These Feelings Never Help Me, I Want An Easy Mind

Friday’s blog allowed me to dump a lot of negativity from my head.

All that crap that had been building up in layers. I’d been trying to chip away at it but it felt like a thankless task. Everything built up, more and more. It was starting to feel overwhelming.

My brain was starting to feel trapped behind an endless high wall.

I needed to find a way to break through to it. That’s all I needed. Once I could get through I could try and deal with it. I needed to fight.

I find the act of writing cathartic but this time it also felt emotionally draining too. I took that as a good sign. For me it meant that I was tapping into what I was going through. I felt like I was being honest with myself. By being so (brutally) honest with myself I could accept things. It’s like staring at yourself in the mirror and noticing everything. Every flaw, every imperfection.

By the end of writing I felt something. It wasn’t a sense of calmness. It wasn’t a sense of feeling numb. There was just……space.

After I posted I came to the realisation that perhaps I’d been pushing myself a little too much. When I would do something for myself I would feel guilty. I felt like I couldn’t really enjoy what I was doing. I’d zone out mentally and lose time without explanation or remembering what I’d done. Time would go by so quickly in that headspace.

Thinking on things I decided to step back a little from Facebook. It’s a great tool to interact with people and I have made some great friends because of it, but it can also be quite negative too.

There’s a constant feeling of comparison and judgement there. Everyone has an opinion about things, sometimes they’re ugly and negative. It’s that side that was weighing down on me. To make things clear, nothing had been directed to me personally, but I’d seen so much that I could feel myself absorb that negativity.

Stepping back and getting distance helped with my clouded brain. I’d also arranged to catch up with a friend to watch this year’s Wrestlemania (I know, I’m such a nerd). It’s a yearly thing we do and I really look forward to it. As usual, it was fun. Watching something like this is much better with others, it’s part of the enjoyment.

Sunday has been a day of relaxing and rest. I’ve caught up with some tv, cooked food, fallen asleep on the sofa. It’s been just what I needed.

I’ve got a working week ahead of me. I need to get through to 5.30pm on Friday and then I’ve got a week off. I’m looking forward to it, I think I need it more than I realise.

Sometimes the best way to take care of yourself is to be honest. If you’re struggling, say so. If you need help, say so. Don’t stay silent. It may be hard to be honest but it helps.

The title of the this installment of my blog comes from the song “Still Hurts” by Therapy?. You can find a video of it on YouTube here Therapy? – “Still Hurts”. I’ve also now created a playlist on Spotify featuring the songs I include in my blog. You can find it over at The Order Of The Dog Spotify Playlist. I’ll update it every time a new blog is published.

As usual, if you’d like to chat to me further you can email me at theorderofthedog@gmail.com and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. I’ve created a closed support group on Facebook also calledThe Order Of The Dog. It’s there for people who struggle with mental health issues as well as people who want to support and get a better understanding. It’s a closed group which means only members get to see and interact with what’s posted there. Finally, please feel free to share this blog with anyone and anywhere you think it might help.

Cheers,
Scott
The Order Of The Dog.

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My Silence Holds The Secrets When I Answer But Don’t Answer

These words are me. These words are describing this.

This is me having a bad day with my head.

My brain is currently running at a thousand miles an hour while my body feels tired and drained. My shoulders and back ache and I go light headed every now and again.

When I’m in this headspace I try and keep myself to myself. I might seem distracted to people. Others might say that they thought I was having an off day.

I just focus on trying to get through my day. Little goals like getting from break to lunch, lunch to break, break to home help chop the time away into smaller, more manageable chunks that’s easier to cope with.

Headphones stream music directly into my ears, both a distractor and a motivator. My glasses remind me I’m in work mode so I can try to focus on being the automaton I need to be to get through this.

I doubt everything. I feel little joy. I hear a compliment but I don’t understand it.

The music gets turned up louder and louder but still the white noise, the jumble of static drowns it out.

I can feel my eyes feel hollow, my gaze vacant. My brow feels knitted and knotted. My fingertips gently brush against the skin of the palms of my hands, tracing nonsensical meaningless patterns on myself.

The words here feel heavy, each letter and syllable another something pulling me down.

It’s like I don’t understand myself in these moments.

This has come from nowhere. There’s no cause. Nothing to fix or push against. Nothing to do accept succumb to this noise or push against it’s fluidity, like trying to hold running water in your hand.

Tired, I press the heel of my hand against my eyes, using it to gently massage my tired eyes beneath my closed lids. The bus taking me home is filled with people going out drinking. Sometimes it feels like I’m watching another species, something alien that I don’t understand. There’s that gnawing feeling of disconnection from my surroundings. Can’t wait to get home and close the door on my mood, stand in the shower and hope the water washes away whatever this is in my brain, clean away this grime that feels like it’s choking the pores of my skin.

This is me forcing these words out so they’re not in my head. This is me trying to cure this malaise. This is me acknowledging this and trying to change.

Let tomorrow be a change. Let tomorrow see a rise. Let tomorrow crack the grey clouds of the sky and let some light into my life.

