“They Say I’m Doing Well” Blog Tour – Stop #8 – Carrie Elks

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Stress strɛs/ – a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances.

Stress can be the most destructive of forces. Metal buckles beneath it. Walls, crack, houses crumble, people disintegrate. When it hits you, it’s almost impossible to evade, and I’ve found that it always seems to come at the moment you’re least ready for it.

In my day job I see the effects of stress on a weekly basis. I’ve watched it turn distinguished, strong men into frightened children, and experienced the way it can spin peoples’ world on an axis. In its most iniquitous form it can cause Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, a dreadful affliction where people can be triggered back to that moment of fear, experiencing it over and over again.

Though I’ve seen it first hand, it wasn’t until earlier this year that I felt the full-blown effects of stress. That’s when I began to suffer from anxiety attacks, sleeplessness and severe reactions to triggers. Combined with depression, stress can cause you to stop functioning, and that’s exactly what happened to me. My entire life went into fight or flight mode.

The simplest things could cause my heart palpitations and breathlessness; images on television, a certain song, or even sleep. So I began to avoid sleeping, laying in bed frightened to let my eyes closed, because I knew I’d wake up to a speeding heart and a lump in my throat that made it impossible to take in air. But it was a self-defeating gesture, because my lack of sleep only served to heighten the tension, making me even less able to fight off the anxiety attacks, and ensuring that I was regularly caught in a negative thought cycle, where I came to believe that my depression and anxiety were my fault.

Somehow, I managed to get some help. I found an amazing counselor who worked with me on two levels. Firstly to deal with the effects of the anxiety, and secondly to deal with the underlying causes. She introduced me to Mindfulness – a useful tool to help you deal with negative thoughts and being hung up on the past. Mindfulness, according to the dictionary, is a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique. Through this I discovered there are a large number of Mindfulness Podcasts out there—many available for free—and I listen to these and use the techniques on a daily basis.

I am one of the lucky ones. In the UK, counseling is hard to come by on the NHS, and private sessions can run upwards from £40 per hour. Stress and Depression are hugely destructive to individuals and families, but unless you have available cash, it’s hard to find a way to get the therapy needed to deal with them. As I discovered, by their nature, mental illnesses are difficult to deal with on your own. Having a trained person to lead you through the path of healing is necessary, and unfortunately so many people don’t have access to this kind of help.

Considering stress is now the number one reason for long-term absence from work, it’s hard to believe why treatments are so under-funded. The sad fact is, that unless you are either rich, have a wonderfully tenacious GP or have a job where you get benefits such as medical care, you’ll think you have to deal with stress and depression on your own.

Except you’re not alone. Once I was on the road to recovery I discovered an amazing plethora of help online. From support boards, to blogs to practitioners willing to offer pro-bono advice, I discovered that help is only a Google search away. By being honest about my issues, and seeking out those who are going through something similar, I’ve found healing. I’ve also found friendship and encouragement.

One of the most important things to understand if you’re going through something similar is that you don’t have to do this on your own. Even if you haven’t yet suffered from depression or anxiety yourself, reach out to those who have. A kind word, a smile, or the results of a Google search could go a long way to making the world a better place.

They say I’m doing well. I’m now in recovery (I don’t think anybody is truly cured). But I’m more aware of myself and my triggers than ever, and if I feel myself getting low, I’m sure to let my husband or my family know. I still practice Mindfulness—it’s something I think I’ll always do—and I’m very grateful to be alive and well in this beautiful world. But I’m also aware that so many more people than ever are out there suffering, and if that’s you, I promise, you aren’t alone.

Carrie Elks © 2016

author bio

Carrie Elks lives near London, England and writes contemporary romance with a dash of intrigue. At the age of twenty-one she left college with a political science degree, a healthy overdraft and a soon-to-be husband. She loves to travel and meet new people, and has lived in the USA and Switzerland as well as the UK. When she isn’t reading or writing, she can usually be found baking, drinking wine or working out how to combine the two. http://www.carrieelks.com

related links

A Lecture on Mindfulness by Prof Mark Williams – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wAy_3Ssyqqg

Mind – http://www.mind.org.uk

The Samaritans – http://www.samaritans.org

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Thank you so much for taking part Carrie!

