Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Where It All Began.

I will first of all apologise in advance at the length of this post, but I do feel it is very important for others to read about, learn and understand. 

As I spoke about in this post, you don't always have to go through a life changing experience, or have a rough upbringing or a tough life to suffer with anxiety or panic disorder, however, there is almost always a trigger that causes you to think and act differently in life. After researching the common causes of anxiety there were 4 repeated causes: environmental factors such as marital breakdown or loss of a loved one, medical factors such as being diagnosed or living with an illness, substance abuse or simply genetics. Other than suffering from patellofemoral syndrome, which I do not believe adds to my anxiety at all, I do not suffer from any other 'medical conditions' and I do not consider myself to misuse substances. Mental health did affect one of my grandparents, however this was arguably a steroid induced mental illness from his treatment for a lung condition so unlikely to be in his genes and passed down to me. This leaves experiencing an environmental factor, which is arguably the most common cause of mental health conditions. I had a loving upbringing, my parents are still happy and in love and I didn't lose a loved one until 3 years ago despite suffering from anxiety for the majority of my life. So you may be wondering, then what Lucy? I thought that too.

After getting questions like "you have nothing to be worried about" and "you have a wonderful life and always have done", I started feeling guilty for feeling the emotions that I did. With the advice from my Mum, I decided to start seeing a psychotherapist who helped me dig deep and find the point that my anxiety began. I saw her a few times but for the purpose of this post, I will just talk about the session when we discovered my triggering 'environmental factor'. 

She asked me if I had any idea of when it may have started, and I did but it seemed too silly and so long ago to have made me the person I am today, but I told her. "My brother went missing in Queensgate when I was 4 or 5". (Queensgate is a shopping centre in a city near where I live.) From this, she put me into an almost hypnotised state where I had my eyes closed, and I was to talk in present tense as my 5 year old self about what happened that day in chronological order. She asked questions like "what do you see/hear/smell?" and shockingly, I could record what I was wearing, what my brother was wearing even what part of Queensgate we were. She asked me to speak about when my brother went missing. I told her we were in the seating area under the escalators running in circles, taking it in turns to chase each other while Mum and Dad sat and talked (He was around 3 years old), when suddenly my Dad came over, grabbed my shoulders and quite loudly said "where is Bradley?". I remember not saying anything and my dad staring at me,with scared eyes, as if it's a question I should have been able to answer. But I couldn't because he was chasing me, I didn't realise he'd gone. Then he ran to Mum who then came over to me and repeated the same question to me. "Where is Bradley?" "Where did he go?". I don't actually remember saying that I didn't know, I just remember being confused as to why Mum and Dad were mad and running around and were asking me questions I didn't know the answer to. I could see my dad running into the shop to the right of where I was stood and then come back over to me and Mum. My Mum then picked me up and sat me next to an old couple and said "Stay here" then turned to the couple and said "We've lost our son, please can you watch our daughter" and then turned and ran off to where dad was. I remember looking at this man I was sat next to, then looking into the direction of my Mum and Dad over and over again. I remember thinking that they were leaving me with this couple and they were never coming back. I sat and watched my them walk further and further away from me until I ran to my Mum and Dad. They weren't too happy about it at all as they were obviously panicking and crying and shouting and understandably didn't want to have to watch me. But I stayed with them until we found him. 

That's it. No death, no marital breakdown, no tough upbringing. Just my 3 year old brother running off to play on the bikes in the window of John Lewis, and me being left with strangers. I was very emotional when we finished the session as I didn't realise how much memory my brain had stored from that day. I went home and asked my Mum questions about that day, just to see if I had made it up in my head or whether I really had remembered it. My parents were shocked at how much I could remember, especially given I was 4 or 5 at the time it happened, and as many of you know, child brains that young don't usually retain information to store as memories.

