Thursday 28 March 2013

Citizens Advice Bureau/ESA Application

Hi everyone,

Again I've been a terrible blogger not keeping you up to date. I'm now living with my parents and partner has had to move in with some relatives. One salary is not enough to live on even for one person. If only the government realised that huh!

So, now I'm living with my parents, I'm able to apply for SOME kind of benefits. Big relief because my overdraft is nearly all gone but I still have pet insurance and my phone bill to pay for on a monthly basis. I've already had one bank charge from insufficient funds and don't want to spiral into years of debt.

I've really been worried about the kind of benefits I actually qualify though, especially after hearing about all these ATOS "horror stories". I feel as if I'm borderline between Job Seekers Allowance and Employment Support Allowance.

I've read so many things about benefits to see all the ins and outs and I felt that I wouldn't get a look in with JSA. The gov website states that, to qualify for JSA, you must be available for work immediately. Now I aim to be available for work soon (basically, as soon as I'm on the correct medication and these effectively improve my symptoms, I will be applying for suitable work) but I'm certainly not ready for work just yet.

The only other option (I'm aware of) is ESA. To qualify for that, you must have an illness or disability that significantly affects your ability to work. In theory I should qualify as my illness has got to that point. I've thought about the kind of things I'd need to do for any job and here's why I'd struggle/wouldn't be able to.

  • Standing (for a shop/restaurant/hotel job,  in a busy meeting even?) - After 5 mins I get extremely dizzy, my back, shoulders and legs hurt and I get extremely exhausted.
  • Walking (from a bus stop to work, up and down stairs in an office, from stockroom to shop floor or kitchen to restaurant area etc) - After a few mins I get dizziness, exhaustion, my legs hurt so much I must sit down.
  • Sitting (at a reception desk/ in a call centre) - I need a seat that will support my back properly and, even then, I ache and I get stiff joints if I'm sat in one position for a while. This would (and has) affect my productivity.
  • Carrying things (boxes, plates, folders etc) - I get shakiness on bad days and my arms can get quite weak. I drop things easily especially if the nerve pains in my hands are bad. Heavy things would wear me out very easily.
  • Bending and stretching (reaching shelves, replenishing stock etc) - Also causes achiness, exhaustion and shaking especially if stretching to put something back on a shelf.
  • Using machinery and facilities with screens (computer screens etc) - I could manage this but I get blurry vision so I couldn't read things very quickly or for long periods of time. On a good day this is ok, on a bad day, not so ok.
  • Travelling to and from work - On a good day I can just about manage a taxi or a train but I need to be driven to the train station. Buses are out of the question until my bladder symptoms improve and I can get over my anxiety. Any kind of travelling wears me out even if someone else is driving me. If I could drive myself maybe this wouldn't be a problem but my dizziness and blurry vision, anxiety with travelling anywhere alone, and lack of finances get in the way of that. 
  • Meetings - If I'm in a situation where it's not appropriate/not possible to go to the toilet whenever I need to, I get extremely anxious due to my overactive bladder. It gets to the point where I may have a panic attack or at least be unable to concentrate on whatever's happening. 
So, these are the factors I can think of that would be affected by my symptoms. Through working during my illness (before it got a lot worse in the past 4 months), I noticed these factors were getting to be a problem anyway and I'd have to really push myself to do these to a standard good enough to keep me in a job. Now my symptoms are worse, I'm even less able to do them and I can't see many (if any!) jobs that don't entail at least some of these factors. So ESA has to be my option.

I went to Citizens Advice Bureau earlier today to see if I could get some advice and basically to get their opinion on whether ESA was the right way to go. It was a bit of a wait but the waiting room is nice and calm and quiet. I got called into a small office (very warm in there! Had to take my coat off as the temperature was setting off my dizzy spells and headaches). The woman was lovely. She listened to me, took down my details and gave me some good advice. She also had a word with her supervisor to check and basically they think I have a good case for applying for ESA. 

