Bi Polar and Anxiety

Anxiety is on the rise, we all suffer with it at some point, whether before an job interview, or long journey, we can understand some anxieties, they are considered the “normal” ones, but what happens when anxiety follows you around like an annoying shadow, which no matter how we try to weave, and prance our way around it, it sticks to us wherever we go, whatever we are doing.

It is almost as though there is a little part of the sufferer’s brain especially made called the anxiety pouch, it is there, always there, no matter how busy we are, our minds could be filled with a million other things, yet  the anxiety will still be there.

Carolyn M. Drazinic, MD, PhD, assistant professor in psychiatry, genetics and developmental biology at the University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington says, “It is very common to see an anxiety disorder coexisting with bipolar disorder”

Experts say that it is not always easy to separate an anxiety disorder diagnosis from a bipolar disorder diagnosis but below are some symptoms which are indicative of both disorders co-occurring.

  • Panic attacks, severe anxiety.
  • Avoiding activities that cause anxiety, while displaying mania, hypomania or depression.
  • Having difficulties sleeping because of anxiety.
  • Showing ongoing anxiety even when not in a manic or hyper manic state.
  • Taking a longer than normal time to find the correct medication dosing and combination for their bipolar.

A panic disorder is an anxiety disorder marked by repeated panic attacks.

Thankfully, my panic attacks have calmed a lot in the recent months, but my health anxieties are at an all time high.

Having long lasting stomach issues, being seen by a number of Dr’s ( who are not overly concerned) and awaiting tests have led me down a path of tremendous anxiety, my “go to” thought process that something is terribly wrong, and the Dr’s have missed it is at the forefront of my mind.

Those of us whom have anxieties will ask for constant, repeated reassurance. Those around us may believe we are being hypochondriac’s, will not understand whey we cant just ” think positive” and will wonder why we need to over dramatize everything.

Having bipolar, combined with anxiety is a daily struggle, from the minute one gets up till they fall in to a usually highly charged/ disturbing dreaming sleep, all that is on your mind is your current health anxiety.

The difference between a person who does not have bipolar and anxiety is huge.  2 people with the same symptoms ( in my case long lasting, 24/7 stomach pain ) will have completely different conversations with themselves.

Person 1:

” This pain is so annoying, it disturbs me every day, I just cant wait for the scan and other tests so I can deal with it, I am a little worried because its so often, but the Dr’s have checked me over and over, they have sent me for tests, if they were overly concerned they would have ordered urgent tests, I will just have to wait and see”

Person 2:

” OMG, I am so sure that the Dr’s have missed something, I am sure when I have the scan they are going to find this huge mass of cancer, so scared, its just not normal to have stomach pain all day every day. What about that story I read on line?? the Dr’s missed something that women had, and so many Dr’s checked her and they all missed her cancer and now she is dying. My friend had a pain in her stomach and its pancreatic cancer, maybe I have that”. I am just terrified, should I go to A&E tonight?? I need to tell people about this so that they can reassure me, ill just text hubby to tell him my stomach is hurting again, and does he think it is something serious? Shall I call an ambulance? No I cant, come-on you know its nothing serious right? No I don’t know that, I am sure they have missed something”.

Ill leave you to work out which conversation is one a person with low anxiety and which is the self conversation a person with high anxiety will have.

Anxiety together with bipolar can cause so much unhappiness and exhaustion, coupled with the obsessive thinking that most people with bipolar tend to have, its overwhelming.

So what to do with our anxiety? how to calm it? Trying to be rational and calm just does not work.  I do not know how to overcome this.

 

A WEIGHTY ISSUE

“Are you body beach ready”

“Shake yourself skinny”

“Spray away your fat”

“Lose weight, feel great”

Just a few of the millions of ad campaigns when I look at adverts for diet/ looking good/ health etc.

Recently I felt very unwell, had pins and needles and left arm pain, a man whom we know who is a paramedic came over to check me out, he took my pulse, checked my heart rate and then pronounced, ” You know why you are getting these pains?” “It’s because you are fat”, he then continued “Don’t you want to be one of those women who walk in to a room and all heads turn to check you out”.  I was embarrased, and stunned.

I do love a wee browse in the shops on my day off, and today I ventured in to a shop I had never been to, it was not a particularly upmarket shop, nor was  it exclusively advertised for smaller women, walking around the shop I realised that in the hundreds of rails, all different designers and makes, there were no clothes higher than a size 16.

Setting myself a little challenge, and having a little extra time, I decided to look at every rail, check out all the clothes, I searched high and low, sweat began to form, my heart beat fast as I desperately sought just one outfit, just one skirt, one pair of trousers, shirt, jumper, cardigan, t-shirt, underwear ..anything to prove to myself that this huge shop catered to more than a size 14/16. Eventually beaten and saddened I admitted defeat.

