Thursday, 19 October 2017

#WorldMentalHealthDay2017 Video

I created this video for #WorldMentalHealthDay2017

I wanted to add it to my blog as I believe the content is relevant and belongs here too!

My daughter and I are currently vlogging daily so if you like YouTube or just want to support us our channel is

The Wilkes Family

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Permanency and ill health retirement. Or Not!!

So the time is ticking by and I am getting somewhat twitchy about a few things.

Supportive people can explain the logistics will work, federation reps can promise that things 'should' go smoothly but when it is your life, your finances, your grocery shopping in jeopardy, going onto half pay seems to be all the more daunting.

Since August I have visited our new force medical officer, the occupational health doctor and she has made it clear to me that she thinks it is highly unlikely that with my various medical complaints I will ever be fit to do my job as a police officer ever again.

I have chronic debilitating Fibromyalgia with no known cure, I have PTSD, I suffer with Depression, I struggle with Anxiety and I have two prolapsed discs, but she feels after nine months off sick that it is too early to ask any questions of my force about ill health retirement as she says the application would fail at this juncture as we have not exhausted all possible medical remedies/cures.
She says we might be ready in 6-9 months time.

They all say I have to prove 'permanency' , that my illnesses cannot be cured, that I will not be magically restored to full health to serve out my last 2 years of my 30 years service.

What a complete joke this system of ours currently is!

Show me the hoops and I will jump through them all, I will moan and groan, I will post on twitter how dissatisfied I am, but I will do whatever you ask of me to establish the facts to satisfy you, but when you do not specify the hoops, when you leave me in what has been described as a 'fluid' situation what the hell am I meant to do?
It's like playing hide and seek in the dark, whilst blindfolded, with your hands and feet tied.

It is so flipping riling!

I am suffering with an illness that induces me to suffer extreme pain when I get stressed or tired!!

I wonder what they think in their ivory admin towers, Oh I know let's take away half of her pay, tell her that in another 6 months we will stop paying her altogether and then make any escape from our employment as improbable to conquer as reaching the summit of Everest alive! GRRR

To what end? Whom does it serve? I gather the government because they fine any police force that let's an officer retire on ill health! Or should I say Theresa May? Of course it's all chuffing marvellous for a single parent, crippled with a variety of ills who simply cannot work anymore.

It seems like the only person who could start sorting the mess out is me, but I'm a shell of my former self and the mere idea of fighting my own corner seems horrifying. Should I be paying out of my half wage to visit pompous over priced 'experts' to prove my 'permanency'? I could I guess but then I wouldn't be able to pay the utilities and I'd have to rely on a food bank.

Ultimately I am told it will be just one person, an SMP, Selected Medical Practitioner, who gets to decide if my woes add up to permanency and early release! Not a panel, not a jury just one solitary  person. I'd stand more chance of release if I'd murdered someone!

There is a set order of procedure and before any decision can be made the police authority must put specific questions to this medical practitioner selected by them (the ‘selected medical practitioner’) to determine whether I am permanently disabled for ‘the performance of the ordinary duties of a member of the police force’. The selected medical practitioner will consider such issues as my ability to:

• run, walk reasonable distances, and stand for reasonable periods;
• exercise reasonable physical force in restraint and retention in custody;
• sit for reasonable periods, to write, read, use the telephone and to use (or learn to use) IT;
• make decisions and report situations to others;
• evaluate information and to record details;
• understand, retain and explain facts and procedures.

Even if I'm assessed as permanently disabled for the performance of the ordinary duties, it does not automatically mean that I will be retired on ill-health grounds.  The police authority will consider my specific disabilities and overall capabilities to see whether there are alternative duties which I could undertake whilst remaining a police officer!

If and it seems like a big IF I was found by the selected medical practitioner to be permanently disabled for ordinary duties and there were no suitable alternative duties that I could undertake the police authority 'may' decide whether to retire me or not!

At the very least it's all so frustrating, at the worst it borders on being downright inept, exceptionally stressful and seemingly unfair.

Just let me go, please. Pretty please?

I'm broken, I'm a recluse and I'm soon to be broke!

