This piece is an apt piece as a lot of my memories writing this go back to this particular time of year. I am not sure where to start on this blog entry or where is going to end but here we go…
I like to think that I am thought of as fairly confident about things. At least in my adult days anyway! I do worry and analyse things much as anyone else. But try not to overly worry about things I cannot control. I do worry a bit though but try to put it to the back of my mind and have a positive outlook on life. I remain positive and try to pass this positive vibe on to others that I have contact with.
Occasionally, when I was younger, I used to stay up all night worrying about things. Things such as camping trips with the scouts or school tests or amateur dramatic plays I was involved with. As I got older these things did not bother me so much and I did not worry about my exams during my degree and did not worry about job interviews. I felt I knew myself and was confident that I had done enough to get the required result. I knew if I had not then it was too late at that time of night to worry about it.
Now when I finished university I got a job and was working in Bristol. I was however shortly to be moving to Swindon (Wiltshire) with my partner. The plan was to commute to Bristol for a short period whilst finding a job in Swindon. The commute was half an hour on the train and a short bus journey each end. I was confident enough to think I could make this trip relatively short term. My last few weeks in Bristol before I was due to move all my things to Swindon were very busy at work and I was already catching two buses from my work to where I was living in Bristol.
This was around December time and very cold. Waiting around for buses was not much fun. I started to feel very tired in the mornings and very dizzy and had big headaches. I carried on but really struggled to get up and get out the house in the mornings. I ended up walking a lot of the way to work to wake me up and also to avoid catching a bus for fear I would fall asleep and miss my stop. I sometimes called a taxi to get me to work. It came to a bit of a head when I called a taxi to work and had to ask the driver to turn around as I just felt far to spaced out to do into work.
I made a doctor’s appointment and the doctor said I have “Labyrinthitis”. This apparently is an infection of the inner ear and it was affecting my balance. This explained a lot. Fortunately I was not feeling overly sick with it! I got some medicine and tried to carry on and convince myself the medicine would soon kick in and I would start to feel better soon. The dizziness was just in temporary.
Before I knew it I was moved to Swindon one weekend and it felt all like the right thing to do. However I was still suffering a bit with the tiredness and dizziness. After the weekend of move I really struggled to get up, it was dark, foggy and freezing outside. I kept yawning in the shower and as I was getting dressed. I walked outside in the cold and dark and all around me seemed to be closing in and blurry round the edges. I walked to the bus stop really spaced out. I managed to get on the bus but was thinking about how the world seemed to be really close around me. I continued to be yawning and feared falling asleep again. I feared missing my stop and then thinking about what would happen if that happened on the train! I had to get off the bus as there was no way I could go into work feeling like that! I pressed the bell and got off at the next stop, which could not come quick enough. I put my head down and walked back to the house. The sun was coming up and all I wanted to do was go back to bed. First day commute – failure.
It was coming up to Christmas and I had some days booked off to look for jobs. I phoned my boss and signed myself off sick for a week to lead up to my annual leave and Christmas break. I spent my whole time in bed sleeping and feeling sorry for myself. I should have been happy as I had a new start with my partner, I should be looking for a job, I should be enjoying the Christmas festivities but all I felt was tired and really worried about stepping outside.
I did go outside for a bit but there was no way I could face going into a local little shop to get some milk and a paper, let alone going to the doctors’ surgery and sitting down there, surrounded with other sick people and risk feeling worse. I did not want to go to the shop as it had a big hot fan in there above the place where you queue and the hot fan would make me feel really uncomfortable. At the doctors I would have a wait in a crowded waiting room with people coughing and sneezing and have to fill in forms as I was not registered with them in Swindon. This was as well as the relatively long walk there and back. We did not have a car and there was no way I could be trapped in a car and defiantly not drive one!
After Christmas my thoughts were turning back to work and I got to a point where I got so worried I decided to book into to a bed and breakfast close to my work in Bristol for a few days so I could have a relatively short walk into work and would not have to get a bus or a train. This cost a lot of money but for my own sanity this was the only way I could think that would help until I got into commuting.
The bed and breakfast was a lonely place in the evenings after work at night. I had to live of take away food for tea. I would just lie in my room, alone, fearing I would never be able to walk out again the next morning. Getting up the next morning was a struggle and sitting down for breakfast was difficult as did not want to see anyone else or eat anything. For me this was totally not right as I love my food, especially as I had paid for it and a cooked breakfast was on offer! I could not cope with the world looking at me as I was eating, and waiting for my food with other people in what seemed like close proximity. My world was very dark and closed in. I handed in my notice at work as I knew I had to find a job closer to home in Swindon and could not stay in the bed and breakfast forever, and this was still not curing my problem.
I just wanted to go outside but not too far. The pavements were covered in snow, covered in ice and a little dangerous to walk too fast. It was cold outside but I was hot and red in the face. I was concentrating on getting to where I needed to get to, head down, feeling alone in the world with my own thoughts and fears. My heart was pumping hard and this was making me red in the face and I was breathless. No one else understood, I did not understand, what was wrong with me? When I was walking into work all sorts of questions entered my head:
What would happen if I collapsed?
Would anyone find me in the snow?
What if I had to go to hospital?
Would people know where I lived and who to phone?
What if I was in hospital and ill for ages and could not make a call to anyone to say where I was?