It is a well-known fact that the average British women is a size 16. looking around the café I am currently in I spot within seconds 2 women who are clearly larger than a size 16.  In fact if I pause, look out the window for a few minutes I am certain that I will see rather a lot of women who are not the “average” size.

Weight has annoyingly been an issue to me for many  years, many years ago, I was skinny, but desperately unhappy, now I am large, extra-large in fact, but I am in a good place, obviously one does not automatically cancel out the other, one can be very slim and be happy or miserable, one can be large ( or obese) and be in a great place, or again, unhappy.

I am aware that weight is dependant on many factors, for me a lot of my weight gain is due to the medication I take, the fact that it often makes me lethargic and to be brutally honest my eating habits were, until 3 weeks ago, terrible.

The question I ask myself is, why do we want to lose our weight, why do we torture ourselves endlessly about being overweight in a society where we all know that eating disorders are at an all time high, I see my young nieces, no more than 12/13, who are just perfect the way they are worrying about their weight, trying unsuccessfully to pinch the non existent fat on their stomachs, bemoaning their fate. these are girls who are not on social media, who do not read celebrity magazines, and do not watch tv, so where does it come from ? This endless lust for being skinny, the subconscious idea that if a person is a certain size they are somehow “better people”.

Society at large, is skin deep, we aspire to be better people, we try to lead good lives, but we live in a culture of looks. I have a friend who recently told me that following her huge weight loss, people who never spoke to her before, suddenly started to speak to her, that for a while it was an amazing feeling to be able to pick out an outfit without climbing in to the rail, puffing and panting, trying to reach the depths to see if they stocked her size, the frustration and the self loathing she felt when being out of breath after walking up a flight of stairs, the avoidance of being fully naked, the sadness when looking in the mirror, but eventually she realised that whilst her self-esteem had of course increased being slim in today’s world was rarely about health, but more about looks.

Whilst waiting weekly for my daughter to finish her dance class, another class finishes, a zumba class for adults, regularly I overhear ladies discussing their weight as they emerge breathless and sweating from the class, the ladies are on average a size 10, standing there, wearing my size …. I feel obese, ugly, and ashamed, but then, when my mind is clear, I understand that my weight may not be healthy, but nor is their body image, they do not love themselves even though they are skinny ( not slim, skinny).

Teenagers starving themselves, going in to the school toilets at lunch breaks to throw up that piece of lettuce they have just eaten, constantly exercising, is this about health or is it due to living in a society where “fat girls” are not popular, scorned and teased and made to feel a lesser person for not being the perfect weight?

Recently I started slimming world, I am also on a WatsApp group for slimming world, it is truly inspirational, slimming world makes sense, I can eat meat, pasta, potatoes etc.  I have changed my eating habits drastically. Below, just because I am in the mood of completely embarrassing myself is a typical days eating before,

Breakfast: 

(Large) Chocolate Bar, Latte.

Snack

(Large) packet of crisps, diet coke, more coffee.

Lunch: 

On my days off work, a take out, or large bowl of pasta etc. Diet Coke

Afternoon snack:

Chocolate, crisps etc.

Supper:

Pasta with tuna and mayo, toast with chocolate spread, meat, chips ( you get the idea)

Evening snacks:

Chocolate, toast, crisps ……

Listing my before diet I am horrified at the life style I was leading, I do not know what tipped me over the edge and convinced me to seriously starting to lose weight, I think whilst I was a smoker, the nicotine and chemicals that filled my body brought my whole mood down, made me sluggish and tired, I have felt better since stopping smoking and know that if I can conquer the poison of cigarettes I know I can be a healthy weight.

Sadly, the comment that paramedic made, telling me that I am having aches and pains due to being “fat” was the one that encouraged me to start loosing.

My 9 year old is a dancer, her entire being is made up of dance enzymes, she will dance any time she can, loves her dance classes, and often begs us to send her to more classes, on the other hand, she is her mother`s daughter and enjoys her food (a lot!).  some weeks ago, I made a comment, as I said it, as my mouth opened and the words formed I knew that I should not be saying it, as the words came out my mouth I willed them back. “You know you’re getting a bit of a belly, you need to be careful what you eat”….. WORST WORDS…..EVER!!!!!  That evening, whilst she was meant to be getting on her pyjamas, she appeared in to my room in full dance wear, she switched on the music and began dancing as if her life depended on it, when I asked her what in heavens she was doing she replied ” you said I am getting a belly, I need to lose weight, so need to exercise”. the experience taught me so much, Our children are growing up in a skinny is super” world, school mates can be cruel, looks are everything, if I can do anything to ensure my daughter,  grows feeling that it does not matter if she has a belly, that as long as she is healthy that is all that matters, as long as she is happy within herself, loves and respects her body I will feel I have done the best I can.