The title of the this installment of my blog comes from the song “You Never Knew My Mind” by Chris Cornell. You can find a video of it on YouTube here Chris Cornell – “You Never Knew My Mind”. I’ve also now created a playlist on Spotify featuring the songs I include in my blog. You can find it over at The Order Of The Dog Spotify Playlist. I’ll update it every time a new blog is published.

As usual, if you’d like to chat to me further you can email me at theorderofthedog@gmail.com and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. I’ve created a closed support group on Facebook also called The Order Of The Dog. It’s there for people who struggle with mental health issues as well as people who want to support and get a better understanding. It’s a closed group which means only members get to see and interact with what’s posted there. Finally, please feel free to share this blog with anyone and anywhere you think it might help.

Cheers,
Scott
The Order Of The Dog.

What’s My Drug Of Choice? Well, What Have You Got?

Medication. It’s not for everyone.

It’s odd because medication carries as much of a stigma as actually having mental health issues. Just because you have them doesn’t mean you need to be on tablets or the other way round. Some people still look down on people for taking them which probably doesn’t help sufferers from feeling reluctant about taking them. There’s then the old wives tale that they’re addictive and everyone struggles to come off them. “Drugs are bad, m’kay?”

Medication needs to be treat with respect and open mindedness, not paranoia and mistrust. Yes, they can have side effects (but then again, what doesn’t?) but their benefits can help so much.

The whole thing about being prescribed meds for mental illness can be incredibly hit and miss. Some doctors will prescribe tablets at the drop of a hat, others are incredibly reluctant to do so, more happy to push you towards alternative forms of therapy. It can be hard to find some kind of equilibrium between the different options.

For myself, meds go hand in hand with therapy. It’s not a case of one or the other, it’s about finding balance between the two.

That’s not the only balance you need to find either. There’s the problem that medication for mental illnesses affect different people in different ways. Then there’s the problem of when you find one that works you need to figure out the dosage that works best for you, which is another headache in itself.

Let me try to explain….

When I was first diagnosed with depression back in the late eighties, I wasn’t offered anything, it if I was it wasn’t pushed as a major option. The doctor kind of hoped I would fix myself it felt.

My first dalliance with medication came in my late twenties when I was prescribed Prozac for a major depression spell I was going through. As I remember it worked but left me feeling fuzzy and ‘not quite there’.

My next attempt with meds came in my late thirties. My GP prescribed me Citalopram as they were reluctant to put me back on Prozac. It took a few months to figure out a dosage that worked, but Citalopram became my tablet of choice for depression and anxiety.

I’d be on and off Citalopram over the next few years. It seemed to work most of the time, focusing more on the anxiety and dealing with that before it would help me with my depression.

I went to my GP with my most recent spell in the late summer of 2016. My anxiety was creeping back so I was prescribed good old Citalopram again at 10mg, a relatively low dose. A month later I was back there and we obsessed l increased it to double what I was taking as I felt it wasn’t touching the anxiety. The increased amount took a few days to kick in and I found myself quite giggly, an unusual side effect, until it settled in my system. Another month on and another visit with the doctor. The medication wasn’t doing anything at all.

I’m really fortunate as my doctor is a) very understanding about these matters and b) has a wife who works in psychotherapy. She’d put together a list of meds, the chemical family that each belong to and what type of illness they worked best with. After consulting his list he decided to change me onto Venlafaxine at the minimum dosage (75mg).

After a few weeks I could feel then working on me. In fact, they worked really well. They were able to work on evening out the mental swings, the ups and downs my moods would go through, and give me a decent base level to work from. Some days would still be bad, but at least they weren’t as bad as they could have been. There were good times too I’d like to point out.

A few months ago I could feel the dog starting to tighten it’s grip on me. Another chat with the doctor and we increased my meds up to 150mg. Again, after a short while it would take me to adjust and I was back to more my normal self.

It raises the question though. Do I need to be medicated to function properly? It’s a possibility. Like I said, they help me maintain a good mental base level to work from which, for me, is invaluable. If it wasn’t for that who knows what I’d be like? I’d probably be all over the place. If the medication keeps me in a good place then I’ll keep on taking them until myself and the doctor look to lowering them down and weaning myself off.

But that’s me. I know people who don’t like to take meds, who don’t like the effects that comes with them. But that is down to them. I’d never tell anyone to take medication. It depends on the person you are. We’re all different and we react to everything in different ways. What works for me doesn’t and won’t work for everyone. We’re all individuals.

The title of the this installment of my blog comes from the song “Junkhead” by Alice In Chains. You can find a video of it on YouTube here Alice In Chains – “Junkhead”. I’ve also now created a playlist on Spotify featuring the songs I include in my blog. You can find it over at The Order Of The Dog Spotify Playlist. I’ll update it every time a new blog is published.

As usual, if you’d like to chat to me further you can email me at theorderofthedog@gmail.com and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. I’ve created a closed support group on Facebook also called The Order Of The Dog. It’s there for people who struggle with mental health issues as well as people who want to support and get a better understanding. It’s a closed group which means only members get to see and interact with what’s posted there. Finally, please feel free to share this blog with anyone and anywhere you think it might help.

Cheers,
Scott
The Order Of The Dog.

From Despair To Where?

Forgive me father, it’s been too long since I last posted……

It’s not that I didn’t write anything. There are a couple of completed blogs ready in my drafts section. I just felt they weren’t quite right to be out there. They may be after some rewrites, they may not. Time will tell.

