Wednesday, 25 November 2015

10 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Anxiety and Panic Disorder

Within the breaks of my dreaded dissertation work, I decided to do some research on unknown or surprising statistics and facts about my conditions. So here they are...

1. People between the ages of 35 and 59 are more likely to suffer from anxiety than any other age group in the UK. 

2. 4 in every 10 people that suffers with anxiety claim that work or education triggered  their condition.

3. Anxiety can affect balance. Studies have found that those who have problems with balance or find themselves swaying or having 'dizzy spells' usually correlate positively to suffering with anxiety. It has also been found that treating the balance problem helps the individuals anxiety! 

4. Unless there is an underlying heart problem, it is very very unlikely that a panic attack will lead to a heart attack. Even though the symptoms are very similar and those of you who have suffered from any form of panic attack will know you do feel like you are dying, the responses are purely caused by hormones being released into your blood stream, not a dysfunction in your heart. 

5. Anxiety is considered a genetic condition and can be passed down to children or grandchildren, however you can develop it without your relatives having suffered from it and you don't necessarily inherit it if your parents suffered with it. 

6. Your body suffers physiologically as well as psychologically from having anxiety. Aside from a panic attack where your body is literally attacked in all senses by itself, on a day to day basis, anxiety can leave a person tired, feeling sick or nauseous for no reason,with aching muscles from unconscious tensing, loss of appetite, ground down teeth, a permanently fast heart rate, random shaking or shivering and experiencing smells and tastes differently. (I personally suffer from all of these things and until reading up on it didn't put two and two together.)  

7. Despite there being many different forms of treatment for anxiety and panic disorder, nearly 2 out of 3 people who suffer actually seek  or accept treatment and help for it.

8. Medication is not the only way! Treatment such as meditation, exercise, eating healthily, cognitive behavioral therapy, counselling and psychotherapy are all non-pharmaceutical ways of helping people to cope with anxiety and panic disorder. Studies show that just 20 minutes of meditation can reduce anxiety by 40%. (I was personally told this fact by my own doctor. He explained that medication is the last option of treatment to be able to tackle the hormone imbalance head on, and strategies that don't involve medication are usually favoured.)

9. 5 in every 100 people suffer from anxiety as a mental health condition, and 10 in every 100 people suffer with mixed anxiety and depression. There are a lot more people that you think. 

10. 1 in 10 children aged 5-16 suffer from some form of treatable anxiety but this usually goes unrecognised and untreated due to their age, mental development and perceived influence of peer groups or 'phases'.  

Some of these facts really shocked me. Before I told people about my condition, I knew people suffered too but I didn't realise how many and I didn't realise how complex it really was. I've learnt a lot just by doing this research for myself and I hope these facts have helped you understand and learn a bit more too. 

Love Luce xo

Monday, 23 November 2015

A Day in The Life of a Third Year Student Nurse.

This blog post will be slightly different from my usual blog posts but still related in the fact that it's a true account of my general day working on the ward as a third year student nurse. It also allows people to see that even while battling with anxiety and panic disorder, I can still work hard to achieve my goals in life. Every day is different and each ward is different but this account is for my 12.5 hour shift on my current placement on a busy Surgical Assessment Unit. (Apologies in advance for the length but it's really hard to condense this sort of post down!)

6.20am - Alarm goes off. I take my medication and lay in bed and scroll through my social media, check my emails and texts.

6.40am - Get up, start getting ready.
I have a uniform provided by my university consisting of beautiful grey trousers which fasten above my belly button(!!), white tunic and blue epaulets. The epaulets are different shades of blue for each of the 3 years training to help staff and patients distinguish how far along in your training you are. I wear a fob watch given to me by my brother on my 18th birthday, my 'my name is...' badge and my lanyard with my student ID on. In my pockets I keep two black pens, a small notepad and a lip balm. My phone stays in there as well while i'm on shift due to students not having anywhere secure to lock their belongings away like permanent members of staff do.
I have to have no nail polish, no jewelry apart from stud earrings and my hair up and off my shoulders for infection control purposes so my go-to hair style is usually either a high pony tail or a messy bun. I very rarely wear makeup to work as I am a bugger for rubbing my eyes throughout the day and it would end up all over my face if I did apply it, but sometimes a bit of coverage is needed, especially when not much sleep has been gained overnight!
My shoes were not provided by the university but this pair are from Skechers and are my third pair of nursing shoes. I have previously owned these Shoes for Crews trainer style ones which I do occasionally go back to as it is good to change up shoes for when you have a long run of shifts - apparently it's good for your feet! My first pair of nursing shoes were these Skechers shoes, and they served me through 6 and a half placements but sadly they gradually got too worn to wear. Admittedly, I was able to get staff discount from a friend who works as Skechers but I 100% think they're worth the money. My feet are so thankful for Skechers so I would highly recommend them for those of you who do long shifts and are always on your feet.

