Tag Archives: mental health

Today

Completely exhausted. That’s how I feel today. From the moment I woke up to this moment right now. 7.40pm UK time. There is no reason why it should be the case. I slept ok. I haven’t had to work much. I’ve actually spent most of the day doing very little. But still I feel worn out.

I’d go one step further and even say I feel jaded with life today. On the whole I think I’ve stayed pretty positive through lockdown. I’ve harnessed my introverted self and for the most part, I have found the time, without social pressure and commitment, enjoyable. Work has been extraordinarily busy but that has meant my downtime has been more precious. I’ve interacted with people who make me happy And I’ve chosen not to engage in situations that do the opposite. I realise I am luckier than most right now and I have been grateful everyday for the things I have.

Today I’m struggling to find the energy it takes to be positive. Today I am left wondering what if this is all my life will be. Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with my life. I just don’t know if I can do this day in and day out for the next 6 or 12 months. Maybe even longer. Our trip out to the US to visit my cousin and family in North Carolina is off. Today we finally made the decision to cancel. I am gutted. My cousins wife is like the sister I never had. We are exceptionally close and the thought of seeing her each summer (either here or there) keeps me going on low days. I knew deep down when the lockdown and pandemic kicked off it was unlikely we’d be going in August. I just lived in denial and hoped it wouldn’t be the case. Sadly it is not going to happen. I see the summer stretching in front of me and find myself wondering how we will fill it.

The boys have now been at home constantly for almost 3 months. Ben is 15. It’s unnatural for him to not have any periods of separation from his parents. It’s a weird way for him to experience these teenage years. We all need a break from each other. None of us can find any space. I know I need some space. A half hour walk is lovely but you take for granted those few times when you are truly alone for a morning, an evening or a day. I know I did anyway. It probably doesn’t help that I often feel alone within my relationship with my husband. I can’t find the connection we once had. I think we have functioned really well through this period but there is still something missing. As time goes on, I become less and less confident it will be found.

I hope tomorrow I feel differently. Today has been tough. Today I can’t see a way though. I know there is one. A path will become clear and life will move forward. It always does. But today is just one of ‘those’ days.

Claire xx

Parachutes

14 days of a lowered dose of my SSRI meds and it’s time to check in. Doing ok I think. Some low moments last weekend and physically felt rough with tiredness, nausea and headaches. Strange really because it doesn’t feel like I have been putting anything much into my body, but it’s clear that’s not the case.

I’m still suffering with the nausea every now and then but all the other stuff seems to have gone. My skin on my face is incredibly dry. Not sure if that is related. Hormones have a mind of their own and do strange things to the body, so it could be. I’m still not off them entirely so now it’s alternating half a pill each day for a couple of weeks and then nothing. Med free. It feels like I’m jumping out of a plane and praying my parachute is going to open. I’m pretty sure it will but you never know.

On a completely different note, I’m sitting in my garden and admiring our new fencing. Still have to finish off the borders and plant new shrubs and trees. It will be lovely in the end. There is a minor issue though. The view from our patio is slightly hampered by the interesting choice of buildings and creations popping up in next door’s garden. Last year they removed all their grass and had a few shrubs. Fine, each to their own. Different strokes and all that. Then they erected a large type garage build. Not tucked to the side, or at the back. Oh no, two thirds of the way down. Believe me, it isn’t a pretty building. Stone clad walling. The lot. Next up, another shed type thing. Green corrugated sides and squeezed in behind the pebble dash delight. Now, the cherry on the cake. They have a constructed a seating area. Again, right in the middle of the garden. It would be quite pretty. A little gazebo type build with fairy lights that twinkle sweetly at night. The effect however has been slightly ruined by the long, sharp and very scary looking metal spikes on the top. All of a sudden it’s an instrument of torture. With the somber ‘garage’ directly behind it, I can’t help feeling we have entered either silence of the lambs or game of thrones territory. We have a great relationship with said neighbours and I don’t want to disrupt that. Luckily, I now I’m sober and have found my inner peace, I can laugh it off and accept that there is ‘now’t so strange as folk’.