Cut me loose, I want some sort of life back that isn't governed by stress and pain.

SIGNED -  A broken. chewed up, mangled mess of a former police officer.

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Fibromyalgia...a disability?

Yesterday as a partially tongue in cheek gesture I applied to the local council for a disabled parking badge. I was thinking they would turn me down as I've rarely encountered too many people that take Fibromyalgia particularly seriously.

I did explain that physical exertion has a knock on effect on my health. Too much walking, enhances the fatigue, makes my muscle spasms kick up a gear leaving my joints really painful. I become dizzy and my headache starts to turn from just that into a migraine whereby light becomes an issue as does noise. All in all too much of anything much leaves me feeling like I've been run over by a bulldozer whilst suffering from a bad bout of the flu.

In any case most of these symptoms are invisible much like the proverbial duck. So I can appear to look completely normal but my pain and anguish like the paddling ducks feet beneath the waves is invisible. Unless I decide to whinge or give voice to the variety of issues troubling me you should never know I'm poorly. I do limp from time to time, I do struggle with bending and flexibility but you'll just put that down to me being overweight.

The trouble with Fibromyalgia is the fact that it has such an impact on every part of me, if I were to answer the 'how are you?' question people would be collecting their pensions before I'd listed all my issues!!

Headaches, like actually a sore head like I've banged it somewhere! Unless I'm super stressed or very tired and then it'll turn ugly and become very migraine like. Tunnel vision, light aversion, feeling sick.

Eyes, dry and scratchy like having an eye infection.

Throat, often sore like having a throat infection but this comes and goes as it sees fit!

Ears, repetitive and/or loud noises trigger a panic type response to the point I get very agitated and need to escape.

Neck, stiff like I've cricked it badly and have lost some mobility for the time being and it's just noticeably sore and achy.

Shoulders/Knees/Hips etc. these joints seize up and therefore my mobility varies from time to time and from stress level to stress level.

Heart, have palpitations and a racing heart but this tends to be linked to my anxiety levels mostly.

Back, I also have two prolapsed discs so I already had constant back pain so this is just exacerbated by the mobility issues caused by the Fibromyalgia

Bowels, Varies between IBS type symptoms and constipation until you bleed!

Bladder, difficulty weeing, the fibrofog causes the connection between brain and bladder to be very obstructed so even when desperate it can take a while to convince my body to start a flow!

Fibrofog, people suffering with Fibromyalgia have brain fog, where cognitive ability is significantly reduced, thinking becomes hampered and it is literally like the thought processes are fogged up and unresponsive. This is definitely me, I am the shadow of my former self.

Hot flushes, I literally melt on the spot on a regular basis, clothes soaked through, sweat dripping off me like I'm a navy (yes I have had the menopause tests)

and that's all before I have a panic attack, get depressed or my PTSD has an impact!

So you can see that although I have many issues they're not instantly obvious to anyone like a broken arm would be!

Anyway back to the disabled badge. I have been struggling with too much physical exertion making me feel utterly rubbish, well more rubbish than my baseline rubbish feeling, and baby bear tongue in cheek to me said, "you should be able to park in the disabled bays!"

Whilst I was busy explaining to her that I wasn't disabled I got around to thinking..

'what is disabled?'

The definition, (I looked it up), is 'having a physical or mental condition that limits their movements, senses, or activities'

On reading that I found myself admitting that I might actually fall into this definition!

But how could I be classed as disabled? Me the police officer? Albeit only in name these days, ten months into a sickness absence.

It was whilst toying around with these thoughts that I looked up the criteria for a disabled parking badge. Initially all I could see were the requirements to be in receipt of various disability benefits and I very nearly clicked away from the web page in defeat when I saw Fibromyalgia listed under one of the qualifying disabilities! So I am disabled I thought!

I completed the on line form quite hastily before I changed my mind. Clicking the send button on completion of the form I muttered under my breath something about never seeing that again or being turned down flat and I moved on with my day.
Literally two hours later I had an email telling me I had been accepted for the scheme and asking for a photo and a registration fee! To say I was gobsmacked would be an understatement!

