Rebuilding myself and my life after decades within an abusive family situation. I survived, but I plan to thrive … blogging about physical and mental health; wellbeing; social justice; creative arts; and more
Mindfulness: It’s quite the buzzword these days and is touted by some as a cure for many ills. Is it worth the effort? I think so.
My first foray into guided meditation, sometime in 2011, is etched on my memory. Andy Puddicombe had the perfect analogy for what I thought of as my horribly ‘busy head’ … cars on a motorway. There I was caught up in the maelstrom of the traffic, trying desperately to direct it and, at the same time, risking being mowed down.
Andy taught me that I can safely get off the motorway, that it’s possible to take a step back, that those cars can carry on speeding about but that I need not be in their midst.
Earlier ‘dabblings’ with relaxation ‘tapes’ (that long ago, yes) and CDs offering meditative exercises rather left me cold. I needed a guide to follow but found the voices grated and put me right off. Andy’s is a voice with the power not only to guide but to soothe, calm and assure me, all while sounding like he’s speaking only to me.
I’ve been a poor student, often distracted from my practise. Frequently I’ve resisted it for fear of having to face head on the horrors of grief, loneliness and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from which I was trying to distract myself to avoid being completely overwhelmed. I had lost of sight of the knowledge that mindfulness meditation can reduce rather than exacerbate my stress.
After a very long gap, I’ve tentatively begun to again make a habit of meditating daily. I’ve completed eight or so guided meditations, of either 10 or 15 minutes each, in the last two weeks. By the end of this afternoon I plan to have clocked up a consecutive run of four days. It’s early days! Meditation, and generally ‘being mindful’, do take practise. The more you do it, the more you benefit. It’s not difficult, not really. It takes some commitment and gentle effort.
I’m already reaping the rewards.
Meeting with my advocacy worker yesterday regarding the complaint we are submitting following my experience of the Intensive Home Treatment Team last year, I read my discharge letter for the first time. It contained such a catalogue of factual errors that it could have been written about somebody else. Memories of the mistreatment I received from some members of that team and new horror at the huge errors in the letter and the impact of them left me feeling very angry, sad and anxious.
I used a specific meditation for stress last night to help me to manage my feelings. Today I’m aware that my mind is regularly running away with thoughts, worries and memories of this distressing experience. It’s haunting me. I’m using mindfulness to help me to cope and to continue to function. Each time I notice that my mind has been distracted by this, I gently guide my attention back to what I want to focus on, such as writing this post, folding laundry, washing dishes, reading, watching a film or doing my physiotherapy exercises.
I’m using it in a similar way to help me to improve my posture and reduce some of my chronic pain. For example, each time I notice that I’m hunching my shoulders, I gently ease them back to where they belong. It helps me too in many more ways.
Mindfulness helps me to take one day at a time, to be present in the present moment, which after all is all any of us has; the past has passed and the future is not guaranteed.
What could it do for you?
I love Headspace. because it’s done exactly what it says on the tin; it’s given me some space in my head. (This is not a sponsored post, I receive no benefit, nor do I seek to, if you should check it out. I’m merely sharing what works for me.)
I slept well, extensively actually – fot around 12 hours – that’s been the way of things during this crisis. I either sleep a lot or I don’t sleep at all.
I’ve changed my bedding today, showered, cleaned my teeth, dressed, aired the bedroom and dusted the bedroom furniture. I’ve folded some clean laundry, washed a few dishes and emptied the dishwasher.
I read for a while, and I’ve played a few games of Mahjong. I haven’t played any computer games for years, but when an ad for a free version popped up on my tablet, I remembered that I had once loved playing Mahjong on some device or other. Within days I’d whipped through the 40-odd levels, finding it an outlet for my natural drive. I’ll admit I was disappointed not to receive onscreen fireworks or some sort of fanfare to mark the achievement :D! I’m still hoping to beat previous times but mostly now play because I find it mindful and therefore calming.
