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.
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.
I have a lot of time for Martin Lewis of Money Savings Expert, for his advice on consumer finance and his annual debt advice booklet for people suffering with mental health illness.
He is also the face of the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, based in London UK. I am proud to contribute to their research by being a member of the research community. This involves completing online questionnaires and surveys from time to time. There is no obligation to complete all surveys and there is also an opportunity to partake in online discussion groups.
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 have been receiving PIP for a few years and was asked in the Summer to confirm my current health situation by submitting a medical questionnaire form back to DWP. I think I may have blogged about my quandary and in the end I confirmed that my ability to dress and bathe had improved. I then had an anxious couple of months waiting to hear further from the DWP. Then I was asked to attend a medical assessment with Capita on the 10th of November.
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.
In honour of World Mental Health Day on Tuesday the 10th October 2017, which this year focuses on workplace well-being, our friends at MyTherapy have put together an info-graphic to share some pretty surprising facts about mental illness in the workplace.
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.
I thought I would share with you what I have learnt about the financial help that is available to those with a disability. This blog is based on my experience of claiming benefits and getting financial help as I have a long term ill health in the form of a mental illness and Inflammatory Bowel Disease. I have linked the benefit types to relevant part of disability benefits on GOV.UK website
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 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
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.
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.
I have managed to make an appointment with my GP for this afternoon and it is the doctor that we usually see for my wife, so she has a good idea of what Is going on.
I think it is time to review my medication, so I have been going through my old MyAnxiety blog posts to see what I have been prescribed over the past 5 years. From what I can piece together I started on Citalopram, followed by Seroquel, then Duloxtine, being increased to 90mg a day, then Pregablin and Trazadone. But I found the side effects of Trazodone difficult, so ended up on 150mg Pregabalin twice a day. Which must have been for the past 2 years now. From my posts I read that I found the Trazadone good for my mind but not my body (aches) so came off it. Interestingly enough I would now say I would rather risk the aches to see how I get on with the medication as I seemed to find it helpful for my mental health.
So, what am I going to say, that I am finding things very difficult, increasing periods of not being able to do anything, was a struggle maybe 1 or 2 days a week, now majority of week, I am short tempered, snappy, don’t want to see or talk to anyone, upsetting family when I do, panic attacks back, sick of not being able to go anywhere without getting anxious, bowels triggered etc, exhausted after doing one thing/trip out, retreating to my bedroom all the time, increased and more difficult to manage suicidal and self-harm thoughts . I am very angry, frustrated and difficult to be with. This has been building up for the last 4 to 6 months.
I am taking 150mg of Pregabalin twice a day and attending Person Centred Therapy counselling with Rushden Mind once a week.
I am reluctant to get referred back to Mental Health Team, so hopefully the GP can suggest a medication change for me.
It has been a week - I am feeling better than I was. The beginning of the week didn’t go well, although I am not sure what I expected. I talked to my wife about my suicidal thoughts, her response was ‘yes, but you wont do anything will you’. Now at the time I heard this as ‘ yes but it doesn’t matter because it is not as though you will act on those thoughts and this isn’t very serious’. But now, following counselling - which I will come back to later, I acknowledge she could also, and probably did say ‘Oh, ok, but you wont act on those thoughts will you? I am really worried by what you say’. She then saw the damage to my arm from self harming and said something along the lines of ‘how could you do that, you know how much it upsets me’, which again I could only find the negative interpretation off.
Anyway, got to Friday, and had my counselling session at my local Mind. I was determined to talk about my suicidal thoughts and we did. It has helped, verbalising my thoughts and trying to summarise them in some kind of cohesive way. I confessed to myself that I had done some reckless driving, which I had really thought about the implications of on the drive to therapy. Anyway, I am not going to go into the detail, but we talked about the change in my suicidal thoughts, the fact that my safety net of the impact on others was not feeling as strong and that I had self harmed again. I think in part I was looking for reassurance about what I was doing to try and manage my thoughts. I wasn’t contradicted, so guess I am doing all I can.
So my strategy for managing my suicidal thoughts (god it is hard evening typing that, let alone talking about it) is
I also have better clarity on my triggers, which are:
But I think the key point is to be more realistic about my abilities, and don’t take on to many which is (2-3 items/appointments/activities max) in a day and reduce that if I am having sleep issues.
Continuing to struggle, so in a quest to help myself, I have returned to my new coping strategy of writing down my thoughts (blogging).
I have started self-harming again and I thought I was keeping it hidden, but my son (20) spotted the marks on my arm today. This has made me feel guiltier, but he has said he is available to talk if I want to - #amazing.
