Monday, 25 January 2016

Citalopram | My Side Effects

I woke up the other morning and sat thinking about the side effects, both good and bad, that I have experienced since September 2015 when I was started on Citalopram. I thought it would make an interesting blog post for those of you who have no idea what Citalopram is or be interesting and insightful for those of you with a close one on the medication or if you're on it yourself. 

So Citalopram is a Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor or SSRI and basically means it ensures there enough serotonin to flow around my brain to have a positive influence on moods and emotions. If I wasn't on Citalopram, my brain would absorb all the serotonin and there wouldn't be enough floating around to have a positive impact on my emotions. It is classified as an anti-depressant medication due to its chemical use within mental health conditions, but it is also used with panic disorders as the brain acts in a similar way. It is a prescription only medication so cannot be bought over the counter, and they are definitely not given out like sweets. Taking SSRIs can have a real positive effect on people whose brains lacks enough serotonin, but they are unsafe to be used for people who have no chemical imbalances in their brain. Despite them being a real life-saver for me, Citalopram in particular is a medication that is known for it's many side effects, many of which I have experienced. When I was first prescribed them, my doctor told me it was likely I would experience some side effects for the first 2-4 weeks while my body adjusts to the chemicals readjusting in my brain and this was certainly true.

I once counted the side effects listed on the information leaflet that came with my tablets and there were a grand total of 48 side effects. The list surprisingly included 'anxiety' and 'panic attacks' which blew my mind, but if you look at the information leaflet for paracetamol, it says it can cause headaches!! I did experience 3 weeks of worsened anxiety and panic attacks which was awful and did land me in A&E on one occasion but once I got over the initial 3-4 weeks, everything seemed to settle down. During these first few weeks, I also experienced loss of appetite, fatigue, headaches, dizziness, terrible nausea and lack of sleep, so as you can imagine it wasn't fun for me. I actually met up with friends at a local pub during the worst week for side effects and I can honestly say it was one of the worst experiences of my life, especially because only three of the 8 friends sat round the table knew I wasn't well. 

They all wore off after 4 weeks and I slowly started to notice the good effects of Citalopram. I was feeling positive, I didn't have the sinking feeling I was used to feeling every day and I started smiling and laughing a lot more. To this day, I still do often feel nauseous in the mornings and do get very bad headaches and these are because of my tablets, but its nothing I can't handle, and the benefits of my tablets outweigh the negatives. The main inspiration for this blog post was one of my more stranger remaining side effects which is vivid thoughts and dreams. This side effect has again been confirmed by my doctor to be medication related and it's something that makes me laugh sometimes. I experience vivid daydreams, so much so when I enter real life is it very difficut for me to believe what I was daydreaming about hadn't actually happened. Similarly, the dreams I have are dreams that are so real life and vivid that I honestly believe they've happened. I don't dream about being in a different country or people turning into animals, I dream about my Dad waking me up and making me come downstairs for breakfast, or a normal shift on the ward or going shopping and buying milk and gherkins. The other weird thing is that when I'm at home, my dreams are at home, when I'm at my uni flat, my dreams are at my uni flat or when i'm staying with Ben, my dreams will be located at his house. However funny this may sound, I also have real life and vivid nightmares, like a family member dying, which is obviously horrible and more upsetting after I wake up than if I dreamt about a lion chasing me across a field. 

Another side effect worth mentioning just as a finishing point is that if I take two tablets too close together, my mood can go one of two ways; I either get hyperactive, excitable and show the same effects as drinking 5 cans of Redbull, or my mood increases my anxiety and I feel very nervous, scared and worried. For this reason, I am very particular about when I take my tablets. This was just a small insight into the side effects of my medication but will write another post regarding Citalopram and its functions in more detail and my thoughts about it if this is something people would like to read? Remember all medication works differently with different people and all medications have their risks alongside their benefits.

Love  Luce xo

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Anxieties before Anxiety.

I was speaking to my Mum the other day about how I've always been an anxious child even from being very small and since then, random memories about strange things I did growing up which could (not certain, i'm not a psychologist) have pointed in the direction of anxiety. I spoke about how uneasy I was (and still am) while out in public with friends and family in this post but here some more of my personal memories that show similarities to the way I feel nowadays. 