On the other hand, if I do suddenly disappear, either my parachute didn’t open, or it might be worth someone checking the next door neighbour’s outbuildings. Thanks heaps. 😊

Claire xx

ps. The photo at the top is a beautiful spot South of England .. the coastline of the New Forrest. A favourite place of mine. 😊❤️

Big steps

I started this blog at the suggestion of the lovely Jim, Life Beyond Booze, who was really my first connection with the sober Word Press tribe. Although Jim’s posts are now as as scarce as a hen’s tooth, he was a great support to me and many others and he occasionally pops up to treat us to one of his hilarious and clever posts. The folks I met through connecting with Jim have pretty much remained a firm group and I now consider many of them friends. My sobriety blog developed into a managing anxiety and depression blog and, unsurprisingly I suppose, others on the ‘sober train’ had similar experiences and mental health challenges. It has been an interesting and eventful journey up until this point. A journey I had no idea I was taking but one I absolutely needed to invest in.

Why am I talking about all this today? Well, firstly, I have reached my 200th day sober. 100 days is supposed to be a phenomenal milestone and now I’ve doubled it! Secondly, 4 days ago I began the very slow process of stopping my antidepressant medication. Almost one year ago I started taking SSRIs for the second time in my life. I’d initially taken them for 6 months, stopped for 6 months and then my mental health regressed so much I was back taking them again in June 2019. Anyone who has followed my blog will know how totally devastated I felt when I started taking antidepressants. It was truly soul destroying and I had tried so hard to manage and cope with my depression with counselling, support, exercise etc. But it had become a desperate situation. For the sake of my family, I finally admitted what I viewed as defeat and I ‘gave in’. Both times I took that first pill I sobbed and was inconsolable. I had two different types of medication because the initial ones triggered some rough side effects that unfortunately didn’t reduce with time. I swapped to a different type for the second time round and apart from the initial 5 days of the worst anxiety I have EVER experienced, I have had no other issues with them.

On both occasions they helped. I wouldn’t say they ‘cured’ me or made life miraculously wonderful, but they gave me a way out of the grey, colourless existence I had been living. They put me on an even keel and hit the ‘pause’ button of the terrible downward cycle that is anxiety and depression. They gave me back a little bit of control over managing my own illness. I still felt pretty crap much of the time and I definitely did not achieve my one focus; to discover Claire again. I continue with counselling which ended around last September. Looking back now, I would say I was ‘better’ but still not well. I started reading more about anxiety and depression, looking further into alcohol addiction and soaking up any literature I could find. Then on the 16th November 2019 I gave it up. To this day I don’t know how I have succeeded. I was a ‘drinker’. I loved my wine. People who knew me knew I loved my wine but oddly had no idea how much I really drank. I also realised I had significantly increased my reliance on alcohol as a crutch for my mental health issues over the years. In addition, I drank rather than ate … my body seriously lacked any nutrients. I was underweight and my hair was just as thin and disappearing just as fast as I was.

Fast forward to today. 200 days later. Taking the antidepressants allowed me to examine my behaviours and realise I needed to make that huge step into the unknown. Taking alcohol out of the equation gave me my life back. It was clear that 2 weeks into sobriety, living an alcohol free life was the answer I’d been searching for. The grey quickly changed to a rainbow and the excitement and interest in life, gone for so long, had reappeared. The past 6 months haven’t been easy. As many of you will know, my mood regularly fluctuates and anxiety and depression still lurk at my door. I am starting to recognise the signs and pre-empt the downward spiral by using new tools. I am 2 stone heavier and my hair is thick and has grown back. Claire returned!

This past few weeks I have been deliberating a lot. I am ready to remove the last crutch and stop my medication. I have read around the subject and want to be sensible about it. (Thanks to Ashley, Mental Health @Home, for the suggested reading material). Some people have suggested I remain on the antidepressants as they aren’t impacting on me with any side effects. I understand their view and I appreciate stability is not something to be sniffed at. The crux though is this … I want to come off them. I want to know if I can do this without antidepressants. If I can’t, then I will have no option and they will be part of my life for a much longer time, maybe a permanent fixture. It’s time to find out.

So, here I am, 200 days sober and 4 days into taking a reduced dose of my SSRI medication. I will keep posting. Checking in is so important right now. I am scared and nervous. It feels like I’m taking one last final big step. It’ll be ok though. Whatever happens I know it will be ok.

Love Claire xx

Finding Zen

I’m just going to start writing and maybe add things as the day progresses. If I don’t start somewhere, it’ll never happen and I’ll basically be a very lazy blogger. One who just reads and comments but never creates anything of their own. That will never do. Though I do love to keep up with people’s blogs and give my four penneth worth, busy body that I am!