The interesting thing was that the advisor told me that, at first, my claim would be turned down (you think they wouldn't be allowed to tell you that lol!). She also said that the CAB would help me appeal and help with my forms and everything so not to worry. There's no way I could qualify for JSA and I've got nothing to lose applying for ESA. 

It feels so good to have someone fighting my corner on this. Fluctuating illnesses are bloody frustrating. It's all well and good knowing I have to pace myself and build up on physical activities until I improve but how can I honestly hold down a job whilst doing that? From my experiences, if you can't fulfill all the duties, you can't carry on with the job. 

So yes, I will get my sick note from the doctor (hopefully my notes will be pushed through quickly so my newest doctor knows my medical history), gather together the requested information (luckily I found my p45 today, which is needed if I don't qualify for Statutory Sick Pay), fill in my form and send it off. 

Next step, sort my printer out!

Monday 18 March 2013

MoodGYM review Part 2 (unfinished)

The next module is entitled “Thoughts”. The introduction to this very briefly recaps what should have been learnt from the previous module. Click next to proceed.

The “Depression Quiz” exercise is presented again. This must be to revisit how we are feeling since taking the course. My results are now in the Middle range, but, again these talk about physical as well as mental feelings. My medical condition presents physical symptoms that are similar to depression so I will take this score with a pinch of salt again.

The “Anxiety Quiz” exercise is presented again for an update on feelings. My results are still middle to high, however, most of the questions focus on sleep problems (a symptom of my medical condition) so I may not be as anxious as this test assumes.

The next page describes the goals of this module. This goes into the errors people make in their judgments, relationships and building up self esteem.

Next, is a page listing “David Burn’s Warped Thoughts”, a list of common errors of judgment made. Examples are given when clicking on the characters in the table. The errors I can definitely identify with include:
·         ALL or NONE thinking  – I find I use this type of thought in workplaces and if I happen to do something embarrassing whilst in a public place. For example, I may make a couple of mistakes in a workplace (such as forgetting to pass a message on or misunderstanding an instruction). I may not even be criticized much by my colleague but I will instantly think I’ve done a bad job for that day and I worry about making mistakes the next day. I may have had a day out where I’ve slipped on a wet floor or tripped over something. I will get really embarrassed if someone has noticed and will let it take over my whole day.
·          Disqualifying the Positive – I don’t believe I am very good at taking compliments; especially when they are about my physical appearance. I’m never quite sure how to respond. If I dismiss it, I feel I come across as moody though.
·         Jumping to Conclusions – I think I’m most likely to do this when it comes to exams or interviews. If I don’t feel I’ve done my absolute best, I will instantly think I have failed or have not even been considered for the job. What I’ve found though, is that I’ve actually done quite well in exams I thought I’d failed, and I’ve been put through to the next stage in interviews I thought I did badly at.
·         Magnification or Minimization – My attitude to my degree classification comes into play here and eligibility criteria for postgraduate courses only solidifies it. Even though I was ill for half of my degree, I still managed a 2:2. Now I should be glad I did this well but I can’t help but think I could’ve done so much better and I find that it will be very hard to get onto a postgrad course because 2:1 is usually the minimum criteria. I think I understood most of my degree’s topics very well but the grade is based on key terms and references remembered. My memory is terrible.
·         Emotional Reasoning (to some degree) – This applies when my moods are particularly low, or when I feel I have let myself down. For example, the other day I was supposed to take a 5/10 minute walk to my hairdressers appointment. No matter how ill and anxious I felt (I haven’t been anywhere by myself for a few months now) I was determined to go. Then, I let that little anxious voice into my head (metaphorically, I do not actually hear voices) which tells me that I will never have the courage to face this ‘fear’ as such. When I did get too anxious and cancelled the appointment I suppose, in my head, I labeled myself as a wimp for not pushing through and doing it anyway.  

In the next step, you are asked to apply the correct ‘warped thought’ label to examples of thoughts. Feedback is then given. The next exercise asks you to apply these labels to some thoughts you put down as part of an earlier module. You have to identify which of the warped thoughts labels your thoughts identify with most. This exercise continues and asks you to attribute the correct warped thought labels to statements you identified with in a previous module. You are also asked to provide a brief statement to say which warped thoughts you feel you identify with most.

