Entry 6: Three Oms! A return to yoga!

Entry 6:  Three Oms! A return to yoga!

So, I’ve been meaning to go back to yoga for ages but, as we know, making time for ourselves is usually bottom of the priority list.  If you are busy working, caring for an elderly parent and worrying about everything in the world then it is unlikely that you will be saying ‘Om’ anytime soon.

Unless you embark on a sugar free diet – in which case you will urgently need something to counteract the rage and despair.  Oh yes, the sugar withdrawal symptoms have been so terrible that I would have happily agreed to an induced coma; just until the worst had passed.  Sadly, medical ethics have not yet reached that point so it was easier just to drag myself back to yoga.

I am no stranger to this mode of exercise and I have dabbled with it many times over the years.   Strangely though, I find that yoga only works for me when my state of mind is already at peace.  If my head is in ‘tumble dryer’ mode, yoga makes me cry – not because of a failed ‘salute to the sun’ but because my mind cannot deal with being ‘quietened’.  It makes sense when you think about it because a quiet mind must surely be a target for anxiety demons; it is a beautiful empty space into which the horrors can pour.

I have spent many Shavanasa sessions in tears, which is a shame because it all starts so well.  The golden ball of light; inhaling the white energy and exhaling the black.  There is the deep sense of self and that shroud of calm when the yoga teacher whispers for us to ‘let things go’.

And then it starts to slide.  The golden ball begins to fade and I get my breathing all wrong.  I inhale the black energy and exhale the white.  I stop ‘letting things go’ and, instead, I torture myself with bleak thoughts about;

  • the time I pushed in front of an old lady in the Supermarket because I was in a hurry AND in a bad mood (horrible person!)
  • The time I attended a friend’s wedding and had my photo taken with someone’s husband – him biting one end of a very short cocktail sausage and me biting the other end.  The resulting photo was met with stony silence (cheap flirt!).
  • The time I didn’t check on my Dad properly and he lay helpless on the floor until 3am (useless daughter!).

So, despite the risk of revisiting these shameful events, I returned to yoga this week.  And it was fine!  Was it my new anti-depressants that kept the demons at bay?  Or was it the steely resolve that has set in while I do battle with the sugar cravings?  Either way, I got the best from the session. I was too unfit to get my forehead on the floor in ‘child’s pose’ but I felt surprisingly upbeat and, dare I say it – CALM!!

This emerging sense of ‘Zenity’ has been assisted by new developments in the sugar free diet.  You may recall that I was struggling to produce anything healthy or tasty but all of that has changed.  My new ‘Nutribullet’ has saved the day.  While Hubby has continued to turn out dahls, pates and crudites, I have been turning out smoothies like there’s no tomorrow.  Every conceivable vegetable has been turned to mush and consumed with great gusto.  I have taken on a superior edge, smug in the knowledge that the national ‘5 a day’ target for fruit and veg consumption, has been smashed.  I can picture the cells of my body enjoying the equivalent of a spa day.  Each part of me relishing the glut of vitamins and minerals.

I taste better than I look – honestly!

Admittedly, the excess beetroot gave me a shock when I first visited the lavatory but my screams about ‘blood in the stool’ soon give way to giggles when I realised where the colouring had come from.  Hubby also took fright when I absentmindedly blended a whole onion into his smoothie mix but, by and large, we are starting to feel the benefits.

I am proud to relay my progress to the Doctor when I attend my one month review.  I hope she is impressed when she sees that I am not relying on the pills for my emotional well being; that I am embarking on other physical and mind based developments.   I tell her that my anxiety has definitely lost it’s edge and that the main thing I am struggling with is the remorse at taking thirty years to deal with it.

I skip out of the surgery with my repeat prescription. I have another appointment in four weeks time but I feel like I might be cured by then.  From what I can gather so far, treating Anxiety is a breeze!

Or is it?

