away and gave up.

He continues to love me even when I can’t bear his touch because it’s too painful. He continues to love me even when I’m an anxious mess, and when that anxiety manifests itself as anger. He continues to love me even when I’m too exhausted to even speak. He continues to love me even though I live the majority of my life from my bed.

Why? Because even through all these challenges we still have fun, we still manage to laugh, we still manage to find ways to enjoy each other’s company and enjoy life… Or maybe it’s because he loves me enough to endure these challenges with me, my struggles are his struggles. Maybe he loves me enough to adapt his life around my ill health. Maybe he loves me enough not to want to see me suffer alone. His presence makes my life worth living.

I know I’m extremely lucky to have such a patient and supportive husband, and there have been many times when I haven’t deserved him. So, this is dedicated to my awesome husband, I love you, thank you for putting up with me. Thank you for reassuring me when my anxiety takes over. Thank you for giving me confidence when I doubt myself. Thank you for giving me space when I’m too exhausted to speak. Thank you for not judging me when I’m depressed and wallow in self pity. Thank you for making me laugh with your outrageous humour when everything gets too much to bear. Thank you for your gentle touch when I’m in pain. Thank you for being my nurse, my carer, my therapist, my best friend and my soulmate.

#ajourneythroughthefog #chronicillness #MECFS #mentalhealthmatters#fibromyalgia #blog #anxiety #depression #selfcare #love #guilt #spoonies

Coping with suicidal thoughts


If you are thinking about suicide, you are not alone. Many people have thoughts of suicide, for a number of reasons. Thoughts of suicide can be very scary. You probably feel hurt, confused, overwhelmed and hopeless about your future. You may feel sadness, grief, anger, guilt, shame, or emptiness. You may think that nothing can be done to change your situation. Your feelings may seem like they are just too much to handle right now. It is important to know that thinking about suicide does not mean that you will lose control or act on these thoughts. Having thoughts of suicide does not mean you are weak, or ‘crazy’. Many people think about suicide because they are looking for a way to escape the pain they are feeling.

What should you do if you are seriously thinking about suicide?

Even though your situation seems hopeless and you wonder if you can stand another minute of feeling this bad, there are ways to get through this and feel better. You don’t have to face this situation alone. Help is
available. Here are a few ideas that you can use right now.

Connect with others.
If you are worried that you may lose control or do something to hurt yourself, tell someone. Make sure you are around someone you trust. If you live alone, ask a friend or family member to stay with you. If you don’t know anyone or can’t reach friends or family members, call your local crisis line.

Keep your home safe by getting rid of ways to hurt yourself.
It is important to get rid of things that could be used to hurt or kill yourself, such as pills or razor blades If you are unable to do so, go to a place you can feel safe.

Develop a safety plan.
It is very helpful to have a written safety plan when you have thoughts of hurting yourself. Have a trusted family member, friend, or professional help you to complete this safety plan. Keep this plan somewhere you can see or find easily. Write down the steps you will take to keep yourself safe (see the following example). Follow the steps. If you follow these steps and still do not feel safe, call a crisis line, get yourself to a hospital A&E or call 999

Safety Plan.
If you have thoughts of hurting yourself, start at Step 1. Go through each step until you are safe.

Remember: Suicidal thoughts can be very strong. It may seem they will last forever. With support and time, these thoughts will usually pass. When they pass, you can put energy into sorting out problems that have contributed to you feeling so badly. The hopelessness you may feel now will not last forever. It is important to reach out for help and support. You can get through this difficult time. Since it can be hard to focus and think clearly when you feel suicidal, please copy this and put in places where you can easily use it, such as your purse, wallet or by the phone.

1. Do the following activities to calm/comfort myself: e.g. listening to music, reading, watching TV, chat to friends online, mindfulness meditation.

2. Remind myself of my reasons for living: See List of reasons to live (below)

3. Call a friend or family member:
Name: Phone:

4. Call a backup person if person above is not available:
Name: Phone:

5. Call your GP or mental health provider:
Name: Phone:

6. Call my local crisis line:
Phone:

7. Go somewhere I am safe:

8. Go to the A&E at the nearest hospital.

List of reasons to live.
When we are suicidal we often don’t think clearly. By focusing on the reasons we have to stay alive we can break the cycle of negative thoughts. At a time when I felt emotionally stronger, I compiled a list of reasons to live. I wrote them in a pretty notebook along with photos of loved ones and images to stimulate happier thoughts. I look at this notebook whenever I’m depressed and have suicidal thoughts.