I'm still not sure how I feel about this revelation, I'm torn in differing directions, pleased to be acknowledged that someone actually gets how tough Fibro makes life but distaste that at 48 years of age I'm left behaving like a disabled geriatric old fogy.

Oh well, I guess I'll just pick myself up and carry on as I have done on the other thousands of occasions in my life when some pile of crap has tried to knock me out of this race we call life.

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Shame on you O2...

I experienced a trauma yesterday which I want to discuss with you.

Maybe to some of you, it would be inconsequential but to a single parent, suffering with Fibromyalgia, depression, anxiety... living alone with a daughter who has an extensive social life which leaves me spending 22/24 hours alone. This was indeed a significant event.

What was it you ask?...broken bones, smashed up car, nope...

I dropped and smashed my new iPhone 7 plus!!

(PS This isn't mine, this is just off the net. I cannot take a picture as my phone is DEAD grrr!!)

It's left me fraught, stressed and feeling as if my only conduit to the outside world has been severed. Daft really as here I am communicating with you but this desktop computer is blooming heavy and inconvenient to walk around with! I cannot even begin to guess how many times I've reached for my phone in the past 24 hours since it occurred or will in the next week without it. I clearly should be surgically attached to it as I am that obsessed and dependant.

Having committed the crime I recalled having taken out the insurance that was so readily sold to me by the O2 salesman not one month previous. He'd been gushing, if not insistent on it's benefits. I had reflected on my #Fibromyalgia and how very clumsy it had made me of late before agreeing to take it out. I am also utterly convinced he said to me that if I broke it I could return it to the shop for a like for like swap or replacement within 24 hours but as things transpired I clearly dreamt that bit!

Going out is quite an event for me as I suffer badly with anxiety, the Fibromyalgia also makes activity very tiring and painful. But feeling so bereft and thinking the O2 shop would help me I had a wash and brush up, donned some make up, swallowed a propranolol anti-anxiety tablet before hitting the road.

During the upgrade process recently the local O2 shop had been very attentive, overly helpful and very eager to assist me so I felt convinced they'd help solve my crisis.

Parking up, I headed straight to the O2 shop. Reaching the shop it immediately became obvious how busy they were,  so I waited patiently for the store greeter woman to take my details before being told me there was a 25 minute queue.

"Did I want to wait?" she asked.

"No brainer" I said, "I need this sorting."

She handed me a free bottle of water and I headed for the seat she proffered.

The people swarming around the shop were already testing my veneer of control, I could feel the panic rising, so I closed my eyes and started one of my calming breathing exercises. Unfortunately the woman sitting next to me started a conversation with me, telling me she'd been there around 40 minutes, lamenting she was still no nearer to getting the help she needed. We both puzzled as to why the shop was so busy on a Friday lunchtime but neither of us could figure it out. I mused that they should have pagers or even make use of our O2 phones to make us appointments which we could then return to later leaving us free to go off shopping in the meantime.

No such common sense approach existed though and there we sat. After another five minutes my compatriot decided to abandon her mission leaving me sat alone in the window. Closing my eyes I restarted my breathing exercises.

About fifteen minutes later I became aware of the female greeter approaching me. She proceeded to almost scold me like a child,

"It's our busiest day of the year you know, the launch day for the new iPhone X,  you didn't pick a good day"

Her tone was such that I was left wanting to scream back something sarcastic yet witty about how I would try and choose a better day to have my personal disaster next time but I bit my tongue instead fixing her with my sternest glare.

It got worse...

She was holding a telephone. A landline handset. I immediately felt the panic wash over me, and my throat tighten. Sweat started to bristle on my brow, my breathing becoming shallow. I considered walking out as I have a stupid phobia of telephones, don't know why, but I tend to avoid them at all costs. Greeter woman casually explained she was going to call the insurance company for me so I could start my claim... I observed her perplexed and asked,

"Isn't that what I queuing up here for you guys to do?"

she looked at me as if I was daft and said

"well this way you'll be speeding things up"

I didn't feel able to argue or explain that I was actually scared of phones! So I took the handset from her and embarked on one of the most frustrating of conversations. Explaining to the male operator how I'd dropped my precious iPhone onto a dry gravel path which resulted in it sustaining a smashed screen rendering it dead as a door nail he then incredulously argued the toss with me on the subject. Apparently I must have also caused water damaged to it? No I said,  I definitely did not, I just dropped it onto a dry gravel path. No, he said that wouldn't stop the whole phone working!

