Into the darkness

That feeling of being detached

Of not being real.

Sounds seem distant

Except the buzzing silence in your ears.

Everything is in slow motion,

Only your response time could betray

That you are plunging into the darkness.

*** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***

Just felt like writing something.

Love,

Ellie xx

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Those bloody forms

As with any NHS funded CBT, I had to fill in my favourite forms ever* on the first, middle and last sessions. The PHQ9 and GAD7 (AKA those bloody forms) are measures for depression and anxiety respectively.

The scores are used to determine the severity of the condition, the cut offs appear to be up for dispute, but these are the scores they went off:

PHQ9 (depression)

0-4 none

5-9 mild

10-14 moderate

15-19 moderately severe

20-27 severe

GAD7 (anxiety)

0-4 none

5-9 mild

10-14 moderate

15+ severe

When I started, my scores were 18 (PHQ-9) and 13 (GAD-7), on the middle session 17 and 13, but by the last one they were 10 and 9. I know they are just numbers but I don’t think I’ve ever scored so low on them! And, even better, I think the scores decreasing actually matches how I really feel – a lot better!

I think my baseline is probably higher than the average person. So most people (without anxiety or depression) would score 0-5 on both as their baseline, but I actually think that even if things were amazing, I would never score below about 6-7 in either test. I am an anxious person and probably always will be, part of that is my personality. Likewise with depression, I tend to be a bit pessimistic and I am hard on myself and always have been, that’s part of who I am. I’m ok with that though, as long as my depression and anxiety are at manageable levels, it really doesn’t matter that I’m never going to score 0 on those bloody forms!

So I’m pretty pleased that according to my scores on that day, my depression has gone from the high end of moderately severe to the low end of moderate, and my anxiety has gone from the high end of moderate to mild.

Progress is good. I know the numbers aren’t reliable, for example when I completed the questionnaire the first time, I wasn’t entirely honest on the PHQ-9 and my actual score would probably have been 20+, but as an indicator, they are useful.

Love,

Ellie xx

*in case tone can’t be inferred here, this is definitely sarcasm!

Reflecting on CBT

I had my last session of CBT for fatigue this week. We were only allowed 8 sessions, but they have been quite spread out.

I found it really useful in some ways, but in others I am still dubious about using CBT to manage fatigue.

I am definitely more aware of how my fatigue, pain and mood are linked together. I have known for a long time that pain and fatigue cause my mood to be lower, but I came to the realisation that also my mood affects my pain and fatigue.

We looked at the “boom and bust” cycle, which is evident from my activity diaries. This is how it goes: I feel ok, so I make lots of plans and make myself busy (boom) but then it becomes too much, and I feel like I can’t cope, so I stop everything (bust). Then when I start to feel better, I start over committing to things to make up for my (perceived) failure, and so on and so forth…

Being aware of that cycle actually really helps. Even though that’s simple and anyone could see it, now I really understand it. It helps me understand my fatigue and also understand my needs. So now, when I’m feeling good and like I want to make LOADS of plans, I try to be more balanced. So, if I know I have a busy week, I try to leave the weekend relatively empty, or if I have a busy weekend, I make sure I have some weekends without plans. The ideal seems to be having plans on one day at the weekend and not the other, but that’s not always possible.

I think I feel more in control of my life than I did before. Now I am more aware of how certain things will affect me, I can sometimes control some of those things. I know that I will still make the same mistakes sometimes (hard to unlearn a life of constant busy-ness!) but I feel more in control and that makes me feel more positive about things.

The CBT helped me to change the way I think about things, and reminded me of the skills I learned before when I had CBT. I still find the thought traps really useful, I’m a big offender where they are concerned. It’s funny (in a weird way) that I have all these issues with anxiety and depression, because I spend a hell of a lot of time giving my clients advice and support for the very same issues I have myself.

Has anyone else had CBT for fatigue? (Or anything else actually?) How did you find it?

I’m planning to write several more posts on more specific things we covered in my sessions. I am feeling in a writing mood at the moment so I have lots of ideas for posts, just need to write them!

Love,

Ellie xx

Friday night

Friday night, sat at home, on my own.