On the next page is the recap and you then move on to ‘unwarping’ these warped thoughts. The list of warped thoughts is presented and the questions about them are shown when each are clicked. I can definitely see the idea here but I think more detail and examples may make changing perception more possible. The next exercise is to rethink warped thought examples you most identify with.

Next, you come to a page which describes problem areas. You are asked to have a look through and see which areas you can identify with. I think in some small way or another, I can identify with all of these and can think of examples of when I have presented these problem areas in the way I have reacted to certain events. For example, when I am there for a friend, I feel that it is unfair that they are not there for me when I need it. This is called the “sense of feeling deserving”. I believe I deserve that mutual support as friendship should go both ways. There’s a “should” statement for you! I wouldn't call this thought completely ‘warped’ but maybe I make it out to be a bigger deal than it is?

Next is a follow up quiz for the problem areas to see how high a percentage you have of each. My results are as follows:
  • The need for approval from others – 13%
  • The need to be loved – 17.4%
  • The need to succeed – 18.8%
  • The need to be perfect – 14.5%
  • The sense of being responsible for others reactions – 11.6%
  • Happiness is contingent upon external things – 11.6%
  • The sense of feeling deserving – 13%

In part 1 you can see my original results but I will do a brief comparison here for the sake of this review. I notice that my scores are now higher in “The need for approval from others”, “The need to be loved”, “The need to be perfect” and just slightly on “Happiness is contingent upon external things”. My scores are now lower on “The need to succeed” (significantly!), “The sense of being responsible for others reactions” (slightly) and “The sense of feeling deserving” (also significantly).  This may be coincidental or may be due to the influence this cognitive therapy programme has had on me. In general, I believe this programme has instilled more mindfulness in me. I may not have changed my behaviours drastically yet but I think more about situations that have made me anxious, upset me or things I have taken personally. I feel I am definitely learning to think more calmly although I’m sure that I still have a long way to go.

On the next page, you are presented with example results from each of the characters. Elle has high scores in the “Approval” and “Love” factors, Moody has high scores in the “Approval” and “Perfect” factors, Cyberman has high scores in the “Approval” and “Succeed” factors and Noproblemo has moderate scores in all factors (with slightly higher scores on “The need to succeed” and “The sense of being influential on others’ reactions”). I can’t say I really fit any of these profiles now.

The next exercise is entitled “My Scores on the Warpy Thoughts Test”. The task is to write a summary of your own strengths and psychological weaknesses based on the previous test results. I spoke about how I am career driven and determined but often find I compare myself to others and expect too much of myself in terms of what I achieve and how quickly I achieve it.

On the next page, you are introduced to the subject of Self Esteem and the aim to improve it. This is the final module in the programme. Click next to start this module. The exercise which follows is entitled “In Two Sentences or Less, What do I Think of Myself?”. The task is to list at least two of your positive and two of your negative characteristics. I wrote for positive that I believe I am kind, caring, ambitious and hardworking. I wrote for negative that I lack self confidence, I have low self esteem, I take things too personally and that I overthink things.

After submitting your answers, you will come to a page that explains self esteem in more detail. This makes sense and is something I can definitely relate to, but I’m hoping that the methods in which to improve self esteem are well explained in a way that will result in improvements in the long run, and the ability to protect yourself when circumstances result in a large knock of self esteem.

The next exercise is a week long and involves spending at least 10 minutes each day doing things you like to do (watching your favourite film, playing music etc) then 5 minutes each day being nice to yourself and seeing yourself in a more positive light. Keeping a diary of these things will help keep you on track. On the next page you could write down the days you did something nice, how many 'nice' things you did and more details about them. I filled in around 8 days with enjoyable things, such as complimenting myself on having nice hair that day, watching a favourite tv show, noticing that my vocals had improved (I enjoy singing, although I never perform lol!), cooking a nice meal. I didn't do many nice things each day, due to other responsibilities, but I definitely tried to take time out for 'me'.

