Saturday, 19 August 2017

Creating My Odyssey: A GOOD KICK UP MY SEROTONIN LEVEL

Creating My Odyssey: A GOOD KICK UP MY SEROTONIN LEVEL: I've learnt, over time, what may have happened to the old brainbox.       First up, my medication combination. It's known in the tr...

A GOOD KICK UP MY SEROTONIN LEVEL

I've learnt, over time, what may have happened to the old brainbox. 
     First up, my medication combination. It's known in the trade as 'California Rocket Fuel'. Or, to be technically accurate, Venlafaxine (Effexor) and Mirtazipine (brand name Remeron, among others). 
     Immediately after my medication crisis over three years ago, after my GP had prescribed Quetiapine, an antipsychotic which calmed me down and made me go to sleep (what a blessing!), my brilliant mental health team took me off the medication that had caused those horrific suicidal feelings. They put me back onto Venlafaxine, which had served me well for seven years until it had stopped working efficiently in recent months back then. This got me stabilized, or, as Husband put it, tolerably bad.
     Then they added Prothiadin onto Venlafaxine. This is the first antidepressant my doctor had prescribed a year after my daughter was born and post natal depression had persisted, even though the initial shock of the birth had subsided. The effect, making me feel relatively normal back then, had lasted for twenty years. But this time the addition caused me to wake up panicking, and the suicidal feeling had returned. I took the Quitiapin, felt better almost immediately, and informed the team. We were immediately invited in to see them that morning. 
     We discussed the situation with my mental health nurse practitioner and a psychiatrist, and Mirtazipine was added instead. And that, my friends, together with cognitive behavioural therapy, is the route we took to my miraculous wellness. 
     Cognitive behavioural therapy concerns the breaking down of negative thoughts - compartmentalizing them - and challenging each one. Is this thought true? After thirty years of depression, my thoughts required a lot of shaking up! 
     Today, my serotonin level, I believe, has been given a good, hefty kick up the rear, and my brain, which has a mind of its own, now believes that nothing bad is going to happen upon any given moment that had, at one time, caused me anxiety. It's been a long time coming, and may it continue. 
     I wonder - has anyone else been in a similar situation, or have any thoughts on this subject? I'd love to hear from you. I can be contacted on this blog or on Facebook, or on any other of my social media accounts. The more discussions on the subject the better! 


  


Thursday, 17 August 2017

Creating My Odyssey:                                            JANE'S ...

Creating My Odyssey:                                            JANE'S ...:                                              JANE'S BENNETS                          AND ME I live in Alton, Hampshire (a lovely ...
                                           JANE'S BENNETS 
                       AND ME


