Medication Phobia

I used to have a medication phobia.

I thought medications were for ‘crazy’ people, and well, I was not ‘that’ crazy.

Sure I’ve had my ups and downs and inbetweens. Actually there were no inbetweens. Either I was more up or more down. I found it very difficult to be in a happy medium. If I wasnt feeling low, I was feeling irritable. Low to me was being disengaged and withdrawn; I thought my low mood was purely boredom. Not wanting to leave the house, or talk to my friends and family, or deciding to put off going to the gym until tomorrow. It was always going to be tomorrow. I became so used to doing nothing, that I convinced myself that I was going to be nothing. The only thing I was going to be was a Nurse. Nothing more, nothing less. At work, I was my happiness. Outside of work, I was a girl that barely wanted to leave the house. I was never quite satisfied. I’d get these brilliant ideas to try something new, only to quit before it ever really began. I started to feel like a failure. I went through 4 years of nursing school, and yet I couldn’t seem to accomplish anything now, no matter how small. Very frustrating to say the least.

I had been well educated with depression, but for some reason, when it came to myself, I was in complete denial.

Anyways… I got a bit side tracked.

Medication Phobia, right!

I finally went to my doctor for something unrelated to depression (or so I thought). I was experiencing very high levels of anxiety, and I was getting to the point where I couldn’t cope well. I was coping, but not to the best of my abilities. I started to show avoidant behaviours.

While I was at the doctors, she made me fill out these questionaires, one of which I score d high on depression. I walked out of her office with not only one diagnosis BUT TWO. Major Depression and Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

Before I walked out though, my doctor kindly provided me with all my options to managing my conditions, and we both agreed that the pharmacological route would be the best option for now.

Boy was I scared.

I had grown up believing that medications were ‘taboo’, and that they were the reason that my Nana turned nutso. Sorry Nana.(God bless her soul – Love you Nana). But it is the truth. It was something that became rooted in my family beliefs. I also thought I was going to become addicted or be on them for life. I probably will be on them for life, and I am okay with that. The fact is, we (and I do mean my specific people in my family), were uneducated, and simply learning about it helped erased that stigma.

Going on medication was the best thing for me. I’m not afraid to admit it. Yes I am a Registered Nurse and take psych meds. NO I’m not crazy. And yes I can save your life. My conditions never affected my ability to practice safety and competently as a nurse. It affected my feelings and emotions but not the knowledge and skills I gained over the years. I am a great damn nurse. I’m really not sure why I felt the need to justify any of that.

Side tracked again.

What have medications done for me?

  • They brought me back to the light
  • The fog has been lifted
  • I can concentrate and focus
  • I can go out with my friends again
  • I can say hello to a stranger
  • I can go to events and parties
  • I can get out of my own head
  • My thoughts don’t race
  • I feel calm and content
  • I have more motivation
  • I am back at the gym
  • I’m wanting to be outside in the warmth
  • I am wanting to discover more hobbies
  • I am blogging again
  • I know I am enough
  • I am doing me, for me
  • Laughing feels great

And the list goes on.

The bottom line is I truly feel like myself again.

And that is what matters the most.

You only have one life to live.

This is it.

Do what you need to do to feel your best.

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Control your thoughts, Control your mood.

Moods.

We seem to have so many of them.

At any given moment, our mood can be so easily manipulated by our thoughts.

Happy one moment, raging with anger the next. All because that guy cut us off on the highway. That single moment in time can drastically change our mood, from positive to negative. Cyclic negative thoughts devour our conscious mind. It can be like an endless battle for those that have difficulty getting a grip on their thoughts. Remember, your thoughts impact your mood.

How can we gain back our control?

The truth is, you were always in control.

Relfecting on your thoughts will help you to become more aware of how your thoughts influence your mood. By implementing some techniques [that I will discuss in a moment], you can learn to have better control, which will help you become ‘less’ reactive to your negative thoughts.

Acknowledge your thoughts for exactly what they are… just thoughts. They are thoughts with no action. You create the action, or perhaps you choose to take no action. Nevertheless, the choice is yours.

