It’s never enough

I always feel like I’m not enough. Not good enough, not smart enough, not trying enough.

Sometimes it’s in the back of my mind other times, if something triggers this.

Someone doing something amazing whilst I feel I’m sitting there stagnant or going backwards.

Rejection upon rejection upon rejection.

Waiting for emails. Emails of yet more rejections or hopefully good news.

Scrolling down linkedin or legal insta to find everyone getting training contract offers when you have nothing.

Everyone else having confidence to start various initiatives and you not.

Because who would care? Who would help?

People say you don’t network in the right way.

You can’t maintain relationships with people because you pushed all your friends away in the second year of university when you had zero mental health.

You are just simply not enough.

I don’t know how much of this is my poor self esteem as a result of never feeling heard as a child. At school, by my family. A result of emotional neglect/abuse. Or how much of it is a result of being chronically ill and when your chronically ill society expects you to be extroadinary.

To reach goals that most people don’t reach and be an inspiration.

If you don’t your just lazy. A burden on everyone.

It doesn’t help that I genuinely want to reach said goals.

Personally I think it’s a combination of the two causing my feelings of never enough.

I already push myself so much to do things and to function and to live life as close to how I want it as possible that when I see other people meeting standards that I expect of myself I feel like I’m not enough. People say I should do more or atleast insinuate it but there is no way I can fit more in.

I need to try and climb as it’s the only exercise I can tolerate and being conditioned makes a massive difference to my pain levels. It also gives me life.

I’m leaving my job but up until said point I am having to drag myself through 8 hours a day. 8 hours where the pressure in my head feels unbearable, Where my vision will start to fade on sitting up and where the brain fog is so thick that I don’t really trust myself.

I’m doing law things alongside.

Moving home to try and take care of my health before I start my LPC.

I can’t fit more in.

I find it funny that we are expected to be inspiarations but if a healthy person got my symptoms for a week it’s okay for them to do the bare minimum.

Why is this? Why has society developed in this f*cked up abelist way? I know I’m not the only one who suffers because of it, so if you do to you are not alone and you are enough.

Step into my shoes: Growing up with chronic illness

Imagine being eight, going through a phase of constantly spraining your ankles in PE, your teachers not believing your in pain when you ask to sit out half way through for the 3rd week in a row. That started it, the belief that no one believes you, everyone thinks your a fraud. There can’t be something that wrong because if there was people would believe you.

Being nine and spraining more ankles and a wrist. Being told you can’t go horse-riding because you have an injury, albeit minor. That started the feeling that you should hide the pain because you didn’t want to miss out on the fun. Horse-riding was a passion at the time and the pain wasn’t that bad. For pain that wasn’t always going to be there when you rode it was worth pushing through.

Imagine being 11, running around in the playground getting a pain in your lower right abdomen. A pain that unknown to you at the time would plague the rest of your life. You’re scared, but feel unable to open up to your parents about it. You reach 12 and it gets worse. Your dad somehow reads your texts and says your telling your friends you feel unwell for attention. You ask to sit out of PE because the pain is beyond excruciating your scared you’ll die. The teacher doesn’t believe you. You try to play basketball despite, standing out hand on your lower right abdomen, leaning against the wall whenever possible. Because that teacher didn’t believe you, you don’t go to the medical room in the next class. You think they to won’t believe you. You internalise it even more. Hide the symptoms from parents and teachers even more.

More and more goes wrong with your body. Dizziness. Going from once being fit to struggling to walk up the stairs to your English class without feeling like you’ll pass out. Your knees hurt and you stop horse-riding. Between the abdominal pain and the knee pain from having feet in the stirrups it’s just too much.

At 14 you take ibuprofen into school, taking it every three hours instead of every four. Even then the abdominal pain rarely eases up.

The teachers think you don’t try hard enough. You should be getting better grades. But how from the ages of 11-16 do you pay attention in class when you are scared for your health but feel you have no where to turn. When the nausea and abdominal pain is distracting at best and excruciating at worst. When you are depressed, self harming and develop anorexia because you feel like no one understands you. No one is there for you and no one listens to you.