I’ve just shot about a foot in the air at the sound of my buzzer, I have a ridiculously exaggerated startle response. I pressed the button to open the street door without speaking into the intercom assuming it to be the early arrival of supermarket delivery of groceries that I’m expecting between 9-10pm. Delivery charges range from £7-£1; this slot is the cheapest.I haven’t eaten today so I’m looking forward to it arriving and having some supper. I thought my wait was over but with no sign of the delivery person nearly 10 minutes later, it looks like wishful thinking. I’ve stopped hovering by the front door, peering at intervals through the spyhole for signs of my shopping being lugged up the two flights of stairs to my flat.
The rest of the evening holds promise of further writing, making notes ahead of a planned meeting with my advocate tomorrow, and catching up with MasterChef before reading then sleep.
Note: I wrote most of this post on Sunday but became swamped by trauma symptoms and wasn’t able to finish it until today, Wednesday 5th.
My belly is full of wholemeal toast, eggs scrambled with spring onions and cheddar, seasoned with a dash of sea salt and lashings of black pepper.
I’m not a food writer nor do I aspire to be one, but I am inspired by at least two of them. My favourites, Jack Monroe and Ella Risbridger started out as bloggers, before books and the world of traditional publishing beckoned.
Until I reached ‘middle-age’ I had no real cooking confidence. I blogged about that and how that changed, here.
I have a difficult relationship with food. I have an eating disorder. There, I’ve said it, that wasn’t all that difficult was it? Actually, you know what, it really was; it’s difficult for me to be open about it.
I’ve probably had a tendency to struggle with food for most of my life, but there have been two periods where that struggle became a full blown eating disorder.The reason it’s so difficult for me to discuss isn’t because I feel ashamed about it in myself. I recognise it as an illness and accept that the trauma and abuse that I’ve experienced lie at the root of it. However, I am aware of the stigma that it carries.
Many people, including some medical professionals, scoff (I know, I couldn’t resist the ironic pun) at the very idea that binge-eating disorderis described as an eating ‘disorder’ at all. I’m just fat and greedy, right? If you don’t agree with that last statement, you might be surprised by how many people would.
Beat, the UK’s leading charity providing support for, and campaigning about, eating disorders, has this to say: “Binge eating disorder (BED) is a serious mental illness where people experience a loss of control and overeat on a regular basis.” You can read more on the Beat web site, here.
In recent years ‘fat-shaming’ has become ‘a thing’ and some have fought back against those who seek to mock, deride or in any way bully someone who is overweight. An element of ‘fat pride’ has emerged, with a rise in plus-size bloggers and models.
I’d like to be fat and proud. That’s not because I’m happy being so overweight, I’m not in the least, and that’s entirely because of the impact that it has on my health and fitness. I’d like to have that ‘fat-pride’ while I remain this size because I do not want to feel shamed or otherwise negatively regarded because of my size.
I’m never going to be without curves, that’s the way I’m built. I’m a pear-shaped woman with an ample bosom. I’ll gladly celebrate those curves, in the way that I’d encourage anyone to be body confident; body positive.
I want to beat my eating disorder and lose weight. I want to regain, and revel in, my fitness because of the positive impact that is has on my life. I did beat the disorder the first time around. I did it without help, not because I was trying to go it alone but because I wasn’t offered any. After regaining some control over my eating patterns, it was some years before I was able to lose the weight I’d gained as result of the disorder. I did it between 2011 and 2012, losing five stone.
I was inspired by the ‘Hairy Dieters’ television programmes, they focus on that old chestnut, a low calorie diet and increased exercise. The hairy ones aim to make low calorie options that taste good and satisfy. It takes effort to lose weight and every bit of incentive you can muster really helps.
After leaving my husband, I took up running in early 2014. In reality I took to walking on my treadmill and slowly built up to being able to run a mile a day, but ‘I took up ‘treadmilling” doesn’t have the same ring to it. (Click on ‘treadmill’ in the tag cloud on my blog homepage, if you’re interested in reading about my route to running.) I’ve NEVER been ‘sporty’ but I really grew to love running, or more likely the endorphins that the activity released, that and the vast improvement in my fitness and my body confidence.