A few techniques that have been helpful for me:

1) Thought record

Keeping a thought record helps you to identify a trend in negative thoughts and feelings. It helps you to become more self-aware, which in turn allows you more control over how you respond to your thoughts. Ultimately you have the power. You can choose to hold on to a thought or you can disregard it. If it is causing you distress, it may be better to let it go, for now. If it is something that is worth a second look, you can always revisit it at later when your mind is more calm and clear. But before you do, ask yourself, is it really worth it?

2) Thought Challenging

Challenging your thoughts allow you to see things in more than one perspective. Ask yourself:

Is it really worth it? Will it matter tomorrow, a week, a month or a year from now? Could the opposite be true? What evidence do I have to support this thought or assumption? What level of importance does it really hold? Is it something that is needed or wanted? What advice would I give to a friend in a similar situation? Does a decision need to be made right this second, or can I give it a few days?

Take a step back and re-evaluate your situation from a different perspective. Chances are nothing is really as urgent or significant as what our minds make us believe.

3) Distraction

Sometimes all we want to do is completely forget about whatever is probing at our brains. Although at times it seems impossible, we do have the option to let it go (even if for only the time being). If it’s a feeling you just can’t shake, or if it’s causing you a lot of distress, let it go for now and distract yourself with something else. Find pleasure in activities that bring you joy. For me, hiking along the Bruce Trails, Manicures, painting, cuddling with my furbabies, journaling, going to the gym, and reading go a long way. During the process of distracting yourself, you may even come to realize that it wasn’t as big of a deal as you first thought it was. Distraction allows you to take a step back, and revisit it when you are more calm, and your thinking is more logical and rational.

4) Support

There are multiple ways to access support. Whether it be from a friend or family member, or a professional, there is always help available.

Take advantage of the World Wide Web, the internet. This valuable tool has made access to Mental Health Support easier to access. We have education and support at our fingertips. A quick google search will reveal support services available on the internet (for example, E-couselling), or services close to you in your area.

You can also checkout the list of Helplines, and Mental Health Services under the Mental Health Resources Tab. I will continue to locate and add more resources as they become known and available.

5) Self-Help Books

Self-help books make my world go round. What works for some people may not work for all. Some people prefer a more traditional one-on-one counseling approach as opposed to self-guided lessons. Find out what works for you and do that.

A few of my favorites are Mind Over Mood, Retrain Your Brain (CBT in 7 weeks), Feeling Good (The new mood therapy), You are Badass, Unf*ck yourself, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, and The Secret (Law of Attraction).

6) Apps

The world seems to be going fully digital in this Era, so I encourage everyone to utilize the online resources we have available to us. Cellphone Applications are numerous, and can be of great value. Think of it as 24/7 support, available 7 days a week, including holidays.

A few of my favorites are Dailyo, eMoods, Pacifica, Talk Life, Feartools, Moodtools, What’s up, BetterHelp, Calm and HeadSpace.

For more of my favorite applications, check under the Mental Health Resources Tab.

Are there any additional techniques that work for you? Any that you have tried and didnt work? I would love to hear from you. Drop a comment.

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Thinking Catastrophe

I just have to post this quote again.

I am in the process of embedding this into my brain.

The over analytical brain that always seems to conjour up the worse possible outcome.

It’s like the brain is attacking itself. Thinking up the most idiotic assumptions.

Why? Because it has nothing better to do than to antagonize you. It’s probably because we all suffer from an overactive imagination. We have hundreds of thousands of thoughts enter our conscious mind, and we allow the positive, pleasant thoughts to easily pass us by and then become hyperfocus on the negative. Ugh! So annoying.

Stop catastrophizing thinking and.. Challange them!

Seriously! Ask your negative thought… “But WHAT IF the opposite (positive) is true?” You managed to start assuming the worst, but WHAT IF we started to assume the best?

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Generalized Anxiety Disorder | A personal story

What do you worry about?

I used to make every thought that came into my mind something to worry about (or maybe I still do – laugh out loud – I just react less).

