Resting

I’ve had a bit of a break from all social media for a week. Sometimes when my depression and anxiety get really bad, I find that social media exacerbates both conditions. 

I think it’s something to do with seeing everyone else’s lives continuing while mine is frozen, or sometimes their (and I’m not proud of this), seemingly petty or small problems they complain about. 

All the negativity, it just gets overwhelming and I can’t bear to look at it anymore

Last week was one of those occasions. I have been under a lot of financial stress with being on long term sick. It felt like my life was falling apart and I was like a robot that short-circuited and came to a standstill; my brain still ticking over, but unable to think clearly or solve any of my problems,and not in the least bit able to reach out and ask anyone for help. 

I think I have managed to solve things and it has meant making an enormous decision. I will need to be stronger than ever and push myself harder than ever. 

I have been reminded, however of something that, maybe I need to keep in mind at all times; I am not alone. 

I was never alone. I don’t have to face everything and cope with everything on my own. 

I have friends, I have family, I have friends who I consider family, and they are rooting for me and supporting me all the time. 

Even when my ill mind tells me they don’t care. Even when I don’t hear from them and my ill mind tells me no one is thinking about me. They are. 

Anxiety and depression both distort the way you view what people say, people’s actions, what people don’t say or do. They twist everything into a negative, self-bullying mess. 

I need to remember that it is not real. The negative distortion is not how people genuinely percieve me or interact with me. The thoughts that anxiety and depression put in my head are not people’s genuine opinions of me and are not what people are thinking. 

Living alone with depression and anxiety is hard. It’s all too easy to become isolated and to become consumed with the negativity in your head. 

Reaching out to people and asking for help is hard for anyone. Reaching out and asking for help as a person who has anxiety and depression is nigh on impossible. 

I would like to thank all of my supporters. My friends, family, followers on various forms of social media. Thank you for sticking with me, encouraging me, thinking of me and most importantly just for checking in with me and asking how I am doing. 

Recovery is a long process and I have a huge step to take, in front of me (I’ll tell you about that later), but I am sure I can get through this with your support. 

Thank you for reading

Love love love

The Faraway Girl ๐Ÿ’œ

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Hermit had Fun!ย 

I had the best day yesterday. My body aches weren’t as bad, and despite my anxiety hammering away because I was daring the leave my hermit cave,I was excited to be leaving the house. 

I put on my gorgeous vintage, original 1970s maxi dress with the flared sleeves ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ’œ It makes me feel so pretty and it’s so feminine and flattering. 

It was exactly what I needed, since my my pain medication has made me put on a lot of weight. 

I have been a size 8 dress size my whole life, but since taking my pain medication I have gone up to a size 14. 

My boobs look fantastic ๐Ÿ˜‚, but my stomach, not so much. 

It would be ok if I actually had hips, but because I don’t, I feel kind of like a blob. 

I know I’m not huge, but depression and anxiety affect the way I see myself. So at present I see a giant blob with a hag face when I look in the mirror. 

Yesterday in my beautiful dress and my hair and make up done, I didn’t see a blob with a hag face. I saw ME! For the first time in months it was ME looking back in the mirror and it felt so good. 

My friend and extremely supportive boss came to pick me up early afternoon and we drove around the corner to one of my favourite coffee places Penshaw Tea Rooms 

I am so lucky to live where I do. I live on an old estate owned by Lord Lampton . At one time it was called the Lambton Lion Park . Yes there were real lions in County Durham!

I am surrounded by stunning countryside and I love that my garden is full of beautiful birds,including Woodpeckers, Kestrals, and Sparrow Hawks. 

The estate also breeds Pheasants for the shoots they run, so there are always pheasants wandering about my garden, being noisy buggers, but looking very pretty. 

There is a family of rabbits that live at the bottom of my garden – my cat Moo unfortunately enjoys catching and bringing back to the house their baby offspring at this time of the year. – I have had to rescue four so far, three didn’t make it and I had to call the RSPCA to get another ๐Ÿ™

I have put a louder bell on her collar in the hope it will stop her catching them. 

There are also some squirrels in the tree in next door’s garden. I love to watch them scurrying about in the trees.They like to sneak across my garden early in the morning and pinch the bird food from my other neighbour’s bird feeder. 

In late Summer the squirrels can been seen running across my garden on two legs, carrying ripe apples in their forepaws, that have fallen from my neighbours apple tree. 

