Treadmill Tales: Days 18, 19, 20, 21 and 22

Day 22 (that’s today) stats:

15 minutes in total
Three minutes jogged at 3.4mph
then nine minutes walked at 3.7mph
and finally three minutes jogged at 3.7mph

Total distance – 0.89miles and total calories – 80.1. 

I haven’t been slacking, I promise, I wasn’t able to use the treadmill on Monday to Thursday this week due to fatigue … and just to clarify as some people do get confused, fatigue isn’t the same as normal tiredness, it’s extreme tiredness, like someone just plugged the plug cutting off the energy supply, you cease to function. My fatigue is related to my Fibromyalgia. I have been active this week – busy days out of the flat on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, so I have had some exercise. I am still getting over last week’s virus and I’ve had a LOT of stress to deal with this week in the form of assessment appointments for NHS trauma therapy, which gobbled spoons. I’ll explain why that came to be so difficult in a separate post. Some days I have crawled into bed before 8pm, once at 6:30pm!

I’d planned to make this a 15 minute week on the treadmill, repeating my stats from Day 17 each day. As I had missed four days, today I decided to push a little past those stats and jogged for a total of SIX instead of four minutes. It was hard work ūüėÄ but satisfying … and I learned that I need to remember to remove my wig, if I’m wearing one (I have alopecia (female pattern balding), in case you’re wondering) before getting onto the treadmill because otherwise I really melt!

Treadmill Tales #1 and #2 

Two days down,  two days under my belt.

See yesterday’s post ‘Treadmill Tales: The Return’ for my plan of action. 

If you’re here for UBER stats you might be disappointed, I’m recovering from serious illness and have ongoing chronic conditions which mean I’ve got to start out really S-L-O-W-L-Y. 

Yesterday’s ‘five’ felt like it went on for longer than that (!) but I still felt the thrill of being on the treadmill and remembered how good it felt to run. I swallowed my frustration and walked as planned. I wasn’t paying huge attention but think my pace was 2.5 miles per hour.

I got on the treadmill just after 7 this evening, to my surprise really after a long, productive and active day. The ‘five’ flew by, I enjoyed it and felt I could’ve gone on for longer.my speed was 3.1 miles and I covered a wee quarter of a mile! 

Now I’ve had dinner and finally ‘flopped’ … all I want to do is sleep! 

Heart x 

I am awake and content to be so. 

I’ve woken this morning, for the first time in many days, without the feeling that I can’t bear to be awake.

This morning I did not so desperately clamour to again escape into sleep that I forced myself away from wakefulness and into a half sleep, punctuated by nightmares of the darkest variety. 

This is progress.

***** N.B. Hello again dear readers. It’s been a while since I posted, and there is quite a story a tell. It would be too large a task to try to bring you up to date all at once, and it would certainly overwhelm me, and perhaps you too. With that in mind, I’m going to do as a middle-aged American woman, with a passion for fly-fishing and a plethora of strategies for overcoming the overwhelming, once told me … don’t try to catch up, just jump in where you are. I trust that in doing  this the fuller story will, in time, unfold. This is likely to be one of many ‘bite-sized dispatches’. In the meantime, I’ll just say that it feels good to be back and that I hope you’ll encourage me in my quest to post regularly. *****

Asking for help in a crisis … or not!

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.¬†CRISISI 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.
  • A soapstone heart and fluffy bunny – both tactile –¬†to aid ¬†grounding techniques.
  • 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.

Someofthecontentsofmycomfort box

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.

HappyThoughtsJar

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.

Feeling normal, embracing normal …

I doubt I’m alone among survivors of abuse and people who’ve experienced mental illness in having wondered whether I’d ever feel normal again.

I think the word normal is actually of limited relevance when considering ourselves and each other. After all, what is normal? Here’s one definition:

Normal (adjective) conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected.

We do¬†tend to prefer¬†normal,¬†particularly when it comes to people. Dealing with those whose behaviour is usual, typical or as we expect – that’s our comfort zone. The unusual, the atypical, the unexpected, can be unwelcome, even alarming.

AreYouNormalSpeechBubble

Many of us do celebrate difference and embrace diversity. At the same time, prejudice and intolerance not only exist but are rife in some situations, invariably born out of a mixture of ignorance and fear. Ignorance here not rudeness, but a lack of knowledge. The fear born out of a lack of understanding leading to a unwillingness to tolerate or accept.

Having a mental illness or other disability can see you popped straight into the box marked ‘not normal’.

TheNotNormalBox

Some of us really love putting others into boxes and have trouble thinking ‘outside the box’. If you yourself think that way, it can get a bit lonely!

