3am Thoughts: Anxiety and stuff

Assalamualaykum/hello wonderful readers 🙂

(Here’s a link to the About Me page if you’re new to the blog.. It explains a bit about who I am and why I blog)

I have this urge to write. I’m not entirely sure that’s a good thing at 3am, when I usually make very bad decisions. But this blog has been an outlet for so long and I need to get all this off my chest so this is as good a place as any.I haven’t planned this post so do forgive me for the jumbled paragraphs. I’m sure it all sounds better in my head!

I’ve been taking Sertraline for a couple of months. It’s an antidepressant and anti-anxiety drug. Also works for PTSD. I’d tried two other pills before but they gave me horrible side effects. This one is working much better Alhamdulillah. For ages, I was pretty embarrassed about this, avoided starting the medication because of the associated stigma. Then I took the plunge and actually started feeling so much better after a couple of weeks.

So how has it been? I’m mostly used to it now so I don’t notice any bad effects. At first, I was terribly drowsy and my jaw felt tightly clenched. I’m glad that’s eased, it wasn’t painful but it was really uncomfortable!
There was the usual (and probably expected) input from my family when I started these pills. They’re not seen as a good thing. Mental health isn’t widely understood. But now I think they’re coming around to the fact that the medication actually helped quite a lot. The bad dreams stopped. The panic attacks lessened. I was able to go out again.

So.. I was supposed to see my doctor in December to have the dose upped. Only I thought I was perfectly fine and there was no need. I’m smart like that. Clearly, I don’t learn. Here I am again, scared to sleep because I know I’ll have the awful nightmares. The worst thing is that the nightmares seem so real. All involving places I know well. I often wake up shaking and in tears.

And the anxiety has made a grand comeback. Yay. More panic attacks, sudden bouts of tears, feeling terrified.. It’s about as fun as it sounds. Currently, it feels like my heart is being squeezed. It’s not easy to breathe. But I’ve got to keep going, right? Because that’s what courage is.

I’m going to call my doctor on Monday and see what needs to be done. They’ll probably up the meds and offer counselling.. I’m not sure I want to go for that. It sounds like it might be helpful however my anxiety is pretty bad so I’d really struggle to talk to a stranger. The thought of it makes me feel sick with dread.

I’m listening to Qur’an everyday, focusing on the words and the meaning. I’m so blessed to be able to understand Alhamdulillah. It’s helping but this test is pretty difficult. I’m still struggling. It’s kind of hard to explain.. I know that I can’t control the way I feel (boy, that took me AGES to understand and accept!) so I try not to feel guilty. However, there’s this little voice telling me that I’m a terrible person because I really ought to be feeling better by now. There must be something really wrong with me if I’m not which quite obviously means that it’s my fault.
Confused? So am I. (Thought I’d list the weirdness in my head so I’m not the only confused one. 😀 I jest…)

On that note, I’m reminded about a conversation I had the other day. When someone is going through any form of mental illness, others will give them Duas/Surahs to read, tell them to pray harder. Which is a good thing. What gets me, however, is when it’s generally assumed that the person struggling with mental health issues must be very low in Imaan (faith). This isn’t always the case so PLEASE word your advice carefully.

If a person is still calling out to the Almighty whilst they’re in the depths of sadness and despair, when they feel hope slipping away, when they know that none besides Him can save them.. That is a beautiful thing. It shows strength and courage.

Telling someone who’s already struggling with a serious mental health issue that they just need to pray harder or do more can be highly detrimental.. It may even put them off completely. The best thing to do? Listen. Be there for them. Tell them you’ll make dua (prayer) for them. Ask how they’re feeling. In general, be supportive.
I keep reminding myself: ‘This too shall pass.’ Tests aren’t forever. There’s a reason for all of this even if I can’t see it right now. I posted this on the Facebook page earlier, I think it’s a beautiful Hadith.

SubhanAllah. I pray that Allah forgives my shortcomings.