"how much touch capability does it have?" he asked


I said, now raising my voice

"it's completely dead"

After several further exchanges about bloody water damage he finally got the message!

Some fifteen minutes later, I am now cross, flustered and desperate to escape this hell hole. The male operative asked me to get a member of staff for him. Well that was easier said than done as they were all busy. I waved my arms frantically until the greeter woman saw me, she looked frustratedly at me before walking over to me, whereby I handed her back the blasted phone.

The ensuing conversation beggared belief. She proceeded to argue with the male on the other end of the dreaded store phone that she would be prepared to accept my damaged iPhone in order to forward it to the O2 insurance company!. She point blank refused. Apparently they had lost a customers phone recently leading to them having altered store policy as a consequence, now they refused to get involved in taking in the damaged phones!!

O2, happy to flog the insurance folks but not quite as helpful when you need to make use of their products!

She then handed me back the phone with disdain whilst a haughty look graced her chops...

"You'll need to arrange a pick up from your home address"

she uttered the words triumphantly if not with a touch of spite being sprinkled on top. Trying hard not to cry as the stress and emotion brimmed over my flimsy defences, I asked

"So why did you put me in a queue for help when you had no intention of helping me at all? I could have done all this from my own home couldn't I?"

She just shrugged and walked away. Quietening an animalistic urge to follow her and ram the phone down her aloof throat I resumed my conversation.

The ordeal however wasn't over as he then instructed me to switch of the 'find my iPhone' capacity!

"How I asked? The phone is dead!"

Looking around me at all the computers within touching distance I shook my head for the umpteenth time in disbelief that I was not getting one jot of help. I arranged the collection with him but was sternly warned that unless I switched off the find my iPhone they would not take it!

I hung up, slammed the phone down on the desk nearest to me and flounced outside, tears spilling down my cheeks. I felt humiliated and really cross to have wasted the best part of an hour achieving very little.

So I now have to wait until Monday for a collection, and then a further 5-7 days for a repair or replacement. I was also told I may not get back the same colour phone??!! The replacement will be what they choose and I get no say! Not a happy bunny!

All in all I'm very sad that I've just recommitted myself to O2 because if I had not I would be out of there like a shot. Yes some of the experience was horrific because of my personal anxiety issues but even if you were to sieve out those parts from the mix I still believe they behaved appallingly. Shame on you O2.

The story isn't over yet either is it?

Will they collect the phone?

Will the insurance pay out?

Watch this space!!

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Fibromyalgia - When will I get better?

I can't believe it's been nearly two months since I wrote anything for my blog!
I found myself caught up in the summer holidays and time consuming creation of a YouTube channel with baby bear!

The Wilkes Family, our new channel, is a daily vlogging adventure which has been an exciting challenge but also a huge learning curve for me learning about creative filming, editing and trying to publicise a new YouTube channel!

Baby Bear came up with the idea as she thought it could be a new occupation for me! Bless her, but she thought if we were to grow a channel we might manage to make money from it!  I think the half pay worries were obviously getting to me and in turn her and she was trying to help.

I have for the time being gotten swept up in the dream of making it big like some of the other families on YouTube, so I'm putting my heart and soul into it for the foreseeable future. It does seem to bond us with a common interest, but it does also keep me focused on doing something positive. So if you've younger children or young adults around your houses' please could you ask them to 'sub' up to our channel (that's the in speak for please subscribe!) please, as the more views, subscribers etc. we can gain then the closer we can climb towards our dream!! Our Twitter account is @WilkesFamily if you wanted to follow us there!!