The memory me and my Mum were speaking about was my behaviour when I started secondary school. I was 11 years old and since my first day of secondary school, I went off breakfast. I didn't eat it and it was because I always felt sick in the morning. I was scared I would be sick on the bus or at school if I ate my breakfast so I started throwing it in the bin, or leaving it on the side and running out the house before Mum noticed. Then when she started to notice, I used to come down for breakfast earlier than anyone else and pour a tiny bit of milk into the bottom of the bowl so it looked like i'd eaten my breakfast, but obviously when the cereal wasn't getting eaten, my parents found out again. (I will just add, I was vegetarian at the time and very petite body shape wise, so my parents had a reason to worry about me not eating.) My Mum then confronted me and asked why I wasn't eating breakfast and I told her it wasn't because I didn't want to, it was because it made me feel sick, so she took me shopping to buy something that wouldn't make me feel sick in the mornings and the only thing I chose out of the whole of Tescos was jellies fruit pots. Fair enough, it did work. I ate one a morning, but still felt sick. Gradually over the course of 3 years and as I got older, I moved onto cereal bars but that was because as a 14/15 year old girl, I had no time for breakfast in the morning(!). I believe that this 'sickness' I felt for a good 3 years of being at secondary school was nervousness about the bus journey and school itself. I had lots of friends, there was typical girl fall-outs, and being in an all girls school, there was obviously bitchiness, but as soon as I got to school, the sickness went. Still to this day, I know when I'm having a not so great day when I wake up and find myself feeling sick, and nausea is a regular feature in my panic attacks too. 

Which leads me onto a general memory. I always remember having one group of friends at school really, but this group would obviously split and mingle with others when typical girl-ness got in the way. I would always always always do what anyone told me to and everyone knew that. I wouldn't say I was ever 'bullied' but if someone said to me, go to the canteen and fetch me a sandwich, I would do it. This behaviour is 100% related back to my social attachment anxiety and the fact I have a fear of being rejected and a fear of people not liking me, so I did everything everyone asked of me. A lot of friends knew this and would tell me to stop letting people walk all over me, but I never saw it like that. I just saw it as doing something nice for someone else. I'd be the one to tear my hymn book in half to save a friend from getting a detention for forgetting hers, and risk getting a detention myself for ripping mine up. I'd be the one to fetch and carry things for other people or lend people money I didn't really have to lend out. Bad move sometimes, but to me, I was always just doing something nice for others. To be fair, looking back now, a very small amount of people took advantage of the fact i'd do anything for anyone, but a lot would step in and tell me not to things because it wasn't fair on me. The fear of not having anyone like me and having people not want anything to do with me is still apparent in my personality today but I think back then I was a lot more naive and immature to realise when people used it to their advantage. Nowadays, I can tell when people are walking all over me and although it takes a lot of courage, I do say something. It's hard when I have an irrational but very loud voice inside me screaming "Don't say anything, just do it! They'll hate you and you'll never have any friends" but I have to to be good to myself. 

Memory 3 made me laugh when I remembered it. In primary school, there used to be a library van that would come to the school every Thursday after Lunch and we would be able to go into the van and choose a book to have for a week until the van came again. I chose a book and took it home and throughout the week, it somehow ripped. Just one of the pages ripped but it had ripped down half the page. I only noticed it in the car on the way to school the following Thursday morning - hand in day. When I saw it I felt sick. I felt like I didn't want to go to school, because if I didn't go to school, I didn't have to give the book in today which means no one would know I ripped it. I went to school nonetheless and I spent my whole morning totally distracted by the fact I had ripped a library book and it was sat in my bag and the librarian and my teacher would hate me. I thought about fixing it but didn't have a anything to fix it with. The saddest bit of this memory is I distinctively remember walking up to the library van with my classmates to exchange books and feeling panicky that everyone would hate me when they knew I ripped the book. In the end, no one even noticed and I chose another book and went about my day. Best afternoon ever. But again, its that same familiar feeling of "everyone is going to hate me" that I still get today. 

This ones funny too and I know if my Dad and Brother read this they'll be laughing along, even though at the time it was not funny for me. When I was about 7, my brother was 5 and we were playing in the garden swinging from a conker tree that my Dad planted when he was a boy. The branch broke. A big branch that stuck out into the garden. My brother turned on the 'I'm telling Daddy' and I told him if he did that i'd tell Dad it was him. Obviously. I honestly thought, even as a 7 year old that my own Dad would hate me and never speak to me again if he knew I broke the branch, so me and Bradley decided to hide the branch in a nearby ditch and collect all the brown felt tips in the house to colour the broken section of fresh new bark on the trunk. We spent ages colouring in where the branch was in hope that Dad wouldn't notice. Nothing was said and every day I looked at the tree and hated myself for breaking the branch and was scared every day that Dad would realise and hate me. 7 year old me genuinely struggled getting to sleep because of the fear that Dad will hate me and wouldn't love me anymore, and would that mean I would have to live with Grandma and Grandad.....I know.....irrational. He never mentioned it. He knew and we still laugh about it today but he wasn't even mad. And FYI my Dad doesn't hate me and I am still welcomed into the family home and don't live at my Grandmas. 