7.10am - Leave my flat for work. The walk to work takes 10 minutes but I like to arrive early so I don't feel rushed. It also helps for particularly anxious mornings when I can take those few extra minutes before the shift starts to focus on the day, prepare for it and get accustom to my environment. 

7.30am - Hand over. This is the time in the morning when the night staff hand over their patients to the day staff. We are given printed sheets of paper with the names of each patient, their age, why they're in hospital, their diagnosis and their plan for recovery. It is particularly important to pay attention throughout handover as this is where vital information about patients are given to you. For example, if a patient is going for an operation, they will be Nil By Mouth in preparation for their anesthetic (they wont be allowed to eat or drink). If you miss this information, you could ruin the plan for that patient and potentially make their situation worse. Hand over is also a chance to say Good Morning to my patients and introduce myself if I don't already know them. 

7.45am - Assisting patients with washing and dressing. I know right! It's too early to be getting poorly, sleep deprived patients up and out of bed to change their bed sheets but it has to be done to allow the day to run smoothly. Some patients are independent and will take themselves to the ward shower when they feel ready to, but for those who need assistance in washing and dressing, this is usually done first thing in the morning. 

8.30am - Alongside a qualified nurse, I will assist in administering the morning medication to the patients. These are all the tablets that the patient would usually take in the morning if they were at home, plus any medications that the doctor has prescribed for their recovery process while in hospital. They can be all sorts of medication from tablets, injections, liquids, IV medication (or drips) or nebulisers to be breathed in. Some patient who have nasogastric tubes or PEG feeding tubes may also need their medications crushing and administering through their tube. Similarly, some patients may need assistance with physically taking their medication, and I will assist with this. On admission, all patients are also prescribed a bottle of Stelisept body wash and a tube of Bactroban nasal ointment which both help prevent the spread of MRSA in hospitals, so during medication round, I ensure my patients have used both. Before all medications are given to the patient, I have to ask the patient their name and date of birth to ensure I am giving the medication to the right patient and ask if they have any allergies in case something has been prescribed that they are allergic to. I have to ensure the medications are in date, are prescribed by a doctor, are being given at the right time, are the right dose and are being given the correct way (e.g. tablet or injection). The medication round usually takes 30-40 minutes depending on the amount of patients and complexity of their medications. 

9.20am - This is usually the time I spend doing any tasks that need doing. In handover, the night nurse will share information given to them by doctors over night to help with the diagnosis and treatment for a patient. Especially on the ward I am on now, there are a lot of patients admitted throughout the night from A&E and so tasks such as urine dips, stool/urine/sputum samples, wound swabs and wound dressings are usually done at this time. I use a tick box system in my notepad to ensure I get all my tasks done. I will also assist patients to the toilet, support anxious, worried patients, patients who are in pain or patients who are vomiting, as hospital can be a very lonely place, especially when you're feeling unwell. Paperwork is also completed throughout the day, including bowel and bladder movements, the changes in position of a patient (even if they're only minor as it helps regulate the risk of the patient developing a pressure ulcer), fluid input and output, and general nursing notes. 

10.15am - This is usually when I get my first break. Sometimes it is earlier, sometimes it is later. It all depends on how hectic the morning has been or how hectic the late morning is expected to be. The good thing about a surgical assessment unit is we have a running update of how many patients we are expecting to be admitted so we can prepare for the amount of work we will be faced with. On my break, I usually have a bag of crisps and a piece of fruit and a cup of tea while flicking through my phone or a magazine. 

10.45am - This is usually the time for admitting patients. The patients presented in A&E this morning will be coming up to the ward around this time and so if there are enough beds, I will begin admitting the patients. The admission process involves asking the patients a series of questions regarding their Activities of Daily Living or ADLs and how they may have been affected by their illness. These include things like whether they can wash and dress themselves, their mobility, their eating habits etc, and the answers they give us help us care for the patient in the best way possible using a personalised care plan. If the patient states they are usually independent with walking but is a bit wobbly since their accident, I will refer them to a physiotherapist who will be able to review and assist the patient. Other information such as past medical history, allergies, regular medication and main personal details are all noted down too. 

Helping patients to the toilet, completing any tasks left to do, or new tasks given will also be carried out throughout the morning. Liaising  with other members of staff such as dietitians, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, doctors, specialist nurses etc also takes place throughout the whole day.

