Heart of the matter

As a part of the process to get to the route cause of my recent high blood pressure, I’ve been having different tests and scans.

Blood tests are always a challenge, especially if I’ve had to fast first. My veins just disappear into my body and I end up looking like a bruised pincushion! Of course I bruise easily just to add insult to injury.

My high blood pressure was first apparent in April, my GP regularly monitors my blood pressure as I take the oral contraceptive pill. I put it down to stress caused by work. It didn’t improve and my readings over the course of 24 hours were sky high and so I started taking medication. My GP also referred me on to a consultant for further investigations.

So far, I’ve had blood tests done. This showed that my levels of renin and aldosterone were high. To investigate further, I had a CT scan with contrast dye of my kidneys. Thankfully, my veins behaved that day and although it took two radiographers to insert the canula, it was successful. Its an odd sensation having the dye injected. First there’s the metallic taste, then, much more bizarrely is the warm sensation and feeling that you have wet yourself. I’ve had a few CT scans in my time but that is still the weirdest feeling!

Today’s test was an ECG. This was to see how my heart is functioning and to check if the high blood pressure has caused the muscle of my heart to thicken. Thankfully my heart is normal size and there is no thickening of the muscle. Its quite something to see and hear your heart beating on the screen. I really realised how much I take it for granted. There it is, beating away countless times over my forty years keeping me alive.

It really does make e appreciate the work it does. I really do need to kickstart my weight loss, I haven’t quite got back on track after my birthday. Time to get back on the low carb lifestyle and exercise – my heart and I deserve it and I want to be as healthy as I can to start a family. No more excuses. ❤️

World Mental Health Day

I decided that today will be the day that I take action to try to resolve my work issue. What I didn’t realise was all the anxiety that it would stir up and all the insecurities it would bring flooding back.

I have to laugh at the irony of my timing…only I could chose such an anxiety provoking activity on World Mental Health day! What has shocked me is the strength of the feelings I’m experiencing. It feels like I’m reliving it. I’m annoyed at myself for feeling so strongly. I’ve done nothing wrong. I’ve been wronged. I feel like I’m giving my power away. I know I need to take action, I need to get back to work….I want to get back to work.

What these last few months have taught me is the impact mental health can have on life. What I realised today is how shaky my confidence is. I know my action will have consequences and I don’t know if I’m ready to deal with those just yet. I also know that the more I stew on this, the worse I’ll feel. It’s a catch 22.

I don’t like confrontation. I do however need to be assertive. I wasn’t able to stand up for myself before. I need to do this. What I need to remember is that I tried my best and worked my hardest at a time when I wasn’t ok. I didn’t realise how not ok I was. At a time when I needed someone to recognise it for me, it didn’t happen. While I can’t go back and change the past, I can change my future.

I deserve better than I experienced. I need to be assertive and state my case. I have made a start and written out my grievances. Maybe I need to settle for that being enough for today. Its a step closer than I was yesterday.

While the past is unchangeable, I have learned a lot. I’m definitely better at listening to my body. I also feel that I know my mind better too. While going back over the events that led me to where I am today, I can see when my mental health started to go downhill. I’m older and definitely wiser now. Its always easy to be wise after the event though.

So, for the rest of today, I’m going to be kind to myself. Practice my self-care and write my ‘To do’ list for tomorrow. Tomorrow is another day.

Reasons to be cheerful/ grateful/ positive

So my anxiety has sucker punched me in the gut today….its been a while. I know it will pass, so to distract myself I’m going to think about all the positive things in my life. Here goes:

1. My family. My family are the best. They know me better than I know myself and ALWAYS have my back. They are supportive and wise. I am so lucky to still have both of my parents. They are my go to people. They always give me wise counsel.

2. My boyfriend. I am so lucky and thankful that he is in my life. I’ve been happier these last eight months despite everything and that’s all down to him. He really understands me and knows how I’m feeling instinctively. He is also a huge support.

3. My friends. I have the most fantastic loyal and supportive friends. We may not live close to each other and we’re at different phases on our lives but I consider myself incredibly lucky that I can call, text or message my friends for a chat/ support/ honesty/ a good laugh and to take the piss out of me depending what I need at the time or they need from me.

4. My cat. He makes me laugh, is my shadow and looks at me sometimes like I’m bananas but I love him and would not be without him. Its been good for me to have him to look after and he takes care of me too. He’s my boy and I’m his human.