The next pages acknowledged that I had finished the Thoughts module and gave a summary. The points made included:
  • Discovering people interpret events differently, and warpy thoughts included things like Overgeneralisation, Jumping to conclusions and Emotional Reasoning. 
  • Finding out ways of contesting warpy thoughts and learning to question the basis of my own thinking.
  • Finding out my own weaknesses, when it comes to the way I think about things
  • Looking at ways of improving self esteem.
There's also a recap of my scores on the Depression and Anxiety quizzes (middle for depression, middle to high on anxiety) as well as the type of warpy thoughts I have (All or none thinking, Overgeneralisation, Jumping to conclusions and Mislabelling), my areas of vulnerability (see the percentages I mentioned previously) and my characteristics (positive and negative). 

The next task is to write down a couple of goals you'd want to achieve by the next module. These are my goals:
  • I would like my immediate reaction, to situations, to be positive and healthier.
  • I would like to take events less personally.
I think these are realistic goals. I do tend to take things very personally and misinterpret situations. I think this is down to my lack of trust in some people. If they happen to talk in a different way (such as, in shorter sentences or in a less friendly way) I tend to worry that I have done or said something to offend them. In some cases I will ask, in some I won't. It can't be a healthy way to think right?! So yes, I would like to react to situations in a calmer, healthier, more positive way and think before I take something personally. Maybe even be more compassionate towards people?

The next module is entitled the "Unwarping Module: Changing Warped Thoughts". This module asks you to think back to previous tasks and modules, in order to see how you have progressed. Click "next" to continue. The Depression quiz is presented yet again. I guess this is to see if you have progressed; whether this programme is having a clinically significant effect upon your mental health. Some of the questions can be related to physical illnesses (such as lacking in energy, difficulty concentrating etc) so it is wise to keep that in mind when looking at the response.

I am now in the Middle to High range. I'm sure you have noticed that it has been a heck of a long time since I started this review so I have not been completely compliant with the programme. This has probably had an effect on the way the programme works for me. If you have read my most recent posts, you will have noticed that my mental health has taken a turn for the worse so the Middle to High range of depression probably makes a lot of sense. I feel programmes like this have brought my thoughts, events which have influenced them and past experiences to the surface; thus making my moods, emotions etc worse. I would not say that this programme is necessarily detrimental to my health though. Not at all! It has given me some things to work on. Sometimes bad things do have to come to the surface (temporarily negatively affecting mental health) before they can be treated or solved. I then proceeded to the next page.

The Anxiety quiz is presented again, probably for the same reasons as the Depression quiz. I responded "Yes" to all questions apart from "Have you felt keyed up or on edge?". Now I probably have felt this way on occasion, but it's always been in response to a situation that would naturally make most people feel that way (in my case, the atos assessments). Some of the questions ask about physical symptoms, which can be attributed to long term physical illnesses also. I don't think this quiz is very accurate to be honest. I believe it needs a field which asks how often you feel this way and whether it can be explained by a pre-existing medical condition. This would help to eliminate other factors which could affect the validity and reliability of the quiz.

As expected, my result is that I am in the High to Very High range. I may suffer some symptoms of anxiety but I do not believe I would be diagnosed with extremely high anxiety. The description of the result includes possible diagnoses to explore; such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Panic Disorder and Social Phobia. I have wondered about PTSD because of how the abortion I had at 19 affected me. I do get flashbacks; triggered by stories I see on television and pains I get sometimes. These can stay with me for a while and take over my thoughts. I'm not sure though, and wouldn't want to self-diagnose. I'm sure there's a lot more to the illness than that.

The next page explains the Unwarping Module's aims. This includes:
  • Finding different ways of 'attacking' warped thoughts.
  • Exploring personal vulnerabilities further.
  • Improving self esteem further. 
The first aim is described in more detail. What the programme wants is for you to look at methods, for changing warped thoughts, without using straight talking or personal dialogue. Sounds a bit confusing huh? From the examples given, I think the point is to try to look at situations from an outsider's point of view (e.g. the aim which states "Taking the role of the reporter"). I think it's also about training yourself to think in a different way; in response to certain situations (e.g. "being your own coach") and testing yourself (e.g. "Setting up experiments to test thoughts and interpretations"). 

