Under the Spell of Laughter, the Whole Man is Completely & Gloriously Alive.

I’m not sure how I’m going to top my last blog post? Not that I should be trying to do that. After all, you’re only as good as your last post! To date, it’s the one I’m most proud of…well for the moment anyway! I always knew I wanted to write something of that nature but I didn’t want to rush it. I didn’t want the words to come from a place that reflected what my state of mind was at the time of writing, so it was worth taking the time to write, read, and rewrite until I was satisfied that it was ready to publish.

No such emotion or thought provoking prose this time around; more a ‘matter of fact’ piece getting back to the nitty gritty of the main subject of my website: Mental Health.

I know I have already written about a few elements of mental health in my previous blog posts, that is….. Generalised Anxiety Disorder, Panic Attacks and Health Anxiety but it’s worth covering off a few more of the other issues that I experience that come under the banner of mental health, and I have to admit that it has surprised even me now that I can see them all written down!

Social Anxiety.

This is a big one for me, probably bigger than I dare to admit. In the past it would get to a point where my anxiety was so bad that I wouldn’t leave the house. I would make arrangements to go out with friends or work colleagues only to cancel at the last minute with some lame excuse! Because, and if I was finally able to attend any social or public gathering, there would be this anxiety and fear that I was being watched or judged by other people and wondering if I would somehow manage to embarrass or humiliate myself.

In the work environment am I always quite in meetings, always with the fear and dread that I might be called upon to answer a question, give an opinion or worse, to stand up in front of people and give a presentation. Even taking the dog for a walk; I would time it so that if there were other people walking their dogs then I would walk in the opposite direction that they were going in order to avoid the ‘awkward’ meet. On the odd occasion where it couldn’t be helped, then there is this bizarre meeting ritual where you never introduce yourselves to each other as the dog owners, only the dog’s names are ever exchanged! I’ve never understood it and it can make for some weird conversations!

Over the years, my coping mechanism for dealing with the anxiety, fear and life in general has always been humour. I don’t think I’m funny at all yet somehow I appear to be able to make people laugh. This helps to calm me and lessens the anxiety. Laughter can be a potent medicine for releasing the tension, whether it is the tension of the environment or the tension within yourself.



“For a few moments, under the spell of laughter, the whole man is completely and gloriously alive: body, mind and soul vibrate in unison… the mind flings open its doors and windows… its foul and secret places are ventilated and sweetened.”

– Theorist Martin Armstrong.



Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

The term OCD has, for a long time, been banded around like some cool trendy adjective to explain someone’s ‘quirky’ behaviour. It does wind me up…just a bit!
“You really are tidy; everything is lined up so perfectly”….”Oh that’s just my OCD”. However, you never hear anyone say “It’s okay, I’m being a bit schizo today!” or “Never mind me I’m just a psycho!” because deep down people know not to use these phrases as they are what they are…..very offensive! But is OCD any different? And yet the misuse of OCD has become popular, leading to misunderstandings but done so to the detriment of those people who actually suffer with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

What Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is about is unreasonable, unwanted thoughts, fears or impulses that repeat over and over in your mind. Compulsions are where you try to rid yourself of these obsessions; compulsions done in such a manner in order to try and protect yourself from the anxiety than can be brought on, not that you’d want to intentionally bring on the compulsion in the first place! Feeling like you have no control over your own thoughts and so the vicious cycle begins. Obsessions and compulsions that can be both time and energy consuming to the point of taking over a person’s life and keeping them from functioning in society properly.

As with all mental illnesses there needs to be a step change as using phrases like OCD in general conversation only serves to trivialise what people are experiencing on a daily basis. This only serves to create more stigma and even prevents people from getting the medical assistance they so desperately require.

D Anxiety.

Look at that, I can’t even bring myself to write the full word. And I’ve left it right until the end too! I covered this in my most recent blog post even though I didn’t reference the phrase directly. It’s the one subject that has given me the most fear and anxiety over the years. To be honest I don’t think it is an age thing either even though I’m only 47 (which of course is no age at all) as I was conscious of it as a teenager. I know there is nothing I can do about it, after all it is inevitable, there’s no running from it……death and taxes as they say!

But what actually is it that causes me so much fear and anxiety? I mean, when it happens I won’t be aware of it…..I won’t even know that I did once exist!