My thoughts of suicide are possibly the highest I have ever experienced today and in past week or so - constantly reoccurring and on my mind. I have tried to speak to to my counsellor about it, but having not achieved that yet, i.e. I haven’t, managed to blurt it out. Considering seeing the GP. Just read Mind’s leaflet ‘How to cope with suicidal feelings’ I Was just thinking I needed to talk to my wife about it. But she is still really fed up with me because I have been such hard work today, so she has just gone to bed. So I think I will have to try and find a time to talk to her tomorrow.
I think what scares me most is that I used to worry about the impact on my family if I did it. But now I find myself thinking more they will be better off without me here, all I do is upset them, nag and say the wrong thing anyway. I think these thoughts have been made worse because of Christmas coming, I really dislike Christmas which upsets my wife and therefore adds to my guilt. At counselling we were talking, obviously, and I was asked “do I like myself?” Having dwelled on that I realise I hate myself, I hate my brain and body for what they do to me and I hate myself for the person I have been and am now.
Sorry, just paused to berate myself, for such self-pity, I know I shouldn’t (berate myself).
Anyway going back to triggers, so Christmas, realisation I hate myself, also I have been signed up to stop smoking clinic by my wife and the date looms on 1st December. I don’t smoke a lot maybe 5 a day, but if you asked me my favourite time of day, I would say my first smoke and first cup of coffee in the morning outside in the garden on my own, usually with the dog , as a reward for me getting up, having a shower and getting dressed. My wife has COPD so has to stop smoking, I want to support her by stopping too, but was happy retaining control and stopping myself, now I have texts and weekly meetings. If you are thinking about ending it, then the damage and shortening of one’s life from a couple of roll ups a day seems irrelevant to me. I suspect the fourth trigger is seasonal (4), I don’t like the loss of day light and that seems to add to my problems.
So, I have written it down, a good step.
I haven’t done any major harm to myself, just a deep fingernail scratch / dig - Tuesday night and a small cut today with a clean blade. I have started driving more recklessly and had better think about that. I have two plans for how to do it, so need to talk about this with someone.
I AM ok, got Samaritans and Sane if it gets worse, otherwise I will talk to my wife, make an appointment with GP and talk to Counsellor next week.
I thought I would share my experience so far of Personal Independence Payment (PIP).
I have been receiving Disabled Living Allowance (DLA) for the past two years and renewal was due in May 2014. So in January I received a letter from the DWP asking if I wanted to claim and switch to PIP the replacement for DLA as my current DLA was due to expire.
So I telephoned the DWP and confirmed I wished to apply for PIP and they subsequently sent me a claim form for completion. The lady on the phone indicated that I would be asked to do a medical assessment within about 4 to 5 weeks after they received the submitted claim form.
I would acknowledge that the claim form was much more geared towards Mental Health illness, but was as I had been warned a comprehensive 40 odd page form. Completing it didn’t help my illness as I want to focus on the positives and don't find much benefit in dwelling on what I can not do, which is what the form is looking for. Anyway I completed the form and then went through it with a support worker from my local Mind in Rushden. The form was then returned to the DWP for the 6th February 2014 deadline.
The 5 weeks passed without hearing anything, so I plucked up the courage to phone DWP and check progress, also mindful of the fact that my existing claim for DLA expired in mid May. The helpful man from DWP advised me that it could take anything up to 15 to 20 WEEKS before I would hear about an assessment and that I should phone again close to the end date of my DLA claim and it would probably be extended.
So we got to May, 3 months after I submitted the claim and I called DWP again, they confirmed that my DLA claim had been extended to November, to allow time for the PIP claim to be processed.
Now, let’s pause for a moment and I will try and explain how this has affected me. Firstly completing the form and identifying and recording what I can NOT do, such as go out on my own, remember to take medication, wash and change clothes and cope with people generally, had a negative impact on my thinking and well being. Secondly I feel guilt and doubt about claiming for PIP because of the demonising of benefit claimants by the Government and media. Thirdly and perhaps most significantly the waiting for contact from DWP is constantly on my mind and fueling my anxiety. No matter how much I tell myself that all is fine and things will happen whether I worry about it or not, I can not get it of my mind.
Then mid May I got a telephone call from Capita the agency carry out the medical assessments on behalf of DWP and they arranged an appointment for the next day, as they had a cancellation. The appointment was for 9.30 and would happen at my home. I thought that it was good that it was such short notice and early in the day so I could try and minimise my anxiety over the appointment. Following a night of little sleep, I was up early in anticipation of the appointment and slowly my anxiety built. Unfortunately an hour and half after the appointment no one had arrived and my anxiety was out of control. My wife phoned to see what was happening and after they checked Capita said the person was of sick and would not be coming. Then I suffered a panic/anxiety attack and broke down, two days in bed were needed before I could face things again.
