Thursday 18 April 2019

Putting Myself First: Counselling Session 1

(Trigger Warning: Mentions of Suicide, Self Harm, and Abortion)

Today, I had my first counselling session. It was nothing like CBT or other therapies I've had before, as it didn't have a specific structure. Also, no homework! Of course, I still had to fill in the good old PHQ scale etc questionnaires. According to my counsellor, I had quite high levels of Anxiety and Depression. To be honest, with everything going on recently, I'm not surprised it's caused relapses. I don't think I'm in a very good place at the moment, but I don't think I realised this until I started talking about things and focusing on myself.

The main reason I decided to ask for counselling this time was because I needed to come to terms with the abortion I had 10 years ago. I did it because I thought I had no other choice. I was 19 and still felt like a kid. To have the responsibility of bringing up a child was far too much for me. I was only just learning to look after myself! I made the decision quickly, and felt numb sometimes, scared others, when I made the appointments, went to them, took the tablets I was given etc. The nurses were matter of fact at best, and completely judgmental and horrible at worst. It was a difficult time, and an experience I wanted to get past as soon as possible with as little people as possible knowing.

Some people were very supportive, some made me feel incredibly guilty and ashamed of what I had done. I felt I couldn't talk through it at the time, so I kept it mostly locked up inside.

I don't know when I started thinking about the termination more, or when I started to get triggered by any mention of it, but things started getting really difficult at least 10 years ago. I get just as triggered (if not more) now and I am so fed up of feeling this way. I have to leave the room or put my earphones on, when storylines or discussion of abortion are on the television. I can't properly contribute to conversations around it, whether face to face or online. Even seeing a pregnancy scan can set me off.

I've written about my feelings of being triggered before, but I'll quickly explain how I feel below:

  • At first, I feel very upset and panicky
  • I'm very likely to have bad panic attacks
  • I may get angry that someone has not considered putting a warning on their post about abortion, or a TV programme hasn't warned beforehand.
  • I may dissociate and tense up; going completely silent and being unable to concentrate on anything else
  • I will be brought right back to the time when I experienced an abortion. I can imagine the nurses, visualise the clinic full of upset women, feel the intense pain I had soon after, visualise the blood and everything that came with it.
  • I will not be able to concentrate on anything else for a while, and I will have to (maybe with some prompting) do things to ground myself or distract myself.
  • At its worst, my suicidal feelings will return and/or I will have extremely strong urges to self harm badly, as if I want to punish myself or distract myself with a pain I can control to a certain extent.
  • I may become hyper-aware and jump at loud noises etc
I said some of this to the counsellor and she told me it sounded like symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

She can't diagnose me as such, but I did find it interesting, as I've wondered before if this is bad enough to be considered as PTSD. I don't know if I should try to get assessed for it, whether it'll result in extra support (probably not). I guess I can just say I have symptoms of PTSD rather than the full diagnosis itself. 

Whilst talking about that particular topic, I digressed and talked about when I first got ill, my abusive relationship at the time, as well as how my ex partner (who would've been the father) reacted when I'd had the termination. The conversation came round to family, friends, and childhood too, so of course the things that have happened with my Nan recently, came up, as well as my cousin. My counsellor said that I have had so much to think about, and I've been through so much, so it's no wonder I feel the way I do.

I tried to focus on this particular topic, but as I was leading the conversation (the counsellor was mainly there to listen and give me space to talk) I found I would digress a lot, go silent when I ran out of things to say or lost my train of thought, sometimes cry, apologise for rambling, and then repeat the things I said before. I don't know how much useful information the counsellor got from me, but I at least gave her lots to go through (probably too much!). I'm seeing her next, in a couple of weeks and she told me that she could help build more of a structure into our sessions if I liked. I don't want to be completely restricted, but I think I do need some prompting to keep focused on one thing at a time, so I was grateful of her offer.

For the rest of today, I've been feeling very exposed, self conscious, anxious/panicky, depressed, and overwhelmed. I keep dissociating too. I'm trying to do what self care I can, and focusing a lot on comforting myself. 

