CBT – core beliefs

I mentioned a while ago that I was going to be having CBT as treatment for my chronic fatigue syndrome/fibromyalgia, and as I am now half way through the treatment, I thought I’d give a bit of an update on it.

At the beginning, we did a pie chart of my problems. Highly featuring were depression and fatigue, and others were migraines, pain and anxiety. It was interesting to get a view of how much each issue was affecting me, and how they all link together.

We have been looking at my core beliefs and rules for living, and have identified my negative core beliefs – “I am not good enough”, “I am unlovable”, and as a result, one of my rules for living is “if I please everyone, it means I am good enough and people will like me”

But the thing is, I can’t please everyone. It’s not physically possible. I know that this is a deep rooted thing, it was probably already there when I met the ex all those years ago. I always had the need to please my parents, hence my preoccupation with getting a first in my degree!

During my relationship with the ex, that rule kept me safe. I knew that not keeping him happy would have consequences so it was important to do so. But then I was with S, and I had the overwhelming need to please him, it made me anxious and it didn’t work. It just ended up with him frustrated that I couldn’t make decisions, and me exhausted from trying to guess what would please him. That rule is not useful to me anymore, now it’s unhelpful and keeps me anxious and stuck.

Being able to identify this kind of thing is really important. I think the CBT has been useful so far, but there’s still a long way to go and only 4 more sessions to do it in.

I plan to write more posts about different aspects of my CBT as I go along. For today, I’m going to get an early night as therapy can be quite tiring. Every time I walk into the room suddenly I can’t stop crying which is exhausting!

Love,

Ellie xx

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A night feeling “normal”

I went out at the weekend. I drank cocktails and shots. I danced and sang (*ahem* shouted) and got home at 3:30 in the morning. The club was packed and I knew I should feel anxious, but I didn’t (thank you alcohol).

It was weird because that night (until the very end when I got a bit upset and overwhelmed once the alcohol started wearing off), I felt like a “normal” person. For so long I have avoided situations like that, or have tried but have been overcome by anxiety or fatigue. It was nice to be able to do something that most people probably don’t think twice about, but I usually do.

It’s now Wednesday and admittedly I am probably still feeling the effects (because it takes days for my energy levels to recover from things like this. Things I used to take for granted) but it was worth it. It was a good night and I won’t even let the end of it ruin that memory.

On another happy note, I mentioned that I was planning on writing a happy memory about each day to put in a jar, and I am proud to say that’s still going strong. Month one, done, in the jar. I also bought a pretty jar to use (although now that I’ve got it home and put 31 pieces of paper in, I’m pretty sure 365 won’t fit but oh well!)

Jar of memories

Love,

Ellie xx

100 days of mindfulness!

I reached 100 days of mindfulness in a row. I’m really proud of that, especially given how hard the last couple of months have been. It has become part of my daily routine – every morning my alarm goes off, and then I open the app on my phone and put on a short meditation. My favourite morning one is ‘welcoming the day’ on the app I use – Stop, Breathe & Think.

I would like to increase the time I do my mindfulness each day, but 5 minutes every day is a good start! I know that mindfulness is a really good tool in managing anxiety, so ideally I would use the skills when I am in a moment of panic! One of my favourite meditations (called ‘relax, ground and clear’) talks about being on top of a mountain and I really love that imagery, it puts me in a more relaxed state and it’s easier to tackle the day.

Another time that I find the app really useful is if I am struggling to get to sleep. When you are lying in bed trying to sleep and all of those niggling thoughts pop into your mind – did I send that email at work? I must remember to buy more milk. Etc. Or worse, the negative thoughts set in – “I’m useless”, “no one will ever love me” and so on… To clear my mind, I can put one of the mindfulness meditations on (often ‘falling asleep’ or ‘sound bed’) and then my mind focuses on my breath and I am much more relaxed so sleep comes more easily.

I know I’ve written a few posts about mindfulness and this app in particular, but I am a massive fan and I feel it could help others too! Plus, the logo is a really cute cloud with a face!

Love,

Ellie xx

Mindfulness: update

If you’ve read my last post you will know things are pretty bad at the moment. They got worse actually, as my grandma is now in hospital.

