Blue Harbour Wellness Clinic 

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Grief. A testament.

Posted on 27 October, 2018 at 7:15 Comments comments (2)

Sadly at somepoint in your life (unless you are a robot) you are going to experience grief.

You are going to know the profound depths of despair that we call bereavement; Or the "Land Of Total Desolation", depending on which phase you are in when you read this blog!

(Bring tissues and a sense of humour with you!)

According to Elisabeth Kubler Ross, there are Five Stages to grief...

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance.

Sounds fun doesn't it! Don't be mislead into thinking that these unassuming labels of emotion will take you on an orderly and structured journey through grief: It's more like lurching from one emotion to the next without much time to gather your thoughts; that's if you still have any concept of time other than a vast expanse of it stretching away before you!

You may know by now that grief comes in waves.... Tidal Waves.... Sometimes they leave you weeping on your knees while you're doing the washing up, or crying uncontrollably whilst talking to a stranger in Sainsburys (I Know!)

But it does get easier.... I promise.

Lets go through these Five Stages and make a bit of sense of them together.

Denial: What do we know about Denial? Well, we know it's usually the first (but not always) emotion on the list. When you first experience grief you may feel that the world you have created around you is now meaningless with no purpose. You may feel bewildered, like the reality of the situation is just too big to sink in; and that's ok. We may find our loss so painful that we avoid thinking about it at all costs. Denial is our bodys way of protecting us from things we can't cope with. We feel numb, and in shock, wondering how the hell we will get through. Denial makes survival possible! When we start to accept the reality of our loss then we begin the next step of the process. And yes, it is possible to revist Denial at any point throughout the process! It's also possible to never experience denial... there are no rules.

Anger: This is an anger you don't have to suppress because you're British! Anger is a necessary and inevitiable emotion. Give yourself permission to feel it. It doesn't have to make sense. As with all emotions it does pass. Anger sometimes radiates out to other people, your friends, family, therapists, strangers sitting in their cars at traffic lights may at somepoint feel the wrath of your grief. Even God is not exempt from your anger..."If you were real you'd have saved him" "only a cruel god would let him suffer like this". You are probably wondering how the world can just carry on regardless.... At a later date you will be thankful for this as it drags you forward until you can walk by yourself again. Anger as a "go to" emotion can be easier to cope with than looking into what feels like an eternal void of grief. Grief is like being lost at sea, in a rowing a storm..... in the dark..... without a compass..... You are allowed to be angry with the person you lost. Its ok to feel angry that they aren't around anymore. The bleakness that accompanies those emotions is scary and may feel like it's too much to bare, you are allowed to feel angry about that too.

Bargaining: If you had a loved one with a terminal illness, you may have spent days / weeks / months, even years trying to make a plea bargain with any Gods or Tree Spirits that you think might listen. "If you don't let him die I will go to church every week and be a good person" "Keep him alive and i'll do whatever you want me to do" "show me a miracle and I will believe in you" After your loved one has passed you may enter into a time loop of guilt thoughts such as "if I had of pushed, he would have gone to the doctors sooner and had treatment sooner" "I wish I hadn't of said that to him when I was tired" "I didn't let him know that I loved him enough" "I couldn't keep him safe" You may want to bargain away your pain. I know that sometimes it feels too much to carry... You will get through this.

Depression: This is the one your friends and family want to drag you through quickly: This is the one you may feel the most shame about and want to hide it from everyone, especially if they want to "fix" you. Depression is a natural response to bereavement; to not feel it after the death of someone you love would be unusual. This kind of depression is not a mental illness, you are not losing the plot! You may feel like you're back on that rowing boat, instead of stormy weather it's flat calm but there's a heavy fog thats wrapped around you, your sadness may be so intense that you feel bereft. Depression is a necessary step on the path to healing, it too will pass.

Acceptance: Don't confuse acceptance with "I'm alright now", most of us never feel "ok" about losing someone we love, but we do accept that person is never coming back. We recognise that a life without our loved one is our new reality and we slowly learn to live with it. At first its hard to find any joy without the sharp reminder that your loved one isn't around to enjoy it with you. You'll never replace what's been lost, but you can make a new life and new connections. You can laugh and smile again. You may not feel ready right now, and that's ok too, grief needs its own time. There will be days when the fog has lifted and you can talk about your loved one without pain. There will be days ahead that just feel like "normal" days. Your grief will be something that is with you without drowning you, it will be blurred with knowing you were loved, and memories that cause laughter instead of sadness.

Remember there's no hard and fast rule to grieving, it will come in waves and in no particular order. There's no time limit on grief, be prepared for the first year or two to the hardest as your emotions are raw. Give yourself compassion and be gentle with yourself.

When grief becomes too much and your body and mind are suffering beyond what you can reasonably cope with, you may experience exaustion, stress and anxiety. We'll go through this in another blog, or in sessions if you're booked in.

Until then, remember you aren't alone. Calmer seas, sunny days and clear horizons are close by, until then... wear a life jacket and hold on!

My Personal Journey Through Anxiety. Guest Blog.

Posted on 27 October, 2018 at 5:50 Comments comments (0)

So I should probably start by saying that, throughout my life I have struggled with anxious thoughts about death and illness and have experienced a lot of death withn my family so i've never been sheltered from it. I have also, eversince I can remember, struggled with my confidence and self esteem but always battled with these issues silently.