This is really quite therapeutic.. I do feel slightly better after writing everything down. If anyone reading this is going through any hardship, please know you’re not alone. It may get worse before it gets better but you can and will get through it inshaAllah ❤

One final thing.. I’ve had a brilliant few days alhamdulillah for which I’m truly grateful. I managed to be productive and get things done. Reconnected with a few friends. Felt utterly calm. Honestly, it feels great! It had been a while. Each good day feels all the more beautiful because I know I need to cherish it. InshaAllah I’m hoping that once I get some sleep, it’ll be another fantastic day.

That’s it from me. If you want to keep up with my blog posts, pop your email into the ‘subscribe’ box on the right.

Oh and please forgive the typos (of which there’ll be many), I’m absolutely shattered and if I go back to edit now I won’t post this at all! Take care everyone. Have a great weekend 🙂

It’s been a while… 

Assalamualaykum/hello readers! 
It’s high time this blog was resurrected from the murky backwaters of the Internet and given a new lease of life.. I know, I know. Many of you have asked when the next post will be up and if slacking was an Olympic sport, I would’ve achieved Gold long ago. 
If truth be told, my mental and physical health hasn’t been great. Then there were other issues to deal with which left me stressed, shattered and er.. In hospital. Despite me telling myself that I was going to be as chilled as can be and not let anything worry me! The best laid plans and all that.. 

(Btw, if you’re new to the blog, please check out About Me here 🙂 thanks) 

But moving on.. I’ve had some wonderful opportunities come my way in these few months. All will be revealed soon! 

I’d like to draw a line under the negative events of the past few months and make a new start here. So. *deep breath* 

Here are some of the things I’ve been up to:

I’ve had an article published in Al-Mumin magazine! The lovely people at Al-Mumin even published a few pertinent and important questions and answers about living with an Ostomy. This is HUGE. I’ve been trying so hard to raise more awareness in the Muslim community, trying to show that ostomies are normal and us Ostomates are pretty awesome! It’s been a slow journey and to have this published is pretty incredible as the magazine has a reach of thousands, all over the world. Feeling slightly overwhelmed here. I feel it’s gone a long way to removing the stigma associated with have an ostomy. Of course, there’s still work to do but this is an important step. 

Secondly, I was contacted by the wonderful colorectal nurses at City Hospital, Birmingham. They were arranging a Stoma Care event at West Bromwich Albion football club and wanted little old moi to do a talk. I’ll admit I was shocked (in a good way!) and VERY excited! It went really well. I was buzzing from the high it gave me. Not being able to see the audience did kind of help though 😉 

I met the lovely Helen from Convatec after the event and we had a chat.. But I’m not going to say too much about that at the moment! Suffice to say that the future is looking VERY exciting inshaAllah. 
Of course, it isn’t all sunshine and roses. I still struggle with anxiety, horrible thoughts, struggle to meet people and even text my friends but I’m aiming to work on that inshaAllah. Please remember me in your Duas. 
That’s actually one of the reasons I haven’t blogged in so long – my brain feels as though it’s been sleeping. I’m not sure if that’s a side effect of the pills I’m on. Whatever it is, the fog seems to be lifting Alhamdulillah and I feel ready to start setting some goals. Probably not resolutions as they’re hardly ever kept! 

Rosie, my beautiful ileostomy, is quite well. Trumping away merrily as usual. Changing my bag has become a bit of a struggle as my eyesight weakens further. However, it won’t beat me inshaAllah! I’m determined to do things for myself for as long as I can. 

On that note, my mobility training has been going exceptionally well Alhamdulillah! I’ve passed indoor training with flying colours (different cane techniques, going up and down the stairs, entering a room, locating door handles etc) and we’ve progressed to outdoor training. In fact, we took a trip into town a couple of days before Christmas and I was super confident! I seem to have lost some of that confidence what with being unwell and not going out recently but I’m sure I’ll be back to where I was soon inshaAlllah. Of course, it helps that I have the best mobility training officer who treated us to a lovely coffee the last time we went out. My next appointment is booked for next week and I’m really looking forward to it. It feels so good to be able to confidently navigate my way through the city alhamdulillah. 

I’ve had to resort to asking my mum to wash my hair again as the fatigue has been terrible. This time round, I’m grateful that I have such a wonderful mother and I don’t want to dwell on how useless it can make me feel. InshaAllah I can build some strength up soon. 