My psychotherapist talked to me in the next session about how the feelings I had felt being that small child could have triggered my social and attachment anxiety. The feeling of not being able to give my parents the answer they were looking for, not understanding what was happening, being left with strangers (who in hindsight, my Mum promised they looked nice and friendly!) and ultimately thinking my parents were walking away and would never come back for me completely triggered my brain to think like that every time something like that happened to me again. That's why I never left peoples sides up to the age of 16, it's why I still hold onto peoples clothes in crowded spaces so I don't get lost, it's why I find it hard to be left alone anywhere where I don't know people, it's also why I find it hard not being able to please people or make them happy, because my 5 year old self couldn't on that day. In a way, it's sad that something so seemingly insignificant compared to what other children and adults go through could trigger me to be the way that I am, but I wanted to write this post to prove that if you have had a good life and don't understand why you are anxious or suffer with a condition like mine, do not feel guilty. Do not feel embarrassed, as the brain is an amazing yet annoying thing, especially childrens brains.It is no ones fault that my brain decided to change my thought processes and develop and evolve over time.  It is important to know that I do not in any way blame my parents or my disappearing brother for that matter. I never have and I never will. 

I hope you enjoyed reading my personal experience, especially if you have a similar feeling of shame and guilt towards your 'trigger story'. I hope it's helped others understand how seemingly small life experiences that you don't even know you could remember can cause anxiety and panic disorder, and no one should ever be made to feel guilty or embarrassed by who they are, or more importantly, why they are who they are. 

Love Luce xo

Monday, 26 October 2015

Social-Attachment Anxiety

Okay so I realised when reading over the current posts I have up that I only mention my specific diagnosis of anxiety once! I was specifically diagnosed with social and attachment anxiety (or social anxiety and attachment disorder) due to the emotions, triggers and reactions I have and feel to situations around me. There are many emotions I feel when my anxiety kicks in, and I can't talk about each and every single one, but to put it down to a tee, everything I worry about, become anxious and panic about always relates in someway to other people.

For me personally, and others who have this specific anxiety, there is a constant undying need to please others and make others happy, along with the fear that if someone leaves you alone, you'll be 'lost' forever. It has lead to me frequently putting everybody but myself first in life and this has had detrimental effects on my health and sometimes my education too. If you asked me what I thought my friends thought of me, i'd use words such as clingy, annoying, needy, irritating. I feel this because in my irrational mind, if they don't reply to a text, if they're generally in a bad mood and this shows through our conversation or if they ignore my calls, that means they hate me, got fed up of me and don't want anything to do with me anymore. This is also how I feel too when out and about shopping which I talk about in this post. Now, I've learnt to not bombard them with texts, I just play a continuous game of 'what if's' in my head until I have convinced myself I am a rubbish friend who no one likes. Rationally, I know i'm a great friend and I suppose I could thank my need to please people and make them happy for that, but it's awful what happens to my thought processes when my anxiety kicks in. Nowadays, my close friends and family recognise the common signs of me overthinking thoughts like this and are able to nudge rational Lucy out of her hiding hole in my head. Of course, these are not rational thoughts to be thinking and I know that but I can't help it when it's happening here and now. 

Meeting new people is always hard for me due to the fact my irrational side is constantly telling me 'they're judging you'. I struggle with this even with those I've met a few times before but haven't seen in a while - I don't want them to think bad of me. Starting university was a real hard time for me, having to meet new people every day for weeks on end, and even on the first day of my placement blocks, I struggle to divert my thoughts away from 'they're judging me, they don't like me'. 

For me, the hardest part of this form of anxiety, other than living away from home, is the aspect which normal 20 year old people don't usually have to deal with. Nights out and parties. After a few tough nights out in the past, wherever there is alcohol, loud music and a confined room, I will not go out unless i'm with one of two people - my boyfriend or my best friend. They're the only two people I trust to be with me in what seems like a quite literal 'panic at the disco'. Drunk people, crowds, hot and sweaty rooms, loud music and the fear of being left alone surrounded by this are not my idea of fun, however, with the right people, I do enjoy myself. Both of them know when to take me out for a breather and both make sure I'm having fun and not just braving it. If i'm not having fun, we go home, and that's never shown to be a problem with them because I do usually enjoy my nights when I'm with them. This does cause problems, mainly due to the fact one of them is in Lincoln and ones in Loughborough and obviously we all have different friendship groups, so when my friends from Leicester ask me on a night out, I have to politely decline because the fear of being out without my 'safety nets' in an unfamiliar city is too much for me to handle and isn't healthy for me. For some, they see it as an excuse, others completely understand but it is something I'm slowly trying to work on and be more confident about. I think the main thing for me is, if i'm having fun and surrounded by the right people who know me well, I have just as good of a night as any other ordinary 20 year old, but that doesn't mean I don't worry about it weeks before it actually happens. 

