7 things I would have missed

NOTE: talk of suicide and suicidal thoughts

One of the lowest points of my mental illness was when I was suicidal and even attempted. As you can probably tell, that attempt was unsuccessful. As my mental health is currently at the worst it has been in a while, I thought now would be a good time to reflect on what I would have missed if I had been successful.

1. Going on a GOLD project
Last year I was part of GOLD Zambia, which was a project to grow guiding within Zambia for 3 weeks. I had always dreamed of being selected to go on a GOLD project but at one point thought it would never happen. Being selected meant more to me because of the fact it showed how far I had come.

2. Graduating from uni

Uni and the stress that came with it may have been one of the main causes of my mental illnesses and the decline in my health. Despite that, I am incredibly proud of myself for being able to graduate. I am the first person in my family to go to uni, never mind graduate so it’s a really big deal that I was able to! Although I think it’ll be a while before I’m back!!

3. Meeting Rose

I’ve only had Rose for 7 months but she is genuinely one of the best things for me to come back to myself when I dissociate. She’s so funny and is always up to something which takes my mind off things going on in my mind.

4. Going to a Grand Prix

My mum and I are both F1 fans and it was always our dream to go to a race. Two years ago we finally went to our first race in Belgium. It was everything we thought it would be and more. We loved it so much we booked our accommodation for Germany the next year while we were there. We went to the Spanish race this year and are planning on going to the Dutch one next year.

5. Getting my Adult Leadership Qualification

I had been working on my ALQ through guiding since I was 18 but I had to put it to the side when I was really ill. I really wanted to complete it to be able to say that I was a qualified leader. Last year I completed modules 1-3 in rainbows and guides and earlier this year I completed module 4 which allows me to be leader in charge of a unit.

6. Becoming a Peer Ed trainer

I was trained to become a Peer Ed trainer in 2017. Not only was this a great achievement in itself, I also got a level 3 award in education and training which could come in handy if I wanted to persue a career in training.

7. Meeting some of the best friends ever

My attempt was when I was still living at home. I moved out a few months later and my housemate is genuinely one of the best people about. Not only was she also a tea enthusiast, she understood my need to be alone when I had done too much peopleing that day. She also came and sat with me in A&E any time I had to go because of my CVS. I have also made other invaluable friends through guiding experiences and work that I don’t know what I’d do without.

I’m sure there are many other things i would have missed but I can’t think of them right now! These are just the major highlights that I’m so glad I was around to experience!

What is cyclical vomiting syndrome?

NOTE: talk of nausea and vomiting

A few years ago I suddenly became very unwell physically. It was in the middle of exam season in my second year at university so being sick was the last thing I wanted. It was originally put down as viral gastroenteritis but it went on a little longer than would normally be expected. I basically lived in my GP surgery and the local A&E department. All tests came back clear, like there was nothing wrong when there clearly was. Eventually, when all other options were ruled out, I was diagnosed with cyclical vomiting syndrome (CVS).

CVS is a rare disease that is mainly seen in children. It is also referred to as an abdominal migraine. It is characterised by intermittent episodes of vomiting and nausea interspersed with periods without any symptoms. This cyclic nature between phases is what sets CVS apart from other gastrointestinal disorders. The exact cause of CVS is unknown currently.

Phases:

Prodrome Phase- In this phase, the person may feel like an episode is about to start and have intense sweating and nausea that lasts a few hours and can appear pale.

Vomiting Phase- In this phase, the person can experience vomiting and retching which can last for up to 30 mins, and can vomit up to 6 times an hour for potentially 10 days and they could be unresponsive and unable to move. Other symptoms may appear at this time including headache, fever, abdominal pain, sensitivity to light and drowsiness.

Recovery Phase- In this phase, the vomiting and retching stops and the other symptoms subside. This can be immediate or gradual.

Well Phase- This is the phase in which the person experiences no symptoms.

Causes:

The exact cause of CVS is currently unknown but it is thought to be linked to migraines. Vomiting episodes can be triggered by a number of things including:

  • Emotional stress such as anxiety or excitement
  • Infections
  • Certain foods
  • Hot weather
  • Periods
  • Physical exhaustion
  • Sleep deprivation

Managing vomiting episodes:

It is very important to manage vomiting phases to try to limit the length of time it occurs for and the complications that can arise. It can sometimes be a good idea to stay in a dark room and take any medication that is prescribed. Taking small sips of fluids such as water, diluted squash or diluted fruit juice is important to ensure that dehydration does not occur. I was told that if it stays down for at least 5 minutes, your body has absorbed at least some of it.

Once the vomiting episode has passed, continue to drink plenty of fluids and gradually resume normal diet and take any medication that is prescribed to prevent future episodes.

Preventing vomiting episodes:

It is possible to prevent or limit the impact of vomiting episodes, especially when you get to know your condition. Knowing what triggers your episodes and avoiding/ reducing these as much as possible is one of the most effective methods.

Complications:

There are a number of complications linked to severe vomiting episodes such as dehydration, tooth decay and inflammation of the oesophagus.

