Feelings of Worthlessness

I wrote this last year but couldn’t persuade myself to put it on my blog – too emotionally raw. I’ve had a few seizures and migraines again recently, which reminded me of this post and how hard it is to be kind to yourself when poor health undermines you. I couldn’t come up with a ‘conclusion’ and decided to leave it as it was; it reflects how I felt at the time.

14.9.20 Monday

I had tears in my eyes and not because I was washing dishes. I soon got on video chat with my man, propping my phone against a flowerpot on the window ledge. I described the drained feeling I’d had all day.

‘It’s just…’ I gripped the bowl with my yellow-gloved hands, paused for a moment, and tried to find the right words. ‘I think I’m suffering from Hannah Fatigue.’

Loose translation: sick of myself. Detailed translation: I was struggling with the ratio of ‘good’ to ‘bad’ days*. Bluntest translation: The number of ‘bad’ days made me feel increasingly worthless.

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Why I Haven’t Tried to Have a Good Week

(Disclaimer: There are references to health issues like vomiting, so please don’t read if that’s likely to be triggering!)

I was standing in the kitchen on Sunday afternoon when it happened. I was video chatting with my boyfriend and his son, phone propped up on the counter, while I made devilled eggs. After I’d scooped the hardboiled yolks into a bowl, I turned to the fridge to get the mayo, and…it was happening.

No, please, no! The burning, the dizziness, the strange hallucinatory sensation, the numbness and tingling down my right arm, the feeling of being gripped by something horrendous. I held onto the counter, gently lowered myself to my knees, leant down until my face was on the cold floor, and blacked out. Two minutes later, I came round and gradually worked out where I was. My fist was clenched; my nail had broken the skin on my palm. I stood up carefully and moved to the sofa, lying there until the symptoms wore off. What day was it? What month was it? It took slightly longer than usual for me to remember.

I was gutted. I’ve been free of partial seizures for sixteen months now and had hoped they were a thing of the past. To put it flippantly, this was the perfect climax for the past few weeks…It’s been one thing after another. I spent an unexpected week in Cornwall, where I was ‘on call’, being with my great-uncle at the end of his life. The week after, I was hit by fatigue and emotional exhaustion, and then the following week I had stomach issues (probably anxiety related). Straight after those had eased up, I had a bad migraine, vomited several times, and must have burst a blood vessel, because…you get the picture. The next day, my body decided to attack me for being a woman!

So, yes, the seizure came at a bad time. It’s been a struggle recently; there’s no escaping that. I’m not unaware of the many blessings. It’s not been all bad. I’ve had moments where I’ve felt fine and have been able to post cheerful things on Facebook, but this string of events knocked me back. It has affected my confidence and self-esteem as well as my body and I’ve had bouts of hysterical crying. I’m still trying to find ways to cope, both mentally and physically – the two are intrinsically linked.

Initially I’d started each week with determination to make it a ‘good one’, because I am, basically, an optimist. It didn’t work. Trying to force a positive attitude can’t always help the situation. Sometimes it creates extra pressure that makes the problem worse, causing friction in your mind and increasing the feelings of failure when you find you can’t see past it.

I’m realising that it’s sometimes better to try to employ neutrality: ‘absence of decided views, expression, or strong feeling’. It’s a meditative thing, to observe without judgement. There is also the sense of ‘handing over’ the things that are out of our control – an important element of prayer.

Life is hard enough. It’s okay not to be okay. We shouldn’t feel bad for feeling bad.

Strange New Anxieties

When we went into lockdown, I picked up some weird little anxieties: fear of hair loss and split ends. Eek, is there more hair coming out when I brush it? Are the ends coarser and more broken? Will I be able to go to the hairdresser again before it becomes a problem?

These anxieties had no rational basis. I knew this, even at the time. I wasn’t losing too much hair (and if it seemed a lot, it was only because I hadn’t brushed it all week!), my hair ends were perfectly healthy, and I’d ‘survived’ for 26 years almost entirely without a hairdresser…so I could manage a few more months. Not a problem.

These anxieties were deflection and distraction. I couldn’t immediately engage with the situation, in observation, discussion, or prayer. World events and uncertainty threatened to overwhelm me, so my brain redirected itself to something trivial, engaging with the massive topic of shampoo and conditioner instead. I was surprised by that initial coping mechanism! I still revert to it sometimes.