I’m probably not quite back at my heaviest ever weight, I can’t be sure because my scales have broken and I can’t afford to replace them, but as a result of this relapse into an eating disorder, and so months spent in the grip of compulsive eating, I’ve gained at least six stones in weight over a period of around 18 months.
Last year I asked for help via my GP surgery and the Intensive Home Treatment Team (mental healrh out patient crisis service) many times, and with increasing desperation. I knew that this time I needed help to beat it. Despite my massive weight gain in a short space of time and a new diagnosis of very high cholesterol levels, I’ve been offered no help ar all.
My trauma therapist said we could do some work around my eating issues, but given we already have so many other high priorities stacked up, that’s not practical. The Intensive Home Treatment Team psychiatrist promised to speak to the local eating disorders service about the possibility of support for me there. She told me that she’d get back to me. I chased it up when she didn’t and was rudely told that I’d already been told “NO”. I wasn’t in a position to argue and didn’t receive any fuller explanation.
At least my GP’s urgent referral for trauma therapy had got me onto a two year waiting list … I love the NHS but have long found its mental health services to be chronically underfunded and often poorly staffed, and it’s trauma services (that’s the psychological version not A&E) rarer than hens’ teeth. Again and again I’ve turned to the voluntary (charity) sector, itself often cash-strapped with services oversubscribed. As a result, services often receive scant advertising.Many hours of research can be required to uncover what might be available, and then often complicated application processes follow. Recently I bagged a place on a waiting list for a ‘trauma support worker’ – essentially, someone to meet once or twice a month who can provide moral support, guidance and practical help as you work to rebuild your life. I’m due to reach the top of that list in early 2019.
But back to the impact of the eating disorder, I think that I’m now the most unfit that I’ve ever been, and that does not feel good AT ALL. In fact, it’s really rather frightening, the detrimental impact on my health is evident.
I am beginning to cultivate a more positive connection to food, and the beginnings of this new relationship were nurtured by those food bloggers, Jack and Ella.
Jack’s engaging blog began when poverty forced Jack to feed themself and their toddler son (Jack identifies as non-binary and so prefers the gender neutral pronoun ‘their’) for £10 a week. Jack’s no-nonsense style and inventive recipes are budget-conscious and also an excellent resource for.anyone seeking the confidence to cook from scratch.
Ella’s writing is more lyrical, hers is the poetry of food writing. Sometimes high-falutin’ ingredients could be off-putting if you’re a beginner or more especially if you’re low on funds. I’ve yet to try an Ella recipe, but still I savour her blog. I’m along for the ride, vicariously living her altogether nourishing relationship with food and cooking, and learning from it.
What both Jack and Ella have in common is that they have both introduced me to the idea that preparing nutritious food for myself can be a healing endeavour. The process of preparing and cooking food, chopping, stirring, whisking, can, and should be, a mindful, meditative experience, allowing for calm concentration and a break from a traumatised, troubled, or simply busy mind. You savour the process as much as the end result. There’s also achievement and satisfaction in both admiring and eating your creation, however small or simple! Cooking for oneself can be a nourishing experience, not just for the body, but also for the mind.
I particularly enjoy making Jack’s easy peasy Coconut Milk Soda Bread. Jack’s description of rocking a warm, snuggly bundle is my idea of a great twist on ‘comfort food’!
This weekend I’ve discovered the joy of baked eggs all kinds of ways.
I also tried a Sainsbury’s recipe for a healthy snack – roasted chickpeas – simply a can of chickpeas drained, patted dry and mixed with a teaspoon of smoked paprika, a teaspoon of chilli powder and a quarter teaspoon of both cumin and ground coriander, then roasted in the oven I really fancied these savoury nuggets but was disappointed with the results. I’d been expecting the promised crunchy snack but in reality felt I could’ve been eating cardboard!
