Friday, March 29

Facing it all

I've been having counselling now since Feb, through this fantastic organisation in Haringey called Space to Talk. My doctor referred me just before Christmas when I turned up with hair like a nesting box and a face like a war zone. She and I both agreed that I couldn't wait the regulation 6 months for NHS counselling, it had got a bit too extreme for that.

So now I go to Tottenham once a week and talk and talk and talk. I sit in a sparsely furnished room in a community centre and pour my heart out to a total stranger. Thank goodness I really like my counsellor, she's honest and sensible and I trust her advice. We talk about why I measure myself against everybody else in the world, all the time, and how exhausting it is. We talk about how I'm ashamed of my mental illness, she referred to my depression as my 'mad old lady in the attic', which I really liked, as I am embarrassed by it and afraid of it in a mildly gothic way. We discuss ways I can try and let people into my life when I'm afraid, instead of pushing them away.

It's working. I feel less scared all the time, and am starting to push myself to make some positive changes in my life. Most of the thinking goes on after the sessions, when I digest everything we've said on the bus home. Every twinge of neurosis has been discussed, even the stuff I'm mortified about discussing, like my sociophobia and hypochondria. And while I'm not battling these full-on, every second of the day, just being more honest with myself about everything (and feeling less guilty) is making a huge difference.

I've made some big decisions. Last week I told my work that I would like to reduce my hours to 4 days a week, as I was finding it difficult to maintain a work/life balance and my mental health was becoming difficult to manage. This has been apparent for some time, but I'd been struggling against it. I agonised for days over the wording of the letter - should I mention the D word? In the end I did, and I'm so glad. Work have been awesome, and from September I am going to have a little more of my life back.

Life is okay. I really am so lucky. My fiance is amazing, my family and friends love me unconditionally, and my work are supportive of me - all of these things have given me the courage to be honest. Being brave doesn't come naturally to me, but I think I'm learning...

Wednesday, February 27


I"m writing this in my kitchen/living room at 6.40am where I am chugging paracetamol. I am recovering from something akin to flu. The time I'm taking off to recover is making me panic. I was awake over half the night worrying about it. Lesson: I really need to learn to separate my physical/mental symptoms. I have made myself worse.

OF COURSE people with mental health issues can be physically unwell. The two aren't always interlinked. I was absolutely fine until I started shivering/being sick on Sunday. I was in the zone. I was succeeding at life.

I was just unfortunate, I blame poor hand hygiene in others.

But there is a blurry line between what ails me physically and mentally.

Here is a list of my current physical ailments:

  • Recovering from flu - knackered, head aches - this is okay, I can explain this one, and I know it's non-fatal.
  • Nagging ache in my left shoulder - I've had this for years. HEART ATTACK.
  • Stomach pains - I get these almost every day. DEFINITELY DYING. CANCER.
  • Heartburn/indigestion - this occurs regularly too... DYING. CANCER.

Aaaaaand the two significant losses in my life up until now have been to? You've guessed it... HEART ATTACK and CANCER. I'm so cliche, I sicken myself.

There is a perfectly rational explanation for all of those physical symptoms up there, I'm just choosing to catastrophise matters. This is when I talk myself into total and utter self-destruction, real Armageddon Bruce-Willis-pointing-space-drills-at-my-brain stuff.

Here is an example of me catastrophising last night:

"You need to sleep. You've been unwell. You have to recover to go back to work."
"Go to sleep. Go to sleep now."
"Seriously, go to sleep."
"Why aren't you asleep yet?"
"My stomach hurts. Ow."
"Maybe it's cancer."
"Fuck! It's CANCER!"
"Well now you're not going to sleep. Well done, you berk."
"Okay, it's 2am. You haven't slept yet. Now you're going to feel awful in the morning"
"You probably won't get better now."
"How are you going to manage this one, eh?"
"You're going to spend all day worrying now too."
"And all tomorrow night as well."
"You're going to get worse."
"You'll need more time off work."
"People will ask questions."
"You'll probably lose your job."
"If you lose your job you'll have no money and you'll lose your nice house."

This all took place gradually over approximately 2 hours. No wonder I couldn't fucking sleep, I was ending the world in my head.

Now. Let's look at where I should have had a word with myself:

"You need to sleep. You've been unwell. You have to recover to go back to work."
"Go to sleep. Go to sleep now."
"Seriously, go to sleep." HERE. STOP BEING A DICK. 

I should have got up, read a book, made some tea, anything. But I was so bloody desperate to sleep that I started to berate myself, and that's when all the DOOM started occurring.

The irony is, if I die of cancer or a heart attack, I won't have a job to lose and all of the worrying will have been in vain. I do know this. But it's like smack, I keep crawling back, I've become used to being terrified.

So today I'm going to try and have a word with myself. If I have the energy. It is much harder when you've been poorly, the germs have infiltrated my forest moon of Endor and disabled my deflector shield.

I'm going to call work in 5 minutes and tell them, truthfully and rationally, that I am still unwell and will be back tomorrow.

Do Google searches and that...