Life Changes & Looking Ahead

For a while, my only focus has been on my health. The constant worry, the confusion, the endless questions. Will I ever get better? Will I ever be able to enjoy the things I used to? Will I be able to go back to work?

I can’t answer the first 2 questions with certainty, but I can say that I’m finally able to close one chapter and start another. Something quite amazing has happened over the last few weeks. I’ve seen a lot of improvement in my health, physically that is. The pelvic pain, although still present at times, isn’t as noticeable nor anywhere near as debilitating as it was previously. I feel a little less tired, I’ve seen some small improvements in my digestion, and I feel well enough to say something that I’ve been looking forward to for a while – I’m ready to go back to work!

I know, it’s scary. And it’s a huge thing. I really didn’t think I would be well enough to start work this year, and yet here I am, currently waiting to start a nursery apprenticeship. Just being able to say that I got to this place is a big accomplishment for me. I can even go as far as to say that I am a little proud of myself.

Even though I’m still not 100 percent, I’m going to try and get there. I’m keeping my mind focused on what is it I want. After feeling so low for such a long time, all I want to find from this is just a bit of happiness if I’m honest. I want to feel like I have some purpose and a reason to get up each morning and get through each day. Up until this point I have been doing that but it hasn’t been easy. I’ve felt bored with life, uninspired, unexcited by a lot of things. I’m hoping to turn that around and find more enjoyment out of everyday things, talk to more people, gain more confidence.

Being at home, unable to work, is an awful situation to be in. I feel so relieved that I’ll be getting out of the house each day now and learning something new. I’ve got used to being in my own company so much that I’ve started to resent it rather than cherish it. I’ve forgotten what it was like to have that moment of pure contentment of being in your own company after a long day of being surrounded by others. I want that back. I want to enjoy being alone almost as much as I enjoy being around friends and family. And I think this new start might be the best thing that’s happened to me in a while. It’s something that I’ve needed for a while and it finally feels as though things might be changing for the better. Here’s hoping!

My Experience Having A Laparoscopy

As I’m writing this it’s the last day of July and I couldn’t be more happy about that. July hasn’t been the best month for me, so let me just give a little insight as to why that is. Exactly 3 weeks ago I had my first laparoscopy, which also happened to be my first time having any kind of surgical procedure. It felt like a really big thing for me so no matter how many times someone would tell me, “it will be okay,” it really didn’t feel like it would be okay. As someone who has severe anxiety, something as minimally invasive as a laparoscopy can actually seem like the most daunting experience in the world. Yes, you are in good hands. Yes, you know you will be fine at the end of it. But you still can’t help but feel absolutely terrified.

Fast forward to the day of surgery and I was really panicking now. I mostly tried to keep as calm as possible while I was waiting to be called but it wasn’t until the anesthesiologist took me into a room that I suddenly felt like laughing. I suppose it was nervous laughter but it helped all the same, especially when the anesthesiologist joined in and tried to put me at ease. I really can’t thank them enough because they handled it really well and did a great job of trying to keep me calm. In fact, they called me in first because they could see how anxious I was and knew I would want to just get it over and done with. I really appreciate that as sometimes the wait is the hardest part when there’s no one with you to keep you distracted.

It was a really weird sensation waking up and anyone who has had a general anesthetic will know the feeling. Some people say it only felt like they were out for a few seconds but for me, it felt like a long time. I felt like I had the most peaceful, undisturbed sleep of my life. I had blurred vision for maybe 15 minutes so it took me a little while to grasp everything but once that wore off I started to feel anxious again. I started shaking uncontrollably at this point, and the same person who was with me before I went to sleep got me a blanket and stayed with me for quite a while until my heart rate returned to normal. It felt like a lifetime though and all I could think about was how much I wanted to see my partner.

I didn’t feel any pain immediately after waking up, which was a relief. Going to the toilet was difficult and food was hard to swallow but I tried to speed it up as much as I could so I could just go home and call it a day. Seeing my partner walk around the corner was the best feeling imaginable and I felt my mood instantly lift. We chatted for a little bit and then after the nurse discussed a few things with us, I was told I could go home and to have plenty of rest.