Worried about being late; worried about getting into an accident; worried to death if a cop is riding behind me; worried about getting lost; worried about having to parallel park; worried about relationships; worried about death or the potential of death; worried about health; worried about work; worried about my future; worried about family; worried about my parents being late by 30 minutes; worried about social events; worried about something awful happening; worried about what I am going to wear; worried about my weight; worried about my complexion; worried about work related stress; worried about love; worried about running out of gas; worried about driving at night, in the snow or rain; worried about not being about to fall asleep; worried about worrying.

These worrying thoughts would ruminate in my mind in a cyclic fashion.

Sometimes my constant worrying would be about a make-believe situations or hypothetical conclusion. I’d worry so much about something that hadn’t even happened (yet) that it would end up causing the very thing I feared to happen or create unnecessary conflict over it. It would basically create an issue out of nothing, for absolutely no reason; an issue that had no reason to even exist.

It was exhausting to say the least.

It was an ex of mine that pointed out my compulsive worrying, and kindly suggested I talk to my doctor about it. I hesitantly took his advice after many months. I had nothing to lose.

It was the best decision.

I was also diagnosed with Depression at the same time I was diagnosed with GAD. Being diagnosed with depression came as a shock to me. I knew I had suffered with Major Depression in the past, but at this particular moment I didn’t feel sad, so thought nothing of it. However, I did lose interest in things, I didn’t want to spend time with my friends or go out anywhere, I felt hopeless about my future (at times), I was irritable, had difficulties sleeping and concentrating, and felt tired a lot of time. I assumed all this feelings were related to anxiety.

It isn’t uncommon for the both to be diagnosed together. Which one came first is still up for debate.

A few months later my depression slipped into a Major Depressive Episode and required me to take some time off work. My treatment plan changed a bit, but I will leave this story for another day when I talk about Major Depression.

My treatment plan consisted of medication, exercise, diet, self-help books (CBT), a sleep routine, mindfulness practice, meditation, CBT and talk therapy by a psychologist, and referral to a psychiatrist for evaluation.

To get into details about specific approaches I took would require another publication, or maybe two or three. If you have specific questions, please never hesitate to email me.

-Rachel Page

Panic Disorder | Coping Regime

 

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Going through the experience of a panic attack are some of the scariest moments I ever had to live through. Each time felt like the last time, and to think it was a ‘harmless’ event was impossible, at first.

I really believe it was my frame of mind that helped me to cope as well as I did, as best as I did. It was really mind over mood, so to speak.

The frequency of the panic attacks seemed to diminish once I graduated from Nursing School and eventually came to a point of being almost non-existent. It look accepting what needed to change, dedication, and a change in mindset to adequately manage, and mostly prevent the return of the attacks.

Nursing School created a high level of stress in my life, not only was I dealing with the usual and expected stress related to the volume of weekly readings, essays, exams and presentations, but I was also trying to manage the symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder, Depression and Social Anxiety. Furthermore, I was dealing with the psychological devastation of a cheating partner, relationship conflicts with friends, and the death of family members.  I believe it was a combination of these factors, fighting against each other, that led to the development of the panic attacks. I wasn’t diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety at this point, but I am sure my mental health history would have suggested it.

What coping mechanisms or techniques did I use to help manage the symptoms of, and prevent panic attacks?

I think the scariest part is the fact that you think you are about to die. The symptoms are very similar to a heart attack, which is why a lot of people will Dial 911 or go to their nearest Emergency  because it can be difficult to decipher between the two if you have never experience either one of them before.

With both, you get chest discomfort, short of breath, dizziness, apprehension, and/or nausea. The difference is usually the intensity of the chest pain, and the duration. Please note that not everyone who suffers a heart attack or a panic attack will experience chest pain or discomfort. Working in Emergency, I have seen people come in with crushing chest pains to mild heart-burn like symptoms to vague complaints of  “I am just not feeling that well, I am just more tired”. Panic attacks come on abruptly and are short lived, lasting only a few moments, and the pain DOES NOT radiate to the neck, back or jaw. If you ever experience chest pain and cannot contribute it to an exact ‘non-emergent’ cause, or when in doubt, call 911. Never EVER drive yourself to emergency if you think there is ANY possibly it could be a heart attack.

