Check up with my Doctor

I went to my doctors yesterday about seeing how I was doing on my anti-depressants. It’s been about 5 weeks now. I’ve blogged about my leg twitches, my headaches and sickness. I’ve been having chest pains too.

All of these I mentioned. He believes they are symptoms of my stress and anxiety. As anxiety, fear and stress are my overpowering issues. He has recommended a self-help book by Christopher Williams: Overcoming Anxiety, Stress and Panic.

My doctor showed me the first edition of the Overcoming Depression book by the same author. It looked good. Has questions and activities to complete. My doctor also said if I have any questions from doing the workbook. I should write them down and book an appointment to see him.

I thought that was really good. He wants to help me get better and answering questions about what I’ve done or don’t understand is something he is willing to do. So far, other doctors, I’ve met, I feel like I couldn’t do that.

They want you in and out as quick as possible. He wants me to come back just to chat if I need it.

Another thing he would like me to do is work on slowing down my breathing. That breathing is going back to haunt me. Think I need to listen. I breathe too fast. Which isn’t helped by stress or anxiety. In turn, causes my headaches and chest pains.

I’ve been working on this today. I’m even doing it now. Breathing in for 3 seconds and then out for 3 seconds. One breath cycle should be 6 seconds; 10 breaths a minute. I can do between 20 and 40 breaths a minute normally.

No wonder I feel panicked all the time. I noticed I feel a little calmer after a few minutes of breathing slowly. Unfortunately, I go back to my fast breathing if I’m not being mindful of it.

A new goal. It’s been a while since I made one of those. 

Goal: Slow my breathing down to 10 breaths a minute

It may be hard in the long run but hopefully having the foal will mean I practice the breathing techniques. Having the sense of relaxation would be a bonus.

Guilt and Sadness.

There are two emotions I want to process today. I went to visit my Grandma C today. The first time in two months. She has changed massively. She is a different person. Cancer has taken over. To the point, I believe she has given up.

I felt guilty that I’ve put off seeing her to too long. I’ve no excuse. I’ve had plenty of chances. I just didn’t want to go. Like, there was that fear of seeing her.

She slept the whole time. I said hello and goodbye with hugs and kisses; which she woke to. She also responded a couple of times when I asked her if she was OK or needed anything.

My guilt changed to sadness.

It’s not nice seeing a family member that way. Thankfully, I wasn’t alone. My Auntie J was there, then my Uncle A arrived not long after I did. We all caught up with each other.

It was hard leaving my Grandma like that. I want to see her more often. No excuse. No fear. Just go!

I said to my friend B, earlier today that I believe my Grandma won’t make it to the New Year. I hope to be wrong but seeing her suffer, even with medication is hard for me. If it’s hard for me. How is my Grandma processing it?

Maybe giving up is her way of processing it?

I love you Grandma C. Your in my heart always.

One of those days

It’s been one of those days. I had dreamt of a customer medication I’d been to at the beginning of the week. I woke an hour and a half before my alarm. Wide awake. Waking up with a concern about the same customer’s medication running in my head.

Usually writing things down allows me to go back to sleep. Unfortunately, I couldn’t. Being too early I couldn’t ring my supervisor to report the concern. A while later at my first customer, I got a call cancelling my second.

I got to go home early but only worked an hour today. I got on with my day.

Around lunchtime, I got the sad news that my main customer past away. Definitely knocked me out of my hyperactive mindset. This was a hard moment. Thankfully, my mum was home. She was able to give me a hug. Plus, the dogs gave me kisses.

Again, after a while, I got on with my day.

Had the embarrassing moment of knocking an ornament off a shelf display in a card shop. Right at the front of the store by the tills. Everyone saw. Thankfully the staff were nice and I didn’t have to pay for it.

I was so glad when Dave (my other half) and I got to my dads’ house. We sat, relaxed and had a catch-up. I do feel more open with my dad since his Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis. I feel he’s more open with me too.

Are you controlling your body or is it controlling you?

I had a felt sucky day. I had a headache, felt sick, allowed myself to be used like a doormat. My body controlled me. I didn’t control it.

When I looked at session 2 of my positive steps course; I found it quite fitting. It was called controlling your body. That our bodies change and our physical symptoms impact our mood.