So I hadn’t felt much pain at all up until this point. It wasn’t until I had to start walking out of the hospital that I felt the pain under my left rib. It was like having a stitch, only so much more intense. The walk was unbearable and I did have to stop a few times but soon enough I was sat in the car and on my way home. I couldn’t wait to get home. Not to sleep, as I didn’t feel too tired. I just needed to lay down in my own bed. I craved that familiarity of being in my own surroundings.

The next few days weren’t my best, I’ll admit. The pain under my rib was often there, as was the neck and shoulder pain. Not everyone experiences gas pains after a laparoscopy but for me, it didn’t leave until nearly 2 weeks later. I also had pain in my belly button and an ache in my pelvis when I got up and moved. It’s weird not being able to go to the toilet normally or go for a walk outside. You have to let your body heal but mentally you still want to do all the things that you know you’re not well enough to do. In a way, I felt broken.

About 2 weeks later I would say I was back to normal. I could walk without any gas pains, I could go the toilet normally, and everything felt like it was getting back on track. I realised the actual procedure was nothing to worry about and I don’t know why I built up so much anxiety around it. In reflection, that was the easiest part of the whole experience. It was the recovery that was the most challenging. When you’re in a lot of pain you can’t imagine ever being able to get through it or ever finding that light at the end of the tunnel. But you do come out of it. You just need time.

If I’m honest I still don’t have any answers but I definitely feel like I’m closer than I was before and that means I’m closer to getting my life in the right direction. I don’t regret having a laparoscopy because it’s something that needed to be investigated. You can’t put something off if you think there’s a serious problem. Your health is important and you need to take care of your body as best as you can. It’s as simple as that.

 

 

Feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions.

July In A Nutshell

July has been a difficult month for me, to say the least. It’s one that’s been filled with pain, frustration, and confusion. I haven’t really been able to process everything and I think that’s something I’m still struggling with. I feel at a loss, I suppose. I don’t know what I can do right now to make anything better, to make the situation a little less overwhelming.

I use that word a lot. Overwhelming. It’s how I often feel, as though every little thing is just piling on top of me and things just keep being added to the already excessive pile. I feel sooner or later it will overflow and I wouldn’t know how to pick everything back up and carry on.

Adding to that, I’m not sure exactly what it is I want right now. Well, in one sense I do. I know that I want things to change in a significant way. I want to escape from the chronic pain and the worrisome symptoms, the not knowing, the doctor visits, the looks of sympathy, and the unhelpful comments. I want to start again. I want to be able to work and have a job that I enjoy doing, to be able to go out whenever I felt like it, and to be able to smile a lot more than I have these last few months. But I know that I’m not always good at receiving help and letting others in and talking about what’s going on. I assume they couldn’t understand and that even if they did vaguely see where I was coming from it wouldn’t really help me. I don’t always share the same views as other people around me and it feels as though it creates a barrier between us. I can try and see someone else’s point of view, of course, but it doesn’t mean I will ever agree with it. And that’s quite tough.

I used to think that I could try and make myself see things in a more positive light. That if life wasn’t what I wanted it to be that maybe in time it would be okay, that I could make a few changes and then perhaps I would be happy. Now I can’t keep up the optimism. I find myself slipping more and more into a negative mindset and once you’re there, it’s hard to pull yourself out of it. I look around me and all I see is the bad. I want to be in control of my situation; how I think, how I feel, and what I do next. But it feels like my thoughts control me rather than the other way around.

I listen to the endless advice from those around me – to just keep going, to be strong, to fight my way through it. It’s not that I don’t appreciate anyone’s kindness and support, it’s just that I’m really struggling and I’m not quite sure what to do with those words. How can they help me when I feel as if I’m the unhappiest I’ve ever been?

So I try my best to get on with things, to see how it all pans out, but it’s an ongoing struggle. I still feel like I’m lost. I still feel confused. And I still don’t know what changes I can make. I suppose all I can do is try and hope that some inspiration comes in my direction, or that I get some answers soon. I have to hope for something otherwise I have absolutely nothing spurring me on.

