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!

A Day In The Life – Starting A New Biologic Medication

Yesterday I started my new biologic medication.  It is called Stelara (Ustekinimab) and we are hoping it will sort out my Arthritis flare and also keep my Crohns Disease under control.

I have had to wait for a few weeks from my rheumatologist deciding this was the next step to take.  First she had to apply for the treatment to be funded.  It is a very expensive treatment and they have to ensure I meet the criteria for it to be worth prescribing it,  Then I had to wait for a spot on the Day Case Unit as you have to take your first dose after being trained to do the injection and then be observed for signs of reaction.

I have decided to do this post in a ‘Day Of The Life’ style so you can see how the day went and what happened with the appointment, as well as seeing how I spend the day around it.

Thursday

9.30am – Ste comes and wakes me up.  I don’t normally stay in bed till this time but with the fatigue I am experiencing at the moment I am often sleeping in.  It often doesn’t help, I still feel just as tired when I wake up.  I take my medication and then go and grab a cup of tea.  I have also been struggling with one of my headaches since yesterday afternoon and am in quite a bit of pain, hoping these painkillers will help.

9.50am – I get dressed, choosing something comfy to wear at the hospital and that isn’t too warm as they are always so hot!  I put on a bit of make-up but due to waking up late there isn’t much time for a lot and I just shove my hair up so it is out the way.  Brush my teeth and I am ready.

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Ready to go

10.20am – I toast a couple of hot cross buns and put some jam on but can’t eat them all.  My headaches are caused by my high blood pressure and stress and I think I am definitely nervous now about this new drug.  What if I am allergic to it?  What if it makes me feel really poorly like Humira did?  What if it doesn’t work?  These headaches are extremely painful (coming from someone with an exceptionally high pain threshold) and they make me sick.

10.30am Time to set off.  Parking can be a nightmare so have to leave in pletny of time.  Ste is coming with me even though he isn’t feeling great.  It is so good to have him there for support, I know it is helping me feel calmer.

11.30pm Parking was a total nightmare but I have managed to make it just in time.  Grab a chocomilk in the waiting room

11.45pm The nurse takes me into a cubicle and I have a bed, yes! Time to fill in endless paperwork, have to list all my diagnosis’s and medication (of which I realise I forgot at least three later  on). BP and pulse is done which are a little high but that’s normal for me.

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Waiting time

12pm A lovely nurse comes round and I get a sandwich, yoghurt and some biscuits. Ste is already snoozing but gets a sandwich too!

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12.15pm My rheumatologist comes in to check the blood results I had done a couple of days ago. My white cells are slightly high but they generally are. You aren’t allowed to take biologics when poorly or suffering an infection so all that has to be checked out. She asks how I’m doing with reducing my steroids and we have a general chat, she really is so lovely!

1pm The doctor is happy and has asked pharmacy to get the injection ready. The nurses call and ask that they take it straight out the fridge as it needs to be out for half an hour before injecting so it can come up to room temperature.

1.40pm It’s here. The nurse gets me to wash my hands and then I sterilise the area I will inject. At home I do my injection after a bath so I don’t need to do this step as the alcohol in the wipe can cause it to sting. She shows me the pen and I inject into my stomach. It doesn’t hurt at all and once I have fully pushed the plunger in it snaps back into itself so the needle can’t poke anyone! Needle goes into the sharps bin and I have to wipe a small amount of blood away and it’s done.

2.20pm I’m issued blood forms (2 weeks time, another 2 weeks after then every month) and an appointment to come back in a month to collect my next injection. The nurse is happy that I’m competent with self injectjng so I will take it home with me and do it there. The site has come up a little red which is totally normal. I also get issued some piriton tablets to take incase if a delayed reaction and I’m free to go.

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A little redness at injection site is normal

3.30pm We get home and I put in some washing and plan tea. I have some chicken that needs using so cook myself Chicken Coconut Curry Rice for tonight and also a Chicken & Smoked Sausage Cajun Pasta dish for tomorrow night to take to Ste’s mom’s house. Check out the recipe for the rice dish here

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7pm Me and Ste just chill after tea and watch some TV.

7.40pm I sign in ready for The IBD & Ostomy Support Show and have a chat with my co hosts, Rachel, Louise and Steve. Stephie is taking a break at the moment due to her health, I miss her face! Tonight we are talking about how our IBD & ostomies affect our friends and family.

Check out tonight’s show here

9.15pm The show ran over a bit as we were busy chatting but it was really good. There were lots of people on the live chat tonight asking questions and giving their opinions which is fantastic. I love the interactive element of the show. I got a little emotional tonight. Louise was talking about her ex relationship and some of the experiences she had bought some bad memories back for me. I’m so grateful to have met these wonderful people though and to call them friends. Both Steve and Rachel message me after the show to check I am ok.

9.30pm After emptying my bag I get into bed and do my night time meds. Then it’s snuggles with Ste and I read for a bit before switching off and getting to sleep. Night night!

Hope this has helped some of you understand what happens when you start a new drug. I have been on a few biologics now and am happy to answer questions and discuss with anyone the different options and what happens should you want to message me. I am not a medical professional but can offer advice from patient perspective and hopefully give support to others going through the same things.

NatalieThe Spoonie Mummy

BlogMas Day 2 – 12 Days Of Christmas Chronic Illness Style

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On the 12th day of Christmas, chronic illness gave to me

12 breakfast tablets,

11 early nights,

10 pred rages,

9 fill your faces,

8 doctor visits,

7 bouts of brain fog,

6 non-alcoholic cocktails,

5 swollen joints,

4 heat pads,

3 bag leaks,

2 stool samples,

and a blockage cuz I ate nuts!