The next page concentrates on the first aim; namely "Take the role of the reporter (Turning Clark Kent into Superman)". This appears to be about distancing yourself from the situation. When we are directly involved in the situation, emotions tend to take over, so, logically, mentally distancing ourselves will help us to 'see' our emotions and analyse them; therefore, hopefully learning from and adjusting them. There is a recap to an earlier module; where an event was described involving the character Moody and a broken car. You can click the arrow to get the recap; where Moody's thoughts are described to show how he reacted to his broken down car. Underneath this recap, is what Moody's 'reporter' would say. He puts himself in third person, as if he was describing someone else's events and reactions. This makes the description objective rather than subjective, so warped thoughts can be identified and analysed more easily. 

When you click next, you are given some of the character Elle's thoughts about an event where her friend (or date?) was late. Elle's description over-exaggerates how late the friend was, what he said to her and how she believed he felt about her. Elle's 'reporter' gives a much more truthful and objective description. He wasn't as late as she first described, she acted a lot worse than she first described and he acted a lot nicer. Here you can see how recalling of events, in a very subjective way, can exaggerate certain things to make them seem worse than they actually were. 

You are then asked to practise this 'distancing' technique with a few examples. Afterwards, it is noted that it is easier to more logically analyse these example situations, as they do not relate to us. We have not experienced the situation so can interpret it in an objective way; with no residual emotions interfering. The next exercise is entitled "The Reporter's Notebook". In this exercise you are asked to look at some personal events and describe them in a table. The categories are "Behaviours/Comments", "Interpretations" (i.e., how you reacted to/felt about the event), "Facts" (what actually happened) and "Discrepancy" (the difference between what actually happened and how you interpreted it). I described a couple of events and then submitted my answers.

The next page introduces another technique; i.e. Increasing Positive Self-Interpretations. The concept of this is to look at the negative comments we make about ourselves (e.g. "I'm ugly", "No one likes me") and turn them into more realistic positives (e.g. "I like my eyes", "My close friends like me"). I think the point of this task is to touch upon increasing self confidence. In theory, the more you tell yourself positive things about yourself, the more you will believe them and will give out more confident vibes. Our attitudes about ourselves can show in body language that others can see. This can affect the way they view us, so if we feel more self confident, we look more positive to others. In the long run, if this works, it can positively affect our relationships. This leads onto the exercise where you are asked to give examples of negative comments, you tend to make about yourself, then give positive and more realistic statements.

The third aim is called "Setting up experiments to test thoughts and interpretations". With this method, you are asked to think about the negative/warped thoughts you've had about certain events (as demonstrated by MoodGym) and test whether they are seen as warped by others. This 'test' is done simply by asking others how they would interpret the event. If they interpret it differently, it may be that your thoughts about the event were actually warped.This is like an informal type of research so can have its inaccuracies. It may be, simply by coincidence, that the particular 'sample' of people you ask may have warped interpretations also. I guess, if you ask enough people, however, you may have a more accurate result. The larger the sample, the more valid and/or reliable the data. 

The exercise, which follows this, is entitled "Surveying the Scene" and asks you to spend a week observing events. You then need to pinpoint which one/s you respond to in an overly dramatic way. Take note of this then ask others how they would respond.

Ok so I need to test this exercise out so will be continuing this review next week! I'm so sorry it's taken so long. It is partly my fault for not sticking with it but I promise to get this finished soon! Maybe you could try out some of the exercises and let me know what you thought of them? 

A (sort of) review of MoodGYM-Cognitive Therapy Programme (Part 1)

I've been having a look at online counselling/therapy programmes for a few reasons. Firstly, because of my interest in therapy generally. Secondly, because I want to assess my own mental health. Thirdly, because I want to improve my mental health in order to help deal with my physical health. Finally, I want to see how effective online therapy actually is. I came across MoodGYM, a programme based loosely upon Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. The following is a guide/review of the programme as I try it on myself. It is in 2 parts due to how long it is.

