Tag Archive | Health

To carry on or to not carry on? That is the question.

026Over the past couple of months I have been wrestling with myself and wondering whether I should carry on writing under my Poppyposts title. For those who have been “with me” for a while know that Poppyposts was originally a Blog created to share my experiences of depression so the question now is whether to stop, or to carry on under a different banner. Not that my depression has dissipated. Not at all, but it appears that after 30+ years of living with my demons, they are here to stay and I have nothing more to add. The trouble is that I like the name Poppyposts! To me is signals hope and colour and life. I am reluctant to give it up without a fight.

I live with this illness for better or worse. I cope with the illness, well or otherwise and I take full responsibility for its impact on my work life, good or bad. In this I am like thousands of others who experience the same ups and downs; the positives and negatives; wanting to help, wanting to stay anonymous.

So I think I have come to the conclusion that I will continue to Blog, but not necessarily about my personal battles with depression and anxiety. This takes the pressure off a little-self-induced pressure undoubtedly-so that I can express my opinion on a particular matter, or just journal my hum-drum existence as I want to without wondering whether there is a purpose or an impact. I guess I was brought up to believe that everything has to have a purpose otherwise it is superfluous. If its not useful, its not worth doing. If you are not learning from the experience, dont do it.

If nothing else I am learning that I can do things and experience things just because. There doesn’t have to be a purpose. I can enjoy life without having to give it a mark out of 10.

So, I’m back. 3 1/2 stones lighter than I was! Not that Blog readers can see it but nevertheless the weight loss has had a huge impact on my life and how I live it which will undoubtedly flow through to my Blogs. I hope that I don’t become a Slimming World bore but I feel so much better, more alive, more capable and definitely look better, that perhaps my story will help to inspire others to take the same journey. Who knows?

 

 

 

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Wet Weekend

As if we haven’t had enough rain here in the UK, yet more is on its way and it is pouring down as I write. Sadly, for many people in the South and West of the country the wet weather is causing much misery and I feel for those who have been flooded out of their homes and businesses yet again. I cannot imagine what such upheaval would be like and I am very grateful that we don’t live in a flood area.

For me the wet weather means a crafty day indoors and I’m sure that I will be able to turn my hand to something. I feel another page of my nieces wedding scrapbook coming on and I wonder if the gorgeous Kaisercraft papers which I ordered on Monday will turn up in the post today? Here’s hoping they do when hubby’s out so I can steal them into my stash without him noticing! Bless him, as soon as I “open my shop” as he calls it, he finds a friend to visit for a few hours, leaving me to spread my stuff all over the dining/kitchen surfaces. He hates mess and is better off out of my way than watching me wreak havoc with his über tidy kitchen.

creativity

Two days back at work and I am already noticing the fatigue brought on by the extra travelling but this will improve as I get back into routine, lose some weight and continue with my healthy eating programme. It seems to be working and so far I am 3lbs down on my starting weight. That seems a lot to lose in a short time but it’s how my body reacts and I know that next week it will be on full alert to conserve energy and my weight loss will slow down or come to a halt for a week. I am prepared for this which is just as well as it can be very demoralising to lose weight one week and nothing the next when you have been soooooo good. I have learned not to take much notice of weekly weight loss but look at longer periods like a month-6 weeks. If you keep going you will notice a trend and individuals will have their own ups and downs as their bodies adjust. It’s also a lot to do with the hormone cycle and again, everyone is different in this respect so week-on-week it can change dramatically and affect weight loss.

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I find however that it’s easier to keep to my new habits when in the daily work routine than at home where temptation lurks in every corner. The first weekend is always difficult but my determination and resolve is still intact and I will get through to Monday with no blips.

Fingers crossed!

It took too long

I have had a history of clinical depression for 33 years. Symptoms of my depressive episodes, apart from the huge dip in mood, include severe fatigue, alternating between insomnia (unable to sleep) and hypersomnia (sleeping too much), and changes in eating habits. Focus and concentration are reduced to zero and  I become tearful, irritable and often suicidal. All common symptoms of depression.

My psychologist, who has known me now for over 20 years, was the first person to analyse my symptoms and their recurrence, recognising a pattern of high levels of activity/stress (good and bad) followed by post-exertional malaise. In other words, when I felt well I worked my butt off, and then suffered the consequences when I was laid low by total exhaustion, mental and physical.