Next Week – Return of the Demons

Entry 5: Detox Foot Pads – Draw Badness Through Your Sole

Entry 5:  Detox Foot Pads – Draw Badness Through Your Sole

As you know, the quest for inner calm is never ending and, fortunately, there is no shortage of mad treatments out there.  I love them all!  I will try them all if I get the chance!  And on that front, I have exciting news.  As the first of many trials in my anti-anxiety strategy, I can introduce you to my new purchase; the ‘detox foot pad!’

Let me explain the concept.  In simple terms, the footpad is intended to aid restful sleep and to draw inner badness out through the soles of one’s foot!   Put a special pad on and leave it overnight.  Toxins, heavy metals and other terrible things will be drawn out through the soles of the feet leaving you on the road to purity.

It sounds simple, but it also sounds unlikely – even to me who is a mug for this sort of thing. Surely, at a physiological level, we do not shed this level of badness through our skin.  A wee bit of sweat maybe – but heavy metals?  Anyway, despite having a science degree, I have never been one for letting common sense get in the way of good health.  I may be a little cynical but I also feel really excited about getting these pads onto my feet.

Is it bedtime yet?

The day drags but finally it is bedtime.  Hubby looks unconvinced when I tell him about the detoxed world that awaits but, as ever, he has been forced to participate.  We get ready for bed and, with gleaming eyes, open the box of foot pads.

Being a modern woman, I am not normally a fan of instruction leaflets but I do not dare waste any of these little beauties.   I scan the user information and note that we will be able to see the results very quickly.  The foot pads will be brown with filth in the morning – our filth – although we should not get too excited.  Like all expensive, faffy, health things we must use them for ‘a period of time’ to see and feel any ‘discernible effect’ in ourselves.  I can live with this though.  At £26 for a two-week supply, it’s not a lot to pay for a good cleanse – not really……!

And so, with value for money far from my mind, I eagerly tip out the box.  It contains fourteen foot pads, each in their own separate pouch and with an adhesive plaster to hold it on.  I open one of the pouches and the first thing I notice is the horrific smell!  Like old fish wrapping.  My Goodness it certainly catches the back of your throat but anything good for you always smells bad right?  On checking the ingredients I see that it does indeed contain shellfish!  And quite a lot of shellfish by the stench but I’m sure the manufacturers know what they are doing – don’t they?

Merciful Lord – is this a Detox Foot Pad or a rank fish?

After gagging and getting used to the smell, we stick the pads onto the soles of our feet, climb into bed and await a miracle.   Right away I feel much more chilled.  I wake a couple of times in the night but, instead of the horrors which usually invade my nocturnal mind, I feel drowsily peaceful when I think about all the badness just oozing out of me.  Even the thought of it is nice and ‘mind over matter’ is half the battle isn’t it?

When morning dawns, Hubby and I are keen to compare foot pads.  They are absolutely rank!  And I mean RANK!  They are just as brown and disgusting as the box promised and mine is the worst.  Whereas Hubby’s pad is brown and ‘moist’, mine is positively weeping and swimming in gunk.

I don’t ever want to face one again.

I undertake some belated research and find that there is not much scientific evidence to support their use – not that we should always need it, but I would have hoped that some lab tests would have revealed something exciting on a sample used pad.  Apparently there are no such test results.   Requests for further scientific data have, thus far, failed to emerge from producers and proponents.

The only claim, which I have been unable to explain, is that, over time, the level of filth on the footpad is supposed to decrease and this outcome is backed up by some users.  So how would this reduction in pad gunk come about?  Do they work after all?  Hmmmm – I leave the jury to decide.

In the meantime, the quest for inner calm continues! It’s time to go back to yoga!

Next Week – “Three Oms”

Diary of an Anxious Mind Week 4: You are what you eat!

Entry 4:  You Are What You Eat!

Forgive me if I seem a little jittery today.  Apparently it’s withdrawal symptoms caused by our new sugar free diet.  My week has been reduced to gibbering misery and I am convinced that the experts are correct – sugar is not a ‘life giving force’; it is a drug!  We crave it and we behave badly when we are caught in its cycle.  We encourage others to engage in its consumption and we refer to ourselves as being ‘bad’ when we have too much.  Crucially, as with all drug addicts, we wail and beg when it is taken away from us.

