So I have previously discussed my mental health on my blog, it is not something I talk about openly. I mostly use my social media platforms for photoshare, promotion, pictures of cats… it is almost as if, to a degree I have compartmentalised them all… which is something I have discussed previously. My habit (ability?) to compartmentalise. I am not sure if this is a skill that was learnt through necessity, or just something I have done naturally. Visible mental health is the post I have previously discussed my personal mental health. I guess you might be wondering why I put it in a blog and not anywhere else. Well, yes, I could mention it on facebook, but you see, facebook is a community, although I know many of the people on my friends list and call them friends… facebook has this ability to break down barriers. I may never meet many of these people. Others I know only socially, or through work. Some are networking, so you see, many people on my friends list won’t care. Or I should say, I would be unduly burdening them. And I compartmentalise! I can show whichever side I chose on there, on twitter I can vent, on IG I can share selfies.
Now all of that took a lot longer than I intended. I am so sorry, and thank you if you have managed to stick with me thus far! So what I wanted to say is that, mental health, can actually cause physical symptoms, I am sure that you have come accross this before? But it isn’t simply ‘my brain is hurt, so my body follows suit’. It is more complicated, but again not really.
I have high blood sugar, I have done for many years, and generally speaking I manage it well. It is one of those things that, well you can’t see it? It doesn’t really effect me in a way that makes anyone notice. But it is there and has some serious side effects as well. And of course, the longer I manage it well, the more complacent I can become. Like I said, I have had it for years. It comes down to diet, and I will freely admit mine is pretty bad. But I manage it and take queues from my body as to what it is and isn’t happy processing.
A few years ago, while working in my first NHS job, I developed mild ME – this had for me, similar symptoms to the blood sugar issue when it was first diagnosed. I was always tired, but no matter how I slept, even if I felt I slept well. I would have severe lethargy, I would fall asleep at a moments notice – including trying to do floorwork/yoga, there were more symptoms but generally speaking it left me incredibly frustrated. More recently, in the last couple of years, I had a couple of episodes of stomach flu. Which for someone who doesn’t drink because her aversion to throwing up is so strong, is … challenging. And this escalated in this last year to pain in my lower back/kidneys, keeping me away, also throwing up and all that you would find involved with this. I won’t go into it, but it involved seeing a practise nurse, a misdiagnosis (I will stop and say, giving a good medical history is KEY to a diagnosis. So when a medical professional refuses to listen. Stop. Stop everything and demand that they listen.) and resulted in the conclusion that my kidneys were not happy.
Now, often when you already feel that you are drowning, a little reflection and introspection is the last thing you will do, or think of doing. To keep going, I would treat myself, I would have that cocktail, that ice cream, I would use sugary drinks to keep me going (I can’t tolerate caffeine) during the day. I never sleep especially well and when your job is already taking a lot of energy you need that little boost. Picking up take away on the way home because it is quicker, rewarding yourself on Friday night because you managed to make it to the end of the week, eating snacks, biscuits, sweets that are lying around at work, that patient’s bought it, eating the cake from a birthday/leaving celebration. So frequently during the day, you forget to take a break because you aren’t hungry, and by the time you are hungry, you pick up another biscuit. Or when you are working overtime with such frequency, that you manage to make it home 2 hours after dinner. You end up picking up something entirely inappropriate and have another sugary drink, because it doesn’t matter how close it is to bedtime, you have only just got in and dammit if you aren’t going to enjoy your evening.
And that, that is the problem – my physical health was being made worse by symptoms of my mental health. It is not a simple thing to separate these two things. When people say, hey go to the gym, it will make you feel better. Or stop eating all those cakes, you will feel better, or pick up a hobby, it will make you feel better…. yes, I entirely agree that it will make you feel better. You will feel great, eventually. But the problem is, again that the physical and the mental health symptoms are inherently intertwined and you can’t just tackle one. You need to look at both. You need to understand how one is effecting the other. And yes, while you are drowning it is extremely difficult to be able to do this. So I just want to say, you need to find someone to help work you through it. Speak to your GP surgery to see if there are GP specialists that would be more suited to your situation (most GPs do have a speciality) and see if you can book a double appointment with them. There are resources out there, but they aren’t always immediately accessible or clear. And you have to remember that most of the time you will be talking to people who are not medically trained or specialists.
But please understand that while it might seem that you are being weighed down by so many little things, that it feels as if it is insurmountable, that you can’t see the stars… things are often linked. In most aspects of life, there is be a common cause, a thread that once you can untangle will help make sense of things. The best thing to do is keep a diary – if you noticed something is different, write it down. It might be that when you are called on to explain, it won’t be easily recalled. But keeping notes will help you figure out patterns of behaviour or when symptoms are worse. I am only using personal experience to try and help others. I understand that everyone has different experiences but one thing that is important, we need to break down the stigma, we need to talk.