I’m trying to focus on the positive and all that because moving around isn’t helping. I’ve been doing a lot of crying and getting dehydrated which leads to headaches so trying to drink more water!

Also, today I hit 50 days in a row of mindfulness! This is the longest streak I have ever done and I feel proud. I do it now because I want to, not just because I know it’s meant to be good for me.

I have a routine, every morning when I wake up, I press snooze on my sunrise alarm clock and then put a mindfulness meditation on. I usually only do about 5 minutes but I think it’s a good start to the day.

Sometimes I do another one in the evening, especially if my mind is full and won’t let me sleep. I also sometimes use it at other times if I am feeling particularly stressed or anxious, or having scary thoughts.

I’m pretty proud that despite the week I have had, I have still managed to keep up with my mindfulness. And for a few minutes I have peace and I don’t feel like the world has ended.

Take care everyone.

Love, Ellie xx

The evolution of my depression

When I first got diagnosed with depression and anxiety, it was very much trauma related and I had flashbacks, nightmares, the whole shebang… (there were also mentions of PTSD from the Psych, which I am sure I did have). I was lost and depressed and I didn’t know who I was. My abusive relationship had taken my identity and confidence and buried them somewhere far far away. 

Fast forward over 6 years to today, I have dealt with a lot of the trauma. I still get triggered occasionally, but not multiple times a day like previously, and now I can walk down the street at home without being scared, and I can drive past the road sign that says the place name where he lived… all that “normal” stuff that used to be so hard and triggering for me. 

Now I have a different problem, my migraines and pain and fatigue have spiralled out of control. I wouldn’t say my depression ever completely went, but it was much more manageable, now I find a lot of my negative thoughts and depression and anxiety are around the pain/fatigue.

 I feel hopeless because I know that neither my migraines or fibro are curable (the consultants are aiming to help me reduce rather than cure the migraines, and to manage the pain and fatigue of fibro.)

Some days when the pain is bad or the migraines are bad and persistent, I find myself questioning the point of my life. Sometimes I feel like there’s no way I want to live like this for another 60+ years. 

My biggest fears are now that I won’t be able to do things. This week has been hard, it has taken everything I have to get to work and do my job, and it’s only Wednesday. It makes me wonder how long I will be able to work full time for? How long before I have to give up my dream of being a clinical psychologist (training, if I ever get into it, would be intense and fulltime – balancing placements, studies and research)? I am going on a really exciting trip next year with the scouts, and I am terrified that I won’t be able to actually go. The aim of the trip is to build a large structure so will involve a lot of physical activity and it is at altitude.

Clearly I am not feeling very positive today. Some days I do, most days I don’t. It is hard for me to accept the way that my conditions are affecting my life, and that they will always affect me. I always had the hope the one day I would overcome my anxiety and depression, but this is different, I know that this won’t go away. And actually even my psychiatrist said that we are working to manage my symptoms as I have chronic depression. Pretty crap.

Ok, negative post done. I am working on something more positive which I hope to post in early December – I am trying yoga this month. Also, I have a physio appointment tomorrow and they are going to give me an exercise plan for graded exercise therapy as treatment for fibro. I’m really hoping it will be helpful! Will probably write a post about it to keep you updated!

Love, 

Ellie xx

 

The evolution of my depression

When I first got diagnosed with depression and anxiety, it was very much trauma related and I had flashbacks, nightmares, the whole shebang… (there were also mentions of PTSD from the Psych, which I am sure I did have). I was lost and depressed and I didn’t know who I was. My abusive relationship had taken my identity and confidence and buried them somewhere far far away. 

Fast forward over 6 years to today, I have dealt with a lot of the trauma. I still get triggered occasionally, but not multiple times a day like previously, and now I can walk down the street at home without being scared, and I can drive past the road sign that says the place name where he lived… all that “normal” stuff that used to be so hard and triggering for me. 

Now I have a different problem, my migraines and pain and fatigue have spiralled out of control. I wouldn’t say my depression ever completely went, but it was much more manageable, now I find a lot of my negative thoughts and depression and anxiety are around the pain/fatigue.