Anyway back to an update on me. I've literally not long had a letter through the door from my force agreeing to extend my full pay up until the 31st October 2017. That's an extra month and ten days. This is my second extension, my first half pay date was June 20th, then September 20th and now 31st October 2017.
I have had the PTSD diagnosis, generalised anxiety disorder, depression and fibromyalgia.

I've also recently had a very encouraging visit to the FMO where she told me outright that I'll never be fit to be a police officer again. A conversation then ensued which completely frustrated me in as much as she explained I'd have to exhaust every possible treatment suggestion to 'make me better' before the H1, ill health retirement question could be asked of the force. She said if she asked it now it would be rejected. She thought another 6-9 months may be sufficient! So for now I have to get myself onto a graded exercise plan for the fibro, and find some more mood management therapy as the charity is deemed not to be independent enough for the force as I may be exerting pressure on them to say what I think needs to be heard?! Bloody ridiculous then so much of police procedures in this sphere is, isn't it?!

I have been struggling with the 'when will I get better' concept. When you get ill, you recuperate before getting better don't you? Yet I'm stuck in a groundhog day sort of loop like some sick dream. I feel trapped by this chronic illness and worry a lot about how people must get compassion fatigue continually hearing that I'm still not well.

Nine months have passed and although psychologically I am in a better place, physically not a lot has changed. If anything the fatigue, joint pain, slow cognitive reactions etc. are unchanged and if I'm honest probably more embedded than ever. My depression/anxiety are improved because I haven't had to enter the hell hole that is my working environment for months and I do know that should I return things would quickly deteriorate again.  I'd be in a very dark, if not dangerous psychological place if I went back. I well up with tears, panic just contemplating it.
But I had hoped my Fibro would be better controlled if not entirely expelled by now. I kind of thought I could beat it, why would this happen to me? But it's definitely got me firmly in its grips. Any exertion more than normal, lets say our day trip to London on Saturday, have a very significant knock on effect. I've had a temperature and felt flu like ever since, I've ached and had muscle spasms all over my body and especially my legs as if I've run a marathon and the fatigue feels like I've worked two back to back night shifts without sleeping.

I've started another drug called Gabapentin which seems to help a bit but I'm still taking co-codamol and sertraline. When I'm in a flare up like now though nothing touches the pain and I am pretty much just a zombie.

All in all Fibromyalgia is shite, its an invasive bindweed type illness that creeps into every facet of your life. It has an impact on absolutely every part of my life leaving me wondering, 'when will I get better?' Perhaps the question should actually be 'will I ever get better?'

So I'm back to the FMO on the 11th October 2017 but the NHS wheels move slowly and I haven't even had the referral appointment date come through yet for the chronic fatigue clinic let alone seen any results from their treatment plan! The other thing the FMO wanted the GP to sort was this mood management but the only tool he has to offer me is to go back to steps2wellbeing again... and I've been through that particular hoop twice already to no avail so I'm lost as to what I am meant to be doing on that front.

I saw on the telly today This Morning did a slot on chronic illness and pain. It is good to see it main streamed, maybe people may start to understand it a little better. Sad that it takes someone like Lady GaGa to suffer with Fibromyalgia for it to hit the mainstream news media outlets but that's life.

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Sunday 30th July 2017 - Panic Attacks

My daughter has been away with her Dad for the last week and during that time I've spoken to very few people face to face. Those that I have spoken with have been medics or strangers.

Aww poor you I hear you thinking, but the reality is that is the way I feel most comfortable. You see for as long as I can recall I have found people and social interaction painfully difficult, which is a tough break bearing in mind I've been a police officer for 28 years! It's probably little wonder that I've ended up the anxious mess I am, having had to interact with people all day every day!

Mind you the police side of things was never quite as bad because when you're wearing a uniform either literally or proverbially there is always a barrier between the person and yourself. A mask if you will, a suit of armour. You can adopt a professional persona and to a certain extent give as much or as little of oneself as you want to.

Socially however, I've always struggled, I feel awkward in the company of friends or strangers, I'm unsure what to say, I second guess what people are thinking about me continually and generally find myself in the corner of the room trying to hide away until a polite enough period of time has elapsed so that I can escape. The odd thing about that is that at the same time that I'm feeling desperate to get away from social events I'm also desperate to be accepted, to feel like I belong and to be cared about. It's positively ridiculous yet I can't fight the feelings of panic, the little voice telling me I'm not welcome and the even larger voice telling me that nobody would miss me anyways.