Definitely did with me today!

It went over the vicious cycle. Hoping by now I understand my own and what effects me. I’m certainly learning that.

It went on to explain stress on the body. Looking at the physical symptoms you have. I knew I had symptoms but I didn’t realise how many.

mde

No wonder I feel more stressed and have unhelpful thoughts when my body feels this way.

There are two ways our mood is affected by our bodies; muscle tension and Automatic Nervous System. Looking T my body model, I have more in the muscle tension category then the other.

The symptoms we get are due to our fight or flight responses. It’s our bodies way of saying there’s a threat. Whether it’s work, kids, bills, arguing, even the housework. Money, work and my to do list are my obvious threats.

My tiredness, lack of motivation and lethargy is where my depression kicks in with the stress.

Then it gives me tips on how to combat the stress and depression. All the things you already know but have to hear anyway for your mind to click.

I certainly need to stop asking for reassurance, reduce avoidance and do some exercise.

Then there’s the relaxation techniques. I’ve met these before in my relaxation module. Think I need to go over my relaxation techniques 1 and 2 to refresh my memory. Then do.

Just doing something at the moment is an achievement for me.

An Act of Courage

I worked on my courage today. It was one of my actions I needed to do for week 1. There are usually things I see in my head of which I can do with all the confidence in the world.

But actually doing them is a different story. Most things I struggle to do on my own. When I actually do whatever it is, it builds my confidence up. Slowly, but it’s up.

One of my confidence builders is: go against my brain/thoughts to complete something.

Today, I went to the cinema by myself. I love going to the cinema. Usually, I’m with my other half or friends. I’ve seen others go by themselves. I always think how brave they are.

A part of me thought “yep, I can do that.”

Going by myself today was my act of courage. I thought “I can do this!” I pre-booked my seat so I didn’t have to queue. One step at a time. 

When I was due to go my chest became painful. I was breathing heavy. I had to go to their bathroom before I went into the screen to use my inhaler. To calm down.

In the end I did it. I sat through the film and enjoyed it. Recommend Girls Trip. I had in my head that people were judging me.

The more I do things, my courage and confidence will grow. I’ll get out of that mindset.

Have you ever been to the cinema by yourself? How’d you feel?

A Later Morning

I usually wake early. I’ve naturally done so most of my life. Getting used to waking up at 6-7 am with an alarm. Meaning I wake up around that time on days off.

Which I did this morning. After going to the toilet, I thought I’d rest my eyes a bit longer. Possibly to wake an hour later, hearing my mother-in-law go to work.

When I woke, I heard the washing machine, expecting to hear my mother-in-law to leave for work. I woke my other half. We chatted for a bit and then got up.

At this point I was getting worried for my mother-in-law. I then looked at the time to see it was 10 a.m. I couldn’t believe it. 8:30 possibly 9 a.m has been the latest I’ve ever woken.

I was gobsmacked. My first thought was “what’s wrong with me?” I took a quick moment to pause. I begun to think “I’ve been up by 7:30 all week and an earlier morning one of the days. Even yesterday on my full day off due to taking my car to the garage. Maybe I actually needed to sleep. Surely I would have woke earlier if I needed to?”

I had two and a half hours before I had to leave the house. Pausing helped me to calm down. Usually on a Saturday morning, even if it was 8 am, I wake and tend to feel anxious about not having enough time before we have to leave to take my other half to work.

I didn’t feel that way as much. Don’t get me wrong. I did have a bit of tunnel vision when doing the things this morning. Having a list in my head of what needs doing and what I would liked to have had done. I think I did well.

We got what needed doing done. My other half was at work on time. It’s a shame I couldn’t attempt a bath but there’s always next week.

Mindfulness: Turn Off Autopilot

This morning I’ve looked at the next section within my mindfulness module. As you can see from the title of the post this section was about being on autopilot. I tend to live most of my life on autopilot. I suppose you don’t really notice it until you’ve had your day and wondered what you’ve actually done.

I have a few of them. I even can be on autopilot when driving. End up at my destination and wonder how I got there. Which is not a good thing. Turning off my autopilot is what I need to learn.

What does it actually mean when you’re running on autopilot? 

It is doing things automatically without paying attention to your experiences. You’re not focusing. Meaning the negative thoughts and worries can easily start to build a life of their own.

