Recovery! What does that mean?
Well for me it means progressive good days, some bad days, but days I can handle and then there is the ugly days. You know the ones where you feel you have been thrown back to the worst days of an illness and you feel completely helpless to do anything about it.
Since having the anxiety at such high levels this year I can honestly say the fibromyalgia pain has been greatly lessoned. I know it's all part and parcel of the same thing but I suppose the adrenaline and steroids are so high in your body from the anxiety that it acts as a medication and dulls the fibro. Or is it that we are so consumed by the anxiety that we are just numb to the pain? I am not sure but what I do know is I would MUCH rather have the excruciating pain of Fibromyalgia over anxiety any day of the week. I can cope with pain. Anxiety is so physical as well as mental it is crushing, not surprising depression slips in after a while. The good news is I really do feel I have got topside of the depression. It wasn't long lived for me and I am deeply grateful for that. It was deep and horrendous while it lasted and did last several months but compare to what some people have to go through I have no right to complain.
The anxiety however has been a different story for me altogether. It has been totally crippling. 15 years ago my husband and I were attacked in Lincoln town centre by a young man with an axe. We had our 15 month old son with us and My Mother in Law. It was a scary experience of course but if you imagine that high intensity of adrenaline is needed in your body to fight...in what ever way you can for survival. We were lucky really. My husband was hit once in the skull (which cracked but didn't shatter) but there were many brave people around us at the time who stopped the man from attacking us anymore, a nurse was stood next to me at the time and along with the staff from The Body Shop's first aid equipment I believe she saved Dom's life. I truly believe we were surrounded by Angels that day. Both Earthly and Heavenly because of the help we received and I have no doubt that that support made all the difference to how we view the whole situation now. We never held any grudges or bad feeling because we found out very soon after the boy had a serious mental illness and had been in somewhere for 6 months receiving treatment, but that whoever makes these decisions thought he was safe to let out in society. He trashed his Grandparents home and came into Lincoln with Stanley knives and an axe. Why he aimed for us we have no idea. We were in the wrong place at the wrong time I suppose but looking at it from a different perspective, had Dom not moved his head, had he been shorter, or more frail, a child or an older person he would have most certainly been killed and that boy would have been up for murder...all because someone did not take his mental illness seriously. As it is we were told he wouldn't see the light of day again and this saddens me. Had he been treated correctly in the first place he may well have gone on to live a more normal life...he may not have but I felt we were all let down by the system. We felt for his family, who must have been devastated but we were not allowed to write to them or meet them or even know who they were. Even with all of this positivity It seemed to spark something deep within my subconscious which made me feel unsafe, but I would be lying if I said this incident was the cause of my own internal tourment.
I remember at 19 having a breakdown through illness. I was diagnosed with IGA Nephropathy at 17, ( a potentially life threatening kidney disease which can come with no warnings that your kidneys will fail or that can come with many symptoms, like I had) and had gone through two hellish years before that of constant illness with my kidneys and almost constant tonsillitis. It turned out I had a strep virus which was causing my tonsils to flare and the poison was affecting my kidneys through the auto immune disease. Eventually at age 18 it was deemed urgent that my tonsils came out and I was terrified of being put under anaesthetic. But I had the operation and it was certainly successful, in that my kidneys started to recover. I was on medication for a few years but that was fine. I was getting better but it was a long road. Again I think the adrenaline of having to fight for survival, (however different that fight may have been) was what had kept me going and once the fight was over I had nothing to fight so the adrenaline turned on me. I distinctively remember suddenly gasping for breath at work, feeling my throat close in, feeling dizzy and unwell, having little or no strength and each episode would come on so fast I would have to be driven home and they would last for days or sometimes a couple of weeks. But then it would go and I would be ok again for a while...until the next bout. But by age 19 wasn't eating at all because O was so anxious all of the time. I weighed 7st 5lbs and looked ghastly. My parents took me to a place called Reeth in Yorkshire where their friends had a caravan and I started to recover. I remember doing a cross stich flower in creams and peaches for my Gran (It is still in that house now) and going to a café called the copper kettle where day by day I would eat a little more until I started to have full breakfasts and chocolate fudge cake with chocolate sauce on...delish. I did gradually get better after that and at the age of 21 went off to live in Portugal for a couple of years, where I felt great and had no physical or physiological problems. Was it the fact I was in a different country? maybe. Was it the glorious sunshine? Maybe but I also think it was because it was a whole new exciting chapter in my life and there was so much going on I didn't have time to think about being ill so I stayed well.