My journey still continues. My own struggle and fight seems so different at the moment. Anxiety attacks and the subterranean depths of depression feel rare at the moment. I’m not as sure of myself as I should be, my confidence stutters along rather than smoothly gliding me through situations.

Over the past month I’ve seen and tried to help others. No matter where I seem to look at the moment there seems to be people going through struggles. Some seem aware of what’s happening, others oblivious, seemingly angry at the world around them. I’ve noticed a small minority who seem to be hell bent on a road of self destruction, their darkness taking them to some ugly places.

Most people want to help, most want to be helped.

I’ve made a lot of adjustments in my life over the past few months to help myself deal with what this illness brings to me in a positive manner. I try to focus on the good things around me, and try not to let the negative ones eat away at me. CBT has taught me to identify feelings within myself, look at root causes and rationalise abstract feelings of anxiety.

To paraphrase “Fight Club” I am not Jack’s debilitating anxiety.

There are still points of disconnect in my life, but now I accept them. I’m still struggling to play music on my guitar. Rather than let wallow in it I’m trying a different approach with it by playing a bass instead. Now, rather than worry or feel down about what I’m not doing I’m looking at a different road to it, a different approach with a different mindset. Rather than forcing it I’m letting it wash over me and see where it takes me, meaning I can react accordingly.

I still have anxiety. I still have depression. I still have a darkness in me. I just choose how I try to deal with.

Medication helps. Finding the right balance with what’s the right kind of medication with the right dosage has taken a while but right now I feel chemically in balance. The downs are nowhere near as extreme as they were and, by the same respect, the ups are nowhere near as high or manic thankfully.

I know it’s going to sound very new age but I feel complete in myself. My life isn’t perfect (let’s face it, perfection is an unobtainable goal) but it’s heading in the right direction. I feel comfortable in my own soul, in my own brain and in my own skin. I’m not trying to be something I’m not for others, I’m far too busy trying to be myself for me. I can wake up each morning feeling I can look at myself in the mirror and be okay with what is reflected back.

So then, where next?

That’s the question. I know I can live without the anxiety and depression being a major personality influence on my life. I’m aware that it’s there under the surface but it doesn’t have to be a controlling factor of my or your life. I suppose it’s like having an allergy: you’re aware of what can trigger it and try and avoid these like the plague. Prevention is better than the cure.

There will still be things that mess with me. The recent bad weather left me stuck in the house, unable to get to work. Rather than being able to think of it as extra downtime I couldn’t. Instead I felt guilt and anxiety. I couldn’t settle. My brain would not switch off, no matter how much I tried.

And I tried. No matter what how much I worked with it with my CBT I just couldn’t get a handle on it. I had to ride it’s waves until it was gone.

It took me days to feel settled again. The guilt took days to subside fully. It would take something and twist it enough for it to get under my skin.

That’s the problem with this. You’re never fully cured. There’s no magic pill, no form of therapy to cure this soul cancer. All you can do is to try to exist with it in such a way that you can deal with things without letting them destroy what you have. All you can do is accept the way you are and try to maintain your equilibrium.

The title of the this installment of my blog comes from the song “From Despair To Where” by Manic Street Preachers. You can find a video of it on YouTube here Manic Street Preachers – “From Despair To Where”. I’ve also now created a playlist on Spotify featuring the songs I include in my blog. You can find it over at The Order Of The Dog Spotify Playlist. I’ll update it every time a new blog is published.

As usual, if you’d like to chat to me further you can email me at theorderofthedog@gmail.com and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. I’ve created a closed support group on Facebook also called The Order Of The Dog. It’s there for people who struggle with mental health issues as well as people who want to support and get a better understanding. It’s a closed group which means only members get to see and interact with what’s posted there. Finally, please feel free to share this blog with anyone and anywhere you think it might help.

Cheers,
Scott
The Order Of The Dog.

You Can Come To Terms And Realise You’re The Only One Who Cannot Forgive Yourself (The Anxiety Diaries Part 5)

Acceptance. 

It’s just one word but it’s one word that could just be the key to my condition. 

Today was my fifth over the phone counseling session, which looks as though we’ll be extending up to nine in total. Today we looked back over the Christmas and New Year period, nearly two weeks since my last session. 

When you’re going through counselling two weeks between sessions can seem like forever. So much can happen and change. Feelings and moods can mutate quickly. Memory can become an unreliable companion (did that really just happen?) and will try and trick you every now and again. 

Reflection is also almost habit at this time of the year. People look back at what’s happened over the past twelve months and set some resolutions in place to try and make changes whilst the rest of us torture ourselves with everything we’ve done, highlighting every failure as a way to mentally punish ourselves. 

I need to accept myself. I need to take the kindness in myself that I give to others and use it to heal myself. 

That doesn’t mean that I need to be selfish, far from it. There’s the biblical phrase do unto others as you would have them do unto you that I need to adapt so it now becomes do unto yourself as you would do unto others

Hopefully, that will be the golden rule to live by. 

It struck me quite hard during the counseling session. 