What does becoming aware mean?

Learning to become aware of your thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations. Being in tune with what you need and want. Hopefully, to guide your actions.

My module gave me two exercises to try to help me become more mindful; The Raisin Exercise and The Body Scan.

The Raisin Exercise

This exercise you really do need to embrace the silliness of it. As you’ll see from my reflections on the exercise, I felt silly doing it. It’s called the raisin exercise but if you don’t have any or don’t like them (like me) then use another food. I chose grapes.

This exercise is to show you how it feels to be fully present in the here and now. If I felt silly during this exercise does this mean I feel silly when it comes to being in the here and now? 

You have to focus your attention on eating the raisin (or food choice). Involving being aware of the smells, images, sounds, feelings or tastes. Most of all try experience without the judgement. If your mind wanders, just bring it back.

The module gave seven steps to complete this exercise. I’m not going to detail them all. I’m just giving each step the title. It’s self-explanatory really. Just focus on that part of the food at the time of you completing the step.

  1. Find a spot
  2. Hold
  3. Smell
  4. Hear
  5. Taste
  6. Eat
  7. Swallow

I’m not gonna be mindful if I don’t put in the work, am I?

Here’s my reflection from completing this exercise:

  • I could feel the weight of the grape in my hand
  • I could smell the sweet smell of the grape
  • I noticed saliva in my mouth
  • I could hear my stomach grumbling
  • As I swallowed the grape I could feel it move down my throat

Where you able to be open to the experience and not be judgemental?

No

Did you allow yourself to be curious during the exercise?

Yes

How you found the exercise overall?

I felt silly about doing the exercise. I sat in my room where it is quieter. It got me to eat the grapes only (I don’t like raisins). I tend to eat while doing something else. When I smelt the grapes I always thought of wine. When I listened I heard what was going on around me. The washing machine going, my mum getting herself a snack and drink and a plane going over. Tasting I felt strange holding it in my mouth before I chewed it. When I swallowed, I realised I don’t think about that part before. As I continued to eat my grapes I tended to miss out steps 2 and 3. I did listen to what was going on around me. I slowed my eating down instead of rushing to eat the grapes. I think when eating I need to be more present. I may find I can enjoy food that way. Hoping it can encourage me to eat better again.

The Body Scan

This helps you experience thoughts, feelings and physical sensations as they are. Being aware what happens in your body, without trying to change anything. By focusing on each part of your body, you become in tune with your whole body.

Your body can give you loads of information. Whether you’re mindful of it or not. When I was asked which information do you remember your body giving you, I was like what you on about. Thankfully there was an example. Here is mine:

  • When I have a headache, it’s often because I’m stressed
  • When my chest hurts, it’s often because I’m anxious
  • When my shoulders hurt it’s because I’m feeling tense
  • When my stomach is noisy, it’s because I’m hungry
  • When my eyes start to feel heavy, it’s because I’m tired

To complete the body scan I listened to the audio that was about 15 minutes. To sum it up you find a spot you won’t be disturbed, even if it’s for 5 minutes. Lie down, be comfortable. Just try not to fall asleep. Be open to the experience and not be judgemental. Focus on one part of your body at a time, going from your toes to the top of your head, slowly.

My reflection:

What did you notice?

That parts of my body were tense and others ached. I found it nice to be laying there not doing something taxing with my mind.

What went well?

I really liked having the audio there. It made me go back to doing what I needed if I did get distracted. But I did find that I was being distracted less.

What was difficult?

Unsure if there was actually something I found difficult. Yes, I got distracted but because of the audio, I was able to go straight back. I have saved it to listen to it again at a later date when I’m completing a body scan.

Coming to the end of the module. It gave me homework. I felt I was back at school. My homework is this:

  • Pick one daily activity that you will complete with total awareness. (Try a simple activity) > I’ll choose brushing my teeth
  • Pay special attention to the 1st bite of your dinner
  • Practice the body scan at least 4x a week
  • Fill in your mindfulness diary each time you practice

I was gonna see how many sections I could get done today. But now that I know I have homework and I should be taking everything slowly. I will do a section a week on my mindfulness day.

Then in between, I can carry out my homework. Putting the work in to be mindful.