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My Not So Secret Poetry Diary – A Date with Anxiety #copingwithanxiety #poeminspiration #mentalhealthblogs #chronicblogger

My Date with Anxiety

It’s been a tough ten days in my chronic illness warrior body, so I wanted to share with you some of the things I’ve been feeling – eek, it’s time to get real peeps!

I’m going to reflect briefly on what’s been happening to my body and mind each day. But hey, remember this is me writing so, even though I’ll be totally honest, I’ll make sure there’s a positive to everything! This is the story of my Date with Anxiety.

I keep a diary (not a journal) and use it to pace my daily activities. Randomly through the year I write little notes of my strengths and personalised affirmations. Then in the evening I write 3 positives from that day.

Friday 7th December

I couldn’t sleep last night, it’s been disrupted all week, but this was next level. The pain was intense and relentless and I couldn’t understand why. A friend visited me yesterday, which had made my day. She never stays too long and spotted when I was flagging. I hadn’t napped either so I expected knock on effects, but why was it SO bad?

At 3:30am my heart started racing and I was breathless and dizzy – losing control. This panic attack came out of nowhere!. I got up to use the en-suite and collapsed, but my amazing husband Joel woke immediately and rushed to my side. Then he hugged me tight, that hug that let’s me know I’m not alone!

I ended up taking a strong dose of diazepam, but I still didn’t get much sleep and when my carer arrived at lunchtime I was stressed, overwhelmed and exhausted. She took such good care of me and was extra gentle, seeing me so poorly. I recognised at the end of the day that I’m a very lucky lady to have such wonderful souls looking after me!

Saturday 8th December

Hardly any sleep again last night! The meditation and breathing techniques I normally use didn’t help and the day was littered with panic attacks, feeling like I couldn’t breathe. I was on full anxiety alert. Thankfully Joel was amazing with me through it all again and encouraged me to go downstairs for a change of scene.

Before going down I had a shower which was an accomplishment in itself. I still had panic rush up on me again and I just wanted to run away! But Joel guided me through it all, holding my hand I calmed down. Eventually, drained and emotional, I managed a 10 minute nap watching TV, on Saturday evening and finally got some relief.

I’ve not had a flare like this in years!

Sunday 9th December

I’ve managed to sleep much better at last, but I feel battered and bruised from the state of alert my body’s been in the last few days. I know my brain has had the acute stress response or fight or flight. This is exhausting as despite having a large toolkit for dealing with stress, I’ve struggled to access these strategies whilst in a state!

I’m being kind to myself today and have prioritised getting downstairs to be around my boys, so that they can make me laugh and help me heal. The mental bruises take just as long, if not longer than physical to heal, but I’m slowly building myself back up.

This link explains what might happen during a panic attack.

Monday 10th December

I’m still feeling fragile today, but at last my body has decided to catch up on some of the lost sleep. I’ve cat-napped all day, with a little break at lunchtime when my carer arrived. I have no idea what we were talking about but we were cackling away! Joel was working downstairs (a little cushion for me – knowing he’s around even if he’s busy) and commented on the cackling as soon as he did pop upstairs!

Now that I’m trying to process my feelings, I was brave and decided to write a poem about the feelings I experienced. It’s important to reflect on any kind of anxiety attack however you do it, but sweeping it under the carpet won’t help you in the future!

Tuesday 11th December

I finished the poem this morning when I woke up early. Most of my poems are at least started when I’m either not getting to sleep or waking early. This was an early morning finish! I love creating the poem on a lovely background, using stock photography, which is perfect for sharing on social media. I loved the reaction this poem received!

I also chose to explain a little about what I’d been exploring when I wrote this poem. However, I’m not yet used to being so open about my own mental health whilst I’m still fragile. But I’m committed to raising awareness and always think about the fact that what I write might help just one person!

I talk about my anxiety levels rising as the lack of sleep and increased pain added up. But although I’m drained, I do have a strong mental health toolkit – full of strategies that I practice regularly. I know how to use these help build myself back up. Knowing that I’m my only priority in this instance is key to bouncing back!