5. This blog. Blogging has really helped me. I’m still very new to it but I enjoy it. It’s a welcome distraction. I’ve always loved writing and have kept a journal for years. Sassy has given me an alter ego to express my thoughts without feeling exposed. It’s also been a great outlet for me to channel my thoughts on life, my mental health and anything else that comes to my mind.

6. Autumn. My favourite season of the year. Much as I love summer and the sunshine, by far and away my favourite time of year is autumn. Being able to wrap up in cosy jumpers, cuddle up under a blanket watching movies, light my autumnal candles (Yankee Candle scents Golden Chestnut, Spiced Orange and Soft Blanket are my current favourites.) I’m an Autumn baby so its in my nature. I just love being cosy!

7. Walking through crunchy leaves on a crisp day. Very much linked to my love of autumn. Pulling on a pair of boots, scarf and heading out for a walk is one of my favourite things to be able to do. I love the crunchy sound and all the colours of the season. All while getting fresh air, stretching my legs and clearing my head.

8. Cooking/ baking. I love getting into the kitchen and cooking or baking. I love making old favourites, batch cooking or baking scones, banana bread, muffins…whatever the mood takes me. I find it very therapeutic. This is definitely soup weather and I love it! Time to get my cook on!!

9. Being independent. I’m lucky that I’m very comfortable in my own company. I’m also well able to give new things a go. Whether that is building a flat pack bookcase, varnishing a pine blanket box or changing a light bulb. I’ll get on with it. I love the sense of satisfaction achieved when I succeed or accomplish a task. This sister is doing it for herself!

Sassy 1 – 0 Anxiety

Its been quite a journey over the last few months, not always an easy one as I’ve battled my anxiety. As I’ve previously mentioned, I’ve always been a worrier and been anxious at different times of stress, e.g. exams, waiting for results but never to the extent that it has seriously impacted my ability to get on with my day to day life. That changed when things came to a head in April.

Now it’s September and I’m actually feeling like me again. That’s not to say that I’m not anxious, there are still some unresolved work issues that need to be tackled but I feel like I can cope with resolving them. Don’t get me wrong, I am still taking medication and will be for a while yet. (While I am feeling more like me, I’m not ready to give up my safety net just yet.)

I have also gained huge awareness of my mental health. Truth be told, I hadn’t realised just how unwell I actually was. I just kept on going and wondered why I wasn’t getting anywhere and why I was constantly chasing my tail? I was exhausted, not sleeping properly and it took all of my energy to get up and get through the day. The really scary thing is, if my physical health hadn’t declined I would have kept on going and ended up in an even bigger mess. It almost doesn’t bear thinking about.

I now know just how critical it is to listen to my body and really take care of myself. Nothing is worth risking my mental and physical health for. I am also incredibly lucky to have a supportive partner, family and friends as well as a GP that I can open up to and know that they will help and support me. I know that sadly this is not the case for everyone, GP’s are overstretched and don’t always have time to spend with their patients.

When I look back to Christmas 2018 that I spent with my family, I barely recognise myself. I was anxious about the smallest of things and kept my feelings to myself. I doubted myself. I felt stupid and like a failure. I felt like I let my family down. I did have an inkling that I wasn’t right but didn’t act upon it. I had recently had the dosage of my anti-depressant increased and figured that once it kicked in, I’d be fine! Now I see that there should have been major alarm bells ringing that all was not well. Hindsight really is a marvellous thing.

I can’t go back and change the past, I don’t have a time machine. I can definitely learn from it though. I feel I really have. I will do my damndest to ensure that I never go back to that dark place again. Nor will I ever let anyone take my power from me or allow them to make me feel that way. I am annoyed that it wasn’t picked up on, but that’s another issue and not one I have control of. I can however, control my actions and behaviour. I am only responsible for me and my choices.

I am proud of the choices that I have made and am continuing to make to get and stay healthy – both physically and mentally. I’m on a positive path and well on the way to getting my sass back. Long may it last. Look out world, Sassy is coming for you…

Decision deadline approaches…

I feel overall that I’m winning my battle with anxiety. I’m feeling more positive and more like myself. Whether that is due to medication, my self-care or a combination of both, I don’t know but whatever it is, I’m not complaining. Long may it last!

There is one black cloud approaching on the horizon. Work. The issues there are still unresolved. As I write this I can feel my stomach tying itself into knots and my mouth getting dry. I don’t know how to start to resolve this issue. It’s also not fully my decision; my GP, employer, an Occupational Therapist are also part of this decision and my partner is also involved.

