Be a flamingo in a flock of pigeons

The title isn’t really relevant to anything, but I just like it. I decided to become more creating (even more!) and I set up another blog where I’ll be putting my art designs. I don’t want to mix anxiety and creating. Although I suppose they are blending one into another.

I’m still reading (listening ) the book The Worry Trick. I’m intending to go back and listen again and take notes and write them here. But few things which already bring results. Firstly – I think that listening to the book is actually better as it’s almost like sessions with a therapist. Almost.

So I gave up the idea of tick tacs as I’d eat the whole box, that’s how often I had “what if” thoughts. But it has helped me to realise when and how often they appear. The next thing is AHA approach and scheduled time for worrying. Find two minutes each day (best twice a day) and all you do is worry. And repeat the worry out loud, standing in front of a mirror. This is WIERD. It is really really really uncomfortable. I’ve done it once only. But the point is if a worrying thought come up you have an option to tell yourself you’ll think about it at your appointment with worry. As long as you do show up for the appointments. It’s not about dismissing the thoughts.

AHA approach: Acknowledge the thought, Humour it, Activity. So Acknowledge a thought – that your brain is an organ creating thoughts and it is just another thought it your head. A worry thought, an unpleasant thought but it is just a THOUGHT. Not a prediction of future events, not reality. Only a thought. Then you can humour it – you can make a funny song or write a poem. The author suggests limerick or haiku. I’ve tried limericks 🙂 And then resume usual activity – with the thought. Just carry on life as normal. Maybe go for walk? anything you would be doing anyway. The most difficult in this I found – making an effort to worry. As worry is subconscious activity – a bit like occupying your bored brain. But also it’s not pleasant activity so to do it consciously and purposely is a bit weird. But – practice makes perfect. we will see. Below my limericks

Once I had a scary thought
A seizure will happen in a spot
The world will end
My life won't mend
And I'll certainly loose a plot
My tiredness is winning over
And anxiety creeps up stronger
it won't end I feel
It gives me so much thrill
That it will stay here so much longer
Will I sleep tonight she ponders
Sleeping pills make such wonders
But it a straight way
For a long pill-rely
And it can cause life thunders
I'm scared if my worries tonight
will keep me awake at night
I feel so weak
to put up with this shit
Why I can't be simply all right 

List of books

I made a list of books I would like to read. I think it’s overly ambitious for this year only but as I go along I’ll write how I feel about it 🙂

  1. One
    1. K. Piper “Confidence. The journal”
    2. K. Piper “Start your day with Katie”
    3. Justin R. Adams “The Mindful Life Journal”
    4. Regina Brett “God Never Blinks”
  2. Two
    1. Dale Carnegie “How to stop worrying and start living”
    2. Kevin Mears, Mark Freeston “Overcoming Worry”
    3. Matt Haig “Reasons to stay alive”
    4. Matt Haig “Notes on a nervous plantet”
    5. Derren Brown “Happy”
    6. Victor Frankl “Man’s searching for meaning”
    7. James Redfield “Celestine prophecy”
  3. Three
    1. Eric Berne, M.D “Games people play”
    2. Karen Kristin Amend, Mary Stansbury Ruiz “Hand writing analysis”
    3. Allan&Barbara Pease “The definitive book of body language”
    4. Joe Navarro “What Every Body is Saying”
    5. Thomas Harris “I’m ok, you’re ok”
  4. Four
    1. Jessica Shank Coviello “ECG Interpretation made Incredibly Easy”
    2. A Wiley Brand “Business writing for dummies”
    3. “Communication skills for dummies”
  5. Five
    1. John Teasdale, Mark Williams, Zindel Segal “The Mindful Way Wrokdbook”
    2. Alica James “The Unworry Book”
    3. Yong Kang Chan “Empty your cup”
    4. Aston Sanderdson “Self Talk”
    5. Grahame Cossum “Make peace with your harshest critic”
    6. Melanie Fennell “Overcoing low self-esteem”
    7. Harry Heijligers “‘The anti-procrastination mindset”
  6. Six
    1. Katie Piper “Beautiful Even After”
    2. Katie Piper “Things get better”
    3. Katie Piper “Confidence”
    4. Gill Sims “Why mummy drinks”
  7. Seven
    1. Pete Sanders “First steps in counselling”
    2. Margaret Hough “Counselling skills and theory”
    3. Nigel Benson “Introducing Psychology: A graphic guide”

What anxiety is to me

So…. I’ve been thinking again while listening to “The Worry Trick” audiobook by David A. Carbonell PhD. I got this book accidentally – I was browsing Facebook as you do and on my news feed it came up with a free trial of Audible application. It came up with that book as an offer so I tried it.