This is a familiar scene now. Somehow Friday evenings are the worst. That’s the time I feel lonely. I put a series on the tv and I’ve spent the evening half watching, half focusing on colouring.

Colouring is so therapeutic. Something to concentrate on. Watching TV helps too, it draws me in.

But then I get to the end of the last episode and it’s suddenly so quiet. Lonely. Alone.

Friends matter!

I’m all smiles today. Tired, but happy. I’ve spent the weekend staying with my best friend, we had a lovely chilled time and it was so nice to catch up properly with no reason to rush around for once.

Friends are such an important part of wellbeing. In the 5 ways to wellbeing* (more info on this on the Mind website) connect is the first on the list. It has been proven that connections, social networks (in real life rather than Facebook!), friendships and relationships have a massive affect on wellbeing.

I am a very social person. I have a lot of friends and I like being around people. Sometimes Often I get socially anxious, especially when I’m around new people or new situations, and I definitely need my ‘me time’ too; socialising sometimes makes me very tired, but other times it energises me. I guess you could say I’m an extroverted introvert, or an ambivert?!

I know how lucky I am to have the friends and family that I have around me. When I am feeling low I start isolating myself, but I know this makes things worse. I have been reaching out a lot more lately, and have reconnected with some friends I had lost touch with. So please, reach out to friends and family, find ways to build connections in your life. Friends matter!

Love,

Ellie

*will probably do another post on the rest of the 5 ways to wellbeing

Easter baking

Seeing as it was Easter and I had a 4 day weekend, I’ve been doing some baking.

I had forgotten how much I enjoy baking, it’s a good way to get stress out – whisking, stirring etc. and it is really satisfying when the finished bake comes out of the oven!

I am a big lover of Mini Eggs so I searched for some Easter recipes featuring Mini Eggs, and I was not disappointed. I made Mini Egg cookie bars and Easter brownies using recipes from Jane’s Patisserie.com and will definitely be trying more of her great recipes!

First I went for the cookie bars, they were AMAZING when they were still warm! I think I very slightly over-baked them as when they fully cooled they were less chewy cookie dough and more fully baked cookie (but they were still good!) Here’s some pictures of the process (the gold bits are Galaxy golden eggs)

Mini egg cookie bars

Then I went for the Easter brownies. They have A LOT of chocolate in – dark chocolate, chocolate chips, Cadbury’s Mini Eggs and Smarties Mini Eggs. They are gooey in the middle and crisp on the outside, and full of textures from the different chocolate fillings. I kept checking them every few minutes after 15 minutes to make sure I didn’t over-bake them, and I think mine were done after about 23 minutes.

Easter chocolate brownies

I am taking the rest of the brownies into work, so hopefully my colleagues will like them too!

Love,

Ellie xx

Review: Jan-March

It’s the end of March which means we are already a quarter of the way through 2018. Where has the time gone?

I have been determined to make 2018 a better year, and I’ve been doing a little review each month in my bullet journal which is helping me notice changes, track goals etc.

I have noticed a lot of change in myself in these last few months. Even though I am definitely still having (quite a lot of) bad days, there are also the good days.

I wanted to do a quarterly review and look back at what I have done so far this year. So far in 2018 these are some key changes –

  • I am walking (at least) 10,000 steps pretty much every day now. This is huge for me as I was only doing about 3000 a day before I started working with the physio in November.
  • I am walking with my head up instead of looking at the floor all the time. I think this in itself helps with confidence, and is probably much better for my neck!
  • I am still keeping up with my mindfulness meditation. It has become part of my daily routine and I have done over 180 days in a row on my app. It is about more than maintaining my streak on the app now and I feel like I am able to take mindful moments in every day life.

I do a monthly review page in my bullet journal each month and I find that really useful to help me see my progress. I make a note of best moments, worst moments, favourite things and achievements from that month. This is definitely something I would recommend doing, as reviewing and reflecting is a good way to move forward and it reminds you of the positives rather than just focusing on the negatives.

I wondered about blogging my monthly favourites, so let me know if that is something you would be interested in reading!

Love,

Ellie xx