ME/chronic fatigue syndrome was his diagnosis. This was backed up my by GP and medical history so that now it all makes sense.

I can’t believe however that I have so many symptoms common to CFS sufferers that it remained misdiagnosed for so long but then not many Doctors/physicians/GPs want to diagnose ME/CFS as it is clearly a difficult and controversial decision to make with no apparent “cure” to offer the unlucky patient.

Looking at my medical history I have a number of ailments/illnesses which are common to ME/CFS sufferers. They include;

Asthma-first attack aged 3

Hay fever (so severe that I had to have steroid injections to stem the symptoms and have just finished a 3-year course of immunology injections to relieve the symptoms permanently)

EPV-Glandular fever after repeated bouts of tonsilitis. Tonsils were finally removed when I was 22 years old.

Rubella (German Measles)

Chickenpox x 2

Shingles (Cocksackie virus) twice-first attack aged 12

Allergies and food intolerance

Repeated bladder infections operation required

Yeast infections-Candida

This is to name but a few of those I can remember. It is strange to think now that the physical and mental/emotional symptoms were treated separately and that certain connections were not made. Perhaps we need a more sophisticated computer system within the NHS which can analyse symptoms and make the connections for GPs to consider? Is this possible?

I’m not sure but if those connections had been made earlier I would have managed my health much more effectively and I would have had choices. Choices, in any walk of life, are a luxury and I would have welcomed them with open arms. To have a choice is to have control. I would have liked the option to control my illness a long time ago and maybe I would be more content with my reduced activity levels now.

Too tired

There is a very good reason Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is labelled as chronic. That’s because it is unceasing and relentless in its vicious and pervading attack on your physical and mental wellbeing. It is ever-present, long-lasting and, even if you are lucky enough to get a remission, it usually returns. With a vengeance. It is unwelcome and, like a bad penny, it keeps turning up despite your best attempts to fend it off.

If my fatigue and related symptoms were just a flash-in-the-pan, over and done with in a jiffy leaving me to return to normal energy levels within a few weeks or months it would be called Acute Fatigue Syndrome. But it’s not.

This time of year is particularly difficult for many people I’m sure with invitations to Christmas parties, meals out and shopping trips dripping from the calendar but if you are like me, you really don’t have the energy to spare on these “optional extras.”

The extra energy required to cope with overcrowded public transport and supermarkets, busy roads, presents to buy, cards to send and people to see is just too much and I therefore have to bow to my enforced lethargy and say “No, thanks”. It can be seen as Bah! Humbug, but so be it. The most frustrating aspect for me however is the assumption that after months of being “in recovery” I should be “better” now and able to join in the merriment along with everyone else.

Sadly, this is not the case and my “recovery” will continue for many months and years. There is no quick remedy for CFS. It is an illness that must be managed constantly if a relapse or crash is to be avoided. Most people don’t understand this and look at you as if you have turned into a Couch Potato by choice. I can’t imagine anything worse and the frustration that being so inactive brings cannot be described. I could get really angry about it but that would waste yet more precious energy so I try to accept my new limitations with good grace. This has never been a strong point of mine so I am on a steep learning curve.

All I want this Christmas is to step aside from extra activity and stress, to avoid being out of routine and being late to bed and to spend the few days that I have off work with my family and not tucked up in bed exhausted by the build-up of extra effort.

So if I say “No thanks” to the department Christmas outing, the office Christmas meal, drinks on the last day before the holiday and anything else in-between, please don’t think I am unwilling, uncaring, selfish, lazy or unsociable.

I’m just too tired-really.

Don’t fight it

Everything I have read about CFS/M.E includes the advice “don’t fight the fatigue.” That’s assuming you have a choice.

This weekend, I had no choice, and I have spent many many hours in bed asleep or just too exhausted to move. It’s a while since I felt this lifeless but looking back over the last few weeks, I suspect this is a classic case of delayed fatigue after some exciting and stressful events and increasing pressure at work during our busy time of year.

To summarise, I had 11 hours of sleep on Friday night. I followed this with a 4-hour “power-nap” on Saturday afternoon, 14 hours sleep last night and 3 hours of “rest” today. I have no desire to do any craft work, to cut pieces of material ready for my daily commute quilt or even read a book. I am totally drained and my mood has plummeted. I wish I knew what really causes these relapses as I have been trying really hard to avoid over-stretching myself apparently to no avail.