To see the full list of authors taking part in this month-long blog tour, [click here]

To find out what “They Say I’m Doing Well” is all about, [click here]

giveaway

51sbG+uw6nLCarrie is giving away an ecopy of her book Coming Down. To be in with a chance of winning, visit Carrie’s FB Page and post on her wall “Sarah sent me!”

Good luck everyone and thanks for reading!

“They Say I’m Doing Well” Blog Tour – Stop #5 – Andie M Long

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I’m more than happy to tell you about my own anxiety and depression. If this story helps even one person then that’s great.

When I was twenty-one I moved into my first house (just me) and one week later I went abroad with my boyfriend. While there I had a couple of episodes of what we attributed to ‘too much sun.’ I was shaking and felt sick and had to go back to the apartment on two occasions. It would be three years before these were diagnosed as panic attacks.

At twenty-four I felt faint while on the bus. I got off in Sheffield City Centre and banged on the doors of Yorkshire Bank. I knew they had closed to customers but I also knew my sister was behind that door. We caught a taxi back to my house, thinking I had a virus. That virus lasted three years. During these three years I would be diagnosed with ME and struggle to keep my job. I lived on my own and yet relied on my boyfriend, sister and parents to get me to the places I needed to be. During that time I became obsessed with gardening, the only means of escape I had from my four walls. Unfortunately I had bad neighbours at either side. At one side a man who would get drunk and smack his wife every Friday night, the other, a Schizophrenic. Three doors down another man with mental health problems. I came home one day and the kids of wife-beater had gone into my garden and ripped all the heads off my flowers. They couldn’t see the problem.

I worked at the local psychiatric unit in Admin. I therefore knew when my next door neighbour was admitted and what he’d been admitted for. The previous night I’d told Den I could smell burning. He told me I was being stupid. I snuck a read of his case notes . He had tried to set his bedroom on fire. That bedroom adjoined mine. He’d abscond from the ward and return home. I’d hear tunnelling noises near the cellar and he’d shout through the walls that he was going to kill my cats. He tried to set some of my plants on fire. When he eventually was rehomed, the water services said he had indeed been digging towards my cellar and had just missed vital pipework.

One night the man a few doors down started his usual behaviour; playing the same song on repeat, extremely loudly, for hours and hours. This is the point I would say that I had a complete nervous breakdown. I rang my parents in tears saying I couldn’t cope any more. They took me to their house and I spent the night in a quiet bedroom, no doubt worrying them to death, but saying I couldn’t cope any more.

I was lucky. My mum got me an appointment at my G.P. surgery. It was a new G.P. One who listened and said I needed to try anti-depressants. I’d had one attempt before and the side effects had been too weird and severe. I’d only taken one. This G.P. took time to reassure me and told me that I could feel really sick for two weeks, but to think of it like flu and that in a couple of weeks I’d feel better.

The tablets made me vomit profusely for three days. They altered my pupils and made me look like I had a mad stare for two days. I made light of it but I know my family was worried. I started to feel less sick and more, well, normal. Just over a fortnight later I sat up in bed on a nice morning and asked Den if he’d take me to a garden centre. You have no idea how much of a shock this was. I’d barely left my house in three years.

I was re-diagnosed. I’d not had ME, I’d had limiting panic attacks and depression. That G.P. spent months with me on and off, showing me some behavioural therapy, such as spinning me in a chair to reassure me that although I’d get dizzy it would wear off. Without her I don’t know how I would have ended up to be honest. My body when it gets low truly makes me feel I can’t get to the end of the road. That I’m sick and exhausted. I know this because under the direction of new G.P.s I reduced and came off my medicine twice more.

