The Mental Health Tag

Good morning and happy new week. Today is officially known as Blue Monday – apparently the most depressing day of the year.

Chronic Illness and Depression/Anxiety

Many people don’t realise that along with being diagnosed with a chronic illness, people are usually also struggling with their mental health. Having a condition which can mean you struggle to complete everyday tasks and have a ‘normal’ life can be very demoralising. Chronic illness may also affect you socially, leaving you isolated and lonely while feeling unwell at home or in the hospital.

The Mental Health Tag

I saw this in a post over on Happy Mentality and thought it would be a good one to do for today. Supporting people with chronic illnesses with their mental health is something I am passionate about. It can so often be overlooked by the NHS, due to low funding and a focus on fixing physical problems and symptoms. My inbox is always open to those needing support or help, so please feel free to message me anytime.

1. What is your mental health issue? 

I have anxiety and depression. Both started around three and a half years ago when I was having a rough time with my health, as well as in my marriage.

2. Do you have medication and/or therapy?

I use both and I think that works best, particularly with anxiety. I take Citalopram daily which is an antidepressant and also good for anxiety. I also have CBT sessions.

What is CBT? Cognitive behavioural therapy is a form of talking therapy that can help you manage your problems by changing the way you think and behave. It’s most commonly used to treat anxiety and depression

3. What therapy/medication have you tried and has any worked for you? 

I started on Citalopram taking 20mg a day, which was then increased to 30mg. This seems to suit me with minimal side effects and I feel my anxiety and depression is well controlled.

4. How long have you had problems for? 

I would say that I have been suffering with anxiety for a little longer but I realised I was depressed in September 2015.

5. Do your family/friends know? 

Yes. I am very open about it and many of them read my blog so see things like this! My partner Ste, Mum, Dad and brothers have always been really supportive.

6. Does this affect your work and daily living? 

I cannot currently work due to my physical health. I wouldn’t say that depression and anxiety affects my daily life, some days and weeks I can be perfectly fine. It sort of comes in waves. Sometimes when certain things happen or my health is particularly bad, there is an explanation, but sometimes life is fine and the feelings I have are pretty inexpiable. This has been a lot beater since I started taking medication and attending CBT though,.

7. What makes you feel calm? 

Reading, sleeping, being with my kids and dogs. A relaxing bath and a bit of a pamper. My blog helps me by giving me a focus and other people to help and support. I enjoy writing, planning and also putting make up and getting dressed every day makes me feel more together.

8. What do you do in crisis? 

I made a post about Coping With Anxiety – Grounding Techniques last year.  My go to technique is the square breathing one. I find it easy to remember and simple to do, and it works! I am also getting better about speaking to people when things are happening. After the boys went to live with their Dad I was really struggling and not in a good place. Luckily, at two of my lowest points I was able to open up to Ste and a couple of close friends who helped pull me through.

9. What advice would you give to others suffering? 

It sounds cliche but my best advice is to open up to someone. Whether that is your partner, doctor, a blogger who writes about this stuff, a friend or your rheumatology nurse who is there to mainly see how your joints are doing (yes, that was my choice although I hadn’t planned it), you will be amazed at how people will want to hep. The sense of relief that came from just telling someone about how I felt was so immense.

Saying that, some people will be supportive butt not know how to help you, so pick your chosen person with care. This can often mean it is easier to speak to a medical professional or someone who is open about their own mental health problems. If you try once and don’t get the answers you need, try again. You did the hardest but once, now you are ready to receive the help you need and deserve.

10. What makes you smile? 

The kids, Ste, our dogs and extended family. Reading will always make me smile. I also enjoy going to the cinema, watching Netflix with Ste snuggled up in bed, exploring and visiting new places, fresh air, shopping, cross stitch, learning and cooking (as well as eating ha ha).

11. Describe your mental health issue in 5 words – 

Confusing, upsetting, strengthening, eye-opening and tiring

12. Insert a picture to make people smile –

Hungover, hair half in still, the morning after my friends masquerade ball. Maybe I should have kept my mask on ha ha!

I hope that today is actually as positive as can be for everyone. Please feel free to use these questions and continue the tag on your blog. I am not going to tag anyone specifically but hoping some of you will carry this on!

