My anxiety in doctors appointments.

At doctors appointments I turn into a anxious, rambling, waffly mess who probably makes little sense. Which isn’t helped by the fact I’m always in a lot of pain and even more unwell at the minute. I come away from appointments often feeling frustrated at myself for getting so anxious and not being able to convey things properly. This then makes my anxiety at subsequent appointments even worse because I’m worrying about how to try and not be as anxious as last time, which makes the levels rise even more. I find that I’ve got so much in my head that I want to say and that I’ve over thought about, that nothing comes out in the way I intended it to and I fail to explain things or discuss things I’d like to.  My doctors probably think I’m an idiot, which is actually very far from the case. I’m actually pretty clever and I like to learn as much as my health allows, which believe me isn’t as much as I’d like, but I am a very well informed patient.
Believe it or not I’m actually quite a level headed person, I’m very good at advice, seeing two sides of things, well reasoned and good at not looking at problems as completely black and white.  I’m incredibly understanding and will pretty much do anything to help anyone if I can. I am all this for everyone and anyone, other than myself who I seemingly like to give a hard time and I just end up beating myself up about things.

I think some of my issues with anxiety in appointments stem from me finding it hard to talk about things in person, to be completely open with people about how bad my health is, how much pain I’m in and how I’m feeling emotionally, I mask it probably about 98% of the time as I feel I have to. I also have a wall up with doctors, even with doctors who I’ve seen for a very long time and really do trust and like. I don’t like admitting how bad I’m suffering and how bad the pain actually is, I’m really not a complainer and I don’t like to bother people when most of the time they actually can’t help much anyway, which is no ones fault just the way it is. And above all my irrational fear of being seen as weak, and yes I’m very aware that it is completely irrational, and not how people I know see me. But I don’t know how to break down this wall I have seemingly created.
Then there’s the abandonment fear and the fear of dismissal even with medical professionals that I really like and completely trust and who have never made me feel like that the entire time I’ve been with them. But yet I still have this stupid fear that I know is unnecessary. When my headache first started I had about a year and a half of constant dismissal, lack of understanding, and next to no help from specialists for both my headache and POTS symptoms in Dubai and a few in London too. Before a doctor who was actually okay but just didn’t have enough expertise in my problems so he sent me to two of the most lovely and fantastic doctors, one of which I still see regularly. But that period of time being dismissed by doctors I feel still affects my anxiety, even when my current doctors do not give me any reason to feel like that.

I speak to a lot of people who have NDPH or other chronic illnesses that I’ve become friends with, speaking to me online, on the phone or in person I am very very far from a anxious, rambling, waffly mess. My doctors would probably think it was a completely different person, but that’s me without crippling anxiety, which is actually how I am the majority of the time. I am far better at conveying things in writing than in person where my unnecessary anxiety has the opportunity to strike and ruin everything, which only really happens in doctors appointments and not in general everyday life. But I don’t feel that writing things down I want to discuss and giving them that in my appointment is the solution for me.
I’m very aware of my problems, however I haven’t quite figured out how to address this issue in order to decrease my doctors appointment anxiety and therefore have a more productive and open appointment with my specialists. But I will continue to try to figure it out.

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Last weeks neuro appointment.

I wish I could tell you I had the guts to show my neurologist what I wrote in my last post, but unfortunately I chickened out and didn’t, which I’m annoyed about. I really want to send them what I wrote but I’m not sure I have the courage to do that either.

I felt physically sick with nerves before my appointment, though I do feel sick quite a lot now so maybe it was a combination of the nerves and the other problem that causes me to feel sick. My nerves were calmed by having a lovely chat with a woman in the waiting room which is like a room where people go in for day infusions, and she was getting one for her MS. She was really nice and talking to her helped me feel slightly more calm and was a bit of a distraction.
I saw my nurse first and there was so much I wanted to say but like always words failed me and the best I could come up with which kind of got straight to the point anyway was something along the lines of ‘I’m so fed up I want you to remove the stimulator.’ After a bit of a discussion with her I then waited till my neurologist could see me.
I saw my neurologist after a short while and to cut a long story short we decided to keep the stimulator turned off for 3 months, to get my pain levels back down to baseline before stimulator. At which point I will see him again where it will be discussed what to do next, maybe another small stimulation attempt which I’m really not keen on, or the only infusion I haven’t had. To be honest I just want removal, I want this nightmare over, and the last thing I want is for them to turn it back on and send me back into even more agony. But I don’t want them to think that I’m not trying, that this was all for nothing, that I’ve wasted their time and resources.
We then discussed my histamine intolerance issue and the medications he put me on the last time I saw him which really really helped for a couple of weeks, and then some of my symptoms started returning, and now I have hardly been able to eat in probably over 3 weeks now. He wants me to up some of my medications and see this Professor for this type of issue at a different hospital in London, so I’m going to be sorting that out as well. I’m really struggling with being unable to eat, and I feel incredibly unwell.

