Category Archives: Bad day

A day in the life… 10 February 2015

The following is the unedited version of the A day in the life… post I submitted for the mental health blog project for 10 February 2015. I don’t know if that post will be published, but this is the full version of what I submitted (I had to cut it down by over 50%). It’s a bit long, but I think it gives you an idea of the way the thought processes happen when someone is experiencing stress and anxiety. 

Quick bit of background… suffered from depression on and off over the last 20 years (if not more) add to that the anxiety that often surfaces as the depression wanes, the constant state of worry and stress that seems to be my normal state, and I can now add ME/CFS to my portfolio of long-term conditions. Hooray.

My ME/CFS seems to be stress-induced so learning to manage my stress and anxiety is very important but my system is so weakened right now from two-and-a-half years of near-constant stressors it doesn’t really take much for me to relapse into depression, anxiety, and severe fatigue.

So today, Tuesday, 10th February I’m trying to muddle through the day feeling very tired and very anxious. Despite the fatigue, I struggle to sleep through the night so wake up many times. Last night was a typical night. I turned the lights out around 11pm and was probably asleep within 20 minutes, but between 1130pm and 650am, I woke up 3 times on my own accord, and one further time due to an inconsiderate neighbour. Each time I woke up I couldn’t get back to sleep for at least 30 minutes. I wondered what time it was, how much sleep I was losing, and how on earth I was going to manage at work. I was definitely going to cancel my social plans. So much for that work/life balance.

Then I started thinking the dark thoughts.

What is the bloody point of life? Everything requires so much effort, and I can’t even manage bog standard things like sleeping let alone bathing, eating well/regularly, exercising, keeping my home tidy, having a physical relationship with my other half, hobbies, etc., etc. So again, what is the bloody point if everything is a struggle? What if this relationship fails? What if I lose my job? Maybe I’ll just move home. I don’t care if I’m a 40-something year old, I just can’t be bloody bothered taking care of myself and putting in effort to do much of anything. Why can’t one single aspect of my life be easy and not require so much thought and effort? Absolutely everything feels overwhelming.

Maybe I should end things with my partner? I’m not worth the time or effort. I’ve gained a ton of weight, I can barely walk up a flight of stairs without feeling winded now. I have absolutely no interest in sex, holding hands or even kissing. I actually cannot stand to be touched by him. I tell myself this is because I don’t love my partner and am not attracted to him. I tell myself I was never attracted to him so why did I bother going out with him in the first place? Am I really going to move in with him in a few months? Why do I seem to be so bad at relationships?

I’m still trying to get back to sleep. I’m having conversations in my head with my partner, my line manager, the occupational health GP, the humans resources people. I’m apologising for being so useless. I’m trying to explain things.

Eventually I get back to sleep, but the neighbours alarm clock wakes me up at 0650. It goes off again 10 minutes later. And 10 minutes after that. The cat now wants out because he’s been woken up because I was woken up. I am feeling so tired from a night of so little restful sleep, so much anxiety from my own thoughts, dream upon dream that can be described as nothing other than anxiety dreams. I am trying to figure out what excuse I can make to avoid going to work, or at least how I can minimise my exposure to the office. I can find no way to do this since I’ve got meetings scheduled with occupational health and human resources regarding my health and capability for work. (No wonder I’m so full of anxiety and worry.)

I fall back asleep for another 90 minutes. I get up around 0845. This is closer to when I was due to wake up anyway. I get out of bed and tell myself to get into the shower. I fight with myself about this. ‘But you showered yesterday, and washed your hair, you could get away with not showering since you did fuck all yesterday’. I decide to shower anyway, it will help to wake me up.

I’m now showered. I feel a bit more awake. I get dressed, I eat a small bowl of cereal. I check I have put everything in my bag that I need — wallet, work notebook and papers, security badge to get into the building, papers from the ME/CFS clinic to take to my two health-related meetings. I decide to cycle to work. I used to be an avid cycling commuter, not a fair weather cyclist by any means, but over the last two years that has waned. This is the first time in a month I’ve been on my bike. I go slow. My joints hurt. I’m tired and I’m only halfway there. I think about stopping at the bus interchange and getting a bus the rest of the way in, but this would still mean a big walk at the other end. I push on thinking about how hard cycling home will be — all those hills.