I think that it’s all of the things to come in the future that I won’t be here to witness. I wonder about it a lot because it really fascinates me; a hundred years from now, a thousand years from now, what will life be like? How will people be living their lives? Will we go back to the moon in my lifetime? What about Mars or even other planets? Will we finally answer the question as to whether there is other life out there or are we truly alone in this ever expanding Universe? Will we finally have cures for some of the most debilitating and life threatening diseases?

When you look at our timeline as a species, it’s fair to say that we have evolved seemingly quicker over the last hundred years or so more than any other point in history; mainly because of the cumulative effects of centuries of development and communication…faster worldwide communication that has allowed us to share more knowledge and the continual building of new ideas that have been the spark that set off an explosion, so to speak, of innovation that has led to rapid advancements in medicine which has aided technological progress, agriculture that allowed the growth in population meaning that there is more brain power to make these new discoveries. Discoveries and knowledge that we are still accumulating, knowledge that people had a hundred years ago that was beyond the imagination of people a hundred years before them. And knowledge in a hundred years from now that is beyond our imagination today.

Wow, apologies……that was waaaay deep even for me – I’ve just re-read those last couple of paragraphs and even I can see how much I digressed away from the last topic, but I think you get the idea?

Thanks for reading…..I’ll catch you all next time.


This weeks music offering is another favourite band of mine – Kodaline. Enjoy!


Is There A Secret to Life?

My simple answer to that: the secret to life is that you’re lucky to have it!

I’ve wanted to write about this subject for a long, long time. In fact, in some ways it’s probably what sparked me into wanting to start this blog in the first place if I’m truly honest. But it’s the one subject that has always given me the most fear and anxiety over the years, probably for most of my life once I was old enough to understand it that is.

Do something for me right now….just stop for a moment and breathe in, then breathe out! We all take it for granted, after all we’ve been doing it since the very first day that we came kicking and screaming into this world, but it is amazing isn’t it? Not to get too existential, but you have to marvel at the fact that we are even here at all, marvel at the world around you; nature, animals, trees, plants…even humans! And you can’t help at just being truly grateful for all of it!

In a very straight forward way, life is just for living. Life is an incredible thing, whether it’s a human life, a plant or an animal’s life. And yet, even at 47 years young, it still blows my mind…that’s before we even get into talking about the Universe and Galaxies! We’ve all been given this privilege of being here, by the most ridiculously longest odds. Odds that when stacked up only two or three generations back then you’re talking millions to one that you’re even here, and yet here you are, breathing air, looking at the sky, the stars, the trees and just being…a human being.

The point is to just enjoy it as much as you can! I know that some people can find that very difficult, some people’s circumstances find it difficult but the thing is to make sure you enjoy it because we’ve all been given this amazing gift. Make it something that others can enjoy as well and try to make them enjoy their lives. If you can help other people enjoy themselves, even it’s just while you’re having lunch with them, going for a walk or having a coffee, then that’s what it’s all about.

For me, the knowledge that we won’t be around forever is, in a strange way, very liberating because so many of us don’t know that we’re going to die, or that we don’t know when or that we don’t even have any kind of inkling that we could be dead in the morning?! Once you face the fact that we all have a finite amount of time then there is this wonderful liberation to it. You will find, as I did, that you can say things you want to a bit more and you can do things you want to a bit more. People can even say things to you that they want to because they know the context, they know that time is limited, that time is limited for us all.

Do I have any regrets at this point in my life? None! None whatsoever! I can honestly say that I don’t regret anything. I really don’t. Regret for me suggests something that you wish you hadn’t done and because you wish you hadn’t done it, then it kind of lives with you and colours your life. I believe that everything that you do is part of who you are and as long as you feel like you did whatever you did for the right reasons, for the proper reasons, the good reasons, or for at least positive reasons, then I don’t regret anything!

Does that make me unusual or odd in that respect? Possibly, but I’d like to think that everything I did, if it turned out bad or if I somehow hurt somebody or upset somebody because of it, I either had to do that because it came from a reason at that time, in that context or I’ve redressed that hurt…I’ve apologised or I’ve made amends in some way. Regret for me is not something that I hold onto. I change when I can, as I can to the circumstances that I’m in at that time.

