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

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Progress

Progress is in the small things;

It’s getting through a whole CBT session without crying,

Going through a day without thoughts of self harm,

It’s feeling happy, even for a short while,

Remembering what it is like to feel proud of myself,

When the smile is real and there is hope for the future,

Making plans which I genuinely look forward to,

Little by little, step by step:

That’s progress.

Love,

Ellie xx

Safety net

Scared of being alone,

Missing the way you smile

And how you touched my hair

Wanting to be in your arms,

To be in my safe place with you.

Safety has gone now, I miss him. (I just re-read that sentence, when I wrote ‘him’, I meant S, but saying I miss safety and that S was safety to me is just as true.) I am doing ok most of the time but sometimes I get an overwhelming wave of sadness. Today it was while I drove home from work, tears streamed down my face. No trigger, just the feeling of loneliness, emptiness. I know that it is for the best, I would never have ‘grown up’ and taken responsibility for my own wellbeing if he didn’t leave me.

I am trying to take control of my life now; I made a bucket list for 2018, I have started my CBT for fatigue (will write a post on that soon), I am focusing on the amazing friends and family I do have and even reconnecting with some old friends. I am really trying my best but it’s hard because I am terrified that I will always be on my own.

I miss S and our stupid in-jokes and the stupid names we called each other. I miss lying in bed cuddling while we watched a film and feeling safer than I have ever felt. I can’t imagine getting that feeling again.

I am 24 and I know that is young and there’s time to meet someone, I know it doesn’t mean I will be on my own for the rest of my life, but I didn’t plan for this – I couldn’t have planned for this. My plans and expectations for the next few years down the drain – hopes of moving out and buying a property *flush*, hopes of marriage and children *flush* hopes of safety and love *flush*

Seeing other people with long term relationships is hard, I have hit the age where people are starting to move in together/buy a place together or get engaged/married. It just reminds me what I’ve lost and makes me panic that it’s going to be too late for me. I know it’s silly but that’s how my brain goes.

He was my safety net in so many ways, and now he’s not there, free-fall is a terrifying prospect. But what if I don’t fall? What if I can fly instead?

Love,

Ellie xx

Yoga

Before everything went wrong, I was half way through a 30 day yoga challenge. I was writing a bit about each day and was going to post it at the end of November, when I was due to finish 30 days, but obviously that didn’t happen.

For over a month, I have not done any yoga (sorry physio lady) and my yoga mat lay on the floor, unused and became covered in stuff – clothes, wrapping paper, rubbish as I let my room get messier and messier.

I have tidied my room this week, and put the yoga mat away. I had almost forgotten the colour of my carpet (a terracotta/orangey colour in case you wondered!)

Today I got my yoga mat out. I have decided I’m going to start the 30 days again tomorrow, so I just picked a short one for today – sun salutation. It was only 12 minutes and I can feel that I need a lot more practice again as my joints are tight and stiff and I am not flexible, but one step at a time. I had noticed that when I was doing yoga daily (I only did about 2 weeks), I could already notice a difference – my heels were closer to the floor on my downward dog for example.

I hope that at the end of January, I will be able to give you a post about my new 30 days.

So it turns out I did post again before the end of 2017… happy new year once again!

Love,

Ellie xx

Strength from somewhere

The Christmas period has been hard(er than usual) this year for me, but I’m starting to feel a bit stronger.

New Year’s Eve is always difficult for me because of something that happened 7 years ago. I have worked through it so it’s not as bad any more but most years I have avoided doing anything because I used to get flashbacks and panic attacks about the thing that happened. I want a new start this year so will be spending NYE with some friends, nothing big, we are going to get food, play games and make cocktails.

Although I still feel pretty low, I have found a bit of hope. From somewhere, I have found some strength to carry on. I miss S unbelievably every day but I now feel like eventually I will be ok without him. I’m trying to take control of my life and sort out stuff I’ve been avoiding for ages.

This will probably be my last post of 2017, so – Happy new year everyone, I hope 2018 is a good year for us all!

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

 

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

Can’t have a rainbow without rain 

Feeling really low today. Not sure why, but I am. Sometimes nature gives you what you need, a reminder that things will be ok. A reminder that among all the shit we deal with daily, there’s still beauty in the world. A ray of hope. 

A double rainbow!


In case you can’t see the photo, there’s a double rainbow outside my window. One is really bright and the other is more faded on the left. This brought a smile to my face when I’m feeling bad. 

Love,

Ellie

P.s. Forgot to say – yesterday was world smile day! 😊 

Stress

Hi everyone,

I haven’t written anything for a while but I’ve still been reading other blogs. I have been pretty busy and pretty tired. I couldn’t find the words I wanted to write. There is a lot of change is underway at the moment. And it’s stressful. Anxiety is up, mood is down. Yuck!

Following my diagnosis of fibromyalgia, I decided that doing 2 part time jobs adding up to more than full time probably wasn’t a great thing to continue to do. I have been feeling for some time that it is not sustainable and I am heading for burnout. So the diagnosis was the kick up the butt I needed. That and the fact that extra hours came up at one job to allow me to go full time there. Is it a coincidence? Is it fate? I don’t know, but I made the decision to go “down” to full time. 

Leaving is going to be very hard. I have been at that work place for 2 years although I have had different roles in that time. I am stressed at the moment about the job, doing handovers, telling clients I am leaving. That is the worst. Almost enough to make me stay. 

But this time I said no. This time I put myself first, I put my health first. I am hoping this will help me manage better. Less hours and hopefully less stress can’t be a bad thing! I am also trying to be less busy generally and make more time for self care. More time for blogging too hopefully!

So take a leaf out of my book and do something for yourself. Look after yourself and your health! 

Love,

Ellie xxx