Where Have I Been?

Hello there, yes, it’s me. I’m still here! I’ve just been very quiet on here for the past while. Why was that? Let me catch you up!

So, as many of you know, I’m a PhD student. In order to pay my fees (which demand to be paid every year), I teach in a few different places. The past while has been the run up to end-of-year, so there’s been a lot of marking of assignments etc to be done. That has eaten a lot of my time up. I’ve also had a good few things going on in the background, which I hope to catch you up on in some upcoming posts.

However, I purposely took a step back from some things because my mental health wasn’t amazing. As I had been on my anxiety medication for six months, my doctor decided to try and wean me off it. I personally wasn’t overly keen because I had so much on, but I also didn’t really want to stay on the medication, so I agreed to give it a go.

My GP and I had a long chat, and so I was prepared to experience some ‘withdrawal symptoms’ which may mimic anxiety symptoms while I was reducing the dosage. So, I was prepared to feel a bit anxious, maybe have some panic attacks, that kind of thing. What I was not prepared for was having panic attacks in my sleep – waking up unable to catch my breath, that awful metallic taste in my mouth, my half-asleep brain convinced I was dying. I was also not prepared for the nausea which had hit me pretty hard in the early days of my being on the tablets to come back with gusto.

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Really, these aren’t disastrous, end-of-world type things, but they had a serious knock-on effect on my life. The panic attacks were affecting my sleep patterns, and the nausea was affecting my appetite and how much I was eating, and both of those in turn affected my mood and how productive I was, and just generally my ability to do life as normal. So most things that weren’t central to my life – anything that wasn’t work or PhD-related (and to be perfectly honest, even some things that were PhD-related) took a backseat for a bit.

Having kept the conversation going through all of this with my GP, and we have decided to abandon the idea of me coming off the medication for now. Ideally I would like to give things a go without taking daily tablets, but I know that this was not a good time for me to try that, and that while there will probably never be a perfect time (because, hey, that’s life), this was definitely not it.

I am working towards having a more balanced, holistic approach to life, which I’m pretty happy so far in terms of the progress I’m making. I’m stepping out of my comfort zone, I’m trying to believe in myself more, I’m spending more time with friends, I am getting back into sports, and I’m stepping away from things that cause me stress without adding anything positive to my life.

I’m practicing being honest when people, particularly my family, boyfriend and friends ask me how I am. Others might ask to be polite, but those kinds of people I’ve learned, ask because they actually care enough to want to know the real answer. I’m making downtime a scheduled part of my week (I’m still working on this part, but I’m getting there!)

I’m not quite there yet, but looking back, I’m a different person to the one I was a year ago. I’m more me than I’ve ever been, and while I’m not where I want to be just yet, I’m definitely on the road.

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This month is Green Ribbon month, and the aim of that is to encourage people to talk about their mental health, and reduce the stigma around the whole topic. Talking about my mental health or difficulties is not easy, and it’s something I still sometimes judge myself for, something I sometimes have to fight not to feel ashamed of, or lesser because of. It’s something that makes some days tougher than others. But I’m determined to be okay with it, just as I’d be ok with coming on here and chatting about a broken bone. The fact that I have anxiety, and the fact that I take medication to help me with that is not something I or anyone else should be ashamed of.

If you can, please wear a Green Ribbon this month. They are available from various places for free. If you are struggling, please seek help – from your GP, from someone you love, or from sources of support such as those listed at the end of this post. If you are a friend of someone who you feel might be struggling, check out this list of actions you can take, written by my lovely friend Sadhbh.

Sources of support if you are struggling:

 

 

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