Well, I thought that I’d got my groove back as the week went on but I’ve struggled again the last few nights, especially last night when I managed about 90 minutes all night. Thankfully I dozed all morning, catching up a bit on all that lost sleep from pain. However, I’ve managed to keep the anxiety in a box by using my toolkit. See below…

No mental health blog is complete without a few top tips.

If you or someone you know suffers a panic attack, try these tips!

  • Exercise

Exercise is one of the quickest way to deal with the raised stress levels that come with a panic attack. My physical illness stops me from going for a run (think flight…), but I can do some bed yoga, even though I take it even more carefully than normal! Some good stretches and shoulder rolls are a great way to shake it off!

  • Talking through the experience

A panic attack is our body’s way of telling us we’re in danger. It’s unlikely you’re in any danger, but tight chests and trouble breathing are all primal reactions to danger. This can trick the mind, almost like a tripwire. So rationalise and talk your physical feelings through with someone. The more you practice, the sooner you’ll interrupt the signals between the brain and the body and if you do this when you’re not in the acute stage, the quicker your training will kick in when you do feel anxious or panicky.

  • Laugh, Smile and spend time with your loved ones!

What can make the stress disappear more than having fun with your friends and family. Make time for each other, put down your phones and other technology and talk. You’ll notice how often I talk about being with Joel and my boys. They make me laugh out loud every day and the feeling is mutual. It’s one of the strongest things we have as a team and we are definitely the reason for all of us usually coping so well!

  • Relaxation and Mindfulness

I talk about meditation and mindfulness in most of my blogs because they are the easiest ways to relax. You can train your brain to take it slowly and/or meditate daily so it calms and controls your breathing. Then you automatically have these skills to help you relax during an anxiety attack. Body Scan Guided Meditations are ideal (search YouTube) and I are some of the easiest meditations to start with. You may find that something else relaxes you, such as taking time to be present or sitting in nature.

I hope that this sneak peek into my world has helped give you an insight into panic attacks and how they can come about. I have let you in to these thoughts because I believe that mental health is as debilitating as physical health can be. They are also often intertwined and life can be tough and lonely if you keep it all inside. I feel very strongly that sharing my experiences is vital to ending the stigma that surrounds mental health. I only discuss this to raise awareness, I’m not seeking sympathy!

If there’s one thing you have learnt from my Date with Anxiety or one thing that you can take away to help yourself or your loved ones, then please let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear from you.

**AND if you’re not affected directly, then please remember that you never know what someone is going through, so please take the time to listen and talk to each other!

I’ve referenced these websites and blogs whilst writing this post:

Anxiety and Panic Attacks- Mind.org

6 ways to switch off the fight or flight response

Understanding the stress response

How the flight or fight response works

Chronic Illness Bloggers

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Day 28 #MHAMBC #MHAM  Hope begins in the dark…

  
I haven’t written a blog entry for a couple of days because I’ve been in quite a bad place both physically and mentally. Physically, my body has been wracked with shooting pains from my shoulder and neck, a tight band of pressure through the back of my head and round my forehead-like my brain is trying to burst out of my head any moment and temples and all around and behind my right eye where I get sharp ice pick pains, like someone is stabbing me with an enormous piercing needle every few seconds. My whole body becomes weak when this happens and not only can I not walk without crashing into walls (hence my new handy Zimmer) but I also get parasthesia (pins and needles) in my face and hands/wrists, increased dizziness and some vertigo spells and constant nausea and some dry heaving/vomiting from the effort it takes to try and move amongst other things. I’m telling you about all of this so that you can begin to empathise with me about the darkness that I live with almost daily; despite being on regular and occasional heavy duty painkillers and medication to prevent all of these symptoms! 
  