So with all of that and more going on in my life (some of which I really do not want to write about) It is hardly surprising I suffer with an anxiety disorder and a one that is so physical over mental. I have said for years I am not a negative person and anyone who knows me will back this up but this year I have been just that and that has been the depression side kicking in. What caused this latest breakdown? A court case. A blinking stupid court case because I sold a man two summerhouses via my then successful business, and the numpty couldn't read the instructions. He put the structures up without the apex roof supports...clearly depicted in the plans and even after we had been to see him, taken fitters, our supplier had spoken to him bla bla bla he still 'wouldn't' correct them because he wanted to keep his buildings AND have a full refund. It cost me a fortune sending him extra parts, taking fitters down, going to court, (Three times in a year), I would have been better off giving him his money back and burning the sheds but I was trying to do everything professionally. The problem was he would ring me all the time, for hours, send me numerous emails, twist everything I said. The man was not clever but he was a bully and persistent. He would ring us daily when we were on holiday, ruining our holiday, and I dreaded turning on my computer in a morning to see what emails he had sent. Eventually in July 2013 the court said they couldn't decide who was at fault so I had to pay for two new roofs and Mr P's court costs. I was devastated. We had Consumer Credit and Trading Standards on our side but It all comes down to the Judge at the end of the day and the bloke was a right tosser. In hind sight I actually came off better because the price I quoted to fix the roofs were what it would cost me as a company with my contacts, it would have cost him more and at the end of the day he has made such a poor job of erecting the summerhouses water was pouring out everywhere (something else we had offered to fix) so his buildings were ruined but this wasn't really a comfort to me. My husband was just pleased it was over but I was so eaten up by anger and frustration it was just the start for me. I couldn't stop thinking about the whole situation. It had left me broke and our supplier almost stopped supplying us with buildings, they said they didn't have any available, so we had no way of paying back the debts. I had already given up my warehouse and let people go but I still wasn't making much money. The few buildings the suppliers were selling us were all substandard and I ended up giving more out in refunds than I made. We had just committed to buying a brand new house and really thought business would pick up so we went a head with the move, and we are still pleased we did, but it cleared us out financially. When the supplier finally admitted they were struggling themselves and had to let go of 50% of their staff and put the rest on 3 days weeks it was too late. The house was bought and we had moved in. I was left with debts. no wage and because of the fibro I knew I would struggle to find a 'normal' job working for someone else because I couldn't say when I would be well or unwell. The anxiety rose to an all time high and my health started to really suffer. First the fibro got so bad I couldn't walk, had to use sticks and some days couldn't get out of bed. then the anxiety turned into panic attacks which would literally take me to the floor, gasping for air and I became afraid to go out because I often ended up in an ambulance and I became afraid of being alone because the attacks were so terrifying.
Writing all of this down today really helps me to see where all the anxiety came from and why it has affected me so badly and if someone else was telling me all of this I would be sat mouth open telling them I wasn't surprised they had become so ran down. But we put pressure on ourselves to carry on regardless don't we? We don't see what we have as an illness and not our fault, we see it as a failure to be strong. A weakness and that puts even more pressure on us and we fall even lower. Hiding the symptoms, withdrawing from friends and family and life in general and we become consumed by the dreaded illnesses themselves until we can't see, think or do anything else.
Now many people go through all the sorts of things I have been though and come out fine...or seem too. Some people will say they haven't been through nearly as much as this and yet they have still been just as ill. But what brings us to anxiety and illness isn't important. We all have stresses and strains in our lives and I believe it is the smaller but more prolonged issues that bring us crashing.
The last 10 months or so have been a complete roller coaster of emotions for me and it has not been a nice one. I never did like fast rides. But it has also been a real learning curve. I have learnt what is truly important to me. I have learnt to forgive and not hold onto anger. I have learnt to sit back and just be and because of all of this I am gradually getting better. I started getting the odd hour of feeling better. I started to be able to sleep, without so many horrid dreams, I started pushing myself to go out and to be alone and it is getting easier. I have learnt to review situations and not compare them to anyone elses but to see who events and emotions affect me. I can't compare myself to Joe Blogs next door because I am not Joe Blogs and Joe Blogs is not me. I take the good days and do what I can and I try to plan my life so I don't take on too much and I try to do things that feel good for me. Even if that is sitting reading a book or crocheting to relax because people who suffer with fibro, anxiety, depression, arthritis and the like, tend to always try to be not just as good as they perceive anyone else to be but better. The truth is we don't really know what anyone else is going through, feeling, experiencing because we only see what they want us to see and this is also susceptible to our perception so we are adding un-necessary pressure onto our selves and that kicks down to our families and friends too, so we with draw further and the whole situation spirals. Doctors are great at handing out pills and telling us to take it easy but that doesn't help us get our lives back on track or pay the bills!