Life has not changed very much since the ‘easing’ of some restrictions. Not for me anyway. Clearly for many others it meant no more social distancing, hanging out with friends and throwing any caution to the wind. Not helped by the total confusion caused by the government’s mixed messages. As far as I could make out it was chaos and bedlam. So I stayed home. Worked from my bedroom (which I’ve come to hate doing) and ate shed loads of chocolate. Think I’ll let the others who appear to have either no fear or sense be the guinea pigs in this little trial.

I’m trying hard to find ways to relax and de-stress when I’m not working. It’s difficult sometimes and on Saturday morning I completely lost my cool. Shame really as I’d just completed my very first ever yoga session and the lovely relaxed and positive feeling lasted a grand total of 5 minutes. It all started when I noticed chunks taken out of the sideboard, a smashed Xbox controller, random mess and crap everywhere and …. wait for it …. no milk left for my mid morning coffee!! Yup, that’s right. I saw red, blew my top, the proverbial hit the fan, I went bat shit crazy. When that happens in our house the boys tend to know it’s a very bad situation. I yelled, shouted, stomped around and there were even tears and a few words the children should not have heard. In the end I had a new office space set up in a warm corner of the back room overlooking the garden. Said room and kitchen were cleaned and hoovered. My bedroom was reestablished as a bedroom. Milk was purchased and coffee drank. Calmness ensued and Mum was chilled once again.

I have persevered with the yoga app and actually do enjoy it. It’s very basic and short but it’s what I need right now. I’ve managed a few runs too, still not kicking it’s ass yet but I get out. That’s enoogh. Anxiety, and particularly depression, is always lurking, never far away. It takes hard work to keep them both at bay. I have a much better understanding of myself and my triggers but some days I just want to hide away. That’s ok though. Just as long as I don’t hide for too long I guess.

Sadly it would appear I am better at demolishing and destroying the garden than nurturing or growing it. Two plants are already looking decidedly dodgy yet the weeds respond well to my green fingered attempts. We have become quite friendly with two sets of neighbours as we can now practically walk into their garden. They thought they had an intruder the other day, but it was my eldest son picking up his football. There are plans for fencing very soon so I will be safe to hang the washing out dressed only in pjs once again.

The most amazing thing about all of the above, the quiet calm, the loss of temper, the anxiety and low moods and the gardening, is this. I am doing it 100% sober. I reached my 6 month sober milestone yesterday and it felt like a regular, everyday thing. No booze for 6 months. So what? Easy peasy. Except those of you on this journey of sobriety know it’s not. It wasn’t for me anyway. It involved a lot of change. It meant becoming a different person to the one I had been for many years. I had to challenge my identity and adjust my view. I’m still changing now, 6 months on. For the better I hope. No, scrap that last comment. For the better I’m sure. I am the happiest I have been in a long time. Not with the global situation as it is, not necessarily with some aspects of my life but with myself and who I am. That might sound intense and dramatic but it is also true.

Right, time for session 3 of yoga, lunch and swotting up on some new vocabulary for my word feud scrabble challenge.

Just a pose I learnt yesterday

Love Claire xx

Fade to grey

Earlier today I read a post by Ashley at mentalhealthathome.org focusing on major depression and the impact it can have on someone’s day to day living. It’s a beautifully brave post, honestly expressing her experiences. Ashley’s words led to a moment of personal reflection and I wanted to share how ‘depression’ felt for me.

At its worst my depression probably lasted a year, maybe two, with a brief reprieve in the middle. It didn’t feel like I’d imagined depression was supposed to feel. Yep, I was a person that ‘judged’ depression. I’m ashamed to admit it but as they say, ignorance (although stupid) can be bliss. As Ashley describes, depression is not just about feeling ‘sad’. It’s so much more and affects individuals differently. I was unaware that the awful, soul destroying feelings I was experiencing were all part of the label ‘depression’.

For me, by far the worst aspect was the complete disengagement and disinterest in life. All colour gone, not even black and white. Just grey. No spark, no pleasure, not even a flutter of excitement. Added to the this was the debilitating feeling of not giving a shit. About anything or anyone. Seriously, even writing that down makes my chest tighten and triggers an overwhelming urge to go hug my boys. I was no longer there, I had disappeared.