The book definitely has some good points. I’ve been bookmarking the most important bits and I’m going to listen to it again and write it all down. But I think it described perfectly well how anxiety feels. And it feels strange. I’ve been trying to think when my anxiety started. The author suggests we are born with genetic predisposition or even in-born anxiety. And it is more likely to show itself if one of the parents have anxiety. I think I’ve always been somehow anxious but I thought it was shyness. I had many complexes too so put it towards that. I was always scared of things, like driving for example. I was petrified of driving. But some of the things I overcame.

The difference between a bit of stress and anxiety is how it feels. It paralyses you. It starts with a thought (usually with the “what if”. or something like that) and then it follows with a scenario. The problem is that the scenario seems very realistic. It in facts FEELS realistic. In fact, to me it feels like prediction. For most of my life I actually believed I had the ability to intuitively predict bad events. Now… did I really? Or did I have the feelings of anxiety (without realising what it was) and then I believed it was a prediction? intuition?

If we follow with an example. I get anxious about many things – mainly the seizures which seemed to be the biggest trigger for me ever. They freaked me out. The whole situation went out of control completely. So sometimes I get the feeling that what if Graham has a seizure? And then any justification follows: as it happened before at this time, in the evening, on Sunday etc etc. Then I’d try to argue with myself and say but it’s been such a long time, there was a trigger (chemo) or malnutrition after the surgery, blah blah blah, but the anxiety always wins with two answers: either: the first seizure happened before the chemo OR just because nothing is happening now does not mean it won’t happen again. So, after the little silly conversation with myslef in my head I get more and more scared. I then can SEE and FEEL it happening. In fact, the feelings are soooooooo strong that I can literally be almost 100% that the next thing will happen is the seizure. I can literally feel it happening. I can’t find words which would describe how REAL the feeling is. And the more I think the more I’m scared and then it can lead to a panic.

I don’t particularly like talking about it or even imagine it. But another suggestion in the book was that you can’t “unlearn” anxiety when it’s not there. So in a way – it’s like watching horror movie. The more you watch it – the less scary it becomes….

Yes, have used the word “unlearn” as I don’t agree with fighting with anxiety. Or even overcoming. I now after reading a bit of the book start thinking that it’s something my brain learnt.

It’s not just seizures which trigger me. That’s the biggest trigger. But even before it all happen I can clearly recall the evenings when I had a feeling that something bad is about to happen. That’s’ such a common feeling to me. I actually have to say that writing this has completely unsettled me. I feel very anxious at the moment and scared that I’m going to bring the bad thinking to happen by talking about them. But anyway, the prediction of bad thing. I can’t tell you what exactly bad is supposed to happen but I know it is bad.

And that leads directly to feeling dark, and gloom and depressed. And lonely. I feel sooo lovely when I’m anxious. Everybody’s life seems so perfect. Happy. And full. But not mine. I can’t relax since last year, even when things are fine they are not fully fine – at the back of my head the anxiety is awake. I think that what has mainly changed since the seizures, cancer and chemo. That the anxiety does not go to sleep. It sometimes is more silent and sometimes it screams but it is awake at the back of my head all the time.

But I am determined to find a way to make it sleep again. To unlearn the patterns. I just thought I’d explore first what I am standing against before I tackle it. I started from a suggestion in the book to get a pack of Tic Tac (or anything like that which is countable) and each time a “what if”thought comes to your mind – eat (or throw away) one of the sweets. This is to teach yourself to notice how many times the thoughts happen. I only say that I bought 18g packet of TicTacs with 37 sweets in it… and I just went to Tesco to get some more. I’m supposed to do this exercise for a week at least….. I started this afternoon (after school run) so let say 4pm and now is 9pm and I have 26 sweets left. 5 hours 10 thoughts. And I haven’t even counted the anxious feeling I had writing this post. And it can be anything. It can be even change of the place to sit. I usually sit on the sofa but I’m not sitting at the table and part of me keeps whispering in my head that maybe if I change the seat the seizure will happen. How ridiculous is that?? I can see it is ridiculous, I can be embarrassed it is ridiculous. But I’m still scared 😦 Among everything else – it is very tiring to feel anxious.

New Year

So here we are, completely brand New Year 2019.

I have never liked New Year or any new year resolutions. But I’m optimistic this year. So far 😉 I have made few resolutions. Actually 3 resolutions, two of which are pretty straight forward, while the third one is complicated. And I ‘m going to use this blog to help me achieve the 3rd resolution. Or possibly all of them. Actually I could think of couple more sub-resolutions, but apparently the longer the list is the more difficult to keep up.