Put chickpeas to better use and make your own houmous, it’s a gazillion times more healthy than shop-bought versions and tastes great. The easy recipe in the Healthy Living Yearbook is another favourite of mine.
I may have Complex Trauma but I’m not a complex cook; I’m a ‘spoonie’! Unfortunately, cooking often falls off the bottom off my to do list when ‘spoons’- a.k.a energy and the capacity to function – run out.Quick and easy recipes are my way to go.
I’ll discuss my efforts to again overcome an eating disorder together with my hopes for and also my reservations about seeking support via Overeaters Anonymous, in a later post.
How many of us don’t at some point feel worried about the future or dwell on some element of our past?
And yet the past, while it may influence our present, is utterly unalterable. Our actions in the present may yield future favour, but we cannot predict the future.
All any of us has is the present … to be lived, as far as possible, moment by moment.
I’m finding that difficult right now, because I don’t know how I’m going to pay the rent this month, but let’s face it … worry isn’t going to pay it! I could get hit by the proverbial bus tomorrow. It could be curtains. I may never need to make that rent payment.
I don’t have a death wish right now so let’s work on the premise that I will see the end of the month. I can’t magically erase my money problems but I can boost my ability to deal with them.
Mindfulness can help. Some find it easy to ‘live in the moment’, others find it more difficult to achieve. It takes practice. Even, as I discovered when I first tried it, just 10 minutes a day can make a difference … lowering stress levels … calming a busy mind … providing much needed breathing space.
Mindfulness is not a panacea for trauma nor even a cure-all for everyday ills, but, for me at least, the benefits on offer are worth the effort I must put in to my practice. It’s worth noting that it is an effort but not a strain, and that there is a difference.
This post concerns Trauma Counselling provided by a voluntary sector organisation free of charge via weekly 50 minute telephone sessions (free call) initially for 12 weeks, with the option to extend for up to 12 months. For the purposes of this blog, I’ll refer to my therapist as ‘Pea’. See this post for a brief round-up of my therapy history.
I rang in at 1pm only to hear a message informing me that all counsellors were busy. I should have got straight through to my counsellor at that time. I panicked momentarily, then tried again and got through.
This is my first experience of therapy delivered via the telephone. I would prefer face-to-face sessions because I believe body language is an important part of communication. The only other slight drawback is that my therapist is Italian and has a strong accent, which sometimes leads to misunderstandings on my part. I need to learn to be assertive and it will do me good to learn to ask her to repeat herself. I currently find this excruciating to do. Drawbacks aside, this is what is available to me right now and I am very much in need of therapy and so grateful to have it. On the plus side, as a #spoonie, if I am unwell I need go no further than my own phone and could have a session in my pyjamas if necessary!
I had missed my session the previous week, which should have been my first, as I was in crisis and feeling beyond help. Pea explained that while some of my previous therapists had asserted that they were in no way a ‘crisis service’, she has no such qualms. She said,
“My intention is to meet people where they are.”
I found this statement encouraging and scribbled it down into my bullet journal (I’m a recent convert) in order that I could remind myself of it.
I don’t remember quite how we got there but we moved on to speaking about my sense of my life having always been built on quicksand, and how that fuels my natural drive turbo-changing it to top speed. She commented that I was speaking quickly. I explained that I hadn’t been aware of that but that I felt my speech reflected my racing thoughts. I feel such pressure to change things, to do so much to improve my situation, to fully recover and thrive, and put firm foundations in place. I feel so overwhelmed by it all and so alone with it. I’m tired of always battling so very hard. However, the fear of being swallowed up by the quicksand ensures I remain hyper-vigilant and in ‘hyper-drive’!