I read somewhere that my body would ‘thank me’ for embarking on this healthy path.  In reality, my body seems to be absolutely bloody furious about it.  My soul is tortured; my eyes are like saucers and, whilst I can’t see the axe sticking out of my head, I can certainly feel it!

The inner peace that comes with giving up sugar!

The atmosphere at home is tense.  There is an unusual air of mistrust between Hubby and I because both of us suspect that the other has been cheating.  Granted, it was me who started it by accusing him of foul play.  He dismissed me with a flick of the hand and an animated gesture towards the kitchen cupboards.  His point being that, having watched me empty the house of every last grain of sugar, there was nothing left with which to cheat.  I merely snapped back that I was not his keeper and that he had plenty scope for drinking a bottle of maple syrup ‘on the outside’.

In response, he stated that I had the same opportunity for a secret sugar binge but I merely highlighted my current suffering – clearly brought about by my strict adherence to the sugar ban.  In injured tones, he asked why I thought he had strayed and I admitted that my suspicions were based solely on the fact that he is showing no physical symptoms of sugar withdrawal.  No headaches, no shaking and no endless lament about how badly he wants a doughnut.  Given that I am prepared to leap from the window to end my agony, I find his painless transition to a sugar free life, very hard to take – or to believe.

Perhaps it is just the green monster that is spoiling our relationship this week. Despite me looking ‘knowingly’ at him with narrowed eyes, I do trust Hubby to stick with the plan because he has always been incredibly supportive and co-operative with any of my mad ideas.  I think I am simply jealous that he is finding it so easy and that, if anything, he is even more enthusiastic about giving up sugar than I am.

As an example, he skipped off to the shops and returned with a variety of ingredients and a programme of ‘delicious but healthy’ recipes.  I have always found the notion of such recipes to be something of an oxymoron but, yet again, he has proved me wrong. He has baked butternut squash muffins which are spicy rather than sweet – they are mouth watering.  He has blended avocado and coconut milk to make a bizarre, but yummy, ice cream! And, my goodness, we even have a tray of sugar free chocolates in the fridge – made from butter, raw cacoa powder, desiccated coconut and shredded lime rind – scrumptious!

No sugar? No problem!

What an amazing man; an unbelievable sweetheart.  I have tried to match his love and skill with my own delectable sugar free dishes, but I am floundering.  My paprika roasted almonds were ‘OK’ but they did not have any paprika on them because it all dropped off after roasting.  Don’t ask about my Sprout Curry because I have nothing to say – it went straight in the bin.  And what about my pumpkin seed cereal?  Fine if you like charcoal in the morning.

With desperation, I fell upon the fail-safe dish of the sugar free world – Hummus.  This merely brought myself and Hubby closer to the brink of separation when he returned from the supermarket with dried chickpeas instead of the tinned ones I requested.  I accused him of being the only person in the world who didn’t know that dried chickpeas are a shitty, irritating ingredient to work with.  He questioned their popularity and widespread availability but I dismissed this and suggested that the dried chickpea market was reliant on ‘first time buyers’ who did not know any better (which of course is complete fabrication).

Well, despite suffering from Anxiety, I am still an optimist and, indeed, it is this drive for something better that often keeps me going.  In this case I decided to work with what I had and to use the ingredients at hand.   I soaked the dang things overnight, I simmered them with the timer set for 90 minutes thus losing all value for money with the cost of electricity. I kept a lid on my frustration by fussing with the rest of the ingredients and getting the blender ready.

Do yourself a favour – go and buy the tinned version instead!

If only I had focused on that instead of leaving the kitchen to engage in some final whining about dried chickpeas being a b*stard. Maybe then, I would have noticed that the water in the pot was running dry instead of being alerted to this fact by the smoke alarm.

A casual observer would have concluded that my consequent rage about spoiled hummus was ‘disproportionate’.  I would have to disagree.  Under the circumstances, I now know that the first few days of a sugar free life are mentally unstable and dangerous.