We’d already talked a few sessions previously about self compassion, about how I’m unnecessarily hard on myself. I do not forgive myself easily of my sins or my mistakes (I once joked a lifetime ago that I would have made a great Catholic). Things that most people would let pass I hold on to them, and I don’t let go. 

When I talked to my counsellor about my recent peice around the passing of my gran, we talked about two things: the grief and the guilt. 

Grief can be quite healthy. Grief is your way of saying that you’ll miss that person, you’ll miss what they brought to your life, you’ll miss the relationship that you had with them. It’s almost a selfish feeling, you want them back because by being back your pain will dissipate. Grief is necessary to let go, to make the passing that little bit smoother in time. 

Guilt isn’t that way at all. 

Guilt burrows it’s way deep into your mind, into your soul, looking to see what it can exploit. It takes something, anything, that one doubt you may have had and it will use it to tear you apart. 

That’s what happened to me the other day. Spending time thinking about my gran, the loss of her from our lives made me feel sad. But that’s okay, that’s natural, that’s healthy. The guilt that took that moment somewhere else destroyed me that night. It kept me awake, it confused me, it sent me down twisting paths, it let the darkness in and took away the light. 

My whole day became a struggle. Nothing felt right, everything felt wrong. The waves of dark would just keep washing over me until it was just too much. 

Yeah, I had those thoughts, the ones you know are completely wrong. I accepted them for what they were, I scrutinised them and I said “not today”. 

I had to accept the guilt I felt. I had to accept it and move on from it, it had no further bearing on the situation. By doing this I had to look at what I was feeling and why. I can’t change the past and these thoughts are completely unhealthy, all they do is weigh me down and take me to places I don’t want or need to go to. 

The only thing I can change is what’s happening now. The future is unwritten so even though I can affect what happens I can’t do anything as it’s just a hypothetical concept really. It’s fluid and constantly changing, that’s the only real thing I need to accept about that. We need to make sure our feet are planted firmly in the here and now, live here without constantly wearing our past mistakes as regrets like heavy chains that try to pull us down. 

The title of the this installment of my blog comes from the song “Present Tense” by Pearl Jam. You can find a lyric video of it on YouTube here Pearl Jam – “Present Tense”. I’ve also now created a playlist on Spotify featuring the songs I include in my blog. You can find it over at The Order Of The Dog Spotify Playlist. I’ll update it every time a new blog is published.

As usual, if you’d like to chat to me further you can email me at theorderofthedog@gmail.com and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. I’ve created a closed support group on Facebook also called The Order Of The Dog. It’s there for people who struggle with mental health issues as well as people who want to support and get a better understanding. It’s a closed group which means only members get to see and interact with what’s posted there. Finally, please feel free to share this blog with anyone and anywhere you think it might help.

Cheers,
Scott
The Order Of The Dog.

If You Just Close Your Eyes You Can Feel The Enemy (The Anxiety Diaries Part 4)

Sunrise

I’ve decided to name this stretch of my blog “The Anxiety Diaries” so I can keep track of what I’ve been like during this period. Also, I’m hoping it will allow people to see what it’s like and what goes through my head during my prolonged spells of anxiety. 

Sometimes you just need to stand and take things in a bit.

I started writing this on my third week back at work. I’m slowly building myself back up, trying to slip back into the role without anyone noticing anything different. 

Heading through the doors on the first day was tough. I had to almost convince myself that it was okay for me to be there, that I was okay to be there. 

I wasn’t quite ready to be back. I wasn’t quite myself. I still felt like I was falling short of being a hundred percent. 

I’m not even sure I was seventy five percent. 

My job is at a huge company so really, in the scheme of things, I’m a tiny little cog, an insignificant little part of a much larger machine. I don’t have a sense of grandeur, I’m not a major part of the business. But I’m lucky. The team and the department that I’m a part of are a great set of people. Everyone looks after each other in such a wonderful way. Some of it’s subtle. Some of it is getting a big hug when you need it, even if you don’t know you need it. 

I’ve been excellently supported by my manager. I don’t think I’ve ever worked under anyone who cares so much about the people around them. She’s made sure I’m as comfortable as I can be, she’s supportive by making sure that things can be adapted to suit me and the company. 

You can’t say fairer than that. 

My counseling has started now with a woman called Deniz. She’s been running CBT sessions with me over the phone once a week. It’s a kind of weird thing to be doing, especially after encouraging so many others to embrace it as part of their support and recovery. It feels odd, especially as my previous counseling focused more on coping with the anxiety rather than actually looking at triggers and dealing with them. 

At the moment we’re looking at my anxiety and why I feel the way I do.  The first week we focused on what my triggers could be which meant some soul searching as self analysis. When I felt the anxiety I had to look at what was possibly causing it, what my thoughts and feelings were. It helps, it’s giving me a focus when things feel like they’re spinning through my head too fast to latch on to properly. 

After a week of looking at things it’s fairly clear that there’s no major trigger to speak of. There’s moments heading to work, there’s moments heading from work, there’s moments shopping in the supermarket and there’s moments sitting quietly reading on the sofa, each coming with it’s own varying degrees of anxiety, panic and dread. I liken it to background noise: ever present in my life with instances where it increases in level where it becomes problematic. A more generalised anxiety than a triggered one. 