My garden ๐Ÿ’œ

When we arrived at Penshaw tea rooms (which is underneath Penshaw Monument ), my friend was in awe of the beautiful surroundings. 

The cafe includes a small nursery and they also sell some gorgeous animal wood carvings for your garden. 

My friend and I sat with a coffee and had a gorgeous lunch of panninis (his sweet chilli chicken, mine was BBQ pulled pork and cheese).

The panninis were crispy, stuffed to the brim and came with salad, coleslaw and crisps. They were gorgeous! 

We followed up with some cake. I don’t know what it was called, (they have a huge selection), but it was delicious! It was sort of bits of Mars bar, with chunks of meringue and a toffee angel delight style filling. 

It. Was. To. Die. For! 

We must have been there for about three hours. We talked about how I’d been feeling on my new meds. Somehow we got on to my wild late teens and twenties and the 90s. How I spent the Millenium New Year at a dance party at the Millenium Dome in London.

Me aged 19 clutching my Zippy backpack ๐Ÿ’œ

 

I’ve done some crazy and silly things in my time, it was so much fun to reminisce. 

My twenties were far from perfect – I was very ill and had a complete break down at the age of 19/20, not the best start – but somehow even that terrible time is now surrounded with the warm glow of past memories. 

Talking about those times, made me smile, laugh, and feel a teeny bit sad too. After all they are mostly things I am unable to do now. It was a good thing overall though. 

It was so nice to laugh and talk for few hours, and in such a great setting. I am so, so lucky to have a boss, and a friend as supportive with my health as he is. The company I work for have been so amazing too and I know how very lucky I am. A lot of people aren’t so lucky to have that support. 

Yesterday was so positive. I am hopeful it will continue. 

Thank you for reading

Love love love ๐Ÿ’œ

The Faraway Girl

Hermit Leaves the Cave

Me (on the left) at my besties’ Wedding last year (2016)

I have been off work on and off for the best part of a year with my mental health. 

It was all triggered by first one, then another Consultant telling me there isn’t a fix for my chronic back pain, and that I will be in pain for the rest of my life. 

As my pain is caused by arthritis and two discs in my spine that have disintegrated completely, the condition will get worse as I get older. 

I have to walk with a stick currently, and I don’t know if I will end up in a wheelchair by the time I am 50.

I am 34 now, single, living alone and I feel like my future is a black hole of uncertainty. 

People say, “Well everyone’s future is uncertain, anyone could end up in a wheelchair.”

Yes that is true, but the chances are more in your favour that you won’t, whereas they are more in favour that I will. 

Not to mention the fact that regardless, I will spend the rest of my life – barring a miracle cure for arthritis – in pain. 

I am not able to walk far at all and any movement causes me a lot of pain, even with the morphine and pregablin painkillers I am on. 

Obviously the news hit me pretty hard. Until that point I had hope that there was something the consultant would be able to do. I felt like my hope had been taken away. 

Consultants in my experience care only for their specific part they are working on. For example, I had injections into my spine, (anaesthetic and steroids),and they didn’t work. The consultant wondered why I was sobbing hysterically when he told me there was nothing more he could do, (despite the fact he initally offered at least 4 treatment options we could try). 

Well, the reason was that not only had he just told me I would spend the rest of my life in excruciating pain, but I realised, that, or felt that, my life was effectively over. 

After all, who would want to date someone who is constantly in pain, hardly able to walk, constantly exhausted, so spends all of their time sleeping?Who would want that? I can’t go on typical dates. I have to plan everything ahead if I go anywhere. It’s not exactly an inviting situation to enter into. 

That also meant in my head that I would never have children, probably never get married and would end up dying alone and in pain. 

That all flashed through my head as he told me this, that and the fact I am struggling now. I can’t manage the housework, I can’t manage to cook properly (which I love), I struggle getting dressed and having a bath (I don’t have a shower), I am struggling at work, how long will I be able to work? How will I afford to live when I am forced to stop working? 

All this went through my head in true anxiety sufferer style, and he sat and asked me why I was crying!

I have been working really hard trying to come to terms with this. It has helped talking to people in the same situation on Instagram. I really could do with a therapist who specialises in people with chronic pain. Even if there was a support group for people my age being told they are disabled. I have yet to find one and my doctor didn’t know of one. 

I have been mostly housebound for the majority on last year and this year so far because of this. 