I haven’t written much about how I feel emotionally but that’s because the inside of my head feels like a mess. It’s very foggy in there. I’ve been listening to more Qur’an lately and that’s helped Alhamdulillah. InshaAllah the next blog will make more sense! 

Do let me know what you think in the comments below and as always, pop over to Facebook for more frequent updates! I’ve really missed interacting with you all. A huge thank you to everyone who messaged and emailed to check how I’m doing, it means a lot. ❤ 

Witching Hour

‘What is witching hour?’ You may ask.. The answer can be found in Roald Dahl’s wonderful book, The BFG. (If you haven’t yet read it, what on earth are you waiting for?!)

Little Sophie is terrified. It’s the middle of the night. All the little children in the orphanage are sleeping. She knows there’s SOMETHING looming in the street outside.

In the words of Mr Dahl himself:

 

Witching Hour by Roald Dahl

 
I felt this description was quite apt. I know this feeling well.. I’m not sure what causes it. But I stay awake for hours at night feeling terrified. Every night. I can’t explain the fear. I cry because it’s so intense. A deep, dark, unsettling fear. I couldn’t tell you what it is exactly I’m scared of. I’m aware that this sounds silly. I’m an adult. I ought to be brave. But here I am, sitting in my room just past midnight, feeling terrified.

It wasn’t always like this. But in recent weeks, it’s been getting worse.

You’d think sleep would be a welcome respite. But the nightmares seem worse than the terror. Sometimes I’m fortunate enough to have a dreamless sleep. Other times I wake up in tears because the nightmares were so vivid, so real.. Sometimes I KNOW I’m dreaming yet I still can’t escape. It’s as strange as it sounds.

I’m told these are symptoms of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and I was shocked to discover that PTSD can affect those who’ve dealt with severe illness and/or surgeries. I suppose it makes sense in a way. The body isn’t going to be too thrilled about being cut up and having bits removed. Add the constant self-doubt, anxiety and depression (which seems part and parcel of IBD) to the mix and you’ve got yourself.. A very sorry situation.

Here’s some information about PTSD:

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder caused by very stressful, frightening or distressing events.

Symptoms of PTSD: Avoidance and numbing

– Avoiding activities, places, thoughts, or feelings that remind you of the trauma

– Inability to remember important aspects of the trauma

– Loss of interest in activities and life in general

– Feeling detached from others and emotionally numb

– Sense of a limited future (you don’t expect to live a normal life span, get married, have a career)

Symptoms of PTSD: Increased anxiety and emotional arousal

– Difficulty falling or staying asleep

– Irritability or outbursts of anger

– Difficulty concentrating

– Hypervigilance (on constant “red alert”)

– Feeling jumpy and easily startled

Other common symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

– Guilt, shame, or self-blame

– Substance abuse

– Feelings of mistrust and betrayal

– Depression and hopelessness

– Suicidal thoughts and feelings

– Physical aches and pains

(Info taken from the NHS website and mind.org)

Doesn’t feel like a bunch of fun.

I’ve finally made an appointment with my doctor to see what’s happening about seeing the psych team.. I’m not sure I’m coping too well overall. I’m getting better at accepting everything but there’s still a long way to go. It’s going to be a long journey and I don’t even know if I’ll be able to handle it but I’m willing to try. That’s a huge step up from a few months ago when I couldn’t find any hope and the darkness was even more crushing. This time, I’m hopeful that I might one day feel better. InshaAllah (God-willing)…
Moving on..
I was quite adventurous a couple of days ago.. I decided to go for a sleepover at my cousin’s house. I think it went relatively well, all things considered!
There was the panic attack which came so unexpectedly as I was chatting to my cousins and we were laughing.. Suddenly I couldn’t breathe, felt dizzy and started crying. It was an awful thing for my nine year old cousin to witness and I wish I could have prevented her seeing it 😦 But it was meant to be. 

Later on, we had a very informative and interesting chat about the digestive system and she was simply AMAZED to discover that I no longer have a large intestine, rectum and anus! I explained how it works and she found it pretty cool. I love kids! She wants to decorate more of my bags so I’m guessing she isn’t freaked out lol – kids are MUCH better than adults.

