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 🙂

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Stay blessed!

An Update…

Assalamualaykum/hello readers,

A huge, heartfelt THANK YOU to all of you who stayed with me these few weeks, that have been some of the darkest times of my life. Thank you to everyone who messaged, emailed, called, came to visit, thought of me and most importantly, prayed for me. It means such a lot to know that such wonderful people exist. Most of you have never met me but the amount of support has been astounding. Even more surprisingly, (for me, anyway) none of you told me I’m a bad person for feeling this way which is pretty much I’d been telling myself. I’m still working on that, it’ll take a while for the message to sink in completely. 
I thought I’d post an update on my situation. The last time I wrote, I was in intense pain, surrounded by darkness and couldn’t see a way out. I had absolutely no hope that I would get through this. Now, Alhamdulillah (thank God) things are slowly, very slowly, starting to look up. I won’t say that that feeling has passed as it hasn’t. But I’m learning to hope again. I’ve had a few days where I haven’t cried or had panic attacks. It’s still tough but it’s getting better Alhamdulillah. 

Truly, as Allah says in the Quran:

  
So I have a whole lotta updates for you all! I reckon I’ll go in date order and try to remember everything.  

A couple of days after my last blog, I saw a psychiatrist and went to see my doctor. Both on the same day. I was nervous, scared, apprehensive and dreading the visit to the doctor as I’d just registered with a new surgery and wasn’t sure how things would work out. 

Turns out I needn’t have worried. The doctor was absolutely lovely, she listened to everything I had to say and believed me. That’s a big thing for me. With invisible illnesses – and especially one such as IBD which is so complex, most doctors tend to use the textbook approach. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to work for me. So I was so relieved when I wasn’t dismissed outright. That should tell you something about the experiences I’ve had. 

I was prescribed Lorazepam, which is a fast-acting anti-anxiety medication. It was only for a week as it’s addictive and shouldn’t be taken for long. What a difference it made lol… Not only was I constantly drowsy, I seem to have suffered severe memory loss. I honestly couldn’t tell you what I’ve been up to that week or what I ate. I usually have pretty bad brain fog but this was something else entirely! But it definitely helped the anxiety. I’d say it cut the panic attacks down by about 98%. That’s pretty good. Before I started taking it, I was having a few panic attacks every day. Anything would set them off – shouting, a door slamming, being scared of something, the thought of leaving the house… It wasn’t a lot of fun. So Lorazepam definitely helped. I was pretty upset when the week was up as things went back to how they were.. The previous two posts should give you an indication of how bad that is. 

The meeting with the psychiatrist really shocked me. I thought I was pretty clever by not saying much but she had me sussed and knew exactly what I was thinking – and how I’ve been blaming myself for feeling like this. There’s too much guilt. That hasn’t gone away, it’s not something I can change easily but I’m hopeful I can work on that. 

I went back to the doctor yesterday and we had a chat.. It seems I have both Anxiety and Depression. And the two make each other worse. It makes sense. With the anxiety, I feel too much. It’s overwhelming. So much darkness. Sadness. Hopelessness. And with the depression, I feel nothing. So some days I’m feeling too much and want to scream in pain and other days I’m completely numb. I’m not happy, I’m not excited about anything, I don’t react to news of any sort. Just nothing. I don’t know which is worse. 

I’ve also been referred for PTSD treatment. That’s Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This was a hard one to stomach. I’ve suspected that this is the problem for a while but I didn’t want to admit it. It’s something which soldiers returning from combat suffer from. People who have been abused. People who have suffered severe trauma. How could I have this?! Turns out it can also be caused by severe illness and/or medical trauma. 

This is the side of IBD that is rarely talked about and there isn’t nearly enough mental health support offered. Being diagnosed with a serious illness and being told that it’s for life has a severe impact. Having major surgery to remove the large bowel is a lot to deal with. Trying to decide whether to have surgery or put up with the constant pain and exhaustion is a huge decision and if things don’t go as planned, there’s a heck of a lot of guilt. IBD patients need to be offered counselling and mental health support as standard. Some places list depression as a symptom of IBD. Why then is this part of it largely ignored until things become very serious? 

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and I think I know what’s happened here. I’ve been far too strong for too long. In the last five years, I’ve not only dealt with IBD and two major surgeries, I had a lot of personal and work-related problems in the midst of flares. I didn’t allow myself to be human.. I had to be strong. I forced myself to keep going, even when I was physically and mentally unable to. I was much, much stronger than I needed to be and it’s all come crashing down. I wouldn’t cry. I felt I had to be superhuman and not ‘weak’. This was my lot and I would deal with it no matter what. But it wasn’t the right way. It helps to talk, I should have done more of that. Of course there were times when I was scared, angry and frustrated. But I felt I was letting people down if I allowed the smile to slip from my face. I doing that, I caused more damage to myself. So it all built up and the breakdown was inevitable. The brain is complex. I can’t understand how it works. But this seems to be what’s happened with me. I could be completely wrong but it all makes a twisted sort of sense. I wish I’d seen that it’s okay not to be okay. That I needed to learn to say no sometimes, realise I needed to make decisions which wouldn’t harm my health , that I didn’t need to try so hard so others didn’t worry – I didn’t need that burden. But what’s done is done and now the only thing I’m focusing on is feeling better. I’ve cancelled my talks at the mosque and I’m learning to actually take care of myself and not be afraid to feel human. And I’m trying really hard not to feel like I’ve let everyone down. 

I’m probably going to stop writing here because I’m exhausted. So in conclusion, things are a bit better than before but I have a very long way to go.  For the first time in a while, I have hope that everything will work out ok. And that’s something I’m going to hold on to with everything I’ve got. 

I’ll have to continue this post later on this evening or tomorrow. Thank you for sticking with me and remembering me in your prayers/Duas. Knowing that so many of you are thinking of me, sending messages and praying for me continues to give me strength. 

I’m absolutely shattered but I had to finish writing this post. I apologise because I know it’s not my usual style. It’s not even half of what I wanted to say and I have some great news but it’ll have to wait for now! 

Take care all.