Avoidance is futile.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, I have been one of those people, who champions mask wearing, and believing that there was some skill involved in me not catching the virus. I worked in a warehouse throughout, and a lockdown happening, just meant that my petrol was cheaper. I wasn’t aware but I seemed to have developed a superiority complex, where I felt that I was doing things right, that is how I stayed virus free.

Which, was all fine until I discovered that I had caught COVID. Whoopee!

My health has been questionable for, at least, the last month. I felt exhausted, sick, tired, I would manage work, then just come home and crash. I had a lot of ‘medical things’ going on, so I assumed that is what was making me sick. Then, a few weekends ago, I went from feeling rubbish, to feeling like death warmed up. I was running a fever, I had a cough (I currently seem to have a perma-cold), and the worst bit, I had this horrible rash all over my body. It was awful. And I immediately tested myself, using a lateral flow test, and I was negative. I tested a few times over the course of a few days, all negative. So my mind, being the anxiety driven mess that it is, jumped to the next possible answer. It must be my new medication. I had started immuno-suppressants for my rheumatoid arthritis, and one of the reactions was a rash with swelling around the face. This is what I had, so I called my GP, concerned what was happening. After a few tests, she thought it was a virus, so advised me to go and get a PCR test, but to contact the arthritis care team, in case it was my medication. The PCR test came back positive, and the nurse said ‘it could be a reaction, or it could be covid’. So, I had to come off my arthritis meds, until I know I have gotten over COVID properly.

I am just exhausted. It has taken me months to get the right medication prescribed, a lot of calling up and emails. I get very anxious when I have to chase anything up, so most of the interactions ended up with me having a panic attack. Which was just lovely. And, I am feeling frustrated, because if I get any reaction at all with this medication, I have to stop and we have to try something else. It’s like going round in circles. It feels like I have so many issues, right now, and COVID has just taken a huge dump in the middle of everything. It’s annoying.

At least I am able to go back outside. I am just not used to having to spend so much time at home. I am used to being able to go to the shops, or go visit friends, whenever I want. I couldn’t even have dinner with my family. I was just lying on my bed feeling sorry for myself. I never had a lockdown, I never spent lots of time at home during the pandemic, I went out to work. And, I think that is why I found it hard, I felt useless and horrible. So, I am happy that my life is going back to normal. But I will still be wearing a mask and carrying my hand sanitiser around.

Good Acting?

I have been struggling a lot recently. I have been in a lot of pain when trying to move, which has been causing problems with the most basic activity. I still get up and manage to work, and try to focus on anything but pain. Putting a smile on my face, and try to live in the moment, where I am focused on what I am doing, rather than focus on how I am feeling. Which helps me get through every day, because if I don’t, the day would be unbearable. But, because I do try to do my best every day, people tend to not think I am struggling as much as I make out.

It makes me wonder, have I really got that good at pretending, or is it simply easier for people to not take someone seriously when it comes to health problems? I, of course, don’t want to think anyone would dismiss anyone’s health problems. But, it still comes to mind. I have been accused of making my health problems up. Like, because of my arthritis, I have bad grip, but sometimes my hands swell more some days. These days, I may have to approach my manager to do a different job, because of the pain (and the real risk that I could drop and break something). I have been accused of co-workers of making things up, because I don’t want to do a job. Which annoys the hell out of me, I would never dodge out of any work. But sometimes, I have to put my health first, and if something is too strenuous, I have to speak up.

Today has been a good day. Luckily for me. Where I am conscious things are still stiff and swollen, but I can work through the pain easily. It does happen. I could put on my jacket today, and pull on my socks with ease. Most days, however, this is not the case. And I struggle with the most basic task. People make jokes at work when I wear a baseball cap, when the truth is my arms couldn’t lift the brush high enough to sort my hair out. But I laugh with them, because I’d rather laugh at the oddity of the hat, rather than focus on the tears I had trying to get tugs out of my hair.

I guess, my point, in a roundabout way, is that you never know what anyone is going through. I am usually at my best when at work, because I am moving around, loosening my joints, and my mind is focused on what is in front of me. That is part the story of my health issues, but it is not the whole story. And, you will likely never know a person’s ‘whole story’, only what they decide to share. So, if they share something difficult, don’t assume it’s nonsense, because the side you see seems fine.