The following week we’re focusing on the “what if?” statements that scream through your head, noting them down. This will help myself and the counsellor try to pin down why my brain works like this and why I’m unable to just shrug this off like most people would be able to. 

I hate the way this thing latches onto my brain at times. I hate the way I’m affected by this condition, how it shuts down parts of me and unlocks the doors that part of me wish would remain locked. I know that some feelings of anxiety are necessary, that they’re part of basic survival instinct that keeps us alive and out of danger. I just wish I wasn’t overwhelmed by them the ways I am. 

Then there’s the dichotomy. My anxiety is part of what makes me ‘me’. It’s ingrained in my DNA, part of my genetic chemistry that creates my personality. Without it I wouldn’t be the person I am, I just wish it wouldn’t  define me as much as it does. 

And that’s the crux of the issue. My anxiety needs to be reigned in. It can’t define my life as much as it is at the moment. 

But I’m feeling positive this morning though. I feel focused ahead of my counseling session this morning. I stood and watched the sun rise as I walked for my bus. Sometimes you need to take a few moments and appreciate what’s going on around you. I’m lucky as I live at the top of a hill on quite a rural area so at the right times of the day you can see some spectacular views. By just taking a few moments to take it in you can realise how things really are, the majesty of the world around you. Sometimes losing yourself in this moment is the perfect cure. 

The title of the this installment of my blog comes from the song “Acrobat” by U2.  You can see a video for it on YouTube here U2 – “Acrobat”. I’ve also now created a playlist on Spotify featuring the songs I include in my blog. You can find it over at The Order Of The Dog Spotify Playlist. I’ll update it every time a new blog is published.

As usual, if you’d like to chat to me further you can email me at theorderofthedog@gmail.com and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. I’ve created a closed support group on Facebook also called The Order Of The Dog. It’s there for people who struggle with mental health issues as well as people who want to support and get a better understanding. It’s a closed group which means only members get to see and interact with what’s posted there. Finally, please feel free to share this blog with anyone and anywhere you think it might help.

Cheers,
Scott
The Order Of The Dog.

Miss You……..

I’m struggling with sleep tonight. 

My brain seems to be in overdrive, so many things running through it but only one thought that it keeps coming back to, again and again. 
I miss my gran. 

Mary Hamilton, my dad’s mam, passed away last year. She was the last of my surviving grandparents and was someone I’d grown close to in my late teens and early twenties.

When my parents split up and my dad moved away for a while, my gran and grandad become a focal point for me. Their house was twenty minutes walk from my school so I’d spend quite a bit of time there, especially at weekends. My grandad would work as the doorman of his local good club and would get in around midnight. The three of us would often eat a late supper together before heading to bed. 

After he passed away from a heart attack, I found myself sleeping on the sofa of their one bedroom bungalow several nights a week for almost two years. I still can’t tell you why. I think I felt lost. My grandad had become a father figure to me. I felt compelled to try and look after my gran after what she’d gone through. 

Most of my friends knew to try to contact me their first. They were always welcomed when visiting or calling, she’d always be asking  after them. Visitors were always fed, even if they weren’t particularly hungry, often with an abundance of food. That’s just the way she was. 

My gran always encouraged me, always accepted me for who I was and what I wanted to do. I was never told off for getting tattoos or listening to strange music. She bought me my first comics, something she’d regularly do for years. She was strong willed, cantankerous, loving, contrary, kind hearted, protective. She loved her family so much, even when she said she didn’t. 

I’ll admit, I didn’t see as much of her as I would like to have over the past few years, something I now constantly regret. Sometimes you just think people are going to just be there forever, no matter what. They can’t grow old, they can’t die. They’ll just keep on going. I used to joke that she’d outlast us all, part of denying that this could be wrong. 

She still tried to be as independent as she could be. She lived next door to my dad and I think it was more so she could keep an eye on him rather then the other way round, even though my dad and step mam would cook her meals for her and try to look after her the best they could. She hated having to wear her alarm tag to call for help, hated having to go to the doctors. Still as bull headed and headstrong into her nineties.

Around my birthday last year she’d had a bad fall. It seemed to knock her confidence quite a bit. She became a lot more unsteady on her feet. She also couldn’t shift a water infection that just didn’t seem to want to go away. 

In February she was taken to hospital. The water infection had a good hold of her and didn’t want to let go. My dad was there every day, same as my kid sister Susan. We’d all try to go as much as possible to visit. I was normally there three nights a week after work. It became routine, that was just what we did now. The visits became more and more like groundhog day as the days turned into weeks, the weeks turning into months. 

Sometimes she was lucid and in great form. We introduced her to Snapchat. We’d do video calls with my nephews and nieces who lived away. Other times were a lot tougher. There was confusion, sadness and anger from her about why she was there. She wanted to fight it as much as she could but eventually it just sapped away her energy and spirit. 

I was away in London visiting friends when she passed. We knew it was going to happen. I argued internally with myself about cancelling but i knew she would have so kicked my arse if she knew I was thinking that way. She loved to hear about my trips to places and would love to see photos of what I’d seen and been up to. The day she’d passed I ended up walking around Camden in a bit of a daze. I couldn’t believe it, I found it hard to accept. I found it even harder to forgive myself for not being there. I don’t think I have, and part of me won’t accept that I could ever forgive myself. 