The second time I became depressed and agoraphobic. I could only walk around my street. It would wear me out. Then I could only get to the post box. Then the top of the drive. When my father broke down in tears in front of me I knew I needed medication again. My father, the stocky, hard as nails, Police Sergeant. This couldn’t go on.

The third time my depression hit after I’d had a period of severe anaemia and flu. It was the worst bout I’d ever had. I’d sit in the car and wonder what would happen if I put my foot down and pranged the car in front. I didn’t want to kill myself. I just wanted to feel something. My medicines had to be increased this time, as the bout was so bad. I’d only taken a low dose on my second episode, as it was primarily anxiety and 10mg did the job. This time I needed the standard dose of 20mg. I was warned it could make me feel worse. I kept a diary of the side effects so I knew how bad they made me feel throughout this time. That diary is heartbreaking to read. Knowing how low I got and felt during that time. The increase in tablets gave me twenty-four hours where I had to tell Den I felt unsafe and to keep an eye on me. There was broken glass on the ground and I wondered how it would feel if I cut my arm. I thought about sitting on my window sill upstairs. Stupid things. Again, they were never full suicidal thoughts, just ridiculous ones that came into my mind all connected with the fact I was just so damn numb.

It passed and I improved. That was four years ago. I remain on the medication and I don’t intend to ever come off it. Maybe in time there will be improved medicines to change to. I say often, diabetics aren’t expected to stop insulin, why are depressed people taken off their tablets? If it’s situational depression and the stressor is eliminated yes, but for long term sufferers of anxiety and depression, no. I expected a fight on review with my current G.P., a no-nonsense character. He surprised me, ‘sounds sensible.’

I have low days, but I don’t attribute these to my depression. We all have low, crap days. I still have the occasional panic attack but I breathe steady and try to let it pass. I don’t hide my anxiety and depression and because of this I can tell my friends if I’m having a wobble.

If you haven’t tried medicine and I know many people are reluctant, I hope this gives you the confidence you need to ask for it. Yes you may feel at first as if you’re losing your mind even more. Afterwards you might just find you have your life back. I’m glad that my anxiety and depression are not restricting me so much these days and I can be the fab mother, partner, family member and friend I desire to be. If your health practitioners are unsympathetic, find another who is. The only thing I’ve really been left with out of all this, is I hate to feel out of control, because it reminds me too much of my illness. That’s why I rarely drink and why sometimes I escape back to my hotel room while others dance for hours. In Peterborough in March at my first book signing after party, although I still only had one drink, I did dance all night. It was the first time in years I felt I had properly let go and been myself.

I hope my story has given hope or reassurance to others. You wouldn’t know I had all this going on to look at me. In fact the thing people say to me most when I tell them I’m on anti-depressants, ‘But you’re always smiling.’ That’s right, because my anxiety and depression are currently well controlled and for that reason I’ll smile every single minute.

Update:

Recently I suffered from labyrinthitis/benign positional vertigo for a number of weeks. The feeling of permanent dizziness started to lead to increased staying at home. I was aware of going downhill, with mood and feelings of agoraphobia and panic when I tried to go out. I set myself the challenge of going a little further each day and managed to get back on my feet. My family were ecstatic as they’d seen I was wavering.

They say I’m doing well. What no-one sees is the inner struggle I go through every day to appear that way.

Andie M Long © 2016

author bio

Author of The Alpha Series: The Alphabet Game, The Calendar Game and The Alphabet Wedding, plus Underneath and Quickies. She writes books in different genres so be sure to check them out!

Andie is a mum of one from Sheffield, UK, who desperately tries to juggle the day job, motherhood, writing, gardening and her other obsessions. She has a long suffering partner.

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Thank you so much for taking part Andie!

To see the full list of authors taking part in this month-long blog tour, [click here]

To find out what “They Say I’m Doing Well” is all about, [click here]

giveaway

511Ifw74-3L._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgAndie is giving away an ecopy of her yet-to-be released romantic/comedy novella Balls! All you have to do is comment on this post with your ball(sy) reason as to why Andie should pick you as her winner!

Good luck!!

 

related links

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