I live in Alton, Hampshire (a lovely historic market town. I feel sooo lucky!), of which more anon. The name of my road is Bennet. We moved here, literally a hop, skip and jump away from our old abode, in a hired removal van (I drove) around the corner. Exhausting trip.
    ‘Funny, ‘ they all said, ‘Bennet Close. It was meant to be.’
    They were all referring, of course, to my maiden name, Bennett. As it turns out, it's more than appropriate. Fans of Jane Austen will know that she lived in Chawton, the village next door, literally just another hop, skip and jump (not quite just round the corner, takes about half an hour to walk it). She also lived in Steventon, another Hampshire village, where her daddy was a vicar. But Chawton was where she became ill before moving to Winchester to die. She's buried in the cathedral and there's a large memorial stone in the floor where she lies. Stood on her many times. (Sorry, Jane). Several roads in Alton are named after characters or places in her novels.
     But, enough of the history lesson. The name Bennet didn't register with me at the time, apart from the fact that the Bennets were her characters in Pride and Prejudice, the ruddy book (sorry, Jane fans) I forced myself to read three times for my O'Level back in ’69 or thereabouts (English Lit – hated it! Failed. Whatever.) Other roads are named similarly after characters or places in Jane's novels. Willoughby, Bingley (the road below us), Netherfields (the road leading to us). I was never a fan of Jane Austen. Apparently she was a great observer of life and made fun of her characters (I did rather like Mr Bennet, actually) and the mannerisms back then, but I just grew impatient with them all and felt, largely: ‘Oh, for goodness sake, just get on with it!’ Now, I don't need to be reminded that I'm looking through 21st century eyes at a story set in the 18th century. I've been reminded of that countless times. It just makes me all the more tremendously grateful to be living now!
     Back to the Bennets. One of my umpteen zillion interests is family history (again, of more anon) and I'm subscribed to Ancestry.co. And I found myself, by the natural course of things, family historian. I've inherited much family memorabilia and was fascinated by them and given much of it as a teen and twenties person. So, I've researched a fair bit about the Bennetts. First of all my great-great grands lived in Selbourne, Hampshire (my dad always said that I've returned to my Hampshire roots). My great-great grandfather James Bennett was a well known cricketer back in the late 1700s and into the early 1800s, and his cousin, John Bennett, was an even more well known cricketer. They both played at Middlesex and, according to the statistics of the time, were pretty damn good, enough to be noted in the periodicals  of the time. What puzzles me rather, is that my great-great grandfather James, the lesser known Bennett, is mentioned in the census of 1841 as a lowly agricultural worker, so I’m a tad curious. Eh, well – keep researching.
      Okay, jolly interesting. What's this got to do with Jane Austen? I hear you ask (or not). It turns out, and I've known this for some time, Jane was very keen on cricket. A film for television was broadcast fairly recently – Being Jane (I didn't watch it. Maybe I should). Part of the story shows her playing cricket in the garden. That didn't surprise me, but what did, when I Googled Jane Austen and cricket, a website popped up, run by Fantasy Bob (Dodgy name, if you ask me) under the sub title Witterings. Bob is a cricketing fan, and, amidst his cricketing chat, was the apparent fact that Jane had been influenced by the cricketing Bennetts. Well, pickle me walnuts, as dear old Len Goodman (Strictly Come Dancing) used to say. 😃! Well, it was the right era – end of 18th century, and the Bennett cousins were strutting their stuff at the time, particularly down at Hambledon Cricket Club, Hampshire, where the rules of cricket were established, don't you know. Apparently that's what influenced Jane to name her characters in Pride and Prejudice, accidentally missing off the second ‘t’.
     Some might say: ‘Rubbish! Don't believe everything you read.’ I don't. But it's a lovely story and I'm sticking to it. And anyway, who's to say it ain't true? It's perfectly feasible. My big bro loved the story too, and thinks the same.
     What a brilliant thought - that my immediate ancestor, James, and his cousin John, were Jane's heroes! And what a brilliant thought if I could prove it. Doubt that I could manage that, but nevertheless, what a wonderful story, and, as I say, I'm sticking to it! 





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Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Creating My Odyssey: GUEST BLOGGER ANNA HARRIS - 'HowPTSD Cured my A...

Creating My Odyssey:
GUEST BLOGGER ANNA HARRIS -

'HowPTSD Cured my A...
: GUEST BLOGGER ANNA HARRIS - 'How PTSD Cured my Anxiety' I've had the pleasure of being contacted by Anna with h...

GUEST BLOGGER ANNA HARRIS -


'How PTSD Cured my Anxiety'


I've had the pleasure of being contacted by Anna with her

story. Here she recounts her mental health struggles and how

she dealt with them and won.





The churning, out-of-control thoughts and sick feeling under the diaphragm. The intense urge to curl up in a ball under a heavy blanket and never come out. The physical, emotional, and spiritual exhaustion. In Western society, we call these thoughts and feelings symptoms of anxiety. If these symptoms fit you, even in part, you don't need me to tell you that coping with anxiety is not for the faint of heart!

     As a teenager, then young adult, I was certainly well-acquainted with generalized anxiety. After developing and then recovering from severe Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), however, I discovered one day that my general anxiety was gone! I was so pleasantly surprised by this unexpected path of healing that I wrote a dark-humored, satirical piece about PTSD curing anxiety.

     Just to be clear, I wouldn't wish PTSD on my worst enemy -- truly! For those who've dealt with this beast of mental illnesses, you know it's a hellish experience. So how could PTSD have brought about my healing from anxiety? How could anything good come from remembering and facing your worst memories of the worst moments of your life?

     That's what I want to understand.

     Being humble isn't my strong suit, so I have lots of opinions about why this happened. And I have a few take-aways for you, whether or not you'll ever experience my strange kind of anxiety cure.

     PTSD forces you to face your worst fears and most terrifying anxieties. You have to re-live, not just remember, past trauma. Not just once, though! That would be much too easy. No, PTSD forces your body and brain to re-experience your personal nightmare over and over and over again.