Thank you so much to my readers, it means a lot to know that people are interested in what I have to say, and support me too. I would love to be there for people who have been through similar things as myself, but I'm not able to with certain things. With the help of my counsellor, I hope to get to a point where I can. 

Thursday 11 April 2019

An Absolute Nightmare of a Day

I'll explain.

So my Nan was in a temporary nursing home after a fall (possible TIA) and breaking her right femur. This temporary home was aiming to rehabilitate her and get her back on her feet, as physios at the hospital were unable to do so.
Her needs became greater, so we (family, social worker etc) felt a care home (with dementia specialism, as she is also being assessed for this) would now be where she needed to live. After sorting everything out, we found a really amazing place with one great room she could move into straightaway, and one even better room she could move to after a few weeks. She had made as much progress as she could at the temporary nursing home, and the end date of her contract there was soon.
My parents and I had a call from the temporary nursing home a couple of days ago. The contract had ended and Nan was to leave the next day. Bed management had booked an ambulance transfer to the new home, so all we needed to do was go to the temporary home and collect her stuff before following the ambulance to the new home. The time slot for ambulance arrival was between 11am and 1pm. Sounds pretty reasonable and relatively simple, right?
Well Dad and I made our way to the temporary nursing home yesterday morning. We arrived at 11.30am after a delay on the M6 due to a collision near the next junction after the one we were to get off at. We found my Nan had been plonked in the lounge with bags of her stuff next to her, and some cleaners in her old room. She was annoyed because they'd only told her that morning that she was leaving! She was pleased that she'd be going so soon though.
Anyway, we sat by my Nan and waited for the ambulance to arrive. 1pm came and went, so I rang my Mum to see if she could contact bed management to see if they could chase up the driver. Apparently, the time slot was actually between 11am and 3pm. More of a wait, so we weren't happy, but at least it wasn't too long. So we waited. 3pm came and went, so we spoke to one of the nurses to see if she could chase it up. She told us that ambulance transport is rarely on time, and all we could do was continue to wait
We waited another hour before ringing Mum again to see what was going on. She told us that she'd rang the temporay home and the manager would be over to speak to us as soon as possible.
The manager came at 4.30pm and said she had bad news. The cut off point for ambulance transport was 4.00pm, so we would not have any transport, and the booking hadn't been made properly, so an ambulance would never have arrived anyway! We were furious. She said she'd see what she could do. She spoke to the transfer company, and they said they could pick Nan up at 11pm that night! Of course we refused. It was far too late, and besides, the care home would not admit her that late. The manager didn't know what to do (great management, right??) and it was left to my Dad and I to figure out how we would get Nan to the home that day.
The manager told us that if we couldn't get transport, Nan would have to stay another night. Nan had already been distressed to the point of shouting and almost crying. She became angry and said there was no way she was stopping another night there at all. She'd had a terrible time there and this day was the worst day of her life. I suggested booking a wheelchair taxi, and hinted I would like the care home, bed management, or transfer company to fund this. They would not fund it, so it was down to myself and Dad to come up with the money for the 45 minute (at least) journey from temporary nursing home (in Stafford), to new care home (near Wolverhampton). The manager gave us the numbers for the only companies in Stafford that provided wheelchair taxis. I rang the first and couldn't get through after about four attempts. The second company's wheelchair taxis were all booked up for that day. The only option left (that Nan would actually agree to) would be to try and get Nan into our car, with the help of some carers. What we needed to do first though was, to get permission from the manager and physios (for health and safety reasons) and check the new care home would still admit her that day. Apparently their cut off point was usually 4pm, but the manager there made exceptions and arranged for sandwiches to be prepared for Nan.
Getting Nan from lounge to car wasn't easy in the slightest. Getting her from the chair in the lounge, into my mum's wheelchair (she didn't have her own available) was very hard and took a lot of encouragement. The same went for getting Nan from the wheelchair into the car. It involved one carer holding the wheelchair steady, another holding a walker to help her transfer, and another practically picking Nan up under the arms whilst she did her best to move her feet just enough to reach the walker and then the car. We finally got her in and managed to fit the rest of her stuff in the car. She was in a lot of pain, but in better spirits that she was going to a much nicer place.
We eventually arrived at the new home at around 7.30pm. It had been a long day! A couple of carers came out and helped Nan out of the car and into the wheelchair. They took her to the lounge to have her tea, then showed my Dad and I to her room. We were given a pot of tea and biscuits to have whilst we put Nan's stuff away! I can't fault how we or my Nan were treated. When she was taken up to her room, Nan was chatting away with a smile on her face. She wanted to check everything was how she wanted it, and that the duvet wasn't too far up to her chin when she was helped into bed. Other than that, she was happy though. This was such a relief! We had a quick chat with her and the night staff introduced themselves then we left Nan to sleep in peace.
So it was a real nightmare of a day, and Nan had been very upset and hard to calm down in the daytime, but by evening time, things had vastly improved. I feel much better about her being in this new place, as I've heard terrible things about some of the carers in the temporary home. I'm not sure how much to believe, but I do have a lot of concerns.