The main aspect to point out though is as long as I am comfortable and happy in what I'm doing, i'm absolutely fine, hence why once I've settled into a placement or a group of friends, I'm very good at thinking rationally about things. I suppose its just a fear of the unknown. I hope my openness and personal view on this topic helps some people feeling the same way, or even people who can see themselves in an aspect of my anxiety. I also hope it helps those who do have a friend who never wants to come on a night out understand maybe why that is. Remember, this is only one form that anxiety takes and it is specific and different for each and every person. 

Love Luce xo

Sunday, 25 October 2015

"What have you got to worry about? You have a great life!"

An assumption made about people suffering from a mental health condition is that their lives aren't great, or that they sustained some sort of psychical or psychological trauma at some point in their life, and for some people this is true. For others this isn't the case and people like me are constantly attacked  with sentences like 'what have you got to worry about?' 'your life is great, why are you making problems for yourself?' and the like. I personally have had an amazing life. I am lucky to have had a fantastic childhood, was brought up around family and friends who loved me and cared for me. Even now, despite my problems and everyday annoyances that most people come across in their day to day lives, I have such a good life, amazing family, a loving and loyal boyfriend and supportive friends so I understand why people do question my disorder. After speaking to my psychotherapist, I did find out what brought on my anxiety but I will leave that for another post, but trust me, you don't need a massive life changing event to trigger a disorder like anxiety. (Update: you can now read my story here)

The point i'm trying to make is anybody in this world, young, old, English, Asian, fat, thin, rich or poor can suffer from this and to prove it, here are some celebrities, constantly in the spotlight, famous and successful who suffer from anxiety and/or panic disorder:

1. Ellie Goulding

In 2013, Ellie spoke to the Metro about the therapy she was undergoing for her panic disorder. She first experienced it while on a train on her way to a funeral and had to tell a stranger next to her that she thought she was dying due to her fast heart rate. Her friend picked her up off the train and took her straight to A&E for her to be told it was just a panic attack.This experience sounds a lot like my one that I talk about in this post in that you genuinely think you're about to die which ultimately makes things a whole lot worse. Since then, Ellie struggles with her horrible thoughts that come with her anxiety on a regular basis but uses therapy and medication to ease her symptoms.

2. Johnny Depp

Johnny Depp is famous for over 40 films and a well known (and lusted over) actor. However, Johnny suffers with severe social anxiety to the point where film premieres and public events show to be too much and the public and media often comment on this as rude. Imagine suffering from the symptoms i've spoke about in previous posts while at your film premier with people screaming your name and cameras at all angles. I personally would hate it. Johnny claims he uses relaxation techniques and medication to cope with his social anxiety.

3. Kate Moss

Kate has suffered from panic attacks from a young age and was initially trigger by relationship break downs and more surprisingly, having to pose intimately with other models for photo shoots. She speaks in the interview in Vanity Fair about not being about to get out of bed for weeks after a particularly uneasy shoot for Calvin Klein and eventually had to see her doctor for some anti-anxiety medication to calm her down. 