The doctors and consultants will also have a 'ward round' whereby the consultant teams for each specialty (Upper GI surgery, ENT, Plastics, Lower GI surgery, Vascular etc) will meet with their patients and the nurse in charge of the ward and discuss the plan with them on what they think would be best. As a student nurse, luckily I get to be a part of the ward round and have the task of jotting down the new plan of action for each patient. The doctor will usually discuss with the patient how they feel, they will inspect the body part in question and will decide on what would be best, whether that be prescribing a medication, referring to other specialisms or surgery. I will then update the handover on the computer with the new plan for each patient ready for the night staffs shift. 

12pm - Lunchtime medication round. This is where the patients receive all the medications they are due around lunch time. It is the same process as the morning time medication round but usually there are less medication so does take slightly less time. Antibiotics and other IV medication are usually made up and administered on lunchtime medication rounds too, so I am often found in the treatment room mixing us powdered antibiotics with water for injection too -which is one of my favorite things to do. 

12.30pm -  Helping patients with needs, advice, help or education on anything. It is also worth mentioning that there are usually a lot of discharges made throughout the day on a busy ward like this and so I do have to discharge patients  ready for home too. This involves ensuring they have the relevant medication they need at home, giving advice on how to behave at home (e.g. how long they shouldn't drive for), arranging a sick note from the doctor, and educating them on taking their medication or changing their dressings. Referrals to community teams are also made for discharge to ensure the patient is assisted with any further care needs they may need when returning back home. 

3pm - Lunchtime! I usually go down to the hospital shop for a meal deal as my choice of food changes everyday and previously when I would take in ready made pastas or sandwiches, I would end up not enjoying my lunch as I wouldn't fancy eating it. I flick through my phone again and reply to any texts or emails I've had and chat to colleagues.

3.30 onwards - Again, just assisting with patients needs, talking to patients, updating notes, answering call bells, learning new things from doctors and nurses. Sometimes I will be asked to chaperon patients down to X-Ray, to inpatient clinics such as ENT clinic and fracture clinic and sometimes even get to watch operations in theater. It not only relaxes the patient by having someone familiar with them, but it also allows me to learn more about different specialties and follow the patient journey. 

5pm - Teatime medication round. Same as the morning and lunchtime medication round. There are 4 medication rounds a day and three of them occur during the day shift. The night time medication round is carried out by the night shift staff. 

Answering call bells, assisting patients on their travels around the ward or hospital, updating the nursing notes, ensuring all tasks for the day have been completed and assisting patients with their food and drink. Generally just making sure my patients are as happy and as comfortable as they can be.

7.30pm - Hand over. This is when the day shift staff will hand over the updated plan for each patient to the night shift. Same as the hand over process we received in the morning and usually from the same people we are handing back over to, but with new information on what has been done, what needs to be done and how the patients are. 

8pm - I say goodnight to my patients and colleagues and walk home. I usually ring my mum or boyfriend on my walk home as I hate walking in the dark on my own! It also gives me a chance to tell them about my day. Whether it's been calm, happy, stressful, upsetting, difficult, easy, rewarding, boring. It allows me to reflect on it all and release emotions which is a massive part of being healthy and stable within my mental health. 

8.10pm - I get home and shower. I make myself some tea and get straight into bed. Usually, I am shattered and my feet ache. I put on Netflix or some catch up TV on my laptop and watch it until I fall asleep ready to do it all over again the next morning!

I hope this was a helpful and interesting insight into my busy day as a student nurse. Every day is different and because of the nature of a surgical assessment unit, we may have 12 patients one day and it be very calm and not rushed at all one day, and the next there are 30 patients with 6 in A&E needing a bed and you have a list of 18 things you need to get done. Cardiac arrests, falls, patients suddenly deteriorating and the like can also shake up the flow of the day too but I am fully trained in being able to deal with crisis like these and have done many time in my training already. Nursing brings out the best in me and when I am on the ward, I find it easy to put others first and for a moment forget my anxiety and panic disorder. As I spoke about in this post, when I am in 'Nurse Mode', my adrenaline is being used for the right thing at the right time, and I love it. Even though sometimes I can finish a shift feeling very emotional or very drained and tired, the majority of the time I finish happy and proud of not only what I have achieved for myself but what my patients have achieved too.  Writing this has even allowed me to reflect on how proud I am to be able to handle the amount of things I do each day even when spanners are thrown in the works, which they frequently are. It really is my dream job and helping poorly people is my absolute love in life. I am so excited to qualify in 10 months time and get my blues!

Love Luce xo

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Stages of a Panic Attack | My Personal Experience.