Coping With Anxiety – Grounding Techniques

Anxiety is the feeling of unease, worry or fear.  Everyone experiences anxiety during their lives – you may worry about taking an exam for example.  But there are peopl who experience these symptoms daily and struggle to control them.  Anxiety can take over a person’s life and be a constant struggle.

barefoot beach blur break

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Anxiety is common in people with chronic illnesses.  Our lives often give us lots of extra things to worry about – our health, hospital appointments and tests, eating well etc.  Symptoms include overwhelming nausea and sometimes actually being sick, breathlessness, palpitations, trouble sleeping, feeling out of your depth and feeling numb.

Grounding is a simple technique which you cn use during these times to help you feel reconnected and calmer.  Today I wanted to share a few of these techniques which I have found help me when I feel an anxiety attack start to come on.

Breathe Square

This is one of my favourite techniques and it is really simple.  Getting your breathing to steady when you feel anxious is a quick way to begin the process of you feeling calmer.  Our breathing often speeds up during an anxiety attack, and sometimes people hold their breath to try and counteract that.

First up, trace a square with your finger in front of you.  As you go up the side, breathe in for three seconds.  As you go along the top, hold for one second.  Down the other side and breathe out for three and then along the bottom hold for anther second.  Keep your finger moving steadily so your breathing becomes the same.

5. 4, 3, 2, 1

This is a common one and is used well by many people.  However, I find myself struggling to remember the order which then results in more worrying for me.  I suggest writing it down on a small piece of paper which you can keep close at hand,  to save that from happening to you!

Name 5 things you can see in the room around you (eg. chair, mirror)

Name 4 things you can feel (eg. the cool breeze on your skin, the leather chair you are sat on)

Name 3 things you can hear (eg. children playing outside, the fridge humming)

Name 2 things you can smell (eg.  bacon cooking, perfume)

Name 1 thing that is good about you (eg. I am a great teacher, I am strong)

Find Your Feet

This can be done siting or standing.  For a minute, place all of your focus on the soles of your feet.  Pay attention to any feelings or sensations.  Yu can also close your eyes if this helps you concentrate

Mental Distraction

There are different ways you can do this, but this is the one I find easiest and most useful. Think of a catagory and then name as many things as you can relating to it.  For example you could choose dog breeds, capital cities, football teams or authors.  This will help focus your mind on something oither than what is causing your anxiety.

Re-orientation Technique

Again, there are different versions of this, but this is one that’s easy to do. Ask yourself who you are, where you are, what you are wearing etc.  These questions and the answers you give will help you focus on the present and reorientate you, bringing you back to yourself.

photo of woman wearing white top

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These five different techniques are all simple and can be used anywhere and I hope they will be helpful to you, like they are to me. If you find your anxiety getting worse or you are struggling wth the effect it is having on your life, please visit your GP and speak to them about it.  They can help in many differenmt ways including with talking therapies such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and/or medication.  Nothing should be forced on you and you need to feel comfortable with the plan your treatment will take, but please do go with an open mind.

I am more than happy to discuss this privately as I know how difficult it can be to find someone you can  talk to.  I will add a comment box to the bottom of this paragraph, you can fill it in and it will send me an email, which I can reply to privately.

If you have any more grounding techniques that work for you, I would love to hear about them in the comments below.  Anxiety comes under the umbrella of mental health and should not be something we shy away from discussing.  It is very common and you are not to blame.  The best way to overcome it is to take the power back, regain control of your thoughts, speak up and get help and support.



An Open Letter To Those Opposed To Legalising CBD Oil In Medicine

To anyone against the legalisation of CBD oil for medicinal purposes,

My name is Natalie and I am 32 years old.  I have suffered from chronic illnesses all my life.  I was diagnosed with juvenile idiopathic arthritis at the age of fifteen months, so have never known life without it.  I was then diagnosed with iritis aged 7 and my bowel problems started at the age of 8 or 9.  It wasn’t till I was 26 that I was diagnosed with Crohns Disease.  Just 4 years later and 2 days after my 30th birthday, I had emergency surgery to remove diseased parts of my small and large bowel and an ileostomy formed.