My thoughts often drift back to her, but recently, with it being Christmas, I’ve thought about her so much. I’d asked a good friend of mine Andrew, who’s an artist, to offshoot l paint a picture of her for my dad as his Christmas present. He smiled so much when he saw it and was so happy with it. I was pleased and relieved too in equal measure. 

The strangest thing though was this, and I know it’s going to sound crazy. Every year she would get me a men’s toiletry set for Christmas. It would be Lynx or Dove or one of the usual many men’s brands of shower gel or deodorant. But this year there was none, I got nothing like that from nobody, which just seemed to magnify it even more. I still keep expecting to see a set, wrapped and labelled with her unmistakable handwriting. 

But, I’ll never get another gift like that from her again. 

I try to remember her, and it’s always almost laughing. It’s always almost about her warmth. It’s about her saying that she thought that punk rock icon Henry Rollins was “cute”. It’s about her giving me the money to buy both of Guns N Roses “Use Your Illusion” alums. It’s about her being the person I could talk to about things. It’s about the hole she’s left in my life that can never be replaced. 

I miss my gran and,  tonight, I feel heartbroken. 

As usual, if you’d like to chat to me further you can email me at theorderofthedog@gmail.com and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. I’ve created a closed support group on Facebook also called The Order Of The Dog. It’s there for people who struggle with mental health issues as well as people who want to support and get a better understanding. It’s a closed group which means only members get to see and interact with what’s posted there. Finally, please feel free to share this blog with anyone and anywhere you think it might help.

Cheers,
Scott
The Order Of The Dog.

I Don’t Know, It’s All I’ve Been, What You Sow Is My Last Sin (The Anxiety Diaries Part 3)

I’ve decided to name this stretch of my blog “The Anxiety Diaries” so I can keep track of what I’ve been like during this period. Also, I’m hoping it will allow people to see what it’s like and what goes through my head during my prolonged spells of anxiety. 

Things are starting to change, I think for the better. 

I’m now three and a bit weeks into my increased medication. The past few weeks have been nothing short of horrible. Increased anxiety, increased feelings of darkness, increased feelings of loneliness. No matter what I tried to do I felt like I was struggling. I wanted to make progress but I felt like I was getting nowhere. I was constantly tired and wanted to hibernate away, to hide away from the negativity. 

My attention span was still short circuiting. I would find it hard to immerse myself in just one activity without feeling the need to succumb to any distraction I could find or come across. Reading. Watching tv. Even something relatively simple like making food was a non-linear process. Rather than just going from A to B, my brain would fire off from one thing to another. 

After I published my last blog post I received a lot of supportive messages and emails. They helped, they made me realise that even though I was in this on my own, I had people around me who wanted to help and who supported me. They couldn’t change what I was going through but they helped change the environment around me. 

The medication started to settle, too start evening out the emotional peaks and troughs a bit more. It’s not perfect but I can see something I couldn’t see or accept before. 

I can see progress. 

It’s not perfect but it’s starting to get that way. I can see cracks in the black and grey walls around me. Colour is starting to seep it’s way through. It’s not as vibrant as it could be, but it’s colour. 

The actual anxiety is starting to feel like it’s easing up too. I’m still waking up with it but it’s not the major defining force that it has been the past few weeks. I’m able to start to get a handle on it, to try and wrestle it into submission. It’s not perfect, it isn’t a complete absence of anxiety, but it’s starting to get there. 

There’s still moments where I find it a challenge. Being out in public is still awkward. For example, doing a food shop in Durham means I get the bus to Durham and then I have a coffee at one of the many cafes there (my current favourite is Ciao Ciao which does a nice coffee, shortbread and a good window seat to allow me to watch the world go past). Suitably focused and grounded, I then tackle the food shop as quickly as I can before getting myself out of there. My headphones are in permanently with music playing to distract me from the noise and hustle and bustle but I’m able to do it without an emotional breakdown. 

One of the things I’ve been doing is trying to find time each day to try and do something for me, something I’ll appreciate. Like I mentioned in the previous paragraph, having a coffee before I go shopping. I’ll sit in the window seat and read the book I have in my backpack (I always travel around with a book with me, as well as a notebook and pen), immersing myself in the moment and allowing myself to try and enjoy things. It helps, even just thirty minutes put aside for you can do wonders. 

I’ve also had several people reach out to me over the past few weeks to offer support, which has been great. Texts, messages, even a couple of visits. I can’t begin to describe how the love of people can help you, probably more than any medication out there. It’s amazing to know that you’re a part of people’s lives and that they care, even when you have moments of doubt. 

My counseling has just started too. Okay, it’s been the first session but it’s a starting point. I’m finding it odd that I’m taking part in them myself after recommending them so much to work colleagues. Just to clarify that, I have had sessions with them through work in the past but perhaps I should have pursued this again sooner. But, I’m doing them now, that’s what matters.

We talked through what I’ve been going through, possible triggers for my recent spell of anxiety. It’s kind of weird to look back at things this way. Some incidents seem obvious in hindsight, even though at the time you thought you were dealing with things. Sometimes you just bury your head deeper into the sand, hoping that you’re resolving your issues that way. But it doesn’t work, no matter how well you think they are they’re not. They just burrow deeper inside you, waiting for the most inappropriate time to resurface. 