4. Adele

Like Johnny Depp, Grammy Award winning Adele suffers with social anxiety and extreme stage fright(!). She has revealed that her anxiety and panic attacks prevent her from playing to large arenas or music festival as it is too daunting for her. She claims her anxiety was triggered when her music career began to grow and she felt the pressures of having to perform and deliver perfectly. She has even been known to sneak out the fire escape of venues to avoid having to sing in front of a crowd. To help with her anxiety, she claims she has created an 'alter-ego' who is the performer, a bit like Beyonce and Sasha-Fierce  

5. Zoe Sugg (Zoella)

I know what some of you are thinking, "She's not famous". Maybe so, but she is a massive inspiration to so many people and has a huge social media fan base due to her YouTube channel. I personally have always watched Zoe on YouTube and she really inspired me and helped me when she uploaded her 'Dealing with Panic Attacks and Anxiety' video back in 2012. She has become a successful YouTube Vlogger, with over 9 million subscribers, who is constantly in the spotlight for her videos and blog, but in this video, she opens up about her struggle with anxiety and panic attacks. They were first triggered at a party when she was younger and horrifically ended up experiencing multiple panic attacks in a row. Since then she finds social gatherings, crowds, parties and other day to day things she has to deal with as a YouTuber very difficult. She is currently the digital ambassador for the charity, Mind which helps those suffering from mental health conditions.

Other celebrities who suffer from anxiety and panic disorder include Emma Stone, Drew Barrymore, Oprah Winfrey, and many more. Your life and your background doesn't reason for why you suffer with anxiety and/or panic disorder. As I've just shown, you can be the richest, most famous, most beautiful, talented person on the planet and still suffer from this condition. It also does not define who you are. 

Love Luce xo

Saturday, 24 October 2015

What is Anxiety & Panic Disorder?

By dictionary definition, anxiety is 'a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome'. Everyone will feel this emotion at some point in their life, some more frequently than others, some hardly ever. However, some of us feel it at the most random, inconvenient  times when there is absolutely no reason to feel nervous, worried or scared, like me. 

Panic Disorder is defined as 'recurring or regular panic attacks for unexplained reasons' and panic attacks are defined as 'an exaggeration of your body's normal response to fear, stress or excitement. It is the rapid buildup of overwhelming physical sensation such as fast heart beat, feeling faint, sweating, nausea, chest pains, inability to catch your breath, numbness and shakey limbs stimulated by the bodies natural fight-or-flight response

Some of my triggers for my anxiety and panic attacks are what some people would consider as 'normal' such as my health, exams/assignments/deadlines in general, the unknown, trains/public transport and other people being stressed or worried. However, some of my triggers for my anxiety aren't so normal, especially for a 20 year old, for example, being in or even near a train station even if i'm not getting on a train, thinking my friends don't want anything to do with me anymore, going on a night out with people that aren't my boyfriend or my best friend or going shopping with someone and them walking off to look at something else. 

That last one is a big one for me as it's how my parents know I've always had some form of anxiety. Embarrassingly, until the age of 16, if I went anywhere with anyone, I would not leave their side. At around 11/12, I got into the habit of holding onto the person I was with top or coat so I knew they wouldn't 'run off'. In my head, if they leave me, they won't come back for me. This is an example of the irrational side that anxiety has caused me to be. The rational side of me would say 'but that's silly. Of course they'll come back for you. You're in Tescos and they've gone to buy find the toilet cleaner while you were looking at the selection of blue cheeses. They will come back'. This is one of the biggest problems with understanding someone with anxiety and/or panic disorder as the rational mind of someone who doesn't suffer with it cannot comprehend the irrational mind of someone who does suffer, and that's okay. It is a hard concept to understand. 

Onto the biology of it now! Anxiety is not 'being scared for no reason' or 'worrying over nothing'. Statements like that upset people who have the condition as its not as simple as 'being worried/scared over nothing'. Anxiety and panic disorder is the body stimulating a fight or flight response which psychologists have studied and have linked it back to caveman times. When something that is scary or threatening faces you, your body either works itself up and releases the chemical adrenaline to fight it or to run away from it. Both of these choices need energy, extra blood flow to muscles and organs, extra oxygen, enlarged pupils etc to help solve the problem. Your blood pressure and heart rate increase, your breathes increase, your pupils widen and your muscles get read to fight or run. As you can imagine, this is fantastic for when you're house is on fire and you need to get out quick or another event similar to this where you really do need to fight something or get away from it. However, for people like me, this response is triggered by the most random things and as I said, at sometimes very inconvenient times. I explain it to my friends and family as you know when you walk down the stairs and you miss the bottom step and your heart skips a beat, that's a miniature dose of the anxiety that I feel, for sometimes no reason at all. 