He asked me how I was doing, and I wish I had been able to go into some more detail than I did but I felt if I said more than I did I was going to have a massive breakdown and there were a lot of people in the room I really didn’t want everyone to see me like that. So I just said ‘no not good at all’. He asked me if I was still seeing my psych who is practically on my neuros headache team and I told him he had discharged me a few weeks ago because I reached the maximum amount of sessions he could offer me. My neuro said he would see if he could sort something out, I really hope he can. I wish I had been able to tell him how much I really am struggling, or even just have shown him my previous post, but me being the idiot I am was unable to do any of that, so he doesn’t really know how much I need some help. And as usual I hide everything with a smile, a laugh or some sarcastic comment so nobody knows just how badly I feel or how much pain I’m in.

 

What I wish I could tell my neurologist tomorrow…

I’m not good at expressing myself to people in person, I’m never able to say what I want to or need to. I’m much better at writing it down, what I want to say and how I feel. I’m seeing my neurologist tomorrow and this is what I wish I was able to tell him…

I don’t want you to think I haven’t given this enough of a chance or that I haven’t tried hard enough with it. I wasn’t expecting any sort of relief yet when I only had surgery 7 months ago, but I’m so much worse it’s unbearable and I know it should not be this way. I can feel that my pain/head/brain does not like what is happening to it when the stimulator is on, I can feel it and it’s even more agony than I’ve been use to for the past 7 years. And if that wasn’t bad enough an extra headache has been created at the back of my head, which was never there before and I don’t understand what has happened for it to be there, but it’s really very painful and I just wish it would go away. I wish I never had the surgery,  I wish I had listened to the people who said not to go through with it. However I’m the type of person who will try anything within reason if there is the slightest possibility it could result in some relief, and I know if I had not gone through with it I would always be wondering if this could have been my answer.
I don’t often complain to you, I don’t often complain to anyone, I usually hide my pain with a brave face, a fake smile, a laugh or a sarcastic comment, mainly because I don’t want anyone to see just how badly I feel and just how much pain I’m actually in. But this is me complaining, when the stimulator is on it causes me so much agony it’s becoming unbearable. And I’ll be completely honest, I don’t want you to turn it back on and reprogram me which will probably send me back into even more agony, I want you to keep it turned off and then swiftly arrange for removal. I’m in agony and I don’t know what more to ask for other than this and hope that I can return to what it was like before surgery, which was also agony but it wasn’t quite as bad as this. I know you’ve tried so hard to help me and I appreciate everything you have done to try and help me over the past 6 years I have known you, I appreciate it more than you know, you were the only neurologist I have ever seen that didn’t dismiss my pain, that listened to me, that cared enough to want to help and for that I will always be grateful. But I’m not sure I can keep going with this stimulator and how much extra pain it is causing me, I’m completely fed up and done with it and I honestly don’t believe that reprogramming it any different is going to change the extra pain it causes me when it’s on, I know my pain better than anyone, I know what it does not like and it does not like this, I wish so badly it did and I wish this could have been my answer for some relief, but I really don’t think it is.

I know everyone was worried about what would happen to me if surgery turned out not to help and where I would be mentally if that was the case. I wish I could tell you I was okay, or that I will be okay. But the truth is I’m not okay, I’m so very far from okay, I’m completely heartbroken and devastated about this and completely unsure of how I’m even going to be able to move forward from here, of how I’m going to cope with the rest of my life with this pain. I’m probably in one of the worst states I’ve been in and I’m probably beyond anyones help anymore. I’m 23 years old it’s been over 7 years since this started and I have no clue how on earth I’m going to survive the rest of my life with this pain, I don’t know how to deal with the fact I will probably never have any sort of relief, that all hope for that is gone. And I feel that if all I’m ever going to be is sick and in pain, then what really is the point anymore? 

I know I won’t be able to say this to you tomorrow, I’m not even sure I have the courage to show you this post, but maybe I will surprise myself.

 

Rock Bottom – rising from the darkness.

Last week I went to this fantastic event in London, all I knew about it was the title which is quite self explanatory and that it was being partly run by someone who has some chronic illness’. I was really nervous about going, I’m not very good socially with people I don’t know really well, but in the end I was so glad I didn’t chicken out and that I went because it was fantastic.

I arrived at where it was being held and there wasn’t that many people there yet, I greeted the people running it briefly and sat down anxious as hell. I ended up talking a lot to Jacqui  and Bash who were running it, turns out Jacqui has some of the same conditions I have so we really got on well and had a lot to talk about. She had advertised the event on the Mast Cell Activation Facebook group which is where I saw it, I was the only person in that group who came which struck me as odd actually as I think a lot of people in that group could have benefitted from coming.