Doing your best isn’t killing yourself. It’s not pushing yourself unreasonably. It’s simply doing your best.

Maybe I should have been getting straight A’s but my circumstances meant I didn’t.

At 16 you develop ME, but it comes on so subtly. You start getting worse at climbing, cycling two minutes down the road makes your legs feel heavy and weak when previously you could easily do the entire paper round. The sore throat comes on and it never leaves, you feel tired and start falling asleep at 2pm over the summer holidays or fall asleep at 8pm in the middle of watching criminal minds. You’ve been busy. It’s nothing. You start college, the nausea gets worse, you feel tired but everyone’s tired. It’s nothing. That is until the dizziness and heart palpitations start, the fatigue hitting you like a ton of bricks at the beginning of second year. (Although not as bad as I am now). The doctors don’t know what’s wrong. They record a sitting heart rate of 135bpm but say you are just underweight. Hilariously you then relapse into anorexia, fall into an exercise addiction and push through injuries. You feel the PEM (albeit mild compared to todays PEM it was significant at the time). The what is now known as ME gets better but your abdomen and all those organs decide not to be okay. You lose weight after gaining back to a healthy weight. In pain. Nauseous. Bloated The doctor says It’s just stress.

That’s just a snapshot of life with chronic illness. We really need to start believing our young people. Really making our young people aware that we are there to listen and help. Not just stick to the standard “faking it, growing pains, stress, weight” reasons for symptoms out of the ordinary. I know had I been believed and had I felt loved and able to speak about my symptoms from the outset I would be a more confident person now. I wouldn’t have spent so much time so scared, thinking about what could be wrong with me and maybe I then would have got better grades.

You are sick enough for help: Mental Health Awareness week

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It’s the end of mental health awareness week and honestly we shouldn’t need one but there we go, we still do. Although we have come a long way there is still a significant amount of stigma out there.

Today I want to talk about, well write about how we all have mental health and there is never a point where you are not sick enough for help. Be that therapy, counselling or medication or even just that little bit of extra support from family, friends and collegues.

Mental health is just like physical health. Sometimes it can be good, sometimes it can be bad, sometimes it can be somewhere inbetween and just like physical health we shouldn’t ignore it if we start to feel it going because if we do ignore it, it will likely get worse and have a knock on effect on other aspects of our life. If it gets worse, it’s harder to then get back under control.

Just like physical pain, it’s better to take action when the pains a 3/10 because once it gets out of control more and more needs to be done.

Ignoring your mental health and sacrificing it above all else in life isn’t a badge of honour, it isn’t a way to show how brilliant you are or how hard you try. Your not being pathetic if you take time out, get therapy, take medication that’s okay. You are valid. You are worthy. You are not wasting the time of healthcare professionals. Even if you live in the UK and are reliant on the NHS. If you think you are having enough of an issue with your mental health that simple self care isn’t helping and only you know that you are worthy of help. See your GP, self refer to therapy.

I know living in the UK it can be hard, especially as a teenager because CAHMS often only help you in a timely manner if your on your death bed and even then…. I won’t waste words ranting about CAHMS though.

Many trusts now offer self referral to therapy, although limited in their use for people like me with currently mild/moderate anxiety and depression this can be really helpful  I have a lot more anxiety than depression though! I’ve been really quite anxious these past few days just because my family don’t understand ME but the second I try to explain they start spewing abelist language on me. That’s an anxiety that’s hard to overcome, when the people who are meant to support you most don’t see nor understand your illness but it’s kind of your fault because have you really tried but the issue is your too anxious to try.

That was a tangent…

Although there’s still waiting lists it’s not the 6 months to many years that can be found with other forms of mental health treatment on the NHS.

You are sick enough, you are worthy and you are deserving. Remember it’s better to prevent these issues arising at all, through rest, be selfish once in a while. Self care is important, you shouldn’t burn yourself out trying to be everything for everyone.

