This is kind of a different post from me today. Obvs including the massive font - but that's just for easier reading. Let me just start by saying I really have to explain myself, I have been MIA since 31st March. That is a very very very long time in the blogging world, where most people seem to manage to post most days, or even once a week. So I can only apologise for those of you who have been following my blog. So where have I been?! Well I have been in what I can only describe as a hell of my own making.
I think for about the past 13 to 14 years (my god that seems like a long time, it's not been constant thankfully) I've had quite a struggle with anxiety related depression, and self harm. It has been pretty sh*t, I've left uni and gone back so many times. I knew I had the brain power to do uni, but the way my anxiety worked was for a wee voice in my head to second guess my ability, and tell me I wasn't good enough. When I think about this now it's quite upsetting, I know many people who found strength in being able to study, work hard and achieve great results. This is not how it went for me. I didn't go to lectures because I hated being in a room full of other people, comparing myself to them being overwhelmed by how much more 'into' the subjects they were than I was. The idea of going to a lecture hall for me would be like walking into an exam for other people. Can you imagine trying to do that every day? Don't even get me started on going to the library and taking books out, that was pretty scary for some reason. Oh and exams, I missed one of my first exams at uni because I had been so worried I threw up in the library. Aces. I know I sound like I'm joking my way through this, but it's sort of a coping mechanism, and to be honest mental health problems can be ridiculously debilitating.
I was lucky during my time in Glasgow from 2003 -2009, that I lived with a very caring group of girls, who really helped me during the times I was at my lowest. They were also the first ones that I confided in about my self harm. There are only so many times you can make excuses about cuts on your arms and legs. At first it was the self harm that made me want to get help. I tried CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) at The Priory, as I was told this would help with my type of illness. I found CBT to very useful in helping me deal with my negative thoughts, and replacing them with more positive ones. I attended The Priory as an outpatient for a few years, for different lengths of time. Firstly when I was about 19, and later after my Gran died when I was about 23. In 2009 I couldn't handle living in Glasgow anymore, I fled to my parent's house, and have remained here since.
From 2009 to 2012 I was working for my Dad full time as an office junior, I was also DJing on Friday and Saturday nights in Glasgow. At first I really enjoyed this, working gave me a structure that I didn't have when I was at uni, I had money and I was still going through to Glasgow at weekends - so it didn't feel like I was missing out on anything. I began to feel that I needed a change, and in 2012 I looked into different courses, to hopefully find my true passion in life. At the start of this year I had been feeling ok, and if the future Heather had come to me and said -'look out -you're headed for choppy water!', I wouldn't have believed her. I felt fine, maybe not as happy as normal, maybe needing a change of scenery, but that was it.
PANIC ATTACKS. Up until about last August if you had asked me what I thought a panic attack was, I would have said something that makes your breathing weird, then you breathe into a paper bag, and then you're ok. Well I found out that was rather wrong. The first time I had one - I thought I was dying. I was on a train heading home from Glasgow, sweat was dripping off me, I was shaking, I felt like I needed to go to the toilet or throw up - either way it felt like something was going to be leaving my body very soon. I started to check my pulse because I thought my heart was going to stop beating/or had stopped beating - (as I said I thought I was dying). On the journey I didn't know if I should actually get off the train and go to hospital, or stay on and head home. I waited till I got home, but still felt awful.
I never for one minute appreciated how much of a physical affect a panic attack has on you. In the days after I was left with lingering chest pains, which only made my anxiety worse. In my mind, it was a sure sign I was having a heart attack. At this point I was able to continue to work and see friends, but this didn't last. Soon the panic became bigger than me. Took over completely, and left me unable to leave the house by myself. My amazingly supportive Mum became my security blanket on the ocasions I did need to leave the house.
From August last year till February 2013 I was off work, for the most part unable to go anywhere. When I did go out, it was a case of rushing to the doctors and getting back to the sanctuary of my living room in a big sweaty mess. I spent most days in my pjs, and went days without showering, I thought I could avoid leaving the house if I didn't get changed. When friends came through to see me, it meant so much, but it was still so stressful, walking to meet people off the train was a big event. I was starting to feel really down, because I was trapped in my house, the outside world was overwhelming, and frankly dangerous. I felt like everyone was off having an amazing time going on with their lives, but I was stuck on pause. Waiting for this feeling to end.
I went back to work on 1st February, and a month later I had to be signed off again. I had really tried to get better by getting back into working, and socialising. Getting the train home from work was terrifying, and about an hour before I finished I would be getting stressed out about walking up to the train station. I honestly believed my heart was going to stop beating, and I was going to die. My Mum would try to help me reason with my thoughts, but I couldn't get the thoughts of something terrible happening to me out of my head.