Friday 5 April 2019

First Cardiology Appointment for POTS-like Symptoms

I had my first Cardiology appointment today, and I have mixed feelings about how it went.

I got there in good time, and signed in at reception. The receptionists were lovely, and I didn't have to wait long before I was called through for an ECG. I had a great conversation about Game of Thrones with the nurse! I was quite tense, so it took three attempts for a decent reading but it didn't take long overall. Soon after this, I was called through for a blood pressure test just before I saw the consultant. If I remember right, my reading was 145/85, borderline high.

The actual appointment with the consultant took about 5 mins. He seemed pleasant enough and told me to take a seat.

He sat back in his chair, and the first question he asked was "so, what do you do? Do you work?" I didn't think that was very relevant, but I explained that I haven't been able to work for a few years due to how my medical conditions affect me (chronic pain, extreme fatigue etc) I also mentioned that the dizziness and faintness also contribute to me not working and that was the main reason for me seeing him today.

He then asked me to explain my main issues, that had led to the referral to him. I described to him the symptoms (dizziness, faintness, palpitations, I forgot to mention headaches and vision stuff though damnit) as well as when they occur (standing up or sitting up for a while), what makes them better (lying down, salty snacks, hydrating well) and worse (overheating, overexertion, eating high carb meals etc).

He only really wanted to focus on the dizziness and faintness. He asked if I'd been referred to an ENT specialist. I said I had and was due to see them for Vestibular tests next week. (You can read about my first ENT appointment here). He then asked if I ever had fainted and I said only once, 5 years ago, as far as I could recall. He also asked how long an episode of faintness lasts and I couldn't think so ended up saying "a minute?" even though it fluctuates and I could spend most of the day feeling dizzy and faint, I did make sure I said it is triggered by standing or sitting up for ages. He said "oh everyone gets a bit of giddiness then". I then told him it was way worse than that though and has contributed to me giving up work.

He said that my ECG was fine and in his opinion, he didn't think I had any heart problems, but he'd get an appointment booked for me to have 24hr heart rate monitor fitted. I was finding it hard to concentrate at that point and explained I was listening, but I was very dizzy. He made sure I understood what he said though and I said I did and the 24hr monitor sounded good. He wanted to end the appointment there but I stayed sitting and asked him if he would consider assessing me for POTS and order a tilt table test.

He said he didnt think I seemed like a POTS patient but he would see how the 24hr monitor goes first, so at least I have a chance at maybe having the test. In my opinion, he did seem like he'd made up his mind about me before I'd even walked through the door. And what does a POTS patient "seem" like anyway?

Going back to the consultant's first question, the answer I would've liked to have given goes something like this:

"So what do I do? I struggle to get through each day. I try to look after myself the best I can. When I can concentrate, I game or watch tv shows/movies, I reach out to friends online and do my best to be there for them through good times and bad. I try to enjoy life. I sometimes look for work online but when I really think about what my health allows me to do, working is just too much physically & mentally. So I try to keep up my hobbies & I try to help others in whatever way I can. But I guess that's not enough in this "work or die" society"

Overall, I suppose the appointment went reasonably well? At least he is willing to see me again (even if he does seem to have already made up his mind!), but what do you think? Have you had a similar experience? Please comment below!