Depression hit me hard and my anxiety has been so bad, that at times I have been unable to leave the house for weeks at a time. 

Occasionally I manage to get the courage to go out. Usually out of necessity. 

My new anti-depressants have boosted my mood and lowered my anxiety levels, so when I have been well enough (see previous article), I have tried to get outside.

So, I am meeting my boss for coffee this afternoon. I am really anxious about it, but at the same time, I am looking forward to going out to one of my favourite cafรฉs and catching up.

I don’t know what the future holds, but I will continue fighting and trying to get my life back. 

Thank you for reading

Love love love

The Faraway Girl ๐Ÿ’œ

This is me age 26 doing a photo shoot for my photographer friend ๐Ÿ’œ

Me around age 28 playing guitar at a friend’s acoustic gig. 

The Ghost Train – The Excriutiatingly Slow Rollercoaster Ride that is, Changing Anti-Depressant Medication

As someone who has been fighting Depression and Anxiety my whole life, I have experienced a fair few changes of medication. 

I started on my first anti-depressants when I was 26 years old – Fluoxetine, probably the most common ‘starter’ medication for someone with Depression – and I was on that for around 5 years on various doses. Unfortunately as often happens with medication on a long term basis, it stopped working for me. 

I was put on a new drug, Sertraline and it had an immediate positive effect. Obviously I thought after a few dose variations, that I would be sorted. I was wrong. Sadly I developed an allergic reaction which resulted in a painful itchy rash all over, called Urticaria. What followed was months of trying just about every anti-depressant there is, with varying awful effects. These went from making me seriously suicidal to more allergic reactions. 

It was so frustrating and mostly awful, but in the end I was put on a drug called Venlaxfaxine, which thankfully worked. I was so grateful that the side effects of the first few weeks didn’t bother me so much. 

You see, unfortunately, even the drugs that are successful – and most people have to go through a trial and error system whether with the type of pills or the dosage – have a two to three week period of ‘settling in’.

Ah the settling in period! It is mostly horrific and basically makes your life a misery for 3 weeks, (as if you didn’t feel that way to start with, suffering from Depression and all). 

Ok, so I will describe the type of symptoms likely to be experienced during this time. 

*Trigger Warning*

Firstly, a depressed person, depending on the severity, will likely already be experiencing some of the symptoms listed and probably more, though I can only speak for myself,such as:

  • Low Mood
  • Lack of self confidence/ self worth
  • Fatigue
  • Lack of motivation
  • Forgetfulness
  • Tearfulness
  • Negativity
  • Feeling like a burden
  • No interest in hobbies/things you enjoy
  • Little to no sex drive
  • Lowering in hygeine standards e.g not getting washed, dressed, brushing teeth etc… 
  • House/Room getting messy e.g. not doing housework, dishes, washing etc… 
  • Financial trouble e.g. overspending, unable to keep track of money, bills etc… 

To name but a few. 

Now, when taking a new medication, all of the above symptoms, as well as anxiety, perhaps suicidal thoughts/thoughts of self harm, are pretty much doubled. It is a really hard thing to go through, and I think it is possibly the reason a lot of people don’t like taking anti-depressants. 

So here is, the list of some of the things I have gone through during the early periods of a new/change of medication. 

I must say, the reason I am describing this is because I think a lot of non-sufferers seem to be under the impression that you pop a pill and that’s it, you’re instantly cured. 

This is to try and show that that is not the case and anyone going through a change of medication or perhaps taking them for the first time, will need extra support from family and friends during this time. I have gone through this alone on a number of occasions and it is not a nice experience, believe me. 

Symptoms Coming On or Off Anti-Depressants

  1. Worsened Anxiety including:
  • Panic attacks, 
  • Feeling like you can’t breathe, 
  • Feeling like you’re having a heart attack,
  • Dizziness,
  • Sounds amplified
  • Panicky in crowds
  • Agoraphobia (inability/fear of leaving the house) 
  • Trouble focusing
  • Feeling distracted
  • Constant worrying
  • Circular thoughts
  • Unable to calm yourself down/ relax
  • Lack of concentration
  • Unable to use the phone
  • Money problems
  • Distance yourself from friends/family
  • Thinking you are a burden
  • Negative thoughts

2. Feeling suicidal

3. Feeling you have let everyone down

4.Feeling like you are a burden

5.Feeling like a failure

6.Thinking everyone hates you

7.Thinking people are talking about you

8.No interest in things you enjoyed

9.Not wanting to socialise

10.Lack of sex drive

11.Unable to see any positivity in anything

12.Nothing makes you laugh anymore

13.Isolation

14.Not feeling like yourself anymore

15.Unable to get out of bed

16.Unable to get dressed,washed, brush teeth

17.Unable to fulfil responsibilities like work or home committments

18.Crying at everything

I could go on and on, there are so many things it affects. As you see, it is a bit of a horror story. 