First and foremost, the biggest thing that helped me was when I finally decided to go see my doctor. It look me a few months to go, when the attacks were happening every other day, because I felt embarrassed over my lack of control over my own mind and body. Confiding and trusting my doctor provided me with a peace of mind that these signs and symptoms were being produced by my mind, and not something more serious. She sent me for a cardiac workup that included blood work, and diagnostic tests (ie. chest xray, ECG, and a cardiac holter monitor). All the reports came back normal, as suspected, and I was diagnosed with Panic Disorder. My doctor and I discussed my options for treatment, an developed a plan that best suited my life. I took a non-pharmacological approach.

Having a definite diagnosis, brought a sense of peace because I was able to know, without a doubt, that these physical feelings were harmless. The absolute worse that could happen is I could faint as a result of hyperventilation.

Which brings me to my next, very important, coping technique; the art of breathing.

Most often, people begin to feel lightheaded when they are breathing fast and heavily. When the panic attack comes on, you usually don’t realize that your breathing has increased, because you are scared stiff of what is lurking around the unknown corner of Doomsdale. That impending doom feeling, the feeling that something so horrible is about to happen. Your body is trying to figure out whether it wants to fight or take flight or play dead.

There are so many different ways to practice breathing techniques. Count to 4 or 5 or 6, or 10 (but don’t make yourself pass out), hold for x amount of time, breath out through your nose, or through pursed lips. Just pick what ever comes natural and easiest for you. The idea is you want to slow down your breathing and distract yourself by focusing on and counting your breaths. If you breath in through your nose the first time, but breath in through your mouth the second time, who cares…. just breathe – deep and slowly.

Just as important as breathing is relaxation. I know it seems impossible to be able to relax when you are in such a heightened state. An easy way to achieve this is to practice deep muscle relaxation. I often used this technique at night when my attacks were the worst. Get into a comfortable position. Start from one end of your body and work your way up (or down), tensing and releasing each muscle group. Tense as tight as you can, but without causing pain. The idea is to not only distract your mind, but it also helps you distinguish between what a tense body feels like, versus a relaxed one. I hadn’t known how tense my body really was until  I went for my first massage, and the massage therapist expressed concerns over how tense I was. My neck muscles were the worse, which often brought about agonizing, frequent tension headaches.

If  neither of those two did the trick, then I would depend on calm music and stretching, or endlessly pacing around the room until I tired myself out or forgot what I was pacing about. Keep in mind, although what seemed like forever, the panic attacks only lasted a few moments. Most of the time you spend is on psyching yourself out thinking about, instead think of something else, anything else (blue frogs, purple grass, pink sky, the smell of eggnog, a polka-dot pig;  the more random the better).

Sleeping was(is) exceptionally hard because my mind likes to wander and worry at night, so I started creating a routine for myself, and never went to lay down in my bed unless I was tired and on the verge of falling asleep. This meant, laying on the couch, watching TV, and waiting for that moment my eyes would start to droop. Some other remedies that would help me were a warm comforting bath with Epson Salts, Chamomile tea, and Melatonin, but eventually I had to upgrade to a prescribed temporary sleeping aid. Do what ever you need to to ensure you get an adequate nights sleep.

During the day if a panic attack would strike, I would use those same methods as mentioned above, but I would also incorporate other options such as going for a walk, calling a friend or family member, or wrote my thoughts and feelings down in my journal.

I also used reflection as a key competent to my management regime. Reflecting on previous attacks, helped me to see that I was always going to be okay, and it showed me what worked and what didn’t. Being more aware of my body and mind allowed me to feel and anticipate when an attack was likely to hit. It provided me with an opportunity to intervene before it turned into a full blown fit of terror.

Eventually I started to hit the gym, and I think that is actually what pushed me over to the happier, calmer side of life. Some other things that helped were decreasing or eliminating the factors that were causing unnecessary stress, and simplifying my life.

