Why Inactivity Doesn’t Help Anxiety.

Today, I’m talking about cortisol.

‘What the chuff’s cortisol?’ I hear you say. ‘ It sounds like a mouthwash!’

No, that’s Corsodyl.

Cortisol is released by the adrenal glands in response to fear (or stress) as part of the fight-or-flight mechanism. Normally, it’s released into the body when the fight or flight button is activated, like when you have a near miss in the car or you can’t find your purse at the checkouts in Tesco. Once the danger is passed, cortisol subsides and the body returns to normal. When somebody has panic disorder they become sensitised and their fight-or-flight mechanism responds to EVERYTHING as if it’s a threat. Put it this way. I once had a panic attack while watching Mary Berry on TV. I mean, who knew that Mary Berry could be so bloody scary? Maybe it was the way she was chopping her carrots?

We’d be forgiven for thinking that we should be lying in bed or sitting in a chair all day because our bodies are burning calories without doing anything and in any case, we feel too tired to do anything. Right?

Wrong.

The worst thing you can do when your cortisol levels are sky high is sit on your arse because anxiety LOVES inactivity. Why? Because it means that it has your undivided attention. Rest is good. We need to rest but only if that rest includes sleep or doing relaxation exercises. Lying on our beds, tormenting our minds with unhelpful thoughts isn’t restful. In fact, we are KEEPING THE CORTISOL FLOWING.

We need to break the cycle.

We need to DO stuff that distracts the mind from our fruitcake thoughts.

The idea is to bring those cortisol levels down, so go for a run or a long ramble. Take a gentle walk or do some light housework. Have a potter round the garden. Don’t those weeds need pulling up? Paint a picture. Knit a crap scarf. Put a shelf up. Mop the floor. Clean a window. Whatever you fancy as long as it distracts you from your thoughts of doom.

‘I can’t do it. I have no energy’

‘I’m too tired’

‘What’s the point?’

‘Just leave me TO DIE’

The point is that you will feel BETTER for doing it. No matter how retched you feel when you start, you will feel better for doing it because you will have distracted yourself from those unhelpful thoughts. Each time you do this you are bringing those stress hormone levels down. Do you see?

The trick is not to think about doing stuff because you will only talk yourself out of it.

‘I’m too tired today. I’ll do it tomorrow’

Tomorrow will come with the same old excuses but meanwhile those stress hormones are running riot – like a room full of two year olds. Don’t think about going for a walk. Just DO it. Tell yourself that, yes, you feel like crap but you will feel better for it when you’ve been. Get your coat. Open the door. GO.

Even at my very worst, I understood that going out made me feel better. I have walked down the street retching into my hand. But I kept walking and when I got home, I felt better than I did before I went out. It works. It REALLY does. Trust Mrs Fruitcake because she knows her shit. By Mrs Fruitcake, I mean me.

Cortisol & The Mornings

Not the name of a band. I’m talking about cortisol and it’s role in waking us up..

Normally, cortisol levels rise during the early morning hours and are highest about 7 a.m. This is where you start to wake up. It’s a gradual process..

Normally, cortisol level diminishes throughout the day.

Normal goes out the window with anxiety disorders. With a lot of us, there is no gentle start to the day. Our day starts with some bastard standing over us with a megaphone, screaming, ‘WAKEY WAKEEEEEEEEEY!!’ – metaphorically speaking, of course.

See, what happens is this. Normally, people have really low levels of cortisol in the evenings but after a day’s worrying, the anxious person’s levels are sky high before they even try to sleep. We toss and turn for hours, then finally fall into anxious sleep. Then our bodies try to wake us up. Our heart rates increase, blood pressure goes up and hormones go FULL ON NUTS around our bodies in order to rouse us from sleep.

Think of it this way. The non-anxious person’s morning cortisol is the long distance runner. His pace is slow but steady only gathering momentum in the final few laps. The anxious person’s cortisol is Usain Bolt. Nuff said?

This waking state can feel really uncomfortable because we are sensitised.

THIS is why so many people with anxiety feel worse in the mornings.

THIS is why most of my panic attacks happen on waking.

I’ve found that lying in bed after waking up suddenly at 5am isn’t the best idea. Even if I manage to fall back to sleep, the chances are that I will have dreams of the ‘orrible kind. It’s best to get up and go and do something. I find that having a piece of toast and a cup of herbal tea helps to sort out low blood sugar levels.

It’s also worth thinking about what you are eating (and drinking) at night because if you are are eating a heavy meal late at night, you are asking for trouble as digesting food requires the body to work it’s arse off. The heavier the meal, the harder it has to work. Yes? However, going to bed hungry is just as bad. A well thought out snack an hour or so before you go to bed will help to stabilise blood sugar levels. By snack, I don’t mean crisps. I’m thinking more along the lines of a milky drink and a plain piece of toast.

Here, I will sneak in a little note about what you DO before bedtime. Are you watching horror films or psychological thrillers? Are you listening to upbeat music? If you are, you are ramping up the stress hormones. An un-sensitised nervous system will cope with Freddie Kruger at 10pm. At worst it will result in a bad dream but when you are sensitised, you are adding fuel to the fire, so be mindful of what you are doing in those few hours before bedtime. Think, ‘winding down’, not winding yourself up.

If mornings are worse for you, you could try exercising?

Work with the adrenalin. Go for a run and get those endorphins going. If elective sweating isn’t for you – or if you find it too stimulating – go for a walk or do some relaxation techniques. Experiment and see what works for you. Just don’t fear the sensations. Your body is doing what it should, it’s just that you are sensitised.

It won’t always be like this.

Creative Commons Image Via Pixabay

 

The Show Must Go On

I’m struggling today. I need to write how I feel because it helps me and maybe in helping myself I can help you too?

The anxiety isn’t as severe as it has been. It’s a manageable 6/10 but my numerous annoying ailments have decided to come out and play at the same time. My neck is sore. My tinnitus is driving me INSANE and I have the beginnings of yet another migraine.

I try to look at the positives. As in, I’m still alive. I wasn’t one of the 151,600 people in the world that died yesterday. I’m still here. Yet it’s like trying to drive on a flat tyre. Only in my case, a new tyre isn’t an option. The tyre represents my brain and I can’t just go out and buy a new brain. Unless Ebay have started selling brains?