Review of MOODGYM (Cognitive Therapy Program)
  • The start page gives an overview of the program and the modules you face, what to expect etc
  • Press YES to get to the moodgym start
  • An introduction follows (very positive psychology based) about depression, anxiety, taking control
  • Click on “Want to know more?”
  • The aims of the program are displayed, click next to proceed.
  •  More of an explanation is given next, click next to proceed.
  • The next page explains what moodgym hopes ‘the client’ will achieve from the program, click next to proceed.
  • An explanation of what you ‘won’t learn’ from moodgym follows, click YES to proceed.
  • This links to a page which lays out ‘terms of use’ – this clearly explains that the programme should not be used to treat clinical levels of depression, anxiety etc and is “ intended for information and skill development purposes only.” – click I AGREE
  • A form follows asking for some personal details (not home address) and asking about reasons for wanting to participate, have you felt symptoms of depression, how did you come across this etc. – Click add user to proceed.
  • The welcome page then appears and I’m able to start the program straightaway.

Once you actually start the program you will be introduced to a few ‘characters’. These are basic examples of people in certain situations (good or bad), shows how they appear on the outside and how they feel on the inside e.g. someone who is generally content with life, someone who has everything going for them (looks, relationships, talent, work etc) but feels as if they will be exposed as a ‘fraud’ and someone who had a bad childhood which affects the relationships they have with family, friends etc. I think this is just something to think about and to show that sometimes, we can all feel like each of these characters. There may be ones that you can relate to more than others in some ways. They each have a name as such but these aren’t exactly memorable. That may not be important though. I think it is useful to go into this program with an open mind.

Next comes a Depression Quiz. Fill this in and click ‘submit answers’ to access the results section. My results come up as “middle to high” which suggests that I may have more symptoms of depression than the average person my age. A brief description of what this means is given. I actually find my results quite surprising as I thought mine would be middle to low. Nevertheless, I can relate to the description given. I can overreact to situations, I cry when I’m stressed and angry as well as upset. Something I’d quite like to change!

Next comes an Anxiety Quiz. Fill this in and click ‘submit responses’ to access the results section. Again my results come up as “middle to high” Hmm, now I’m not so sure about this. The questions make sense but I think some background medical questions should have been asked prior to the mental health questions so things such as physical conditions are taken into consideration. I find myself answering ‘yes’ to the aching and dizziness questions which raise my score considerably. Now, as you know, I am going through the process of actively seeing doctors and may possibly be receiving a diagnosis of Fibromyalgia. The aches, pains and dizziness associated with this condition are not necessarily indicative of depression or anxiety (although a sufferer may experience either or both of these conditions as a secondary illness to fibro).

Next comes a Warpy Thoughts test. Fun name huh? This is a few pages long and goes through factors such as need for approval, perceptions of love and how important it is to feel it, the need to succeed, perfection,  influencing someone etc. Once all these forms are submitted you come to a results page with your results shown in a bar chart. My results are as below:

·         Need for approval from others = 9.7%
·         Need to be loved = 14.5%
·         Need to succeed = 22.6%
·         Need to be perfect = 9.7%
·         Sense of being able to influence other’s emotional reactions = 12.9%
·         Happiness is contingent upon external things = 11.3%
·         The sense of feeling deserving = 19.4%

To be honest, these results definitely make sense to me. The ‘deserving’ one seems a little high but the ‘succeed’ one I can definitely relate to. I’ve always wanted to be successful in life and my way of measuring my success is through achievements. These could be: doing well in school, making true friends, falling in love, maintaining a healthy relationship, getting a good job, getting married, having a family and living in a nice house/area. My ultimate relationship goals are to be happily married with children and my ultimate career goal is to become a Clinical Psychologist. I guess at the moment I don’t feel as successful as I should do especially as I compare my success to others and find that there are a lot of people, around my age, who are happily married and/or have lovely children and/or have great jobs that pay well. Maybe I should stay away from facebook?