The event started and it was basically Jacqui and Bash’s stories of how they hit rock bottom through a combination of trauma and illness and how they basically rose from the darkness and have taken steps to overcome it and move forward out of the darkness and on with their life. I won’t go into their stories, they’re not mine to tell but they were incredibly emotional, relatable and inspiring and I left feeling incredibly grateful that they had shared their story with me and very inspired to continue trying to get better myself.

I’m actually meeting up with Jacqui on Friday after I’ve had my stimulator reprogrammed, which should be really nice as she is lovely and we have a lot in common because of having some of the same conditions. So I’m excited to chat some more with her.

I am so glad I went out of my comfort zone to go to this event as just hearing their stories has really made an impact on me. So thank you Jacqui and Bash!

 

 

 

Can you be ‘fixed’ in 8 sessions of therapy?

Along with having my surgery in September I was given psychological support form the hospital I am at in London. At first it was a temporary psychologist whilst the ONS surgery service employed a psychologist to be on their team. I saw the temporary one for 4 sessions and it was going okay, and then I got moved to the new ONS service one. I’ve been with him since the start of the year and I’ve spoken about it on here a bit before.
At my first appointment he asked me what my goal was, and I replied to feel better. By better I didn’t necessarily mean my headache would miraculously disappear, though that would be lovely, instead I meant to feel less miserable all the time. We agreed with a set of 4 sessions before reviewing it.

To be honest in the beginning I wasn’t too keen on him and his approach, the sessions made me very anxious, still sometimes do, but my anxiety levels within the sessions have improved as I have got use to him and the approach. It’s been going okay, and I’ve become more aware of my emotions within the sessions, how I feel when I talk about certain things in my life and where I feel that feeling in my body. I have improved with time but I wouldn’t say I was any less miserable unfortunately. At the end of the initial 4 sessions I said I’d like to keep going and we agreed another 4 but then that would be the maximum they would be able to offer me. I know I won’t reach a goal of being less miserable, and I honestly don’t think that is possible in only 8 sessions, I also don’t think that most people with complex issues would be able to go from depressed to somewhat okay and ready to leave therapy in basically just over 8 weeks. I’ve been in therapy 7 years and I’m still not there. I know not everyones the same and people have different problems and yeah maybe 8 sessions would be enough for a small number of people, but for a lot it’s not and where do people go once they get discharged from their 8 sessions? It also makes me wonder why people wonder why we have a mental health crisis on our hands this day and age. With my experience with some NHS mental health care I completely understand it. People don’t get better, local mental health teams are often shocking, I know they are in my area, and then not enough therapy is offered (that’s if and when it is offered) so therefore people don’t get better. I get that the NHS is often overworked and understaffed and staff work really hard to look after patients, but often mental health care is lacking, trust me I know I’ve experienced it.

As I near the end of my 8 sessions I know I won’t cope well without therapy, so I’ll have to find an alternative. I also wonder if I will ever reach a goal of feeling less miserable, it seems like I’ve been trying for 7 years just to feel somewhat slightly better but I’ve never got there. I question whether being less miserable is possible for me, or whether I’m destined to just be the way I am for the rest of time? I actually feel like the total of 8 sessions I will have had will have been a waste of time when they can’t be continued to reap any long term positive effects. I’ll start again with someone else, maybe my old psychologist or maybe someone new and that could possibly mess up thought processes or effects the past 8 sessions have had because of another outside influence with different thoughts and ideas. What was the point in the past 8 sessions, because I feel that once they are over because they were so short term that they will have effectively been pointless and that frustrates me because I was improving.

I get that maybe short term therapy works for some people, but I believe that for people with chronic pain or illness, which influences so many aspects of your life they may need longer term work. Especially if they’ve been sick a long time, perhaps there isn’t much hope of their health ever improving. I’m sorry but how can 8 sessions fix how you feel about spending the rest of your life sick and in pain, as someone who knows first hand and fully admits that they need psychological help and support, for me I know it’s not possible for in 8 sessions to be fixed and ready to be discharged.

I pride myself with always being honest on here, and that’s my honest opinion.

 

My fear of failure.

I’ve been seeing my new psychologist in London every week for the past 4 weeks, to start with I wasn’t too sure about it, but it’s been going okay and I’m getting use to him and his approach. It’s hard going in the appointment but I seem to have actually progressed with this psychodynamic approach as each week has gone on I have got better at identifying my emotions and the reasons behind them and my anxiety. It’s also been getting easier to talk to him, rather than lots of silence.