There’s no secret to having no regrets, but I do think that you should correct your mistakes and I think that you have to accept your weaknesses. Know that sometimes you do things that aren’t the way that other people want them to be done. Whether you change them or not is up to you but accept the things that you are weak at and try to learn to live with them, own them…don’t deny that you are bad at something, just accept it or try to be better at it. Make allowances for the fact that you are bad at it and try to explain that to others.

Knowing yourself is an incredibly important part of life because it takes time and it takes an age to get to know your true self. Knowing what you enjoy, what makes you get up each morning, what gets your heart beating…that’s important and I would always tell anyone to write down what you are good and bad at, what you like…what you don’t like. What you like or don’t like about yourself and then to just accept it, because, and let’s face it, we’re all flawed, we all make errors, and living an error free life is just something that none of us can do. But we can be kind; we can be kind to people, it’s so much easier than being nasty. Actually it’s not easier, it’s harder…it’s harder to be kind to somebody but it is better. Being nasty to people for no reason, no provocation, no motive…being nasty is just a bad way of living.



“People don’t realise that now is all there ever is; there is no past or future except as memory or anticipation in your mind.”

– Eckhart Tolle


However, saying that, I don’t think that it’s possible to get to the end of your life without some regret. It maybe the fact that you never got to travel or you weren’t as successful as you’d hoped. Perhaps your life didn’t turn out how you imagined it would. Maybe you weren’t as brilliant, tall, slim, smart, rich or popular as you’d thought you’d be. Or…maybe you felt like you were just too busy, too caught up in the day to day stuff to make the most of things.

Maybe we all do have some regret, but maybe some of us manage to move on and be pragmatic about the things we can’t change while others hold onto to those things close and never let go. Maybe they can’t let go, but maybe that is also fine too.

I believe that most people have one thing in common; their regrets aren’t about work, or travel or money. They are about family, and love…in fact it is always about love.

To love and to be loved; love is a very important thing in people’s lives, whether it is family love, relationship love or just friendship love. People should want to have that feeling of contributing to others happiness, but not just happiness but also their sense of being connected to you. That’s what life is really all about, the connections you make with other people, the happiness that you can bring to their lives and also the strength and support and the feeling of being someone worthwhile in somebody’s life….it really is a wonderful feeling.

So maybe all we can do is to live well, but don’t try to live too perfectly. We should strive to take the chances as they arrive and not to put things off. To make the most of it but to know that you can’t live each day as if it were your last because that would just be too damn exhausting.

And most of all, to remember that in the end when you have lived your life, that it’s the little things that will always stay with you; those chances that you did take, that conversation that you finally managed to have to tell someone how you really feel about them, the connections that you made with others, the people you loved and the wonderful moments that you shared.


I must just add that the youtube videos on my posts are not adverts like the other elements dotted around these pages, I do embed them myself. I love the relaxing, calming and atmospheric nature of this type of ambient music with it’s gentle, soothing, instrumental sounds. I also find that I produce better writing whilst I’m listening to it – it can be very emotive at times. Enjoy…



 

It’s Just another Random Musing Manic Monday.

Apologies, it’s been a couple of weeks since my last post. Actually, why am I feeling the need to apologise? After all, I did say to myself when I started on this writing adventure that I wasn’t going to put myself under any pressure by having to publish anything by a set date.

Truth be told, there is a reason for it. I’m not going to lie, I’ve had a bad couple of weeks with my mental health and it just feels like everything has got on top of me lately! It is bizarre how even outside elements can affect you, but affect you they do. And by outside elements I mean the world in general; the news, the farce that is the malarkey that is the ongoing diatribe that is Brexit, the seemingly increasing crime rate in knife attacks, car jackings etc. And before you all comment, I know that these elements are outside of my control and I should just accept it and move on, but anxiety has this nasty habit of not allowing you to do that.

In fact, it got so bad that I got to a point of critical mass and couldn’t take it any more, so I made a decision to mute and even remove news feeds from my social media accounts so that these issues were not preying on my mind all of the time! Worrying about what a post Brexit UK will look like, worrying about leaving the house in case something happened that had me fearing for my safety?! Who is going to sit on the Iron Throne in the final ever season of Game of Thrones? Okay, okay that last one might be a stretch, but you catch my drift right?


“My friend, I am not what I seem. Seeming is but a garment I wear — a care-woven garment that protects me from thy questionings and thee from my negligence. The “I” in me, my friend, dwells in the house of silence, and therein it shall remain for ever more, unperceived, unapproachable.”
– Kahlil Gibran


Moving on…..