I do know that if I’m to return to my job, I need a different manager. I don’t feel comfortable with my current manager. I don’t feel that I can trust my current manager. I don’t want to leave my job, I love it and I am good at it. I’ve been made to doubt my abilities over the last year or so and its taken me till now to recognise how skilled and experienced I am. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not perfect and am still learning everyday but I am good at my job.

I think I’m ready to get back to work and all that it entails. Its been a long time that I’ve been off sick. Home is definitely my cocoon, my safe place but I think I’m ready to face the world again. That said, I’m kind of relieved that its not my decision to make alone. I’ve definitely been guilty of rushing back to work too soon in the past. I can’t afford to make that mistake again. I now know that my health is my top priority and I will never again let myself get into a situation that is so detrimental to both my physical and mental health.

I feel kind of stuck and a bit out of control. I don’t like feeling out of control. I need to wait for a second appointment with the Occupational Therapist – patience is not always my strong point. What I can control, is continuing with my medication and going back to my GP for guidance. I can also continue with my self-care. Putting my reasons for seeking a change of manager onto paper may also help….it’ll clarify my thoughts and be helpful when making the application to change manager to my employer. In the meantime, I’m going to breathe and trust that everything will work out for the best.

A work in progress

I am not perfect. I make mistakes. Sometimes I speak without thinking. Sometimes what I say comes out wrong. Sometimes I say the wrong thing. Some days I feel like I can take on the world, other days getting out of bed is a challenge. I try my best. I’m still learning.

My mental health is definitely a work in progress. I take it day by day. I’m getting better and am working hard to continue to get well. The stigma of mental health is still something I am battling. I know it is ok to not be ok, but saying that out loud to another person is something I don’t feel able to do. I don’t know why? Maybe it is because it feels like an admission of failure, like accepting that I’m not superwoman. I have long been battling against my superwoman complex….its a work in progress.

I spend my working life problem solving and helping people to solve their problems. Mental health and its impact features in my working life and I regularly encourage people to seek support from their GP’s. I have accepted that I am experiencing anxiety and take medication for this. So why don’t I say it out loud?

I am human. I have limits. I have skills and talents, strengths and weaknesses. I’m open to trying new things. I’m absent-minded and can be easily distracted. I went upstairs to get sellotape, I found it and came back downstairs where I then found myself battling with the ivy that is trying to take over my garden. It took me what felt like minutes to figure out why I was gardening and not wrapping the present I intended doing. Answer, I saw my roses needed deadheading and went from then to the ivy. I’m a daydreamer.

I’m also getting older, I got an appointment through for a cardiac assessment. It was a sobering moment. I know it’s all part of my head to toe health assessment, but it gave me a jolt nevertheless. It reminded me that life is fleeting. I’m human.

I’m perfectly imperfect and that’s okay. I’m me and there’s nobody in the world I’d rather be.

Friends

On International Friendship Day, this seems very appropriate. I’m lucky that I have amazing friends. I may not have a huge number but those that I have are worth their weight in gold and I wouldn’t swap that for all the money in the world. Life may have taken us in different directions and we may be at different stages in life, but no matter what, we’re friends.

As I approach the milestone that is my 40th birthday, I’m in a reflective mood. As my physical health and mental health haven’t been tip top recently, I guess this is even more the case.

Earlier this year and, as it happens just before everything health wise came to a head, one of my friends and I met up for the first time in far too long. I’m pleased to say that it was like we’d just seen each other days rather than years before.

We caught up on all our news in person, rather than through social media. It may get a bad press as its mainly how young people connect and communicate but its been a life line in helping my friends and I keep in contact when we’re all living our lives in different countries.

It was also the first time I properly opened up about the difficulties that I’ve been experiencing at work. My friend had been through something similar years before and talking to someone who really got where I was coming from and who has known me for a long time was such a tonic. Feeling heard and validated was very powerful. The advice given invaluable.

Having supportive people around me is a great thing. Friends are so important, knowing that I can text or phone no matter how long or short a time since we last talked and get some advice, have a laugh, catch up and just be myself with is awesome.

I consider myself to be very lucky to have such amazing, generous, loyal, honest, funny and wonderful friends. I don’t tell them enough how much they mean to me, so I’m going to change that…starting right now.