O.C.Dear

For the past few weeks, I have been attending therapy on campus, every Friday at 14:00 after work with Winnie. I was very nervous before attending, as I have a fear that people won’t believe my mental illnesses, or take them seriously. I did what I usually do: obsessively research what to expect from your first therapy session every night until 3am, and talk aloud to myself for hours; planning what I am going to say.

I see this as being well-prepared, but others have pointed out that these actions are verging on the neurotic.

My first therapy session was better than I could ever had expected. Winnie is really nice, and asked me questions I had never even considered (which is probably good since I could not prepare, and so my answers were more spontaneous and authentic).

The sessions all compiled of mini breakthroughs, and Winnie pointing out several patterns in my thinking and behaviour. It’s nice to see that my mental health issues are not completely random, rather follow a common theme. It makes me feel less out of control and paranoid, and I can now better recognise when I may be in a situation where I may feel anxious.

The most interesting thing to come from my sessions is the alternative diagnosis that Winnie unofficially gave me.

Winnie thinks that I was misdiagnosed with General Anxiety Disorder (GAD), and instead suffer from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

I would be lying if I said that this diagnosis did not come as a surprise. I always thought of OCD suffers being people who are incessantly clean, particular, and washed their hands non-stop. My mum will be the first person to tell you that I have never been the tidiest person in the world; although I make a more conscious effort to keep things orderly.

It turns out that OCD is a little more complicated than hand-washing and turning the lights on and off 20 times.

DSM 5 classifies OCD as:

OCD is characterised by the presence of obsessions and/or compulsions. Obsessions are recurrent and persistent thoughts, urges, or images that are experienced as intrusive and unwanted, whereas compulsions are repetitive behaviors or mental acts that an individual feels driven to perform in response to an obsession or according to rules that must be applied rigidly.

The word “rule” sticks out to me because, as Winnie pointed out to me, I create my own bizarre rules. These rules give me comfort and a sense of order.

It would be hard to explain these rules to you, especially as a lot of them 1) barely make sense to me and 2) they work more in context. But a few include:

  • assigning particular items to particular people (ie. when making tea for people, I mentally assign mugs to each person, and get agitated if they do not adhere to which one they have been set)
  • clenching muscles equally on both sides of my body (if my right armpit twitches, I have to make my left armpit do the same or it feels uncomfortable)
  • stressing myself out because I am convinced I have to do a task or I will get in trouble (despite no one ever telling me to do these things or threatening me)

As you can see, my compulsions are fairly small and easy to miss, so this is why I appreciate being able to take advantage of the free therapy services that my university offers.

I don’y know much about OCD, and as I learn more about the disorder and more about myself then I will update you!

Love from Evie x

Testing Mindfulness Apps to Help My Anxiety – Spilling the Anxie-Tea

Calm:
Calm is an app I have heard about here and there. They often have ads on Facebook that pop up here and there. When you first open the app, you are met with this screen:

I liked this touch as it is simple yet immediately forces you to take a second to calm down. The blue colours they use are rather soothing, like water. On the home page, you are straight away greeted with various calming noises and a nice moving background. You can choose different sounds and backgrounds for example the sea, rain, a lake etc. I like the wide variety of choice you receive.

Calm has sweet little stories to help you sleep, one of them is read by Stephen Fry which I thought was a nice touch as he has a soft and familiar voice and is a mental health activist. They also have short audios that guide mindfulness and meditation which people may find helpful

Something I also noticed about Calm and I thought was a nice touch is that it hides your phone’s time and battery level. I felt this helped as you can really immerse yourself in the relaxation and not get distracted by how long you have been on the app.
A downside of Calm is that the audio and stories are rather limited, and if you want to get access to more you have to upgrade which costs £42.99 per year, which is quite dear.

Headspace:
The next app I tried was Headspace. Headspace have a lot of adverts on Youtube aimed at me so it was pretty unavoidable. Headspace is very similar to Calm as it has many audio guides for meditation and relaxation, as well as podcasts to aid sleep.

A feature of Headspace I really like is that you can allow them to send you up to 5 “mindfulness moments” a day, which are basically just notifications on your phone that say stuff like “It is not enough to merely think about our potential. We need to discover it, to live it, to make it a reality.” and other fortune-cookie-type proverbs. I like these as although they are a little cheesy, they do make you think and perhaps even ground you when feeling stressed.
Again, like Calm, Headspace offers more audio guides and features to paying customers. However, the price for Headspace is even more than Calm, and I am not 100% what exactly it is they offer. The most expensive one coming in at £400!

Breathe:
The final app I downloaded was Breathe, and I have to say it was my favourite. I had never seen Breathe being advertised at all but it was recommended to me when I downloaded the other two so I gave it a go. When you open Breathe, you are immediately met with the option to dim the screen for 10 seconds to help relax. I really like this touch

It then asks you a series of questions about how you are feeling emotionally and physically, before asking for you to select up to 5 emotions

Finally, based on your choices it offers you various audio guides that they believe will make you feel happier and more mindful

I really like this feature as it feels more personal and is catered to your needs at that time. There are a great deal of audio guides, even if they are short. You can pay for more content and more features if you so wish. Breathe claim to also donate 10% of their earnings to help less privileged kids learn mindfulness practice, which is admirable

I feel like all of these apps have some key benefits and when all three of them are downloaded there are a plethora of different features and methods to help you. Although I personally enjoy Breathe the most for the personalisation aspects, I still will use Calm’s bedtime stories and Headspace’s mindfulness moments to help manage my Anxiety disorder. I hope this article helped some of you guys to use apps as a new way of coping with Anxiety. It is so easy and practical to use for a quick pick-me-up.