A lot of the things I am experiencing today are not actually anxiety symptoms. I’m 47, therefore it’s natural for there to be wear and tear, especially as most of my jobs were heavy manual work. I’m only five foot one with a small frame so I’ve put a lot of strain on my body over the years. What can I say? You do what you have to do to put food on the table.

Due to my autism, these little annoyances become amplified and it has to be said that anxiety, while it doesn’t cause them, DOES make them feel worse. Stress hormones affect the bones and joints and I’ve always noticed that when I go through a phase of increased anxiety – my aliments are worse. Obviously, the answer is to address my anxiety and all these other things should start to improve. This doesn’t mean that I don’t feel pissed off though. I’ve forgotten what it is to feel ‘well’ because it’s been that long since I felt that way. Another thing that pisses me off is that I never appreciated good health when I had it. I used to hear older people say, ‘You don’t appreciate good health until it’s gone’. Too farking true, me dears.

I get it. I’m middle-aged, post-menopausal and slightly mad. How can I expect to feel like I did in my twenties or thirties? I’m lacking the necessary hormones for a start. My body is crumbling like Cheshire cheese. I’m getting older and let me tell you that it comes around TOO DAMN FAST. It seems like yesterday that I was snogging Nick Rhodes on my bedroom wall. Now I can see 50 waving at me (hopefully) and with that comes the realisation that I am well over half way through my life, if the three score years and ten is to be believed? Sobering thought, eh? Enough to make one want to pissed, only I can’t drink because I have ANXIETY.

Another way of looking at it and probably THE best way is not to mourn my youth but to thank my stars that I have a decent amount of life to look back on. Health wise, that is.

I lost my friend to cancer last year. She was one year older than me with so much more to give, especially to her eight year old son. When I think of what she went through it makes me guilty about whinging on about stuff. She’d have given anything for my problems to be hers instead of the cancer which was invading her body at an alarming rate. However, if you are reading this and thinking that her death should have been enough to make me ‘get a grip’, then my friend, you have NEVER experienced anxiety disorder because it is an illness. I’m not talking about the normal anxiety that every human being experiences, like the nervousness before a job interview or those few seconds after you hear a loud bang. I’m talking about the kind of anxiety that’s debilitating and destructive. It’s a very real illness. Just not one that can be seen. It’s effects, however, are visible to all. If you look close enough, you will see the fear in their eyes. You will see the tremor in their hands. You will notice their inability to be still. If you are sensitive enough, you may even smell their fear. These are the outer signs of a body that’s fucked up due to stress.

Thankfully, I know that recovery from mental illness is achievable for most of us and if it can’t be cured, it can definitely be managed to give quality of life. That thought acts as a light when my skies are dark. Another light comes in the form of my children. A funny text or a phone call from my eldest boys. Or today when I woke up to a dark inner sky. A sleepy voice said, “Cuddle me mama?” and some of those dark clouds lifted. Not enough to make all of this sodding crap go away but enough for me to have the energy and will to keep fighting it.

If you are struggling with anxiety, know this. You will win some battles and you will lose some but you CAN win the war. It really isn’t about how many times you fall down but about how many times you get up again. I know you are tired. I know your soul is weary but KEEP GETTING UP. Even when your legs feel so heavy you don’t think they can support you. THEY WILL. They are STRONGER than you think. YOU are stronger than you think. Rest if you need to but then you must get back up.

Life is a show and we must get on with it as best we can because this isn’t the rehearsal. There never was one in this show called ‘Life’. So, do that pile of ironing, even if it you do it sitting down and it takes you ALL DAY. Walk the dog. Hoover up. ON WITH THE SHOW!

The show must go on
I’ll face it with a grin
I’m never giving in
On with the show.

The Show Must Go On ~ Queen ~ Brian May

 

My Anxiety Arse-Kicking Kit

I’ve had anxiety all my life. Right from when I was born. I think I actually clung to the walls of my mother’s foo-foo screaming ‘WTF IS THIS?! DOES THIS THING DO REVERSE? AND WHAT’S THAT FURRY STUFF? I’M NOT READY FOR THIS CRAP!! MAYDAY!!! MAYDAY!!!

Or something along those lines…

I’ve had generalised anxiety disorder and health anxiety for years so I’m becoming somewhat of an expert in this particular area. In my quest to rid myself of this illness, I have scoured the internet for self-help tips. Some things work. Some things don’t but I’d like to share with you a few of the things that have worked for me in the hopes that YOU can find some respite from this SHITTY ILLNESS.

Here is my anxiety arse-kicking kit…

Podcasts

The clue is in the name. Anxiety Slayer gives you the tools to help calm anxiety, stress, PTSD, and panic attacks. It was started in 2009 by Shann Vander Leek and Ananga Sivyer. These ladies are incredibly supportive and help to take the fear out of anxiety with their wealth of knowledge via comforting podcasts and articles. They can be found here.

The Anxiety Coaches Podcast

Another great anxiety podcast hosted by Gina Ryan, who it has to said, has THE most calming voice in the entire universe, except for ‘Whispering Bob’, who’s voice can put people into a coma. It’s super informative. After trawling through these 3oo plus podcasts, there will be NOTHING you don’t know about anxiety!

Herbal Tea

There are literally SHIT LOADS of herbal teas on the market but Chamomile, Lemon Balm and Valerian are the ones that work the best with anxiety. Always check that herbal stuff doesn’t faff about with any medication you are on, as in, interactions. Herbs are incredibly beneficial but are also greatly underestimated. For instance, I took St John’s Wort once. Like an idiot, I took more than the recommended dose. It was just a herb, right? What could possibly go wrong? Then I went out and drank ONE glass of wine. The next thing I remember was waking up in bed with just my bra and pants on. I have NO recollection of what happened in-between. Such is the power of herbs, so respect them, yes?