I was on the Venlafaxine for 5 years until recently, following a breakdown last year, I realised they had stopped working. 

After last time I was terrified of changing again and I left it as long as I could, but I knew something had to be done. 

Changing medication is not as easy as,‘stop taking one kind and start taking another’. First I had to wean myself off the Venlafaxine, one tablet at a time over a period of three weeks, until I wasn’t on them at all; then I could take the new ones. 

Coming off a medication like this is as awful as starting them, if not worse. I felt as though I had the flu and had been beaten up on the inside. 

As I’ve mentioned before I have arthritis in my spine, so I am no stranger to being in pain or feeling shitty. Every day I am in pain, but this was a new addition that I did not need. 

I couldn’t stop crying. In fact, this is how bad it got, on the way back from collecting my new medication, I cry-sang (that’s a thing) part of the way home to Jason Donovan’s ‘Too Many Broken Hearts’. Yep! Not my finest moment, but it happened. 

Anyway, I got home, dried my tears and took my new tablets. These ones are called Duloxetine, I haven’t tried them before. I developed a headache as the day went on, but thought nothing of it. I put it down to my Jason Donovan tears. 

My mood felt as though it had lifted a little and I felt hopeful for the first time in a long time. 

The next day, a Sunday, I woke up, the headache still pounding, but mood-wise I felt great! I got up, made myself and Misschief some breakfast, and had a relaxing Sunday; And, amazingly for someone with CFS I did not have a nap at all! 

Over the next few days, the headache stayed around, but thankfully so did the amazing lift in my mood. I even took the Christmas Tree down, which, since it was March was way overdue, but I had previously been too ill to take it down. 

I had an appointment with my doctor a week later and that day I was floating around on sunbeams. I would say I was maybe even a little hyperactive. I put makeup on for the first time in months, got dressed and went to the doctors. 

Everything went fine, we both agreed it was a positive reaction and to leave the dose alone for now since it seemed to be working. I even cooked a chilli that night, which is a huge deal for me, because I normally struggle to cook properly due to my back pain. I did need to keep sitting down, but I did it! All was going well, until the next day. 

I woke up the next morning feeling as though someone had taken a hammer to my head. The headache had worsened and not only that, every bone and every muscle in my body was aching, even my eyeballs were aching. I felt like I was burning up too, it was awful and exactly not what I had hoped for. 

Every day since then, about a week ago,I have felt the same. I have read the leaflet that comes with the pills and a lot of the side effects seem in keeping with that, so I am giving it another week, hoping and praying to anyone and anything that these symptoms die off. I don’t have the energy to go through the horrifying change of meds process again.

So, here I am, with a heat pack on my neck, feeling like a zombie that is more unalive than undead. 

I hope you enjoyed your ride through this train of ghastly thoughts. 

Please join me again when I may have rejoined the land of the living! 

Thank you for reading and please remember, if you know anyone going through this, give them as much support and love as you can ๐Ÿ’œ

Love love love

The Faraway Girl

Brain Fog

Is it really Tuesday already? The days just blend into a blur as the weeks race by and I am mostly unaware of what day it is. 

There is a thing known as ‘Brain Fog’

Brain Fog is the feeling where your head feels like it is full of clouds (mostly thunderous ones). You are unable to think clearly, concentrate or remember the simplest of things. 

I get this frequently. I am on a lot of medication for depression and also strong painkillers (morphine being one of them) for my chronic back pain. While the medication definitely goes towards the whole brain fog experience, they are not solely to blame. 

Anxiety and depression each enjoy messing with your head in more ways than one. They both contribute to this feeling of not being able to remember the word for ‘spoon’ or ‘pebble’, or walking into a room and not remembering why you are there and in fact being in the wrong room to start with. 

It is an unnerving feeling being 34 years old and feeling like you are losing your mind. I suppose it would be at any age, but I still feel like I am young (technically at least). I should be able to remember my friends’ names without having to do a mental scan for two minutes every time I try and think of them! 