Luckily I see Doc Fraser on Thursday and will be able to chat over the last few weeks with him and try to get back on track to recovery. Perhaps this is a one-off strong reaction; perhaps I still have the cough/sore throat virus lingering longer and outstaying its welcome. Whatever it is I don’t like it so in addition to increasing my rest periods, I will be a lot more diligent about eating more healthily and avoiding unnecessary activity and sadly this will have to include the Christmas parties. I can’t stay out late in town worrying about catching the last train home and still turn up for work early next morning. It’s too much when it takes me 4 hours a day to travel to and from work.

Alcohol is not conducive to recovery from CFS/M.E and it’s no fun being out with a crowd who are gradually getting merrier when you are the only sober one there!

So I will continue with my normal daily routine up to Christmas and into the New Year. I have some wonderful things to look forward to in 2014 and I want to be in the best health I can be to enjoy them.

Keep it real

burn out

It’s official. I have been diagnosed with “Burnout” with extremely high levels of both anxiety and depression. That’s the bad news (It is horrible) but the good news is that my psychologist diagnosed the issue almost immediately, recognised my symptoms and causes and told me that I can recover with help and support. My Dr has known me for a long time, just over 20 years, and knows me well. This is a huge advantage when fighting an illness like depression/anxiety because there is nothing worse and more frustrating than seemingly wasting time and energy going through old material. It takes up precious time and energy which I can ill afford.

So very briefly I have a plan. A plan feels good and at long last I truly believe that I can crawl out of this mire and get back to my life. My plan is discussed and agreed with Doc Fraser and involves a number of active strategies to make the best of a bad lot.

Firstly, I will be starting work at 10.00am and not 9.00am on the days I work in Birmingham. This one hour adjustment appears pretty minor at first glance but has major advantages for me with the least disruption to my work and employer. Based on train times, believe it or not, it actually means that I get an extra hour in bed every morning and a much more relaxed start to the day. The later train is far less crowded and I don’t have to fight for a seat or sit next to a really annoying person who insists on sitting next to me and puts their makeup on and plucks their eyebrows (Sorry, but whilst I sort of get the make up I think it’s revolting to pluck eyebrows/ trim toenails in public) So immediately I am faced with less stress!

Doc Fraser also understands that I am my worst critic and expect far too much of myself when feeling under the weather. He directly asked me the question, “So Caroline, you feel hopeless, helpless, despondent, tearful, you have loss of memory and confused thinking. You are mentally and physically exhausted and you expect to perform as normal?”

Me: “Yes”

Mmmm…..this is where the Doc suggested that I might like to “get real”.

negative thoughts

The reality is that I am ill. It is not a choice it is a fact. I couldn’t run a marathon with a broken leg so why would I expect to perform a cerebral job as normal when mentally impaired?

Ok, fair point. So let’s get real and manage expectations.

Positive thinking 2

I now have a list of homework tasks to do before my next appointment on Thursday. Nothing too demanding but focusing on those aspects of my life which I find most difficult. Small steps and steady progress.

Let’s keep it real.

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Foot loose

Reflexology_Richmond

I am determined to explore all avenues of healing to help shift this latest bout of depression and looking for a holistic solution I have booked myself a session of Reflexology treatment tomorrow afternoon. Over the years, I have had several Reflexology consultations and all of them have been beneficial in some way. I am therefore hopeful that tomorrow will be no different.

If nothing else 90 minutes of lying still combined with a foot “massage” will undoubtedly help to calm the nerves and sooth the senses.

I know the practitioner well and she has a very calming, soothing and reassuring manner which is just what I need at the moment. She knows me too and it won’t take her long to figure out what ails me! It will be interesting to see if she picks up on my recent kidney stones-my bet is that she does but  let’s wait and see.

The only drawback is that I will have to take hubby to work and have the car for the day. Driving makes me very tired at the moment and the Reflexology will undoubtedly do the same. But it will encourage me get out of the house , which I haven’t done today and it is very easy to get into the habit of staying at home all day every day.

Tomorrow I have to be out and about.

End of story.

richmond_reflexology