Magnesium

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Magnesium is THE original chill pill but food processing strips this mineral out of our food, therefore many people are deficient. Magnesium plays an important role in biochemical reactions all over your body. To put it bluntly.. if we become severely low in magnesium we are in the poo poo. Stress depletes magnesium so it’s an idea to supplement our diets when struggling with anxiety. You must first check with your GP or pharmacist that magnesium will not interact with any medication you are taking. Unsurprisingly (to me) many people’s anxiety has miraculously disappeared after a few months of taking magnesium. This is because low magnesium levels can actually the CAUSE anxiety symptoms in the first place. Who knew?

I used to take a supplement but frazzled my brain with the carbonate/ citrate argument. What’s the difference? Well, I’ll tell you. Basically, carbonate is cheap and ‘orrible whereas citrate is more expensive but easier on the stomach. Problem is, the tablets tend to be the size of horse pills and I had a few ‘near choking’ episodes until I bought a pill cutter. This sorted out the choking issue but the rough edged tablets didn’t slide down the ol’ clackeroonie without me feeling like I’d swallowed cat litter, NOT that I’m prone to doing so. Haven’t got a cat for a start. Anyway, I gave up taking them. HOWEVER, I’ve recently discovered magnesium oil – so the problem has been solved. 🙂

Matt Haig

Matt Haig writes fantastic stories but some stories are more important than others. Reasons To Stay Alive is one of THOSE books which has the power to save lives. Matt knows about anxiety and depression because he’s lived it. This is his story of how he came through crisis and kicked the arse of the illness that almost destroyed him. GPs would do well to advise people to read Reasons To Stay Alive before (or alongside) the obligatory medication. If you are struggling with mental health, READ THIS BOOK!

Humour

If there is one thing that fear can’t stand, it’s humour. It’s like Harry Potter waving his wand and giving it some Expelliarmus – which by the way is a disarming spell. That’s exactly what laughter does to fear. It DISARMS it. Humour is THE most important part of my anxiety-arse-kicking kit. I watch funny films. I read funny books. I listen to funny people. Most importantly, I take the piss out of my anxiety. Laughter is therapy.

And it’s cheap.

Relaxation

Relaxation is important, whether it’s having a doss on your bed or basking in the summer sun with a good book. Here’s the thing though. It’s hard to relax when you have anxiety because of the stress hormones. Imagine drinking six Red Bulls, five espressos and swallowing a pack of Pro Plus, THEN trying to relax with a good book. Not going to happen. Why? Because you’re buzzed off your kahunas – that’s why. THAT’S what it feels like to have my degree of anxiety.

You need to do techniques that relax your body, such as deep breathing exercises and mindfulness. Breathing is important. I mean, obviously, because NOT breathing equals being dead (or unconscious) but I’m referring to shallow breathing which exacerbates anxiety symptoms. Breathing dodgers like me can keep this shit up ALL DAY LONG. This is why I’m a regular at A & E innit? Having hyperventilated myself into the MOTHER of all panic attacks.

Keep reminding yourself to B R E A T H E.

Mindfulness

I was wary of mindfulness at first. Staring at teabags wasn’t my, er, bag but I think I was taking things a bit too literally? Mindfulness is about being in the moment. So often with anxiety and depression our minds are in the past or the future. Rarely are they in the present. We exist, rather than live. I have had so many moments stolen from me due to this illness and it’s obviously regretful but there is no point in dwelling it because that in itself takes me away from the here and now, innit? Mindfulness has been scientifically proven in reducing anxiety so what are you waiting for? Be at one with your cheese sandwich. 🙂

All these things have helped me in my fight against anxiety. I hope they can help you too.

GO FORTH AND KICK YOUR ANXIETY’S ARSE!!

CC Image Via Flickr

Mumisms: Things My Mother Used To Say

Parents have a language all of their own. Some phrases we understand, like ‘NO, YOU CAN’T’ and ‘I’M GOING TO COUNT TO TEN’ but there are other things we haven’t a clue about because they don’t make sense. You probably find yourself using the same lingo with your own children because it’s ingrained, innit? You wake up one day and you’ve gone from relatively cool to OH MY GOD, I AM MY MOTHER! It’s a rite of passage of Motherdom, along with droopy boobs and incontinence.

My mother, bless her, had a plethora of phrases that I’d like to share with you readers..

Number 10

‘Gone For A Burton’

Meaning: A reference to a person who had died or an item that was broken.

First heard at the age of 7 when I limped into the kitchen with a broken strap on my brand new sandals. Mum took a puff on her fag and said, ‘Well. That’s them gone for a Burton then.’ I didn’t know who or what this ‘Burton’ was. Richard Burton was big at the time so it could have been him. All I know is that I cried PROPER TEARS over those wretched sandals because in those days, money was short and I knew I wasn’t going to get another pair anytime soon. *sobs*

Number 9

‘Clod-Hoppers’

Meaning: A rough, unsophisticated countryman.

Since the early 19th century, in the UK and USA, ‘clod-hoppers’ were also the name given to ploughmen’s boots.

Mum used to refer to my eldest brother’s 1970s platform shoes and work-boots as ‘Clod-Hoppers’. My brother would often be greeted at the door with, “And you can take those clod-hoppers off as well, Matey!”

Number 8

‘Getting On My Wick’

Meaning: Annoy me; get on my nerves.

Usually heard during weekends and school holidays, especially Wimbledon fortnight. Alone, my brother and I were tolerable. Together, we were little shits.

“You two are getting on my wick. Go to the park!”

Number 7

‘You’ve Blotted Your Copy Book’

Meaning: To do something that makes other people trust you less.

In our case, it was any minor misdemeanor at home or at school. Ink and blotting paper were still a thing in the 70s so I took it quite literally until it was explained to me…

Number 6

‘Away With The Fairies’

Meaning: Not facing reality; in a dreamworld.

Where Mum thought I always was…

Number 5

‘Guts For Garters’

Meaning: A threat of a serious reprisal.

“If you come home late, I’ll have your (varying expletives) guts for garters!”

This saying probably originated from the Middle Ages where they liked to disembowel people and stuff.

Number 4

‘I’ll Give You..’

This one was where, whatever we said to Mum, she would turn it back on us.

Me “I’m bored”

Mum “I’ll give you I’m bored!”

Me “Yeah, in a minute, Mum.”

Mum ” I’ll give you in a minute!”

Me “Why?”