I wonder when and where this started? Was I always this way?

I think perhaps it's a product of many things. A stern unloving Mother, moving schools too often, ultimately being removed from my secondary school friends as soon as we had finished school to move away yet again?

Whatever the cause the reality of it is here to stay. I desperately crave some love and attention yet in the same breath know that I couldn't cope with the interaction that love and attention would bring. How can these two polar opposite emotions exist in tandem? That's a very cruel twist of fate isn't it?

My daughter returns from her holiday today and in much the same way as described above I'm both desperate to have her back and dreading it in the same breath.

When she's not here there's no conflict, no kids traipsing in and out of my house violating my personal sanctuary. No demands to leave the house and mingle with the rest of the world. When she's away I can merely leave the house to walk the dogs, come straight home, lock the door and be done with the world. Perfection! Yet my young and vibrant daughter wants to be a social butterfly, to do and see things, to fully immerse herself in the world. Of course this means I have to take a very deep breath and some anti-anxiety meds before dipping my toes in the world's waters too.

We've five whole weeks to fill and I know she wants to go here, there and everywhere. This is already causing the panic to rise and my heart to race, even more so I think after a week of solitude. I've to go from one extreme to the other. I reckon I'd be a hermit crab in another existence you know! At least I'd be able to carry my precious home with me!

But get out and about I will, I will not be beaten by the monsters lurking in my subconscious. She deserves to flutter about here and there and I won't have her saddled as I am needing the cloak of home. She needs and deserves people in her life.

Oh to be a social butterfly and enjoy the flitter flutter of society. To feel light and airy. To feel pretty and attractive. To enjoy flitting from one thing to another without a care in the world.

I had a very disturbing dream last night. I was in a production on the stage and it was in a massive venue, we're talking arena proportions! The audience were all arriving, famous people, everyone I knew. I was desperately trying to get to where I knew I should be ready for my cue but could I get there? It feels like I spent all night running here and there, going around and around in circles. I even got caught up in the audience on Louis Walsh's lap?! But I just could not get to where I needed to be. The panic was overwhelming, and of course the more I panicked the less able I was to think clearly and find my way to the dressing room.

I guess that's my subconscious having the same conversation with itself about the forthcoming weeks! My fear of the people, the feeling of panic if I go and make a show of myself, so my subconscious is trying to protect me by keeping me away from getting onto that stage of life!

Anyways enough rambling for now xx

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Anxiety - Do you get 'it' ?

People with anxiety disorders frequently have intense, excessive and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations. Often, anxiety disorders involve repeated episodes of sudden feelings of intense anxiety and fear or terror that reach a peak within minutes these are called panic attacks.

Anxiety is an unpleasant feeling that we all experience at times. It is a word often used to describe when we feel 'uptight', 'irritable', 'nervous', 'tense', or 'wound up'. When we are anxious we normally experience a variety of uncomfortable physical sensations. These include:
  • Increased heart rate
  • Muscular tension
  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Feelings of breathlessness
As well as this, anxiety affects us mentally too. For example, when anxious, we often worry for large periods of time, so much so that our worry can feel out of control. These worries are often about a variety of issues and commonly our mind jumps quickly from one worry to another.

Anxiety also influences how we behave. For instance, when we feel anxious, we often avoid doing things that we want to because we are worried about how they will turn out. Although short experiences of anxiety are part and parcel of daily life, it becomes challenging when anxiety begins to follow people around and is a regular feature in their lives.

I personally suffer with anxiety and depression and to me it often feels like those that profess to care about us most, our nearest and dearest don't get 'it', even when they're trying their hardest to help and understand us.

They don't always get 'it' though do they? Not in my world anyway.