I can honestly tell you that it is draining. Most of the time my mind constantly works on overtime, worrying about what if's, thinking about things that have either happened and I can't change or things that haven't happened yet, and due to my lovely body kicking into fight or flight response, I then have all of this adrenaline with no where to go. If I can't settle myself down or have someone help me calm down - panic attack. 
Some of my symptoms of increased anxiety or my anxiety developing into a panic attack are a numb face and fingers, a quick hot flush from my feet up to my head, being able to hear nothing but my own, fast, heartbeat and blotchy static vision. I talk about my largest and most frightening panic attack in this post if you want to read more.  

So that's a brief insight into what anxiety and panic disorder is for me but I must note that it really is different for everyone. Everyone has different triggers, feel different symptoms and handle it differently. It is not an uncommon problem and many people suffer from mental health conditions such as anxiety and panic disorder without telling anybody. I hope I have helped you understand it all a bit more by opening up or made you feel like you are not alone if you go through similar feelings too. Feel free to message me or leave a comment. 

Love Luce xo

Bach Rescue Remedy | Product Review

I have always tried to relieve the symptoms of my anxiety naturally through breathing techniques, taking myself out of the situation that's causing me to be anxious, and so on. After my recent diagnosis and 4 week sickness period which I talk about in this post, my cousin bought me a few treats to make me feel a bit better about the whole situation. After suffering with anxiety with travelling to and from work in London a few years back, a friend recommended to her a 100% natural anti-anxiety brand called Bach Rescue Remedies. They provide a range of different product types and state on their website that the products 'gently restore balance between mind and body with the use of Back Flower Remedies'

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Bach flower remedies are a mixture of natural spring water and wild flowers that the website claim to cast out negative emotions such as fear, worry, hatred and indecision. There are 38 different wild flowers used for different types of negative emotions and these remedies come in 7 different products including pastilles, drops, melts and even pet products. I, however, was given the Bach Rescue Remedy Tongue Spray and the Bach Rescue Chewing Gum by my cousin. At first, I was very skeptical of how these products would work for me but my cousin insisted they worked for her so I was excited to try them. 

Bach Rescue Remedy Spray 20ml

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This little spray was bought from Holland and Barratt for £10.69 but is also available in other stores such as Boots or Superdrug. It came in a box with instructions. The instructions state to spray 2 squirts of the remedy into the mouth when needed. The taste wasn't something I was expecting at all. It tastes of alcohol, a mixture of wine and Baileys to be precise and I don't like it much at all! When I looked at the ingredients, there was a high percentage of grape in there to help preserve it, so I guess that's the alcohol taste. It states on their website that it is impossible to overdose on any Bach Remedy products due to the ingredients being 100% natural but 2 sprays was the recommended dose and is really all you need. Its a great size for my handbag and small enough to fit in your hand if you need a quick spray, however it isn't very discreet. I have used it at times when my anxiety levels are higher than normal, for instance when travelling on trains, and it has seemed to calm me down but I have received some funny looks while doing it. 

Bach Rescue Chewing Gum 17pcs

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These chewing gum pieces were also bought from Holland and Barratt for £4.89. These come in box with a self securing lid which is very handy for the handbag. It contains 17 bits of gum and my gum was spearmint flavour but I think there is a range of different flavours. Again these are available at other stores. The chewing gum contain 4 drops of the Bach Rescue Remedy, but you cant taste it at all - it just tastes like normal spearmint gum! I prefer using the gum over the spray due to the fact that you can go into your bag, pick a piece of gum and chew it. No one looks at your funny like they do with the spray. Again, these really seem to work and the taste lasts ages! 