Ok, we then return to the characters and are asked to click on each to see how they would score on the above tests. Mine actually seem to be a much higher version of NoProblemo’s results. Maybe I place more importance on certain factors than I should? Maybe I expect too much of myself, I don’t know yet.
We next move to the Feelings module. Once we have entered this module we are presented with a brief of the reasons CBT believes we may feel negative or positive. These reasons are very basic but there’s obviously bound to be other complications which contribute to a person’s emotions. I find the biopsychosocial model is relevant here. We need to look at health, environment, relationships, working life, lots and lots of reasons.

A question is presented which focuses on relationships with people. The program compares a happy person’s response and an unhappy person’s response. I think, even if we don’t think it of ourselves, we can all think of at least one person in our lives who would say something very similar to each of these characters. As we move on a couple of pages, these characters are presented with more hypothetical questions.
The next exercise involves implying what we have learnt to hypothetical situations. So we look at a few character responses and try to establish how their views are negative.
Once our responses are submitted, we move to a page which gives a more in depth insight into how negative views, interpretations and expectations actually affect how our life goes. However, we are not necessarily to blame for how we are feeling. I believe depression and anxiety is learnt through the way we interpret situations and how successfully we protect ourselves from how these situations make us feel. We can easily learn to expect the bad situations to carry on or even get worse, and it takes a lot of hard work to have the faith that our lives will improve as well as being able to positively deal with what we are facing presently. A particular sentence in the program to take note of is this: “People in similar situations can respond very differently”.
Next we go to a module entitled “The Thinker”. A negative and a positive interpretation of the same event is presented and a description of how each ‘thinker’ came to this thought. The concept, again, makes sense but I think it needs to be explained with some more examples to make the interpretations more relatable to someone. This will increase faith in the program as a whole.
On the next page, another example of an event is given and we are asked to click on each of the characters to see their response to this. We find the event could possibly be overcome by anyone in the situation dependent upon their thoughts, feelings and behaviours. The event has turned out more positively for NoProblemos because he has interpreted it in the correct way. He’s clearly annoyed it happened but he is grateful the situation wasn’t worse, knows he can choose to have a good day anyway and ends up having a good day because of what he’s done. He has, in fact, taken control of the situation rather than letting it take control of him.

We then have to apply what we've learnt to an exercise, to assess how we would respond to a few examples of events.  Once we have scrolled through the list of thoughts and the progression from there to our potential behaviours, we go to a page which explains the most appropriate ways to think. What I like here is that chronic conditions are mentioned as something to think about.
This leads on to an Auto Talk Quiz. These consist of a list of warped thoughts/negative thoughts and we are asked to tick Yes to the ones we find we think of ourselves or No to the ones we don’t relate to. These are only for thoughts we've had in the last two weeks however. Now these do seem a bit extreme and I think examples within a greyer area need to be shown. I find I only answered yes to two of these; with them only applying on my worst days and not thoughts I have constantly. Your results are given on the next page.

The next exercise is called “Bad Hair Day” and we are asked to think about the last time we felt upset and the last time we felt angry. We have to write down the event and then write down our thoughts about it. The next page explains how different events result in different thoughts and a feeling of upset is usually attributed to internal things, whilst anger is attributed to external things.
The next page explains the final exercise of the module; “Three Encounters of an Emotional Kind” where you will identify three events in your daily life that are associated with strong feelings (can be positive or negative). You then have to identify the thoughts that led to these feelings. I think the concept of Mindfulness comes into play here in order to identify the source of positivity as well as negative. Like learning when to change our negativity and when we can turn something into a positive (or not so negative/easy to deal with?) situation.
Well now I have my three events written down; with the thoughts, feelings and behaviours added to the table. I typed these into the table provided on the programme and clicked ‘submit answers’. I have now completed the ‘Feelings’ module. I think this exercise was just to practice skills, such as mindfulness, however I do not feel that I have begun to reorder  my thoughts in a calmer and more logical way. I may just know a bit more about the way I think. An actual person to respond to the homework may be useful here for more information and support.
Next we come to a summary of the module and progress so far. The summary is sub-headed by sections such as “What have I achieved this module?”, “ What have I found out about myself this module?” and “What would I like to do about learning how I think and what effect this has on me”. This particular heading allows you to fill in a short list of goals you want to achieve by the next module. These are my two goals:
  1. I'd like to learn how to change my perception of certain negative events.
  2.   I'd like to learn how to be less anxious and cynical about certain things.

