9 days sober…

I have done 9 days without the tiniest sip of anything alcoholic. This is quite big news in the Land of the Petit’s. Not gunna lie, I have struggled. Teetotalism seems to happen something like this..

Day 1 to 5 you wake up feeling great. No gasping for water at any point during the night, no camels scratching around in your mouth in the morning… and you wake up in the morning, not in the early hours, feeling like shite. You hop, skippity skip to wherever you need to be, trying to drop your saintliness into every possible void in a conversation..”oh yes, I don’t drink you see.. I am a Bhuddist now.. Enlightenment is really only just round the corner.. Oooh I thnk I see it!”and off you levitate to catch up with it.

Day 6 – 9 appears to go somewhat differently. One could say, a little bit more angrily. There is a definite tetchiness in the air. Especially when you have had a bit of a tête a tête with a new lecturer and who you now detest with every fibre in your body. A body that now hurts rather a lot. No not withdrawal, more muscle strains and ligament pulls because you have either run or yoga’d your body into submission because by god, if there is anything that is going to be come out of this self-induced hell of red wine deprivation every fecking evening, then it will be a body of supermodel standards!! (Failing that, a bit thinner than it currently is).

It’s the sinking into the sofa with glass in hand that I miss. The ‘ahhh…’ moment as the kids dissolve into their beds and the evening becomes mine.. armed with needles, or hooks and Benders on the tele.

The remaining 21 days are stretching gloomily in front of me. I mean half-term is in 2 weeks.. what do I do then? And going through counselling weekly is really not the best time to give up your mental crutch… as you start to see the patterns in your behaviour amongst your new peers at uni and how you behaved at school which relates to life from birth which probably has something to do with how your Mum and Grandmother were treated by their parents who didn’t know how to communicate either because of something that happened to them in the first World War… you get the drift. I cried to and from uni on Friday – reeling from the wounds that were scratched open the night before.. listening to a song that let me drown in it’s sadness.

It’s ok.. I have kind of half pulled myself together. I do love the fact that I feel so much bouncier.. and I am slowly losing weight.. and I don’t have blood sugar crashes as often and I won’t deny it, Yoga with Adriene is definitely helping although she does say ‘baby’ a little too often for my liking.. (she does say other things that are quite funny and I love all the different practices she does.. anything from yoga for anxiety to anger to sore legs to hangovers to weightloss). And running is great, even if my right hamstring is in denial. Managed 29:12 minutes for my last Parkrun… snot bad…

Day 1 of 31… Sobriety Tales

So as some may know I am attempting 31 days of sobriety with a view to raising money for Macmillan Cancer Support – this is no mean feat for the likes of me. I drink most evenings, be it red wine, prosecco or a G&T. I see 6pm as wine o’clock.. earlier on the weekends. It is my de-stressor.. If my children were snakes.. wine would be my anti-venom.

However, I saw the Go Sober advert and thought.. “hmmm.. can you do it Chloe? You have tried and failed before..” (I think I managed 10 days once about 3 years ago which was a minor miracle in itself). But this time I have a few tactics in my arsenal..1) I am trying to lose weight and have started running and doing yoga regularly; 2) I have also started uni and thought that being a student nurse without liver failure might be a plus; and 3),my piece de resistance, is that I have decided to actually get sponsored! This means I have guilt on my side. If I fuck up, I then owe money and as I don’t have any money (tactic number 4), this is a no go.

Getting people to sponsor me might be a bit tricky though, even my best friend’s husband asked if he could sponsor me pro-rata ..or just wait til the end. Cheeky git.

Day 1 – I won’t lie, it’s half 8 in the evening and I am tetchy. This could be because we have spent most of the day in Brighton celebrating the MO’s birthday, negotiating the usual “it’s not fair”s because we didn’t buy ‘this’ despite buying a lot of ‘that’. It would appear that EVERYONE was enjoying a tipple, even at 11.30 on the train and most definitely at 5.30 on the train.Plus, we have also had to rescue our chicken Betty, literally out of the fox’s mouth. A lot of her feathers strewn around the garden – she actually let me hold her while she sat, shocked, in my arms and when I set her back on the ground she scuttled up to her nesting box, refusing the grapes offered by a very distraught MO. I hope she survives the shock.

