Wellness, Anxiety, Psychosis
I feel that a mental health blog should be addressing some of the difficulties of having a mental illness.
As my current health is very good, I thought I'd recount one of my many difficult days. I'm not going to write about a particularly dark one, I don't think that would be helpful for me. Having written a book about my entire journey I can accurately pick out a day from memory. Here goes.
The year is 2009 in February.
My brilliant grandad has passed away at 92, and I am to travel 30 miles out of my hometown for his funeral. It's hard for me to travel anywhere really, my anxiety inflates when I know that I can't go home immediately if the panic attack comes. After the 45 minute drive we arrive at the church, and although an underlying current of anxiety and fear stops me from relaxing, it was nice to see the family gathering outside of the church.
Doing that wasn't all that claustrophobic.
Then the service began, and my mum and I took our seats at the back of the church (so that I could leave easily if need be), alongside my anxieties and imagined telepathic abilities. Then as soon as the service began my telepathic anxieties proceeded to spread themselves upon the entire congregation, which was too much for me, so I left the service, and went for a walk.
The town of Egham is very nice, more of a village really.
I walked toward the pub - The Armstrong Gun, and popped in to see what was inside. It was empty so I went in and ordered a bottle of Bud and set up the balls at the pool table. After 15 minutes it was time to head back to the church, so I took a last mouthful of my beer, almost finishing it.
I've always been very lightweight with alcohol, and in 2009 I hadn't had more than a couple of beers in the last 7 or 8 years. Walking out of the pub I realised that I was a bit tipsy, which was embarrassing. A few steps later I decided that I was more than tipsy, which seemed improbable but there I was with all the symptoms.
This seemed ominous as I walked toward the church, where the service had finished and people were gathered around outside chatting.
So there I was drunk at my grandad's funeral.
I remember wishing I could be more like my brothers and cousins who were proactive in supporting the family. My mum knew I wasn't feeling well and she said there would be no reason not to go home if I wanted to, so we did. My brother drove with us and I went home, and they returned to the service to socialise.
I wanted to be able to socialise at will like normal people, and I was a little annoyed with my mental health problems making my life so difficult, but I did manage to leave the house and travel 60 miles and at least try, so I was a little bit proud of myself for that.
As time passes and I do more of this type of socialising, it becomes easier. A couple of years later and I can do this sort of thing without major problems, and now in present day I thoroughly enjoy being an active socialiser and traveller. I even flew on a few planes and travelled to Italy, Holland and Ireland in the last two years.
If mental health problems are making your life difficult, remember to keep trying and that things really do get easier.
In case you were wondering, I called this page "Le Blog" for no other reason than I like France and the French.
I wish I lived in rural France and if I ever get the chance I would seriously consider a move there, and I wish I'd paid some attention in French lessons at school.
Today has been sunny and warm again, both weatherwise and spiritually. I sometimes feel like I should be blogging about mental health struggles, so sorry about that. But the fact is that after years of struggles and hard work, my mental health is very good these days.
I have occasional problems with anxiety, but I don't really panic anymore, and my psychosis is very controlled.
Yesterday I was at the dentist again for more root canal stuff. The dentist, Mr. Shenyan, went about his work, which included getting out the blowtorch to kill off the germs on his metal dental pick tool, as root canal stuff needs to have germ precautions taken. I had the deep hole filled and then the tooth shaped by the dreaded drill (which aren't really that scary) in preparation for a crown fitting at the next appointment. I forgot to ask about how much a gold crown would cost, I'd quite like to have one, but I think it's too late now.
Maybe if I neglect my teeth for a year I'll get another chance.
I also met with a website guru yesterday and we did some work on my website. I expressed my desire to not do anything unscrupulous just to entice people which he was more than happy to work with me on.
The changes aren't finished yet, and most of the work is required only on the home page. I'm very happy with the guru so far. He had some good ideas.
I went to the farm shop today, next to a field and stream and saw baby cows, baby ducks, and two smaller birds chasing a predatory bird away from their nest/tree. Not much else to report. Today I also read and signed the author publication agreement for a paper I have submitted and had accepted for the Taylor and Francis Psychosis Journal.
Can't wait to see that one in print.
Joy of joys, and praise be to God, my tooth pain has gone.
I had to have a root canal procedure at a different dentist on Tuesday the 29th. It appears it was a smart decision to get a second opinion on my tooth pain, the first dentist completely missed it. The second dentist took an X-ray (as did the first) and told me about my inflamed nerve. As he was drilling, he and his assistant stopped briefly, looked at each other and said, in unison, "necros". This is a referral to Necrosis, where the tooth has died, or the nerve, I'm not exactly sure. All I know is that this Necrosis thing can be extremely painful. I think the Necrosis was a surplus pain on top of the inflammation. Ask your dentist if you want to know more, I might have this wrong.
My anxiety etc. kicked in while at the dentist.