The problem with Illness Bingos

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These bingos have been floating around Instagram for years, they’ve only recently popped back up into the stories of those whom I follow. Maybe due to pandemic caused boredom.

I find these bingos problematic, on many counts. Both the physical health ones and the mental health ones. This isn’t an attack on anyone I’ve seen doing them or anyone creating them because I’m sure many people don’t realise the issues with them. It’s just a harmless piece of fun right? Maybe… to you. But there are some real issues associated with them that I’d like to discuss.

With both the physical and mental health bingos create some sort of sick competition as to whose the sickest. Who can score the most with symptoms, treatments and comorbidities. There has been this toxic competition going round certain parts of the spoonie community before and it’s simply not okay. A place that many come to for support and a sense of community. A place that many people come to in order to feel less alone. It’s supposed to be a safe space and not a source of ones own illness imposter syndrome.

This can be even more damaging with the mental health bingos. It’s already common with mental illnesses for people to believe they’re not sick enough for treatment. These bingos make that worse.

Mental health bingos can also be hugely triggering, especially eating disorder bingos which often give ideas for behaviours that can be used or use numbers.

It hurts my heart to see these in the recovery community, where someone’s followers are often highly vulnerable.

The thing with Instagram and especially stories is that it’s hard to avoid taking in this information. Unless someone puts a trigger warning on before doing the bingo and you can then choose to click off of the story.

I know how hard that is when we have limited energy and when we may not realise the trigger as it doesn’t trigger us. But if you want to engage in these bingos I believe it’s the safest way to do so.

 

My Mental Health is Suffering in Lockdown

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And we are in week I don’t even know of lockdown. But it’s fair to say the lack of meaningful human interaction is starting to take it’s toll. I’m an introvert but even us introverts will start to crack if left alone with our thoughts for too long. I’m lucky I have access to social media and people to talk to virtually but I’m definitely starting to feel more low than usual.

My sleep schedule is non existent

I’ve started having anorexic thoughts again. Sometimes some really intense ones that have been hard to not give into.

My brain fog is worse and my ability to concentrate also worse.

There are things other people can do, which would help like they’re daily outdoor exercise which I’m not yet really well enough to do. Daily. (Although getting there)

I feel this social experiment COVID-19 has played on us leads to two questions being asked.

Will we have the mental health services and resources to help everyone after this?

Is there going to be more awareness of the fact that poor mental health in people with chronic illness is oftentimes secondary as a result of the isolation it causes?

I really hope so!

 

 

 

Mental health in the workplace

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Maybe this isn’t the best time for this blog considering the majority of the world is either not working or working from home but I feel like the same points still stand. And if anything not working/working from home can bring up more anxiety, and I predict even more so when the time comes to go back into the office.

A workplace environment can bring up a lot of anxiety, and resulting depression. It may also lead to eating disorder tendencies coming back due to anxieties about eating in front of people, not having sufficient breaks or not being able to eat the same food.

I know my mental health is often associated around the workplace. Be it thinking no one likes me or thinking I’m not good enough. I’ve also found myself getting anxious over how often I get up from my desk in the office environment. Especially in the office I’m in right now, where my job does not require me to get up to go to the printer on a regular basis.

I find as a perfectionist, the pressure gives me a lot of anxiety. The pressure to be perfect. Which is hard when I have chronic illnesses that make being perfect impossible.

If you find your job is negatively impacting your mental health remember it’s okay. Especially if transitioning to a new role. Take time for self care, take time for hobbies.

Try and find the positives.

Many workplaces also now have mental health first aiders if you find yourself in a crisis at work.

Remember to open up to others. Don’t bottle it up. You’ll likely be surprised to find that other people have been through similar things. We all have mental health and although we won’t all experience a clinically diagnosable mental illness in our lifetime, everyone will experience certain lows and a level of anxiety. Also sharing a problem really helps, bottling it up only makes it worse. If you have no one to share with 7Cupsoftea is a good website for this!

