Depression and other things…

What comes to mind when you hear the word depression? Familiarity? Weakness? Darkness? Or something you think people should just bloody snap out of!
I’ve always known depression was a genuine and often serious diagnosis, however I’d never really understood it. Obviously we all get down from time to time but I would always have a genuine positive outlook for the future and motivation to do things!
I realise this I quite an open post but I figure this stuff needs to be spoken about! Statistics show that one in Four people will be affected by some kind of mental health problem in the course of a year. And still mental health problems continue to be poorly misunderstood.

It may be something of a British culture to get up and get on with things, however there does come a time when you need or physically and mentally cannot continue without telling someone how you feel or expressing your emotions.

I myself have experienced what I can only describe as waves of depression mixed with post traumatic stress – being unwell mixed with vicious panic attacks probably caused this. Luckily I haven’t experienced this low feeling for a while but to explain it would be to say it was like a massive dark cloud sat over me and all I could do was feel really sad mixed with a lack of motivation for stuff, this feeling scared the shit out me! I hadn’t ever felt like this before and had always had a very optimistic outlook on life.

After learning about the brain and it’s synapses I have come to understand that the more a pathway in the brain Is activated, the easier it can be used in the future. In other words your brain notices when you are using a certain pathway a lot and makes it easier for us by automatically firing it. This can be incredibly useful, AND incredibly un useful . When relating to anxiety for example, the more we have or experience panic the more likely we are to do so in the future because these pathways have got increasingly stronger and stronger. However there is very good news attached to this, if we can repeatedly activate a pathway that lead us to feel anxious, we can do the same to repeatedly create happiness and joy! I feel like I’m blabbing on now so if you want to find out more about this then google NLP or the lightning process.

I think the most important thing you can do if you’re feeling unusually low is tell someone you trust or who’s close to you. Although I understand this isn’t easy! But it helps so much knowing someone else is aware of what you’re going through.

Another option is to go to the doctors, this is all pretty obvious stuff I know but if you’re feeling low and hopeless it can be so much effort! It’s also important not to let them fob you off with anti-depressants.
This happened to me when I went to the doctors about anxiety. I ticked a few boxes and bam there were my drugs to fix it. Haha, sorry to say to the medical profession, your ‘amazing’ SSRI tablets are not going to treat the cause of my problem!! At the time I was a little more unaware and didn’t push for counselling but I would advise anyone not to let them get away with just giving you drugs.

Another thing I find helps is exercise, in particular swimming, I always feel so good after going! Also meditation and relaxation techniques like breathing out more than in (I already spoke about this is a previous blog post).

I also find having routine in my life to be very important, I feel a lot calmer and generally better with a good routine structure. Getting up at the same time, regular meals etc. All slightly obvious stuff but not to take the importance away from it!

Everyone (including myself) has a natural habit of portraying their ideal ‘perfect’ self to the people around them, understandably not wanting people to see the evidential flaws in their mental state or life in general. This is one reason that makes it hard for us to open up about issues that you may think make you seem weak or labelled. This is why I think it’s important we speak out about it. The more people that do, the more people who won’t be so shy/ conscious to express how they may be feeling!

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Anxiety and panic!

So I thought it would be good to do a post on anxiety and panic attacks because unfortunately it’s something I am all too familiar with! I also know that I am not alone in this, a lot of people suffer from anxiety, however it is not something that is often openly spoken about.
For me the anxiety began as a result of feeling unwell, however it can come about for loads of other reasons. Also I would like to point out that anxiety does 100% definitely not mean you are a weak person. In fact quite the opposite! People usually get anxious when they’ve had to deal with tough situations for a long time.

I can’t remember specifically the first time I had a panic attack BUT it was a pretty scary experience.
Hot sweats, heart palpitations and a general feeling of not being able to breathe; just three of the accompanying symptoms I experienced.

I also used to get panic attacks at night, the first time I had one was absolutely terrifying! Woke up with my heart pounding in my chest and a blurry eye – pretty weird I know. These kind of panicky occurrences seemed to arise out of nowhere making it all the more scary. Especially when I would wake up to them just happening!

So anyway, I’ve learnt a few things about dealing with panic and anxiety:

1. It is okay to feel anxious! As mentioned earlier, the worst thing in the world is getting more anxious about being anxious; creating a viscous cycle. Although as I’ve found in the past, this is a lot easier said than done. Especially in relation to panic attacks as they can be really scary!
2. It is okay to leave a situation if you feel yourself getting anxious or overwhelmed.
3. BREATHE! The key to this is breathing out more than you breathe in or putting emphasis on the out breath, activating your parasympathetic nervous system. Recently I downloaded an app called Inner Balance which requires you to buy a sensor that takes your pulse by clipping it to your ear. I’d tried it out with my practitioner and had felt soooo more in sync and relaxed afterwards! The app requires you to breathe in and out in time with a pacer whilst imagining breathing through your heart. It then tells you how you are doing and whether you are in high coherence or not. Apparently this stuff is actually scientifically proven to help you relax!