So yes a glass of wine would not go amiss right now. Instead here I am, tapping away and desperately needing the toilet as I have drunk sooooo much tea that my bladder is due to erupt like a burst pipe. However, I want to do this and I know that when I wake up tomorrow morning, I am going to feel so bloody virtuous.. and at least I will feel like building the fortress needed to keep Mr Fox away from our chickens!

 

Making Friends with the Black Dog

Then too you cannot spend an hour alone;

No company’s more hateful than your own

You dodge and give yourself the slip; you seek

In bed or in your cups from care to sneak:

In vain: the black dog follows you, and hangs

Close on your flying skirts with hungry fangs

“Satire VII” Horace (65 – 8 BC)

Anxiety is very ‘en trend’it would appear. Even the likes of celebrities are afflicted according to a BBC Celebrities with Anxiety report. I am slightly baffled as to why this should come as a surprise. I don’t appear on television, perform on stage or have my life scrutinised on an hourly basis and I am still riddled with the damn thing. I do, however, consider it a necessary evil to highlight how anxiety and depression are taking our societies hostage and for this I am grateful to the media for reporting it. It appears that there is less of a need for a cloak and dagger approach, as the stigma is slowly receding and the public realise that mental health issues aren’t solely for the nutters of the world. I couldn’t tell you the exact number of professionals I know personally, who are either being treated currently for some form of anxiety or depression or have been at some point in their lives but it is a lot. Professionalism, social or financial status aren’t the deciding factors in whether or not you suffer with a mental health issue. There are no boundaries to protect you from ending up on Prozac. From the rich and famous to the destitute and homeless, the effects of the black dog are rife.

The Black Dog

The term ‘black dog’ was first coined by Horace, a Roman satirist and poet and Winston Churchill is known for talking about the black dog visiting. A marvellous book  I Had a Black Dog – by Matthew Johnstone, manages in a serious of beautifully detailed illustrations, to encapsulate fully the effects that depression has on you. A further book by the same author  Living with a Black Dog  was written for people living with those affected by depression and is equally as poignant as the first. If you would like to know why we refer to depression as the black dog there is a detailed historical essay written by Linda Michael and which can be found here.

It matters not what we call it but I won’t deny that since reading those lovely illustrated books about this clumsy dog whose tails rests in your usually divine glass of red and ruins it, or who sits on your head while you try and have a conversation, I have felt a more affectionate relationship with my depression. When I am really crap I take my black dog for a walk so that it can get tired and go the fuck to bed when we get home. When I feel like nothing can change and my apathy is reaching dizzying heights, I explain to my dog that no matter how crappy we are feeling, it will pass and we can look forward to life again very soon. I’ll admit, giving my depression a canine persona doesn’t always work and anxiety is especially a fucker to calm.

Living with Anxiety

I live with some form of anxiety on a daily basis now. It never used to be that way, or at least, I don’t think it was. Although as a good friend of mine who also happens to be a forensic psychiatrist explained to me recently, it wasn’t psychotic episodes I had been having 12 years ago, more like OCD. So there you go.. we don’t always self diagnose correctly. I fight intrusive thoughts regularly and fend off the feelings of nausea as they take a stranglehold of my insides. I become breathless and my hearing becomes altered and eyes lack focus. Especially in supermarkets. As I type, my heart rate has quickened and I note I am holding my breath “let it go” I speak to myself.. “let it go.. no emergency here… just typing…it’s all cool…”.

I was at my own leaving do for work this week and unbeknown to me I was feeling anxious that day. I felt fine up until entering the pub. Then I become self-conscious. I started looking at my phone constantly. I forgot how to laugh properly.. I sounded like a sodding hyena. I didn’t want to stand in front of everyone and throw the ball into the skittles. With my quite questionable sporting skills it was a miracle I didn’t behead anyone.  I gulped back a couple of drinks in the hope that they would quieten the voice of discontent. It worked finally but it reminded me of how quickly a situation can change your mental status.