Ashley lives daily with that feeling and talks about dealing with the grief of maybe never finding that person again. I am currently not depressed and I definitely have all the colour back in my life. That being said, I am not the person I was. She has also gone, as Ashley’s old self did, never to return. I am not sad about that. I like who I am now. Depression has changed me, for the better I think. I have a greater understanding of others and a compassion that wasn’t there before. I thank the universe on a daily basis that I feel well and I hope I never stop appreciating rainbows in all their colourful glory.

Claire xx

What comes first? Anxiety or depression? (second attempt!)

(I had to re- post as for some reason my previous attempt didn’t allow comments. I’m hoping this works!!)

I know from all my reading and research that they are closely related and one can trigger the other. I also know from my own personal experience that 8 weeks on (YES!! 8 WHOLE WEEKS! … sorry couldn’t help myself) my own depression has lifted and my anxiety, though not completely gone, is definitely reduced and manageable (mostly). I am a little fearful when I write that here because it feels like it’s tempting fate but hey ho, it’s the truth in the present moment and I’m trying to be more ‘present’. I don’t know if I can find out the answer but I wanted to process it because it’s important to me and my overall progress and self awareness.

Why is it important for me?

I’m not really sure. It’s definitely not that I want to find an excuse to drink again. I don’t think that’s the case anyway. It’s more that I have always had an internal struggle accepting my diagnosis of anxiety and depression. I was all “No way, not me. You got it wrong! I’m just tired, fed up, stressed, lonely …. anything but A & D. I’m not ‘that’ sort of person. I’m tough, I’m upbeat, I’m a ‘can do’ woman”. I was soooo angry and I flatly refused to accept it, although I did acknowledge it. I told people about it and I dealt with it. That’s what I do. Problem … sort it. I refused antidepressants; no way, no how. I had counselling and I was going to get better. 8 months later, 2 stone lighter and still engaged with toxic people and unhelpful situations. I was drinking more than I ever had before. There was no choice, I ‘gave in’ .. antidepressants it was.

Meds

I took them, I cried, I was off work for 3 days and I felt like a complete and utter failure. I set a target, 6 months and then no more. I didn’t drink for two weeks because that was sensible and advised. I still had counselling and I didn’t make any other changes. The alcohol consumption once again increased. My behaviours remained the same. My self esteem was nil but I ‘appeared’ to be improving. 6 months later (and actually spiralling into more dodgy, toxic friendships and relationships) I came off antidepressants and my counselling had finished.


That was a year ago. For the next 5 months I rapidly went downhill. My weight was better but I wasn’t sleeping and I was drinking fairly heavily. I was anxious and sliding into depression. I was disappearing and self medicating with wine and unhealthy interactions.

The past 6 months

In June I started different antidepressants. They suited me better. I went back to counselling and I began to examine what was going on. Sure I was only skimming the very surface but it was a shift. I still drank – A LOT! The meds worked but in truth I still wasn’t well. Counselling had stopped. I could go either way. It felt like balancing on a tightrope and any minute I’d fall into the abyss. (God I’m so dramatic 🙄)

Alcohol

On November 17th, after a few weeks of reading and stalking the sober blogs, I gave up alcohol. It changed everything. It opened up my life again and allowed me to ‘feel’. Bit by bit I have reduced my reliance on toxic relationships and I am learning to like myself once again. I always drank .. from 17 yrs old onwards. I have always been a ‘big’ drinker and alcohol has always been a big part of my life. Did it cause my A&D? Or did my mental health issues lead me to rely on alcohol more and then that made my recovery more difficult?

What now?

My concern is this. If I stop taking my antidepressants will I regress or was giving up alcohol the catalyst for improvement in my mental health and the meds are neither here nor there? What if I stop them, I feel awful and want to drink again .. and can’t stop myself? That scares the shit out of me. Don’t worry, I have no intention of coming off meds any time soon but how do I know they are helping? Their impact was minimal compared to the impact of becoming sober. How will I ever know when is the right time to take the risk? So many questions and I suspect there is no answer. I don’t want to take antidepressants indefinitely but the past two plus years have really been a challenge and I never want to go back there again.


If you have persevered to the end of this post then you deserve a bloody medal. I felt I needed to put down what has been churning around in my head for a while so I appreciate you sticking with it. If you skipped to the end, that’s fine too.
Hugs to all you lovely bloggers. My very own ‘sober tribe’ ❤️ 🤗


Love Claire xx
(8 weeks)