Take further steps to decrease thoughts of suicide

Problem solve.
It is always helpful to think of ways other than suicide that you can solve your problems. Focus on what you can change and try not to stress about what you have no control over.

Make a list of all the problems you are dealing with in your life. Then make a list of all the solutions you can think of to those problems. Dealing with 1 or 2 small problems can help to put an end to immediate feelings of suicide. Once you are thinking more clearly, you can tackle other bigger problems.

Remember things that have helped in the past.
Many people have had thoughts of suicide before. Think of some of the things that helped you feel better when you faced the same types of problems in the past. Some examples are:

Reaching out to family and friends.
*Seeing a professional
*Going to a support group
*Following a safety plan
*Doing something you enjoy
*Not being alone
*Keeping a diary.

Talk to a trusted friend, family member, or professional.
It is important to speak to someone you trust about how you feel. Sometimes just talking about how you feel can help. It is important to be open about all of your thoughts. People often say they are relieved that they shared how they felt with someone. Talking can help you feel less alone.

Get treatment for mental health problems.
Seek professional help, depression and suicidal thoughts are a burden you cannot carry alone.

Take steps to decrease the chance that you will feel suicidal in the future

Get professional support.

Identify high risk triggers or situations.
Think about the situations or factors that increase your feelings of despair and thoughts of suicide. Work to avoid those situations.

Self-care.
Taking good care of yourself is important
to feel better. It is important to do the following:
• eat a healthy diet
• get some exercise every day
• get a good night’s sleep
• decrease or stop using alcohol or drugs, as these can make feelings of depression and suicide worse.

Follow through with prescribed medications.
If you take prescription medications, it is important to make sure you take them as your doctor directed. Speak to your doctor if you don’t feel like your medication is working.

Structure and routine.
Keep a regular routine as much as possible, even when your feelings seem out of control.

Do things you enjoy.
When you are feeling very low, do an activity you enjoy. You may find that very
few things bring you pleasure. Think of things you used to enjoy doing at times you didn’t feel so depressed or suicidal. Do these things, even if they don’t bring you enjoyment right now. Giving yourself
a break from suicide thoughts can help, even if it’s for a short time.

Think of personal goals.
Think of personal goals you have for yourself, or that you’ve had in the past. Giving yourself something to focus on distracts you from your negative thoughts but also gives you a sense of achievement and a reason to wake up in the morning.

If you are feeling suicidal or know someone that is, there are organisations that can help:

https://www.mind.org.uk/…/types-of-ment…/suicidal-feelings/…

https://www.samaritans.org/

https://www.papyrus-uk.org/#

#ajourneythroughthefog
#suicidalthoughts
#depression
#mentalhealthawareness #suicide #suicideprevention

Strategies for Coping with Panic Attacks.

I’ve suffered from panic attacks all my adult life and possibly most of my childhood too, although I didn’t actually know what a panic attack was until my I reached my mid twenties. I was experiencing these terrifying episodes, I knew something was very wrong, I just didn’t know what it was. At my worst I was experiencing multiple panic attacks a day. I would just succeed in calming myself down from one panic attack, when a physical symptom like pain or dizziness, or an anxious thought would trigger another. This could go on for hours, sometimes all night.

What are Panic Attacks?

For anyone who hasn’t experienced a panic attack, you feel like you are going to die. I know that sounds melodramatic, but it’s the only way I can describe it. Your mind races out of control. Your thoughts dart around without any coherent message. It’s like having a weeks worth of anxious thoughts in the space of a few minutes. Your mind is bombarded, attacked. You feel like the world is closing in on you, it’s suffocating. Rational thoughts are replaced by irrational ones, you think everyone is staring at you, you think this feeling will go on forever and you think this is the end of the world.

Along with these thoughts there are the physical symptoms. You go through what’s called the fight or flight response. The fight or flight response refers to a specific biochemical reaction that both humans and animals experience during intense stress or fear. The sympathetic nervous system releases hormones that cause changes to occur throughout the body. Your heart races as adrenaline pumps around your body.

  • Your heart rate increases.
  • You may start to sweat.
  • Your hands could start shaking.
  • Your vision may go blurred.
  • Hearing can become distorted.
  • Your skin can feel like its burning.
  • Chest tightens.
  • You feel sick.
  • You feel dizzy and disorientated.
  • Your senses are heightened.

Triggers.

