I blogged in June about reviewing my anxiety medication, specifically because during the first 4 weeks of coronavirus lockdown I had experienced a significant reduction in anxiety and an insight into how life could be.
I posted recently about my anxiety medication and my intention to ask the doctor to review it.
Today I telephoned the Doctors surgery to ask to for a non urgent appointment to discuss my medication. I was advised that, because of Covid-19, the GP was not reviewing medication at present. So having felt somewhat deflated, after plucking up the courage to telephone, I thought I would try writing to them instead.
I am struggling with my anxiety as usual. During the first 3- 4 weeks on lock down for coronavirus, my wife and I screened ourselves. I found that not being allowed to go out and not having any appointments to go to, resulted in my anxiety easing significantly and I was happy pottering around at home and working part time at home on my computer. Now some 12 weeks later I find my generalised anxiety back to where it was prior to lock-down and having seen how I can be during those first three weeks, I want to be more like that.
Each year Martin Lewis and Money Savings Expert produce an incredibly helpful booklet especially for mental health sufferers with money advice and debt advice. They key message from Martin Lewis is that all debt problems are solvable and this Mental Health and Debt Guide can be a valuable guide to sorting out debt problems. Debt worries can be overwhelming and debt recovery letters very intimidating and contribute greatly to anxiety and depression illnesses. But on your own or with the help of a carer or friend, using this guide; you can tackle the problem and resolve the crisis.
My wife and I have been screening for the past 6 weeks, during coronavirus, because my wife is medically vulnerable, and I suspect on the border of highly vulnerable. The last 6 weeks have been the best. I don’t have to go out, everyone is working remotely, we have no fixed appointments or commitments. I don’t have to go to the shops, I can’t ride my bike or walk the dog. I am not allowed out!!!
During my initial assessment for CBT, which was a 45 minute telephone interview. I identified that I consumed a lot of caffeine. My therapist pointed out that caffeine was considered to exacerbate my anxiety problems. Whilst I knew I was drinking quite a lot of tea with the occasional coffee, I did not appreciate how many cups of caffeinated tea and coffee I was drinking and had not taken into account the amount of caffeine there was in the Pepsi Max I was drinking each evening.
It has been sometime since my last blog post. I still struggle with and have been working on my anxiety and depression.
As usual time has passed – back in July I went and visited my GP for the first time in a long time. Since then I have been back to see him a couple of times. After my first appointment, we agreed that I would try out an additional medication, so I started on Sertraline at 50mg once a day for two weeks, then increased it to 100mg once a day. I have been on this dose now for 3 months. Here is a useful explanation of the medication Sertraline on Mind’s website.
I have decided to go to see my GP about my anxiety and depression, so thought it best I pull together a history of medication I have been prescribed over the past 9 years. Here is the medication I have been prescribed for anxiety and a link to a description on the Mind website:
I had been receiving DLA and then PIP for the past 5 years or so, because of my mental health and Ulcerative Colitis. Following a mid award review which started in August 2017 and a medical assessment by Capita in November 2017, my PIP award ended on the 11th December 2017.
I have been reflecting on this a lot over the past 6 months. Financially the impact was significant, as it meant I also lost my Tax Credits award from the 11th December, and any day I expect a bill for £500 over payment following the year end tax credit review.
I attended a DWP Medical Assessment with Capita in Northampton following a review for being submitted in August.
During the Assessment the assessor said that she was not there to advise but she thought I should go back and see my GP.
Having talked about my illness with the assessor I have realised that my anxiety has got worse. I can separate my mental health illness into three areas Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) , Social Anxiety and Depression.
I used the opportunity of not being able to sleep last night, to consider what helps me live with my Generalised Anxiety and Ulcerative Colitis conditions.
So here is my menu of options in no particular order that help me:
I have in the past pondered whether my anxiety in the form of Generalised Anxiety Disorder and Social Anxiety was a disability. As I also have Ulcerative Colitis (Inflammatory Bowel Disease) and receive Personal Independence Payment, now, if I am asked in a questionnaire etc whether I consider myself disabled, I do usually end up ticking yes.
Occasionally I miss a dose of Pregabalin, my mental health medication for my anxiety. I take 300mg of Pregabalin (Lyrica) twice a day and have been for about 18 months now. Saturday night I fell asleep early and forget to take my medication. Sunday I felt, well all I can really come up with is odd. I was more touchy and short tempered – sorry family. But what I really noticed was that I was so itchy.
It shows that my understanding of my anxiety and myself generally is progressing, that I am writing this blog post, being aware of what is wrong.
There is, at least for me, a lot going on at the moment and I recognise that they feelings I am experiencing are because I am overwhelmed. So this post is mainly for me, as I know one way to help the situation; is to write down my feelings – to focus my mind and understand why I am overwhelmed.
I blogged about my ‘dream’ job a few weeks ago - 'The Next Step 2017' and applied for the job that weekend.
I have learnt a lot about myself and my anxiety in the following days and weeks. So here is what happened and my reflections after the event.
[I have used this image, as it sums up how the phone ringing does affect me and my anxiety - acknowledgement #CollegeHumour]
Whilst I have been working for myself on a part time basis at home, I do not feel fulfilled and think it is time to consider an employed job.