Last week he asked me to talk about something he read in one of my clinic letters from my neurologist. It was to do with studying and going to uni, so I told him about how I went back to college to try and obtain some qualifications because I desperately wanted to go to uni. My main reason for wanting to go to uni was because I just wanted to be normal, and secondly that I wanted to be a psychologist. However I was unable to complete the course because of my pain and ended up dropping out of college for a second time.
He then went on to ask if I would agree to some homework, he wanted to me to go home and look at some volunteering opportunities in my local area. He suggested things like volunteering for the Samaritans. He asked if I would be willing to do something like that, I said I am more than open to looking, however it’s the actual going forward with it that would be the problem. Don’t get me wrong I would love to do something productive like volunteering however in actual practice I worry that it wouldn’t work out. I’m scared of failure, actually I’m terrified. Everything I have ever started in the past 7 years I have not completed, I didn’t finish school, then college, then I had a job/apprenticeship and I didn’t finish that either, all because of the pain getting too bad that it becomes impossible. I feel like a complete failure and I don’t want to enhance that feeling by yet again having to drop out of something because the pain gets too bad. But I’m stuck in this cycle of never doing anything for fear of pain and failure, meaning I never move forward and enhancing the feeling that my life is stuck. Today I’ve had a look at some volunteering near me and I’ve found a couple of things that I’d possibly be interested in. Both of which I’ve actually looked into before however I’ve never gone forward with either for fear of pain and failure.  I’d like to do either of them but I’m just terrified of how I would feel if I started and then had to give it up because of the pain.

He also gave me a second piece of homework, which was to get out my old college papers which I obtained all distinctions on. As often I get into the belief that I’m not clever and I have never achieved anything. The belief I have that I’m not clever is not true (hence all the distinctions at college), but I guess I try to believe it because I actually am really clever but I never get to use my intelligence and I’ve never managed to achieve anything with how smart I actually am because of my pain. So I guess thinking that I’m not clever is almost like protection from the feelings I get in knowing that I actually am clever but I feel it will never amount to anything worthwhile and meaningful. That probably doesn’t make a lot of sense, but somehow it makes sense to me. Anyway I got them out and had a read through them and I was reminded about how easy and straight forward I found the assignments. I was also reminded about how I felt when I realised I was going to have to drop out of college because the pain was too bad. I was distraught despite knowing yet again in my life that education was not the right thing for me and my headache and that in my eyes I had failed at something again.

This homework task was okay, I kind of figured out the reason behind my thinking that I’m not clever when actually deep down I know I am. It also revealed how much I’d like to do something productive like volunteering, though I don’t know if I will go through with it because of my fear of failure due to pain.

I’m in London twice this week, Wednesday to finally see my neurologist and hopefully get some answers on my extra pain. And Friday to see my psychologist again, which is my final session out of an initial block of 4 sessions, however I would like to continue seeing him as it seems to be being helpful, so hopefully he can offer me some more sessions.

 

Was it a big mistake?

I’ve realised recently how many unresolved feelings I have about my illness, and how none of them have really changed over the years. It doesn’t matter how much I try to escape my pain, how much mindfulness I do, how much I try to accept this condition or even all the many many treatments I’ve had, my never ending headache still remains as strong as ever.

I’m 2 and a half months post surgery, the tweaking they did a few weeks ago (when they finally realised I was being severely overstimulated and it had caused allodynia hence the severe nerve pain at the back of my head where I could feel the stimulation) has relieved the allodynia but I am still experiencing headache pain at the back of my head which is not normal for me it feels like my normal headache has doubled in size. I haven’t really told anyone about it as I don’t want to let everyone down with the fact I’m still in a lot of pain. At the minute I’m in Dubai with all my family spending Christmas and New Year here as my Dad lives here, right now I’m led in bed in agony. The pain is horrific and has been since last night.

I know I should be positive about the outcome of surgery and I know it’s still really early but I have a gut feeling that the surgery I had is not going to help me. Which leaves me to feel completely and utterly upset and helpless that my last ditch attempt at a life with lower pain is not going to be successful. That I’m going to have to live with extreme pain for the rest of my life that prevents me from doing anything worthwhile, from being independent, from having some sort of resemblance of a normal life.

A lot of my feelings have come bubbling to the surface recently, feelings I buried deep within quite some time ago. The anger I feel towards life, the depression that comes with chronic pain, the complete and utter loneliness that I experience and the distraught I feel towards the loss of my normal life nearly 7 years ago now.

I’m trying hard to keep everything together, I mean it’s Christmas for fucks sake, I should be happy, right?! But at the minute I’m a mess, it’s also quickly approaching the 14th January, a date that messes with my head, the date it all started 7 years ago. Yes you say it’s just a date it shouldn’t effect me, but I feel like I lost so much 7 years ago on that date and it sends me down a deep dark spiral every god damn year.

I wish one day I could write a post to tell you all that I’m miraculously better or even just that surgery has reduced my pain; I’d settle for that. But I don’t think that will ever be possible. I know my headache better than anyone and I feel like it’s here to stay. I feel like it doesn’t matter what I try my headache will always win and no one can do anything about that.