So what triggers a panic attack? Your guess is as good as mine. The frustrating thing about anxiety is it can be irrational, there isn’t always a ‘reason’. I’ve had panic attacks in the past that have been triggered by just one negative, anxious thought. Anything that can heighten anxiety levels can cause panic attacks like: new situations, stress, negative thoughts, feeling out of control, deterioration in physical health or new medication.

Having a panic attack can feel like the most frightening thing you have ever experienced. The thought of having one can affect your daily life and even stop you from doing ordinary things or going to certain places. But there are ways to lessen the severity and reduce the length of panic attacks. Here are a few strategies to try:

Coping Strategies.

1. Deep breaths.
Breathe in and out very slowly. If it helps, close your eyes. Really concentrate on your breathing. If you have trouble concentrating on your breaths you can download an app that can help you to focus by listening to a guided meditation or breathing exercise. Here are some free guided meditations that could help:

http://www.freemindfulness.org/download

https://www.mindful.org/audio-resources-for-mindfulness-me…/

I bought myself a heart rate monitor that sits on the end of my finger (Fingertip Pulse Oximeter). While concentrating on my breathing I play a game of trying to lower my heart rate. When I see the figure drop I know I’m gaining control of my panic attack. It gives you something else to focus on. It also records your oxygen concentration level. Your chest often tightens when you experience a panic attack and it can feel like you can’t breathe. Just seeing that the oxygen levels in my blood are normal calms me.

2. Focus on your surroundings.
Look around, what can you see? Chose something to look at, a bird maybe, watch it, where is it going, what is it doing? Distract your mind by making up a story about it. Let your imagination concentrate on that rather than you.

3. Repeat the alphabet.
Take a really deep breath in between the letters. Maybe before moving on to the next one, think of something that begins with that letter. This sounds simple, but often it’s simple things that distract your mind and relieve those physical symptoms too. I play what I call ‘The alphabet game’. Pick a subject, for example, fruit. Work your way through the alphabet finding a word that begins which each letter. A- Apple, B- Banana, C- Cantaloupe etc.

4. Count things.
This is another distraction method. If you are on a train or a bus, try counting the seats. You will be surprised how your breathing can slow when you are concentrating on counting things. If you are at home, count all the things in the room you are in.

5. Think of an uplifting quote.
One that makes you feel strong or calm. Repeat it over and over until your breathing slows and you start believing it. Don’t underestimate the power of those words.

Remember you are never alone,
Never forget that you are loved,
Never doubt that someone truly cares for you.

6. Listen to music.
Make a playlist of songs you love so you can play it when you are having a panic attack. Have that playlist handy so that you can just pop your headphones on and use the music to get you through the attack. Music has an amazing way of lifting us when we are down, it can transport us to a place or time where we feel safe and calm.

7. Limericks.
Create limericks or repeat ones you have already created. I like the rhythm of limericks. When my heart is racing I repeat the words in my head in time to my heartbeat. There is something about rhyming words that pleases and calms me. Creating new limericks makes me concentrate on words and rhymes rather than the panic attack, it’s a great form of distraction. Also humour is an effective way of dissolving anxious thoughts.

There once was a woman called Jo,
Who wouldn’t go out in the snow.
Afraid she might fall,
She built up a wall,
And waited for winter to go.

There once was an Old Boy from Diss,
Who loved to go out on the p*ss.
He’d drink to he’d fall,
Then curl up in a ball,
And dream of the girl he might kiss.

8. Mindfulness- facing your fears.
Rather than distracting yourself from the panic attack, let yourself ‘feel’ it, face your fears head on.

Most of these strategies are forms of distraction but sometimes you need to face the fear that has triggered the panic attack, head on. Challenge your fears and thoughts, and allow yourself to feel those fears. Be curious about how the panic attack feels, and then try to find a solution to the problem you are faced with. Focusing on one symptom or fear at a time, letting yourself ‘feel’ that symptom, being curious about it and analysing it, actually makes it seem a lot less scary. It also gives you something else to focus on rather than the negative thoughts.

For example:

*Focus on the strongest fear or negative thought you have at that time.

Challenge that fear
Why do I fear it?
How does it make me feel? Scared? Sad? A failure?
What’s the worst that could happen?
What steps could I take to avoid it?
Can I learn to accept feeling this way?

OR

*Your racing heart beat.
How does it physically feel in your chest?
Feel the vibrations.
Try to imagine how your heart looks inside your body.
Try to remember the function the heart has in your body.
I also find myself thanking my heart for being so strong.

Panic attacks can be frightening but they are also exhausting. Once you have recovered, take some time to rest and recharge. Do do something you know will make you feel good and practice some self-care. Congratulate yourself on surviving another panic attack. Remember celebrate each little achievement. Take care x

Do you suffer from panic attacks? What coping strategies do you use?