I have found a part time 9 month temporary post working for a local housing association close to home that really appeals to me. It is 25 hours a week working in a field relating to consumer finance, budgets and helping people. So I am currently finalising my application. It feels like the right next step for me, into a role that gets me out of the house to a 'work' environment, with other people, is office based, using IT and speaking to customers on the phone and liaising with others. The idea really appeals to me, the thought of being able to ride my motorbike to work, to gain a physical separation from home and work life, reduce my reliance on welfare benefits, whilst enabling me to establish firm boundaries with family members (I.e. I am at work so you cannot contact me) and do something I like.
So the deadline is Monday and I have pretty much completed the online application. My application is upfront, tells the story of my breakdown and recovery and mentions my anxiety and IBD. What they see – will be what they get.
All I have to do now is push the APPLY button ..... scary, challenging, exciting and most importantly something I want to do.
I think Christmas is a difficult time, at a simple level I am frustrated and cross that one day attracts such excess and materialism and the day is exploited by capitalism
Then there is the pressure of buying presents and so much food. I especially struggle with the ‘panic’ that Christmas seems to generate in my family and the rat-tat-tat of quick fire questions about presents, food and seeing each other. I know it is only because people want it to be perfect, but it feeds my anxiety and my sense of being overwhelmed – which then impacts on me trying to get things done.
I struggle with the conflict of the pressure of socialising with family, which on the one hand I want to do and the fact my anxiety gets the better of me and I get overwhelmed and then grumpy which upsets those around me. My Christmas is spent trying not to upset people.
I have mixed feelings about Christmas cards received from old friends who want to know how I am and remind me of the difficult times in the past that have got me to where I am today.
That said I am getting better at manging myself over the Christmas period. I make sure I have my music and headphones, to escape with, I want to go for walks more often and my wife knows I may disappear / take myself away for a while and now even encourages me if she spots I am finding it too much. I think my family are used to me disappearing so it is becoming more of the normal.
A big change for me this year is that I am now better at accepting that I am not responsible. So between us the food will get cooked and guests entertained, but I am not solely responsible for this.
I definitely find Christmas easier at home, it feels safer but then we go away for a few days on Boxing Day which I find difficult with more pressure.
I notice the noise gets to me, but I know if it gets too much I just take myself away from it all for a while, use my breathing exercises, maybe read a book or go for a walk and listen to music.
I hope people can enjoy the seasonal holidays - good luck!
I just wanted to share with you my current mantra which is helping. My counsellor has kindly credited me with the thinking, but I can’t help but think it is already well and truly out there.
When I am down, overwhelmed and struggling with my mental health, I am ‘now’ able to focus on and believe that the next day CAN be different and better. This enables me to get through the current day and focus on the opportunity for a new, fresh start the next day. Most importantly the thinking and belief has worked for me, so I can now build on this experience by telling myself that the next day has been better in the past so it will be better again in the future.
I have a lot of time for Martin Lewis and MoneySavingsExpert.com I have found his advice on various matters including: insurance, utility providers, benefits and debt management very helpful over the past years. I also acknowledge that my financial situation had a significant contribution to my breakdown in 2009.
Therefore I feel it is important to recognise the impact debt and money problems can have for someone who is struggling with a mental health illness. I am personally very pleased that Money Savings Expert produce a guide specifically for those with mental health challenges on the subject of debt.
You can download the 2016 issue of Mental Health and Debt here
During times of anxiety, I can use a number of different tools to ease the anxiety and try and focus on the now.
These can include music, reading (although it can often be difficult to concentrate during intense periods of anxiety), writing in my journal, going for a walk (again sometimes tricky), talking to someone, mediation and now I have added option of colouring sheets for mindfulness and stress.
I am very overweight and have been for most of my life.
I have been lucky to be able to access some eating disorder counselling, as my current Mind counsellor is training at National Centre of Eating Disorders
We have completed a Weight Life Chart, where we have looked at key events over my life and how they relate to my weight. I can see that food has played a big part in my life and clearly I use it to try and improve my mood and cope by binge eating bad food at the end of the day. Food has signified good times for me during my life.
For the past few years I have been completing the Royal Mail Survey operated by Research International. The purpose is to monitor the Royal Mail postal service.
The role involves preparing letters and parcels for the survey and posting them usually with a chip called a SMART which monitors progress of the item through the postal system. You are sent a package each week which has a postal plan with the items you have to send, addresses and a schedule of when.
Whilst you post out items for the survey, at the same time you receive items posted by other survey members. You then enter details of items posted and received on a website database on a daily basis.
Well the start of a new year (2016) deserves a blog post. The evidence is here to show that I had over done it towards the end of last year – I have had flu for the past 10 days and currently have a bad chest, don’t want to say chest infection. So if I didn’t already know it , the flu confirmed that I had done to much for me, which triggered my dark thoughts and difficult period in November and early December.
Whilst it has been a heavy and dark few weeks, I think I have also learnt a lot about My Anxiety. Ironically, bearing in mind the name of my website - MyAnxiety that is, that this anxiety that I have been fighting is 'MY' anxiety.
On reflection during my recent counselling sessions, I have learnt that I talk about my mental health illness, my anxiety as a separate entity, I call my anxiety 'IT'. I talk about being in a constant fight with my anxiety and my illness. I have said it was telling me that I wasn't coping on an increasing level before my breakdown and since my breakdown I have been fighting it. I have not accepted that my anxiety is me. My counsellor reflected that it must be exhausting not only managing my anxiety, my constant urge to flee, but then I am also constantly internally fighting the anxiety too.
Today I found 'The Worry Games' website and steps to recovery - Step 4 - Own Your Anxiety.
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