Further info and support:

NORD
CVSA & CVSA UK

My volunteering experience

I have been volunteering with Girlguiding for over 8 years now. Recently, I was asked to speak at two volunteering appreciation events run by the Education Authority. At both events I was one of two speakers talking about their personal experience. Below is the speech that I said at both events (because I am lazy and didn’t change it between the two events!!)

Hi everyone, my name is Nic and I am representing Girlguiding Ulster. I have been a member of Girlguiding since I was 7 years old and joined Brownies. I moved through Guides and Senior Section and more recently became a leader.

I have also just finished a master’s degree in Biochemistry at Queen’s University Belfast.

I decided to start volunteering when I was 15 because I had always been interested in being a leader and starting my Bronze Duke of Edinburgh award proved to be the ideal catalyst. I became a Rainbow Helper with 6th Larne Rainbows and soon discovered that I loved working with the girls and helping them to learn new skills every week. I never left. I started working on my Adult Leadership Qualification when I turned 18. I then started working with 5th Larne Guides when all my friends left to go to university and I was still wanting to go along every week.

I became a Peer Educator in 2014, so I am trained to deliver sessions on topics such as mental resilience, body confidence and fighting gender stereotypes to groups both inside and outside of Girlguiding aged 7+. I am also one of Ulster’s Peer Educator trainers and I have trained new Peer Educators all over the UK.

My most recent roles in Girlguiding include being one of the young member representatives on the regional executive and being in charge of a Rainbow unit in Belfast.

Through volunteering with Girlguiding, I have gained qualifications I never would have had the opportunity to get otherwise. My confidence has increased in bounds and I now have experience in planning and implementing activities for up to 24 children aged 4-7, which isn’t an easy task! The main thing I have got from volunteering, and the reason why I go back every week is seeing how the girls develop, grow in confidence and experience something new. It’s always the evenings where you’re having a bad day and just want to go home and cuddle your puppy that a girl will show you that they can do something they weren’t able to do even 6 months before and makes everything worthwhile.

One major high I have got from volunteering with Girlguiding was being one of 6 members from across the UK to be selected to go on a Guiding Overseas Linked with Devlopment (GOLD) project to Zambia in 2018. In the three weeks we were there, we worked with the Girl Guide Association of Zambia (GGAZ) to work on key issues that they had noticed in the organisation. We trained leaders in leadership and confidence and girls in assertiveness and advocacy. We were only there for a short time but we made such a difference to them, especially in the more remote communities who rarely receive this kind of training.

My life has been impacted by volunteering in many ways. I have experiences and qualifications that make my CV impressive, especially for someone my age. I have also made some of my best friends through Girlguiding. I can go to an event knowing nobody and leave with a whole lot of new friends, and as we like to say, Guiding friends are the best friends!

However, the biggest impact it has had on my life is by giving me purpose. I was very unwell through most of my degree, but through Guiding I had somewhere to go and something to do. I saw the difference , even if it was small, that I made in the girls lives and realised that I mattered. Since Guiding has been in my life for so long, it was one of the only points of stability in my life when I moved from school to university, moved out of my parents house and all of the other changes that comes with being a young adult. It gave me a reason to continue. And if I can do that for even one other girl, then I will all be worth it.

I received good comments from the people who attending both events and I have to say I was massively proud of myself for doing it. Especially the end where I shared something incredibly personal which I had never really spoken about in public before.

Appointment update

NOTE: talk of self harm

So, as I said in my post on Tuesday, I had an appointment with a CPN at the CMHT yesterday. I was dreading it so much. I`ve had so many bad experiences with the community mental health teams, that one in particular. I was so scared I was going to be fobbed off again when I know that I need help. I barely slept on Wednesday morning (I was on Nightshift so didn’t get the chance to sleep until Wednesday.

Coming up to the time of the appointment, my stomach was churning I was so nervous. This nervous feeling wasn’t helped by the distinct dentist smell within the entire building!!

Thankfully, the appointment went really well. I felt that I was really listened to. That’s definitely a new one for me! She asked a lot of clinical questions to gauge how I really was and what the level of risk was. This was somewhat exhausting because I normally struggle to be really open about how I am feeling and stuff and also because it made me dig up some things I normally leave buried.

We also came up with a plan of action going forward which includes an increase in the dose of my current medication, a recommendation of a free course she thinks would be helpful for me, homework of keeping a diary of my self harming actions to see if a pattern can be determined so we know where to put interventions in place, and finally another appointment for a fortnight to see how I am getting on. The long term could potentially see a referral to psychological services as I have already had a course of counselling with the self-harm intervention programme (SHIP) and the actions have increased.

I am wanting to try anything that could potentially help as I want to get better. I also know that it’s not going to happen overnight and will require a lot of hard work.

Until next time,

Nic

Panic about tomorrow

Tomorrow I have my first appointment with the community mental health team since my assessment in April. My case worker who did my assessment left the team a few days after my assessment and I wasn’t appointed another one until a fortnight ago.

