Stress Point

Today has been a bad day. A day filled with pain and panic attacks. One of these things on their own, would be bad enough, I am lucky enough to get both. As much as I tell myself that bad days happen, it doesn’t stop me wanting to go home and hide in my bed. Pretend that the real world does not exist. At least for a few hours.

But I am at work, which has the ability to help or hinder my bad day. At work, I have to speak to people, and I work with people who I can speak to. Which helps my brain calm down. I get to chip away at work, which helps my joints and arthritis. Most of the time. Sometimes, I know pretty quickly, that work isn’t the place to be. And those times, I have to leave. And try to explain to managers what’s wrong, without embarrassing myself.

What set me off today? Well, I’m sore, which happens all the time. I can function, but it takes a wee bit more energy to do things, than normal. I can usually make it through work, on an average day. But sometimes, my mental health sucks too, and because I am using all my energy to ‘push through the pain, I have nothing left to deal with the crap that my brain thinks up. Today, I got some feedback, that there was an issue with my productivity. My brain, thinks that I’m not doing my part, I am letting down people, and I am useless. I then start panicking, which ends up with me crying (because that’s what a panic attack looks like for me).

Unfortunately, whilst I might feel good enough to carry on with my job, I will probably be very teary for the rest of the day. Partly because I feel useless, partly because I am embarrassed that I cried in front of people. It’s quite honestly, exhausting. Luckily, people at work are great. Letting me talk crap, whilst panicking, and are kind enough not to mention the embarrassing tears. Telling people helps.

I will carry on today. Finish my shift, and end the day with the satisfaction that I was able to work all day. I allow myself to think of it as an achievement, as it gives me a positive feeling I can hold on to. Something, that will help me when I go home, and collapse on my bed in exhaustion.

Circular In Motion

Isn’t it boring, when you feel like you are going round in circles, retreading steps you’ve already taken. The new experiences that are supposed to make up life, don’t seem to be all that new, for you.

I think that working full time, helps that feeling. Same shifts every week, which sees you go to do the same work, every shift. The same nonsense conversations. Running headfirst into the same brick wall, over and over again, when all you want to do is try something new.

I know complaining about my own situation seems rather self-centred when others are dying in Wars, all over the world. And some days, with the constant pain, the repetitive routine, and the thoughts of never being enough, defeat me. I should be embarrassed. I am embarrassed.

Doesn’t stop me trying again tomorrow, though. Trying to change things, and make it better.

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.

Brighter Days Are Coming

If you frequent any website that gives mental health advice, you’ll have probably noticed mentions of SAD (Seasonal Affect Disorder). A form of depression which is dependent on the seasons. There is a belief that it comes from a lack of sunlight, as the season SAD is more prominent is Winter. The short days can mess with a person’s whole mental well-being. As a person who has suffered year-long depression, for as long as I can remember, I never gave the idea of SAD much thought.

I only started thinking about it, properly pondering it, today. Where I was very aware of a sudden lift in my mood, seeing the sky a little brighter on my way to work. I leave my house at around 6.15am, to get the 6.30am bus to work, and finish work at 6.30pm. So, for the last few months, I have gone to work in the dark, and came home in the dark. I did think it was exhausting, but I put that down to me being sore (I am in pain a lot).

The sun is starting to come up, as I leave for work in the morning.

Walking to work I saw the sky being a bit brighter, and I could feel my mood improve. I think because I had been struggling physically and mentally anyway, sometimes the smallest thing can make a difference. When I walked to work in the dark, it’s like the world is still asleep. The sun rising, is like the world waking up. It makes me feel better, maybe like I am not the only one awake.

So, all day I thought about the day s getting longer, and how it means more can happen. Or it feels like more can happen, as the world will be all bright once I have finished work. I can’t wait to be honest.

Effort

Everything costs effort. Doesn’t matter if it is waking up. Making breakfast. Brushing teeth. Everything costs effort. And sometimes, it’s hard to see what actually would be worth any effort at all.

