My health in detail

I've written before about my severe struggle with health anxiety, but I have never gone into depth about it. As health anxiety is fairly common, sharing my story will hopefully help others.

I think my health anxiety journey began at the age of eight years old. I had to eat five pieces of fruit or veg a day without fail. If I didn't I would be in hysterics and this was only one of my problems that I dealt with on a daily basis. This kind of behaviour followed me throughout all of my school life and it's fair to say that it got worse when I had my breakdown when I was 17. I began to develop very ritualistic behaviour. I had to wash my hands all of the time, I never ate where my hands had touched the food, I would avoid certain food including meat, crisps and yoghurt with the worry I would get ill because it wasn't cooked enough, or I touched the food. I never ever cooked any meat or anything that would make me ill and therefore had a very limited diet. Sometimes, it has gotten to the point where I simply cannot eat or drink anything because of the fear I would get ill even if I know that it is completely irrational. I will always have intrusive thoughts when eating at a restaurant and will find it very hard to do so because the cooking is out of my control. Similarly these thoughts will occur if someone else has cooked something or even if I have cooked something myself, I sometimes won't touch it. When washing dishes or cleaning, I always have thoughts to make sure that everything is super clean and done in a certain way to avoid the transferring of germs. I rarely get thoughts of diagnosing myself of severe diseases or illnesses, but it can consume me sometimes. I have found myself to be going to the doctors in the past for blood tests and checks to make sure that there isn't anything wrong me. Similarly I went through a period of taking paracetamol on a daily basis to try and stop me becoming ill (even though I know this would never work) 

Every day, I try to beat and ignore the thoughts I have with my heath anxiety, even though it is extremely difficult. I have improved a lot since I was eight years old and since my breakdown and I try to overcome it daily so that someday it won't haunt me.

Keep going,
Amy Xx

Guest post: Marathon Marcus

Stigmas about depression push us back into the dark ages 

Let's look at some stigmas for people with depression:

Stigma 1: Looking sad or unkept shows that you are suffering. 

Truth 1: When in fact this is untrue you can use various defence mechanisms to disguise how you feel. Because of the shame of admitting to the illness, or at times lack of wanting to disclose the truth when asked, as if that will show you as weak. Some people with depression are very good at hiding it.

Stigma 2: Depression only comes about when something awful occurs.

Truth 2: Depression can be attributed to a number of different things, including biological imbalances, family history, hormones etc etc. Depression isn't only feeling sad for a short period of time, it can affect one's daily life for several months or years. It can feel mentally paralysing without treatment.  

Stigma 3: Attending talking therapy means that you are weak or crazy.

Truth 3: Attending talking therapy shows you acknowledge the challenge and your showing strength to manage it. Generally if  people have psychotherapy, people think your crazy. Whereas if you think about sports psychology or psychology courses used in corporate business that is somehow accepted as normal. Psychology however you brand it (life, work, sports) it allows you to look deeper into your problems and worries, and deal with troublesome habits, and better manage and recognise trigger points.

Stigma 4: People with depression are mentally weak.

Truth 4: It's said that when people commit suicide they generally don't leave suicide notes. Families and friends may know the person is struggling but are often left shocked that the pain experienced by their loved one is so extreme to end their life. People with depression can be very good at containing their illness, and not expressing the pain they truly feel for a number of reasons. If your not convinced have a read of the book Depressive Illness: The Curse of the Strong by Dr. Tim Cantopher 

Stigma 5: Depression is all in your head, there are no physical symptoms, it's not like having a broken leg.

Truth 5:
Physical symptoms include:
  • Moving or speaking more slowly than usual 
  • Overactive bladder syndrome. The need to pass urine frequently
  • Change in appetite or weight (usually decreased, but sometimes increased) constipation
  • Unexplained aches and pains
  • Lack of energy or lack of interest in sex (loss of libido)
  • Changes to your menstrual cycle
  • Disturbed sleep (for example, finding it hard to fall asleep at night or waking up very early in the morning)
  • Fight or flight. With all that adrenaline going round, it keeps you tense and it's not healthy to stay in a heightened state for a prolonged period (NHS 2016)

There are many other stigmas I could discuss but my point is that, depression is not imaginary. We all need to be conscious of it, and support those who we suspect are suffering with compassion rather than contempt.

How seriously do we treat illnesses like cancer? 

1 in 4 people will be affected by mental health. So let's look at the facts. In the UK the male suicide rate is the highest since 2001. The suicide rate among men aged 45-59, 25.1 per 100,000, is the highest for this group since 1981 (The Samaritans 2015).