Whether or not its my brain thinking these products are working or whether the Rescue Remedy within them helps calm my nerves or worries, these products really do work for me. I must point out that these are not a replacement for my prescribed anti-anxiety medication, I tend to grab for these when I become particularly anxious or worried and feel like I need to calm down. Because they are 100% natural too, I don't feel like i'm damaging my body by taking them, especially the gum because it just feels and tastes like normal gum. The price for all the Bach Rescue Remedy products are quite high in my personal opinion, however, they do seem to work for me so I will be repurchasing the gum once I run out, but not the spray. 

Here is the link to the Back Rescue Remedy website for you to have a more in depth look into the products they offer and maybe you can give them a go too!

 Leave a comment down below letting me know your experiences with this brand and if their products worked for you. 

Love Luce xo

Advice for Student Nurses

So as a third year student nurse who will be hopefully qualifying in approximately 11 months (eeeee!) I thought it would be a good idea to hand down my advice from my 2 full years of studying for a nursing degree to those in the first year or those who are thinking about choosing to study a degree in nursing. I write this post as if I was telling my first year self this advice as I would have loved to read or for someone to tell me something like this.

1. Be confident. I suffer with anxiety and I found it took me a while to adjust to walking onto a ward and suddenly, people the age of my Mum and Grandma were asking me for help. Me! You are training to help others, whether you're a childrens nurse, adult nurse, mental health nurse or learning disability nurse, people will need you and you have to be confident in yourself that you can do that. This is your degree, no one elses and you really do get out what you put in. You wont always get everything right, especially to start with, but don't panic. You are there to learn, and learning new skills brings confidence. You will get the hang of it no matter how much you tell yourself you wont. Which brings me onto my next piece of advice...

2. Don't be afraid to ask for help. You are not going to be expected to know everything as a first year student nurse. As you develop and grow, nurses expectations will begin to grow too and by that I mean by your 10th week of placement, your mentor will probably expect you to not still be following her around asking "what shall I do now?". You are given placements to learn and develop the skills you will need when you qualify and you are given mentors to help teach you these, so asking for help is never a bad thing. In a job like nursing, if you guess things you are not sure on, it could be detrimental to the health of your patient. Don't quite know which dressing to redress Bay 2 Bed 4's diabetic foot ulcer with? Ask. Don't know why Side Room 3's urine output is being measured every hour? Ask. The more you ask, the more you learn. My advice is for typical nursing knowledge such as dressings, size of catheters or length of NG tubes, ask your mentor how you know which one would be best and make a note of it in a notebook. Then you can always look back on 'How to measure an NG tube' for example.

3. Grab all opportunities. On placement, you will have so many opportunities to experience other members of staffs roles, such as physios, dietitians, OT's etc and this helps you as a student nurse develop your knowledge of the multi-disciplinary team. You may also get opportunities to work in other departments such as theaters under your specialty and I would highly recommend you take these experiences with open arms. It not only gives you experience of the patient journey but you also get to see things normal people never get to see - inside an operating theater! Even if a nurse is doing a basic skill such as changing a dressing or maybe a more advanced skills such as inserting an NG tube, ask if you can watch. In my experience, most nurses let you get hands on after 1 or two observations which is always a confidence booster!

4. Keep on top of your work. You will get periods of time where you are on placement working long hours and you also have an assignment or project to complete too. It can become daunting to think that when you get home after a 12 hour shift, you have to sit and write some more assignment. My advice for this would be to structure your time. If it's possible, try and get some of your theory work done before your practical starts, this way you wont have as much to do while you're tired, emotional and worn out from placement. If you have to complete theory work during a placement block, do this on your days off or if you work half days, do it on the other half of your day. This way, you're not exhausting yourself. If you try and do too much at once, your brain will fry and your work wont be the best you could have done, but if you leave it too long, you'll end up rushing it and your work will again be affected. Structure your time properly. Give yourself mini deadlines.For example, do 200 words by the end of the week. Doesn't seem as daunting like that, does it?

5. They're there to help. Lecturers, tutors, programme leaders, mentors and support staff are all employed to help you. It is their job, so you should never be scared to go to them for advice and support, especially if you are struggling in either theory or practice. They will be able to help. The best bit about being a student nurse in university is that all of your academic staff within the nursing department are nurses - they have been in your shoes! They're also usually caring, understanding and empathetic people. I would advise you to meet up with your personal tutor at least once a semester to update him/her with how you're getting on, and this gives you an opportunity to ask any questions or ask for help or support on anything. In my experience, if they can't help directly, they will always signpost you to someone who can.