Mum “I’ll give you why”

You get my drift?

The variation on ‘I’ll give you is I’ll give it you.

Or on hearing me WHISPERING an expletive..

“I’LL BLOODY WELL GIVE IT YOU IN A MINUTE, MY GIRL!”

It meant a wollop on the backside so at this point I’d fly out out through the back door flicking Mum the V’s from inside my coat pocket. She rarely caught me but I would ALWAYS return to find my Jackie mag cancelled, damn it.

Number 3

‘Because I Said So’

That’s why.

Number 2

‘The Pits’

Meaning: the WORST possible person, place, or thing.

In this case, my brother’s bedroom.

Mum to Dad “His bedroom is the bloody pits! Records as coasters and unidentified life-forms in cups? That’s it. I’m on strike!.”

To be fair, it WAS a pit. We’re talking MAJOR BIO-HAZARD here.

Number 1

‘I’ll Swing For You’

I think I have the album somewhere. Or is it Swing When You Are Winning? Anyhoo. Initially I took this literally and pictured Mum having a fun time on the swings in the local park. I thought this was DEAD FUNNY, albeit highly unlikely. However the imagery didn’t match her frowny expression, so I came to realise that it meant that I’d done something wrong.

WHOOOOOPS!

Often, a minor expletive would be inserted for dramatic effect so it became “I’ll SODDING well swing for you” Later on I came to realise the origin of the phrase came from HANGING, as hanging was still in fashion in my mother’s day. Mother saying she’d ‘swing’ for us meant that she’d murder us and be hung for her crime. However, she would never have actually murdered us. She wasn’t fast enough for a start. She came close several times – especially during her menopausal years when she was a bit, well, psycho.

Sometimes this phrase was used in jest but mostly we knew we were in deep poo if we heard it and we’d suddenly be incredibly helpful – like doing the dishes without being told or tidying our rooms, including Bro’s ‘pit’.

Occasionally, I catch myself muttering ‘Because I said so’ and I start twitching and have to go shout at some crisp packets as self-punishment. My mother may have passed on her early menopause to me, but there is no way I’m talking like her as well. Why? BECAUSE I SAID SO!

*twitch*

It pays to be as literal as possible when you have an autistic child, trust me. Saves time. Maybe you recoginse a few of these from your own childhoods? Feel free to share!

Next time, Dadisms.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hello, It’s Me..

Everybody remembers the last conversation they had with a loved one before that person died.. It doesn’t matter if the conversation was in person or via the phone. It was the words, spoken, or unspoken, that stay with you.

Princes William and Harry were holidaying in Scotland with their father when they last spoke to their mother. Diana was in Paris but she always found time to speak to the two boys who were her life. On the 30th of August she phoned her sons. William and Harry remember this last conversation as being too brief because they were eager to be doing other stuff. They were behaving as young boys do. They were not to know that in a few hours time the mother that they loved so much would be dead. That last phone call haunts them and I understand it because I’m haunted by my last phone call with my own mother.

Death.

Death is tricky. Sometimes you get prior notice that he’s coming for a loved one. If death is inevitable, then surely this is the best scenario because nothing is left unsaid? The living can carry on comforted that they got to say goodbye and the dying can let go knowing that there is nothing left to say. That’s the kind of death I want. To leave on my terms. However, Death so often takes our loved ones without warning. There is no opportunity to tell them one last time how much you love them. They are simply, gone.

Death gave no warning about my mother. Not to us, anyway.

The last time I spoke to Mum was the night before she died. I’d been in hospital having a procedure done under general anesthetic and I’d not been home long before she phoned to see how I was. I was woozy from the anesthetic and I just wanted to sleep so I fobbed her off and told her I’d speak to her the following morning. That was the last time I ever spoke to her. How could I know that she would be dead before I woke up the next morning?

Mum hadn’t been ill, except for a “bit of a tummy bug” which she’d mentioned in passing that week. The ‘bug’ turned out to be Bronchial Pneumonia. If she was suffering, nobody knew, because she didn’t say anything. She didn’t ‘do’ illness. Illness was an inconvenience which interfered with hair appointments. She couldn’t be done with it and in the end her stubbornness was her undoing.

What happens in these circumstances is that you replay that conversation over and over in your mind. You don’t remember the other conversations you’ve had with that person. You just remember those last words. You rewrite the script or at least you try to because you feel cheated or guilty or both. You feel like you are the worst person in the world because of that last conversation. You’d give anything to be able to go back in time and do it differently. To this day, I don’t remember if I told her I loved her. Normally, I would have, as I had ended every other phone call, but I was semi-sedated. I most probably did because I ended every conversation the same way. The problem is that it was often like reciting the Lords Prayer, as in, something that you say without actually thinking about it. You know?

My mother was no longer at the end of the phone but that didn’t stop me dialing her number. I needed to hear her voice and I knew where I could find her, for a little while longer, at least..

Hi, it’s me, I’m not here at the moment but leave a message and I’ll get back to you.

I lost count of how many times I rang number to listen to this message. Even though I knew that the phone was ringing out into a house which was no longer a home, it didn’t matter because it was still her voice and it comforted me.

Given the chance, our last conversation would have been very different. Then again, there is a belief that things happen for a reason. What if I was to go back and hear something in my mother’s voice which alerted me to the fact that something was wrong? What then if I was to intervene only for the outcome to be that for the rest of her life she was frail and dependent on others? If you knew my mother you’d understand how much she’d have hated that. As hard as it is to lose someone, if we look hard enough, we will see a blessing in some form. Sometimes we just need to look at things from their perspective instead of our own.

It’s unrealistic to treat every conversation as if it’s the last you will ever have. Life gets in the way and with the best will in the world there are always going to be occasions where we have to cut conversations short. However, no matter how brief a conversation may be, there is always time enough to say the only thing that really matters.

“The news of life is carried via telephone. A baby’s birth, a couple engaged, a tragic car accident on a late night highway – most milestones of the human journey, good or bad, are foreshadowed by the sound of a ringing.” Mitch Albom ~ The First Phone Call From Heaven

mumturnedmom

Mind, Shut Your Mouth

 

Would you like to know what my mind is like at night?