Since suffering with many panic attacks throughout the past year, and regularly being asked 'what does it feel like?', I thought it would be a good idea to talk about the different stages of a panic attack from my personal perspective as the sufferer, and also explain why it happens from a medical/nursing perspective. As I  have mentioned before, panic attacks do not affect everyone with anxiety, and is more connected to my panic disorder, but they happen differently for every person. As part of my treatment plan, I had to explain to my doctor what happens to me during a panic attack to ensure it was all 'normal' and, rest assured, all of my symptoms are 'normal'. My panic attacks are either triggered by something that makes me feel vulnerable or threatened, like a certain environment or bad thoughts, or on some occurrences, I have experienced them with no trigger at all, but they do usually occur in the same order of symptoms and for the same amount of time. 

Firstly, my heart rate will increase and pump so hard it feels like it is going to fall out of my chest. I can hear it in my ears, I can feel it more than I have ever felt my heart before. Although it is the first sign of my panic attack coming on, it also occurs when I am just feeling anxious or uneasy on a day to day basis so, for me, it isn't the ultimate 'I'm going to have a panic attack' symptom. This happens due to the sudden increase in adrenaline that gets released into the blood stream, which puts your body into 'fight or flight' mode and the heart has to work harder to get oxygen to the muscles to be able to fight or run away. 

My breathing will start to increase. I don't always notice this happening as it usually happens at the same time as my heart beating fast and I'm usually too focused on controlling that, but my breathes will become shorter and faster and if I don't manage to calm myself down, I start to hyperventilate. Hyperventilation is the most horrible symptom for me as I struggle really really hard to calm my breathing down. During a panic attack, I will genuinely feel like i'm drowning and that I can't physically get my breath. 'I can't breathe' is usually the only think I say during a panic attack. This happens due to the body thinking it needs more oxygen for fight or flight and so will breathe faster to drag more oxygen in, however, hyperventilation is the body breathing off more carbon dioxide that in can produce using the oxygen it is inhaling. It gives the feeling that there is not enough air in the body when actually, there is too much, and you begin to literally drown in air. 

My body will then have a hot flush from my feet up to my head, almost like the feeling when you open to oven door and the hot air hits you, and then I will start to tingle. For me this is my 'i'm going to have a panic attack' symptom. When this happens, I know I either need to help myself right now, or find somewhere to go where I can be safe and calm myself down for the panic attack to take over. It starts in my face and hands and will travel up my arms down my legs and into my toes. The only way I can describe it is like the feeling after pins and needles but a bit less painful and lasts a lot longer. It can turn into more of a numbness in my fingers and toes but will usually remain tingley throughout the whole attack. This happens due to blood rushing away from the skin and to the muscles for fight or flight again, leaving it tingly and cold. 

My vision will begin to distort. I can only describe it as being similar to watching static on a TV. My vision doesn't become blurred and the room doesn't spin but its almost like the world is flashing on and off in front of me. This makes me feel dizzy and I feel like I need to close my eyes. This happens due to the increase in my blood pressure and heart rate. It also occurs due to pupil dilation happening for 'fight or flight' which increases light sensitivity, hence the flashing. 

My hearing will also be affected. Not completely but suddenly it will sound like I am underwater, or have an earplug in, and everything is muffled. Strangely, it affects one ear, then swaps to the other, then back to the other and will not affect both my ears at the same time. This symptom also makes me feel very dizzy. This hearing distortion happens due to the 'fight or flight response' again and is called 'auditory exclusion' where your body blocks out sounds to help you focus on fighting or running away. 

Then I will begin to feel sick. Sometimes it's a mild niggling nausea which wont shift, other times it's a 'get me to a toilet, I'm going to be sick' sort of feeling. Despite this symptom, I have never vomited during a panic attack but will always sit by a toilet when I get to this stage if I can. This is because the blood in the digestive tract flows away from your stomach and to your muscles, again, ready for your body to fight or run away and so digestion slows down which can cause nausea and in some cases vomiting. 

I will shake. Hard. To the point where i'm sweating because the shaking has caused me to involuntary warm myself up. It will start in my hands and knees and spread throughout the attack. 9/10 I will need to sit down as I have previously collapsed due to my knees giving way from underneath me during a panic attack. This happens due to the release of adrenaline in the body, hyping the body up to fight or run away. 

Finally, I will cry. Crying usually happens when I experience a panic attack. Usually because I am scared and out of control. Even though I have experienced them before, I will still feel like I am dying each and every time I have one, and it is petrifying. Afterwards, I will cry too, out of embarrassment usually and due to not feeling good at all. I have had panic attacks where I don't cry but these will often be the attacks which affect me more afterwards, as I feel more tired and more 'run down' when I haven't cried. Odd, I know. 

Even as a student nurse, I still feel all of these things and still feel like my life is about to end for between 10-30 minutes despite knowing the medical side to it all, however they can happen one after the other so can be longer. As you can imagine, after a panic attack, I sleep. My body is weak, my emotions are all over the place and I feel very blank and empty. My muscles ache and my jaw will ache from tensing throughout. It feels like I've sprinted for 30 minutes without a break - out of breath, nauseous, hot, and aching all over.  