Really, it is a matter of finding out what works for you. A lot of the time (especially in the beginning)  you will spend your time trying to figure out different techniques that work for you. Don’t give up on this trial and error process. If you are having a hard time coping, and haven’t seen a doctor yet, I advise you to make an appointment. There is no reason anyone should have to suffer, and always know that you are never alone.

ℜachel ℘age ♥

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mental Physique

Physical Health is just as important as Mental Health. You can’t have one without the other. In order to achieve an optimal level of health, these two factor must be working together in unison.

A major difference between my current lifestyle and where I was a year ago is the negative changes I am seeing in my diet and excerise. My routine went completely out the window when Major Depression started to creep into my life. *sigh*

I have been a bit hard on myself lately as the medication caused some unwanted weight gain. . I expected it to happen, and tried to prepare as much (mentally) as I could before the few pounds creeped in. I gained about 8 to 10 lbs. This may not seem like ‘a lot’ but it means a lot to someone who has struggled with a negative body imagine perception her entire life. I wouldn’t say I suffered from an eating disorder, rather weight gain or being over 120lbs would trigger the Major Depression. (There are multiple triggers for my depression, this is just one).

At my heaviest, I was about 135-140lbs (about 3 years ago). I ended up investing in a personal trainer – best decision I ever made. My confidence level went from 3/10 to an 8/10. I felt great both physically and mentally. Then, unfortunately, depression came rolling back in about a year ago, with Major Depression settling in 4 months ago and lasted for almost 3 months.

I noticed lately, despite feeling great, I have been struggling with getting back into my diet and fitness regime. The key culprit hindering my ability to succeed was a lack of a concrete plan and a routine.

A Plan really boosts productivity by taking the guess work out of what you will be eating and working on each day. Less of a hassle – so to speak. The other key components is consistentcy, and motivating yourself to do it. You are your best motivator. Just get up and do it. Eventually your routine will become habit, and will become a natural, effortless part of your life.

Here is my routine:

I will resume my workouts as before (with an emphasis of shredding fat, then I’ll gain muscle after summer).

•Workout 3 to 4 times per week.
•Rotating Upper and Lower Body + abs.
•4×20 with each exercise.

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Brighter Days – Get Up

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When depression hits, it is easier to spend the days laying supine on the couch instead of facing the day and accomplishing your daily responsibilities.
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Some simple advice: Get up anyways.
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Do what you need to do, force yourself.
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It is hard, seemingly impossible task. I know.
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BUT…
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Being left alone with your thoughts only allows more negative thoughts to transpire. If you break the cycle by forcing yourself to get up, you may be able to find a bit of beauty throughout the day… beauty you would have otherwise missed. Small changes like this, over time, can pull out of the darkness.
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This is why I always stress the importance of ‘self-care’.
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Self-care is doing ‘anything’ for yourself that makes YOU happy.
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Even in your darkest moments, there will allows be something that can bring a bit of light.
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It could be as much as indulging in your favorite bowl of sorbet (Mango for me please), allowing your creative nature to flow through art, completing a DIY, a candle lit bath, snuggling with your furbaby, reading a self-help or a favorite book, getting dressed up to stay in (and perhaps take a bunch of selfies)…..
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I just rambled off a bunch of things that bring a bit of happiness into my life, now it is your turn to think of the things that could make your day a little bit more enjoyable. Think about the things that once brought you joy before the depression hit? Perhaps you write poetry, draw, paint, crafts, do it yourself projects, writing, cooking, hiking…
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Even if you don’t want to do it, do it anyways.

The second most vital part to ‘feeling your greatest’ is getting enough sleep.
7 to 8 hours is ideal.

If your having difficulties falling asleep, there are many remedies to help. For example, sleep routine, sleepy tea, rest and relaxation an hour before bed (no phone), a bath, stretching or mediation etc… and if all else fails, talk to your doctor. Perhaps a prescribed medication may help temporarily.

Have faith in yourself.
You can do it.

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