  1. Loose weight
  2. Get rid of toxic relationships
  3. work on my anxiety
    1. finish college course
    2. finish all my crafts projects

I think that’s the updated current list of my resolutions. I might have had few others leading to this point but I decided to these. I am going to use this blog to make them happen. I think losing weight unfortunately is pretty straight forward but extremely difficult – eat less, move more.

Getting rid of toxic relationships….. not much more to dwell on either. I wish I could recognise them before they become toxic, that’s all.

ANXIETY though is a huuuuugggeeee subject. I’m so glad I started to write this blog as I can go back to what happen a year ago and kind of step by step follow my way to self-discovery. I never knew I was anxious. When I heard that on one of my therapies it suddenly made sense. I still haven’t been officially diagnosed, but I know that’s what I have – generalised anxiety disorder. And it’s hard to live with it. It is a bit better to live with it knowing what it is. But it is difficult to change your own mindset.

But its always been anxiety. Yes, I have been down and almost depressed. But I overcame that. Anxiety stayed. It is a very very uninvited guest. But I’m going to work on it. I started already but it hasn’t helped hugely. I did my CBT course, which helped but the more time goes on the more difficult it is to actually remember the techniques and it’s easier to slip into old ways of thinking. I tried mindfulness but I haven’t got time for it. I know I should make time but that itself causing anxiety! So, we’ll do it step by step. I made list of all the books I have to help me work on my anxiety. I will list them in a separate post so I can then see how am I doing with progress on reading them. There will be books I just want to read as well. And then I thought I’d make weekly reviews of my week and progress. Some of the books are daily positive quotes and to be fair it is difficult to remember it all, so I think reviewing it weekly and summarising what is the most important will help in progressing.

Side effects

I think whoever considers taking antidepressants should be told at the beginning not only about side effects but also about withdrawal symptoms. If I go back in time and the way I felt in February maybe I would have made the same decision. I don’t know. But I feel awful at present.

I’ve been meaning to write an entry for a long time. I’m not sure if writing this blog does make any sense as nobody is really reading it. It does help though when things get a bit too much of me to unload a bit. It’s a bit sad replacement of a motherly hug and somebody to tell me hey, it’s going to be all right.

I’ve been quite good over the last few months. Not perfect. I still cannot get back to me before the seizures appeared. I feel it was so careless then. It wasn’t at the time. But now it feels it was. I don’t know if my life will ever be again with the fear.

I feel horrible. You could tell that I haven’t written as things were all right. But if this gave me the push to keep writing that’s I suppose one good thing.

I’ve been desperate in February to start antidepressants to help me with the way I felt. As I mentioned before I first took Sertraline and it was horrible. I was suicidal after that. Then I started Venloflaxine and there was a week when I was unable to feel any “extremes”. I didn’t feel sad and I didn’t feel happy. I felt fine. But that wore off pretty soon and after that I felt normal. But I was told by my GP you have to continue to take antidepressants for at least 6 months after you felt better. The thing is that I don’t know if it was antidepressants which made me feel better or the psychotherapy I had? I tend to think it was the psychotherapy. 

I felt all right on the Venloflaxine apart from horrible night sweats at first (it was sorted by reducing the dose). Then libdo is non-existent which was a bit annoying to say the least. And I’ve had a very very VERY vivid dreams. Unfortunately about half of then were nightmares. I dreamt graveyards, my mum dying but I could never attend the funeral. There were many weird dreams, including a tortoise escaping from an aquarium and me chasing it. I dreamt lots of animals. But one time for example I had a dream that me and a group of other people were trapped by a murderer who was playing games with us, setting us tasks and whoever lost was first to be killed. I remember he broke my thumb in the dream and I asked to go to hospital but he replied there was no point as I would die soon anyway. 

So, not nice. I accepted it as a part of the course I suppose. A bit of different thing. I didn’t like the nightmares but it was interesting to be able to remember so many dreams. And then I had my last CBT 3-month review, I’m completely discharged from them by the way) and my therapist suggested that dreams like that do not help with anxiety and maybe I should speak with my GP about it. I think GP have enough to deal with that someone talking about dreams, but I have to say I didn’t think of how bad impact the dreams may have. And then I was thinking more about other things happening, I’ve noticed I was bruising a lot without any apparent reason. So I did call my GP last Wednesday and she told me to reduce my Venloflaxine to one tablet per day for three days and none at the weekend and she would call me back on Monday to discuss another antidepressant. 

