If you’re happy and you know it…good for you.

I’m coming to the conclusion that mental illness is going to be with me for the rest of my life, however long that is. It’s like someone has flicked a switch or my brain has blown a fuse and I can’t reset. I think it’s now eight long years of depression and anxiety. Each a potent flavour of pain that really drains you.

I’m not happy. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not drowning in sorrow, or burning with anger, but I’m not joyous either. I’m just…flat. Not in a content way. It’s more of an emptiness. When I was a kid I used to really look forward to things, or get a nice twinge in my stomach anticipating something really exciting. Nowadays, my anticipation is only ever nervousness or dread. I’ve got that big meeting on Tuesday – will I be able to get through it? Can I handle the driving I need to do at the weekend? I function, and that’s about it. It’s kind of embarrassing. My anxiety has crippled me to the point that I have to congratulate myself on managing small tasks that most people wouldn’t give a second thought to.

If this sounds like whining, trust me, I don’t feel sorry for myself. I don’t ‘deserve better’. Why would I? The world doesn’t work like that. Some people have a great time, and others don’t.

I’m having to work quite hard to stay safe at the moment. I told my therapist that I don’t expect to make it to thirty.


A little positivity for once

Life is definitely getting better. More accurately, I realise now that isn’t going to ‘get better’ by itself. Anxiety isn’t a virus where you basically have to wait it out for the right antibodies to kick in. It isn’t a sprain that you compress and ice and rest it until it doesn’t hurt anymore. Instead it’s a monster that broke my all my self confidence, physically and mentally. So now I have to build it back up. I have to learn to trust my body again. Learn to trust my resolve. And slowly but surely, it’s working.

I don’t rock the boat at work too much, because if I screw it up I still have to be there everyday, but every weekend I do something that pushes my boundaries. Drive a long distance. Go somewhere that makes me nervous. Visit someone I haven’t felt able to see since this mess was made. Last weekend, I finally went to the dentist. I’ve been pushing back the appointment for months, unable to stand the thought of sitting in the dentist’s chair for however many minutes. On Saturday I did it (with a lot of ‘Oh I can’t do this/YES YOU CAN/It’ll be over in no time/Stop obsessing and GO’), and guess what – I didn’t die, or vomit, or wet myself, or run away screaming, or even ask to stop before the guy was finished.

I have to be relentless about it, or I’ll lose my progress. It is so tempting, especially after a long week at work, to say ‘I’ll just take it easy this weekend, stay in my house and go nowhere’, but I mustn’t give into it because I know I’ll struggle to step back up.

Progress is hard fought, but I know now I’m not going to achieve it without some serious blood, sweat, and tears. Whenever I feel like I can’t keep going, I remind myself that I do NOT want to spend the rest of my life suffering with anxiety. This is the only way out.

Stuck in the mud

Do you ever get the feeling that times are changing around you, but you’re not? Do you worry about being left behind?

I feel like elements of my life are changing, but my anxiety holds constant. There was some improvement with the Lyrica, but ultimately I still find it really hard to leave the house. It’s just a bit less vomit-inspiring if I do make it out.

Our team is restructuring at work, putting me in more of a managerial position. This is really good for me, and will glow on my CV, but I feel sad to be taking a step away from the day-to-day. There’s something very reassuring about a role where you come in, keep your head down, and get on with your work. Managing is so much more stress inducing, having to deal with other people. If my health was different, I would be a lot more enthusiastic about this change. It’s a step forward, and I can’t let my anxiety and depressive tendencies hold me back.

My team leader emailed out on Friday to say that we should all go on a social sometime soon, listing various options like dinner out or a bowling trip. They’ve been great fun in the past, and I like spending time with these guys, but…I just can’t do it right now. It’s not about the socialising, it’s about having to go somewhere. I’m going to be the ‘bad guy’ for not attending, but I don’t feel like I have a choice. I did talk to my time leader about my anxiety issues a couple of weeks back, but either he’s forgotten or he thinks I’m better now. So now I need to have that chat again, and come up with some excuse for everyone else. Sad times.

In December, when the worst of the anxiety descended, I made plans for January, because of course I’d be better by then. And in January I was making plans for February, that same assumption again. Now it’s April, and I don’t know when the hell I’m going to reach the end of this tunnel. It’s like the depression, that felt like it would never end. I want to say that I know somewhere deep down that it will end, but I have my doubts about that.

I’m not sure which is worse; depression or anxiety. I certainly know which has been more crippling for me.

Getting back to baseline

Life is improving, and I don’t know if it’s natural progression on the Lyrica, but either way I’ll definitely take it.