 I feel hopeless because I know that neither my migraines or fibro are curable (the consultants are aiming to help me reduce rather than cure the migraines, and to manage the pain and fatigue of fibro.)

Some days when the pain is bad or the migraines are bad and persistent, I find myself questioning the point of my life. Sometimes I feel like there’s no way I want to live like this for another 60+ years. 

My biggest fears are now that I won’t be able to do things. This week has been hard, it has taken everything I have to get to work and do my job, and it’s only Wednesday. It makes me wonder how long I will be able to work full time for? How long before I have to give up my dream of being a clinical psychologist (training, if I ever get into it, would be intense and fulltime – balancing placements, studies and research)? I am going on a really exciting trip next year with the scouts, and I am terrified that I won’t be able to actually go. The aim of the trip is to build a large structure so will involve a lot of physical activity and it is at altitude.

Clearly I am not feeling very positive today. Some days I do, most days I don’t. It is hard for me to accept the way that my conditions are affecting my life, and that they will always affect me. I always had the hope the one day I would overcome my anxiety and depression, but this is different, I know that this won’t go away. And actually even my psychiatrist said that we are working to manage my symptoms as I have chronic depression. Pretty crap.

Ok, negative post done. I am working on something more positive which I hope to post in early December – I am trying yoga this month. Also, I have a physio appointment tomorrow and they are going to give me an exercise plan for graded exercise therapy as treatment for fibro. I’m really hoping it will be helpful! Will probably write a post about it to keep you updated!

Love, 

Ellie xx

 

A month of mindfulness! 

I think I have mentioned before that I use mindfulness meditation to help me manage my anxiety/depression/stress etc. 

Today I am really proud to say, I did mindfulness meditation every day in October! I try to do one in the morning before I get up and one before I go to sleep, just 5 minutes each time. I have been doing mindfulness on and off for a long time, but 31 days is the longest I have ever done in a row (32 now as I am carrying on into November!)

I use an app called Stop, Breathe and Think, it has a variety of different meditations, I tend to use the “welcoming the day” and “falling asleep” ones mostly, but there are lots of different ones. My favourite one is probably “relax, ground and clear” because the second half of it is about imagining you are on top of a mountain, and I find that really relaxing. 

There are lots of other mindfulness apps too – Headspace is another good one. You can also find meditation CDs in charity shops or MP3s online, lots of options!

Some days I struggle through my meditation, my mind keeps drifting away and I long for the gong to mark the end of it. Other days, when it finishes I feel like a weight has lifted. But I am persevering, and I want to extend it a bit and do some longer meditations. 

My 5 top tips for meditations would be:

1. Stick with it. You may feel silly at first. You may struggle to keep your mind on the words. But keep trying and in time you can learn to engage with your breath and focus on the current moment. 

2. Make it a routine. Now I know that when my alarm goes off in the morning, the first thing I do is put a meditation on. Whenever you choose, stick to that time every day and before you know it you will have a habit!

But…

3. Don’t stress if you miss a day. I am guilt of this one! In the past, if I missed a day I lost my motivation and would forget about mindfulness for a while. The app I use keeps track of the number of days in a row that you meditate, it’s great to see how many in a row I have done, but I have now learned to accept that sometimes I will lose my streak, I can just start again.

4. Leave your expectations to one side. Mindfulness is all about being in the moment, and instead of engaging with every thought you are meant to acknowledge the thoughts without judging them, and let them pass. It’s the same with expectations – maybe you think it’s a load of rubbish and won’t make a difference? Put that to the side and give it a try. Maybe you’re hoping it will change your life and be your saviour? Put that to the side too. The likelihood is that mindfulness is either of those extremes, but it might give you something positive. 

5.  Find something that suits you. When I started trying mindfulness I tried a lot of different apps. They all have different styles, different voices, different accents, different types of meditations. I think it’s really important that you find a voice you can engage with as it would be difficult to fully connect to the meditation if you are constantly thinking how annoying the voice is! 

Let me know if you give it a go! Does mindfulness help you?

Love,

Ellie xx

I can breathe 

This morning I woke up, I stayed at my boyfriend’s house last night. I woke up and said “I don’t feel anxious”, it was such a surprise that I had to say it! 