Who would tell my boss?
My partner would think I did not want to live with her and we would split up. I would then be alone in the world with no job, no house. I did not want to go back home to Knutsford (Cheshire) to live with my parents again!
I had to go back to Swindon, stay at home and sign myself off sick again. This was more than an ear infection. I felt quiet alone and no one could help and I felt like a failure. I could not work my notice period and ended up back in Swindon and sleeping most of the day and eating very little and not caring about food, drink or even washing as the heat from a bath or shower made me feel uncomfortable.
After two or so weeks in bed one morning I woke up and decided that I had to go out. I could not stay inside much longer and I had enough of feeling rubbish and I had to push myself through this and get some help. I pushed myself up to the local shops and stopped outside. I was hot, out of breath but knew I had to go on. I counted to ten in my head and walked in. I did not buy anything but I walked around and looked at a few bits and walked out. I walked home feeling really good and really proud of myself. I had to see the doctor still because I defiantly was not right.
The next day I phoned to make a doctor’s appointment and encouraged by my success at the shop the day before I walked there and went in. I sat on the hard seat in the reception area. I tried not to look at anyone. No one was really looking at me anyway. After what felt like hours the doctor finally called me in. I was shaking when I walked in to his room but I had made a list of everything I wanted to tell him. To his credit he was very good and listened to everything I said and gave me lots of time. The doctor said I had depression and was suffering from anxiety. The doctor prescribed my some tablets called “Citalopran” and said to come back if they were not working and he could get me some stronger ones. I did not like the fact I had to take tablets but if there worked I did not care. They said I would feel worse at first but then better. I was informed it was not addictive. I was just happy to have an answer!
I picked up my prescription and walked home, really proud of what I had done. Every day after I picked up my prescription I took a very small white tablet in the morning. I made myself get up and take it early. I was determined these tables would make me better. I would then go out and have a short walk. I walked further and further each day and about two weeks later I went into the local shop and bought myself a chocolate bar and actually stood in a queue for a few minutes. This was another big step. My confidence grew and started speaking to people in the shop. It took a couple of weeks but I then got a bus into the town. I walked around for a bit and then came home. Each step I took I gained more confidence.
By April that year I was out going into agencies and seeking more work. I managed to get a new job in a new team for a major stationery retailer and met some great people. My life was back on track! I did not have a day off sick for two years solid. I had the occasional cold but worked through it. I was determined I had spent too long in bed previously. I wanted to make the most of everyday. I even started going to football matches at the weekend and standing in a crowd of people and loved the whole experience.
I did not like to keep having to take the tablets and I tried to cut down and take one every other day. This was okay and did not suffer too badly. I then started taking one at the start and end of each week but I was getting to the end of the week and staring to feel shaky and tired. The world was starting to feel a bit big again and the edges of my vision were looked slightly blurred and like a heat haze. I put myself back on the full dose again not wanting to go down to the depths I had gone down before. By reading about the tablet it worked by restoring the balance of serotonin, a naturally occurring substance found in the brain, which helps to improve certain mood problems. I was happy to take it again thinking that if I had a broken leg I would wear a plaster cast!
I still had the odd day where I just felt awful and really had to push myself to get into work. These days generally happened when it was a bit foggy or icy or if I was feeling a little unwell. I had to really fight the fear and not go back to bed and know it was just the brain lacking a chemical. I would still go red in the face, my heart would still race and I would still believe I might collapse or I might just need to lie down and fall asleep just suddenly in the middle of the street. If these “Panic Attacks” happen then it takes a good few days to get over them and I feel extremely washed out for days later, and struggle to get my confidence back again. I still have the occasional day like it now. Sometimes these manic attacks leave me breathless, very hot, my heart beating very fast, weak in the legs and generally exhausted. It can feel like a heart attack with the pain and think take a few days to feel right again.
The effects of depression are constantly with me and even writing about some of my tough times makes my heart start to race again and I start to feel a little dizzy. I have fortunately never felt suicidal with it but know I have been in some desperate states and I would not wish feeling like I have felt on anybody. I have not suffered as many have but certainly know the power of the brain.
In conclusion I am off the tables now and day to day I do not think of the condition that much but it has probably left me suffering occasionally and with other side effects I may disclose in a blog later. I hope this will help people to understand a bit more about the problem. I am writing this over ten years later from my first illness of suffering from Labyrinthitis and have not let it take over who I am or what I want to achieve in this life.
I have come off the tablets by taking my time, listening to relaxation CD’s, breathing exercises and attending a stress and mood management course. The course was great at the relaxation and also telling be to look at my feelings in a different way and rank them in how bad they are one to ten and thinking of them as a curve that will go up and then down again. The course also consisted of a workshop on overcoming panic attacks. As I said earlier I still get them but try to get over them a bit better and quicker now.
This piece is not going to be me ranting and raving about how everyday people do not understand this illness. I am not going to rant and rave about how some people think illnesses in the mind makes you mental and people put you in a box. I am an everyday person and I would not really understand it if I did not suffer from it myself.
I hope this article has been interesting or if not entertaining but I do hope you have learned something. If not about depression and anxiety but maybe about me!
Please note this blog post in no way represents medical advice – always speak to your doctor before changing doses, or coming off medication.