It often feels to me much like when English people raise their voices towards foreigners hoping they'll understand us! Of course, they don't, they try to help, they offer whatever they think you need, but ultimately, they don't understand what the hell you're going on about. I feel like that's how it is with anxiety and depression, no matter how loudly I shout some people just do not understand, they offer help but sometimes you just want to know someone gets 'it'. Otherwise it's a lonely place feeling desperate and misunderstood. It's even more crushing when you've been a functioning anxiety sufferer when you come to a point in life where you're not to be able to snap out of it anymore, not able to wade through the anxiety to get to work or social functions because you're crippled with self-doubt and self-loathing.

When you look in the mirror... what do you see?

For a very long time when I looked in a mirror I saw something that I didn't like, in fact I often used to repeat the same mantra to myself over and over   'gee you sure is ugly'. There was nothing about my reflection I wanted to see, looking was a necessity for social compliance, to allow me to fit societies mould.

I have always had my ups and downs. Good times and bad. I have learnt over the years to see when things are sliding down hill and that's exactly what happened seven months ago. I slid all the way to the bottom and have spent the last few months trying to climb back up the slippery slope of life.

At my worst, I am tearful have a banging headache and aching joints. At my best, I can be positive but believe me it’s always a fight and let no one tell you any different, you literally have to fight anxiety as there are no quick fixes.

People often ask me how does anxiety feel?

Well I often feel like I'm in that moment just before you trip over when you're still upright but know full well you're likely headed for the deck. That secret second of time when you know your future before anyone else. You know something bad is going to happen and you're just waiting for it to come to pass.
It's often like that moment when you've sent a text message, a 'shitogram' expecting it to go to your best mate who you've been remonstrating with about whoever it is that has actually pissed you off... Then shock horror you realise you've just sent that text message straight to the very person you've been nasty about by mistake! In that moment, the world stops and your stomach feels like its dropping out of your bottom! You flush with embarrassment, your heart pounds, your pulse thunders in your ears, your throat tightens and the panic sets in. That's how anxiety feels just going grocery shopping or doing the school run, like the end of the world.

Our world can feel like a very lonely place as anxiety makes us fear a fall constantly, makes us panic that our world is about to crash around our ears over the stupidest little things.

Yet ever the reflective type I have often pondered how other people are meant to get 'it'. Let’s face it, life is full of unique experiences and we all tread our own paths, so how can our friends and family possibly be expected to know how it feels or find the empathy over and over to match any given situation?

When I get to a really wobbly stage its generally because of a combination of problems. Much like the start of a game of Jenga I can be strong tower, a force to reckon with, but start to chip away at me and I'll start to wobble. That said even a wobbling Jenga game can remain standing, ...right? I have in the past stood tall for too long, fighting my demons, trying to steady myself when maybe I should have gotten help sooner and not tried to stand tall for so long, maybe things might not have gotten to the really bad stage they did?

I know it must be difficult for those non-anxious folks amongst you to accept that we, the anxious, generally only turn down social events because of our mental illness. It does seem like such a stretch I'm sure for you guys to grasp, but believe me when I say it’s nothing personal.  I have often been treated with contempt and hostility for bailing out of functions which seems unfair because if someone said they couldn’t attend a gathering because they’d broken a bone or had the flu there would be gushing compassion and sincere wishes to get well soon. However, mention mental illness or anxiety and firstly it gets glossed over, ignored, but long term it can be taken as an indication that you are untrustworthy, a useless friend even, one who should perhaps be excluded from future social functions as a punishment.
That's how it feels but perhaps this is just my paranoia kicking in? There was a time when I lied about why I couldn’t make social functions. There was always that distant relative who needed attention, or a friend who needed my help or I had some mystery illness that was sweeping the town. However, since this my worst ever bout of depression, I feel compelled to be true to myself. This is the first time in my life that I actually admitted to myself that I have a real illness, I have finally given myself some credit for not being that selfish stand-offish bitch who allegedly hates people, but instead I can now recognise that I am someone who has a genuine illness.