Update: Prozac, Conzac – Spilling the Anxie-Tea

I was put onto Fluoxetine (Prozac, 40mg x 1 a day) about two months ago now and I thought it was about time to give you guys an update. You can view my original post here. I was prescribed Prozac to help my mild depression and moderate anxiety disorder, as in the months leading up to my prescription I had massively regressed. My attendance to Uni dropped, I stopped being social and I found it hard to find any energy at all. I cancelled my gym membership, ate a load of crap and gained hella fat. I was having regular panic attacks and could barely leave my bed some days.

Prozac takes around 6-8 weeks to fully kick in which is why I waited so long to give you guys an update. Basically- I am feeling a heck of a lot better! I have had only one mini panic attack during this time, my attendance is back up again and I have started going to the gym again (not as frequently as I like but certainly more than before). I feel generally happier and like a weight has been lifted off of me. I have been a lot more social, and have started being healthier. I don’t feel the need to binge on junk as much, and I find it easier to sleep!

Some cons are that ever since the day I started taking Prozac I have found that I have been rather drowsy 24/7. This does make sense I suppose as it is stopping my anxiety. I mentioned it to my GP and they said it was nothing to worry about and hopefully should pass. It is not as intense as the first month I was on Prozac, but I would say I am certainly feeling drowsy. Additionally, I had my first ever migraine. I am not sure if this is due to the Prozac, but I had never had one before and suddenly 2 weeks into taking Prozac I was awoken at 5am to the sensation that someone what gouging my eyes out and burning the sockets. I couldn’t open my eyes and despite having the curtains closed, lights off, under my covers with sunglasses on everything was still too bright for me. It eventually subsided and after a quick google search I found that this was fairly commonplace for people who have just started Prozac, and I have not had a migraine since.

Overall, I would say that being on Prozac has been a largely positive experience for me. My anxiety and depression have subsided (although they are of course not totally eradicated), and I am finding everyday life more manageable and enjoyable. Of course, this is my experience, and it may be different for everyone, so I would suggest talking to your doctor to see what path they think is best for you. It took me years to be prescribed Prozac, and I am so happy to now be nearly back to normal. I will give another update in a few months (or sooner if anything major happens!)

And now I give the conversation to you guys. Have any of you been put on Prozac, and if so then how was your experience? What non-medicinal methods/treatments do your recommend to me or anyone else suffering with chronic Anxiety and Depression? Let me know your thoughts down below in the comments!

 

Love from Evie x

Prozac, conzac – Spilling the Anxie-Tea

This term at University has been undeniably difficult and taken its toll on my anxiety. Not only am I now in second year so the modules are more challenging and require a great deal more reading and studying, but health issues concerning members of my family and my friends have caused it to go a bit haywire. Panic attacks on the daily, poor sleep, weight gain- you name it, ya girl had it. I felt like a snowglobe that had been shaken up, and even once the initial events resolved themselves, all my glittery bits of snow hadn’t quite settled yet.

Fortunately, I managed to get help from my University. They have given me an extra week to complete my essays from now until the end of my degree, allowed me to have extra time in my exams and get to do them in a small private room rather than a large exam hall, and have let all of my tutors know what is going on. All I had to do was submit a letter from my doctor as proof that I have been suffering with Anxiety for over a year (of course, most people suffer with spouts of anxiety, especially while at uni. They want to make sure that only the people suffering with the long-term condition are granted this extra help). It really has taken such a weight off of my shoulders and given me more confidence with my degree.

About 2 weeks ago I started on Prozac (Fluoxetine in the UK). I was hoping to start it sooner however my doctor warned that some people can react badly to it initially and get even more anxious so he suggested waiting until I got home to start it. I am on 20mg and I simply take one a day. My anxiety has been low since then but this may only be because it coincided with Christmas which is my favourite time of year. Prozac, different from my previous medication which only deals to alleviate symptoms of anxiety, is more of a mood stabiliser. On my other medication which I have been on for years it may stop my body from being physically anxious (high heart rate, sweating, shaking), whereas hopefully this will stop me from feeling so anxious in the first place!

There are meant to be some side effect to Prozac (hence the very clever pun in the title- thank you). It can be addictive, cause weight gain/loss, make you nauseous, increase anxiety in the first few weeks, suicidal thoughts, dizziness, etc. But I was so tired of being scared all of the time that I had to try it! Plus, the two women on the podcast I listen to (Adult Sh1t- give it a go, it is very funny and informative) are both on it and claim it is the best thing that has happened for them. The GP I had was very good and I have an appointment to see him again in a few days as he wants to check up on me before we continue with the medication, so I will give you all an update. Prozac is mean to take 6-8 weeks to fully get into your system and feel the full effects, so when I do notice anything I will let you know!

I just wanted to update you all on my little journey, and also explain why I was not able to write as much as I wanted to. If you have any questions or comments or advice for me then please do let me know! I would love to hear your experiences.

Lots of Love, Evie x