There’s never a good time to have these issues, but there is a good time to confront them and deal with them. And that time is always now. 

There’s no point in putting it off, you should seize the moment and face it as best you can.

But, for now, there are possibilities. There are chances to change, to improve and make things better. The negative state isn’t permanent, there is always the option for hope. 

And that’s a dream we can live for. 

The title of the this installment of my blog comes from the song “Saints” by The Jesus Ponies. There is no video for it but you can buy the album from The Jesus Ponies Bandcamp page as well as listen to it on the usual digital streaming platforms. I’ve also now created a playlist on Spotify featuring the songs I include in my blog. You can find it over at The Order Of The Dog Spotify Playlist. I’ll update it every time a new blog is published.

As usual, if you’d like to chat to me further you can email me at theorderofthedog@gmail.com and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. I’ve created a closed support group on Facebook also called The Order Of The Dog. It’s there for people who struggle with mental health issues as well as people who want to support and get a better understanding. It’s a closed group which means only members get to see and interact with what’s posted there. Finally, please feel free to share this blog with anyone and anywhere you think it might help.

Cheers,
Scott
The Order Of The Dog.

Fight To Get It Back Again (The Anxiety Diaries Part 2)


I’ve decided to name this stretch of my blog “The Anxiety Diaries” so I can keep track of what I’ve been like during this period. Also, I’m hoping it will allow people to see what it’s like and what goes through my head during my prolonged spells of anxiety. 

So, where was I…….?

The past week has seen me slip a bit, succumbing a bit more to the anxiety than I would have liked to. And it took something really stupid to set it off. 

Someone who I’d removed from my Facebook friend list years ago for posting racist remarks decided to complain that my “drivel” was showing up in his feed then blocked me. It really threw me as just served to remind me that not everyone out in the great wide world is as nice as what we would like them to be. 

My confidence was well as truly battered by it. Already feeling delicate it just added more weight to the anxious voice that was in my head. 

Sticks and stones may break my bones but words……words are where the true hurt resides. They lay dormant and then add fuel to the fire inside. The constant fight with the anxiety tired me out quickly and I headed back to bed by the mid afternoon, my energy pretty much all spent. 

By the next day everything felt worse. I’m not sure if it was fallout from the day before, my increased meds hitting my system or my preliminary call with the team who were going to tackle my counselling sessions. All I know is I felt terrible. Everything felt bad and I was struggling a bit more than I expected myself to be. 

I needn’t have worried about the call though. At just over an hour long, we discussed how I was, my history and understanding of mental health as well as a few other things. It made me realise a few things, a few home truths. My social anxiety was certainly a lot worse than I realised (something I’m sure my family can agree with) and also I was struggling around my own self esteem and self compassion. I’ve always found it hard to accept that I’ve done good work and one always a lot harder on myself than I need to be too. The counsellor even suggested a book for me to read: “Overcoming Social Anxiety and Shyness” by Dr Gillian Butler, something for me to explore as it deals a lot with CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) which I would be undergoing with my counseling sessions proper. I ordered a copy through Amazon and have it on my bedside table ready to start reading it when I’m able to focus properly on it (another thing the anxiety has robbed me of).

I’m trying to be gentle with myself but it’s tough. The anxiety, the paranoia, the depression, the self loathing, they all work against you. They eat away at every good part of you. It’s hard to make a phone call, to reply to a text or a message. I have to be prepared, I have to psyche myself up. Even a trip to the local shop becomes an ordeal. It’s focus, focus, focus. Headphones in and block out the world, hoping I can keep a lid on it enough that it that it won’t wash me away in it’s tsunami.

Each day feels like another part of me is sacrificed to it, another part of me is claimed by the illness. I can’t let it take any more from me. 

I need to be forgiving of myself, to be gentler. It’s okay to be anxious, I just need it to not overwhelm me. I need to have control but not to force it. 

I need to find my balance. 

And that’s the hard part. 

The days have passed and I’ve noticed new things. I used to have a sight tremor in my left hand, now it’s more pronounced. My attention span comes and goes quite quickly meaning that doing anything can be a challenge. My anxiety becomes more pronounced around people, making it hard for me to be around people at times. Paranoia comes and goes. Things like Facebook and messages are so hard to deal with. With the former I can only dip into it every now and again now. Messages can be tougher to deal with, most people only getting short replies when I can motivate myself to writing one. 

My first counseling session is scheduled for next week, part of me is dreading it, part of me is looking forward to it. To open myself up to such a degree is going to be (mentally) painful, but I know I need to do it. I need to put myself in that position where I can start to get better. I need to forgive myself of whatever my mind is torturing myself with, to be gentle and let myself move on from it. 

I need to think long-term, not to quickly patch myself up so I can move on. 

I need to feel healed.

The title of the this installment of my blog comes from the song “The Fixer” by Pearl Jam. You can find a video of it on YouTube here Pearl Jam – “The Fixer”. I’ve also now created a playlist on Spotify featuring the songs I include in my blog. You can find it over at The Order Of The Dog Spotify Playlist. I’ll update it every time a new blog is published.