I get into work and everyone is in. My heart sinks as I remember that I’ve left my iPod charging at home meaning no music to help me focus on my work and not be distracted by all the sounds of the office. One member of staff who only comes in once a week walks in. She vocalised every thought, speaks to her computer and phone, and generally grumbles about everything. This is going to be a long day.

My occupational health meeting is just before lunch. It’s a GP who’s handling my case. I bumped into the woman who previously handled it  and said a few very kind things to me. She acknowledged that some recent issues I had with work shouldn’t have happened and have exacerbated my health problems. Now if only the people making the decisions could understand this. The GP was brief, almost like it was a regular surgery appointment but this appointment allowed up to 30 minutes. I felt rushed. I wasn’t able to convey the problems I’m still having with work making decisions for me instead of including me in the decisions, or understanding that some of their processes and decisions are causing me further anxiety and stress leading to a relapse in fatigue. He did agree with the changes that I’ve implemented to work only part-time for the time being was a good decision; and said that the increase back to full time shouldn’t be rushed. At least I know there is support there.

I had to go into town to get lunch and collect an order. The lunchtime crowds really bother me so I avoid going to town normally. I just kept my head down and got what I needed. I made healthy choices for lunch, but bought snacks that I really shouldn’t have given they’re ladden with salt and sugar that I don’t need.

I had my meeting with HR after lunch. It started off OK, but was they mentioned that I’d obviously had some problems with my attendance recently so they wouldn’t look at ‘data’ regarding my working ability. I told them why I have had a recent relapse that has caused absences. The situation at work took many months to resolve causing a lot of stress, but they didn’t want to hear it. I was told it was all my fault. They didn’t want to hear that there was an issue with policy, only that the situation was my own fault. I’m feeling let down, again, frustrated and angry about it. Just when I was beginning to let it go.

Luckily the meeting finished near the end of my workday anyway so after tidying up a few things on my desk and replying to a couple of emails I was able to leave. It was a very unproductive day at work and the last meeting with HR has left me demotivated again.

Afterwards I spoke to a very good friend and colleague about the meeting and what was said. It left him feeling outraged on my behalf. We both continue to be surprised at how poorly things are handled for those of us with invisible illnesses. We joked about going home and cutting off a leg.

Cycling home was even harder than I thought it would be. I had to get off and push at the first big hill. After that I managed to stay in the saddle  in the lowest possible gears going at a very slow pace. It took me almost 45 minutes to get home. This is 15 minutes slower than when I’m moderately fit. I was proud of myself for not giving up and getting the bus home, and for cycling up most of the hills.

It’s nearly 7pm and I need to think about dinner. I’ve been thinking about dinner for more than an hour actually, but I’m nowhere near a decision. There’s food to be eaten in the fridge but the temptation to get a pizza delivered is really strong. I’ve already snacked on fudge… I’ve decided on an easy dinner of a quesadilla and salad.

It’s been a long and emotional day so I want to go to bed early-ish, but it’s difficult since I know I’ll wake up far too early if I go to bed too early. I can’t ever win!

I’d make a terrific Catholic

When it comes to feeling guilty, I can say that I have well and truly mastered it. I think I probably mastered it early on in life. There are pictures of me as a child where I look solemn when the situation didn’t call for looking that way — I think it’s just how I physically express my feelings of guilt.

And my feelings of guilt aren’t ‘Oh I ate entire box of chocolates’ (OK, sometimes they are), but guilt for things which I often have no control over. This past week I had an email exchange with my mother who is recently retired. She discovered that many of her contemporaries have giant nest eggs while she has the smallest nest egg as she had to restart her savings/retirement planning several times in life for various reasons. She survives on her feeble savings, and a very small stipend from the state. Her friends are shocked that she can manage to live on so little. I ended up feeling incredibly guilty about her state of affairs. It also makes me extremely anxious about my own affairs.