     The horror comes at you when you wake up, when you take a shower, when you get dressed, when you drive, when you're in therapy, when you try to work, when you eat, even in your sleep.

     But it's exactly this flood of horror that eventually healed my anxiety. Why?

     Think for a moment of what causes your worst anxiety. Here's my list, in the glory days of my generalized anxiety:

1. I feared God. I feared going to hell.

2. I feared making ANY (supposed) moral mistake.

3. I feared making a bad grade on a test or college paper, thereby becoming an absolute failure.

4. I feared my own unwanted and often quite disturbing thoughts. I feared exposure of these thoughts, or worse, acting on them.

5. I feared ending up in a psychiatric ward.

6. I feared men. Especially men who were intimidating, in an authority role, inappropriately flirty and suggestive, or middle-
aged.

7. I feared not being perfect.

8. I feared getting seriously hurt or killed.

9. I feared not getting everything correct and right in my beliefs,
values, and behavior.

10. Underneath it all? I feared losing control of myself, my life, my well-being, my self-respect.

     And what did PTSD do to these fears? PTSD combed through these fears, picked out the juiciest, then smashed them in my face. We are talking wedding-cake-in-the-face smashing. Picture an unruly (and perhaps intoxicated) groom, who not only smashes the cake in his brides mouth, but also up her nose, down her neck, and into her eyes and perfectly made-up hair.

     This is what happened to me. Only there were no divorce papers to sign and no way to stop the ongoing assault.

      What exactly happened? See number 10 on my top-anxieties list. I lost control of my life.

     Suddenly, I couldn't so much as hold down a coffee house job, much less my post-graduate school position as a family therapist. I couldn't plan a meal or grocery shop. I cried or sat in stunned silence in church. When I tried to hang out with a friend, I couldn't think or talk about anything except my early childhood abuse.

     So there I was. My treatment went from individual therapy to partial hospitalization to finally taking medication.

     Then my perpetrator read my letter of confrontation. His damaging response, and its ripple effects on my support system, snipped the last thread holding my life together.

     I went in-patient.

     In a psych ward.

     We all know that this is officially the end of life, right? My career would be ruined. And who would want to hire, date, or trust someone who had been hospitalized for psychiatric reasons?

     A month later, I emerged. My life continued.

     Now I am happily employed, doing work I love. Heck, I'm even good at what I do! My supervisor actually trusts me enough to let me drive around my neighborhood, visiting dying people and their families. (I'm a hospice social worker, LCSW.)

     Now I'm happily dating a pretty legit guy. As in, we've been dating over a year. I love him.

     Every Friday, two parents in their right minds pay me to nanny their most precious gifts: two toddler boys.

     People are interested in listening to what I have to say on my blog about trauma recovery and spirituality, http://www.thawingout.org


     After I was thrown head first into the deep end of the pool, my generalized anxieties no longer held power over me. What if I'm not perfect or make big mistakes or my loved ones judge me or someone hurts or abuses me? Been there, survived that. And I trust I'm capable of surviving it again if needed!

     As it turns out, we humans can survive a lot of pain and suffering. Not alone, mind you! And sometimes, not without going through the deep, deep valley. There are no short cuts that last. My valley involved being locked up in a psych ward for a month. Your deep valley might include something just as terrifying for you.

     But you know what? Life really does go on. Our life circumstances don't dictate our ability to live well. Not nearly to the extent we assume, at least.

     So, here are three take-aways:

1. Facing your worst fears may break their power over you. Anticipatory anxiety -- the infamous "what if's" -- may actually be more paralyzing than the moment of truth itself, when you hear the words, You're fired!" Or those long minutes in an ambulance, headed for the hospital. Or [insert your worst fear here].

2. Getting at the root cause of your generalized anxiety or depression may set you free! My personal journey started with a present-oriented, problem-solving, cognitive-behavioral therapy approach. Although this was an important starting point, the pain hiding below my symptoms wouldn't let me go until Id faced it head-on.

3. Do not go at healing alone! Trust me. Many people, both professional and non-professional, as well as formal and informal resources, have been invaluable to my progress. So look for the help you need until you find it! It will be worth it. It will be essential, even.

     And with that, take courage, friends! I'm with you in this thing called surviving life. May we live this life well!