On a visit to the GP last December, my Doctor suggested that I would benefit from medication for my generalised anxiety. She could see that I was none too happy about the idea, but then she started to tell me about the chemical imbalance hypothesis. I had read about this before, and I’d also read that, in the wider medical community, there is quite a bit of controversy surrounding this theory. The term tends to be used more as a figure of speech, and by that I mean that it doesn’t really capture the true complexity of mental illness as a whole. In other words, mental health disorders are not simply caused by a chemical imbalance in one’s brain. There is a lot more to it than that. Either way, I made the decision to give it a go.

If I’m honest, I thought I was being strong by not taking any medication, but the truth was I was just prolonging the pain. Admittedly, I was able to survive without medication, but with it I really believe that I am living a much more productive, satisfying and emotionally rich life.

That last sentence may seem an odd statement to make when compared to my state of mind over the last couple of weeks, but it is true nonetheless. However, just because the medication is making a difference in my life, it doesn’t mean that I’m cured. But what it does mean, and what I did notice after a couple of months on the medication, is that I’m now having shorter bad periods with my mental health rather than the protracted bad periods that I was experiencing previously. Episodic I guess you could call it, meaning that the symptoms now come and go in waves.

And for my final Muse…..

It’s Monday morning and people are arriving at work. I make my first brew of the day and start to catch up with colleagues when invariably the conversation turns to; “How was your weekend?” But why, for the most part, do we always seem to answer with the same generic response “Yeah it was great thanks and you?” I’ve often just thought about telling the truth…”Actually it was pretty shit if I’m honest. I had a really bad couple of days with my anxiety which meant I got nothing done! How about you, how was your weekend?” I like to imagine the other person thinking “Oh crap, how do I respond to that?” as you watch them try to wriggle out of the conversation because they are now in uncharted waters and you can clearly see the awkwardness written all over their face!
I can’t be alone in these thoughts…….can I?

Have a great week everyone!


 

Blogger Recognition Award – Mental Health Musings

Wow! I’m only a few weeks in and already I’ve been nominated for the Blogger Recognition Award! A massive thank you to Roger Peterson over at Mind and Love

The Blogger Recognition Award.

If you have been lucky enough to be nominated for the Blogger Recognition Award, and you accept your nomination, then just follow these few simple rules:

  • Thank the blogger who nominated you, and provide a link to their blog.
  • Generate a post about your nomination.
  • Write a few words about how your blog began.
  • Impart your own learnings and pass on some advice to new bloggers.
  • Select 15 blogs to nominate.
  • Notify each of your nominees of their nomination…I will nominate via Twitter.

Why I chose to start writing about by mental health?

I started writing about my anxiety in order to help me make sense of it all and to give me new ways to think about it and deal with it and hopefully, in doing so, that it can help others to open up and reach out, talk and maybe write about their own mental health struggles.

But, if I was going to do this, then I was going to write my story. I don’t want to preach to anyone or make any sweeping generalisations…I want to make it personal, so that when others read it then hopefully they can make a connection and see themselves in what I am writing.

My Message for New Bloggers.

Write. Rewrite. When not writing or rewriting, read. I know of no shortcuts.
—Larry L. King

Stay motivated. Others cannot motivate you, only you can do this. Motivation is very much intrinsic and comes from deep within yourself…you have to want to do it, to take action. But in doing so you will inspire others and hopefully they will make that connection to something deep within themselves.

And my 15 nominees are:

Mommin’ in the Real World

MH Crisis Angels

The Mental Health Awareness Project

Navigating Darkness

Beauty Beyond Bones

Debatably Dateable

The Patchwork Fox

The Social Pariah

Not Quite Carrie

OneMoreLightLB

TimeToTalk

For the Sake of Good Taste

The Wildflower Hippie

Horribly Human

Old Cove Road

Blogger Recognition Award

 

The Symptoms are Real but the Thoughts are False.

This week I am definitely going to give you a trigger warning as I am going to describe some of the physical symptoms of health anxiety and how it has affected me personally.

*** So here it is – your Trigger Warning!!!

From the start I have to note that, until I did my research, I had no idea that health anxiety was a ‘thing’, that it was in fact another sub-genre of mental illness.