Did you have any strange responses to lockdown?

In Case I Forget

Lockdown is easing off in Wales. Throughout these uncertain and difficult times (what an overused phrase!), I’ve realised how many blessings can go unnoticed in our normal busyness. I’m not an ungrateful person; I enjoy the ‘little things’ and write a daily gratitude journal. I have a new appreciation for life though. I’d like to say I’ll never forget these feelings, but I might, so that’s why I’m writing them down. These are a few of the things I’d like to remember: a funny mix of big/generalised and smaller/personal things.

I want to remember the new friendships formed with neighbours. When we were required to stay close to home and only go out for exercise, people connected more – smiling, saying hello, and getting into conversation. It felt like a happier estate, with a strengthened community spirit.

I want to remember how blessed I was to be safe and well at home. Safe at home, not stuck at home.

I want to remember the importance of taking care of mental health. Lockdown has had a severe impact. From what I’ve noticed, it’s been a mixture of people finding life much easier and finding it much harder, and sometimes swinging between Continue reading

Socially Distant Runners

Yesterday, Mum and I took our precious daily walk along a main road with beautiful mountain views. We kept a careful look-out. The social-distancing (physical-distancing) thing is strange; it feels odd to deliberately avoid people, even for an introvert like me! It’s better to be safe than sorry though.

As we were walking, a young couple came up behind us. We stepped through an open gateway into a field to let them pass and then crossed the road to avoid an oncoming pedestrian. The woman had to pull her dog and pram onto the sloping verge because the young couple didn’t move out of the way, despite having an empty road to their right! They stayed side by side, dawdling, and didn’t seem to acknowledge her in any way. She Continue reading

Staring into Space

Monday 17.2.20

I’m tired today.

We all get busy and stressed – it’s difficult to avoid – but personally, I’m inclined to make myself even busier than I need to be. I sometimes forget that down-time is as important, if not more important, as ‘getting things done’. Without down-time, we can’t function properly. We end up in a spiral of fatigue and then…well…guilt from not ‘getting things done’.

I’m learning that it’s not a moral duty to Continue reading

Having a Rethink

Tuesday 4.6.19

Since my seizure last month (‘Seizure the Day’), and my exciting time in Glasgow (‘I Met Ian Rankin: SMHAF Writing Awards’), I’ve been rethinking how I manage my energy. I often get the balance wrong.

I’m a determined person. I ask a lot of myself. I don’t like to make excuses. The reality is, though, I get fatigued more easily and more often than some other people. I get seizures if I’m particularly stressed and get headaches if…well, I get a lot of headaches! These things, though not life-threatening (as far as I know), have a big impact on my life.

I’ve been to the doctor several times and have seen a neurologist, but so far haven’t found a total solution. I’ve been taking more care of myself though, eating better food and giving up caffeine. Those things help.

It often feels like there are only two options when I’m struggling with Continue reading

Seizure the Day

And then I fell on my head.

One moment I was sitting down on the sofa, with a banana in my hand, and the next moment my neck was pressed into the carpet. Everything was dark.

What if I’m brain damaged? What if no one finds me? What if I never move again?

All the things I was going to do with my life. Music or law or music or creative writing or teaching or teaching music or teaching creative writing or. Shut up.

Wow, this is one heck of a dusty carpet. Someone needs to clean it. Apparently, I prefer seizures to hoovering.

Nobody teaches you what to do in this kind of situation. I mean, I’m living like a hermit queen in a detached bungalow with neighbours who like to go out places (weirdos). I’m not sure I could shout loudly enough to make myself heard anyway, and even if I could, how are they getting in? I always lock the door – I’m an anxious queen, okay? One of the neighbours has a key, but they’re too far away to hear and no one else knows that they have a key, so they’d have to break in, and…Well, this is a mess.

I risk Continue reading

Don’t Delay Happiness

Wednesday 20.3.19

As I put on my makeup this morning, I decided to ignore a particularly aggressive cluster of spots. After all, there’s only so much that can be done – the redness can be covered but not the texture. It’s fine.

I wish I’d always been this blasé.

When I was in my early teens, my spots might as well have been shouting across the room. I don’t suppose anyone else cared though, or even noticed.

It’s important to have Continue reading