I won’t be thwarted though – I will merely seek calm in another form.

Next Week – “Detox Foot Pads – Draw Badness Through Your Sole”

Entry 3: Keep Calm – It’s only the side effects!

Keep Calm – It’s only the side effects!

So, I am one week into the anti-depressants and it has been an ‘interesting’ time.  Firstly, let me assure you that I have not been terrorised by drug induced ‘weird dreams’. Freddy Krueger has stayed away and for this I am most grateful.   Having said that, there are a few other symptoms which I put down to my new medication.

Firstly, my appetite has gone!  I don’t feel unwell or nauseous but I certainly don’t feel hungry.  OK, so I managed to eat a whole pile of Ferrero Rocher one day but that’s about it!  My trousers feel a little loose but who cares?!  I’m a ‘woman of a certain age’ and the opportunity to shed a few pounds will always be welcome!  I have also had some skull splitting headaches and a tendency to clench my teeth even whilst awake.

Oh yes and there was a rather nasty incident on Tuesday afternoon.  Now I had to think carefully about mentioning this, but I did say I would be honest so here it is.  At approximately 3.30pm, whilst sitting quietly on my sofa, I was hit by sudden and uncontrollable diarrhoea.  There was no warning; just an exchange of horrified looks between me and Hubby (he was also on a day off work) followed by a mad dash to the loo where I wept and wailed with mortification.

Other than that time I ate a dodgy prawn in China, I have NEVER suffered from such an incident and I can only assume that this was a side effect of the medication.  There has been no repeat of this sorry event so I am hopeful that it was a ‘one off’.  Hubby though the whole thing was quite funny and assured me that it was ‘nothing to worry about’.  I had to disagree though – shitting oneself on the sofa, on a Tuesday afternoon, is ALWAYS something to worry about.

Anyway, let’s not dwell on this unpleasant topic.  Let’s talk about whether the medication is doing any good! For the last week I have been pointedly asking myself how I feel but the answer is ‘I AM STILL ANXIOUS’.

I’ve only been taking the anti-depressants for a few days so I must not be impatient.  I must not be disheartened by the nail-biting I have endured over East – West relations or my panic at the dementia which continues to steal my precious Dad.  This is normal.  It is OK to worry about such things.

It would, however, be nice if I could stop staring bleakly at Hubby every time he has an itch because I am worried he might have terminal cancer; or if I could stop myself drifting into visions in which I am old, lonely and abused by care home staff. It would be great if I did not feel the need to call my Sister just to check that my nephews have not been skittled off the pavement by a drunk driver on the way to the school.

Yes – it would be very nice to rid myself of such thoughts, but therein lies my latest worry.  What if this medication doesn’t work?  What if these black thoughts simply go on and on until my dying day.  It is an unbearable prospect and so, my decision to try anti-depressants, has also brought a determination to try other techniques too – a bit like a back-up plan in case the medication does not work.

First up is my new ‘sugar free’ lifestyle!  There is plenty of good reason to give up the sweet stuff but I am struck, in particular, by the suggestion that cutting out sugar can stabilise one’s mood, increase energy levels and improve sleep.  Of course I don’t believe everything I read but I am fortunate in being able to draw from my own experience of cutting out sugar.  I followed a similar programme about 15 years ago and I genuinely felt great at both a physical and emotional level.  I have no idea if this can be replicated now I am older – but I am willing to give it a try!

You can live without me – honest you can!

I have told Hubby that he needs to join me on this health kick and he has grudgingly agreed.  He is a happy soul but, like me, he is a sugar addict and I fear that our eating habits have put us both on a one way path to heart failure and Type 2 Diabetes.  We are feeling smug about the potential health benefits but there is an even greater reason for us to go ‘sugar free’ as a couple.   Frankly, our relationship would never survive if he can have Tiramisu but I can’t.

So, in a final act of denial, I ransack the cupboards and devour as much sugary stuff as I can.  When I am sated I throw the rest in the bin and take a deep breath.   The purge starts now.

Next Week – “You Are What You Eat!”




Entry 2: “Doctor, Doctor – I can’t stop worrying!”