Don’t stress about what you can’t control. I know many people have been and are still worried about their job security during this pandemic. You can’t control that. So try not let it eat you away. By all means come up with a plan but don’t catastrophise.

It’s okay to get help. By this I mean professional help. If you feel you would benefit from therapy or medication then that’s okay. You do you. Do whatever helps you. (Providing it is safe, non-destructive and isn’t going to harm you or anyone else)

Finally, don’t beat yourself up. Your not weak. Your not pathetic. Your not melodramatic. Your human. Beating yourself up is only going to make your mental health worse.

Stay safe everyone. Look after your physical and mental wellbeing and I’ll see you in my next blog.

 

Eating disorders are more than the stereotype often reinforced during this week.

It’s eating disorder awareness week,  and having suffered from an eating disorder myself I always like to acknowledge it in some way.  To be honest this year inspiration is running thin. What with my current job destroying my mental health and meaning those eating disordered thoughts are creeping back in and this ME flare up which is relentless could god forbid I could just phone up and call in sick when I’m still climbing. That internalised guilt is real as well as internalised ableism.

Anywho on with the post!

I’ve been in the eating disorder recovery community for years, own recovery My own recovery starting in the summer/autumn of 2013. I’ve been through many a EDAW and had to deal with those before and after pictures. Before I knew better, I may have even participated in this trend myself.

But I feel as though these pictures, this type of awareness misses the point. It caters to the middle class white skeletal female version of what an eating disorder is. It caters to and perpetuates the stereotype which is not at all relatable or a representative depiction of eating disorders  as a whole.

This image and reinforcement ignores the fact that anorexia isn’t the only eating disorder, as well as that anyone can get an eating disorder. Anyone of any race, size, socio-economic background.

Most dangerously these pictures continue the misconception that an eating disorder is just about weight. This is damaging on all counts but most importantly on the likelihood of and the success of treatment for the disorder. I know myself, only a tiny part of my eating disorder journey was spent underweight and less of that was spent emaciated. I did have anorexia and further through my recovery compulsive exercise and orthorexia but this isn’t the case for the majority of eating disorder sufferers. Many more have bulimia, binge eating disorder or OSFED who may never become underweight or may be overweight. This misconception is also damaging for those who are underweight or who will in the future end up under weight. It can make everyone think they’re recovered when ED recovery is about so much more than weight restoration. An eating disorder is a mental illness, thus to recover the mind needs to recover and this can often take years.

Instead of posting images that focus on weight I believe we should take weight out of the equation and think about warning signs and symptoms of an eating disorder instead.

These can include:

  • Being preoccupied with weight/shape
  • Being preoccupied with food
  • Denying themselves food
  • Secrecy
  • Going to the bathroom straight after a meal
  • Constantly making excuses as to why they’re not eating
  • Not eating in public
  • Hiding food
  • Becoming withdrawn
  • Wearing different clothing than usual – i.e more baggy
  • Overexercising or exercising with the wrong motivations in mind.
  • Hoarding food
  • Taking laxatives/diuretics

There are many others, but these are just a few from the top of my head.  I personally use a traffic light system to maintain my own recovery. Green – alls good. Amber – I’m showing a few personal warning signs but not really acting on them. Red – I’m acting on my disordered thoughts. I find this really helps me keep check on myself.

I hope this helps raise some awareness and explain some of the issues with focusing on just one aspect of a very complex set of mental illnesses!

When I say I’m tired…

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This is a difficult one to write but an important one in order to raise awareness for fatigue causing chronic and mental illnesses as your average muggle just does not understand what we mean when we say that we’re tired.

Let’s just start by getting our understanding of tiredness correct. Tiredness can be relived by sleep, rest or even a coffee. Tiredness may even be relieved by a cold shower in the morning or a nice morning run (or climb).

When I say I’m tired that’s not what I mean.

I mean I’m dizzy. My brain is just not doing anything for me, and I struggle to understand the simplest of things.

I mean that I’m getting an intense pressure in the back of my head and neck and that is making me dizzy. I am struggling to stay sitting up. Let alone using my brain and working or engaging in a conversation.