Weighing It Up

I weighed myself today. For the first time since the start of November. It is an activity which is loaded with meaning, because despite never being ‘a slave’ to the scales, it’s still a thing that lingers. It’s existence is enough to get me into a bit of a state. So, when I weigh myself, like I did, and I ended up being just under 16 stone, I could have cried.

For too long, the number on the scales or the size of one’s waistband, has been used as a way to identify people. People who a person has never met. There are a number of personality traits, which have, falsely, been connected to people who are overweight. Laziness, stupidity, dirtiness, rude, many more things which seem to be tied to a person being overweight. All without merit.

My weight has been a problem for years. I have faced comments about my weight since I was at school, back when I weighed way less than I do now. I always had a stocky build, my Grampie used to say I was ‘built like a rugby player’. This was enough for me to be bullied. And for me to understand that my weight is a reason for me to be seen as a horrible person. My mental health suffered so much, and eventually i turned to food to cope. I could eat away my problems. A coping mechanism I still have to this day.

I watched a video recently by a personal trainer on TikTok (Gavin McKinney) who said that using food as a coping mechanism was a good thing. It helps people cope with bad stuff, and means they are still here to see another day. When I tell you I cried after seeing that video, I mean I cried my eyes out. So the first think that needs to be done, is a find a new way to cope. Because if you don’t find a new way to cope, food is going to look like the answer again. That should not sound as revolutionary as it feels.

I am having problems with arthritis in my knee, and I want to make my health better, to ease the pain. Make myself feel better. Because that’s why things should be done, to improve one’s life, right?

I may repeat myself, as I try to figure all this out.

Understanding the brain

I have been recently trying to understand how my brain works.

I don’t mean, reading up on biology. I mean, trying to understand why I think the way I do. Because, as much as I don’t want to admit it, my thoughts don’t seem to be settled much in reality. Rationality is not something that normally happens in my head.

I have this constant fear that I have upset someone. That I have been rude, unintentionally. When I am trying to be factual, I just come across as rude. Then, people stop speaking to me. And I feel horrible, because I wasn’t trying to be offensive to the person, it just came off that way.

I have had mental health problems for years. Struggled with anxiety and depression since I was at High School, over 20 years ago. Appointments with countless doctors, a library’s worth of pamphlets, and therapy session, hasn’t fixed anything. I learned how to deal with anxiety and depression when it happens, but no resolution. I then feel guilty, because maybe I did something to stop all the things from working. It’s my fault.

A recent conversation with a doctor, suggested the possibility of my mental health struggles being an end result, that maybe it was how things are processed that is the problem. And that if I with that, maybe the mental stuff will improve. But, with appointments thin on the ground, I feel stuck. I resort to looking online, but online health sites can be dangerous, and filled with mis-information. So, I have always been skeptical about going searching about health stuff.

It’s pretty difficult. I finding more question, but yet to find any answers.

Putting Me First

I am quite a helpful person. Or, I try to be, anyway. If someone comes to me, and needs help, I’ll do my best to help them. That’s the way I was brought up, assist those around you, as you never know when you may have to resort to the kindness of others.

The problem comes with, my anxiety. At work, about 6 months ago, I was asked to help with another department. A department I used to work in, but hadn’t done so in over a year. Processes had changed, and I felt like if there was 5 problems in front of me, I knew how to fix one. The supervisors all said it was okay. But, I don’t like when I don’t seem to be helping as much as I want to. I was okay during that shift. But afterwards, I felt awful. I couldn’t sleep. I felt like I just did a half-arsed job, and I was stupid for thinking I could actually help. It took the entire weekend, before I started to feel better.

Last week, the same request came in again. My supervisor asked me if I was able to go. I took a second, wondering if it was worth the stress I went through last time. When I say stress, no one did anything, it was my own brain causing me stress. I thought back to my last call with my doctor. He advised, that I need to learn to listen to my anxieties, and not put myself into situations which could make it worse.

So, I said no. I said that I hadn’t done the job properly for 18 months, and most of the processes had changed. He was fine with that, and I stayed in my normal department. Then I felt guilty, because I hadn’t helped out, and I felt I was horrible. To the point, I had to explain to both my supervisor, and the one from the other department, why I didn’t feel comfortable, and what had happened last time. They both agreed, that if something was going to stress me out so much, then it is good to not force myself.