I’m currently suffering from a book hangover. Booknerds will recognise this feeling. It is a feeling of desolation upon finishing a brilliant book, the confusion of flitting between two very different worlds – literary and reality. There’s only one cure – more reading. I recently invested in a Kindle and it’s supposed to be a lot easier on the eyes than reading on a tablet. I’m not sure how true that is for me as I hold my book/tablet around an inch away from my left eye. It’s impossible to see clearly with the right one no matter how close the book is. I’m scared the left one will go the same way but for now it’s serving its purpose! Such are the perils of being legally blind but I have much to be grateful for.. I may not be able to see further than a few inches and can’t recognise faces but I’m still able to do what I want without difficulty. Alhamdulillah (thank the Almighty).

I taught a class this week and I’m feeling so very thankful. I did have my face glued to the iPad most of the time however I explained everything clearly and that’s the important thing.
Rosie, my wonderful Stoma (the bit of my small intestine that’s sticking out of my tummy so I can poop!) is making some rather impatient noises so I think that means I’ve written enough.

I’ve delayed the posting of this entry by a couple of days as I was due to see someone at the GP’s surgery to ask about being referred again..
The appointment was quite nerve-wracking. Going through the usual questions of how I feel most days, whether I’m still interested in the things I used to enjoy, whether I have thoughts of harming myself, whether I feel like a burden on anyone. The nurse was understanding but they’re not all easy questions to answer.

The upshot of it is that I’ve been referred to the psych team again. And this time I’ll make sure I note down the CORRECT date. I’ve been given some happy pills to help me along and will come back in two weeks for a review.

How do I feel? I’m not sure. On the one hand, I’m glad I’ve plucked up the courage to make an appointment and get the ball rolling. But it’s taking all of my strength to keep fighting and I don’t know if things will get better. I have to believe that they will. I never thought this would be me.. Relying on pills to get me through each day, struggling to cope without them. I’m trying not to listen to the voice in my head which tells me it’s nothing and I’m just making a fuss. It can’t be nothing, right? I’d be able to make it go away if it was. Then again, I had a warped sense of looking at IBD. There’d be blood in the toilet, severe cramps if I even drank water and I couldn’t leave the house in case I had an accident but I was convinced it was nothing really and I wasn’t seriously ill. Of course, the people who claimed I was faking didn’t help at all. It started the self-doubt and it’s never really gone.

I’ve welcomed the moments when I feel numb, like now. I don’t feel happy or sad. Just empty. It’s a welcome break from the sadness. I’m present but then I’m not. A feeling of detachment.
I’ve had a couple of calls from people who need help but I’m not the best person to help them. How can I explain this? Some understand and give me the space I need. And some don’t. To them, I’m the teacher, the helper, the one who’s always there for others. They can’t understand that it’s changed and it takes all of my energy to get through each day. I’m taking a break from all that because I’m worried I’ll give the wrong advice, say the wrong thing and make things worse. My mind isn’t functioning normally so how can I possibly help others? I feel like a hypocrite.

Dua (prayer) has kept me going. Talking to the Almighty. Knowing that He is listening and we’re never tested more than we can bear. That there is a reason for this. After all.. If Allah has decided something, how can it be anything but good for me? He is my Creator and He never forsakes the ones who call unto Him.

 `Ubadah bin As-Samit (May Allah be pleased with him) said: The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said, “Whenever a Muslim supplicates Allah, He accepts his supplication or averts any similar kind of trouble from him until he prays for something sinful or something that may break the ties of kinship.” Upon this someone of the Companions said: “Then we shall supplicate plenty.” The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said, “Allah is more plentiful (in responding).”

[At-Tirmidhi]

Thank you to each and every one of you for reading, commenting, emailing and above all, praying for me.. It means a lot and your support has kept me going. Thank you for being on this journey with me.
I was nominated for Muslimah Bloggers ‘Most Inspirational Blogger Award’ and if you think I fit the bill, kindly click here to vote! There are a couple of days left. It’ll take a couple of seconds. I’d greatly appreciate it 🙂

If you want to stay updated, please subscribe to the blog using the ‘follow blog via email’ box on the right. 

Stay blessed!