I hope you have found this post interesting and has given those of you that have had no experience of a panic attack some new information, and has given those of you who have had experience of a panic attack know that you're not alone, and what you feel is completely normal. I will be doing a post on how I calm myself down and bring me out of an attack in the near future and will write one on what to do if someone you're with has a panic attack too, so look out for them. 

Love Luce xo

Friday, 20 November 2015

Please Don't Tell Me To Stop Worrying.

I wanted to write a blog post discussing the not so good responses, thoughts, phrases and words I have personally heard being used with regard to my anxiety and panic disorder. Although the people saying these things may not be purposely trying to upset me, or make me feel worse, they do not help. Close family, friends, strangers and even nurses have used the phrases I want to discuss so I know how common it is to 'say the wrong thing' and I hope this post helps those of you who do have someone in your life suffering from something similar to my condition understand how some phrases don't always help and give you some ideas on how to approach the situation differently. 

"Well that's just silly/stupid/irrational" "It's all in your head"
9 times out of 10, I know. I know what runs through my head is irrational but right there and then it is something that I am struggling with, something that I have come to you about for help. Please don't disregard it as 'stupid' or 'silly' or tell me 'it's all in my head'. It makes me feel bad, annoying and like it's wrong of me to be the person I am being. I feel like i'm doing wrong by asking for help, and no one should ever be made to feel like that. 

"Have you taken your medication today" "When was the last time you saw your doctor?"
Yes. I take my medication as soon as I wake up, everyday, and I see my doctor on a regular basis for checkups. These phrases, when used out of context, makes me feel like the person on the receiving end of my thoughts and feelings believes that I need more help than I'm already being given (Side Note: when I say 'out of context' I mean if my Mum is genuinely curious as to when the last time I saw my doctor was, as I don't live at home so she wouldn't know that sort of thing, that's fair enough). It makes me feel like I am worse than I am and subsequently makes me question whether i'm not well or if my mental health has declined a bit. I'm allowed bad/down days as much as everyone else. I'm allowed to be upset or angry when someone winds me up, or something annoys me. Before I was diagnosed, I had a firey, loud side to my personality anyway and I have always been very easy to wind up, especially around close family and friends, so why is it when that side of me comes out now, do people assume I haven't taken my medication, or haven't seen my doctor?

"Stop thinking about it" "Stop worrying" "Stop overthinking"
Unless you can give me a really good technique to enable me to do any of theses three things, please don't tell me to do them. Anxiety itself is a mental health condition which involves being nervous, uneasy or scared about something with an uncertain outcome, so telling me to stop worrying is the same as telling me to get rid of my illness. I wish I could. I completely understand that 'don't worry' is the first thing you want to say to someone who is worrying, I say it to people myself, but when I am clearly very distressed, very anxious, or struggling to calm myself down, hearing these phrases, without any backup reason or explanation why I should, can really make me very uneasy and very aware of my anxiety. It's really not that easy to just stop worrying or thinking about something. 

"You're boring" "Fine, your loss" "Don't be the fun police" "Come on. Live a little"
I get these a lot from people who don't understand my type of anxiety, or people that know I don't like certain social situations but don't know why. It is a very uneducated response to me saying no to something I don't feel comfortable doing. I cannot put myself in a situation I know full well will create enormous amounts of anxiety and will probably end in a panic attack. This is definitely not to say I don't push myself out of my comfort zone to reach goals I have set for improving my mental health but as I talked about in this post, I find it very uneasy being on a typical 'student life' night out without my boyfriend or my best friend, so I often have to say no to people who invite me out. Whether or not it is the wrong thing to do, I need to protect myself and I know my limits better than anyone else does. Calling me boring, the 'fun police' or even telling me I'm a bad friend for not doing something (which yes, I have been told more than once) just brings me down knowing I can't be like 'normal' 20 year olds. Please remember, I didn't ask to be this way. 

And by far the one that hurts the most...
"There's people far worse off in the world than you are"
Oh trust me I know. I'm a nurse, I care for these people day in day out and they never leave my thoughts. I often feel guilt for suffering with a mental illness when MY patients who I'M looking after are laying in hospital unable to maybe move, maybe feed themselves, maybe speak, maybe remember their loved ones or even remember who they are, maybe feel lonely, maybe feel pain 24 hours a day, maybe unable to breathe for themselves and maybe even dying. When I come to you for help, don't make me feel  like my problems don't matter because they do. Everyone fights their own battles and everyone is important. I'm not telling you my thoughts and worries for you to feel sorry for me, I'm telling you because I need to tell someone and get it out of my thought processes. I care for those suffering every day as a job and I come to you in the hope that you can care for me. 