The darkness in my mind, however, doesn’t visit me so often. Sometimes known as ‘the black dog’ or depression, I am actually well known for the opposite; my positive attitude towards life and the fact that I don’t let the depression affect me! Well, that’s not quite true and this weekend has been especially hard. In fact; I’d say it’s been one of the meltdown kind! Yesterday, I had a really long sleep in the afternoon and so still felt quite awake at 6:30/7 when Joel wanted to sort out tea but the evening didn’t quite go to plan: I lost my temper with the kids, I was grumpy with Joel, I was even fed up with the cats. Joel suggested we got take-away; I said I didn’t care as I had no appetite. When he came back with the curry, I had the shakes really bad and we all knew this was a bad sign. Luca even looked at me and said I looked poorly. I asked for the windows and back door to be shut because the birds were ‘too loud’ and Zeke dropping his fork onto his plate made my eyes practically jump out of their sockets! Our normal reaction at this point would be for one of us to suggest I go upstairs but I think that last night every single one of us, subconsciously or not,  just wanted one night of bloody normality! One night when we all eat our meal together, one night when mum isn’t in bed before the kids, one night of ‘getting away with it’. 
Well, my resolve was truly being put to the test; the next thing happened a few minutes later. it started with tears on the sofa (me crying, sitting on the sofa, that is). Both boys jumped up to intervene; Luca to give me a cuddle and encouragement and Zeke to get some positive notes out of our jar to read to me. That and Joel’s constant support and love (and eventually, a tissue) got me through my wobble and I pulled myself together, had some ice-cream and then knew it really was time to get up those stairs before 8pm. It was the latest that I’ve been downstairs in months! However, the journey upstairs was one of the worst and longest to date; I’m sure I cried more than when I was in labour. I had to commando crawl from the top of the stairs to the bed, all the time moving a bowl along with me as I dry-heaved from the pain and effort! I was crying because the boys were seeing me like this; I was upset because Joel was having to tell me to keep moving so that I didn’t just curl up around the sick bowl at the top of the stairs and wait til morning; I was devastated because I just want to do normal stuff that normal families do; I was feeling beaten up from the inside and all I wanted to do was go to sleep right there! 

  
So being the stubborn little miss that I am; after a good 25 minutes or so I did manage to make it to my bed, still heaving. But now I had no strength in my legs at all and Joel had real difficulty getting me on to the bed; let alone helping me get ready for bed. To be honest; I was exhausted, still shaking and heaving for a good while, whilst Joel had got me on to the bed with my trusty migracap and painkillers! He helped me to the toilet when I needed it and generally had to help me do everything for the rest of the evening!  

Anyway, this got me thinking about something Joel had told me that one of the boys were cross with me because I was ill and that he’s always grumpy in the morning because I’m never awake to help out! We’ve already talked to them both about how it’s ok to be angry with the illness but not with each other but I think that this is harder than it seems. I think that there must be a part of all 3 of them that are angry with me for being ill. I cause then all more worry, more work around the house, less fun as a family altogether and less time to relax; whilst all I do all day is stay in bed or on the sofa! And it’s been that way for 18 months now!  I’d completely understand if they wanted out! I want out! Can I get a refund for the last 18 months?  I’ve had enough of being stuck in this ticking time bomb; waiting for my head to explode from too much pressure building up. My symptoms get more and more like someone with a brain tumour but that’s IIH for you. It makes your brain act in the same way, and then, lucky me,  I have migraines come and join the party too; but I can’t tell them apart anymore. All I know is that I’ve had enough of it all. I just want to be Laura again. I know I won’t be the same Laura that I was before this journey started and I promise that I will get back to seeing the positive side again soon but I need to get rid of the grief and anger that I have at the moment whilst I mourn the Laura that will probably never hold down a full time teaching job again, that won’t get back the 18 months+ when her children were aged 7/9-9/-11; all those missed assemblies and concerts. Here’s a picture of me pre-chronic illness! 

   

Those were the days; time to do my hair and make up (although this was done at a vintage fair), I’ve got jewellery on and I’m standing up! It must have been a similar time to when this photo was taken that  Joel recorded a short iPad clip of him and the boys; which they watched this morning. Towards the end of the clip I walk in to shot and join in a bit. When watching it with the boys, they said “look Mummy can walk normally”! You forget how long 9 months of me having a stick and chair must feel like to them! Anyway, Joel showed me the clip this evening and this was the tiny glimmer of hope that I needed today and I watched it a couple of times! 