I was visibly uncomfortable, but started to relax as the dentist went about his drilling. A root canal procedure is like a very deep filling. I was scared at the prospect of all this when the dentist told me what needed to be done, but even with my anxieties etc. and knowing how people with some types of anxiety find leaving the house difficult (like me for a few years) if your teeth are bad, get them looked at!
Even with anxiety, which dentists are sensitive to and understand, you have to try and get yourself to your dentist. I honestly start to relax as the dental procedures begin.
Tomorrow I am seeing a website designer to spruce it up a bit and add a professional's touch.
It'll be interesting to see if he tries to fleece me, not that I'm paranoid.
I had a filling on a molar on Thursday the 24th.
The pain before that would fluctuate between a one out of ten and a seven out of ten. At times it was pretty awful, but I would honestly rather have that than anxiety that won't go away. I think this is a great way of describing how you might feel about your anxieties to a person with no experience of panic or anxiety.
Since my filling last week I am still in pain, fluctuating between a zero and a five, so it's still quite bad. I am now able to identify the guilty tooth, before the filling it felt like my whole left side might need extensive work, and I couldn't explain it. At least it's only one tooth now, a pre-molar, and I'm seeing a different dentist tomorrow.
I have been working out a lot recently which for me releases lots of good, pain killing chemicals in my brain, which stay with me for most of the day, which has helped with the toothache very much.
One thing that also helps to make me feel better is the reflection that 'at least my mental health is very good'.
It feels nice to think that my current problem, toothache, is completely normal. Most of my problems of recent years were due to mental health issues. It's like being back in the real world, and having such normal things happening makes me feel in step with the world. After so long in a deluded and psychotic world, with anxiety on top of that, feeling normal is nice and it's nice to be back! I know now that if I want to keep it that way, I need to make efforts to keep well.
For me, being about 90% recovered, it's just small steps a couple of times a day, like looking at clouds for twenty minutes (as well as continuing to take my meds), or anything really, it's almost like what you do doesn't matter, as long as you remember to tell your brain to do it (and keep taking your meds).
Don't forget to keep keeping well!
Just a quick post today.
I went to the dentist to have my poor teeth looked at. It seemed a little unfair to be having such mysterious pain in them, I take care of them well. The dentist was helpful, she took an X-Ray and identified a slight fissure and I've booked in to have a filling, but apart from that she said they looked well, with no sign of acid erosion, so the pain throughout most of my left side doesn't make much sense.
She gave me a temporary fluoride barrier which has helped a bit for the sensitivity and I also bought some codeine which I think is doing a good job. I feel better from the simple action of seeing the dentist too.
I always felt better about my mental health after the simple action of seeing my psychiatrist.
And when my back was playing up in a minor way five years ago, I swear after the doctor felt my spine and poked around a bit, it cleared right up and I haven't had problems since.
It seems that for me when I am feeling under par, I just need to form a plan of action and do something about it, and the process helps. If you are having 'unsatisfactoryness' with parts of your body or mind, just do something, anything, about it.
See your GP or whatever and you might be surprised how talking about it and persevering with a plan to help yourself can be helpful.
I have not been up to my usual self for the last four days.
My small problems with anxiety have been interrupting things and building without me really noticing. My mum went on holiday to Amsterdam this morning, something that has made me anxious in the past, but that was a long time ago.
It's been over seven years since the last time her going on holiday has caused me anxiety. These days I find myself enjoying more independence, saving money on dishwasher detergent and eating as much steak as I want when she holidays. So I've been sat down, chilling, playing on my phone since getting home from work, waiting for the anxiety to pass. The whole day I've been wondering whats wrong, and thinking to myself 'I thought I was over this sort of thing'.
And then it occurred to me.
Since the hecticness of looking after my nieces for a week two weeks ago, I have neglected to remember to do things to keep well. I have found, and even written about (in an article on this website, click on the article page with the picture of Lake Como and scroll down) the importance of doing small, regular things to keep well. If you don't keep up small amounts of effort to stay well when you have had and recovered from a mental illness, you increase the risk of having a partial or more acute relapse.
Keeping well by doing small things is essential for me, it's very easy really - just remember to do it!
Aside from that things are okay. Except from tooth pain. I have sensitive teeth and recently tried switching toothpaste. I have sensitive teeth because, according to my dentist, I spent a few years constantly snacking on Satsumas without realising that the acid in them can wear away tooth enamel. Sensitive toothpaste works in one of two ways, it either deadens the nerves, relieving pain - or it fills the holes that lead to the nerves, relieving pain.
I tried switching, which hasn't worked, so I'm going to switch back and hope I feel better, if I don't I fear it might be time for some serious tooth extraction, as most of my left side is painful. I'm sure the dentist can suggest something though.
To end on a lighter note, congrats to Prince Harry and Meghan. I've always liked them.
Today I have been thinking a lot about 'psychological flexibility'.
I picked up on this idea two years ago when I was having group therapy, called 'ACT for psychosis'. ACT stands for 'Acceptance and Commitment Therapy' and is very similar to CBT, or 'Cognitive Behavioural therapy'.