I mean I have a debilitating headache or I’m just getting sensory overload for no apparent reason so please shut the fuck up.

I mean that I am in so much pain that no amount of distraction is helping. I need to either go for a climb or just lay in bed with whatever heat/ice combination and some reruns of greys anatomy.

I’m not just tired I’m exhausted. My muscles feel week and heavy. I’m struggling to coordinate myself, I can’t feel my legs. I’m having random muscle twitches and seizure like shakes.

When I say I’m tired, I mean I’m so tired that even if I lie down I feel like I’m about to fall. I can’t tolerate using a pillow. I can be completely flat and still feel like I need to be laying down more.

I don’t just mean I’m tired.

I mean my body is done and it needs a break.

What do you mean when you say your tired?

A week in my life as a working girl

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I was contemplating writing a somewhat inspiring and helpful post this week but honestly, I just want to write about the last week of my life. Because it has been a week. The stress, the tears, the triumph and the pure bliss. The hilariously bad health, the feelings of inadequacy and the realisations. It really has been a week. And that’s without discussing the state of UK politics. No, I am not happy and yes I am worried about the future of the country – especially for the disabled, and chronically ill. People like me. Who rely on a fully functioning NHS to manage life? But that aside let’s talk about my week.

So, Monday. Monday, Monday, Monday. I think my ME finally caught up with me on Monday, I couldn’t stand up at all when I woke up and finally got myself sitting up and to the end of my bed. Maybe that was a sign that I should have called in sick. Not sure how “Hi I’m having an ME flare” on my first day on team would have gone down but to tell you the truth, I didn’t even think about calling in sick. Something just didn’t click. I never learn to tell you the truth. I put on a mask at work. A façade that works better than it needs to and probably works to my detriment.

Work happened. I don’t really have much so say about what happened. Did a little shadowing because not much else to do when you don’t even have a computer log in. Learnt some stuff. Kind of like my team, kind of don’t. Basically, an average job. I get home, get my incorrect contract, putting me at a grade higher than I actually am. How one makes that mistake – not just to me but another person, I don’t know. But such is life. On Monday, I very quickly realised how much of a mistake it was to go to work. I got home, had a drop attack and was on the floor unable to move, sit up or anything having seizure like shakes. Made me realise how disgusting the hallway is as well as that I really could do with investing in a wheelchair or at least a walker to help prevent these things and allow me to get around the flat when I’m that bad. Do I have that money? No? Do I have any money? Also no.

Tried to sort out my Wi-Fi and spent a ridiculous amount of money in doing so. No WIFI is a common theme this week and every week since I’ve moved.

Tuesday was the first day I got the stick out in this city. There’s been plenty of times I probably should have been using it before, but Tuesday I knew I had to after Monday nights events. Did more shadowing, cut out some Disney characters (no I do not work at a primary school!) but not going to lie I did enjoy being a bit crafty. Also had an awks chat with the deputy line manager, cause walking stick does that. And not that I’m not open about my illnesses, I am to an extent – especially on social media, but I’ll never say anywhere near all of it because I just can’t. It’s a defence mechanism and it’s impossible. I also had to go see my GPs pharmacist about meds which was fun. Luckily, she agreed I could stay on them all! I was having an endo flare on Tuesday. Weird cause my periods just finished and asides from the birthday party and v bad breaking free sesh interrupting my sleep I had excruciating pain. I do sometimes have an issue with endo pain that ice helps to an extent, but ice also makes it worse. It was a simultaneous heat ice job for sure.

Wednesday the endo flare was worse but did that stop me from climbing. No. Did I need it, and did it reduce the pain in the moment. Yes. Do you know why because passion is the key to dealing with chronic pain. Passion is how I succeeded in my degree and passion is how I now climb again. Had fun, did things that would have been a no brainer 3 years ago but made me proud to be capable today. I think my technique is better today than when I was able to do some V5s back in the day. As my endo pain was bad and I partially dislocated my left hip (as I often do climbing these days) which made the pain worse once I was back, I forgot to stretch and definitely felt that I was tight Thursday morning! Although I was walking unaided Thursday which is always blissful.