Where now?

For me, now just as important as ever, I need to learn how to manage my anxiety even better. I am starting my nursing degree at Brighton University this year and I know from experience that being on a busy ward is worse than a supermarket. So I have taken a step (pun alert) towards managing my anxiety. I have recommenced running and am due to do my second Parkrun tomorrow. I went out for a run this morning too and have ordered a swanky waist belt so that I can fit all me accessories in it. I have started to look at how to organise my house better so that I don’t get lost in the mindclutter that resides inside. I don’t ever expect to be free from anxiety or depression. It’s part of me. It’s who I am. However, I can have a say in how often or how badly it affects me. I have lived with it since the age of 10 and at least now when I cry, I don’t have to do it alone…Hell no, I got my dawg with me!!

black-dog

If you would like to find out more about the Black Dog Campaign which is run by SANE – a charity to help and support sufferers of mental health illnesses – then please contact them by clicking on this link: http://www.sane.org.uk/home. They also have a helpline for you to call them between 6pm and 11pm everyday – 0300 304 7000 – don’t hold back, be kind to yourself. You deserve it.

 

 

Student Nurse

So today I returned to my ex-work base to do two things, well three; sign my new contract as a sponsored HCA (healthcare assistant), unpack my carboot and clear out my work tray and say a proper goodbye to the few colleagues who remained in the late afternoon.

Along with excitement about the impending 3 years ahead of me, I feel somewhat mournful at the end of the last 2 years spent with the most amazing team. Not in a long time have I felt such comradeship in an environment that is fraught with government imposed cutbacks affecting staffing levels  amongst other budget related issues. As the NHS frantically try to stop the tsunami of patients flooding the acute hospitals, the community nursing teams are the flood barriers, desperately trying to stem the flow. And my god what a good job they do. I shall desperately miss the banter that helps you keep you atop the lifeshite that threatens to drag you down and I hope that I can find similar inspiration in future teams that I work with.

Two years ago I came to the Trust to work as a therapy technician and within a few weeks after listening to the nurses speak passionately about their patients at a multidisciplinary team meeting (MDT – basically a meeting where different health professionals discuss their patient’s needs), I soon realised that I wanted a piece o’ that cake.. I felt inspired by their enthusiasm and knowledge and here I am after 2 years of hard work and dedication to finally begin the last hurdle. Three years of degree level study. And don’t be fooled. We are not talking about the usual uni shennanigans. This is no picnic.. no three month summers with fart-arsing around and missing lectures willynilly. This is proper head down, work your arse off shit. We’re talking only 3 weeks off in the summer. Off sick? Well there had better be a darn good explanation why. Placements that follow the shift patterns of the ward you are training with, be it 12 hours or over the weekend. And I am one of the lucky ones. I have managed to get sponsored. I will actually receive a wage to do this course and won’t have to rely on the bursary that is in it’s final year of circulation, thanks to the good ol’ Conservatives who are determined to drive the NHS deep, deep into the ground.

I begin in three and a half weeks. I get to settle my youngest in to school and to savour some time off before I get thrown into the lion’s den of bureaucracy, protocol and breaching deadlines, offset with the tangible rewards of knowledge, passion and patient (de)appreciation.

I won’t deny it, this journey on the Nursing Train feels like it could become an untamed rollercoaster as I struggle to deal with my anxiety demons that threaten to get a stranglehold and wrestle me to the ground but I know I am capable, I know I encompass the qualities needed in a good nurse and I just need to have faith that I will surface at the end of the third year, victorious, graduating with the biggest, fuck off smile on my face.. ready to greet the world as a qualified nurse.

And where should this newly qualified nurse tread? Well I have an interest in women’s health. I currently treat clients with maternity and fertility reflexology and I love the idea of integrating this with orthodox medicine. So folks, stay with me for the next few years and share the stories that you have as you pad down your own path – I am just as eager to share my own stories as read yours  xx