(    (Go to Part 2 to read on)

Tuesday 12 March 2013

Busy Weekend!/Pushing Myself/Amitriptyline

Hey guys,

Sorry I've been a bit quiet. There's not been a lot to report really! I thought I'd just do a quick update before I go up to bed.

Last Monday (the 4th?) I was supposed to go and get my hair cut. Nothing fancy, just a 5 or 10 min walk to the hairdressers for a good trim. Long story short, I got far too anxious about walking there by myself and ended up feeling too ill to go so I had to cancel. That really got me down because it was my chance to sort of gain control of this illness and just push through my anxieties. In hindsight, both I and my partner agree it was too much too soon. I rebooked the appointment for one of his days off, the Friday. We did it so he would drop me off at the hairdressers and I would walk back if I felt up to it. Although quite achy, dizzy and exhausted I did manage to walk back and having a much nicer hair-do gave me a little bit of confidence back.

My partner's dad had his wedding last Saturday and I was invited to the ceremony, meal and do. It's been a while since I've been out for the whole day! Leading up to it I was pretty nervous about how I'd feel. I always like to know how long certain things will last so I know how long until I can go to a toilet. The more I think about the possibility of needing the loo, the more likely I am to need it. I think this amitriptyline is helping calm my bladder a bit though.

The day went really well! I felt good getting all dressed up with my hair cut and dyed (dyed it myself). I had a dress I had impulse bought a couple of years ago and never worn. It was a lovely maxi dress with a peacock pattern on it. I had my highest heels on as well! Knew I'd regret it by the end of the night but I wanted to make the effort. I could have a rest day the next day anyway.The ceremony was only about 20 mins tops so I was fine, didn't need it during plus I was too distracted by how sweet the bride and groom looked together.  I do love weddings haha.

The meal was lovely! I had chicken parfait for starters, roast beef with all the trimmings for main then profiteroles with lots of chocolate sauce for pudding. Very full! By this time the aches, pains, dizziness, exhaustion etc were really kicking in but I was glad I'd made it up until then not feeling too bad. After all the speeches were done we had lots of time to just sit, relax, have a few drinks (and cake!) and wait for the evening do. My partner was lovely, making sure I was ok and I got chatting to more of the relatives from both sides. I love how welcoming my partner's family are. They really treat me like part of the family and some of them know about me being ill so take that into consideration :)

Well I really pushed myself at the do, got involved with the dancing and made sure I sat down when I needed to. It was so nice to have a 'good' day as I've had so many 'bad' ones recently.

I had to do some cleaning and packing yesterday and today which has just about finished me off and I'm very achy and knackered now. I feel so exhausted it's almost as if I'm listening to myself speak instead of feeling fully in control of speaking? I can't find a better way to describe it really.

Ok so I'm moving tomorrow (sad times) and I 'think' everything's done for then. My partner's also been extra lovely to me today too. We had fajitas (my favourite!) and bought some extra snacks, treats and drinks. I will be giving my cat lots of cuddles before I go too.

Ooh on another note re: my medication. I was on the phone to my mum the other day, talking about amitriptyline (I'm thinking of upping my dose to 2 a day as it doesn't seem to be helping the pain at all) and she said that she was told that it's an old treatment for Fibromyalgia? Now my doctor said it was quite a new development in use for fibro so I'm a bit confused here. I'm guessing my mum has talked to either a doctor friend or a fibro sufferer but I'm wondering what my readers think? Obviously I'm not going to stop my use until told otherwise by my next doc but I'd definitely like to know more information about treatments for fibro in particular.

Right, must get into bed. I will update again soon; which will probably be to do with finances/doctors so maybe not so positive! Thanks for reading :)