Pea asked if I would like to try to put some foundations in place there and then. I readily agreed. She proceeded to lead me gently through what I immediately recognised to be a guided meditation/mindfulness exercise (See Take10 for free here to try a similar exercise for yourself). I was to concentrate on my body and its relationship with the chair on which I sat and, particularly, my feet on my wooden floor. Pea asked if I could feel the firm foundation beneath my feet. I thought yes and said so, but I also immediately felt a rapid fire thought – with the power of an immense wave – that, because my flat is rented, I could lose it at any time …
I persisted and ultimately, by keeping my focus on the moment … myself sitting on my chair … my feet, I was able to slow my breathing and my thoughts. The new thoughts that came felt like light clouds gently drifting by … I found myself thinking that yes I could feel that firm foundation, that solid foundation beneath my feet. Furthermore, that while I acknowledged that I have little money, do not own my home and there is a sense of insecurity in that, that right now in this moment it is my home and it is secure … and this moment is all that any of us have.
I’ve previously found mindfulness to be very beneficial but I’ve struggled to maintain consistent practice. I’m taking steps to change that.
This was the first time I’d felt at all able to shed the forever sense of peril due to the quicksand. I couldn’t believe that I could so quickly feel a sense of firm foundations! I said ‘Wow’ … and felt it. I also felt a sense of peace – which has hitherto been as scarce as hen’s teeth in my life.
Pea asked if I might like to take a piece of paper and draw something to represent that peace as we continued to chat. I already had pen and paper in front of me (they’re ever present). She also suggested using some colour and I (a very arty sort) instantly reached for fat crayons. What fun! I drew the word peace and shafts of yellow and orange light radiating from it while light clouds drifted by.
Soon Pea remarked on the time and we discussed how we would draw the session to a close and then did so. I felt that the 50 minutes had whizzed by but I also felt that we had connected well and that our first session had been both productive and valuable.
Much as last week, I have no idea where we will begin next session. There still seems to me to be so much to tackle and I can struggle to prioritise it. However, I shall aim not to worry about it, remain ‘in the moment’ and trust that it will come together as it did last week.
I spent the majority of 2015 ‘in crisis’. Between May and December I experienced my most severe depressive episode in a decade. It took me right off my feet, for the most part left me entirely incapacitated, and ultimately at risk of dying. I only began to recover in the days leading up to Christmas. January saw steady improvement in my mood. I was thrilled to find myself alive, having been convinced that I wouldn’t see Christmas because I had to die. I had hope again and, for the first time in my life, reliable, consistent support – which was to prove life-changing and to allow the final pieces of my life and self recovery puzzle to begin to fall into place.
February was rather more of a roller coaster of mood. I panicked as I first felt my mood decline, terrified of the depression taking hold and fearing I would be trapped in it again for months, or even years as I once had been. Depression can be paralysing.
Late last year, on a day when I was able to harness some capacity, I arranged to visit the local crisis centre – a voluntary sector project – to obtain support to build a crisis plan. It was a helpful appointment – my plan involved strengthening my fledgling support network and reaching out to speak to a worker at the crisis centre. The latter can be contacted by text, email or call … 24/7. A follow up appointment may then also be made for the client to visit the centre over the course of the next two days or a follow up call may be made to the client the next day, if more support is needed. It’s a good service. There is only limited provision of a similar type throughout the UK, certainly nowhere near enough to meet demand. Commonly, someone experiencing a mental health crisis, certainly outside of ‘office hours’, is likely to find attending A&E, where resources are stretched and often not geared to mental health, is their only option.
I feel enormously grateful that I now have access to appropriate crisis support. I experienced a four year period of serious mental illness some years ago. There was no specialist crisis support where I lived at that time, only an out of hours GP service that was stretched and, I’m afraid, in no way sympathetic to mental health difficulties. Telephone helplines, such as those offered by the Samaritans, SANE, Breathing Space (Scotland) and Supportline, although helpful, were no substitute for the services that are now available to me in a new area. I believe everyone experiencing mental health crisis has a right to the best, free care – 24/7. We are some way from making that a reality.