Now as I said I have come a long way even just since the end of the summer. I now get whole days of low or, date I say it, NO anxiety. This last two weeks I has about 10 days straight of either very low or no anxiety and I can't tell you how good that felt! Then gradually I started to feel a little anxious for a few hours and had a couple of mild panic attacks...which I managed skilfully, but then on Friday I had a bit of a shock and it flung me backwards about 6 weeks in my recovery. It has been the end of term service at School. I was tired. I had taught a swimming group in the morning and I could have done without it but I went. The boys were all tired to and our Middle son had been a little challenging the two days prior and I am ashamed to say I had lost my temper with him both days...no excuse I know but I am human and we all have temper fits at times when out kids push us to the limit. Hence the adrenaline in my system was growing. Now this was still a vast improvement because a few months ago just having a conversation with a friend produced enough anxiety to put me to bed for the rest of the day. After the service I took my youngest into town to treat him to a new Halloween costume and some sweeties. We saw a nice little lamp which would have gone in his room and stupidly I reached up to touch it on the metal shelf. Well you can guess what happened next! Yes I got an electric shock. Not a bad one but it went right through me and made my heart pound, my head hurt, my fingers tingle and of course a panic attack ensued. I reported the incident and it was all dealt with really well by the staff. I was laughing at the whole situation and the anxiety subsided really quickly which I thought was massive progress and I drove home feeling silly but fine.
The next day I took our dog for a walk with the husband and it was lovely. The sun was shining. There was a real autumnal nip in the air and we were just enjoying being together and having some us time out in the country. My breathing felt tight tho and the walking and talking was making matters worse. I was determined not to give in and kept walking. ( I mentioned some of this in my last blog). We went to Newark, about 20 mins drive, went into three shops, because I wouldn't give in and go home and then I crashed. Now I did start flaring up with fibro later that day. My whole body started to hurt but I had all those unwanted feelings of anxiety and migraine too but without the headache. Mixed with all of this is the fact it would have been my Gramps 90th Birthday on Saturday and I know I am really sad he isn't here to celebrate it. He died just 8 weeks ago and if I am honest it still hasn't really sunk in. So this recent set back, was it because I am grieving? Possibly. Has it been because of the shock on Friday?...it did add to it. Was it loosing my temper at my son two days in a row?...that may well have had something to do with it...was it related to my flare up...most likely...did I feel I had totally gone back over? Yes most defiantly. Did I put pressure on myself to get well asap? Yes. Did that work? No it made me worse actually!
Even yesterday was plain awful with pain and anxiety but I went along to my Osteopath appointment anyway and had a treatment on my neck and shoulders for tension because this makes the dizziness so much worse. he did warn me it could make the flare up worse initially before it made it better but to be honest the pain was horrendous and I had counted down the hours to seeing him so I went a head with the appointment. Oh boy did I relax and I off loaded. Mark is a friend s well as a therapist and just talking to him helped me put things into perspective. I felt so much calmer during that treatment and it was wonderful but as soon as I stood up it all came flooding back. I felt dreadful so I made an appointment for two weeks time and left rather quickly. My neck and shoulder went into spasm and I was in agony. So my husband bless his heart made tea for everyone and I had a hot bath in Clary sage and sea salt and went to bed with a warm hot water bottle on my shoulder. I did relax quite quickly and I had a wonderful nights sleep. The pain in my shoulder is still agonising but the flare up is dying down but the main thing is I feel so much calmer today, I feel almost normal actually. (If that's possible ha ha)
I really do think that this set back has actually been an important step forward in my recovery. Yes it's been an ugly few days. But I have had much worse and I am still convinced I am getting better. I am learning to be kind to myself and see stressors as they happen. I can't always avoid them but I can accept them and I also accept that there will be good days, bad days and probably a few more truly ugly days in the future but that they are all a part of my recovery and that actually they make me who I am too! If nothing else they show me how far I have come and remind me of what I am trying to achieve. Today is family day and although I may not be up to doing quite as much as I would like I am really looking forward to spending time with my boys and making precious memories for the future. We have also made plans to see my family and do something special for Gramps on his birthday and we have vowed to make it a happy occasion to celebrate his life but also to share our grief so it doesn't feel quite so heavy to any of us, because lets face it, we are all feeling it in our own ways.
The fact that I am sat here today writing about all of this shows me how far I have come and putting it in to perspective helps me to build solid foundations future, one block at a time. So I am off to get dressed now and make the most of this glorious sunshine while we have it. I hope you all have a great day too no matter what you do. x
Hi my Name is Philippa Woodsford and I am a Holistic therapist, Reiki Master Teacher and Hypnotherapist. I suffer with anxiety and depression due to a condition called fibromyalgia which I believe is linked with an auto immune disease I was diagnosed with at just 17. My blog is written for me as a sort of journal but also in the hope it may bring hope and healing to others suffering with similar issues on a daily basis. Enjoy