Despite the fact that my gp had called them multiple times to try to get me an emergency appointment with them…

It took me gathering the courage to call them myself (which I admit I’m not that good at doing) for them to assign me someone.

So I’m seeing a cpn tomorrow afternoon. I’m bricking it. I haven’t had the best of experiences with this team and so don’t have much hope.

Especially cause I want to bring uuo that I may need my medication changed and that I have suspicions that my diagnosis might be different.

Aaah

What’s changed

Since I last regularly blogged there has been a few major changes in my life:

I graduated uni

After 5 long difficult years at university where my mental and physical health suffered, I finally finished in April! I got a 2:1 MSci Honours degree in biochemistry, which was my target grade!

I moved back home

I had lived 20 odd miles from my parents while I was studying but with my degree coming to an end, I had to move back with my parents. Well I didn’t have to but i thought it would be better to move back and save to buy a house rather than rent somewhere.

I got a puppy

Probably the most exciting update is that I got a lurcher collie cross (though I’m pretty sure there’s a bit of Jack Russell in her) called rose. She is such an amazing dog who always makes me laugh and knows when I am struggling a little and gives me more cuddles. She’s also a reason to continue because if I don’t look after her who will!

I started working

I had worked during my placement year but other than that I had enough in savings to be lucky enough to not have to work through uni. I got a summer job last year and stayed on during my masters year. I am hoping to be kept on on a more permanent basis after this summer. It is in the town my parents live in so another reason to move back with them, especially with the somewhat antisocial hours I work!!

I am going to try to write a bit more!

I’m back

I used to blog here quite a bit but I haven’t in so long.

I’m now feeling the need to put myself out there again and not hold in my thoughts or anything anymore.

I hope you will stick with me through this journey.

The Issue with new people

So, I have met someone. He seems very nice and we have met up a couple of times. Yet I’m already being plagued with the issues I have when I meet new people: WHEN DO I TELL THEM ABOUT MY HISTORY

In one way I want to know as soon as possible if he isn’t OK with my history of self harm and suicidal ideations… cause if I let it get any longer then I may end up getting deeper feelings for him. If he isn’t OK with it I want to know before I put too much into the relationship.

Also, do I mention my deep distrust of men and the intimacy issues that stem from childhood or do I leave it? Like we are both adults, there is a chance that a situation may arise soon that will mean I will be forced to tell him everything at a time when neither of us are in the correct head space to discuss it properly.

As much as I like the idea of him not knowing me before I got to the point where I am now, mentally stable and working on my issues, as I feel he likes me for me and his thoughts of me aren’t diluted by my past. But I really wish I didn’t have to deal with this same dilemma all the time. URGH

It was all going so well…

So, I am currently in the process of reducing my medication. I don’t know if I want to come off them completely or not yet but I want the dose lower. I had been stable at the dose I was on for a year before I asked to have the dose reduced. I’ve been reducing my dose slowly, its been 4 months so far and I’ve gone from 200mg to 100mg per day. I have remained fairly stable throughout that time, even though it has been a few stressful months.

I even felt up to putting myself on the dating scene again. I haven’t been “out there” for like 3 years. My ex was horrible (we were both to blame for the relationship falling apart but he could have put it better) and that put me off even thinking about going after anything serious. I met a guy online. Met up with him a few times. He was sweet. I tried to stop myself falling for him, for feeling anything other than happiness that I was getting out of my comfort zone. But it didn’t work. I was smitten. He kept saying things, giving signs that he was feeling the same as I was. That this had the potential to move into something more than casual dating. I was finally happy. THEN came the crash. When he said that he wasn’t looking for a relationship. That he wasn’t ready for a relationship. That he wasn’t what I was looking for right now. That knocked the wind right out of my sails.

It brought back the thoughts. The thoughts that I haven’t really had in about a year. The ones I haven’t acted on in a year and a half. And I swear to God I was seriously close to acting on them again. He’s a boy. He is insignificant in the grand scheme of things. I am a strong woman who does not need a man to validate her presence. But I was starting to get happy. To feel comfortable. To yearn that other person to help me out when I was freaking for no known reason. I got used to relying on someone. I know it was only like 2 months of my life but it was two good months. And now I either have to annoy my friends with the whole thing for a while or learn to internalise it again.

All I know is that I told him things. Personal things. And then he left. So now I feel as though my past and things I have done are what caused him to leave. What if I never get a guy who will stay? What if I am forever alone? I know I am young. I know I have so much more to think about than a man. But I get lonely sometimes and it would just be nice to have someone there. Someone who will stay by me and like support me in whatever I do with my life.

 

Rant over!!

Welcome to 2017

So I don’t do resolutions or a “new year, new me” approach to new year. However, this year I find myself looking back on where I was this time last year. How far I have come and how much I still have left to do.

I would just like 2017 to hold as many opportunities to develop mentally and physically and to learn. Will I find love? Will I discover more about myself? Will I enjoy experiences this year holds? We will see in 12 months.