This post is predominantly focused at some of the responses from those close to me who (I assume) have no intent to upset or hurt me, so for strangers who are uneducated and small minded about mental health and say mean things just to be mean, ignore them. People often say things to me then realise it has upset me and apologise, and I know it can be hard to say the right thing straight away. Please remember that your loved one or friend who is suffering with anxiety, panic disorder or any other condition that may cause you to respond in ways like these, feels very alone, very scared, will probably have had to build up a lot of courage to talk to you about their worries and may not want you to say anything at all. They may just need you to listen to them and know you're there for them. Respond in a way that is useful and helpful for the person, for example 'how about you try...' instead of just 'stop worrying about it. It'll be fine'. If you don't know what to say, tell them. Whenever i'm anxious, hearing someone say 'I don't know what to say but i'm here for you' is all I need to calm me down and know i'm not alone, and i'm accepted for who I am. Even when friends and family send me links to stupid YouTube videos, or tag me in photos and videos on the internet for me to watch and laugh at, it really help me smile again and I know they're trying their best to be there for me even if they don't know what to say. For those of you reading this who can relate to me, don't get mad when people say these things. Instead, help them understand why they shouldn't use these sorts of responses and what would be a better way of responding to you. Hope this helps.

Love Luce xo

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Thank God for 'Nurse Mode' | Dealing with Adrenaline Surges.


"Adrenaline is a hormone secreted by the adrenal glands and released into the bloodstream to serve as a chemical mediator. Adrenaline has many different actions depending on the type of cells it is acting upon, however the overall effect of adrenaline is to prepare the body for the 'fight or flight' response in times of stress. It increases heart rate, increases blood pressure, expanding the air passages of the lungs, enlarging pupils, redistributing blood to muscles and altering the body's metabolism" 

Commonly experienced in those who suffer from anxiety, surges of adrenaline are released for no reason at all and can develop into strong anxiety or a panic attack. This weekend, I felt adrenaline being released at the right time for the right reason, for the first time in months. 

I often get surges of adrenaline while i'm on my nursing placement due to the nature of the job. Having to be on the ball at all times, not only to structure my tasks and efficiently working throughout the day at fast pace, but to be ready to react to an emergency situation. I have experienced having to stop what i'm doing and jump into 'life saving mode' many times, with patients who have choked on their sandwich, elderly patients who have fallen and even a patient who went into cardiac arrest, so it is not uncommon for my adrenaline to fill me with the energy and strength I need. 

After having to end my last clinical placement of 2nd year early due to my sickness, I experienced these surges of adrenaline more and more while sat watching TV, while on my phone or laptop, while talking with friends, for no reason, and although I had experienced what I like to call 'unneeded adrenaline' before, this was a lot stronger and a lot more difficult to control and calm down. These surges brought on panic attacks and strong anxiety that became noticeably difficult for me to shake off like I was used to being able to do. So since my last placement, around 10 weeks ago, I had not felt 'needed adrenaline', until this weekend. 

My best friend text me Sunday morning telling me that following 2 head collisions during his game of rugby the Wednesday before (which worried me anyway!), that his nose had started bleeding, that his headaches had got no better, his hearing was muffled on one side and he had bruising behind one of his ears. The nurse in me, using the knowledge I've learnt from lectures and patients I've cared for myself, diagnosed this as a severe head injury - worse than the concussion he self-diagnosed himself with. Of course, I explained this to him and told him to go to his local walk in centre immediately. The walk in centre checked him over and told him he needed to go to A&E as the nosebleed shouldn't have happened under the circumstances and there could be some cranial damage. When he texted me all this, my adrenaline hit the roof. Baring in mind, my anxiety levels have been good for around a week now, it was a shock to the system. While walking down to A&E to meet him so he wasn't alone, such bad, irrational thoughts were crossing my mind. What if he collapses on his way here? What if he's left it too long to be able to help him get better? Should I have made him go to A&E earlier than today? When he got there, alive, I immediately felt better because he was orientated, alert, still able to make jokes and be on Tinder. He checked in and we were told to sit in the Minors waiting area. Surprisingly, over hearing the busy rush of A&E and the hospital in general calmed me and I felt like I was in familiar surroundings. It reassured me that the adrenaline rushing around inside of me was normal and okay and that settled me alot. An hour passed and he was called in by the doctor who told him he needed a CT scan on his head and neck to check for fractures and internal damage to the brain, and this news sent another surge of adrenaline around my body. Of course, I wasn't going to let him know this, but I was scared, probably more than he was, but like my Mum always tells me "Lucy, you know too much when it comes to health". I could feel myself buzzing and my feet were going tingly like they sometimes do when I'm about to have a panic attack. I unconsciously started tapping my feet to get rid of the horrible sensation and remind myself that he was in the best possible place but still I was thinking irrational thoughts. There's going to be something wrong with him. What if he collapses in the waiting area? Will I know what to do? I was scared, at this point that my anxiety I was feeling wouldn't calm down, but it was quite clear that he was in a lot of pain with another headache and although not showing it, must have been worried so my brain rationally clicked into nurse mode and I was fine again. No tingles, no irrational thoughts. I felt these surges throughout the night, sat outside the CT room, waiting for his scan to be finished, waiting for the results of it and finally when the nurse told him what was wrong. "You've fractured your mastoid bone". Now I knew what this was before he did - he'd fractured his skull, just behind his ear. It was big shock as it is very uncommon to break this part of the skull, and again I the adrenaline crept up on me, so much so I ended up almost dancing on the spot to try and shake it off and blamed it on feeling loopy and it being 2am. I was expecting slight bruising to the brain or something like that but not a skull fracture. This was causing the headaches, the bruising, the nosebleeds and the muffled hearing as it was pressing on his ear canal. While she was explaining it all to him, again, I clicked into nurse mode and felt absolutely fine again, like I was there as a nurse supporting a patient. Thankfully there was no cranial damage. 