I'm sure there are a lot more memories, and a lot of my childhood is remembered because I relate to the feelings I felt then to how I do now. I can tell you the exact timetable of activities the Summer Club at the local leisure centre held the day Mum took me and my brother there because the feelings I felt there are similar to ones I feel now when I do feel anxious. Some of you might think, 'yeah, but loads of people feel like that', and that's the point. This is anxiety and everyone will feel anxious at some point in their life, but for me, it gets worrying when  I realise I never grew out of my already-weird childhood fears like all my friends did. Normal 7 year olds are scared of the dark, I was scared of people hating me or scared that i'd go to a kids club or friends party and my parents wont pick me up and i'll be left there forever. I don't know why I haven't been able to grow out of these sorts of fears, I know where they stem from but I honestly don't think anyone does hate me or ever has done (that I know of). All I can do is learn from my memories, realise they are part of who I am, and learn how to cope with situations that may bring me anxiety or panic better.

Love Luce xo

Saturday, 9 January 2016

My 2016 Wish List.

Laying in bed last night reading my book, I started to think about how much I want 2016 to be different than the last. I have never been someone to believe in or make New Years resolutions as no one ever sticks to them, but 2016 has so much in store for me, and I am more determined than ever to make it a better year than 2015 for myself. I started flicking through my thoughts about what I want to achieve, or do, or change in myself. So here is my wish list for 2016, which I hope in a years time I can review and be proud of myself to achieving my dreams for the year:

1. I want to qualify as a Registered General Nurse. 

After 3 years of working my bum off to achieve my dream of becoming a nurse, this year is the year I get to finally say 'I've done it'. It has, by no means, been an easy road and I will say it over and over again, Nursing is not a normal university degree. Working full time as a nurse on placement blocks, while balancing assignments, exams, placement books and reflections and being able to enjoy life with your family and friends is the hardest thing I've ever had to do. I have had more low times while studying to be a nurse than I ever have in my whole life but I would not be able to do what I've always wanted to do without going through it all. I hope to qualify in October 2016, so long as I pass my 2nd year resit exam in February. Fingers crossed.

2. I want to move back home with my Mum and Dad
I can hear 80% of you reading this thinking "why on earth would a 21 year old want to move back home?" but I have struggled so much with home-sickness and feeling unsafe and lonely throughout the past 3 years while living away for university that to be back at home where I am safe, secure and never on my own is what I've wanted for a long time. No, I can't deny that I am looking forward to not having to cook for myself or wash my own clothes, or never again having to open to fridge and internally cry at the half a pepper and tub of butter sat only in the company of each other on the second shelf down, but the main reason I want to be back home is so I can be myself and be happy again. I'm not saying it's forever as hopefully after Ben has finished university in 2017, we will save up and move into our own place, but until then I would much prefer to live in my family home with my support system close and available, than in a flat on my own.

3. I want to be accepted for a newly qualified job that I actually want to do. 

So many nurses have told me how after they qualified, they took the first job they could just so they could get working, or how they have took a job on a ward they didn't necessarily like or have a passion about just because they felt they had to. I know I do not want to work in medicine as for me, it doesn't give me the drive or fulfill my passion for nursing in the same way surgery does. I know I like acute and fast paced departments, and departments that take patients straight from A&E have been my favorite placements. My community placement involved spending some time with the practice nurse in the GP surgery and this is when I realised this was something I really enjoyed as I could work independently and have a problem presented to me for me to solve. Practice nursing, in my eyes, has a stronger and tighter support system with other nurses and GPs just around the corner if needed. So when I qualify I will be looking for jobs in acute surgery/outpatient settings or GP surgery settings. Watch this space.