  

Although I’m finding things tough at the moment, I know that there is always a positive to be found in everyday. I know that there is still a little crack in the door that let’s through a little bit of light *hope* and I know that my stubbornness or as I prefer to call it; my determination is what gives me my strength! So although, I hate my illness and what I’ve lost; I’ve also found lots of new things to be so grateful for. I think that there’s still some elements of grieving for life before I was unwell that I haven’t managed to work through yet. I’ll be keeping a keen eye open for that little glimmer of hope in the shadows of despair. 


The Migraine and Headache Month Awareness challenge is organised by The American Headache and Migraine Association



 

Day 26 #MHAMBC #MHAM HOPE for me and my loved ones help in providing that! 

 
In yesterday’s post I mentioned the bowl of special objects I keep beside my bed. Today we can talk about anything that gives us hope; so I thought that I would share and explain this bowl to you and why it’s so important in helping me see the hope in the hard journey I’m on right now. You never know, maybe this journey will help me reach an ‘extraordinary destiny’!

This is a picture of the contents of my bowl laid out on my bed. I will share this and then talk you through each thing. 

  
At the top is a lovely wooden hand carved bowl that my parents bought as a birthday gift for me last year, just before I became really, really unwell and spending 75-80% of my time in bed. I wasn’t sure where in the house to put it at first, or what to put in it and then this evolved! 😃💗💖

  1. At the bottom of the pile you can see a scroll, this scroll is one of the Dalai Lama’s many famous sayings called ‘Never Give Up’. I bought it on a visit to Glastonbury and this is what it says: ” Never give up No matter what is going on Never give up Develop the heart Too much energy in your country is spent Developing the mind instead of the heart. Be compassionate not just to your friends but to everyone Be compassionate. Work for peace in your heart and in the world. Work for peace and I say again Never give up. No matter what is happening, No matter what is going on around you, Never give up.
  2. At the top of the scroll are two stones that say ‘Laura’ and ‘Joel’ and they were place names from Jacky’s (one of my university housemate’s) wedding a few years ago. I keep them in the bowl to always remind me that mine and Joel’s relationship is as solid as a rock. That we are being made even stronger by going through this journey; that wants to tear at us and rip us open, but we stick together every step of the way and that way we keep each other’s head’s above water and stop one or other of us from crashing into the other rocks at the shore! 
  3. Next, on the left, you can see a loom band bracelet that my boys made me when I was ill and before the stick arrived! Now all loom bands go on the stick (sorry I can’t find a photo and I’m bed bound today) , but this one is staying in my pot to remind me to get up every day that I can to face the world for my wonderful children! And on the days I can’t, to still make sure I spend as much time with them as physically possible. (Which is getting harder as they get older 😢) 
  4. On the right is my lovely dragonfly bookmark. I love reading and was able to read a book until a few months ago. However, I can no longer retain what has been happening in previous pages when I pick up a book and so my bookmark is waiting patiently. I was listening to audiobooks, which are great even when the pain is very high, but my iPad won’t let me download anymore until Mr McKee has kindly done a bit of tidying up for me at the big computer of doom…….😜😜
  5. Underneath those on the left, is my beautiful angel with her broken wing. I have mentioned her in previous posts as she inspired me to write a poem and I know she is me, waiting for her wings to be mended.. See this post to read the poem that I wrote. https://laughingwhileyourecrying.wordpress.com/2015/03/29/writing-to-ease-the-pain/
  6. On the right opposite that is a lovely piece of clear quartz. This has healing properties that are meant to be great for headaches. I did also have some amethyst which is great for general healing but it is having a pit stop elsewhere in the house for a few days! 
  7. On the left at the bottom of the scroll is a beautiful stone that I bought when Joel and I managed a weekend away to Somerset and went to Glastonbury for the day. I can’t remember the name of the stone, although I think it may be a Jasper of some kind. It’s so smooth, clear and very healing; it makes me thinks of the perfect stone: something to aim for. Here is a photo of Joel and I in Glastonbury-my smile is an oramorph fuelled one of course!  (Look at the eyes😉)  
  8. And of course my stone of hope as spoken about in yesterday’s blog post! Your Hope
  9. Coiled round the bottom of the scroll is a charity band for my very special friend, Beth’s, charity. She and I met online about a year ago, on a site for people suffering with pulsatile tinnitus (hearing your own heartbeat). We felt a connection because Beth spotted my post one day and thought my symptoms sounded like hers. We got talking and it turned out that whilst we have the same symptoms they are of opposite extreme. I am debilitated by the pain and mobility, whereas she is confined to her room/a hospital bed due to sickness and dizziness. She has since been diagnosed with an incredibly rare disease called SSCD and has had 2 operations by the same consultant that I am under at Addenbrookes hospital in Cambridge UK. However, the ops haven’t worked and she is now left with no option but to travel to the US where they have far more advanced techniques and more experienced surgeons. You can read more about her story here.http://gettingbethbetter.com We have however become the best of friends and we send many messages to each other daily (although much less than normal whilst she prepares to fly in a couple of weeks and is fundraising and I have been busy blogging for awareness month). Our trip to Somerset was mainly so that the two of us could meet, but Joel and I were lucky enough to meet her lovely family too. She has become my little fountain of hope that gets me through every lonely day of illness, and I know she feels the same. I have made a true friend for life, although through horrible circumstances, however one with hopefully an excellent outcome! Us getting to stay friends and meet when we are well and do fun things to make up for lost time! (Maybe even a PARTY!!!!!!) 
  10. Lastly my bag of happiness, sent by my aunt/godmother/inspiration. The photo explains it all. So these are my things of hope for every day!   