Do I want to lose weight so that “all eyes will be on me when I walk in to a room”. you know what, maybe for a little while that would be wonderful, to feel when I walk in the room that I am not the biggest lady in there, to feel confident in my skin, to be able to look at myself in a mirror and not feel disgust is a goal, but my main goal?

My main purpose in loosing weight is self-love, and love of my family, it is not that the people around me will admire me, treat me as if my looks are me, but it is for my happiness, my health and most important, so that I can dance with my daughter, always, and without being out of breath.

Love yourself, your body does not define you, be healthy for your sake, not for those around you.

Lots of love.

Sara

 

 

Anxious??

Hello dear reader.

Its been a while, a part of me has yearned to write, but another part has been taken up with, well, living. Recently though anxiety has been on the forefront of my mind and tonight an invitation and a conversation pushed me to write.

Long ago friendships are those that will last forever, even if you don’t speak for years, only send a WhatsApp once a year or so, and on each of those times promise faithfully that the next year you will meet, e mail, and be super old fashioned and use the telephone. The friendships we have had since school are enduring and time does not erode the depth of them.

The invitation to the Bar Mitzvah in Switzerland landed on my door mat a couple of days ago, and all I can think is “I have to go” “It would be so amazing to reconnect to a friend who is and always has been so dear to me” and “ I know I will ask my other friend from a time oh so long ago if she would like to come on a girly trip with me ”

Then I pause.. the word airplane comes to mind.. my heart drops, it thuds the heavy beat of anxiety, my face falls, how can I even contemplate travelling by airplane? Driving on a motorway, staring white faced out of a speeding trains window is enough to make me switch to full panic mode, the chest pains, the shortness of breath the feeling that surely the car will be involved in a pile up, the train will be in a fatal collision, the panic of travelling by airplane is something I have long avoided.

I speak to hubby, I make him tell me how many flights take off a day throughout the world, how many crash, how much training pilots are given, how does it stay afloat, is there a chance of survival if the plane crashes, how many terrorist attacks have taken place this year on flights… he looks at me in bewilderment and reminds me he is an accountant not a aeronautical engineer.

The anxieties I have now are pretty new, a couple of years at most, the irrational fear of pigeons, of escalates with their yawning mouths, ready to slip you up.

I have thought that I am a severely anxious person, and one quiet day at work, taking one on line self diagnoses anxiety test after another I had labelled myself as severely anxious, unable to move from my bed due to the crippling fear of the world.

Thankfully, I have a very sensible therapist, whom advised me to print out the results and we ran through the questions together, well, it wasn’t very long before I realised with her help that actually I do not wake up in a cold sweat on a daily basis, full of fear and anxiety about the cruel world outside my front door. I am anxious, but no where near as far as Dr Google assured me I was.

So I ask myself, how anxious are we really? There are of course millions of people who suffer crippling anxiety, for whom opening their curtains in the morning is a feat that requires all their inner strength, but for those of us who assume we are highly anxious I think we need to take a step back, observe our surroundings, look at the reality.  How likely is it that I will step on to an escalator and go tumbling down, when was the last time a pigeon launched a ferocious, life endangering attack on me  or anyone… nope never opened a newspaper to the headline ” The country is on high alert as pigeons go on the attack”

The last few weeks I have come in to contact with some severely ill people, people who do not know the direction their life will take, who do not know what tomorrow holds, and have been inspired by them, by their determination, by their strength. I look at them and realise, that our lives are to short to be driven by anxieties. We control some of our destiny, we can take control of the things that are stopping us for living the life we should be.

I will endeavour to get on that plane, I will not look out the window, maybe I will take a tranquiliser or have a drink or 10 but if it is meant to be..I will be in Switzerland in a few weeks!

Chuss and have a great night.

Sara x

FND

This is a hard one to write.

I have a problem with my breathing, having had scan after scan and test after test today I realised that it is more than likely a symptom of my FND.

This time last year I had never heard of FND, but now after my experience of loosing the use of my arm leg and speech for approx 10 days I have read quite a bit about it.

FND ( Functional Neurological Disorder) is still an unknown condition, sadly many GP’s do not have the knowledge or training to fully appreciate the disorder.

If I go to the Dr say with constant headaches, the Dr eventually sends me for an MRI, the MRI comes back normal, the Dr then concludes it is migraine. Does the Dr tell you that because all the tests were normal you are imagining it? The symptoms are in your head? One would hope not, but tragically many patients who have FND are still told that .

09F71DB0-E916-4538-8C53-F7AF03404FC5.jpegFND is slowly being more recognized, historically thought to be bought on by past trauma or recent trauma the symptoms are vast, worse case scenario, a sufferer looses the use of his arms legs or speech, tremors occur, tics, short temper , sleep disturbances, abnormal breathing, loss of muscle coordination, attacks of abnormal movement, loss of vision … the list goes on.