She’s not struggling to the point where she’s going hungry or avoiding using the heating/gas, but when things come up — a new boiler, unexpected repairs to the house, etc. — it does hit her hard. I didn’t have anything to do with her state of affairs yet I feel somehow responsible. I was able to quickly get myself out of that funk by reminding myself that she’s had some very tough times in life, and had to make some hard choices, but I wasn’t responsible for those things. Unfortunately, it just led me down the slippery slope of self loathing and finding other reasons why I should feel guilty.

Frankly, it ruined my already shitty weekend. I was already having a mentally unstable Saturday, and this occupied my Sunday.

I felt guilty and inadequate for where I am in life. I’m unmarried, no children, I rent, I have a smallish pot of savings, I have a 10 year old car and a 15 year old television, and a wardrobe full of clothes that don’t fit because I keep gaining weight. My pantry and fridge are bursting with food yet there’s nothing to eat so I resort to toast, ice cream, and endless cups of tea/coffee. I felt guilty because all the things I said I’d do this weekend — bake, cook a real meal, finally go swimming, vacuum/mop the floors, not sit in front of the TV watching TV just because it’s there, no excessive napping — didn’t happen. I failed on all counts. I also didn’t bathe. I did manage to do three days worth of dishes so that’s something I guess.

It started off well on Saturday morning, getting up on time as I had an appointment first thing (don’t think for a minute I didn’t try to think of ways of getting out of this appointment without penalty). But by lunchtime, all my plans had gone out the window. I was firmly back in bed having the first nap of the day. I awoke feeling more tired than when I laid down, yet I had managed to fall asleep with little effort. I began to panic as I had another appointment that afternoon. It required me to drive quite a distance, but I wasn’t really feeling up for it. I started feeling guilty. I was going to have to cancel at the last minute. There was no way I could actually safely drive. I dislike driving at the best of times, and find it tiring, so this situation was definitely beginning to feel like it was totally out of the question. I got in touch and said I wasn’t feeling well. Luckily the person was extremely understanding and said if roles were reversed, they’d be feeling the same way (they suffer from Crohns). Relieved, I went for nap* number two.

From Jillian Fleck's Tumblr - http://jillianfleck.tumblr.com/
From Jillian Fleck’s Tumblr – http://jillianfleck.tumblr.com/

I felt slightly better, but still guilty. People had made special arrangements to accommodate me and I wasn’t even going to turn up. Worry not as I beat myself up about it all night. I watched TV that didn’t need watching. I eventually went to bed, taking one of the sleeping tablets my GP prescribed me, and went to sleep. Sunday morning I woke up determined things would be different.

Things weren’t different. In fact, they were possibly worse. I wanted nothing more than to escape. I felt like I’d let everyone down, even people not involved! I was thinking about talking to my boyfriend and telling him he’d be better off without me, and to find someone who wasn’t so bloody lazy and such a downer. I spent Sunday having my very own pity party.

Despite feeling like I’d let so many people down in such a short time, it really boils down to the fact that I’d let myself down, again. I, once again, took the easy route. I keep telling myself that I need to push myself a bit more, that I can’t just take the easy route all the time. Nothing will change if I continue to do that. I must find ways to take charge of my life, and motivate myself. I know that there would be positive changes in me if I got up and exercised. I would feel better about my physical appearance, and I’d have energy that I know I don’t have due to weight gain (it’s incredible what an extra 10lbs** can do to you physically). It would help me set a routine which I desperately need right now.

So that’s how my weekend went, how was yours?

* When  does it stop being termed a nap? I mean, nap two lasted nearly 2.5 hours! That’s a sleep really, right?

** 10lbs hahaha as if. More like 20lbs.

Too much worry

I have always been a worrier. It’s never been a worry about what people think of me, or how I’m dressed though sometimes those things come into pay, but a greater worry about the wellbeing of people, animals, the planet. I get so frustrated when I see people being inconsiderate towards others when there are some really simple things they can do. I do take into account that these inconsiderate people have their own things going on that I’m not aware of so I’m not super critical of them, I just get frustrated with the complacency of others.