It got to a point in my life where I would wake up every day and think “What the hell is wrong with me today?!” It first started in the early 2000’s when I was working away from home. I just assumed that it was because I was not eating regular, healthy meals due to the stupid hours that I was working. It usually ended up being a vending machine snack during the day, then the heavy, rich hotel food in the evening…oh and the odd pint of Guinness!

It started with intense nausea that would work its way up my body and into the throat. The sensation was like a fire burning in the centre of my chest and the feeling that I had swallowed barbed wire…..both sensations at the same time! I have to say that of all the physical symptoms, this was the worst. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy! I couldn’t sleep because when I lay flat it was worse. It got so I was scared to eat, scared to swallow because it was so damn painful.

After several visits to the Doctor I was finally sent for a chest x-ray where I had to swallow a barium compound prior to the procedure. The outcome was that I had GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease. I was put on a treatment of acid reduction tablets for several months. I genuinely believe that there is a connection between GERD and anxiety, although recent studies show that the jury is still out on that one.

The thing was, I hadn’t being paying attention to my body….I mean, why would I? But from the point of being diagnosed I did become more aware, I was looking for the smallest of sensations, sensations that I would never have entertained before! I became preoccupied with every new symptom, wondering what on earth could be wrong. And this only served to amplify the anxiety more and to further increase the fear and the worry.

Over the years health anxiety has sent me to both A&E as well as to my GP. After several hours of waiting and multiple tests later, I would eventually be reassured by the Doctor that the ECG results showed that my heart was fine, even though I could feel and see the palpitation ‘blips’ on the print out. That my bloods were fine and my kidney and liver function were fine also. But this reassurance was only temporary as the cycle of new negative thoughts and physical sensations would start all over again.

In a previous post I described the ‘noise’ in my head, but this was also true of my body, it was very noisy! Noisy with uncomfortable physical symptoms which were both unexpected and unwanted.

There is a difference between anxiety attacks and panic attacks, and it’s all about the length of time. Some of the symptoms might be similar across both, but during a panic attack the symptoms were far more intense and would spring out of nowhere and would last, at their peak, for about 10 to 15 minutes. Then within an hour or so, both my mind and body would be back to something resembling normal activity. However, with generalised anxiety, the symptoms would be there for far longer.


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Okay, for this next part I hope that you are sitting comfortably and still awake because here we go…..oh and also, tick off all of the following that have ever applied to you – as these are the other physical symptoms that I have experienced over the years:

Muscle tension – up and down both arms, across the chest, upper and lower back, neck, scalp and shoulders. In fact, the tops of the shoulders have always been an early trigger warning for me that an anxiety episode was approaching in that once I started to feel the intense ‘burning’ sensation then I knew it was time to take action…even if it just meant walking away from the current anxiety inducing situation in order to breathe and re-focus.

The tension in the arms was an interesting one. After a couple of GP visits I was told that it could be carpal tunnel syndrome as I was presenting with the same symptoms, i.e. wrist pain, numbness and tingling in the fingers, forearm pain when clenching fists. I went for 6 weeks of physio on 2 separate occasions but after a subsequent GP visit I was told that it was all related to the muscle tension brought on by the anxiety.

Always, and I mean always, the chest pains were the most scary because your brain would immediately go to the worst case scenario and I would end up with another visit to A&E, only to have the same tests carried out again and to be given the same reassurances that everything was okay.

So, on a visit to the GP a couple of years back I took the opportunity to reel off every symptom that I had been experiencing up to that point, from crawling sensations in my calf muscles to a popping sensation in my sternum, along with all of those already listed above, to be told that is was anxiety; it was all related to the generalised anxiety!

My GP would go on to tell me that these were all normal and harmless bodily sensations, but because I had worked myself up into all of these doom and gloom scenarios then I would believe that they were are all symptoms of something much more terrible which, in turn, only sought to worsen my already heightened anxiety. I was giving my imagination all the room it needed to create these tall stories and as I began to imagine the worst, then my body’s alarm bell would be set off producing all of the anxiety symptoms it could muster.

And once again this is where the subtle art of distraction would come into play, to distract me away from all of the negative thoughts.

Because, at the end of the day…..the sensations and the symptoms were real, but all of the thoughts were false!

Until next time, take care! 😉


I’m a big Ludovico Einaudi fan, his music is just incredible…so I’ll leave you this week with my favourite track ‘Four Dimensions’ from his 2015 album ‘Elements’.