#ajourneythroughthefog #chronicillness #mentalhealthawareness #anxiety#depression #panicattacks #mentalhealthmatters #blog #panicattacks

Is it time to take the plunge?

Three months ago today I took the plunge and started my own blog. It’s something I had been considering for a long time but I let my anxiety and lack of confidence get in the way of taking that scary first step. I’ve always been fearful of starting anything new. I’m a perfectionist and my fear of failure often stops me from even trying. But I will let you into a secret; most people aren’t good at something on the first attempt. It takes practice, experience and time to gain knowledge, but that’s the fun part. Don’t deny yourself something you may end up loving just because you might not be good at it. You don’t have to be good at something to enjoy it.

I’m not a writer. I lack the vocabulary skills to express myself eloquently. My brain fog causes an extra challenge and my good old anxiety does the predictable and rears its ugly head at every opportunity, but I’m learning so much. Up until 3 months ago I hadn’t written anything that could be considered an ‘article’ but I had a lot I wanted to say. I have a lot of experience and after years of frustration I finally have a voice, but I still doubt myself.

Here are some of the anxious thoughts and doubts that run through my mind on a regular basis:

  • Why would anyone want to hear about your life?
  • What makes you so special?
  • What makes you think you are qualified to advise others?
  • You will only f*ck it up!
  • You will make a fool of yourself!
  • You’re not a writer!
  • You haven’t got a clue what you are doing and everyone knows you’re a fraud!

Do these thoughts sound familiar?

So my urge to anyone considering starting a blog, who hasn’t mustered the courage yet is; Go for it! What have you got to lose? If I can do it, anyone can. The anxious doubts you have are completely natural but don’t let them stop you from pursuing your dreams. And if you are not quite ready to start your own blog, why not write a piece for mine? I welcome contributions from my followers. I know you have a lot to offer and I look forward to learning from your experiences.

PS. It doesn’t have to be just about writing. Is there a new hobby you have been wanting to try but are afraid you won’t be any good? Or maybe a new language you would like to learn, or have you been thinking about returning to college? Maybe your passion is travelling but you’ve lost your confidence. Fear of failure stops us from doing so much, please don’t be afraid to start something new.

What new hobby would you love to try? Have you started something new recently?

#ajourneythroughthefog
#blog
#anxiety
#mentalhealthawareness
#mentalhealthmatters

Insomnia

It’s hard to describe to someone who doesn’t experience insomnia, quite how debilitating it can be. At my worst I went 6 weeks without sleeping. I felt completely detached from reality, I started to hallucinate, I was so exhausted my resting heart rate was 150 bpm, I couldn’t think clearly. I had numerous panic attacks a day, it caused a complete breakdown. This was, of course, a very severe form of insomnia but the frustration and fear you feel when you can’t sleep can be overwhelming. 24 hours is a long time when you don’t get a break from your own thoughts or chance to recharge your batteries.

*What is Insomnia?

Insomnia is difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep for long enough to feel refreshed the next morning. It’s a common problem thought to regularly affect around one in every three people in the UK. I’ve suffered with insomnia for all my adult life so I am very familiar with the symptoms.

If you have insomnia, you may:

  • Find it difficult to fall asleep
  • Lie awake for long periods at night
  • Wake up several times during the night
  • Wake up early in the morning and not be able to get back to sleep
  • Not feel refreshed when you get up
  • Find it hard to nap during the day, despite feeling tired
  • Feel tired and irritable during the day and have difficulty concentrating

Insomnia can be caused by many things including: pain, stress and anxiety, muscle spasms, overactive brain, environmental condition like noise, heat, cold or light, certain medication, lifestyle factors like shift work, alcohol or caffeine consumption, being over tired and wired, or just plain anger and frustration. Some of these we have control over, some we don’t. Firstly, make positive changes to the factors you can control.

Good sleep habits for beating insomnia.