4. You cannot die from a panic attack! However scary it may feel!
And last of all… Try not to let the fear of doing something stop you from actually doing it! There have been so many situations where I’ve felt anxious about doing something or going somewhere, only to find that it’s a lot less scary than I’d imagined!

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The Inner Balance app…

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Hard Work!

In response to my last blog I feel the need to clarify that it has taken/is taking a load of determination and effortto sustain the amazing changes I’ve made in my recovery. It isn’t something I can just leave and hope it will all be ok; it involves generous repetition!
This is mainly because my brain is so used to firing old unhelpful patterns like feeling spaced out for example – this is one of my infamous favourites. Nothing more uneasy than feeling detached from reality, something that is all too familiar for me! However I can get out of this uncomfortable state quite easily by using the process; it’s just something I have to repeat and repeat and over time it will come much more easily. The science behind it being the more you use a neural pathway in your brain the stronger it becomes. On the other side the less you use a pathway the weaker it becomes until it eventually disappears!
The brain is a very changeable thing!
This whole concept is called neuroplasticity and is really quite a revolutionary subject.
It wasbelieved that the brain was fairly hardwired and once you reached a certain age you were stuck with what you’ve got. However this is soooo far from the truth.

This is all very relatable to myself, for example I became very VERY anxious whilst being ill (mainly in response to the detached/spaced feeling I spoke about earlier); I got really good at it!
So it would all make sense that because I have used the anxious pathway in my brain so often in the past that the anxious response is so much more easily triggered than it was before I became ill. This is obviously not to say that I’m stuck with this and I’ll have panic attacks here there and everywhere for the rest of my life.
I got really into meditation whilst I was unwell and this literally saved my sanity by activating my parasympathetic nervous system resulting in a much calmer me! (I think I’ll do a whole page on meditation soon as it’s really had such a big impact in helping me).

But anyway I feel like now I’ve achieved this I really can do anything! (Within some limits obviously…)

To end I bought a book on body language today; your mind, thoughts and emotions change your body language buuuuut your body language can also change your mind, thoughts and emotions.

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Miracles? or just that simple?

So basically in November last year I RECOVERED from chronic fatigue syndrome!!! Most amazing experience ever, walked into the room ILL and walked out WELL!! If anyone is reading this and knows of anyone suffering from CFS then honestly best advice i can give is… DO THE LIGHTNING PROCESS!
Sounds sootoo good to be true doesn’t it? I promise you it isn’t!
After day one of the three day course I went out for lunch and on a mile walk – not much for the average person but considering I could barely walk down my garden and back it was a MASSIVE step forward!
For people that don’t know, the lightning process is basically a 3 day training course that has had amazingly positive results with people suffering from CFS.
After being told by pretty much every single doctor that it will ‘go away in time’ or to ‘drink more water’ I really had lost all hope for any help from conventional medicine.
All my blood tests were alway fine along with X-rays and heart scans. And I felt so ill! To be told all this and have no real reason for it all is possibly the worst thing ever. I even had to question myself – is it all in my head? I obviously knew the answer to this was a plain no.
I have come to the conclusion now that the NHS and conventional medicine just lack complete understanding of the illness. Coming from a very science evidence based view where everything must have a cause and be 100% proven and I must admit I fully went along with this approach before I became ill. However CFS is not a mental illness as such – it gives you real physical symptoms – you are just stuck in a very high stress response and unconsciously ‘doing’ (as the LP puts it) unhelpful things like tiredness etc. It’s a controversial subject and the process I used has to be explained properly and understood well otherwise it could be seen as blaming the sufferer for the illness and this is definitely not the case. I didn’t wake up one day and DECIDE I wanted to be ill!

The guy behind it all (Phil Parker) explains that before you take part in the course it is very important that youbelieve it is going to work. This was tricky for me as I found it extremely hard to believe that a non medical essentially talking method could help me recover from something so debilitatingly physical. However! After speaking to a number of people who had done the process and pretty much made a full recovery I figured there must be something in it.

The process basically revolves around the idea that people with CFS are stuck in a negative spiral of unhelpful stuff! It taught me to look for energy and CLARITY!

This is all amazing stuff, however you do have to keep working at it. I still ‘do’ wobbly and spaced out stuff, however I always have the process to get me out of any unhelpful state. Also like to point out that I was previously unwell for over a year and a half, and got considerably worse in April 2013 leading me to be practically bed bound. (Not something I think about much anymore though as it’s pretty depressing!)

One of the most amazing things (apart from a general recovery!) is that I NO LONGER PAY FOR THINGS! Before it was all about pacing and I couldn’t push at all or I’d suffer horrible consequences.
Anyway I could ramble on forever about how amazing and life changing it’s all been but that’s boring!

So to sum up, recovery from cfs is SOOOO POSSIBLE! It really is all very simple, it’s just knowing how!

Knowledge is power!

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