Little I knew about withdrawal symptoms :((( horrible horrible thing!! I suppose me working night do not help. As on nights I’m emotional and existential wreck anyway. BUT last night was just horrible. Awful. I had headache and felt lightheaded at the same time. I felt dizzy a bit like vertigo – when the world spins for a short moment. I felt sick. Very sick. And I had brain zaps – I still actually have them. These are strange it’s like an electric shocks going through your brain. Hot flushes. And it comes in waves. So I felt like that then all of the sudden felt fine. And then after an hour or so felt very sick suddenly, brain zaps and lightheaded. And mood swings… felt so low. Not suicidal but so fed up and low with everything. With feeling like that and also thinking that nothing will ever change. As soon as I thought that I felt like crying. Tears were just coming to my eyes. I just felt it was all pointless, I have had enough of the fear of seizures and I do feel that it all will never end. I’ll never feel better. 

But actually I also feel very very upset and angry that this year has been so though and shit really. As it has been. I feel angry that my friend of 7 years just dumped me like that. How could she cross off 7 years of friendship just like that? I know I haven’t written about it here, I’ve tried to be subtle but… what’s the point. People don’t care about you, how you feel. People only care about themselves. She started her text message to me with words “my husband think I should talk to you and I gave it a thought and realised I don’t want to” – that hurt. I didn’t actually read the rest of the message too carefully as it was just a rambling. Just like that – I don’t want to talk to you anymore, goodbye and she had a cheek to “wish us happy future and to look after each other”. I do feel like say F*** Off. Yes, it has kind of resurfaced now because it hurts like hell. When you are accused of not being there for someone (even though I’ve tried my best) but to say it to me, knowing very well that me and Graham have been through hell this year – is just cruel and heartless.  

That actually reminds me of two quotations. My grandma used to say that what you throw behind you, you will find in front of you. Everything comes back, what you give is what you get returned. But also having friends like that you don’t really need enemies. 

So that’s me today. Not a very good come back to the blog but here I am again. 

Dark clouds on a blue sky

A little bit of time has passed again since I last wrote. I’m in a strange mood. Overall I’m fine. I’m not depressed and my anxiety definitely reduced. I have a plan what to do in a case of a set back. Not much is happening in life but that’s ok as I prefer when things are stable. I have enough of ups and downs for a while. I started diet again. I’m trying to be good Monday-Friday but allowing myself for a treat on Sunday. I eat what I want but measure the portions and calories. I know I should introduce more exercises and I used to exercise more but I don’t feel quite in a right set of mind just yet for it. Although I do know that exercise actually does help with feeling better.

But despite all of that…. life doesn’t feel like mine anymore. It’s a really strange thing to describe. It’s difficult to name in proper words. Everything is the same but at the same time it all changed. I think the recent events mainly did it but also I changed due to the events and due to the counselling. I suppose it all needs time. One more quote from the R. Brett book is “give time time” to work. It will take some time for the time to do it’s healing.

I live with a constant fear at the back of my mind that something bad will happen. The fear of a seizure is still there, but I can control it more or less. But so many bad news appeared during this year that I feel I have to be prepared for the worst. Yes, that’s an anxiety itself. I just realised. I prepare myself again to be prepared IN CASE things happen.  That just shows that sometimes writing or naming things helps to look at it from a different perspective.

I think that’s the main problem with an anxiety and depression. It’s being caught up in you own cycle of thoughts and not being able to look from outside. Until it’s starts to crack. Either by time or therapy or complete coincidence or a trauma. When it starts cracking there is a chance. But it’s difficult for it to crack. Throughout the therapy I was afraid that all my exercises and efforts will fail as one day I’ll just go back to the old ways of thinking… but now I realised that once you KNOW  what to do and that there is a different way – it is actually difficult to go back. You may be a long time – in between. Like me, suddenly caught up thinking old ways – but realising it. And after you realise you can do something.

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about friendship. I decided to stop contacting people first and see who will contact me from their own will.. so far not many ha ha.