 

Is Social Media Really That Bad?

Social media often gets a bad reputation which is understandable when you consider the damage it’s caused many victims of bullying and abuse. It’s a place full of positive, uplifting things (an abundance of dog videos and memes will never go unappreciated) but also a toxic environment for those who are suffering from mental health issues and low self-esteem.

I think, if used correctly, social media is an excellent tool. But how many of us are using it as we should be? Lately, I’ve realised just how damaging it can be. From heavily edited pictures which distort reality to celebrities plugging harmful weight loss products, it’s not exactly a healthy environment. What’s even more upsetting is the thousands of people who use Twitter as a platform to bully others based on their appearance. I see it all the time. It might be a celebrity who falls victim or it could be a stranger who had their picture taken without their permission and finds it floating around on social media with hundreds of cruel messages. Either way, it creates the message that we, as a society, feel it’s justified to “casually” verbally abuse others. I’m sure most of these people would never say those kinds of things to anyone face-to-face, so why is it more acceptable to say it online? And what’s more, why do some of those that preach about the importance of mental health then participate in the online abuse?

facebook-1689891_1280.jpgImage credit: ElisaRiva / pixabay

Despite the toxicity that often emerges on social media platforms, there is a lot of good that comes out of it as well. There are support groups, communities, and those who often like to spread a positive message amongst all of the bad. It’s truly amazing to see more body positivity, women supporting women, and friendships formed. I love the message many of us are trying to spread; to be comfortable in our own skin. It comes at a time when I think we could all benefit from it.

For some people, Twitter can be an amazing place to seek guidance and support. Those who might not have any friends who they can talk to in real life or feel like they don’t want to worry their family might discuss their problems with strangers who then go on to become a real constant support. Online friendships can often be stronger and healthier because these are people who truly understand how you feel. They can be more supportive than those who you know in “real life” as you’ll often feel they want to hear about your struggles and your mental health.

For me, it’s been incredible to be able to talk to others who understand mental health and chronic illness; those who are experiencing almost exactly the same thing. It’s so refreshing to be able to connect with people who you wouldn’t usually meet in real life. And that’s the thing. If you have a chronic illness that restricts how often you go out and meet people or anxiety which can make such a concept overwhelming then speaking to people on Twitter might be the only interaction you have on a daily basis. I know that can often mean the world to some people. Any interaction, big or small, makes us feel more connected. That’s one of the main purposes of social media: to feel connected. I think it does a good job of that.

How I’ve Been Managing Anxiety

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t struggle with anxiety – it’s always been there, bubbling away. And it can often be relentless, cropping up at a time when I’m most vulnerable. When it first started I was only young and I couldn’t really understand what I was feeling. All I knew is it made me cry, shake, tremble. It made me fear everything; the past, present, and future. It consumed me to the point where I dreaded getting out of bed every day. Going to school was a nightmare because I was surrounded by too many people in a place that was simply too big. I longed for the weekend where I could enjoy the comfort of my own company without any intensifying fears.

If I had to describe it in one word it would be suffocating. That’s usually how it feels; like I’ve been thrown into the sea with no life jacket and I can’t swim. In that moment I can’t imagine finding a way out of it. I lose any original hope I had and every thought becomes a negative one. I tell myself I can’t do things, instead of trying. I lose all faith I have in myself; I feel weak and helpless.

But I know that can’t be true. Over the past few months, I’ve done things that I didn’t think I would ever be able to do.

I’ve always had a huge fear of the dentist after some not so good experiences and I went maybe 5 years without setting foot anywhere near there. I also have phone anxiety so that’s something I usually avoid altogether. Recently I called the dentist and scheduled an appointment which was a big thing in itself. And then I attended the appointment and managed to keep my anxiety under control and for the first time in ages I felt quite proud of myself. I’ve never been that calm before.