So, what is a mental health crisis? If you’ve had one you’ll certainly know about it; they are far from fun. Like those who experience them, they are varied and individual. A crisis might involve psychosis. For the uninitiated, that’s not where one wields an axe and becomes a killer as media depictions might suggest, but rather where a person’s perception of reality becomes mildly, moderately or severely distorted. Read more here. I thank my lucky stars that I haven’t had to experience it and have much respect for those who do. They’re not ‘loony’, ‘psycho’ or ‘sick’, but experiencing the symptoms of illness. They are as deserving of respect and care as anyone experiencing serious illness. A crisis might involve suicidal feelings, ideation and plans. Equally a crisis might involve loneliness, despair, fear or anxiety, impeding a person’s ability to cope or function.
For me, crisis is feeling suicidal, whether those feelings progress to planning to end my life or not, I don’t want to feel suicidal. As far as humanly possible, I want to avoid slipping that far.
Crisis prevention care is as vital as in-crisis care.
The increasingly stretched NHS is, in mental health terms, generally reactive rather than preventative, as limited funds mean limited resources and so limited capacity. In-crisis care is often woefully inadequate, crisis prevention nigh on non-existent. I was only able to access the support I needed when I was deeply in crisis, even after months of crying out to my GP for help with my rapidly worsening depression and suicidal ideation. The attitude was very much one of not to worry, you’ll be fine. When I described finding myself assessing elements of my home as means to end my life, my GP said that was OK, so long as I didn’t act on those thoughts.
No support was put in place to ensure that I didn’t act on them or to help manage and indeed, reduce those thoughts. Only when a friend, sensing that a suicide attempt may well be imminent, telephoned my GP surgery insisting they take action, did appropriate mental health support begin to materialise. My friend (at the time working away from home and 500 miles from the city where we both live) was correct in her assumption and may well have saved my life by at first listening, by continuing to listen until she was able to understand, and, once she did, by taking prompt and appropriate action.
Aside from a lack of appropriate sources of support, the symptoms of mental illness may themselves impede access to support. In recent months, despite having confidence in my local crisis centre (at least my ‘logical brain’ does) and having received much encouragement to seek support from it and other sources, such as my GP and my housing support officer, I have been unable to do so while in crisis or once I begin the slide towards crisis. This is because my depression rather has its own mind and it’s not supportive of my well-being, darn thing that it is! Depression makes me believe that I’m a burden and that no one can or will help me. That’s not what you need to be thinking when you need to reach out for support to manage your illness. You see my dilemma. I don’t feel that way unless I’m in the grip of depressive illness. That at least allows me to continue to devise and revise techniques to circumvent the obstacles to support.
I have made progress.
In February, with encouragement from my housing support officer, I was able to contact the crisis centre as my mood began to rise after a frightening few days of persistent low mood – although not so low as to ignite suicidal ideation. The contact helped strengthen my capacity to recover and continue to move forward. I was able to arrange to visit the centre two days later, in order to discuss my difficulty in reaching out as a mood slide or other crisis trigger occurs. This proved to be enormously helpful. I found my own answers, but having the time and space to discuss my feelings and thoughts around the problem with a crisis worker, is what enabled me to do so.
I realised that I had not been able to engage with either my crisis plan or my crisis/comfort box, despite working so hard to establish them to support me. In conversation with the crisis centre worker, I realised that I had been treating both plan and box as pariahs.
They reminded me of being in severe crisis – a terrible place to which I never again wanted to return – and so I shunned them.
I resolved to rename my crisis plan a rather more cosy support plan and to drop the word crisis from the comfort box. I also made a new, larger box and reworked the contents – a few of which are shown below. It includes, but is not limited to, the following.
Items for relaxation – such as a stress toy, herbal tea bags, a relaxation audio, a book and postcards to colour.
Photo frames to fill with images of the few who stood by me last year and remind me of the hope and support they offer me.
Assorted toys and other items from my free and brilliant Little Box of Distractions to occupy and distract a stressed mind are also in there.