4. I really would like to make something from this blog.
I starting writing this blog for me, and for my own personal therapy however, it quickly developed into a space for others to learn about mental health conditions like mine, and for people who struggle with them too to feel less alone and to develop the confidence to make a change for themselves. The amount of messages I have received from people I know and people I don't know thanking me for giving them the confidence to get help, or helping them learn more about it all is unreal and I will never regret starting this blog. The more this blog is being shared and liked on social media sites or shared by word of mouth, or emailed to friends, the more it is helping people all over the world (Literally, hello to those of you in Australia, Barbados, Mexico, Bolivia, Algeria and all the other countries. I see you watching me!). Because of this, my aim it to have at least 10,000 people read my blog this year so more and more people can learn and feel less alone.

5. I want to get fitter and live a healthier lifestyle. 
Back in the Easter-Summer of 2015, I really had a health kick and along with a fellow nurse friend from Uni who is the best gym motivator ever, I worked out and ate healthily. I lost a healthy amount of weight and toned my body up so well. I showed everyone my 'before and after photos', even my brother and dad despite them not really wanting to see photos of me in my underwear (awks), but I was so proud of myself. I never had to force myself to go to the gym, I just simply fitted it around lectures at university and went 2 to 3 times a week. I really did enjoy it. When I started my third placement of 2nd year, I found it difficult to keep up and was too tired to fit the gym around my shifts and slowly lost the motivation. Then in August I was diagnosed with my mental illnesses and lost a lot of weight with that from not having an appetite at all. Since then, my weight has fluctuated and obviously Christmas and my love of cheese did not help. Exercise is also an amazing way to self help myself when it comes to my conditions and people have always mentioned how much more energy I had last year and how liberated I looked, and I did feel good so I would like to feel that again. I have my goal weight and I really want to reach it this year and keep myself there. With then help of my little gym buddy, I know I'll do it. (Helen, if you're reading this, thanks for offering to help me reach my goal xox)

Now the top 5 have been written an explained, here are some silly little wish list items that i'd like to achieve by 2017:

6. I want to swim in the sea. I never got to last year and I love the sea. 
7. I want to say 'yes' to a lot more. It is the only way my confidence will grow and I can develop as a person. 
8. I want to fill my first Project Life album.
9. I want to grow my blonde highlights out and keep my hair its natural dark brown colour. I haven't had my natural hair colour since I was 13 and kind of want to try something different!
10. I want to go to a proper spa where they do massages and things. 
11. I want to stay creative and keep hand-making and personalising gifts for friends and family.
12. I want to sort my wardrobe and draws out back at home. I've has a few 'i don't wear that anymore, I'll chuck it/sell it' moments throughout the past 12 months but I have 2 sets of draws with clothes that have no organisation at all and a wardrobe with clothes not even on hangers (!!)
13. I want to successfully insert an Naso-Gastric tube for a patient. 
14. I want to read at least 15 books this year. 
15. I want to see a medium or a clairvoyant. Mainly because I want to see if they're real and if they are, I want to speak to my Grandad. 
16. I want to go to Madame Tussaud's!! 
17. I want to drink butter beer at the Warner Brothers Studios. 
18. I want to own at least one more item of Mac makeup. (My Mac bronzer, kindly gifted to me by a special someone, is my absolutelife)
19. I want to watch a musical in the West End. I've always loved Les Mis but all West End musicals are a dream to me. I grew up singing along to songs from the Musicals but have never seen one. 
20. I want to start my saving fund for my Invisalign braces. I need my front nashers straightening and have wanted Invisalign braces for years but I will only allow myself, with my earnings to pay for them!

Make you're own list, see what you really want to do with this year. See you in a years time to see how i've done!

Love Luce xo

Friday, 1 January 2016

Page 365 of 365.

As the clock turned 12 am last night/this morning, I was surrounded by my friends and boyfriend and was honestly happy the 1st page of a new 366 page book was being opened for me. 2015 was a whirlwind of emotions and a big journey for me, and those closest to me too. I thought i'd take the opportunity to use my blog to talk about the highs and lows of my year and why I'm looking forward to 2016. This is mostly for my sake, so I can reflect on the past year, but it may also help others who have followed my blog and supported me throughout to understand a little bit more. 

2015 was an odd year for me in that I could feel something inside me wasn't right from early on in the year. I moved out of my second year, privately rented university accommodation into safer student accommodation due to a case of violence and breaking and entering while in the house at the time. My Mum and Dad say that they cannot believe how well I handled this due to the fear and shock I endured the night it happened and for the month following it. Myself and my housemate were sent back to our hometowns by our university 2 weeks early for Christmas 2014 to ensure we were safe and happy which helped a lot, and moving into more secure accommodation really settled us both. Alongside this, early in the year, I was referred to a gastrointestinal consultant for a painful reflux/hiccup/squeak/weird-noise-that-sounds-like-a-dog-toy. I had to have blood tests, breath tests, multiple examinations and an endoscopy.