And, that was it. No problems what so ever. And once I had spoken to the supervisors, I felt more comfortable that I had made the right decision. Which is difficult. Since I started suffering mental health problems as a teenager, I have always ‘pushed through’ what was going on in my head. And, whilst I got stuff done, it has left me completely unable to deal with my own mental health. Just pushing through, is like moving a brick around. The more you ignore, the more bricks you move. Eventually the one or two bricks, become a pile, a pile that is difficult to move. So it’s best to deal with the bricks one at a time.

That metaphor sucked.

But, I hope the message is clear. Dealing with mental health, is learning when you need to make choices to protect yourself. Don’t simply keep forcing through the same things, it just makes things worse. Be kind to yourself.

Pressure

There is a building pressure, in my head.

It is accompanied by a dull ache, in my forehead.

It’s normally caused by anxiety.

The stress that I am not good enough.

I never feel good enough.

It happens when I have a chance to think.

When work slows down, and the cogs in my brain start whirring.

Every action, every word said, is scrutinised.

I can’t run away, the voice in my head just gets louder.

Drink water will help.

Eat something, suggests people who mean well.

I try to hold it together.

I want to hide away, but that’s not always possible.

I need to find an activity.

Give myself something to do.

And the stress, and the headache, fades away.

Fixing Myself

Before I checked my blog, I couldn’t tell you when the last time I posted was. The internet has been a particularly stressful place, so far in 2021. Conspiracy theories and abuse seem to be thrown at anyone with wifi access, and it makes it difficult to create anything. It feels like anything you create for the internet, leaves you open to abuse. Which has always been a risk, but it just feels so much more intense. It doesn’t help that my last post, was about work problems. Things that had driven me to the end of my tether.

Fortunately things changed. I spoke to my manager, and they helped fix the situation. Which was good. It helped me feel confident that I wasn’t the ‘bad guy’ in the situation. I spoke to my GP over the phone, and he was happy that I had spoke up. As, we had previously spoken about me being proactive about my personal situation, and that I shouldn’t ‘suffer in silence’. So, I felt positive, my colleagues supported me, and made sure that I was okay. So I didn’t feel alone anymore.

I thought that maybe being proactive in other areas in my life would help. So, I have started trying to control my unhealthy relationship with food. So, I opened up the MyFitnessPal app on my phone, and started tracking everything. I mindlessly eat, I do it as stress relief, have done. In fact, previously my doctor likened my over-eating to self-harm, as it was a way to punish myself. So, I am writing down everything that I eat. To try and recognise what I am taking in. It is helping, I feel so good that I have kept complete track of my food intake for the last two weeks. I am tracking at around 1700 calories a day, which is a deficit, and should help me lose a wee bit of weight too. But that isn’t essential. I just want to feel better.

I then applied for a new vacancy at my work. A learning trainer, it would be a promotion. I have trained people before, and I think it is a job I would be really good at. I sent my application away over a week ago, but haven’t heard anything back yet. It’s the first time I am looking towards the future, rather than just stewing about my current situation.

So I am feeling a wee bit positive. Which is better than last time. I am trying to step back into the world a bit more, function a little better, so I’ll maybe post a wee bit more.

Locked Down

Today, Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister of Scotland, put mainland Scotland in lockdown. Again. COVID cases are on the rise, and hospitals are struggling to deal with the increased demand. As frustrating as it is, I completely understand why such rules are required, and it is important that the public do their best to abide by them.

Everything is so annoying, because it feels like everyone has sacrificed so much already. Births, deaths, weddings, all major events that we have had to miss out. And to make those sacrifices to find out that the country is almost just as bad as it was 9 months ago, when this first started.

Everyone just needs to ‘keep the heid’. Keep calm, and do our best to follow the rules as much as we can. It won’t go on forever, we will get there. Eventually.

Worked Out

I’m currently sitting on my break at work. I work in a warehouse, which is part of a large distribution network in the UK.

When people say they are key workers, it’s usually on the front line. Doctors, nurses and care staff. The people who need to be out working, to help those who are wick and need care. That what people assume a key worker is. But there is a whole lot of other jobs still working, banking services, supermarkets, take aways, people collecting bins, delivery folk and people who work in the hundreds of warehouses up and down the country.

These are the unsung heroes. People often tell me that my job is for the worst kind of people. Those people are still going out and working, so that people who can’t go out still get what they need. I’ve mentioned a few days ago, but being able to work has helped my mental health so much. I am not focusing on the news, I am able to focus on my job.

It is important that people remember those who are working. Those who are unable to stay at home. Respect workers. If you don’t value the workers, then don’t use their service.