Entry 2:  “Doctor, Doctor – I can’t stop worrying!”

 The Anti-Anxiety strategy is under way!  I have been to the Doctor and, for the first time, I have been honest about how I really feel; that I start every day feeling terrified!  I’m not sure that I explained myself properly but I had to start somewhere!  Dr B listened politely when I gave her a whistle-stop tour of my angst-ridden life but she seemed undisturbed, perhaps because I’m still alive, functioning and reasonably normal looking.

She reassured me that at my age (mid-forties) it is very common to suffer from depression and anxiety. I am staring menopause in the face it seems, and lots of women suffer the same emotional upheaval!

Who said anything about Menopause? I am NOT ready for this!!

Did Dr B notice that my heart sank at this casual but crushing statement?  Who said anything about the menopause?  How does that explain my four-decade battle with anxiety – and one so bravely borne alone!!  My word – if I’m already riddled with anxiety then what will happen when the menopause really does strike? I went to the doctor looking for help but now I have something else to worry about!

We discussed my ‘options’ and, in a flash, I decided that I was going for the hard stuff.  I opted to try anti-depressants.  I have considered taking them during the more fragile times in life but I have never quite managed to swallow them.  Looking back, my stubbornness now seems like madness itself.   I was happy to use animal puppets to express my fears during a memorable but useless appointment with an ‘art therapist’, but I have steadfastly refused to take anti-depressants.   I have always been too scared to take them and, I admit, too ashamed to think that I might need them.

But not any more!  Now I am desperate because I have nothing to lose and nothing left to try.

A Prescription for anti -Depressants! Oh Happy Days!!

I leave the surgery clutching my prescription like it is the last Golden Ticket in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory!  It’s a nice low dose for four weeks and then I am supposed to return for a review.

Well of course the first thing I do on arriving home with my prescription is to scan the leaflet for side effects.  As with most medication it makes for a blood curdling read.

There is the irony (ie my anxiety medication may cause anxiety); there is the vague (I may feel ‘unwell’ while taking it); and there is the frightening (it may cause psychotic disorders).  In all, there are over 50 potential side effects so I don’t take the first tablet at all; I need to mentally process the horrors which might await me the minute a tablet passes my lips.

Does your Anxiety medication make you anxious?!

After 24 hours I kept coming back to the same conclusion; unlike many other medicines the side effects do not warn of any direct fatal consequences and, with that in mind, I decide to live with the risks.  I push the first tiny pill out from its foil lid and wash it down my throat.

I have been told that I might need to wait ‘several weeks’ to feel some positive difference but I don’t really understand this.  If the side effects can kick in immediately then why not the benefits?  Why is it that I might get a ‘dry mouth’ within 24 hours but be unable to chase the anxiety demons for over a fortnight.  I won’t be disheartened though.  A friend of a friend has recently started on the same medication and apparently she felt some euphoric rumblings within 24 hours.  Was it just the placebo effect?  And did it matter if it was?

Unsurprisingly, I don’t feel any different in the hours after taking the first tablet but I am a little apprehensive about going to bed.  The leaflet of side effects mentions ‘nightmares’; the potential for ‘vivid dreams’ was also mentioned by both my Doctor and the friend of a friend who has been feeling good on this wonder pill.

Sweet Lord – and my Anti-depressants may cause ‘nightmares’?. How long can I stay awake?

I read a funny book and try to fill my head with humour.  I get increasingly anxious about my potential nightmares and I try to stay awake as long as possible.  Eventually, I am too tired to resist.  I press myself up against Hubby and clutch his arm fully expecting that Freddy Krueger will be waiting for me the minute I drop off.

 Next Week – “Keep Calm – it’s only the side effects!”


Entry 1: Diary of an Anxious Mind

Entry 1: Diary of an Anxious Mind

Is it just me or are we all worried sick?  Is anxiety threading its way through society and manifesting itself in various forms?  Travel anxiety, separation anxiety; health anxiety; social anxiety; phobias; panic attacks?  Is there anyone out there who doesn’t harbor one of these afflictions?