The Migraine and Headache Awareness Blogging Challenge is organised by The American Headache and Migraine Association

Day 25 #MHAMBC #MHAM What is my hope? 

“YOUR Hope,” What do you hope for most in your journey with Headaches or Migraines? 

All I wanted when I first got chronic daily migraine was to wake up and for everything to go back to the way it was. Back to me going to work 4 days a week as a primary school teacher in the best school I’d ever worked in and part of a great leadership team; but actually working at least 60 hours a week! Back to being busy every weekend, holiday day and often being out for the evening when we could afford/find a babysitter. Back to me filling spare time with baking, silversmithing classes, Pilates, swimming. Back to being me. 

But this journey has made me   

 

It’s made me re-evaluate life. Let’s face it; I have plenty of time to think. I don’t want to be busy, busy, busy anymore and through family discussion (we have even more time for that now too) I’ve discovered that the boys and Joel don’t want to live like that anymore either! I still want to go back to baking and Pilates and additionally yoga now too; maybe swimming eventually. I’m managing to fulfil my love of jewellery making, just minus the silversmithing (and heavy machinery) part! I still see friends, and that keeps me going, but at a slightly slower pace, and I get to spend time with Joel but in a slightly different way than before. One day, I will get back to going to gigs and musicals and theatre shows but for now, I’ll take holding hands watching our favourite shows on the iPad whilst I’m snuggled in bed. Work is still an unknown and I can’t really comment on it as all I know now, is that I’m unfit for work for the foreseeable future. 

But I want to tell you about something beautiful that happened today, that showed me that everything in life, on our journey, happens for a reason; even being ill. My old (she’s not) uni friend came to see me today and we haven’t seen each other for 2 years for one reason or another; distance, jobs, my illness, time etc.. but she did the most magnificent thing. Just as we finished the exact conversation that I’ve just written above and as I said. ” everything happens for a reason, and the time we were meant to see each other was now for some reason”. She came over and sat next to me and hugged me as I wiped my teary eyes and she told me she’d brought me something that she felt I needed to have. On her 30th birthday, I had brought her a lovely soapstone heart that had the words ‘hope’ engraved in it. She has no idea that I’m doing this challenge or writing this blog, so no idea that I am thinking about hope daily. She placed it in my hand and said “you are to have this on loan, you need it now and when you are in a better place you can give it back.” This made me teary again, of course, but I promised that I would keep it by the side of my bed with my other symbols of hope and encouragement that are getting me through my journey! Some things are just meant to be! 

 
The Migraine and Headache Awareness Blogging Challenge is organised by The American Headache and Migraine Association