For the first time I feel confident about accessing appropriate support when I need it – in the form of contacting a supportive friend, the crisis centre or a specialist helpline, whichever is most appropriate in the circumstances. I am somewhat less confident about accessing crisis prevention or in-crisis support from the NHS because of it’s failure to support me in the past and because of the limitations I know have been forced upon it.
Last week a mood slide was triggered by the unexpected discovery of a psychiatrist’s report from more than a decade ago. It details my poor mental state in the immediate aftermath of my disclosure of the physical and psychological abuse I’d experienced in childhood and beyond. I had some horrendous experiences within the NHS in those days, the worst when I was verbally abused by a GP, who went on to admit his wrongdoing but which was subsequently covered up and I was hounded from the practice. A mental health charity backed me but said that without family, a supportive partner or friends to stand and fight with me, I had zero chance of redress.
I still fear being that vulnerable again and know I have still work to do to recover from it. My current GP who, since my friend acted, has improved her support and so has been slowly gaining my trust – the first to do so since that event 11 years ago – is leaving the practice next month. Starting anew with another GP will challenge me, but must be done.
Faced with this triggered mood slide and associated flashbacks and anxieties, I did not panic and so trigger a further slide (well, OK, I did a teensy bit). I calmly and mindfully worked to ground myself, helping to stabilise me, and reached out to friends, Twitter friends and the crisis centre to obtain the support I needed to begin to recover my mood and confidence.
How I felt when I achieved this (delighted) is described on a sticky note held within the jar pictured above. It was made for me last month by that super friend. Her intention is that the happy thoughts collected within it can also help to comfort me at more difficult times.
Latest newswire: Mangled earphones are a thing of the past!
I heard mention of a ‘sound pillow’ on last week’s episode of the BBC2 TV series Trust Me I’m a Doctor. Instead of looking puzzled, as is often the way, I thought to myself … ooh, I’ve got one of those! I recovered it from the bottom of my wardrobe where I’d put it for safe keeping until I had time to try it out. I’d received it as a gift more than a year ago, but at the time my head was too full and life too frantic for me to have given it more than a cursory glance. Within five minutes yesterday I had it up, running and tested. I hadn’t realised it would be so easy.
If you follow me on Twitter (@heartsetonlivin) you might have seen me bemoaning the fact that I’d mangled not one but two pairs of earphones by listening to audio books in bed. I find it so soothing that I’m lulled to sleep. I then crush an earphone by accidentally sleeping on it! In a matter of weeks I’ve managed to ruin one set in its entirety and had been limping on in mono with Exhibit A …
My woes prompted sympathy … and some good-natured teasing … from Twitter pals.
So, what is a sound pillow and would I buy one?
It’s a pillow with a speaker inside it, and a cable on the side to be plugged into a smartphone, tablet or mp3 player. I have this one. I think it was purchased using an Internet deal and so may be available elsewhere for less than the advertised price.
Set up is a doddle, just plug and go. I use mine with my Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 tablet, because that’s what I happen to have. I have audio books and my favourite sleep meditation loaded on to it, and I’m also able to listen to the radio or music via wifi.
Sleep can be a challenge if you’re a #spoonie. Pain, anxiety, depression can all take their toll, and that’s just for starters. My recent episode of serious illness brought with it catastrophic sleep disruption. As my mood began to recover, I decided to revisit some favourite audio books, in the hope they’d help me to relax and also distract my mind from anxious rumination.
It works*, I’m pleased to say, and so does the sound pillow! I used it last night and happily fell asleep while listening. I found I had to play the tracks more loudly than I would if using earphones, but that’s no hardship. I’m lucky enough to now have a king-size bed to myself. Largely sleeping on one side, I tuck the tablet under the pillow on the other.
Using the sound pillow felt a little odd at first, but only because I’d become used to ‘in ear sound’ that, for the most part, moved with me when I moved. I soon adjusted, and found the best pillow spots for optimum listening. Once settled, I didn’t have to faff about with earphones or worry that my remaining one would be crushed. I have both a padded pillow protector and a normal pillowcase over my sound pillow. I didn’t find the sound to be obstructed in any way. I did have to adjust to being able to hear some ambient noise, previously blocked out by earphones, but this wasn’t a great problem.