A second appointment was made for the end of the following week, so I had to go through the anxiety building and constant overwhelming thoughts and worry, (“needlessly” I would tell myself to no avail), until the next appointment.
The man was an hour late, but did keep us advised. The assessment itself was fine, just an hour of questions about my typical day and what help I needed and why I couldn’t do things.
So now it is done - I have mixed emotions: I am relived it is over, cross with myself and even shocked at the reaction I had to the events and now trying to focus again on the positives and move forward.
I do think the process has stalled my recovery for 6 months, the constant worry and anxiety of the process, coupled with the need to focus on the negatives held me back and I noticed that I was trying less to do things, to push myself, avoiding everything, as though I needed to emphasise my illness.
I have noticed I am not even thinking about the awaited decision that much, which is good because it is all out of my control for now.
What an unhelpful and protracted experience for mental health sufferers!
Well, I put it off last week, but today I made another step forward.
Following my assessment at Mind a few weeks ago, we agreed that I would try counseling and attend the Anxiety & Depression Group.
I attended my first Mind 'Anxiety and Depression Group'. This was the first of any group session for me and I was, not surprisingly, anxious, but whilst it had been on my mind leading up to today, it was not all consuming worrying thankfully. I managed to do a few things this morning rather than just obsessing about the session.
My wife dropped me off and I went in on my own to Mind's office in Rushden and to the group session. It was good, there was around 7 of us and a facilitator. We took it in turns to talk about our week and I used the opportunity to explain a little about my background.
Overall it was a good session, I particularly liked meeting other sufferers and hearing their experiences and each of us relating to others experiences and feeling. The group felt safe and relaxed. I find the whole Mind office environment feels very safe - which is very important to me.
So I have come away pleased, slightly worried about how I put things about the kids, but they will get to know me better over time and I them.
So that is a date in my diary for each Monday and a big thanks to @rushdenmind
22nd July 2013
I am an individual diagnosed with anxiety & depression in 2009 following a mental breakdown; I was also diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis in 2000.
My privacy is important to me, as when I have bad mental health periods I can destroy everything I have created online, then have to rebuild it again from scratch. I am therefore trying to prevent my name being associated to the site, so if I have another bad period I might not destroy this version of My Anxiety.
I have worked in the property field my entire life; reaching senior level at a London based Organisation. I think a combination of work stress, an element of bullying, financial problems, not telling my employer I had Ulcerative Colitis and serious problems within my immediate family all contributed to my mental breakdown in 2009.
We now live in the East Midlands and to be honest I am a lot happier, even with my continuing mental health problems.
In 2009 I had no experience of website build, other than as a client to creative agencies. I have taught myself and learnt my website design and build skills by using resources from the internet and reading.
Managing and developing this website gives me pride & purpose and a safe area to spend my time.
14th January 2013
I have been on Trazodone 150mg for a week now.
Firstly Trazodone has stopped the awful side effects I was getting from Duloxetine withdrawal – which is great because the nightmares, dizziness, brain zaps and sleep problems where getting to much. So lesson learnt is always do what the doctor tells you...............
Secondly the Trazodone seems to be alleviating my anxiety and depressive moods. I sleep 8 hours a night and have no recollection of any nightmares in the morning.
Thirdly, whilst my head is better the physical effect on my body is significant, getting up is hard work and my whole body aches and is difficult to get started. During the day my joints ache and are slightly ceased, I suspect I am walking like an older man and have to be careful on the stairs. Hopefully this will pass once my body is used to the Trazodone
Trazodone is an older drug and part of the serotonin antagonist and reuptake inhibitor (SARI) group. I assume from the fact it stopped my withdrawal from Duloxetine that it is managing my serotonin levels, but in a slightly different way
So other than the fact my body aches and getting out of bed is so hard, the Trazodone is working. Given the choice between how my head was mentally before and the current physical difficulties, I would opt for taking the Trazodone any day.
Another benefit to me is I have a sense of purpose again, hence all the activity on My Anxiety website and establishing all the social media accounts
11th January 2013
I suffered a mental health breakdown in 2009 and I am now living with a mental health illness, in the form of my anxiety and depression.
I also have Inflammatory Bowel Disease in the form of Ulcerative Colitis
MyAnxiety website is maintained by me, an individual living in the United Kingdom. I am a male in my 50's.
I feel I have learnt a little, but of course am still learning, about mental health Issues & Ulcerative Colitis and wanted to share my experiences with you. All opinions are from a patients perspective, I am not a medical person in anyway.
My Anxiety website aims to be of interest to those suffering from anxiety and depression and family and friends of sufferers to. Please feel free to comment on my blog or contact me via social media or email. My Anxiety wants to act as a signposting website providing easy access to other relative sites on the internet
Also visit My Anxiety social media accounts at Twitter Facebook and Google+
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