After he went to work I took my dog for a walk, my family are at a university open day as my brother is hopefully going next year so it was just me and the doggo. 

I took him to a lovely park that has a river and a wooded area. The colours are beautiful, I love autumn. It’s a bit windy, what with storm Brian on it’s way, so the leaves were blowing about and it was lovely. I walked through the woods while my dog ran around happily and I realised – I can breathe again. I felt at peace with the world, earphones in, leaves blowing about and not another soul around except me and doggo. 

I thought about taking photos because I wanted to capture the moment, but I realised I wanted to BE in the moment. Create the memory in my mind instead of on my phone, just take it all in. Besides, I don’t think a photo would’ve been able to get it quite right. 

It’s not a feeling I’ve experienced for a long time and it felt great. I don’t know how well I have explained the feeling or whether anyone else knows the feeling, but just wanted to share a positive post! (For a change!) 

I have a social event tonight so anxiety has reappeared a little bit, but it’s nowhere near how bad it has been for the last few weeks so I’m enjoying this time.

Hope everyone has a lovely weekend, don’t get blown away! 

Love,

Ellie xx

World mental health day

Today is world mental health day. It seemed wrong not to post today given that my blog is about mental health. I have been wondering for the last few days what to write today, but it’s getting late and no plans came to mind so I’ll just wing it –

It makes me incredibly sad that many people don’t seek help for their mental health because they are ashamed. It makes me sad that they don’t think their friends or family will support them (whether or not this belief is true – sadly it often is). You wouldn’t hesitate to go to the doctors about a physical condition, but for some reason it’s different if it’s psychological. Because people should just “man up”, “it’ll all be ok in the end, you’ll see” right? People should just “get over it” and “cheer up” right?

If only it were that simple. 

So if you’re reading this and you’re one of those people who is scared to speak out, I urge you to seek help. Getting treatment could lead to a much happier life and can prevent things getting worse, getting to crisis point. No matter how badly you think of yourself, you are worthy of help, you are great and you will get through this. And if you have some help to do it, that’s nothing to be ashamed of. Maybe it’s even brave to face up to our struggles, to ask for help!

And if you’re one of those people who thinks people should just “cheer up” and “get over it” then I urge you to do some research, find out about mental health. The research speaks for itself, mental health conditions do exist – they affect the brain chemistry, they have a massive impact on people’s lives and it’s not their fault. Try to understand what it must be like to struggle daily with mental health issues and then maybe you will see that we can’t just “cheer up”, it’s not that easy. 

Maybe you just don’t know what to say? That’s ok! Sometimes all that is needed is a listening ear, sometimes being here is enough. We don’t need all the answers, but we need to be taken seriously, we need someone to talk to, someone to do their best to understand. That is enough, there are experts for the rest of it, but you – the family member, the friend – YOU are who we need to support us when things are bad. 

And for those of you who are fighting your personal hell each day, keep going. Things can change, no matter how hard it seems. Seek help when you need it (whether professional or support from a friend/family). Take time to look after yourself, I am a big believer in self care. Sometimes you feel selfish and worthless, but you are not, you simply need to look after your mental health as you would your physical health. 

I challenge you all to do something to help… Raise awareness, post on Facebook or Twitter. Fight stigma by challenging people’s beliefs, by calling people out on jokes about mental health. Ask someone how they are (really mean it) and listen to their answer, be there as a listening ear instead of rushing off as usual. Text that friend that you haven’t heard from in a while, smile at the old lady you see at the bus stop. Do something nice because you can. The world needs more random acts of kindness. 

Together we will get through this, together we will fight stigma. 

Lots of love,

Ellie xx

Hospital season 

On Monday is my next hospital appointment. I am in the strange situation of having 5 hospital appointments before Christmas. I find that embarrassing, ridiculous. I guess this is the life of someone with multiple long term conditions. This one is the psychiatry appointment. 5 different appointments with 5 different departments of the same hospital! 

My anxiety is pretty bad at the moment. Finding myself avoiding things more than before. Mainly social things. I am considering asking to try another medication. We will see. Is it worth the Side effects? I’ve already tried at least 6 antidepressants, but there are still more options. 

Time for bed said zebedee! 

Love,

Ellie xx