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Recovery, is it for me?

Don’t get me wrong, I am much better than I was, say, this time last year. But there is a part of me that wonders if I’ll ever be myself again.

I have got to the point where, to the outside eye, I am a fully functioning adult. I’m back at work in my responsible career. I’m being a good mum again, and, I hope, a good wife. Deep down though, I still feel a failure.

Thats what my brain is telling me. But my brain isn’t working properly. Today, anyway.

So, if my pancreas wasn’t working properly, I would be treated with insulin. If my kidneys weren’t working properly, I’d be treated with dialysis.Therefore, as my head isn’t working properly, I’m treating it with medication and mindfulness. The medication helps both the depression and the anxiety, the mindfulness helps the anxiety. Its the anxiety that I find most crippling, so I have developed some skills to combat it, thanks to a six week course of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. This basically gave me an alternative way of reacting to anxieties. Changing my response rather than eliminating the source.

The exercise I have found most effective on most occasions is what I call “Sensing the senses” (I’m sure there is a correct name, but I don’t know it). Basically I spend a minute or two concentrating on each of the five senses, sight, taste, smell, touch, hearing.

For sight, I look around and focus on a particular colour – I find green the most soothing. Then I imagine I am eating a square of milk chocolate, holding it in my mouth, letting the flavour hit my tastebuds. I then think of the smell of freshly mown grass and wildflowers in a meadow. Touch involves stroking a piece of material, feeling its fibres and softness. Finally hearing involves me playing a favourite piece of relaxing music in my head.

At the end of these 6 or 7 minutes, generally my breathing rate has slowed and settled, and my overactive mind has calmed.

I also made a resolution at the beginning of my recovery that i would only allow myself to stress about things which I have the power to change. If I cannot change it, then there is very little point in wasting time and energy in worrying. As I’m sure you can imagine, this isn’t always successful, but there certainly have been occasions where I have been victorious. And it IS a victory, as is every single day that I go to bed without having shed a tear all day. I’m pleased to report that those victorious days are in greater number than the defeated days.

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WHO AM I?

WHO AM I?

 

Who am I? Good question. The truth is, I don’t know anymore. Wife, mummy, step mum, daughter, nurse, sister ….. except that’s the one thing I no longer am. A sister. My brother dying 13 years ago changed who I was, who I am.

 

Let’s start at the beginning.

 

When I was just 22months old, my brother was born with a very severe physical handicap. From then on, my needs, quite rightly, came second to his. I had to grow up very very quickly – I was putting myself to bed from the age of 3 or 4, as mum was dealing with Adrian and his complex needs, and dad was working night shift at the local car factory. As I started school, I was the kid with a brother in a wheelchair, who couldn’t plan play dates as I was probably going to the hospital to visit him after school and at weekends. I was the kid who never went on holidays abroad as we couldn’t fly. I was the kid who sat in the corner of the playground reading a book, as that was what I was used to doing, to be out of the way.

 

At 18, I moved 2 hours away, to start my nurse training. I had been told all my life, you see, that I wanted to be a nurse when I grew up. I never thought to question that, or analyse why my mum so desperately wanted me to be a nurse.

 

Then, 15 years later, he died. Three days after becoming ill, he was dead. I never got the chance to say goodbye, because my parents chose not to tell me just how poorly he was. Protecting me I guess. At his funeral, one of my dad’s oldest friends said something to me, that made the penny drop. He said that the burden of having to look after him once my parents had gone had passed.

Yes, my mum pushed me to be a nurse so I could look after him.

 

That was when I started questioning my whole life. I analysed and overthought everything. Eventually my marriage ended, and I started to feel very low in mood. I had anxiety attacks about going to work, as I lost my confidence. My GP felt that I wasn’t depressed, but that I had been running on adrenaline for so long, in an unhappy and emotionally abusive marriage, that when I no longer needed to be on my guard all the time, when I could finally relax and be myself, that my body reacted to the adrenaline crash. She was probably correct, as after 6 months on the drug, I began to feel normal again.

 

I met my current husband, the love of my life, and we married in 2013. All I had ever wanted was a 2nd child.  (My son was born in 1996, and in 1999 I suffered a miscarriage, followed by complications from the surgery to clear the retained products. I had been told in 2002 that I would never have another baby.) Then in 2015, a miracle happened. One month before my 44th Birthday, I found out I was pregnant. The whole pregnancy was a time of worry due to my medical history, and I never believed that I would come home with a live baby.

 

Fast forward to January 2016, and after an amazing elective caesarian section, our baby girl was born. I should have been ecstatic. I finally had my much longed for baby, and she was a girl, I had my perfect family, boy and girl. She was (and is) totally beautiful and completely flawless. She slept through the night from 7pm – 6am from aged 10 weeks. She was a smiley, gorgeous, scrummy bundle. I, on the other hand was a mess. I loved her, of course I did, but I didn’t enjoy her. I found myself getting stressed at every little thing. I didn’t want to go out, and hated being indoors. This went on for 9 months, until my husband sat me down and basically told me that I was failing our daughter and our marriage. He wasn’t being nasty, he was dead right.

 

So back to the GP I went, and came away with a prescription for Sertraline, and strict instructions to self-refer to talking therapies.

 

Here I am a year later, and so so much better. I’m still getting the occasional panic attacks, but I no longer allow them to control my life. I’m still on high dose (150mg) of sertraline, and have no plans to reduce the dose just yet, but I am starting to enjoy life again. As for my relationship with my daughter, well ….. I’m besotted.