For example, I live in an area with incredible kerbside recycling facilities — there’s very little we can’t put in our special recycling bins right on our doorstep — yet I see so many people in my neighbourhood either recycle sporadically, or just treat the special bin as a second landfill bin. I understood more about people not recycling when it was inconvenient – having to store and haul your recyclables to potentially different locations is a pain, but it’s so easy now, why don’t people do it? Some people feel it’s ‘big brother’ and they should be allowed to do what they want. It’s an odd selfishness that I don’t understand at all and it really occupies way too much of my time getting myself worked up about the way others behave.

I try to step back and think that I can do what I can do to reduce my impact on the planet, but then I look at what others around me do and feel so much despair (I can actually feel my heart rate increasing as I type this) that people can’t see beyond the end of their noses how their actions affect other people/places. Why should it all be left up to people like me with a consciousness about our impacts? I know some of it is down to knowledge/education, but I know plenty of people who are well aware of these things but make no changes to their behaviour.

I get to the point where I start to think ‘What’s the freakin’ point of you being so concerned about these things, recycling every little scrap of paper, beer bottle top, etc. when so few around you do nothing? Why don’t you just give up and follow the status quo? You’d probably be happier since you wouldn’t be worrying – you’d be blissfully ignorant.’ But I can’t seem to do this. I can’t seem to not care about the environment/sexism/animal welfare. I end up feeling guilty about digressions. And there are so many campaigns about every cause now that I’m inundated with the latest atrocity several times a day via Twitter, Facebook, email, and various news outlets. I can’t escape it.

How do I continue to live by my ethics yet not get all het up when others don’t show the same concern as me when they have the same access as me to things like recycling or public transport? Getting het up just leaves me angry, frustrated, and in despair that things will never improve. And I am very well aware that this causes me mental anguish that will eventually lead, yet again, to a spell of depression. (As I said, I do cut people slack in many ways since I don’t know their whole story — e.g. the woman around the corner that works in the same building as me yet drives into work instead of taking the bus when there are literally dozens of options for her. While yet she complains about having to go in extra early because of traffic and the price of parking her car everyday, she may have very good reasons for driving instead of using public transport.)

I need to find ways to do my bit for the things that are important to me, and not get angry and frustrated with others not practicing the same ethics as me. Any ideas? I guess the first is to unsubscribe from all news feeds on Twitter/Facebook, and see what I can do to manage the emails, and avoid the news on TV/papers/online as best I can. It’s so easy to get sucked into these stories and become enraged, and then have no real outlet for that rage.

I could go on in a rambling sort of way as I have, but I’ll end here. If you’ve any ideas on what I can do to keep myself living my ethics, but also not feeling guilty  if they slip or I can’t keep up with them, then please let me know!

Creating, and keeping, new habits

Oops! Went a bit quiet there!

I’d been feeling so great the last couple of weeks that I did that thing where you forget that the reason you were feeling so good was because you were practising new habits to get you back on your feet. I’d been sticking to my sleep regime, using my SAD light, eating big plates of veg, getting exercise… all those things I mentioned in my last post about making changes.

These new habits hadn’t been practised long enough for them to become semi-automated habits, and a small change in my current routine really muddled them up. I also think that in some way, I had stored up a bit of energy, used it, felt OK, so kept using it without remembering to top it up essentially leading to me bankrupting that energy store.

NYT_newhabits

Last week I had an absolutely amazing few days of participating in some rare opportunities and social events. I enjoyed every minute I spent doing these things. A couple of them left me with such a natural high that I think I survived on that for a good 48 hours. It made me realise that I need more of these types of events in my life; that natural high was totally addicting*. However, I don’t need three such events in three consecutive days. I am really paying for it now.

I’ve been completely wiped out this week. The fatigue has required me to take additional days off of work that I hadn’t planned to which of course has made me feel a bit stressed out since I’m missing work, work will be piling up, and I’m trying to push myself and not take the easy route.