As usual, if you’d like to chat to me further you can email me at theorderofthedog@gmail.com and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. I’ve created a closed support group on Facebook also called The Order Of The Dog. It’s there for people who struggle with mental health issues as well as people who want to support and get a better understanding. It’s a closed group which means only members get to see and interact with what’s posted there. Finally, please feel free to share this blog with anyone and anywhere you think it might help.

Cheers,
Scott
The Order Of The Dog.

There Was This One Time Where Everything Was Okay (The Anxiety Diaries Part 1)

People watching

I’ve decided to name this stretch of my blog “The Anxiety Diaries” so I can keep track of what I’ve been like during this period. Also, I’m hoping it will allow people to see what it’s like and what goes through my head during my prolonged spells of anxiety. 

The grey and damp Tuesday morning weather really suited my mood as I headed to the doctors. 

My anxiety has been flaring up for the past few weeks. It’s there first thing in the morning when I get up and that’s when the fight starts. 

My mind and body have been constantly going up against it. It was on the increase despite everything I was doing to try and combat it. A few days ago I had to conceed that I needed some extra support to help fortify myself. So I booked an appointment at the doctors. 

I’m lucky that I can get an appointment with my GP quite quickly. Not only that but he’s a good guy to boot. He’s aware of my medical history so he knows that when I turn up it’s because I need the support I can only get through the NHS. Because he’s aware of what’s going on with me I don’t need to explain my history in detail, I just need to explain the situation. Although I could feel my anxiety getting worse it hadn’t reached the levels of where I was two years ago. I’m still quite hands on with my mental health so I’ve been recently keeping up with my guided meditation as well as watching what I’m eating and making sure I get to bed at a decent time. 

We talked quite a bit about what’s been happening. There’s been quite a few major things going on in my life this year that perhaps have had more of an effect on me than I realised. I’ve probably been acting a lot tougher on myself than I intended to. 

Old meds vs new meds

We decided on a two week sick note and an adjustment in my medication. I’m now on a single dose of 150mg of Venlafaxine a day now, a large brown capsule that always seems to stick in my throat when I take them. He also encouraged me to keep writing as an outlet/journal of things. Before I left he also wrote down a link for a TED Talk that I may be interested in on self compassion by Kristin Neff, a specialist on the subject.

Self compassion is linked one with mindfulness and better mental health. I’d been aware of the term but hadn’t really looked into it. After watching the link a few times I realised how much it made sense, and it’s something to look further into (no doubt there will be a blog about it in the near future). 

I travelled into work the next day to hand the sick note in. I could have posted it but I wanted to see everyone. I like the guys I work with and they’re all really supportive of me. It makes things a little easier but it still didn’t stop the panic attack I had when I was walking in. I had to force myself to stay there, to try and put a face on things. By the time I left I felt exhausted from the brief visit, my jaw aching from me clenching it. 

Part of me feels like a failure, that I’ve let myself and everyone else down by succumbing to the anxiety again. I can’t help, I’ve tried my best to look street myself but it kind of feels that this time my best wasn’t quite good enough. Again, I know that’s just me being tough on myself. I need to accept that there are times when I need the extra support and I should be okay with being able to reach out for it. So why am I finding it tough to practice what I preach? 

Work have also arranged for me to have some CBT therapy over the phone. My first consultation session is on Tuesday next week, quite a quick turn around. I’ve had CBT before and know how helpful it can be. Hopefully it can help me regain the hold I need over the anxiety, give me the tools to help me wrestle it back under control. 

In honesty, part of me is worried that I’m heading down the same route I was two years ago where I ended up in a position that I couldn’t leave the house without a major anxiety incident, where I felt like everything was falling around me. I’m praying that we’re trying to cap this before it engulfs me too much and starts defining who I am again.

Rather than locking myself away from the world I’m making sure I’m getting out of the house every day, even if it’s just for a short walk. Yes, I can feel the anxiety whilst I’m out but I need to make sure I’m not isolating myself away from life, which it would be so easy to do. This morning I took a short bus ride into Durham to get a couple of things I could have easily bought at my local shop but I wanted to push myself. I even sat in a local cafe and had a coffee, sitting at a window seat to people watch and write this. 

I’m finding my emotions are a little more to the fore than they used to be, making things a lot more raw. Whilst having the previously mentioned coffee I could feel my eyes welling up for no real reason. I let the tears flow, feeling that to force them back would probably feel counterproductive to the journey I’m on at the moment. 

I need to remember this is only a brief moment in time. Things will change. I will be better. 

The title of the this installment of my blog comes from the song “Polaroid Picture” by Frank Turner. You can find a video of it on YouTube here Frank Turner – “Polaroid Picture”. I’ve also now created a playlist on Spotify featuring the songs I include in my blog. You can find it over at The Order Of The Dog Spotify Playlist. I’ll update it every time a new blog is published.

As usual, if you’d like to chat to me further you can email me at theorderofthedog@gmail.com and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. I’ve created a closed support group on Facebook also called The Order Of The Dog. It’s there for people who struggle with mental health issues as well as people who want to support and get a better understanding. It’s a closed group which means only members get to see and interact with what’s posted there. Finally, please feel free to share this blog with anyone and anywhere you think it might help.

Cheers,
Scott
The Order Of The Dog.