I decided I would write this now .. in the middle of what I would describe as an ‘episode’ for me. I’ve been having a few of them over the past couple of days. We tend to always write after the event. Well, this is me. Claire. In the middle of it.
I feel sick. Really nauseous. My head is sore and I have buzzing in my ears. There is a tightness in my chest, it’s restricting my breathing. I can’t stay still. There is no single focus. My brain won’t rest. I’ve tried to work, I’ve tried yoga, I’ve tried lying on my bed and deep breathing. Nothing works. I want to get out of my own body because it’s scary and overwhelming. My skin is itchy, I’m uncomfortable in it. I can’t see a way out and I’m totally alone. I know I have failed. I have misplaced calm and peace. I wanted so much to be well and it appears I’m not.
I want to record this to remind myself how it feels. If I don’t do something about this now the next step is depression because I know my body and mind can only cope with these emotions and physical symptoms for so long. Then it’s total shut down. I’m so so tired of trying.
You can never take your sobriety for granted. Never take your eye off the ball. Don’t assume you are safely through to the other side. That is what I’ve learnt today.
This past week has been full of anxiety triggers for me. Work pressures and stress, the sad loss of a very old family friend, not having been able to see my closest friend for 4 months now (and still likely to be longer) and the outlook and reporting on the news just so bloody bleak. In addition, I am fully med free having spent 4 weeks weaning off my antidepressants. I have had virtually no sleep since Friday, struggling to go off until 2 or 3am and then awake again at 5am. Then, today, for the first time in ages, the unthinkable happened. I wanted a drink.
It wasn’t a romantic, sit by a lake, enjoying a picnic, sipping a glass of Prosecco type of longing. Oh no! It was a full on, fuck this, I want to go and buy two bottles of wine (white or red – I’m not fussy) and drink the whole lot type of craving. Nor was it a, “I’m a bit curious as to whether I can moderate and be able to live with alcohol once again” moment. Nope. It was a, “moderation is for idiots, I’m going to get totally pissed and I don’t care” attitude.
Don’t panic. I haven’t. I went out and bought plants and shrubs for the garden. I bought paint for the utility walls and white spirit to mop up the paint I will undoubtably spill on the floor. I did not treat myself to a Chablis or a Shiraz. I’m not currently lying on my bed half comatose having fallen spectacularly off the wagon. It is however a sign I’m struggling again. What I can’t work out is what is acceptable and ‘normal’? Is it ok to feel anxious because problems, challenges and change are all happening at once? Is it ok that the anxiety is kickstarting my over thinking and subsequently affecting my ability to accurately read and interpret a situation? Is it ok that sleep has suddenly evaded me after achieving a consistent 8hrs every night for months and months? I suppose the question I really want the answer to is this. Is this the return of generalised anxiety disorder and is it directly linked to my coming off the SSRIs? I honestly can’t face it all again.
How long do you wait to find out? What if I’m basically just a stress head and I need to accept it as part of me, rather than blaming it on a mental health illness? Everyone gets stressed. I’m just not sure when my ‘stressed’ tips over into becoming unwell. Mental health is so complex. The interplay between lack of sleep, stress triggers, meds, personality and, let’s not forget, the lovely peri-menopause, makes it hard to tease out the cause and therefore the best way to manage it. I used a word early on in my sobriety. Tangled. It’s such a descriptive word and is exactly how I feel once more. Tangled.
I didn’t drink. I won’t drink. I know it is not the answer. Quite what is, I really have no idea.
Last night I had very little sleep. I received a work email at around 11.30pm and stupidly I looked at it. I won’t go into details but I’m currently in one of those situations where I’ve taken on an additional role, not been paid for it but I wanted to do it to support my team. My grade for my regular post is significantly lower than anyone else doing the same job across the UK anyway and my employers have never been too fussed by that. Anyway, the long and short is the email made me feel incredibly devalued and demotivated. I have made a decision that I won’t continue with the additional role because the offer of any pay increase is minimal in real terms and the trust (I work for the NHS) won’t address any of the issues I have raised. They want me to continue working like a crazy woman but only do the bare minimum to support me. I would be a total mug to carry on.
Many reading this will wonder what the issue is. If the package isn’t right, don’t do it. The problem is more complex than that. When I’m challenged at work and have responsibility for making changes and decisions, although stressful, it motivates me. It actually keeps boredom and depression at bay. I want to make changes and influence our service for the families, children and adults we treat. I get a real buzz from that. It’s only possible to be influential if you are in certain positions and are mixing in certain circles. However, if I continue to invest the same level of time and energy with absolutely no recognition or support, I’ll likely end up struggling with my mental health anyway, just from the stress and resentment alone.