Even though I’ve had to go to the doctors and hospitals a lot over the past year, it’s something that still causes me a lot of anxiety. I never know what to expect. I’m also scared of being in pain, of not being taken seriously, of breaking down in tears. So understandably, it’s not easy for me to attend any of these appointments but I still do it. I do it because I have to, I know nothing ever gets resolved by ignoring it and hoping it goes away.

The more I do these things, the stronger I feel. Even when I’m having a bad day and my anxiety is all-consuming, I’ve still come a long way. A really long way. And I should be proud of myself for that. All I hope is that from now on I focus more on my progress instead of my setbacks. I’m growing.

 

 

Leave a comment on how you manage anxiety.

To Restart: A Poem

I would like to restart;
press a button and watch
in a mesmerising blur
the old being replaced
with the brand new.
Darkened leaves reappear
with a splash of
fiery red and orange
and the golden sun will
emerge from the clouds,
illuminating the world
for the final time.

A Journey To Better Health

Endometriosis. If I had a penny for every time I said that word, I’d definitely never have to worry about money ever again.

But here’s the thing. Most people who I know in real life don’t even know what it is. It’s astonishing to me that 1 in 10 women are estimated to have this painful condition and yet it’s rarely spoken about. Why do most doctors not immediately suspect endometriosis when a woman presents herself with symptoms like painful periods? I think we are expected to simply cope with the pain of a period, and in turn, this pain is considered to be a normal part of being a woman. It’s not. If you had a pain in your leg or your arm that wouldn’t go away I’m sure those concerns wouldn’t be ignored by a doctor so why is period pain simply seen as normal?

I remember being in year 5 or year 6 when we first learnt a little bit about periods and sex and pregnancy. Even though I can’t remember most of it, I always remember putting my hand up to ask a question about periods.

I said, “do we still have to come to school?”

And the teacher looked at me like I was a bit mad. She simply replied, “Yes, of course. Every woman can’t take a week off school or work just because she’s got her period.”

I suppose that made sense to me at the time. It was only when I was 12 and first started getting periods that I suddenly felt like I wasn’t normal. Or that I’d been lied to. My periods were so heavy and so painful that every month I’d lay on the floor in agony, crying, throwing up, doing everything I can to get through the next few hours. I felt so strange when I realised that most other girls in my year didn’t experience the kind of pain I did. They still went to school and carried on with their lives. I dreaded my period every single month. I wish I had known then that it wasn’t normal. And I wish we had been told about endometriosis back in school.

I get shocked, and in truth, a little excited whenever I hear it mentioned in the news. It feels like people are slowly starting to recognise that it does exist, that the pain is real, and that it affects so many women. Yet I still don’t think it’s enough. It won’t be enough until everyone is aware of endometriosis and it’s easily recognisable. It’s important that doctors are more understanding of the symptoms so patients are able to get a diagnosis sooner instead of simply being brushed off or sent for the wrong tests which only delays a correct diagnosis.

I’m talking about all of this because I saw a gynaecologist for the first time yesterday. I was nervous. I usually am before any appointment. But this one mattered the most to me and I wanted it to go well. I wanted them to see the kind of pain I’m in and how it’s affecting my life. I sat in front of them and answered questions based on my symptoms, hoping that they would see and hear my desperation at needing answers. Immediately she told me she thinks it’s endometriosis based on symptoms alone.

It was the biggest relief to hear a medical professional say it to me. Even though I’d been suspecting it to be the cause of my symptoms for months now, it still felt strange to hear it come from someone else’s mouth. After that, she did an internal examination (that was painful to say the least, but then I expected that) and a few routine swabs were taken (that was more uncomfortable than anything else, similar to a smear test!). We then discussed options and agreed on a diagnostic laparoscopy to confirm whether endometriosis is the cause. It was quick and straight to the point. I didn’t have to argue my point or beg for surgery and that’s exactly how it should be for everyone.

Of course, I can’t say I definitely have endometriosis until after I’ve had the surgery but it seems highly likely that I do. I’m really anxious about it but I know that this is the only way to get answers and to hopefully start feeling better. There’s also something comforting and reassuring that comes with having a diagnosis.

If you’re concerned about your periods or you suspect endometriosis, here’s a good place to visit first