I was not in the group out of any necessity or desperation, I just thought it would be helpful. There were five of us in the group, the other four were similarly aged females, but they were all more acutely unwell than me. It was given by two clinical psychologists, and it was about ways of thinking about our unwanted thoughts and feelings that made them easier to deal with, and I found it especially helpful for my fading anxiety.
The other guys felt that the advice was under-powered, but it was almost perfect for me. One thing we discussed was a thought experiment of 'the monster pit'. Imagine your problems as being a monster on the other side of a deep pit that you are playing 'tug of war' with. That is how anxiety etc. can feel sometimes.
Just let go of the rope perhaps?
These ways of viewing your problems can often sit in your unconscious, and for me, it made my unconscious feel like I had a tool, a way of dealing with the problem of anxiety and psychosis, and knowing that the problem can be dealt with unconsciously made my conscious mind feel on top of it, and sometimes a problem would feel like it had a solution, and then I'd forget that I even had a problem. We talked all about 'ACT' for eight weeks, and it's many components.
The ultimate goal of ACT is 'psychological flexibility' which I am beginning to understand. I have never really thought about it until recently, and today I was understanding that it is a way of saying that your mind is ready for anything, and being on top of your life.
I would recommend ACT, it helped me and your local mental health services may be able to find a course that you can attend. Sometimes you might be on a waiting list, but not necessarily.
Aside from that, today the weather has been fair and I am continuing to do some networking for my book and website. A Facebook friend shared a link to my site three hours ago, she has 80,000 followers and since then I have had 1000 visitors to my pokey little site. I think that is just way cool.
I've been busy.
Networking with people about mental health, looking for local gatherings where I can learn more about recovering from mental illness and possible avenues to contribute for the eventual publishing of my book. It's early days but I'm so happy to be at this stage after spending so long writing the 'damn thing'.
I have been asked by the Taylor and Francis Psychosis Journal to write a 3500 word first person account of my experiences, focussing on how I became unwell (psychotic) and things that hindered or helped my recovery. I've done 1400 words today and it's flowing nicely.
I never find it difficult to begin writing something, I can usually find the words. It is so often felt that mental illness isn't talked about enough because of the stigma etc. and that it can be embarrassing. I always want to add to that and say it is also because the words are just so hard to find! I have found again and again that the reason I can talk about it so much is because I have written my story and I can find all the words.
I have also learned not to be embarrassed, and talking is very very helpful. I sometimes have to stop myself talking about it - it fascinates me, but most people are simply not as interested in my journey through mental health as I am!
Still all good, back at work now after a long week off looking after my nieces. At 9pm I suddenly remembered while sat networking on my phone that I needed to put on a load of laundry, so I've just done that and now of course I have to wait for that to finish before I can go to bed.
I don't really like hanging up the washing at 10.30pm when I'm half asleep, especially when it's mostly underwear as it is tonight, but I'm sharing too much.
I haven't had even a thought of anxiety today, lucky me and I hope I don't tomorrow either. Downstairs on the TV is a programme about Meghan Markle, lovely woman, and good luck to her and Harry. I've spent a lot of my free time today searching out people on social media with an interest in mental health who might like my website and writing them a quick note to advertise it.
Since doing that at 4pm I've had over two hundred hits on my humble little site, such is the power of Twitter and Facebook to reach lots of people in a flash.
I've been waiting to hear back from the mental hospital in town that I attended when I was seriously unwell 12 years ago, as I have applied to do some work as a peer support worker there. I have been told that I am a shoo-in because it's only part time and voluntary at the moment, but I hope, and have been told that it could quite likely turn into a full time paid role.
It feels like a natural career progression for me to work in mental health, and I'm quite enthusiastic to start.
Nice weather again. Went to Barton's Mill, a local restaurant by the Loddon River with my dad and younger brother, a bit pricey at 22 quid for a plate of roast lamb but I wasn't paying so whatever. We went for a nice walk too.
Whenever I go to restaurants I can't help but remember back in the day how I found it so difficult with my psychosis and anxieties, sure that I was standing out like a sore thumb and spreading my general misery to other people. But to be forgetting about all that bullshit and knowing that these days it's not a problem and I can enjoy it always makes me smile.
It took years, from about 2006 to 2012, of being pushed by my family to go to social events even though I was afraid of my mental illnesses, but it eventually paid off, and since 2012 I have enjoyed being social. It really does get a little easier each time.
So now my nieces and their parents are successfully back home in Denver and my younger brother is back in Bristol, it's back to life as usual in our household for my mum and I. We had a video call with my nieces today and apparently the first thing my four year old niece said when getting home was 'daddy we should video call Grandma and Uncle Pete because they are probably missing me'. That's my niece at 2 and a half in the pic at the top of the page, she sure is a lovely little thing.
Tomorrow being a bank holiday I am off work and will probably go to the gym, watch the snooker and continue putting the finishing touches on my book.