The ability to pass as ‘normal’ can help you to be accepted or at least tolerated. I’m quite good at pulling off the appearance of a functioning human while actually finding life quite difficult. I’d never have¬†guessed¬†you were .. a depressive/anxious/sometimes struggle with social confidence/have been abused¬†– is a familiar refrain. I’ve chosen not to wear a label around my neck declaring my impairments¬†for all to see. I tend not to define myself in terms of them. I am not ‘a depressive’; I do have a history of living with the illness Depression. I do not want to live in the box marked depression, or any other box for that matter. I have a toe, a finger, a memory, a passion, in very many diverse boxes.

I’m tidy and organised. I love theatre, books, coffee shops and tea rooms, charity shops and second hand sales. I’m positive and enthusiastic. I was abused in childhood and beyond and the effects of that on me and my life have been profound and far-reaching. I lost a parent to suicide and I’ve survived an attempt to take my own life. I live with a number of health conditions – they are mostly invisible but have a not inconsiderable effect on my life. I don’t have children. I don’t have contact with my family. I have some issues with eating, I continue to work to overcome them. I like scarves and earrings. I love recycling and reusing. I adore words and writing! I like public speaking. I love arts and crafts. I’m driven and ambitious. I’m compassionate and sensitive. I can be very chatty.

All that, and more, is my normal. It may not be yours, but it is mine, and proudly so.

One day recently, I found myself feeling of normal mood. That’s what prompted me to write this post. You see I haven’t felt terribly happy about being in a ‘normal mood’.

I’d like to feel happy, hopeful and free to such an extent that I catch myself smiling often, even laughing, at the sheer joy of it. I felt like that for more than three days in a row last week! This was a new feeling for me.¬†I sensed that, in the midst of my fifth decade, I am at last learning what is to feel free, even safe. I realised that I am finally beginning to thrive.

I wanted to always feel so bright and such delight, but my mood began to slide after an unexpected confrontation with a terribly traumatic period of my life. It came in the form of¬†a psychiatrist’s report on my mental state in the period immediately following my disclosure of childhood abuse, found while organising paperwork.

I encouraged myself not to panic about the decline in mood and confidence I was experiencing; I’ve learned that doesn’t help and that, in fact, it’s likely to make things worse. I calmly and mindfully¬†took care of myself¬†and took steps to reach out for some additional support… slowly my mood and confidence levels rose. They didn’t again reach the heights, but settled somewhere around OK, I suppose. I was not thrilled about that.

After years of work to recover myself and my life, learning to love and accept myself and processing the trauma I experienced, I can now celebrate my own brand of normal – with all of the quirks and imperfections that entails. I can learn to live with normal, rather more mundane, mood states. I may even learn to celebrate those too. Sheer joy and jubilation is wonderful to experience, but who gets to feel like that all the time? It seems impossible that I could ever tire of such joy and freedom, having finally found it, but if I had it for always perhaps I would.

Embracing the mundane mood may seem dull but it is normal. Everyone has ups and downs in life and of mood. It isn’t normal to be so depressed that you feel you have to die, as I felt when so very ill for many months last year. Today I’m not depressed, neither I am a fountain of joy, but I am OK, and I’m coming to realise that that’s actually a pretty good state of being.

Sound Asleep Secrets

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 …

mangledearphones
Exhibit A: One mangled earphone

My woes¬†prompted sympathy … and some good-natured teasing … from Twitter pals.

LongJohnHill mangled earphones graphic

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 … ūüôā .

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.

 

 

Operation Fight Back: Day 15

To catch up, I last posted stats on Wednesday; I didn’t run on Thursday because I had an early appointment and I didn’t run on Saturday because I was away.

Treadmill stats:

For Friday 14th (because I didn’t have time to post them then),¬†I ran for 8mins rather than the usual 10 because I knew I had a long day ahead, including travel.¬†Pacing is VITAL when you live with chronic health issues.
10mins 30 = 8mins run – 0.57 distance and 52.9cals

and today: 12mins 32 = 10min run = 0.72 distance and 65.5 cals

I’m particularly pleased to have run this morning and got back into the routine. I have chronic physical health problems and had a bad flare up after going to the gig the day before yesterday, so barely slept that night. I was still very much feeling the effects yesterday. I slept reasonably well last night – only waking briefly three or four times – and had a long lie-in this morning … so long in fact that it was midday by the time I’d finished my exercises and run. I cut my exercise reps in half from 30 to 15 to save time and energy this morning. I ran moderately with harder bursts.