This time last month, I was so worried about what I'd be like having to walk back onto a ward of patients, many very ill, and have to deal with adrenaline surges again. Would I have to try really hard to direct it where it needs to go? What if I don't get them when I need them? What if I get them when I don't need them and I can't shake it off? After this weekend, I know that I can go back to what I love doing. I can use the adrenaline thrust upon me for a reason and use nurse mode to shake it off. Nurses need it, and I do sometimes wonder if maybe it doesn't help my anxiety that I am so prone to having moments where I need adrenaline fast. It's also taught me that I can handle my anxiety, and I can put others first, put a brave face on and come out with a genuine smile. I am so proud of myself for what I achieved Sunday night and it's shown how much I have developed with my anxiety and panic disorder. I was telling another friend about it all today and she said "8 weeks ago, there is no way you could have handled hearing that sort of news from him, let alone willingly support him through it all, especially with that sort of outcome" and it's true. I wouldn't have been able to, but now I know I can. I know that hospitals and helping those in need is were I belong and is where I feel most comfortable. It's where I can be me.

Love Luce xo

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Mental Health | An Alternative Perspective.

Having a mental health illness such as anxiety and panic disorder doesn't just affect the person suffering from it. It affects those closest too them too. For me, I kept my problems and diagnosis hidden from a lot of people and only told people I felt I had to tell and those I trusted to keep it a secret. After all, I was embarrassed and incredibly guilty for feeling how I was feeling and worried what people would think of me, which looking back was not how I should have been feeling at all. By telling those closest to me, I was able to get the support needed, have them on my side and I didn't feel like I had to go through it alone. I was intrigued to pick the thoughts from my nearest and dearest about my diagnosis and how their thoughts on anxiety and mental health in general have changed since.

My Boyfriend of 6 years.

How did you feel when I told you I had been diagnosed with anxiety and panic disorder?

I knew you had some anxiety problems but I never realised how bad they were. To begin with, I felt like I was treading on eggshells around you because I didn't want to say the wrong thing. I didn't know anything about anxiety or panic disorder so I didn't really know how you needed to be helped. After I asked you how I could help and you told me, it's become easier because I know what I should and shouldn't say and do and what to do if you have a particularly anxious moment or panic. 

What were your thoughts and views on mental health as a whole before my diagnosis?
I knew people suffered from it but I didn't understand why or how they came to suffer. In all honesty, I didn't really believe it. I thought that people who had mental health problems were people in secure hospital units and had to be retrained like in films and I really had no idea of how many different levels and types of mental health conditions there were. 

How do you view mental health as a whole now?

Mental health as a whole is something not enough people know about. It's brushed under the carpet and it really shouldn't be. I understand the biological factors of mental health specific to your condition now and feel it really should be treated the same as a physiological injury or condition.

What is the hardest part of me suffering from anxiety and panic disorder for you?
Whenever I'm not with you, I can't help, and because were so far away at different universities, I can't just pop over and help calm you down or be there for you. I can ring or FaceTime you, but it's not the same. I don't like knowing that at times, you're physically on your own when you feel low.

My Mum.

How did you feel when I told you I had been diagnosed with anxiety and panic disorder?
Worried because I was out of control and wasn't able to make you better like if you had a tummy bug or a cold. I also felt guilty especially due to the fact your Dad and I and the way we dealt with the 'Queensgate situation' was technically the cause of your anxiety and I'm you're mum so I fundamentally feel like it's my fault. I also was scared of what it could develop into, and was scared of how you would handle it all. 