If I had the cash and hadn’t received one as a gift, I think I would be tempted to buy a sound pillow. I am a new user, so I can’t yet report on its longevity potential.
*If I’m in need of additional distraction, I will play ‘Snake’ (remember that?!) on my mobile phone. I had to abandon my smart phone last year because I was skint and I’m using a basic old phone on loan from my friend. Anxiety is no match for Harry Potter audio books, read rather marvellously by Stephen Fry, combined with a few rounds of ‘fruit gobbling Snake game play’, I can tell you!
Alas, I haven’t yet found a way to combat sudden, unplanned waking, due to medication side effects, pain, nightmares or other irritation, but I live in hope … 🙂 .
N.B I have NOT been paid for this review.
This not a sponsored blog, nor do I want it to be. There are probably similar products on the market. I have chosen to review this product because I was given one as a gift by a friend, and because I think it may appeal to readers of this blog.
I’m doing OK today. I’m not dancing on the ceiling but my mood is nice and steady. In the terms of the mood app that I’m trialling at the moment, today began at less than OK (OK-), with the help of my routine and strenuous efforts to stay in the moment it quickly progressed to better than OK (OK+) before settling at pretty good. I certainly felt pretty good yesterday and I’m feeling pretty bloody marvellous to have progressed from being actively suicidal (actively in this case meaning making plans) to feeling pretty good in seven days, by way of mindfulness, exercise and a strict routine. That’s not to say that anyone who is experiencing suicidal feelings can ‘just turn it around’. If you’re not familiar with what it is to be suicidal then I’d ask that you please do not run away with that idea. I’ve been dealing mental and physical health problems and recovering from the effects of abuse for many years. I’ve learned a huge amount along the way and I’ve been lucky enough to have been able to apply a lot of it this week. That is gratifying, but doing so is also exceedingly hard work. It is, in my view and that of many others I’ve spoken to, a battle to recover.
Today’s treadmill stats: 12mins 35 = 10mins run (I upped the tread speed another notch today) 0.68 distance and 63.1cals. I enjoyed it today too.
Today’s further aims:
Make a vegetarian stew & this paté – except I’ll be using butternut squash instead of sweet potato – both variants are lovely!
Write a letter which cannot be put off any longer!
Give myself a manicure and pedicure
Take out the bins
Some further writing and/or creative journaling
Continue to build on yesterday’s eating really well achievement!
I had a really good day yesterday. I was productive, active and communicative 🙂 .
I remembered that when I woke late this morning feeling wretched after another disturbed night. I’m going to keep remembering it AND the fact the ‘staying in the moment’ really helps me, as I plough through my morning routine. It’s 10.22am, 135 reps and treadmill here I come!
The last 24 hours or so have, I think, been my most challenging since Operation Fight Back began.
I’m still sleeping badly and that’s making things difficult. I’ve woken each day feeling progressively more awful as the week has worn on. I’m tired of nightmares and waking feeling wretched. Despite that I’ve stuck to my O-F-B routine; it feels like a lifeline… an anchor, a tether to the right side of the tracks.
Getting through my exercises yesterday and this morning was hard. I find the treadmill easier than 30 reps of each of four exercises and as many as I can manage of the fifth, only attempted for the first time this week; today I managed 15.
Today’s treadmill stats: 12 mins 32 including 10 minute run = 0.65 distance and 60.5 cals.
I ate badly yesterday, not ‘bad’ stuff just too much. Tiredness leaves me at risk of overeating.
Today’s main further aim is to get out. I need some groceries. I’m also supposed to be meeting someone for coffee later, I’m just waiting for confirmation. I know it will be restorative.
Other aims for the rest of the day: Write an email and a letter (both have been on my list for three days, both are pretty important), clean the bathroom and cook something for dinner.
I have many scribbled notes in my notebook for potential blog posts. I hope soon to make the time to write them.