What to do? I don’t have the answer. Maybe it’s time for a change anyway. I’m limited with where I can go with my specialist clinical skill set and location constraints. I’ve considered volunteering for the Samaritans and have applied. I was going to put this on hold due to work pressures and time commitments but maybe that’s the way forward now. I’ve considered further education and completing a masters or even a PhD … finally using research to validate a patient outcome measure I developed years ago. Last night I was so wound up and frustrated at reading the email. This morning I cried big tears as I wrote to the individual whose role I have been covering, informing them I would not be continuing. Now, though I feel sad about the situation, I am already looking ahead and making new plans. I recognise this is so different to where I was a year ago. I’m not hungover, jaded and feeling sorry for myself. I’m calm and I will manage. I am hurting though. Life always seems to throw up little challenges and tests along the way. Decisions to be made. Keeps us on our toes I guess. Dealing with them sober is the only way I can cope. Thank God I am sober.
In the midst of social distancing and self isolation I still get two visitors knocking on my door. They don’t stick to guidelines or obey rules. Nope, they let themselves in and take over.
Anxiety has been here for a couple of days now. I kind of know how to deal with him (or is it a her?). I’ll refer to it as male for ease. He winds me up, throws all sorts of questions and ‘what ifs’ in my way. Dishes out problems I can’t solve and situations I can’t control. When I come up with a solution, he won’t accept it. Like a toddler repetitively asking ‘why?’ and ‘when?’.
I can handle anxiety. I use techniques to bring me to the present and the strategies do work, now that my body and brain are no longer muddled and confused with alcohol. Yesterday morning was particularly bad but I persevered. I cleaned, I ran and I listened to my buddhify app. So far so good. Or so I thought.
With a huge hit of anxiety I can sometimes have a visit from depression. She (I’ll switch genders in the name of equality) hasn’t been in my life for well over 6 months. I haven’t missed her, not one bit. I thought I was rid of her but like the proverbial bad penny, here she is! I could feel her coming late last night. I know that sounds weird but I know the signs now. Sure enough, 3am there I was. Wide awake and hanging out with two old ‘friends’.
This morning, anxiety had moved on for a break but not depression. She’s moved in, feet right under the table. That awful feeling of no feeling. Knowing there is so much you can do to help yourself and so much to be personally grateful for but absolutely no way to reach through the black fog and grab it. Not even a desire to do that. No energy, no interest in things that made you buzz with excitement only a few days ago. Most of all, no bloody reason. There is nothing in my life that others aren’t struggling with right now. Many many struggling with more challenges than I am.
At the moment I don’t have a positive, inspiring ending to my post today. I wanted to describe the feelings and emotions to try and depersonalise them. I’m furious that they, particularly depression, have returned to this extent and I’m praying it lifts quickly. I need to face what we are all going through as ‘Claire’ with my friends, family and loved ones by my side. There is no room for anxiety or depression. Quite frankly they can both fuck off!
One of the weirdest weeks ever! Every single day, four or five times a day, things change. Plans are made, then unmade. People can’t work from home, people MUST work from home unless they absolutely can’t. Some of my staff are all guns blazing … let me get out there and fight this thing, others wanting to run away and hide. So challenging to deal daily with tears, tantrums and hysteria .. and that’s just my own.
So, I am finally set up (kind of) with the technology required to work from home for some days. How long for is unknown, like so many things right now. I may be redeployed to help elsewhere. God help anyone I have to care for. I’m not even sure where you shove a thermometer.
My first experience with Zoom teleconferencing was hilarious. Clearly the NHS world is not used to this type of futuristic magic. There were people who just did not realise they needed to mute their screen. We heard someone home schooling and yelling at a very bored child, saw someone relaxing on his hammock in his back garden and listened as a member of staff went to the bathroom. It was the highlight of my day.
Today I had an SOS call from a neighbour. They’d seen my leaflet and wanted someone to get supplies as they are elderly, in poor health and their son is now self isolating. She sent me her shopping list and told me it might be difficult to get her bread as she’s glutton free! I wish I was glutton free. Then I might not have this wobbly chocolate belly,
Finally, today I managed to go for a run. I have really lost my exercise mojo over recent weeks, even months. Today, however, with the sun shining, I stuck on my trainers and off I went. I walked/ran for two miles and ran for another 3. Shattered but good to get out after 3 days of high stress and anxiety (not mine for a change, other people’s). I’m planning to run most days now. Make it a routine.
I was asked by a fellow blogger to post some photos when running, so here they are …
It’s been a week of many firsts and of rising to challenges. I’m coping with change without panic and emotion and with a little bit of humour. I’m doing all of it sober. In fact, what I now know is that I have to be sober to deal with it. As people around the UK clapped for NHS workers, care staff, frontline employees, supermarket assistants, delivery man … etc etc … I realised that we have to ride this storm. I intend to do just that and to do it sober.
Stay safe, look after yourselves and keep in touch by blogging or commenting.
As usual I have no plan for what I’mabout to write. I haven’t posted anything in over a week but Istill regularlycheck, read and comment on others’ posts. It comforts me to do that. This past few weeks have been a totalwhirlwind. So much happening in such a short space of time. I have no ideawhatemotionI’mfeeling from one minute to the next!
Watching it all unfold has been surreal. Daily counts of those infected and those sadly that have lost their lives because of Covid-19 has quite simply shocked me. Heading into work this week (I work at a children’s hospital in a city centre) on a near empty rush hour train (hence the photo) the reality started to sink in.