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When Do You Know You Are ‘Done’?

So I’ve decided to write about something that has been playing on my mind lately. Truth be told I’m incredibly broody.

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Me and Ste have four children between us but none together. We haven’t really spoken about whether or not we want anymore but it’s a conversation, like any couple, we will need to have at some point.

I’ve always wanted another baby, and if I had no health problems it would be something I would go for without question. My illnesses, unfortunately, have to be considered. I have to come off some of my medications so things have to be planned a bit in advance. Doctors have to be consulted. Things have to be closely monitored. Not quite the spontaneous and natural way you would hope for!

On Friday I’m going to see my GP about starting to decrease my steroids. This has been a long time coming, after being on them none stop for six years. I don’t plan on ever using them again if possible, but know if I was flaring while pregnant it is one of the things they would put me on to help. I wonder whether doing that last bit of decreasing and coming off them is worth it till after I have made a decision. If I was to try and get pregnant, maybe it would be worth continuing on them and then weaning off after having the baby.  I know there have been more and more success stories with people using anti-tnf medication safely during a pregnancy so I would possibly be allowed to continue with this. My methotrexate however, is a big no no during pregnancy and I would need to stop taking it at least three months before even starting to try for a baby.

Aside from two successful pregnancies with the boys, I’ve also had three miscarriages. These obviously devastated me and to this day, those babies remain in my thoughts. The possibility of more is obviously very concerning and I’m not sure how I would cope with that should it happen again. As a side note, this month is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month and I send my love and best wishes out to anyone who has also gone through this. Anybody wanting a chat is free to message the page to talk to me, anytime.

Another factor would be my age. I know there are many women getting pregnant who are much older than me but as my body is already riddled with arthritis I often feel older than my years physically. If I were to plan another pregnancy it would be something I needed to think about sooner rather than later with regards to this.

When you are feeling broody it feels like babies and pregnancies are popping up EVERYWHERE! Kate and William are having another one, Kim and Kanye have hired a surrogate and I’ve seen soooo many Facebook announcements of baby arrivals and pregnancy news lately that I have lost count.  I absolutely loved being pregnant and even though my pregnancy with Riley wasn’t great, it was a time I uniquely enjoyed. To experience that once more, and be able to enjoy it knowing it would be the last time I was doing it, would really help put the struggle of whether or not to have more to rest. It would be far easier to say I was done with babies after enjoying a ‘last’ pregnancy.

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There’s also the question of me and Ste having a baby we made together. Our kids mean the world to us. But I would probably describe the feeling as one of almost jealousy – that two other women got to have this amazing experience with him and they share something that me and him don’t have. And possibly never will. To have your partner’s baby is something special and I would love to have a baby with Ste.

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After the stressful last few months I am currently trying to focus on myself and move forwards. I’m trying to rebuild my confidence and bring back ‘me’. Although I’m feeling rather broody, it isn’t something I would want to do right now. Focusing on me, on Ste and our relationship and enjoying our children is what I need to do right now. These questions won’t go away though and is something I will have to think seriously about in time.

How many children do you have? Are you ‘finished’? And if so, how did you arrive at that decision? Would be great to hear some of your experiences in the comments.

Burnished Chaos

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

Cuddle Fairy

An Update…

Good evening! Thought I would do a post to update you all on things that have been happening lately, rather than do lots of little posts about everything. My health has been pretty up and down but I’m still trying to keep a smile on my face as always.

Firstly some of you would have seen me having a moan about the 24-hour blood pressure monitoring cuff I had to wear last week. It wasn’t the nicest test I’ve been through but preferable to a colonoscopy or MRI I suppose, so I shouldn’t complain. I’ve been suffering with excruciating headaches (and I don’t mean to toot my own horn but I have an extremely high pain threshold). They have got so bad the pain has made me sick, resulting in an awful bout of dehydration too. I went to the doctors who diagnosed stress headaches but then took my blood pressure before I left and said it was very high. The 24 hour monitor took my blood pressure every half an hour through the day and hourly between 10pm and 7am. It showed that my blood pressure was high throughout the whole 24 hour period, even through the night. I’ve been put on some medication and I’m hoping this will mean an end to the headaches and them making me feel so awful! Another problem and another tablet is not what I wanted to have to deal with but hopefully this will keep it at bay now with no further issues.

The week before, I had also been to see my orthopaedic doctor about my knee. The MRI confirmed no meniscus tear which was good but does mean the problems, pain and locking is due to the severe degeneration from years of arthritis. Basically, the only thing that will sort it is a knee replacement but he said it’s a much bigger operation than my hip one and he would rather wait as long as we can due to my age which I totally agree with. So for now I am just being careful on it and I am getting some physio to try and strengthen some of my leg muscles to try and help a bit.

After all that I’ve had a quiet weekend in here but for a totally different reason – a very happy one in fact! On Saturday my brother married his beautiful fiancee so I was busy helping them celebrate. I was a bridesmaid and it really was an amazing day. Being surrounded by my family and friends made me realise the reason I came back to Derby and I’m so glad I did. The boys looked so handsome in the suits (Ste included!). They were so well behaved and then danced the night away after all the formal stuff was done!

So far the boys have spent the holiday’s with their Dad although he bought them home for the weekend so they could come to the wedding. They are back with him till Sunday and then our Summer Holiday fun can start! We can’t wait and are looking forward to some adventures and lots of family time. For now I am taking the opportunity to rest up while I can.

I hope you are all enjoying the Summer so far (even with the pretty dreary weather) and fingers crossed for some sunshine soon!