That's my 5 main pieces of advice for new student nurses from the experience that i've had. It's okay to need help, it's okay to be in touch with your emotions, it's okay to have down days and feel stressed out but always remember that you are studying to be somebody who will change so many peoples lives. Even as a student nurse, you will find this. It will be so worth it in the end. Drop me a comment or email me if you have any further questions regarding this topic - i'm always happy to help.

Love Luce xo

Anxiety and Panic Disorder | My Diagnosis.

I never thought I would be someone who would suffer with a mental health condition. Before starting my nursing degree, I thought that someone with mental health conditions were the type of people you see on Shutter Island or on documentaries looking into insane asylums. I couldn't have been more wrong. I have always been a worrier, always been clingy, always panicked and got anxious and upset over the smallest things even as a small child, and I will talk about all of this in a future blog post. 

Over the summer months of this year, I felt my anxiety and fear of everything get worse and worse to the point where I stayed in bed, feeling homesick, feeling physically unwell and struggling to talk to anyone about it. One morning, I was on a shift at my placement, setting equipment up, no patients had even arrived yet when, out of nowhere, I started to feel that well known drop in my stomach, flood of heat from my feet to my head and suddenly my heart started racing. I had to take a breather in the treatment room. I had told myself that if my anxiety ever bothered me while i'm at work, I would do something about it and so finally decided to call up my doctors surgery for help and advice. I saw a doctor that evening and he spent a long time talking things through with me, explaining what anxiety is and how it affects the body and how I have been suffering with it and coping with it. I told him that as soon as I feel my heart begin to race, everything escalates and makes me worse. With this, he took my pulse, which although I was calm, was around 117bpm (normal resting heart rate is between 60 and 100bpm) and prescribed me Propanalol 3 times daily. Propanolol is a medication which targets the natural pacemaker of the heart (sinoatrial node) to help calm the heart rate down to a normal level in hope that when I experienced a particularly anxious moment, my heart wont beat out of control as is had been doing. Although doing what it was meant to do and keeping my pulse at around 60-70bpm resting, it gave me awful side effects which included terrible insomnia, lack of appetite, fatigue and tiredness all the time and I just generally lost my energy and motivation to do anything.

4 weeks later, at my medication review, my doctor was not happy with the side effects I was experiencing and explained that in the long run, it could have a detrimental effect on my health and energy levels, especially because I was on my placement at the time which wouldn't help the situation. I came off Propanolol and was prescribed Citalopram 1-2 times daily. Citalopram is a selective serotonin re uptake inhibitoror SSRI, so stimulates the release of more of the 'happiness' hormone, serotonin. I was wary about starting on Citalopram due to the fact that it belongs to the family of anti-depressants, and although I was experiencing periods of very low moods, I was not depressed. I was anxious. My doctor explained how it would benefit me and help me and also explained how it was very common to experience some side effects from the medication for up to 4 weeks while the body becomes accustom to it, however I trusted my doctor and began taking them. It was here that I got given the diagnosis of 'Anxiety and Panic Disorder'.

2 days into my Citalopram, I woke up, took my tablet and got ready for my 13 hour shift. I felt fine. I walked to the bus stop, caught my bus, walked onto the ward. I still felt fine. The night staff began handing over any over night changes to us. As we walked into the last bay of patients, I said 'Good Morning' to my patients one by one and listened to the night nurse hand over. Three patients in, I began to feel very shakey and my heart began to race like I have never felt it race before. I could also hear only my heart beat - it was almostlike someone had turned the volume off in the world and all I could hear was my heartbeat. My fingers and right side of my face went numb and my vision became distorted, not blurred, sort of like blotchy and like I was looking at a TV on static, and then a rush of heat flew up to my head. As I turned to tell the nurse I was working with that I was going to take a breather, I collapsed. I never lost consciousness and luckily, my knees buckled under me so I didn't hit my head on anything. The staff grabbed an observation machine and checked my vitals. Everything was sky high and the nurse in change told me to get to A&E so they can check out my heart as my heart rate and blood pressure was scarily high. 