Pull up a chair. Get comfy and we will begin…

**************************

I’m dreaming. Yet another night terror. The third tonight. I try to fall back to sleep but I can’t because the dream was horrible. The harder I try to push the thoughts away, the stronger they become. Then, I notice that my arms and legs are tingling…

Oh my God. I feel weird. Weirder than usual, that is.

You’ve been here a trillion times before. They are just sensations.

But this is different. It feels different.

A wave of nausea sweeps over me and my body feels icy cold. My rational mind is fighting with the fear and somewhere in-between is a song with it’s verse stuck on repeat.

World shut your mouth, shut your mouth
Put your head back in the clouds and shut your mouth.

You know the GP has told you that the tingling is Spondylosis. You’re catastrophising!

Yeah BUT I’ve had no tests. It could be a brain tumour or MS. I’m partly deaf in one ear. What if it’s not normal hearing loss. What if it’s a tumour?

World shut your mouth, shut your mouth
Put your head back in the clouds and shut your mouth.

I see myself in a wheelchair and feel the surge of stress hormones as they perceive the imagery as a real threat.

This is unhelpful. Breathe!

I remind myself to breathe from my tummy and I feel calmer for a minute.

BUT the tingling is STILL THERE!

World shut your mouth, shut your mouth
Put your head back in the clouds and shut your mouth.

World shut your mouth, shut your mouth
Put your head back in the clouds and shut your mouth.

How would I cope with a brain tumour?

It has to be a brain tumour because I keep forgetting stuff.

That’s part of the menopause, you loon.

Yes, BUT…

But what?

It COULD be?

I force myself to remember things. Things I know I should remember, like my name, my kids names and what I had for tea.

I can’t remember what I had for tea! I CAN’T REMEMBER!!!

See! It IS a brain tumour!

No, it’s not!

I have migraines!

Yeah, since you were 23!

How would OH cope with me having a brain tumour?

The Boy wouldn’t cope without me.

HOW WOULD HE COPE WITHOUT ME?

How would I tell my lads?

I start to cry and my breathing becomes shallow. So shallow that it physically hurts to breathe. Then my entire body shakes uncontrollably..

World shut your mouth, shut your mouth
Put your head back in the clouds and shut your mouth.

Oh this MOTHERFUNGLING SONG!!

It’s ear-worm because it was the last song you heard on the radio. Think yourself lucky it wasn’t Justin Bieber, eh?

World shut your mouth, shut your mouth
Put your head back in the clouds and shut your mouth.

Use your distraction techniques, you KNOW what to do!

OK, I’ll think of countries and go through the alphabet.

Atta girl!

A Australia

B Brain Tumour

Oh ffs

World shut your mouth, shut your mouth
Put your head back in the clouds and shut your mouth.

What if OH has a crash on the way to work. I’d be on my own. I COULDN’T COPE OMG!!

What if he didn’t have a crash?

YES BUT..

Or what if he had one but wasn’t hurt at all?

YES BUT..

What is it with you always killing people off?

World shut your mouth, shut your mouth
Put your head back in the clouds and shut your mouth.

Mind shut your mouth, shut your mouth
Put your head back in the clouds and shut your mouth.

PLEASE.

JUST STOP!

They are just thoughts, fruitcake.

They can’t hurt you.

It’s 3.30am. The stress hormones have gone feral. You know this. Fear is LOUDEST when the world is at it’s quietest. You know this. BREATHE!

I’M TRYING TO F**KING BREATHE!

Try harder!

Keep trying. Keep doing it over and over and over. These sensations will pass. They always do.

Yeah, but this time it’s different. THIS time, I’m REALLY ill.

Mind shut your mouth, shut your mouth
Put your head back in the clouds and SHUT YOUR MOUTH!!

****************************

Dawn approaches and the room gets lighter. Oh the RELIEF that night has passed. The thought clouds my mind that the days will start to get shorter soon and I will have to endure this crap for longer..

Daytime is easier because there are distractions. At night, it’s just me and my mind. I glance over to OH and resent the fact that he is sleeping soundly. I feel like elbowing him in the ribs to wake him up but I don’t. Instead, I look at him and whisper ‘You lucky git’. Because I am aware of EVERYTHING. This is when I feel that I am the ONLY person on the planet. Yet I know that I am not because there are thousands of us fighting with our minds. I want to put my arms round each and every one of you because I know how hard it is.

Exhausted, I fall into a dream, so fragmented and bizarre you’d think I was on some kind of hallucinogenic drug trip. Yet I’m not on any drugs. It’s because the stress hormones are flooding my body. I know why it’s happening. I’m a bloody expert when it comes to anxiety. It’s just that fear overrides rationality.

Sleep brings little respite for me unless I manage to get those magical two hours in before midnight but anybody with insomnia knows that a nighttime hour feels more like two, three or even four. Night time is different to day time. No distractions, see, and the silence only amplifies the mind chatter.

My mind is tired. After five years of panic disorder, it’s exhausted. My instinct is to fight but I have to accept all this for what it is. Just thoughts. My thoughts are NOT reality. If they were, I’d be in deep shit. My body is reacting as if they are but it’s up to me to change that by changing how I think. For a few months, my sleep was better. Not great but bearable so I know I can achieve it. It will just take time and instead of fearing another night, I need to accept whatever comes. You drown faster when you struggle, right? If you float, you have a better chance of surviving. That’s what I need to do. Float.

I have done my best to describe what happens to me at night and this is by no means a one off. Nor is it the worst case. I’ve gone for somewhere in the middle. But this is only about half an hours worth. Can you imagine hours of this shit? I hope you can’t because anxiety disorder is something I wouldn’t wish on anybody. If you can identify with any of it, I feel for you and you need to know that you are not alone. There are thousands of us in the insomnia club.

“The night is the hardest time to be alive and 4am knows all my secrets.”Poppy Z Brite

 

Coping With Anxiety Relapse

GUESS WHO’S BACK.

BACK AGAIN.

So, after a few months of relative peace from my ‘hardcore’ symptoms of anxiety disorder, I’m back on the wheel of fear. I have relapsed, again.