It's taken me years of looking in that blasted mirror to accept that depression and anxiety are going to be a lifelong issue for me and it’ll never just be a case of getting better. There are good days and bad days, but admitting it to myself was a big deal.  So, if I’m asked why I am not going somewhere these days I am honest about it, whether that makes people feel uncomfortable or not and I'm sorry to say that I think it does still make some people feel squirmy and awkward.
In the Victorian era, us, the mentally ill, or the insane, as we were once referred to, were locked away from society, placed in mental institutions or work houses, segregated and scorned. I do wonder whether that depth of stigma still resonates in people’s minds, because there is still a stigma attached to mental illness.

I 've been making it a habit of mine to say it out loud these days, although you can end up feeling a bit like the elephant in the room when you do.  People almost want to physically shift away from you, to put some distance between themselves and you. Perhaps there is an automatic assumption you’re an axe murderer, or is it just an inherent discomfort that someone would admit that sort of shameful secret out loud? Or is it more likely to be the fact that many people face similar battles of their own but have yet to see the light in their own mirror, to accept their own truths?

Social media, twitter and my blog have been an enormous help to me. There is a large supportive community of people that do get 'it' out there waiting for you and trust me when I say feeling accepted for who you are is immensely cathartic.
I have deviated from my point. I do not want to be ashamed of my mental illness.  I want to be proud of myself for working through my anxiety, for getting up on those mornings when all I want to do is cry and hide under the dining room table. For continuing to drive to social functions even when there are tears of panic and stress rolling down my cheeks, for getting back up every time life’s bowling ball knocks me down.
So, to you the non-anxious folk out there if people like me are shouting about their anxiety from the rooftops please know it helps us cope and move forwards. Be kind and compassionate, maybe just buy yourself some ear plugs!
If a friend or colleague confides in you that they’re struggling or don’t feel able to do something because of their anxiety or depression then just say ‘okay that’s fine I understand.’ Give them the space they need and do invite them out again and again.

Do not take it personally; it’s about them not you. They’re not trying to insult you; in fact, if they confide the truth in you then they’re paying you a compliment in trusting you, making the assumption that you might just understand them and the struggles they’re living with. Just know that they’re literally putting their heart into your hands so be very gentle with it.

To you the anxiety sufferers I say trust in people, tell them your story honestly. Look in your mirror and see yourself for who you truly are.

Ways forward that I've tried...

It is important to find time to relax. This can help to reduce your anxiety levels by calming the body and mind.
Relaxation should involve doing something that you enjoy even just being by yourself.  Try to choose something that you will look forward to and that will give you a break from your day to day grind.

Doing this activity will also give you less time to spend worrying! Here are a list of activities that I find help me to relax.

  • Do some exercise (e.g. walking the dog)
  • Reading a book
  • Watching a favourite TV show
  • Doing something creative (e.g. I find writing helps) 
  • Having a bath
  • Gardening

Consider visiting your general practitioner if you haven't already, they may discuss with you possible medications that might help you deal with your depression and anxiety.

Some people find something called mindfulness really helpful. It's quite a complex topic so I won't elaborate other than to say it revolves around paying more attention to the present moment – to your own thoughts and feelings, and to the world around you – it really can improve your mental wellbeing so it might be well worth looking in to.

Breathing techniques can also really can help. Again there are a variety of choices out there. I use something called 7-11 breathing that a therapist taught me.
  • Let your breath flow as deep down into your belly as is comfortable, without forcing it.
  • Try breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth.
  • Breathe in gently and regularly.
  • On the breath in count steadily from one to seven. (You may not be able to reach seven at first.) 
  • Then, without pausing or holding your breath, let your breath flow out again really gently, this time counting to eleven. 
  • Keep doing this for three to five minutes
As I said you may not manage these figures straight away but as long as you breathe out for longer than you breathe in the technique will work for you.

You could also experiment with meditation, there are many apps out there to help with this, again it is such a wide topic I'll let you research that for yourself.

Finally there is counselling/therapy. This can be accessed via your GP, you can pay privately or in some cases there are various charities that offer help. Some employers, the police service included, offer access to private services. I accessed private therapy via a charity.

In summary...

First and foremost, take those first steps towards self-acceptance. Seeing your truth will put you on the right path towards learning self-compassion for yourself and finding a method of healing that suits you.