Thursday was stressful after work. Like too many places to be at once and it was the all-important voting day. Work itself was okay. I got even more of an impression that the biggest characters really are not my sort of people but hey in 9 months I can be gone if I want to be and I will be if I get a very specific training contract or the law commission research assistant job. I realised I missed those simpler times when I could just research family law all day because let’s face it. Academically, I’m definitely a family and child lawyer. Practically, we’ll see, I feel I could sink my teeth into and love many areas. I’m enjoying employment right now and find that interesting due the fact that it has both business and personal sides to it.

On Friday (today) I finally understood the habitual residence thing on the family law court orders and got to look at another family law court order. Not expected in my current job! I also did more cutting and shadowing and definitely have the impression that certain people think I don’t try enough, don’t care and are definitely not my sort of people but I can be nice and respect and like people for the purpose of work. Also, that’s the minority. I just need to not get too affected by it. Went home, had another drop attack which aggravated the ankle I injured by falling when climbing down on Wednesday but hopefully not too badly. It was healing nicely. I still have no Wi-Fi and thus no stable internet connection, but I think I’m going to invest in a data dongle as I can’t deal with this whole engineer thing anymore. And for my health and productivity I need that stable connection. I missed out on finishing my Stanford scholarship application by the deadline because I didn’t have anywhere to go that was quiet enough to film and had a stable and fast enough connection. And fine. I wasn’t getting in anyway because lots of other things went wrong and to tell you the truth, I like working, I don’t want another three years of full time education unless it’s to do a PhD and specialise and some scary stuff is happening with my health right now that needs dealing with. I also need to get this endo surgery sorted and honestly if I can get the referral that will motivate me to stay in one place until I have closure. I’m having a flare and it’s not okay. I need to know if it is or it isn’t and the pain is so excruciating that I need to grow up, woman up and get that surgery. It’s the only way to know either way.

I can’t deal with my health in America. So silver linings and all that. Sometimes things aren’t meant to be and that’s okay! It doesn’t mean your not enough. It just means things take time and we are all different, all have different priorities and god has different plans for all of us.

 

Being true to yourself never goes out of style

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Living with a Chronic Illness is tough, being LGBT+ can also be tough. Having a job as a stopgap to hopefully bigger and better things – also tough. Life is tough.  And there are many situations you may encounter in life where you feel you need to not be yourself. Where you feel you should pretend to be someone your not or downright lie as to why you want to take x day off. (As the mother suggests and does often).

Maybe there’s a bit of Hufflepuff in me, but I value honesty and integrity. I don’t want to be living a lie and I want the freedom to post about events I’ve attended on social media without having to worry about who’s seen it.

I used to try and pretend to be someone I’m not, fit myself into that perfect mould that people told me to be. Attempting to conform with that on application forms, contemplating the mould in the decisions I made in life and when I was a lot younger, pretending to be someone I’m not to make and maintain friendships.

My advice is don’t. Also don’t lie. Chances are you’ll get found out eventually.

I’ve got a lot further when I’ve been honest. When I’ve shown my genuine passion and interests.

I’ve also got myself into very bad situations from not disclosing my disability and as a result having to push myself more than my body was capable of. This caused a decline I haven’t come back from in 2017 and over the summer it caused some psychological trauma from being on a carpark floor in front of colleagues for two hours and having to go to A&E. It also caused me to be unable to walk for two weeks and drop attacks that I am only just getting some control over.

Never had this made being true to myself ring so true.

I have also found that I am a lot happier when I am being true to myself. In whatever way that may mean. It also helps me to create a narrative I can use throughout my training contract applications and soon LPC applications (I’ve heard this helps).

So yes be true to yourself. In all parts of life. Now this doesn’t mean sharing everything and anything. There’s a lot I don’t share. I don’t share the details of my illness in anywhere near as much depth as I feel them, for example. It just means being honest, and not pretending to be someone your not.