We’ve just done the holiday thing and my anxiety has been gathering momentum over the past few weeks. One, because I am autistic and change makes me cranky and, well, hols are ALL about change. Two, my unhelpful brain was reminding me that I was mentally unwell during last years holiday and I ended up in A&E the week we came back.

Yes, me old mate, Fear, showed up and was constantly reminding me of how bad I was and, ‘You know what, Trace? This time will be EVEN WORSE!

This time. YOU GONNA DIE! MUHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

He’s a right vile git, is Fear. He’s like a really shit relative who you would like to get arse-probed by hostile aliens. Did I say that out loud? Anyway, as I was packing our suitcases, Fear spotted his chance and flung himself back into my mind…

Didn’t I send you packing a few months ago, you little arsewipe?

Yeaaaaah but I told ya I’d be back to bugger your life up again.

So it’s fair to say that I was ramping up the stress hormones BEFORE I inflicted myself on Northumberland. Then I started with some tingling in my arms and legs but I didn’t Google it. Nor did I log onto any anxiety forums. Been there. Done that. Had the breakdown. There was NO WAY I was going down THAT wormhole! I’m used to tingling in my hands and feet but not entire limbs so I made an appointment to get checked out. GP checked my heart out and said my blood pressure etc was fine. Seemingly I wasn’t about to keel over. Then she asked me to turn my neck to the left and right and noticed that it sounded like a pepper grinder. Yep, it really does sound like that.

‘I’d say the tingling is due to a touch of spondylosis.’

Spondywhatus?

‘Wear and tear, Dear.

Great. I’ll just add it to the ever increasing list of old codger ailments I already have ffs!

This comforted me for all of about half a day because to my deranged mind it was a new symptom to deal with and Fear lost no time in reminding me that doctors can get things wrong and it’s actually a brain tumour. Of all my imaginary illnesses, I’ve yet to do brain tumour in any great depth and the little arsebiscuit knows it…

The holiday started off well enough but as the week wore on sleep became an issue with night terrors and waking up at hourly intervals only to fall into yet another Stephen King/Quentin Tarantino inspired dream. Wednesday night was the worst with NO sleep at all. I lay there and could feel the cortisol surging over me. Wave after wave. I felt sick and my bowels were playing up so I was plonked on the loo at 4am. This and I was MILES away from home, although, I did happen to know where the nearest hospital was. You know that your life is particularly shit when instead of admiring the beauty of the surrounding area, you are hanging your head out the car window looking for the nearest A&E!

By Thursday morning I could take no more and I asked, no, BEGGED to go home. OH didn’t argue. We just packed and left. As soon as I was on my way home, I started to feel better and guilt hit me harder than a right hook off Rocky Balboa. Only we couldn’t go back because that would have totally sent The Boy’s brain into a twizz and that would have made things SO much worse.

So I felt the familiar feelings of despair.

I had ruined the holiday with my shit mind.

At that moment, I hated anxiety with EVERY ounce of my being.

For the next few days, I lay in my pit and moaned (to dead people, mostly) that life is shit and what’s the effing point if all there is for me now is this?

Relapse is like crawling your way up the mountain. You can see the summit. It’s within touching distance. Then some git swipes your feet from under you and you fall back down, taking a few head shots along the way. You lie there in a tangled heap wondering how you will EVER find the energy to start climbing again?

BUT YOU DO.

Relapse is about learning.

It’s part of recovery.

What I’ve done is to work out what I’ve done differently. It’s about taking back control, innit?

When I had my nervous breakdown, I lost a lot of weight. I looked like a walking bone, if you can imagine a bone wearing Converse boots? So to get the weight back on, I ate chocolate. A LOT of chocolate. I also started having a beer. Only a couple of pints at the weekend. Real ale, mind, none of your poncy lager..

The symptoms started to creep back in but I IGNORED THEM.

On my holibobs, I went from a couple of pints at a weekend to one and a half pints EVERY night. Also, by now, I was eating enough chocolate to put myself into a coma.

Here’s the thing…

Chocolate contains CAFFEINE and CAFFEINE is a humongous NO when it comes to anxiety. Especially when you are SO sensitised that someone farting two streets away can trigger a panic attack. Chocolate (and all foods high in unrefined sugar) leads to a greater release of cortisol, adrenaline and epinephrine – giving you ‘sugar spikes’. You are INCREASING the stress hormones, therefore, increasing your anxiety symptoms and their severity.

Alcohol also raises levels of cortisol and I downed seven and half pints in a few days! Way to go, fool!

Recovery from panic disorder takes a LONG time and even though I was feeling better, the stress hormone levels were still raised – just not high enough for them to be a major problem like they were before. Because I felt OK, I stopped doing what had helped me to get better.

I DID THIS. *smacks wrist*

So I’m back off the chocolate and the alcohol. I’m listening to my body and I will slowly make my way back up the mountain. It might take a few months but I have faith that I’ll get there and instead of looking at what happened on holiday as a negative, I choose to see the positive side and not beat myself up about it. After all, it was only a few months ago that I struggled to leave the house unless it was for a trip to the doctors or hospital.  I think I did well to manage four days in a strange place, no?

If you are struggling with anxiety, SCRUTINISE your lifestyle and see if you are adding fuel to the fire. Write everything down and see if you can eliminate the triggers. Sometimes, relapse just happens but it’s certainly worth looking at what you are eating, drinking and doing and by doing I mean social media, TV and adrenaline boosting activities.

Once you start to feel better, you’re not recovered. That’s where I made my mistake. You need to manage your condition and that means to keep doing the things that make you feel better, so diet, relaxation, meditation and staying away from the world’s drama. This doesn’t mean that you can never have caffeine or alcohol again as once your body becomes desensitized, the odd drinky-poo won’t hurt you. For now, listen to your body. It really is trying to tell you what it needs and doesn’t need.

When it comes to sleep, aim to be asleep at 10pm because any sleep you get before 12pm is worth four hours as it’s the restorative phase of sleep. I have been making sure I’m in bed for 9pm and asleep by 10pm all this week and I do feel better for it.