The past few days has been full on with decisions and plans at work being made, remade and changed. The impact of each decision being reviewed and considered. Staff in my team in tears at one time or another with the stress and fatigue of the unknown. Then, the schools announced closure, but not for offspring of key workers (NHS staff, children in need, teachers etc). My two boys (15 and 12yrs) went into meltdown. Resolutely refusing to go because no-one else will be. This is still ‘under discussion’.
My mum was diagnosed with skin cancer on Tuesday. Two different types in two locations. She is 76 and already ticks ‘underlying health condition’ boxes. It was upsetting but treatment decisions have been made now and she has astonished me with her positive attitude about it all. I think she can see the bigger picture and is for once not asking ‘what if?’. She and my dad are self isolating and I’m feeling so proud of them both because I know they are feeling scared and isolated right now.
Interestingly I don’t think in my 25 years of working for the NHS I’ve ever felt this valued by so many. All sorts of shops, cafes and businesses are giving out free drinks, 50% off food and even free bottles of hand moisturiser to NHS workers. People are being lovely and so supportive and considerate. That’s such a positive to come out of this.
So, with all the drama and the stress, the sadness and the worry, my anxiety levels have of course been sky rocketing. Change is often so tricky and we are dealing with it daily, sometimes hourly. But for every moment of anxiety, there has been a glimpse of calm and peace brought by all the lovely, kind deeds that I’m witnessing. The renewed sense of community is palpable. Yes, there are stories of selfish idiots and acts of pure nastiness, but I’m not focusing on that. We are all in this together and I hope that after it is over we are all better humans and an improved society in many ways.
Finally, I’m not going to lie, there have been moments of ‘fuck it, I am going to drink’. I haven’t and I’m actually really, really glad about that. It would not help me right now.
Stay safe, be kind and take good care of yourselves. Oh, and keep blogging … reading your posts certainly helps me stay positive when it all gets a little too much. 😊❤️
I wrote most of this post late last night and just couldn’tbring myself to publish it for some reason. I saved it and re-read it this morning. I added another paragraph or two and decided to put it out there. It’s therefore confused and abitof a ramble, not dissimilar to my mind right now.
I have started so many posts tonight and then decided not to carry them on or just deleted them. Life is very muddled sometimes and it can be so difficult to get those thoughts down on paper (or blog in this case!).
There is no clarity tonight. I’m feeling disjointed and uneasy. Interestingly I can identify that much more easily now but that isn’t altogether helpful when I am in the centre of it. There is no distinct issue. I’m not in a bad mood and nothing has ‘gone wrong’. I simply feel at odds with myself.
I know I’m overthinking and mulling over the future. I understand that there will be times where the lovely feeling of calm and peace are disrupted. I realise I absolutely need to deal with my own personal dissonance. It’s just tricky when I can’t put a finger on the problem. I’ll try to get some things down here. Maybe it will help.
I’ve been thinking a lot about my marriage. About how, as a couple, we interact, engage and communicate after 20 plus years together. Is there still enough between us to keep us together as the boys grow up and inevitably away? I’m probably not the first person to have ever wondered or worried about this. I doubt I’ll be the last. What were we once like as a ‘new’ couple? Did we talk and giggle into the early hours, wanting to feel each other’s presence all through the night? I honestly can’t remember. That makes me sad. Those memories are gone.
I don’t want us to only be able to function by living almost separate lives. I would like to share interests and hobbies and for us to talk about those interests. I couldn’t think of anything more lonely than feeling alone in a relationship. Maybe at this stage in a marriage/partnership you have to reinvent yourself as a couple. Or maybe I should just accept and be content with how things are. Lower my expectations. That’s tricky when you aren’t even sure what your expectations are. I don’t know what I want or what I need. Plus, if I don’t even know, how can I communicate it to another person?
Then there’s work. I do love my job. It’s rewarding and motivating and I’m one of those lucky people who work with people I’d consider good friends. Am I going to do the same thing for the next 15-20 years? There isn’t really anywhere I can progress to now. I can sense the time approaching where I need something new to challenge me. Does that have to be within work? Could it be something else entirely?
So many questions unanswered. I’ll sleep on it.
It’s now the morning after the night before. I have already cancelled my two gym classes which is often a sign I’m not functioning very well mentally. I have been struggling with numbness, pins and needles and stiff hands, wrists and arms for a while now. I’ve had lots of tests. Nothing found and they are still ongoing. Recently it’s become painful and very weak and achy. This morning was terrible. Is it related to stress in my mind? Perhaps.
I’ll try to get out later. Go for a long walk. I already know I won’t run. It’s going to be one of ‘those’ days for me. God I hate this feeling of being stuck. That’s the only way I can describe it. At least I’m not hungover or feeling weighed down by alcohol. That made days like today 100 times worse. Sobriety means I know I’ll get through it and the feelings will pass. I’ll find some tools to help me today. Ones I know I can cope with.
Too much ruminating about the past and the future makes Claire an anxious mess. Staying in the present is bloody difficult some days though. I will try.