It is of course hard to think at all when you are tired. I have a condition called chronic fatigue syndrome – it pretty much does what it says on the tin. My very bones are exhausted, or at least that is how it feels. If I do any activity, say make some breakfast, I will need to have a serious nap afterwards – I wish I was joking – it just saps the little energy I have away from me. 

I get so frustrated sometimes. It is infuriating not being able to remember the simplest of things. I know they are in there somewhere, I know that I have this information stored in my brain, but it’s like I have the wrong password and there is just a big ‘access denied’ sign flashing on the screen. 

I have yet to find a way around this. I do a lot of reading, I write a Journal and now of course, my blog, I try and keep my brain as active as possible, since I can’t be physically active,however, doing my job has been hard. 

I have very high standards for myself when it comes to my work, either as a musician or my day job as a customer advisor. It is so hard going from being a very high performing person to not even working at half the performance rate and not hitting my targets. I do think it is largely down to this ‘Brain Fog’, I have to check everything I do three or four times over to make sure I haven’t forgotten something. 

I am off work sick at the moment after a breakdown, so I don’t have that self-imposed pressure of targets and performance. I do worry about it every now and again. When I go back to work, I don’t know how to achieve what I want and need to. I will keep reading articles and trying new things until I find something that works to give me that password to my brain archives back. 

My First Blog โ€“ An introduction to The Faraway Girl

Hello to anyone who kindly takes the time to read my first ever attempt at a blog.

I will jump right in, I have been fighting chronic depression and anxiety pretty much my whole life, (or since around the age of 7 as my psychologist and I worked out). My cropped-img_20170304_105522_548.jpgreason for starting this blog is mainly because my facebook and instagram posts are starting to get so long, Iโ€™m going to run out of characters, soooo I thought maybe a blog would allow me to be more expressive and hopefully reach a wider audience.

Both depression and anxiety are very isolating illnesses and on top of that, I am disabled (Osteoarthritis in my spine) AND because some powerful magical being clearly hates me, I also have chronic fatigue syndrome.

For those of you who donโ€™t know, CFS basically means I am eternally exhausted and the slightest activity causes me to need the Grandmother of all naps. Itโ€™s not really conducive to having a sparkling social life.

My life has changed hugely in the last three years since I became disabled following a fall. I used to be out several nights a week doing gigs as a singer/songwriter, I saw my friends as much as possible and was working full time. Currently I havenโ€™t done a gig, played my piano or guitar or written a song since my back died on me.

I partly havenโ€™t written any songs for so long because 4 years ago one of my close friends, took his own life. It hit me really hard as it came out of nowhere a couple of days before my 30th Birthday. I became suicidal myself following my friendโ€™s death. Thankfully I asked for help and got it.

I was referred to the local mental health team, who arranged for me to see a psychologist and complete a course of Cognative Analytical Therapy.

I found C.A.T. to be so helpful. It was much more in depth than C.B.T. (Cognative Behavioural Therapy) which I had tried several times previously. We talked about my childhood experiences, which brought up some memories and realisations I had never thought about before. We discussed my family, how I relate to and make friends past and present, as well as romantic relationships. This all went towards creating a chart of compassion that I can refer to any time I need to.

The compassion chart is a circle of feelings. One feeling leads to the next and the next and shows you how circular anxious thoughts are and how they make you worse and worse until it can lead to a panic attack. Overlooking these feelings is a compassionate eye. This eye is there to remind you to acknowledge the cycle of feelings, but to be compassionate to yourself, give yourself a break and realise that you are not these negative thoughts and feelings, thereby breaking the cycle.

I have found it really useful, in particular when I โ€˜hearโ€™ the anxious negative thoughts in my head, it reminds me to stop,tell them to shut up and realise that I am being awful to myself and I need to stop.

Finding myself disabled has hit me really hard too. I am still trying to work through it. It has triggered both my depression and anxiety and I have had to be signed off work for most of last year and all of this year so far. It has been so isolating, both not being at work and not being able to socialize either.

I am trying so hard to get through this, but I have good days and bad days. I recently came off my antidepressants to change to a new one, and it seems to have made a difference. I am really hoping it will help me get back to work and back to myself as soon as possible. I will be keeping you informed of my progress. 

Thank you for reading. This first installment is more of a background info blog more than anything. I hope you follow me as I try to figure this crazy thing called life out.

The Faraway Girl