Thursday 4 April 2019

Some more Developments

This post is mostly another updates one, following on from the recent post; Updates and Some Worrying Family News


To recap, my Nan was in hospital after breaking her right Femur. She spent quite a bit of time in hospital after an operation to pin and plate her leg. She was then placed in a nursing home temporarily (quite far away from her home) to rehabilitate. The physios' aim was to get her to a point where she could mobilise enough to cope back at her Assisted Living flat. Unfortunately the nursing staff (physios, carers, nurses) came to realise that Nan had significant physical needs and was on the cusp of Dementia. She simply had too many needs for a general care package in her old flat. She would need to go into a care home.

Since then, social services have been involved and after a couple of assessments (with a cognitive assessment to be done this Friday), they have decided she needs to be in a Residential home with Dementia specialism. My parents, some of my uncles, and I have arranged to see a number of homes, to see what would be suitable.
My nan wants somewhere with semi rural views, a decent sized room (that she could put a recliner chair in), and a variety of meal choices that are freshly cooked. She did also want to view the homes before deciding which she would like to live in. Unfortunately, time constrictions mean that transport could not be arranged for her to travel that far to different homes on different days. We have collected brochures to show her and are hoping this will be some sort of compromise.
She also wanted to visit her old flat for a week, to decide which furniture she wanted to bring. Again, time constrictions and her health needs meant that this wasn't possible. As well as the mobility problems, diabetes, and suspected dementia, she is doubly incontinent and needs someone to change her pads at various times of the day and night. The care staff at the flat only come in up to 4 times a day and do not make night calls. They also do not do very personal care such as this. As a compromise, I took pictures of all the furniture she'd be able to choose from to take to her new home. Together, we decided what would be practical as well as nice and homely.
Because of certain decisions that have had to be made for her, my Nan believes that we are deciding things without her input and basically trying to control her life. This has made her very distressed, angry, and upset at times, alongside other signs and symptoms of Dementia. We have been doing our best to compromise, involve her where possible, comfort her, and do things to make her happy, but it has been extremely difficult.

We were contacted by the bed management person earlier today, to say that health authority funding for the temporary nursing home placement, will end in a week's time, so it would be best to move her into a permanent placement around the same time. This is of course quite a rush, and at the moment, we are shortlisting the homes we like best, and contacting our favourites to see if a room will be available next week. I will probably blog further, once Nan is in a permanent home, to tell you (my readers) how she is settling in.

My Cousin

Things have improved quite vastly with my cousin. Her general health is much better, but she is still unable to move her legs. She has been working with physios, swimming every day (she is a very strong swimmer) and is now having further tests in London, to establish what exactly happened and what the situation is now. To say this is a relief is an understatement. I know she may be reading this so I don't want to go into too much detail, but long story short, it's looking promising.

Mental Health

My mental health has been up and down, to be honest. I've felt the weight of the world on my shoulders, I've been having some very low days, some very emotional days with bad mood swings, some very anxious/panicky days, and today I've had a very agitated and hyper day. I don't have hypomanic episodes strongly/frequently enough for a Bipolar diagnosis, so I think these episodes are part of the BPD mood swings. I'm still waiting on counselling and desperately needing to talk to someone face to face. I think if things get too bad, I'll call out of hours team. I've spoken on the phone to them before and they were very helpful and kind. I've not had to take Diazepam more than a couple of times in the space of a couple of months, so luckily I still have some left. My GP is very very reluctant to prescribe even a small amount because of risk of addiction and/or overdose. 

Physical Health

Tomorrow, I will be having an appointment with a Cardiologist. This is because I have been very dizzy and having near-fainting spells for many years. I can only recall properly fainting once, 5 years ago, but I mentioned this to the GP before referral, just in case it was relevant. These dizzy and faintness spells are at their worst and usually are triggered by standing up or sitting up for a while. I find overheating, eating carbs, not having enough fluids, or being stressed make my symptoms worse. I find lying down, eating salty food, and hydrating all help, even if just slightly. I will speak about all of this in much more detail in my next post, as well as documenting how my Cardiology appointment went.