In A&E they did an ECG, did my vital observations again which had slowed down slightly. After being poked and prodded, I saw a doctor who looked at my symptoms, looked at my doctors notes from recent appointments and quite bluntly said 'you've had a panic attack'. I didn't believe him. I told him that i've had a panic attack before and I know that what just happened wasn't a panic attack, nothing had triggered it - I was fine before. He explained that all my symptoms, 13 hour shifts, other stresses from personal life, plus the side effects still remaining from the Propanolol had exhausted my body and just put my into a state of panic . He then leaned over his desk and said "My dear, panic attacks don't always need a trigger. Its your body thinking you need to escape from somewhere, or sometimes even escape from yourself". He also explained that for the first few weeks of starting on Citalopram, anxiety can get worse before it gets better (he was spot on!). So he prescribed me one dose of Lorezopam, another anti-anxiety medication, told me to take one and go to bed for the rest of the day. I did.

The next day, I emailed my personal tutor at university to let him know what had happened as it's university-placement protocol to let your personal tutor know if you have had a day off or have been absent. The reply I received back told me to phone my placement, tell them I wont be returning (I had 4 weeks left) and to see my doctor as I didn't sound well enough to continue caring for others. I saw a lovely doctor the day after who took one look at me and signed me off sick for a month. I went home to be with my family but I struggled a lot for those 4 weeks mainly due to the fact that my time off sick possibly meant I would have had to move back 6 months on my course to redo an exam I would be missing and to redo my last placement. I tried my hardest to push against all of the side effects and bad thoughts I experienced and 2-3 weeks in, with the help of my family, I finally began to feel better.  

My medication is working well and my doctor is very happy with my progress. It also helps that my lecturers, personal tutor and programme leader are all nurses and so showed empathy and support when I returned back. I wasn't in the end made to be deferred 6 months due to the circumstances my sickness was for which was a huge relief for me. As anyone with anxiety will know, I still have my bad days, but I also have amazing days which I never experienced before I started my medication when my anxiety was bad. Everyday I wake up and tell myself to be thankful and happy for who I am and the opportunities, people and things I have in my life. I'm working on becoming healthier and happier and continue to help myself with my anxiety while helping others with their struggles too.

Here are some great links that I personally used when understanding what my diagnosis was and I even used them to help my family, boyfriend and best friend to understand how I was feeling, the struggles I go through at times and to learn how they can help me.



I will be writing more posts in the near future detailing what goes on in my mind when I am anxious, how other people in my life see it and deal with it and where my anxiety began and started but if anyone reading this wants to know more information or wants help and advice, please leave a comment or email me - I am always more than happy to help. 

Love Luce xo

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Where do I start?

I feel like I have been looking for so long for a place to empty my thought-filled mind into. I'm always full to the brim with creative ideas, new projects I want to get stuck into, my university assignments and my organisation and planning. I am an avid project life-er, I collect and store my memories and I love DIY and crafty things. I am a hardworking third year student nurse too so work long hours at times, learning and developing new skills ready for when I qualify, and reflecting on my experiences. 

Alongside all the 'good' stuff buzzing around in my mind, I suffer from social and attachment anxiety and panic disorder as well as terrible homesickness, so my thoughts are not always rational and bubbly. Despite it draining me emotionally and occasionally physically, I generally cope with it all quite well and my creativity and strive to keep busy balances my bad thoughts and panicky moments.

In my eyes, it's not healthy to live life with a mind full to the brim of thoughts, good or bad, and so this blog is really a way to express myself for others to read, learn about, inspire and hopefully maybe even understand and relate to.

I am new to all of this, so anyone who is reading this, go easy on me! I am more than happy to take ideas or requested topics for blog posts and have set a target of at least one blog post a week!

Please feel free to leave me a comment, I will reply.

Love Luce xo

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