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
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.
Early in August I received a Personal Independence Payment (PIP) Review form dated the 6th August 2017, which is called a ‘PIP Award Review – How your disability affects you’. This came as a surprise (shock) because my PIP award is to August 2018. I have felt anxious and overwhelmed by the prospect of completing the form and the implications of the review: will it change my PIP Award, which could then effect my Tax Credits award (which I now claim as I work part time at home on a self-employed basis).
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]
Below is a great info-graphic from MyTherapy
They have produced it for World Health Day on the 7th April 2017, which this year is all about Depression. Lack of knowledge of where to find help and social stigma are the prevalent reasons for insufficient and late treatment, so there is a need to spread the word. Therefore, we designed an info-graphic on depression in the UK. It contains facts and figures as well as helpful resources such as crisis lines.
Thanks to MyTherapy App for producing this
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!
As part of Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness Week (1st - 7th December 2016) the charity Crohn’s and Colitis UK are offering a poster creation app, that lets you build your own poster about how Crohn's or Colitis impacts you. So here is my poster about how Ulcerative Colitis impacts me and what helps me through.
I am lucky, that I do not have too many flare ups, but when I do, I feel incredibly tired, bloated, get bloody loose stools and have to use Pentasa Enema's 2 or 3 times a day on top of taking Pentasa tablets twice a day. For me a flare up last for a few weeks, but I become very house bound and have trouble finding the best food to eat and I hate using the Enema's, but they do help and directly work on the inflammation. As I have said in my poster the care, support and understanding of my wife makes it all a lot easier.
Hopefully this awareness week and the social media campaign of #CrohnsColitisAndMe will help raise the awareness of this invisible disability.
I have been told about a really useful new App that has been available in Germany for some time and is now here in the UK
The App is called MyTherapy and is available to download for free to help manage medication and treatment, by reminding you to take medication and recording activity and other health information.
I searched for MyTherapy in the Apple App store and downloaded it easily and quickly. You have the option to register with your email address or just provide your date of birth and sex. I then used the barcode scan feature for my Pentasa tablets and entered the details manually for my Lyrica 300mg tablets.
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.
After 2 to 3 years I had my first flare up of Ulcerative Colitis in January and February 2016. I think this was a result of being run down with the flu and being depressed.
To find out what was happening I had a few trips to the GP and an endoscopy and today a appointment with the Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) nurse clinic at Kettering General Hospital. This was a highly beneficial appointment as I found out a lot, that perhaps I should have been told when I was originally diagnosed in 2003.
I wrote myself a note to remind myself, so thought I would share that with you:
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.
Today, has been a difficult end to a challenging week. I knew it would be difficult, because the builders were in for three days, repairing a leaking shower and using my bedroom as a workspace, so not only was my retreat and safe zone out of action, but I also had to be up and about early (for me at least). So reduced sleep with the pressure of entertaining my family to celebrate my daughters 26th birthday all day, with the builders still here, and an expectation of a home baked birthday cake and lunch, followed by a meeting in the evening, made Wednesday an overwhelming challenge, but I did it and the builders finished that night. Relief.
Friday required me to get my 20 year old son up and to a new (temporary) work place. This pushes my abilities now, as it is an unknown place, a fixed time and needs me to push my son to get up. It went ok, my previous nights research to check where we had to go paid off, as the agency had the postcode wrong. I anticipated I would be anxious, because of the combinations of triggers I Have mentioned. But I got him there, managed my building panic and made it back home. I was also able to try and mentally note what was going on, so here goes:
I wake up with my alarm, and feel the dread creep over me. I stretch my legs and feel the comfort of the duvet on my legs, wish I could stay. But get up, drag on my clothes and head for the kitchen and a mug of tea. I feel my bowels start to move and try to suppress the sick feeling by drinking my tea. Then I go up and knock the boy. Come back down and go for a smoke and drink my tea. Then loo. Then know I have to go knock the boy again. Back down, loo. Make second tea. Hear movement, yes, he is up, but no it is my wife. "Is the boy getting up?" I ask, "no" the reply, "did you knock I ask?" - "no" is the reply. So up I go for third time - this time there is movement. Back to my tea, feeling sick, tense, can't sit still. Hear movement he is up - some relief. Then time to go, stop at shop car park and I wait while he gets his lunch, anxious about time ticking by and the time he should be at work, that has become 'my' deadline now, although it is of course his. Now the anxiety is kicking in: Nausea, dry mouth, bowel movement, hands clenched, thoughts racing, rubbing my leg, heavy breathing, chest tightening. He is back, we are off- anxiety lessens slightly as we are on way again. Find place easy. See him go in sense of relief in my body and chest isn't so tight, breathing easier, wait for few minutes in case he come back out. Then drive home. On way home feel anxiety lift or change, tearful now, frustrated about my reaction, but it is nearly over.
Once home, I potter have a coffee and a smoke to rest, put a wash on, shower and get dressed ready for counselling session at Rushden Mind at 11. Back in control now, plenty of time.
I leave for counselling allowing plenty of time. Get to Rushden and (having previously had trouble parking) go for the less popular car park 5 minutes walk away that always has spaces, having had difficultly parking in near places previously. But it is full, I start to panic, the next car park is full too and I am stuck and can't get out as people are waiting for spaces. It is back - tight chest, heavy breathing, nausea, dry mouth, tightness, clenching, can't stand it, ABORT ABORT - go home. I can't - stuck, and I DO want to go to counselling. Get out of car park, drive round the one way system, try nearest car park, find a space. Anxiety drops slightly, at Mind on time!!!! Now what I haven't said is during all this I am telling, well shouting, at myself, what is the problem? It is your appointment, you can be late or not arrive, Mind nor my counsellor will mind. There is NO problem. But it doesn't go in.
Once at counselling, I get the aftermath reaction, shaking, tearful, stuttering, clenching, breathing, chest, nausea, you get the picture, we talk and after 20 minutes I am calming down.
What strikes me and has bothered my is that: I was not worried about going to counselling. I thought I was all OK with it, but still it (anxiety) has to have a go and a double hit me in one day which has pi$$ed me off and make wonder if I am in control at all. I know it is just a setback but it is still extremely frustrating and confusing. Anyway I have been asleep for few hours in my safe place (bed), got the boy back from work (3pm) and decided to use writing therapy to try and lift my mood and I do feel a bit better - I am going to get up and have a tea and smoke.
I am also going to use this blog differently, I am going to just post my thoughts instead of writing them in my book. It will be more messy, but this blog can be for me now primarily, if you find it useful then all the better. Now where is the weebly iPad app?
Also big thanks of appreciation to the wonderful work of Rushden Mind and my counsellor
Hello, gosh it has been a while. I am doing okay, still on medication and suffering with anxiety, but I consider it to be more managed now. I don't go out a lot, but can attend local supermarket, when I know it will be quiet and on a good day, and local store in High street. I am doing part time work on a self employed basis at home, in the form of website design and internet marketing for a few hours each day.
The interesting (and sad) point is that I am now caring for my poor wife, who having managed to look after me and her mum for many years, is now suffering with anxiety & depression herself. She is under the care of the local psychiatric team, on various mediation and seeing a counsellor weekly at our local Mind, But does seem ironic that she is now ill, but I suspect not that unusual. The recent pressures mounted on historic issues and brought the whole to a head for her.
I continue to use my key tools to manage my anxiety & depression which are:
Search for related blog posts using the search function or 'Categories' or 'Archives' sections below.
Some posts have a 'read more' link which will open the full post.