There are some illness’s that it’s accepted, probably even expected a patient will suffer from depression, for example a patient with multiple sclerosis may fear the future the uncertainty of not knowing how the illness will affect them as time goes by, but with FND there is a reluctance to talk about the depression or anxiety it can bring, along with the very real symptoms.

A person may be worried people will think it’s imagined, that they choose to be experiencing these symptoms that if they would just get over it they would be fine. The stigma of FND is akin to the stigma of mental health issues.

0D83F27C-F24E-4198-BABC-22DCFF3AF0E4.jpegFND is real. It is a neurological disorder that no one chooses to have .

It is not “in our heads”

It is not “ in our ability to get over it”

It affects people’s lives daily.

 

Knowing I have FND, has given me to some extent comfort, when my face twitches due to my breathing issues I know this is not “my fault”, putting a label on something can sometimes be a positive.

FND research and dr’s in general being given more specialized training is progressing, but there is a long way to go.

I am afraid of FND as it is so unknown, Every time I feel weakness in my arms and legs I ask myself is this FND and am I going to end up back in hospital unable to speak or move.

 

I would love your thoughts if you suffer from FND.

Lots of love

sara

A Sudden full stop.

So there I was, sitting at my desk, comparing weekend notes with my college, usual chit chat, usual tutting about the filth on the floor, usual conversation about ” oh my isn’t it hot” and ” how long will it last, oh really another week at least, goodness me, and we are stuck here in the office ” kind of conversations when, everything came to a sudden and abrupt full stop.

My arm, which had till then been doing its thing, sitting quietly on my left side awaiting instruction started to ache, and when I say ache I mean, an incredible, all consuming, heavy pain, I began to feel overwhelmingly exhausted, dizzy and sick. Within 10 minutes I was on an ambulance, the lovely paramedic informing me, in a way that only someone who has delivered life changing news ( not happy news!) can that I was having a stroke.

I will never forget that ride to the hospital, the ambulance going so fast I thought I was going to fly out of it, the blue call he sent through to the hospital, meaning that when we arrived there was a team of Dr’s and nurses ready to greet me,  the pure terror I fel is hard to describe.

I have been lucky, this was caught so fast, on Monday I could not move my arm, could hardly speak, and could not move my leg at all, and now miraculously only 3 days on, my arm, although I have some weakness is pretty much doing its thing again, my leg on the other hand not so much, I have managed to do a kind of shuffle, shlep the leg dance, and get to the door of the ward and back, but it feels as though I have just climbed Everest and ran back down again, without stopping for breath, my speech is also getting there, I now sound like I have had only 10 or so teeth taken out instead of a mouthful, when i try to talk for to long it gets worse and every syllable is an effort, and it is my speech that is scaring me the most, as, if you know me personally, you will know I like to talk!! Speaking leaves me exhausted, and frustrated.

Lying in the ward I have had a lot of thinking time, when I picked up my Siddur ( prayer book)  this morning and I said the blessing “Blessed are you … who firms mans footsteps” I realised in all my 41 years I had never stopped to consider what that actually means!! Go ahead and try something now, lift up your leg.. done? how long did that take you? did you have to concentrate on sending messages to your leg, or did it just happen, now imagine I say lift up your leg, and as you go to do it nothing happens, not a twitch, your leg just stays as it is, you are now starting to strain, shouting at your leg to move… but nope, nothing, nada, zilch, it lies there, mockng you, refusing to move. For the first time in my life I appreciate my leg. I appreciate how incredable our bodies are.

When I open my mouth to talk and even though the words are tumbling through my brain, it is an extreme effort to say the word, I am appreciating the ability God has given us to form words and say them, we would live in a very angry world if it took everyone the amount of time it takes me to say a word.

Speech, what an incredible gift, what an amazing way of letting others know our needs and wants. Interestingly enough my husbands name is one of the hardest things I am finding  to pronounce.

I have learnt so much in the past few days.

1. It can happen! we smoke, over-eat, never excercise and say “na it wont happen to me” but it can and it will, and yup I am going to preach, take care of your body, it is so precious.

2, Every word that comes out of your mouth is a gift, use that gift wisely.

3. Think about where your feet are taking you, we are on earth to please God with our actions, but also God wants us to have a pleasurable life, use your legs to take you places and to do things that both you and God will find pleasure with.

4. In the last few months my extended family have seen over and over the kindness of community, I am experiencing that now, with messages, words of support, calls and texts and offers to help coming in to all my family and friends from everywhere, and I  am so touched and blessed to be a part of a wonderful community.

5. Questions, basically all I have to say is “shhhhhh” if you are not asking the question out of pure, unadulterated care, not just because you want to tell your neighbour or local friendly baker just how much you know don’t ask!!

6. Hospital beds …. SUCK!!

Night night, God bless, stay healthy.

Sara

 

 

 

 

 

 

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