I started to notice my worrying and panicking over the smallest things was getting a lot worse, very quickly and it got to the point where family members and friends were starting to notice. My Mum recommended seeing a psychotherapist in my local town to see if talking to a professional would help me deal with my emotions better. This is where I was diagnosed with anxiety. My psychotherapist was lovely. I saw her regularly and she helped me dig out the cause of my anxiety which I talk about in this blog post and believe me, working it all out helped so much to not feel stupid and understand it better myself. 

I then googled blogs and Pinterest boards with ideas on how to help myself with channeling my emotions, fears and worries in a creative and positive way and I started journaling fauxbonichi style (heres a link to Pinterest posts on the style I journalled in) - writing, doodling, drawing and storing memories. It helped me reflect on what I have done that day and how I feel.

In the summertime, after achieving Firsts in all my assignments and projects (70% or over), I had an exam for my nursing degree which I didn't reach the required mark to pass. This was the biggest shock to me as I have always worked my bum off to gain high grades. I was not expecting it at all and only lacked 2%. I still to this day, along with others (including academic staff!) believe I was unfairly marked, but rightly or wrongly, I decided to go ahead and just retake the exam to avoid any further stress. Things were making me very anxious for no reason now. I asked my doctor for help as it started to really affect my life and was prescribed Propanolol for anxiety to help me keep calm and settled.

4 weeks later, my boyfriend, Ben, sustained a head injury while playing football which ended up leading to an admittance to hospital. This shook me up a lot as I wanted nothing more than to come home and be with him while he was unwell but I was on placement and looking after poorly people in hospital. But it got too much and I rushed home to be with Ben. This was around the time I feel first felt the effects and signs of the panic attacks I have nowadays. The fast heart rate followed by the flush of heat and so on. A few weeks later, while I was on placement, I had my big panic attack that ended me in A&E and had me diagnosed with anxiety and panic disorder (here's the blog post about that).

I was started on Citalopram and was told by my doctor I was too unwell to be in university or on placement as my mental health was too unstable and I was physically and mentally drained. I had to put myself first. I came home and spent 4 weeks getting myself better with the help with my family and was taken on a lovely week getaway with my Aunty, Uncle, Granma and cousins in Fowey in Cornwall, which helped me escape life and relax all day every day. At this time, no one knew about my diagnosis other than my immediate family, my bestfriend and boyfriend, my Aunty and my cousin, so being treated like normal and being on 'holiday' was exactly what I needed. Fowey and the people I had around me will always be so important to me for bringing me out of a dark place and giving me the courage to get up and start again. However, while in Fowey, I was told via email by my university that I wouldn't be allowed to take my resit exam due to being off sick and this may mean I will have to be deferred 6 months in my course, and this news broke my heart. I didn't want to feel like a failure to myself and to others around me. This is when I started scrapbooking with Project Life. This was my therapy and still is to this day. It is the only thing that really allows me to concentrate on happiness and good things in my life. 

Luckily, after weeks of stress and anxiety, I was back at university and I was told that due to the circumstances, I wouldn't have to be deferred and would be allowed to remain in the group I started with (and now will be ending with!). I was ecstatic and was told my resit exam would be in February 2016 - plenty of time to revise.  I finally felt like I could get on with my life and get myself better with the help of my support network around me.

My motivation to be organised and work hard is now stronger than it ever has been (and I didn't think it was possible!). For Christmas, my cousin bought me the Oh Deer Daily Journal for this new year which is absolutely perfect for the type of organiser I am. I blog on here to release my thoughts and help others, which is therapy for me, more than anyone realises. I am looking forward to starting a fresh page in my journal, and a fresh page in my life. 2016 is the year I turn 21, the year I become a qualified adult nurse, the year I move back home and the year for proving to myself I can do it. I am strong and I have it in me to be anything I want to be. Everyone who has supported me this year, who has written me letters, emails and texts of encouragement and pride, made me personal and special gifts after reading my blog, and those who have shown your support for me by simply liking my blog on Facebook, thank you. Thank you for sharing my story and allowing yourselves and others to learn about my disorders and the way in which I, and many others may work differently. To those of you who feel you share similarities with me, be strong, be confident and believe you can be whoever you want to be. Make this year the year you change things for yourself. Things will get better. Happy New Year Everyone. Here's to a fresh, new year. 

Love Luce xo

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