Good sleep habits, also called sleep hygiene, can help you get a good night’s sleep and beat insomnia. Here are some tips:

  • Try to go to sleep at the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning. *Try not to take naps during the day because naps may make you less sleepy at night.
  • Avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol late in the day. Caffeine and nicotine are stimulants and can keep you from falling asleep. Alcohol can cause waking in the night and interferes with sleep quality.
  • Take regular exercise. Try not to exercise close to bedtime because it may stimulate you and make it hard to fall asleep. Experts suggest not exercising within four hours of going to bed.
  • Do not eat a heavy meal late in the day. A light snack before bedtime, however, may help you sleep.
  • Make your bedroom comfortable. Be sure that it is dark, quiet and not too warm or too cold. If light is a problem, try a sleeping mask. If noise is a problem, try earplugs, a fan or a “white noise” machine to cover up the sounds.
  • Follow a routine to help you relax before sleep. Read a book, listen to music or have a bath.
  • Avoid using your bed for anything other than sleep or sex.
  • If you cannot fall asleep and do not feel drowsy, get up and read or do something that is not overly stimulating until you feel sleepy.
  • If you find yourself lying awake worrying about things, try making a to-do list before you go to bed. This may help you to not focus on those worries overnight.

I’m sure if you have suffered from insomnia for a long period of time you have already tried all of the above. These tips helped me but definitely haven’t cured my insomnia.

I find, although some of my insomnia is caused by pain and being over tired, the biggest aggravating factors are: anxiety, my over active brain, and the anger and frustration of not being able to sleep. Mindfulness meditation definitely helps calm my anxiety, but to be able to sleep you need to let you mind wander. If you want to learn more about Mindfulness meditation please read this post https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=1518681691583918&id=1506608209457933

Often when my mind wanders it finds itself at a painful memory or a regret, or it remembers a whole list of things I should have done or need to do. Given the opportunity, my brain will run through everything I’ve said that day that could have upset someone, or everything I wish I had done differently. My brain will start to ask me stupid, irrelevant questions like ‘Can you cry underwater?’, ‘If I wanted to read every book ever written, how long would it take?’,‘Why do we dream?’ or ‘What is consciousness?’ and I find myself reaching for Google at 2am.

Sleep Exercise. How I calm my over active and anxious mind.

I find by focusing my mind on something that is very familiar but not threatening, and then letting my mind wander and explore that ‘something’, I have the best chance of falling asleep. Let me try to explain..

Focus on a film you have watched so many times that you know all the words, something friendly, so not a horror film. My favourite is Dirty Dancing but I also use Juno and Breakfast Club. Start by focusing on one line from the film… “Nobody puts Baby in the corner” Think about the scene around the line, take in the colours, the music, the characters. Now move onto another line….”Quite a little joiner aren’t we?” and another…. “Spaghetti arms” Again think about the scene, the emotions, the clothes, the colours… “I’m doing all this to save your ass, and all I wanna do is drop you on it”…. What happens next in the film? And another line….”I carried a watermelon?” By now my brain has started to wander and is remembering scenes and lines without trying. I’m relaxed and instead of worrying about not sleeping, I’m remembering and walking around the scenes in a film that are so familiar, they are like an old friend. As my mind continues to wander, I’m in a safe place rather than memories from my own past, which could be painful, and I start to drift off to sleep.

When I haven’t fallen asleep within an hour of going to bed, the doubts start creeping in, will this be another long, sleepless night? And with these doubts come anger at the thought of another night of torment. By focusing on a film (as above) rather than entertaining these negative thoughts you will have a better chance at falling asleep.

How I combat the negative thoughts.

My biggest problems occur when I have one sleepless night. One sleepless night often leads to many sleepless nights. It’s like I lose confidence in my ability to sleep. I couldn’t sleep last night, so why should tonight be any different? Once these negative thoughts occur it’s hard to shake them. This is how I deal with them, this is my thought process. A few hours calm rest is almost as good as a few hours sleep, and it’s a lot better than a few hours getting frustrated, angry and anxious about not be able to sleep. So I tell myself ‘if all you manage tonight is a few hours calm rest, then that is ok’ By taking the pressure off myself to sleep I often find I drift off within a few minutes, or at the very least I stay calm. I also keep a voice recorder by my bed and record anything that is troubling me or keeping me from switching off. By recording my thoughts I find I am able to let them go and concentrate on relaxing.

Sleep aids. What I’ve found effective.

No matter how much meditation or distraction I practice, I am still unable to sleep without something to relax and sedate me. For years that was sleeping tablets but thankfully I’ve managed to wean myself off them with the help of CBD. I now take CBD oil, CBG isolate (another cannabinoid like CBD) and drink hemp tea. All of these I find relaxing and mildly sedating. This mild sedation is enough for me to sleep. For more information about the CBD products I find effective please read this post.

https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=1594800033972083&id=1506608209457933

Do you suffer with Insomnia? What helps you sleep?

#ajourneythroughthefog
#Insomnia
#CBD