I had been referred to a nurse who deals with mentally ill people, quite early on, she gave me lots of sheets on panic attacks, and relaxation exercises. These were quite useful, breathing technique which would help me calm down if I was having a panic attack, however it didn't remove - what was now a fact in my mind 'there is something really wrong with you - you are ill, and something bad is going to happen'. I ended up being referred to a psychiatrist, I finally felt that I was getting the help that I felt I needed after months of going back and forth between my doctor and the nurse. I had a full blood test, and the test confirmed that I was A-OK, I also had previously had an ECG which proved there was nothing wrong with my heart. Both of these facts reassured me, and it was also really great to speak to the psychiatrist as this is what they deal with every day. She allowed me to realise I wasn't going mad, and helped me see a light at the end of the tunnel. In the weeks running up to this I would have said I was at my lowest, and suicide did cross my mind as my only way to stop feeling like this.
In the past month I feel like I am coming out of the darkness, and moving towards the light. Will we call it dusk? Ok - right now I am in dusk. What I would say has helped me personally has been hypnotherapy. The results have been pretty amazing. I feel like I am getting almost back to my old self. I feel stronger. I can now help my brain work out when I feel anxious if it's something I need to be worrying about or not. I'm still not super happy about going out by myself, but I am getting there. And I can see that it will get better with time. I will get my independence back. I have also made a lot of lifestyle changes as well, I have started exercising, eating regularly, limited the amount of caffeine I drink, and I try not to drink alcohol too often. When I was becoming increasingly anxious I found myself drinking a bit more, which made me feel crap. I'm also trying to find constructive things to do with my time, trying out some new hobbies. I've always fancied horse riding, so I'm looking into giving that a go soon.
One of the weirdest things that happened to me when I was ill last year/this year was that I had to stop listening to music, music made my skin crawl. I could hardly listen to music with out feeling physically sick. Music had been my reason to get out of bed in the morning, I never saw this happening. When I had been down before I had always found my comfort in music, this really unsettled me. In the past few weeks I have been able to listen to some music again, and as I write this I am listening to an old playlist and am rather enjoying it.
I should also mention that I am on medication, as well. This has been a long road to find something that has worked for me. Some medications that some people swear by, really did nothing for me. I am also on a combination of a few tablets.
I am not really sure how to end this post, I am not magically better. I do feel better today, and I can hope that continues. I appreciate that I might not tomorrow, but now the good days seem to be outweighing the bad. Which after days with about 80% bad, and 20% good, this feels better than I could imagine. I hope that if you are reading this and feeling low or panicky that it helps to know you are not alone. If you are reading this and you've never felt this way, I hope it helps you understand if you know someone that has these problems. I know that mental health is somewhat of a taboo topic, but it is something I wanted to discuss to help break a bit of this down.
If you would like to learn more I recommend these sites. If there are any that I should add, or that you recommend please let me know.
Samh - http://www.samh.org.uk/
Mind - http://www.mind.org.uk/
Human Givens - http://www.humangivens.com/
I would also like to thank some people who have been amazing through my illness, I wouldn't have got through this if it wasn't for you, and I am so grateful, mostly that you have put up with me in the non-showering jammas days. Caitlin, thanks for coming and sitting with me, I enjoyed watching lots of Horrible Histories. Chris, thank you for helping me keep my chin up, driving me to appointments and having a drink with me when it was needed. Dave, I'm sorry DTI didn't work out how we hoped but I think our friendship now goes beyond DJing haha. Dan and Lorna, thanks for coming out to see me, and bringing a taste to glasgow to my home town. Dezzy, thanks for spending Xmas time with me, New Years was pretty special. Eve, thanks for your visits, hopefully we can do some fabulous fashion stuff soon. Hannah Toptee thanks for coming to see me on your visits to LGS. Michelle - thanks for the tea afternoons, and coming to look after me when I was a panicky mess. Megan, thanks for keeping in touch via our Skype dates, I really enjoy them. Scott Simpson, thanks for being there and liking my pizza. I am so honoured to have Kenneth and Elizabeth as my parents, they have been amazingly supportive, even when I was really struggling. My Scott always makes me laugh even in the dark days. I am now really worried I have missed people out. If I have give me a bop on the nose the next time you see me.
Thanks for reading this. If you want to ask me anything, leave me a comment and I'll answer the best I can. :)