Is it real? Just put your feet on the floor and find out……..

For me, anxiety has always felt normal because it’s all I’ve ever known.  I’ve been panicking and fretting since I was two years old.  It’s only now that I realise that it doesn’t matter whether anxiety is ‘normal’; it’s a question of what is healthy!  And my anxiety certainly isn’t healthy.

To use a popular new expression, anxiety can be ‘life limiting’; not necessarily in a near death or physically disabling fashion, but it may shrink your view and experience of the world; it may leave you in a permanent state of ‘fight or flight’; it can give a nasty edge to the day.  And yes – it can exhaust you.

My earliest memories are of feeling anxious.  As a small child, I didn’t worry about the kind of things I should have been worried about, like whether the ice cream van would turn up. I worried about proper worrying things; Would my new baby sister be OK?  Would the house burn down tonight? Would my dad make it safely home from work? 

Where did this groundless anxiety come from?  All before the age of five?  My childhood environment was stable and happy; there were no experiences which could have reasonably left me in this anxious state. Hence, I can only conclude that I was simply born this way.

Perhaps if I’d told someone how worried I was they would have reassured me – but I didn’t tell anyone; not my parents, not my teacher or my dolls or my hamster.  I can’t remember why but I kept all of my fears to myself.  I just swallowed the bile and let the anxiety brew.

And brew it did.  Now I’m in my forties – and far from growing out of my angst – I’ve grown into it.  I worry about Armageddon; I worry about living, about dying, about starving children, lonely pensioners, abused donkeys and the mole on my shoulder.

Tsk! I TOLD you all to ‘be nice’ – now look what you’ve done!

I worry about being with people and not being with people.  I worry about the funny look that someone gave me and I fret about the worm which is making its way over the hot pavement on a Summers day.  Will make it to the grassy patch before the sun dries out its thin skin?   Should I pick it up and take it to the grassy patch myself? And then beat myself up about whether it definitely wanted to go there?

I rarely mention my head state but I don’t need to because I have found that it is possible to be happy AND have anxiety. It is possible to lead a normal life, do normal things and have normal relationships.   Unless you feel like telling someone, nobody needs to know if you foresee catastrophe wherever you turn; or that you are not processing life events in a productive fashion; or that you are overthinking EVERYTHING to the point of paralysis.

It’s not that I haven’t attempted to deal with my anxiety. In fact, I’ve tried everything to combat my fears; counselling, self-help books, Kalms; meditation tapes, yoga, emotional freedom techniques….. the list goes on, but I’ve been somewhat half-hearted about it.  I like instant results and, if I don’t get them, I lose interest.  My anxieties have ebbed and flowed over the years so I haven’t always felt bad enough to be chasing a solution.

Not any more.   Anxiety is now a daily battle.  I wake every morning, heart pounding and feeling like I have been injected with black ink.  My first waking thoughts are always horrendous; will a loved one die today? Will there be news of a dreadful atrocity when I switch on the news; and what exactly will my body look like in thirty years time?

Fortunately, I tend to feel better once I get into the day but it is exhausting to spend the first few hours like this and to know that an underlying fragility might persist all day; that I won’t be able to cope if I read about global tensions; that I will break down if I accidentally step on a spider.

 Worrying about things doesn’t stop them happening; but depleting one’s mental energy by fighting and hiding so much pointless daily fretting means that there is no emotional resilience to deal with real life events.  Quite simply, I need to get a grip of this.

I have decided to launch my anti-anxiety strategy.  I am going to be more conscious of what causes anxiety and I am going to take it by the throat; I’m going to revisit all of the therapy and coping techniques again.  And if laughter is the best therapy then I’m going to have plenty of that too.

Oh yes – and I’m going to blog about it – I’m going to take one of my long held ambitions to ‘do some writing’ and I’m going to give an honest account about it all.

So here it is – “Diary of an Anxious Mind”.  The laughs, hopes and fears of a professional panic merchant.

Next Week – “Doctor, Doctor – I can’t stop worrying!”