The same way we take cancer seriously, is because people die from cancer and this is the same way we need to view depression which also takes lives. Even those who are alive it stops them from living.

There are lots of different treatments for mental health and your doctor is best placed to advise if your struggling.

But I believe that physical activity and connecting with others can help alongside other treatment.

Studies show that exercise can treat mild to moderate depression as effectively as antidepressant medication but without the side-effects, of course. In addition to relieving depression symptoms, research also shows that maintaining an exercise schedule can prevent people from relapsing. It also releases endorphins, powerful chemicals in your brain that energize your spirits and make you feel good. Finally, exercise can also serve as a distraction, allowing you to find some quiet time to break out of the cycle of negative thoughts that feed depression.

I've run 8 marathons and the benefits of physical exercise, have really helped in regards to the mental health challenges I've faced. And it is my goal to encourage other people in a similar situation to gain this benefit. And also witness other positive benefits of running in other aspects in their lives.

It's my goal to setup a running club, which focuses on well being, togetherness rather than egos and pb's. The running club is called Team Revenant. The word Revenant means someone who returns from a long absence, or a person or thing reborn. With depression it can bring people down, but I want to encourage people that there is a way back. Please help me break the stigma.

If your interested get in touch:

Twitter: @marathon_marcus
Instagram: @themarathonmarcus

Paracetamol

If you've read my anxiety story, you'll know that I have had a close relationship with paracetamol in the past. Paracetamol used to be one of my many safety blankets for my anxiety. I used to take it almost every single day, which of course isn't good for my health, but irrationally, I thought that it would stop me from getting ill and that was a way bigger importance than the issues long-term use of paracetamol would cause me. I remember a specific time when I was in London for the Olympics and I was watching a netball match. It was such a big stadium in which I felt really trapped and began to feel ill. Today, I can correlate the sickness I was feeling to anxiety, but back in 2012 I couldn't. I took paracetamol to make me feel better and in a strange way it made me believe that I wouldn't be ill in front of all of the people in the stadium, which I know is completely untrue because paracetamol doesn't cure nausea, and sometimes it doesn't help with stomach aches. I wouldn't even listen to my Dad who is a paramedic - that's how strong the irrational brain can be. It slowly became a placebo, where if I took it I began to feel better, which of course was all in my mind. 

Over time, I managed to get out of this habit because deep down I knew it was ruining my health. I also began to be better at self control over the paracetamol as I went further into my recovery. I now don't use paracetamol in this way, apart from the odd occasion. But, I'm glad to say that I don't go through this any more and for any of you that do, it is possible to get through to the other side.

Amy Xx

I have control

I always have the need to be in control and this just one of the ways I help to combat my anxiety. I find that if I am in control, the lesser of a chance that unexpected things will happen to me and the more likely I will be able to know what will happen in the future. For example, I often have to plan out what I am doing in the day, or write endless amounts of lists about everything in order to know where I'm at in my head. Although I don't mind being spontaneous, and I will go out with friends at the drop of a hat or go on a road trip, I find things that aren't planned, a struggle. For example, I am a massive organiser and I like to know who's, when's and where's of an event. If I don't get replies straight away I become sightly anxious as it means I don't have a complete picture of what is happening in the future and I find that really difficult to cope with. I've always been like this and I'm not too sure why it's such a big issue, but all I know is that I feel a lot more comfortable if I do have things planned. Similarly, I have endless lists. I have to do lists, shopping lists, work lists, bucket lists, goals and so on. *The list could go on*. 

Although this process does help, I find it very tiring. Having to write everything down and plan everything can be difficult. I get frustrated that I feel so anxious and uncomfortable when I don't plan or write lists and sometimes I just wish that I didn't have to write things down all the time, like other people I have spoken to. But, it is part of me and it is something I need to improve, but for the time being, it works for me. 

Amy xx

Relationship anxiety

I feel anxiety will always creep in one way or another into a relationship - whichever kind of relationship that may be. There are always worries and doubts that you think of now and then, and this is normal because in some ways it's kind of a risk you are taking. But for some people it can become a bigger issue and I feel that I experience it. 

I've spoken about these issues with my counsellor and I feel that these issues have come from my childhood and the relationships I have seen around me. My anxiety mainly revolves a feeing similar to the fight or flight system and the feeling of needing to run away. I guess this is because I feel I may experience a similar thing to what I saw in other people's relationships as a child and it is my body's way of protecting itself. 