My Blog, My Readers, My Friends

About 9 months after my surgery, I started my blog, The Spoonie Mummy.  It had been something I considered for a while and at the beginning of 2017, I took the plunge.  I wanted to show people that even with chronic illnesses, life could still be fun, fulfilling, meaningful and full of happiness.  I wanted to help raise awareness of my often invisible conditions and help and support people with similar illnesses to me.  Since starting my blog I have felt incredibly lucky.  I have met some amazing and inspiring people, been given opportunities to work with great companies and been able to support many people experiencing health problems and having surgery.  Receiving messages thanking me for my informative or supportive blog posts has meant the world to me.  I also got the chance to become a host on The IBD & Ostomy Support Show – a weekly, live YouTube show during which we discuss everything  IBD and ostomy related.  This has broadened my ability to connect with people and offer my support and advice.  I am not medically trained but I have a lot of experience having spent my life in and out of hospital.  I take a keen interest in my illnesses and like to learn about them to give myself a good knowledge base to help inform my care.

Recently In The News

The case of Billy Caldwell has been high profile news in the last couple of weeks.  For those who haven’t heard about Billy, he is a little boy who has epilepsy.  He was suffering upwards of 100 fits a day.  His mum discovered CBD oil lessened his symptoms greatly, helping him achieve a better quality of life.  On returning from Canada with a six month supply of his CBD oil, prescribed by a Canadian doctor, the medication was taken away from them.  Billy’s mum has since had to fight through the courts and has now been granted the right to continue this treatment, albeit having to take him into the hospital for it to be administered.

So What Was The Issue?

Cannabis is currently a controlled drug in the UK.  Cannabis plants are made up of hundreds of cannabinoids which all have different effect on the body.  The most common forms of these are THC and CBD.  THC is the strain that recreational drug users take to get ‘high’.    CBD does not.  CBD is also a type of cannaboid which is not under the controlled drug status.  This is why hemp (which contains CBD) can be industrially grown in the UK (with a license) as it contains little or no THC.  That is why you will see some CBD oil in the shops, Holland and Barrett for example, sell it alongside other supplements.  The CBD oil in question has a higher amount of THC in it which is why the problem has arisen.

Medicinal Benefits

The oil is thought to help in many ways, including as pain relief, relieving inflammation, anti seizure and reducing anxiety.  There has been no conclusive medical studies to prove this. Licences have not been given for CBD oil as a medicine but it can still be bought  as long as there are no claims made that it has medicinal benefits.  Sativex, which has a 50-50 mix of THC and CBD had been approved for use in the UK to treat multiple schlerosis.  However, in 2014 NICE gave it not recommended status as it felt it was not cost effective.  The Home Secretary has now announced a review into the use of cannabis oil as a medicine.

A Personal Perspective

So I didn’t write this letter to provide information.  I am not medically trained but I thought it best to try and explain the background and current laws surrounding the use of cannabis oil.  I wanted to get across the reason so many  people want to at least have the chance to try CBD oil to treat their ailments.  Firstly, that is a point to remember.  This may not work for everyone.  Not everyone will even want to try it.  But we would like to be given the choice to see if our chronic illnesses could be helped by this drug.

Apart from suffering huge problems myself with pain, inflammation and anxiety, I have met so many other people struggling with diseases like Crohns Disease, Arthritis and Epilepsy.  Many struggle every day with simple tasks, like getting out of bed, showering and dressing.  They are on strong and costly medications daily, including low dose chemotherapy and biologics which affect the immune system to the point where they can not leave the house in fear of getting an infection.  Anxiety can make the everyday tasks seem impossible – making a telephone call, looking in the mirror and joining your family to eat.

I find many people who are so vehemently against the legalisation of cannabis oil have no experience of chronic illness.  Having to fight through your every day to just complete the most basic of tasks.  To grit your teeth and bear constant pain every single second of every tingle day.  To slowly lose your friends due to you not being able to meet up or even reply to their messages.  I implore you to think about these people, who live like this every single day.  And to know that there is no cure for what you are facing, it will be your constant for the rest of your life.

We don’t want your sympathy, we adapt and learn to manage in our own ways.  There are many online support groups and bloggers like myself out there who try our best to make sure people do not feel alone and get every tip and trick that may be of use to them.   We ask that this be legalised, for medicinal use.  That we can get a prescription from a doctor and a safe form of the product.  That we can try something that may help give us more relief than anything else we have tried.

The medications I currently take have some terrible side effects including destroying my immune system, nausea, sickness, insomnia and an increased risk of certain cancers to name but a few.  They make me feel semi-normal so I have to weigh up the pros and cons and take a risk.  I have had to have a hip replacement and cataract surgery due to the effects of my medications I have had over the years.  I would like the chance to try this in a safe and legal way.  If it worked it could get me off some of the strong medications I am currently on and help save the NHS a small fortune.