I have always managed to push anxious thoughts and confidence issues to the back of my mind and think about them as little as I possibly could, however then came my 6 year battle with a narcissistic abuser who used my fears and confidence issues as a way to manipulate and control me.  I always portrayed that our relationship was perfect and I also think that in doing so, I managed to convince myself that it was.  I would constantly tell myself that everything he said was normal and nothing was ever bad enough to leave him, and even when I did leave him, who and where would I be without him? Whenever a doubt would creep into my mind I would discard it by telling myself I would never find anyone better than him because I believed every word he said to me over the years.

After things got more serious between us then came my downward spiral into severe health anxiety and panic disorder.  It all began when I thought I was at my happiest, which actually couldnt have been further than the truth.  So it first started when I got what I thought was a stomach bug but it didnt go away as a normal bug would, I felt nauseous everyday which was then closely followed by constant dizziness.  I then randomly one night after dinner had a panic attack, which at the time I had no idea what it was, but I had begun to convince myself I was dying and that I had a life threatening illness. The panic attacks were crippling and extremely frightening which only fed my anxiety and panic more. At my worst I was having up to 10 panic attacks in a day but I was also in a constant state of anxiousness, I was even having attacks in the night which i think were definitely the scariest and would lead to me waking my parents, usually begging themm to take me to the hospital.

I had so many scary symptoms during the 3 months that my anxiety was at its worst, the main ones I suffered were:

  • Chest Pain
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Blurred vision
  • Hot & cold flushes
  • Shakiness
  • Tingling in my limbs and face
  • severe loss of apetite, most meals i could barely get through 2 mouthfuls without gagging and feeling like if I ate anymore I would be sick, even the thought of food at this point made me feel ill.
  • Feelings of my tongue and throat swelling

During a 3 month period I visited A&E 5 times and went to the doctors at least once every 2 weeks, and even after multiple tests annd constant anxiety related questions, nothing could convince me that all of my symptoms were a result of anxiety and panic disorder because I truly believed that I had a life threatening illness that the doctors were missing.  On one of the visits to A&E, I was asked to do a urine test and the results showed signs of starvation, and after seeing this, the doctor phoned the crisis team to ask for their advice.  I knew I had hit rock bottom and I knew I needed help but I just didnt know where to start because my symptoms were all still there and while they were there I was still convinced I had a terrible illness. The anxiety was literally swallowing me, I had begun to cancel plans with friends and would make a different excuse every time; I would leave work early because I didnt feel well enough to be there, I was also so scared of going anywhere on my own or being in a situation where I couldnt just leave.

Something that I definitely need to mention is that during this time I was addicted to Googling my symptoms and seeking reasurance from family members which were actually just feeding my anxiety more. Every time I googled something I would tell myself and others that I was doing it to reassure myself, however, out of the 10 good things I could read about an illness I would continue reading until I read 1 bad thing which would then consume my mind and fill me with panic attacks.  What I was really doing was seeking validation to myself and family members that I did have a serious illness in the hope that they would take me to hospital.

By this point I wasnt just afraid of illnesses and death but I was petrified that I was losing my mind and if I wasnt dying of whichever horrible illness I thought I had on that day, I would be petrified that I was going to end up in a mental institution and that my life was never going to go back to the way it was before. I also suffered from dissociation and depersonalisation which by themselves were so frightening and lead to more panic, I was literally stuck in a vicious cycle.

My recovery started when I went to see Jenn for a massage; when we got there I reluctantly told her everything that had been going on for the last few months and almost instantly felt a weight lift off my shoulders, but I knew it wasnt going to go away by itself and I knew I was going to have to work really hard but I was so determined I could do it with the help of the amazing support system I had around me.  I straight away booked another session with Jenn and one of the first things she asked me was how my relationship was and after telling her everything and saying it all  aloud for the first time something clicked and everything I had been going thrugh made perfect sense.  I realised my relationship wasnt normal, the things he said and did were a form of abuse and I didnt deserve to be treated that way and certainly couldnt live the rest of my life like it.  A massive part of realising that I deserve better in a relationship was working on my confidence and self-esteem which I have always struggled with, I dont think I will ever be the most confident person in the world, but I am certainly a long way from where I was a few months ago.   The most important thing for me was to not be so negative and hard on myself, to stop looking for all the bad things and start looking for good things, the things I actually liked about myself. I also set myself challenges, a big one for me was to go out without makeup on, something that I would never consider doing a few months ago and I now try and do at every opportunity I can.

Since getting better I have gone back to eating 3 meals a day (and snacks!) with no nausea, and i'm back to a healthy weight, i've been going out with friends most days and really enjoying time spent with my lovely family and also having me time.  Talking about everything and being open, honest and admitting i needed help to my closest friends, family and also to myself really helped me and also taught me that its a really good thing to talk about how you're feeling and things that are going on in your life, even when it's the last thing you want to do.  In order to be honest with other people though, you first have to be honest with yourself.

Having everything explained to me by Jenn and knowing that the things I was experiencing were perfectly normal in anxiety and panic disorder was really my turning point and while writing this I am so hopeful that someone going through what I went through or a similar situation will be reassured and comforted in knowing that you're not alone in the things you're going through, it is ok to need help and although it doesnt feel like it now, you will be ok; Having anxiety isnt the end, it's the begining because when you come out the other side you will feel you can conquer anything and it will give you a strength you never knew you had.