Creating, and keeping, new habits is incredibly difficult. I guess what’s helping me is that I know that if I get back to the habits I started, I’ll get back to where I was a couple weeks ago and can build up to better levels of energy again. And eventually those habits will not need conscious upkeep, they’ll just be a part of my normal routine and I won’t have to think about it.

* I am not about to take up extreme sports. That’s a different natural high that I’m not particularly interested at my age!

Image from the New York Times article Can You Become a Creature of New Habits?

Learning my limits

Depression and anxiety do things to your body and mind you didn’t think possible since it’s not a visible illness. You can’t concentrate, you’re restless and exhausted at the same time, you can’t sleep, but you can’t be awake. It’s an illness full of contradictions. This is my experience — I become physically and mentally fatigued and really struggle to function at all. Absolutely everything in my life suffers for it — work, relationships, hobbies, house keeping, personal hygiene, eating healthily, exercise. Did I miss anything?

recovery

My mental health is recovering well. Thoughts are buzzing around my head. And not the ‘Why me? Why am I not good enough? Why can’t I just get on with it? Why do I struggle with life events every single one of us experiences? What makes me so ‘special’?’ No, these are energetic thoughts. Thoughts of what I want to accomplish at home and work.

However, my physical fatigue is slow to lift. One day I’m great. I have the energy to go out and do something casual with friends for hours on end. It all feels fine and manageable while in the moment. However the next day or two, I feel totally fatigued. I often worry that I may actually have ME/CFS. ME/CFS really is a disease I wouldn’t wish on anyone. I see friends and acquaintances with it and the suffering they experience. They lead little to no life at all and I feel for them. And I am frightened that this will be me.

I’m trying to find my limits with regards to energy. It’s not the physical exertion of exercise as it is maintaining a constant level of being ‘with it’ at work or out with friends. I have to quit thinking ‘well, I feel OK actually, so yeah, let’s go for another drink’ or ‘Yeah, I’ll stay on at work another hour then do errands afterwards’. It just isn’t working for me right now to push myself that little bit further. I pay for it the next day or two. I miss out on opportunities that I actually really wanted to take part in because I pushed myself that little bit too much the day before.

It’s not really any way to live by missing out on the things I want to do any more than it is to be completely held hostage by depression and anxiety.

Recovery image from ??? – found via Pinterest, but link back to original.

Today it got the best of me

Yesterday I had felt enough was enough. I felt like I was constantly taking the easy route and not pushing myself to take up new (yet not new) habits.

I wanted this morning to be one where I woke up feeling refreshed and functional, where I could manage the basics of having a shower, getting dressed and fed, and getting to work. All things I used to manage in the not too distant past. (Well the feeling refreshed thing has often been a struggle truth be told.) Yesterday I planned my evening so I could do what needed doing, essentially eating and packing my bag for work, so I could get a good rest and start back on this road to energy recovery. I checked my alarms, read for a few minutes then put out the light.

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Unfortunately sleep only came in restless fits. My alarm went off and I couldn’t believe it was time to get up already. I got up, stumbled around and just felt flat. I was so frustrated that all my efforts to get a good rest failed.

I tried to do some work, but only became more and more frustrated with the exhaustion. As I said yesterday, the frustration is down to the depressive mood lifting and the brain beginning to function almost normally, but having no energy. Once I’ve done the basics in the morning — bathing, getting dressed, and eating — I feel like I’ve used up most of the energy I had regained over night. My head is swarming with ideas and activities that I want to implement personally and professionally but the lack of energy is not allowing it to happen.

Today that frustration reared its ugly head in the form of tears. I actually began crying at work out of frustration. I don’t cry at work! I don’t do much crying, even when crying is called for. This was so out of the ordinary that it startled me. It has also woken me up to the fact that I am still recovering, and these changes can’t happen overnight despite how desperately I want them to.

hang in there-265x358

The challenge with this is even though I recognise it, and some friends/colleagues are sympathetic, I worry about The Others. The Others being those who don’t know my mental health status, or care, and their opinion of me personally and professionally.

Two steps forward, one step back…