My Plea

I know this post may receive both positive and negative feedback.  I am very willing to listen to all views as long as they are thought out after reading what I have written and not abusive.  I ask you to put yourself in my shoes, and thousands others who are much worse off than me.  Our chance at a medication that could be vitally helpful is being held up due to the fact it is misused by so many.  As with any medication, it is all about a choice.  Some people may not want to try it.  But give us who do, the chance and let’s see if it really does work like it is for little Billy.

I am tired of this constant pain, the nausea, vomiting, hospital stays and struggling to move.  Please give me the chance to try CBD oil and see if it can make a difference.

Thankyou for reading,



‘Good To Talk’

Today is the World Health Organisation’s World Health Day 2017. The focus for this year’s World Health Day is depression. The WHO are running a year long campaign to raise awareness of depression and promote the slogan ‘good to talk’.

Close to 10% of the world’s population suffer with depression or anxiety. It’s an illness that can strike anyone, at any time. It is also very common in people with chronic illnesses.

I was first diagnosed with depression in October 2015. My marriage was in trouble but since my Crohns diagnosis three year previously, I had spiralled. I have had Rheumatoid Arthritis since being a baby and could probably tell a doctor a thing or two about it. This disease was new, scary and I wasn’t really sure what it meant for me.

For a long while I tried to ignore the Crohns. I was basically told ‘you have Crohns Disease’ at my colonoscopy. I was asked if I had any questions but in my post sedation, shocked haze, I couldn’t think of any. I was told the biologic medication I was on would be switched to one that would hopefully treat both the Crohns and Arthritis and sent home.

During the next three years I tried to carry on as normal. It didn’t turn out so well! Aside from the problems in my marriage (I won’t go into everything now but he was very unsupportive of my health problems for one) I didn’t have a clue as to how my Crohns could affect me. One flare I had over Christmas 2014 was so bad I lost a stone in weight in 6 days. Looking back on how ill I was I should have been in hospital more than once but I thought it was just something to be coped with, as I had with my Arthritis for so long at home.

I started to avoid the hospital and missed alot of appointments in all my clinics. I lost my fighting spirit, my positive outlook and could barely drag myself out of bed. I felt like a terrible mum and had no motivation to do anything. I just wanted to be ‘normal’, not an ill person anymore.

At the end of September 2015 I decided I needed to learn more about my disease. That’s when I discovered online Crohns support groups. I can’t begin to tell you how much the help, support and information I got online helped me. Having people who had similar problems to me and understood exactly how I was feeling was amazing.

I decided things had to change and attended a hospital appointment for the first time in a while with my rheumatology nurse. After going through all the normal checks she asked if there was anything else I wanted to talk about. And that’s when I burst into tears and it all came out about how I was feeling.

I can’t tell you how good it was to finally open up and tell someone about how I felt. She was really lovely and understanding, telling me many of the patients she saw had similar issues at one time or another with being ill for such a long time. She asked if I had support at home and this was the only time I lied, I just wasn’t ready to address my marriage issues and talk about what was happening.

She advised I go and see my GP which I did and she was equally lovely. She reiterated that a lot of people with a chronic illness get depression and I had three of them, as well as a young family to deal with. She prescribed some anti depressants (which I didn’t end up taking as my husband didn’t like them but that’s another story) and helped me get back on track with my appointments at the hospital. She then arranged to see me monthly so we could see how things went.

In the last few months I have been struggling again with the depression but I have also been diagnosed with anxiety. This is much more to do with my personal life and things that have happened with my ex husband. I have been offered CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) which I started and was finding really useful. Due to my physical health being bad and being back in hospital I have taken a break from it for now but will restart once I am physically well enough.

I can’t tell you the relief you get when you start opening up and telling someone what you are feeling. Whether it is a professional, family member or friend, it really is the first step to helping you feel better. Since my diagnosis I have been able to share more about my feelings with family and friends too which is great as they understand a lot more now and will help and support me too. It is treatable with medication and talking therapies (CBT, counselling etc) so although it may seem impossible, you will start to feel better once you have taken that first step to open up.

Mental health awareness and provision isn’t the best here. By discussing it and making people aware, we can start to overcome the stigma and hopefully get more people seeking the help they need. I’m hoping sharing some of my story helps support the ‘good to talk’ slogan of this campaign and will help people become aware of how depression and anxiety can take over your life, but opening up is the first step to starting to feel better.