Most importantly, try not to see relapse as failure. Negative self-talk like, ‘I’m never going to beat this’ and ‘What’s the point’ will only help to keep you in a funk because depression and anxiety go hand in hand. I know how hard it is to try and think positively when you’re flaying around on the floor but think of Rocky who took an absolute battering from Apollo Creed but REFUSED TO STAY DOWN. Anxiety will try to go for the knockout but it’s up to us how we respond to it’s punches. Ultimately, WE have to take back control.

Keep going. I promise, you WILL get there.

Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but rising every time we fall. ~ Confucius

Letting Go

September 1982 ~ Secondary School Cloakroom

*flashback to the odour of sweaty plimsolls, Impulse, and the sound of dripping taps*

I’d just started secondary school. Everything was strange and scary. You know how it is? I was in the cloakroom hanging up my coat when a shadow appeared in my peripheral vision. I looked to see that the shadow had frizzy hair and was the size of a barn door. IT was a grizzly bear in school uniform and IT was looking at me with an expression which I couldn’t accurately place. All I knew was, my stomach was doing somersaults. According to my friend, IT was a couple of years older than us and IT had a reputation for being a cow.

Out of nowhere, IT hit the side of my face with an open-handed smack, leaving a red mark behind.

WTAF?!

For a second or two, I was seeing stars, the blow was THAT hard.

IT was towering over me while her cronies stood in the background sniggering like Beavis and Butthead.

‘What did you do that for?’ I asked IT, rubbing my face.

IT bared her teeth and said, ‘I. DIDN’T. LIKE. THE. WAY. YOU. WERE. STARING. AT. ME’.

I couldn’t help but notice that she hadn’t cleaned them..

Staring? It was no more than a glance. You’re not exactly easy on the eyeballs, Mate.

Is what I WISH I’d have said.

Right after I bitch-slapped her face with a size 9 plimsoll. No, make it 10.

Once IT had left the room, my friends suddenly found their voices.

Oh, THERE you are! I thought.

‘I wouldn’t let IT get away with that. You have to tell a teacher!’. They said.

So, I told a teacher, who just happened to be the deputy head. I don’t do things by halves, me. IT was made to apologise to me. Not one to one in the deputy head’s office but in front of EVERY girl in the school. No doubt, Miss felt this necessary but what all it achieved was guaranteed bullying for the foreseeable. Nice job, Miss. *double thumbs up*

I have loads more of these type memories. This is because people mistake sensitivity for weakness. They sense the opportunity to make themselves feel important by making people like me feel inferior. It’s taken me all these years to understand that it’s they who are the weak ones. IT was built like a brick shit-house but did she pick on someone her own build or bigger? No. She picked on an awkward looking first year. Well hard, eh?

Happy and well-balanced people don’t bully others. They are the ones with the problems. As for the ‘victims’. Well, I hate that word for a start because it implies weakness. I never was and never will be, a ‘victim’. The tears might have stung my eyes that day but they never fell. I REFUSED to let them fall and it takes a LOT of willpower to withhold tear flow, trust me.

At home, I cried myself a river. Snot. The lot.

Then I doodled pictures of IT, giving her a MASSIVE perm that took up half a piece of A4.

Then I wrote something like, WHY DON’T YOU JUST DIE, YOU GREEN-TEETHED FUZZY-HAIRED COW. MAY ALL YOUR ZITS MORPH INTO FESTERING BOILS THAT REQUIRE LANCING. I. HATE. YOU.

Then I probably comfort ate my way through a six pack of Penguins. And maybe a few packets of crisps.

Via therapy, I have concluded that the problem was never with me but what to do with all these thoughts that are fighting for space in my head?

BALLOONS.

Actual or imaginary, BALLOONS.

I’m going to need a LOT of balloons…

The memory of IT will go into a beautiful yellow balloon, symbolic of her cowardly act towards little me.

A bully’s ‘power’ always comes at someone else’s expense. They choose someone smaller and more vulnerable than themselves. IT targeted me and having received no physical retaliation, she knew I was fair game for the forseeable. Had I have hit her back that day, I probably wouldn’t have had any more trouble from her. As it was, I didn’t and so she made my life miserable.

Nobody stood up to her for me. My friends looked the other way whenever IT pushed me into the wall or tripped me up. I get why. While she was picking on me, she was leaving them alone. I get that but I resent it. Is that what friendship is? To look the other way when your friend is being hurt? I often wonder if Beavis & Butthead were IT’s friends simply because it ensured that they were never on the receiving end of her fist? Either way. Those f**kers can have a balloon each as well.

No doubt IT has long forgotten about the little girl who’s face she slapped for no reason at all. I wonder how she’d feel now, to know that she is being placed in an imaginary balloon and buggered off into the stratosphere as part of a therapy cleansing exercise? I would be MORTIFIED if I knew that I had done something to warrant such an act. However, this isn’t for IT’s benefit. It’s for mine.

Dearest IT,

Firstly, I don’t apologise for calling you IT. That September day, you treated me like a sub-human yet it was YOU who acted like one, hence, I am calling you, IT. It’s either that or COW.

I hope you evolved into a better person and that you and yours are happy. If you are alone, maybe you need to work out why that is? We create our own stories but it really is never too late to change the script. I’m changing mine with the help of balloons.

The last time I saw you was in 1986. You got onto my bus outside college. You saw me but pretended you hadn’t. Funny how you weren’t so tough without Beavis & Butthead flanking you. You were just a scowling-faced teenager with a REALLY bad perm.

I’ve been hauling you around in my head all these years but it’s time for you to float off, dear. So without further a do..

I forgive you.

Maybe you were mean because your home life was shit? Maybe your parents didn’t show you enough love? Maybe you were bullied yourself? If any of this applies, I feel for you because I know how it feels to be hurt. However, you always had the choice how to conduct yourself. NOTHING we do or say comes without the freedom of choice. You could have shown me some kindness on my first day in a strange school but you chose to show me the palm of your hand instead with the full force of your weight behind it. While I won’t ever forget what you did, I can release this memory’s hold over me. That’s my choice.

Goodbye IT.

Regards, ME

One balloon down. 8,567 to go.