My anxiety isn’t there all the time now – I still feel it around busy/important times of day, and if I have a meeting with someone it occurs to me to be nervous about it, but for the rest of the day I’m relatively calm. It’s lovely! Today at work some of my colleagues decided to go to the pub for lunch, and I was able to join them – something I haven’t been able to do for weeks.

I don’t want to jinx it, but I’m really hoping I’m on to something good here.


Upping Lyrica is a real downer

Dosing up on Lyrica is HARD. Today was really difficult. As instructed by my GP, I took 150mg instead of 75mg, and oddly, five hours later I felt incredibly dizzy. I was at work and stood up from my desk to get lunch – suddenly the room was spinning and I couldn’t walk in a straight line. I thought it would wear off, like low blood pressure from standing up too fast, but no such luck.

Fortunately I have a friend at work who snuck me into an empty meeting room – I sat on the floor with my head against the wall and waited in vain for the physical drunkenness to pass. I wasn’t really well enough to be at work, but I also wasn’t in any fit state to drive home. I felt sick, but made myself eat a sandwich to try and settle my stomach – I think it helped a bit. Eventually I felt okay to return to my desk, and I did manage to do a little work. I made it home okay.

The big question is whether or not this is all worth it – I don’t have an answer yet, but early indications are promising. When my anxiety was at it’s worst, I was painfully aware of every minute that passed – it’s not like that now. I can get my head into my work, and concentrate on it solely for a while. If I think about my anxiety it does come back – I still can’t manage public transport, or drive very far, but I have hope that with this bigger dose of Lyrica these things could become possible again.


Ups and downs

Daily life is full of ups and downs at the moment – more downs than ups, but I try to hold on to the good moments like they’re precious treasure.

The day starts with intense nausea. I can’t describe how miserable it is to wake up every morning to a churning stomach and acid in your throat. It dissipates slightly when I shower, so I get out of bed pretty quickly. In another life, feeling so ill would mean not going into work – my daily routine now has to include a pep talk that I can get through this, and that I am well enough to work.

I’m finding it increasingly difficult to get to work – even if I drive myself there, I start panicking the moment I leave the house, and by the time I reach the end of the road I’m having to really urge myself not to give up and go back home. I get to work, and then around 4pm nausea starts to build again at the prospect of the journey home. Driving home used to be okay – something about heading back to safety – but this is no longer holding.

My new therapist said I should contact Occupational Health at work, so I sent off the necessary forms…they rang today and offered me an appointment tomorrow at their building in the centre of town. Great. I had written very clearly on the form that I’m very restricted in terms of travel at the moment, but that seemed to fall on deaf ears so I had to explain again over the phone. They begrudgingly offered me a telephone consultation next week. I’m a bit surprised by the resistance – given the wide nature of problems that could lead someone to contact Oc Health, why aren’t they more accommodating? I can’t be the only person who would struggle to make it to their offices.

So mostly bad days, but some good ones too. Yesterday I had to take my car for it’s MOT, and I’ve been dreading this for weeks – the prospect of driving to the test centre, then hanging around, then driving back – nausea was off the scale. But I coped. The journey was manageable, and in the test centre I managed to stay reasonably calm. I was really, really proud of myself afterwards. And my car passed it’s MOT so that was a bonus!

The day before that I had a meeting at work, and I managed to sit there for the duration, 30 minutes, without having to leave. I haven’t been able to do that for weeks. Another proud moment. I’m trying to hold onto this, use this as confidence that I can bring on repeat performances.

It’s week two of Abilify – I can’t say that I’m noticing any difference, but maybe it’s too soon. To be honest I just want the six week trial to be up so we can move onto the real anti-anxiety meds – Pregabalin for a start – but I understand I have to give this a try.

Abilify on the scene

Yesterday, I came home from a hard day at work to FINALLY find my psychiatrist referral letter waiting for me on the doormat. ‘An appointment has been made for you to see Dr ABC next Thursday’. Fan-bloomin-tastic!

This afternoon I had a surprise phone call at work – my GP calling. She said she’d had an angry phone call from Dr ABC complaining that I shouldn’t have been referred at all yet – apparently there’s more to try before we need his help – so my appointment was cancelled. Ugh. 

The upshot is I’m about to start taking Abilify (aripiprazole). I’m not thrilled at the prospect – I’ve had really bad reactions to antipsychotics in the past, and Abilify isn’t really renowned for helping with anxiety – but I have to give it a go before I can really discard it. Watch this space.