For me, I find it extremely difficult to spend effort on anything which doesn’t grab my attention. So, things that should be part of a daily routine, gets forgotten about. It can happen with food, where I may get to a point of the day where I am dizzy, and realise that I haven’t eaten anything. I forget to brush my hair, and only remember when someone else comments on it. It has always been a thing that happens, and I’ve never known how to explain it to people.

Sometimes it feels like there is simply ‘too many steps’.

Normally my forgetfulness doesn’t really cause a problem, as I can function. I go to work, I do things that are ‘normal’. In fact, work is the one routine I always keep to, and whilst at work, my brain is normally on task. Effort isn’t a thing that is worried for. When I am not at work, in the mornings, in the evenings, there can be problems. I will decided I will shower, but instead stare at a wall, and by the time I get together the effort needed to get up for the shower, the moment has gone. I find it hard to reason why I should even care. It doesn’t change anything.

It sounds gross. Disgusting. And why I have sat on draughts of this post for the last week. It’s something I feel that I need to talk about, to help me work out my thoughts. I mean, that, ultimately, was always the point of me writing in a blog. Documenting my life and figuring myself out. Luckily, there are so many resources on the internet, resources that can help someone find answers.

It’s hard. Figuring out how to figure out your own mind. You just need to make yourself believe that you are worth the effort.

Painful

I write on here a lot, about my mental health. How I deal with my anxiety and depression. It’s not the only health issues I have, though.

I have had muscular problems since I was at primary school. Nothing serious. But I would take my dog a walk, where she would pull on her lead, and my arm would ache, afterwards. I would get sore hands for carrying heavy school bags. I would go to the doctor, and like most things when you are a child or teenager, hormones were apparently to blame. I then worked in a bakery, as my first real job. Did it for about 4 years, and would have awful pains in my hands and elbows. At this point, the doctor’s diagnosis changed from ‘hormones’ to ‘tendonitis’. And they just gave me ‘prescription only’ strength Ibuprofen.

The pains never went away. But, I always got the impression I was an annoyance, so I stopped going to the doctor unless it became unbearable. I am also deeply aware that this is when my mental health became a big player. And my anxious brain tells me everything that I do, is a waste of time. So I would always talk myself out of calling for help. I would just manage it myself, with hot showers and baths, and buy off the shelf basic painkillers. Nothing would ‘take the pain away’ but it took the ‘heat’ off a bit.

As I have got older, the pain has got worse. A lot worse. Focusing around my feet, ankles, and hands. So, I was recommended by my work’s Occupational health department, to try again with the GP. I did, and I eventually got a referral to a rheumatologist, as rheumatoid arthritis is a big problem in my family. I finally felt I was getting somewhere. I had the initial appointment, with x-rays, scans, and a complete head-to-toe check. The rheumatologist believed that I definitely had signs of arthritis, as there was some deformation in my ankle, and concerns about my hands too. Great. He would get in contact for the next appointment.

Except, with COVID, I never heard anything. I phoned the rheumatology department, and no answer. I left messages, and no one got back. I called my GP, and they said my referral was still with the hospital. My anxious mind, once again gets involved, and lets me know that if it was really serious, they would help me. So, once again, I found myself really struggling to call up. So I found an email address for rheumatology, and I emailed them. Explained I had been trying to contact them, but had nothing. And it was they who were supposed to contact me. After 2 weeks I had a message left on my answering machine on my mobile phone. The message explained that because I had only had my first appointment, and no follow-ups. Too much time had lapsed. I had been referred back to my GP.

I was in my car. In the Tesco car park. Crying. Properly in bits. I felt like, after the best part of a year, I was back at square one. And things were getting worse. My shoulders have been agony for the last 7-8 weeks. I haven’t been able to sleep, and nothing seems enough to get referred again. I am exhausted.

Sometimes I think, because I work, because I try to push through it. I am treated as if my problems aren’t serious. My mental health is better when I work, as it is the only routine I can keep. And for a lot of my pains, being physical, actually loosens my sore joints, and helps with pain. Until I stop, and everything ceases up again. Sometimes it can take 25 minutes for me to get dressed, because my movement is so restricted because of the pain.