I don’t know who reads this blog. I doubt anybody does lol I don’t think the person I have in mind certainly does. But I have experience an end to a friendship. A very abrupt end. And I’ve never realised it’s like in a relationship – someone may decide one day it’s not for them for one reason or another and walk out. They may put the blame on you. I don’t feel guilty but I feel very upset it ended as I didn’t see it coming. I know I can’t do anything and need to give this person right to chose what they want. But I do feel upset they think it was my fault. Or maybe it was an excuse to finish the friendship anyway. I was told I didn’t do enough and it’s a very strong thing to say. And it’s a difficult thing to take on when I know I did all I could. I wasn’t given a chance to explain myself. I feel in peace though in my mind. I probably could have done things differently if I KNEW how this situation would turn out. BUT I didn’t know. And also I did what at the time felt right. I only did what I thought was right. I have never ever wanted to hurt my friend. That would have been the last thing on my mind and in fact it would probably never actually gone through my mind. I trusted her and I respected her. I miss her. I miss our friendship. I tend to talk and work through problems. But I have to respect not everybody does. I’m not perfect. I’m far from perfect but I still think even I deserve a second chance…

So that was a black cloud on my blue sky. This year’s events is still a shadow on it. Everyday-ness is still greyish but there are people in much worse situations which much happier attitudes. Time. I just need time and I do believe it all will fall into places.

I just have to keep going and never look back.

Life is too short for long pity parties

“Life is too short for long pity parties. Get busy living or get busy dying”.

That’s the most inspirational quote I’ve read recently. It’s been a while since my last post and a lot has happened. I was thinking of writing sooner but I needed a right moment to be able to summarise everything.

Things are different. I got to the stage late August when I had to switch off something as I felt really pulled in all directions. I needed to rest and re-charge batteries and think what’s important. What’s worth concentrating on. What actually caused me to react like that was someone saying to me “I thought it finished now”. It’s quite common I think for people to think: ok so you had a rough time and now it’s finished, chemo finished… it’s all fine then, right? Well… no, actually it’s not that simple. Yes, I’ve been waiting all year pretty much for this nightmare to finish. And it has and ok so now what? Life is never going to be the same. Cancer is something which changes you and your family forever. You can’t go back to before cancer. You KNOW about it now. You revaluate your life. Your life is different.

When my father passed away I noticed something which now applies to few other situations in life. When he died, people all of the sudden decided into those who KNOW and those who DON’T. People who get it as they have been there themselves and those who haven’t got an idea. It’s not to say that those who don’t know, cannot be at the same time very friendly, understanding and empathic. But they haven’t been through the same.

Things did built up at the end of chemo, but I didn’t crumble. I put myself first and realised what I need and I did it. I felt proud of myself. I started to stand up for myself and believe that I can be right. I started to believe in myself rather then others.

I havne’t been at work for 3 weeks, I switched off that completely. It helped to narrow the  things which were happening. We went on holidays and I drove first time on motorways and did few hundred miles there and back! I was sooooo proud of myself. I can do that! I even kind of liked driving on motorways. Something I didn’t expected.

When we got back and I returned to work I realised I actually got now something in a shape of coping strategies. I have never been able to use them before. I learnt to understand that feelings are not me. I have feelings and they are temporary. It’s ok to feel frustrated, it’s ok to feel angry and it’s ok to feel worried at times.

It wouldn’t be possible without the counselling I had. I have finished now my CBT therapy, I have a catch up meeting in 3 months time to decide if I can be discharged. I have had a break in counselling as well due to holidays but I’m still continuing that. But I also discovered Katie Piper. I discovered her before the Strictly Come Dancing actually. A very long time ago I saved some programmes I thought were interesting on my favourites on Channel 4 application. And she happened to present one of them. I then researched her story and starting reading her autobiography. And then she actually announced she was taking part in Strictly. I so wanted to write to her but it’s pointless now when she is in the TV show as I’m sure she gets lots of post anyway. But I do admire her not because she is inspirational and she went through hell (and she did, and she is inspirational) but my magnet was the way she cope with anxiety. The way she described how she felt was exactly what I was writing here. I have minor PTSD no doubt. And I realised that people fall and get up from much more difficult blows that life gives them. And that what happened to us wasn’t good but it is definitely possible to lift yourself up. It’s all in your mind and attitude. You have to work hard though, nothing come easy. I definitely felt confused and had many moments of this not working. But then slowly things started to fall back together.

I was also recommended a wonderful wonderful book by Regina Brett “God never blinks”. It’s 50 lessons for life and they are amazing. Out of 50 everybody can find the ones closer to their hearts but the one which stood up for me is the one opening this post. Life is too short for long pity parties.

Ok life isn’t perfect and I know the road is not yet complete. I still have little set backs. I still feel very very vulnerable. I still don’t know if the seizures will return and if they do how would I react. BUT I have now moments when I think they aren’t as scary as I kept thinking before. Only moments thought but it’s an improvement.

Going back to work is difficult as my older daughter developed separation anxiety and she shows classic signs of anxiety now. And I don’t want her to be like me but I don’t quite know yet how to deal with it. So, things aren’t as easy as it may seem but I decided to play the positivity card. Let’s get busy living, not dying.