What were your thoughts and views on mental health as a whole before my diagnosis?
Very open minded as I have experienced mental health in my working and personal life. Although it's still not talked about enough and understood by many, I feel like it's better than it was 30 years ago when I first came across mental illness. I did understand the biological side of mental health from my healthcare training and experiencing mental illness in my family. 

How do you view mental health as a whole now?

I've always had a very open minded approach to mental health and fully understand it can affect anyone whoever they are. Its not about the type of person they are, it's about a chemical imbalance. However, different personalities are able to handle this in different ways and it does affect everyone differently.

What is the hardest part of me suffering from anxiety and panic disorder for you?
Not being able to help you in anyway. I can't do anything to make you feel better when you are having a bad day, it is out of my control (and I'm a control freak!). However, I am very proud of how you deal with it and I am proud of you for  how you are turning it around from being a negative thing for you into a positive thing to help yourself and others. 

My Dad. 

How did you feel when I told you I had been diagnosed with anxiety and panic disorder?
At first, I was in a state of denial (I suppose I still am). I honestly thought you knew too much being a student nurse and was reading into it too deeply. Even when you were signed off by the doctor for being too unwell to work or be at university, I told myself you were exhausted and your body was just too tired. I just didn't want to believe it. 

What were your thoughts and views on mental health as a whole before my diagnosis?
I wrongly joked about it. It's very common for people to joke about topics they have a lack of understanding about and I was one of those people. I believed that those with mental health conditions were in asylums, not normal people living normal everyday lives. 

How do you view mental health as a whole now?

I have a deeper understanding of it all now, especially thanks to you writing this blog as not everything you type up for on here you say out loud to me and your Mum. But, I still try not to think too deeply about it as I don't want to believe it all. 

What is the hardest part of me suffering from anxiety and panic disorder for you?
Guilt. People always say "it's always the parents fault" and it does make me feel guilty. Even though you always tell us it's not our fault, I will always feel guilty. As your Dad, I helped build the building blocks for your life, and in my eyes, there must have been something go wrong for you to be how you are now.

My Brother.

How did you feel when I told you I had been diagnosed with anxiety and panic disorder?
When you was first diagnosed, I didn't even know - no one told me in case I worried too much. When I found out though, I didn't really believe it, probably because I couldn't see anything wrong with you. Once you and others talked to me a bit more about it, I understood it more and just wanted you to be okay. 

What were your thoughts and views on mental health as a whole before my diagnosis?
I thought people who had mental health conditions were those whose mental illness shows in their personality, the way they think, talk or do things. Like schizophrenics talking to voices. I never really understood the different types of mental health conditions at all. 

How do you view mental health as a whole now?

That people with a mental health illness aren't 'insane' or 'mental' as is can sometimes be shown in the media or on TV programmes and films. I also know that it affects a lot more people than I realised, its not always obvious at all and it should be talked about more. 

What is the hardest part of me suffering from anxiety and panic disorder for you?
I don't find it hard really now that I understand it. Because we don't live together any more, I keep updated with your blog too to help me learn about it more as well as talking on the phone and texting to know you're okay. I just have to be a nice and supportive brother and then it's okay for us both. 

My Best Friend

How did you feel when I told you I had been diagnosed with anxiety and panic disorder?
I was confused. I didn't know anything about any of it, at all, and I didn't really know how to handle it. I didn't realise it was as bad as you had been telling me, and I didn't now how to help. But I definitely was very confused about it all. 

What were your thoughts and views on mental health as a whole before my diagnosis?
I never had any experience of it so I never really thought about it. I think that unless you come face to face with it or have first hand experience of it, it's not something that really concerns you. 

How do you view mental health as a whole now?

I'm more aware of it all and how it affects people. I know about the problems it can cause people from what you tell me about what you feel you can and cant do, and I am definitely more sympathetic about it all. 

What is the hardest part of me suffering from anxiety and panic disorder for you?
In all honesty, it can be hard having to hear you say the things you say when you're anxious. It's difficult to understand why you say the things you do but I do try and put that to the back of my mind and think 'okay, this is the anxiety talking' and do the best I can. I have to give you frequent boosts of confidence to keep you going sometimes which can be hard too, to know I have to do that, but I do it because it helps you. 

I hope this post helps you understand how others feel around the topic of mental health and anxiety and panic disorder in particular. For those of you worried about speaking to a parent, a friend, a sibling or a partner about how you're feeling, I hope this helps you open up and talk to someone about it all. Even though it is a very challenging concept to understand for people who do not have experience or and education of it, in my experience, the people nearest to you love you for you, will try their best to understand and empathise and will always be there to support you and help you get through the bad times. 

Love Luce xo

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