Although I've slowly improved with tackling this issue over time through talking to my counsellor, my understanding partner and writing numerous pages about, it is still a big issue for me. I do really struggle sometimes and I do get really wobbly for a few weeks at a time, with fluctuating emotions and confusion. However, I do manage to get through these issues with time and talking. The number of hours I have written about this trigger and thought about it are numerous, because a lot of the time I can't seem to grasp why am like this and why I get so doubtful. I'm extremely lucky that I am with someone who is so understanding of the difficulty is patient with it.

Although this has been difficult to write about, I thought I would share it in the hope that it would help others, but also to see if anyone else has a similar struggle.

Let me know!

Amy Xx

Have you done it?


This week, I'd like to bring your attention to spreading mental health awareness.

As some of you may know, I write about mental illness on various platforms and I thought I would take this opportunity to remind you of the networks I use to do this. I would be extremely grateful if you could take this moment to follow me and spread the awareness of of mental illness and of what I do, by following me on the links below. You, my readers have been paramount in my recovery as well as helping me to reach my goal of spreading awareness of mental illness. 

You can follow me by clicking on the links below:

Follow me on twitter: www.twitter.com/reliefofanxiety

Most importantly...follow me on bloglovin: www.bloglovin.com/reliefromanxiety
Bloglovin is a website where you can follow your favourite blogs and make sure you are kept up to date with their posts. Thus, every time I publish something you will be notified by email. You can subscribe to my blog by clicking the link above. Please help me reach my next goal!

Add my blog to your bookmarks: www.reliefromanxiety.blogspot.com

Email me: reliefromanxiety@gmail.com

Apologies for this not being the traditional blog post, but I thought I would make sure everyone was up to date with the places where I can be found.

Amy Xx

Out of my body

Today, I'm going to share with you an experience that happens to me rarely, but nevertheless can affect me greatly. 

Years ago, I used to have periods when my anxiety got so severe that I would have panic attacks that would get out of control. In fact, I would just lose control. As my counsellor has put it, "an extreme version of the fight or flight system". I used to get severe panic attacks and then get to a point when I would kind of become dissociated with myself and be in such a state that I would be in some sort of autopilot. I would still be aware of my surroundings and aware of what I was doing, but it would be hazy as the feeling you do get with a panic attack. I would usually just end of walking to somewhere and would never affect anyone else, just myself. Although this was few and far between, it was an occurrence that was scary to say the least and I know that it was definitely down my severity of mental illness. 

A few months back, after a good few years without experiencing this, I had another experience similar to what I had just explained, but this time it was without a panic attack. I had low mood since I had woken up and it had been building up over time and when I was talking to my house-mate, I starkly left my room and went out into the street with the intention of walking to somewhere with my house-mate following me. Because I suddenly just exited the house without saying anything, it was natural for my house-mate to wonder what was going on and to be honest, I wasn't completely sure either. Again, it was a loss of control and almost like a dissociation of my person, where I was aware of what I was doing but it was all such a confusion and haze. Once I managed to calm back down, I had a clearer mind. 

From this past experience, I am glad to say it hasn't happened since. I am still trying to figure out why this happens to me and trying to find strategies to cope if it does happen again. 

Have you got a similar story to share? Please let me know. 

Amy Xx

My weight loss

The mind is powerful and sometimes I feel that we don't always make the most of it. Although I know that I have achieved a lot in terms of my mental illness journey and I have surpassed things that I never thought I would, I rarely pay attention to those and to the power and willingness that it took to overcome these issues. 

One of my latest challenges is my weight loss journey because of a medication (not a mental illness medication!) that made me put on weight. Although I have tried losing weight before, I have never managed to stick to it because I have always given in to the lovely food that is around me! However, this time is different. So far I have been on my weight loss and health journey for around two to three months and I have surprised myself as to how far I have come. My ulterior motive is due to my mother needing to lose weight in order to get her second kidney transplant. In order to help her through the ordeal, I have decided to lose weight with her and do it together. It certainly does help with encouragement, knowing that I am doing it for someone I love, even if it is very hard. 

The temptations around are very difficult to ignore and also having the motivation to exercise every single day, but if you really want to do it then you can. Your brain is extremely powerful and you can do things that you never thought you could. The willpower is within you and within me too, not just for losing weight but for overcoming the rest of my anxiety and depression challenges. It's surprisingly possible, even if it is tough. 

Do you have any willpower stories to share?

Amy Xx