I barely have the energy to go to work. I struggle through my job. I am just very fortunate that my management, and the folk I work with, try to understand and help when I am having problems, be it mentally or physically.

I am at the point where I have tried 4 weeks before I was able to get a GPs appointment, and they just gave me stronger pain killers. She actually said to me ‘would you like a sick line, that might help you be seen quicker’. Why? Because your problem is thought of as serious when you are unable to work. How ridiculous does that sound?

Every day feels like a ‘no bones day’ or a day where I am running on half spoons. I am so exhausted all the time.

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.

Hard

I started this draft saying ‘this week has been hard’. But, I have to be honest. It currently feels the last several months (or years if I squint hard enough) have been hard.

Hard is relative, though. For me, hard pertains to difficult. Life is difficult. To which, I hear the scoff of many folk, who say ‘life isn’t meant to be easy’. Which, I kind of understand, but how high should the difficulty have to be? Like,it can’t be unlimited? There has to be some levels one reaches, moments of respite, where you can look around and decided whether the difficult stuff was worth it.

What is the ‘difficult stuff’?

It’s multi-faceted. Firstly, my brain has a habit of making me not feel good enough, for anything. I have no worth, so what is the point of doing anything. I have felt stuck for many years, and have written many blog entries about it. I have been trying to figure out my own mental health, and how to navigate life whilst suffering problems. The worst thing about having mental health problems, is that there doesn’t have to be anything physically wrong. It can be a lovely day, but I will ignore that and listen to whatever nonsense my brain will come up with. Which is stupid, I know it is, but it becomes a cycle, where the bad thoughts run everything.

Secondly, have you seen the news lately? The world is going to hell, or it appears to be. The climate, with floods, fires, and heatwaves, all taking countries by surprise and doing horrific damage to communities. There is the coronavirus pandemic, which is still ongoing, but the UK government want things opened up as normal, and people aren’t getting vaccinated. Bigotry is on the increase, as homophobic, racist, transphobic people all decry ‘free speech’. Brexit is a mess. Everything is a mess. These aren’t even everything that is going on right now. With constant news coverage, and social media streaming the news to us in real time, it’s really hard to get away from it all. It’s trying to find the balance of caring about stuff, and not feeling so overwhelmed by it all, that you lose any point of doing anything.

I’ve just been feeling a little worn out by it all. Apathy for everything. I’m going to try and deal with things one by one. And try to pull myself up. Because, if I don’t then the cycle will continue. And it has already been going on for too long. If I fail, I never lost out, just get back on the horse and try again.

Not Enough Words

I hate this.

I hate trying to find the words that convey what is going on in my head. What to say when people tell me they are happy that I have ‘beaten depression’, because I have laughed at a couple jokes.

Firstly, I’ll never blame the other person. They are being honest, they say what they feel will help. It may make sense to them, to show they are happy for progress made. It’s meant to be nice, so I try to take it at face level.

Secondly, is recognising that depression doesn’t go away, simply because you can have a laugh with some friends. Similarly, you can still suffer from anxiety, even when you speak towards a group. I have experience problems, with my mental health, for most of my life. And yet, I struggle in finding a way to explain it to people, to let them know what is going on. Nothing I think up seems to be adequate.

I seem to be able to explain ‘bits’. Like, why I may be feeling a particular way on a particular day. But, the overall way my mind seems to twist things, is a much more difficult concept to grasp for myself, let alone trying to help someone else understand.

For years, I plodded on. I suffered with depression and anxiety, but tried to plod on. I didn’t know what else to do. It’s only fairly recently that I was recommended to try to figure out why I am the way I am. Actually recognise the behaviours, rather than simply ignore them. A lot of the time it’s like aiming to climb a mountain, but walking into a brick wall every time you try.

I am trying to focus on learning more about my depression and anxiety. Because if I can understand it, myself, maybe I can explain it better. Maybe.

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.