“A young outcast will often feel that there is something wrong with himself, but as he gets older, grows more confident in who he is, he will adapt, he will begin to feel that there is something wrong with everyone else.”~ Criss Jami, Killosophy

 

Too Much Information

The internet is a great invention. There is literally nothing that you can’t find out via the world wide web in a matter of seconds and I quite like the fact that I can do my shopping online while wearing my rollers and tea-stained nightie. This means that I don’t have to put myself through the sensory nightmare of crowded supermarkets. I also like how I can keep in touch with people without having to physically write because I HATE writing. However, there is a downside to the internet and that is INFORMATION OVERLOAD.

The accurate term is ‘Cognitive Overload’.

Our brains are designed to take in lots of information but it seems that technology is moving way too fast for our brains to keep up. Cognitive overload can lead to stress and for sensitive people, like myself, it can make you PROPER CRANKY.

Wandering around a bookstore the other week, yes ACTUAL BOOKS, I was amazed (not) at how many relaxation/meditation books there are now with authors urging us to ‘unplug’ and simplify our lives. I came away with a book called, ‘Unplugged’. I was attracted to it because I was overwhelmed. After a four month hiatus from debilitating anxiety, I was hurtling towards burnout stage faster than a seagull after a Harry Ramsden chip on Blackpool pier..

One night I sat up in bed watching the hours crawl by (AGAIN) and I told myself that I would do whatever it took to get myself back to generally insanity, as opposed to ‘AM LOSING IT, DOC’ – insanity.

I realised that the internet is both friend and foe and that my use of technology was taking up the majority of my day, in one form or another. The first thing I did was to put an ‘out of office’ message on my Twitter. I normally just disappear for a few weeks but this time I felt obliged to inform the world of my absence. I suspect many may be praying that I don’t return ha ha.

The thing about Twitter is the volume of information in one hit. It’s a real emotional roller-coaster. On top of this emotional baggery is the news of the day – fires, terrorism, deaths, politics and Trump being a dick. It is an PHENOMENAL amount of information. The brain then has to trawl it’s way through the quagmire of info and somehow make sense of it. Is it any wonder that my dreams have been psychotic, if the last thing at night I am reading is this lot?

I’ve adjusted the brightness on my phone and enabled the night-setting. On my Kindle, I have changed my font to white on a black background which is easier on the eyes. I also make sure that I don’t have my phone by my bedside at night. If it’s there, it’s too easy to open it up and check in with the world because I will be gutted if I miss that Instagram pic of somebody’s ingrowing toenail, eh?

There is also evidence to suggest that Wifi signals emitted from phones and gadgets next to your bed can interfere with your quality of sleep, so if you are sleeping poorly and you charge your gadgets next to your bed, or worse, sleep with them under your pillow – it might be an idea to remove them from your room and see if your sleep improves? Why people sleep with their phones under their pillows is beyond me. Vibrating phones in pockets, I get. But pillows? No.

Its not the technology itself that is making me ill, well, maybe it is when it comes to migraines. It’s more to do with the amount of exposure I am getting and that choice is mine. Nobody forces me to check Twitter or look at pictures of somebody’s pie and chips on Instagram. It’s me.

I knew the amount of information I exposed myself to was hurting me. I was incredibly stressed out and needed to do something before I got back into breakdown territory. I couldn’t go back there again. NO FLIPPING WAY, HOSE!

So, I experimented..

The Experiment: To See If Using Electronics Less Improves Stress and Sleep

Monday

Kindle – 2 and 1/2 hours

Internet – 1/2 hour (e mails)

Instagram – 1 hour

Total = 4 hours

Sleep – 1am until 6am.

Reason I was so late was because ah wes watchin Catherine Cookson on telly an ‘ah forgot abyeut the time. It turk us an hoor tuh git tur sleep, pet. :/

Quality of was sleep improved.

Dreams not exactly sweet but nowhere near as funky.

Tuesday

Internet (e mails & blog) 1 hour 5 mins

Kindle (three hours)

Instagram 30 mins

Total = 4 hours 35 mins

Sleep -10pm until 7am

Woke up a few times in-between but not enough for it to be a problem. Dreams improved.

Wednesday

Internet (e mails & blog) 30 mins

Kindle – 4 hours

Instagram 30 mins

Sleep – 12am- 7.30am

I struggled to get off to sleep, probably because I’d watched another strife ridden Cathy Cookson before bed. I tossed about for a couple of hours but once asleep I pretty much stayed asleep. I had one of my reoccurring dreams where I buy the house where I was born, only it’s a lot bigger than it actually was/is. Also, it’s part house/part social club where you access the magical world of darts, pool and beer via the loft? No. I have no idea where it’s come from either. A pleasant addition to this particular version of the dream was that my parents were in it. My DEAD parents. Only, Dad was telling me I would have to get rid of some of my books.

WHAT?!

That one is easy enough to decipher because we need a new book case as I have too many books! Actually, what am I saying? You can NEVER have too many books!

Thursday

Internet (e mails & blog) 30 mins

Kindle 4 hours

Instagram 15 mins

Sleep – 11pm until 7am.

I had a few dodgy dreams but the one thing I did differently was to read my Kindle until 9.30 pm. *slaps wrist*

Friday

Internet (e mails, blog)  1 hour

Kindle 4 hours

Instagram 10 mins

Sleep = 10pm – 6.45 am

Dreams were NON ANXIETY and representative of what I had done that day.

Saturday

Went on electronics for hours on end to see if it was, like, a placebo effect.

It wasn’t.

I was wired all day and struggled to sleep at night. Stephen King was writing my dreams again and I awake from 5am on Sunday morning feeling like I’d been steam-rollered.

Conclusion

The evidence strongly suggests that my use of technology IS affecting my anxiety, sleep and general well-being and by making a few teensy adjustments I have improved things significantly and I have to admit that I feel better for it.

When it comes to dreams, my brain was starting to decipher actual things in my life instead of random rubbish via the internet and because I was getting more restful sleep, my body was feeling more refreshed on waking. I may not been Julie Andrews first thing but I wasn’t the total Mumzilla, either. I had more energy and my short-term memory was less shit. It was by no means a cure but it was a good enough improvement for me to consider spending less time on electronics for the foreseeable.

If you spend a lot of time on computers and stuff and are struggling with anxiety or sleep, maybe it’s time you unplugged?

Disconnect from technology to reconnect with yourself.