Mental Health Awareness Week 2018

To mark the start of Mental Health Awareness Week I want to share my story of living with Depression & Anxiety.

I’m rolling it back to early 2017, I was at my lowest & I felt this wave of anxiety & depression take over me. I had previously struggled with both but this time it creeped up on me without any warning & smothered me.

I was lost, miserable & angry. The anger stemmed from my frustration of a Three Year battle to conceive. Infertility Appointments which made me feel like a failure. The Specialists had no answers as to why I couldn’t have a Baby which added to my miserable state. Unexplained Infertility.

I struggled to deal with the situation I was in, I pushed people away, I lashed out & I hated myself.

A dark cloud was over me all the time, I tried to shrug it off or ignore it but I just couldn’t. My actions spiralled out of control as I couldn’t see a way out of the situation. I turned to painkillers to help me manage. Of course, they didn’t help but I had to take them.

One day I broke down to my Husband, he could see that I was in a bad place & had noticed I was hiding painkillers from him. He always reassured me that the Infertility issues were our problems, not just mine & we could find a solution to any problem. He encouraged me to reach out to my GP & seek help & that’s exactly what I did.

The hardest part was opening up & telling someone how I felt without covering it up with “but it’s fine, I’ll be okay” or “I’ll deal with it, I just have to”. I came off painkillers, spoke to my husband more about my inner battles & I acknowledged my anger & worked to change it into something positive.

A year on, I still choke up at the thought of what would have happened if I continued down the road I was on because I was desperately looking for a road out.

I opened up. I told someone how I really felt. I got help. Here I am, a year on, 37 weeks pregnant with our little miracle. I’m extremely lucky & thankful & I continue to battle my demons but I’m not alone.

Don’t suffer in silence. Reach out. My door is always open to others who want to talk.

The following links have useful info & support:

https://www.seemescotland.org

https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk

https://www.samaritans.org

Fibromyalgia Awareness Day 2018

I’ve previous shared my experience of living with Fibromyalgia covering topics such as Managing Fibromyalgia while Working , 5 Things That Help Me Manage Fibromyalgia & Managing Fibromyalgia during Pregnancy .

In this post, I want to share what daily life is like with Fibromyalgia & the steps I take to manage life with chronic pain. From the moment my eyes open in the morning, I can feel the pain run throughout my body, my joints are stiff & muscles tense. It takes me a few moments to come around with the fatigue hitting me smack in the face.

I know that if I move my joints will ease up & as the day goes on it gets a little easier to move around & get things done. In January, I had to finish up work due to a combination of pregnancy problems & flare-ups. Having a routine is important, otherwise I would be stuck in bed all day unable to move which only makes things worse for me. Don’t get me wrong, I have days where I have to rest or stay in bed longer because the pain is so intense.

I’ve learned to pace myself when doing daily tasks. Before I would push myself to do something quickly, over do it & then suffer later. Now I do a little bit at a time & most importantly I rest. If I have a busy day planned it takes days of planning making sure I don’t over do it the day before & that I get plenty of rest & sleep.

My top tips for managing my Fibromyalgia are:

1. Pacing; breaking tasks into smaller chunks.

2. Plenty of Rests with time to recover.

3. Keeping a routine.

4. Keep moving. No matter how bad I am, I have to keep moving.

Fibromyalgia isn’t just pain. It’s a combination of symptoms from IBS, depression, anxiety, brain fog & widespread pain. I’m raising awareness of what life is like with Fibromyalgia & how I manage daily life.

You can find more information about Fibromyalgia here:

http://www.fmauk.org

https://www.arthritisresearchuk.org/arthritis-information/conditions.aspx?gclid=Cj0KCQjwodrXBRCzARIsAIU59TIrfOTqqzP4E8tWYyPyRiehC_81haaorEErQ43AVWgVwUdMjRiY6t8aAhuLEALw_wcB

Babymoon – Perthshire

Before I was pregnant I didn’t even know this was a thing. A last romantic getaway before the baby arrives. The romantic scene of husband & wife cuddling up in front of the log fire & embracing each other before life changes. Well, that’s certainly the image I have painted in my head.

Let me set the scene for our babymoon. My husband, I & Chewie! We couldn’t possibly go away without taking our puppy.

We booked the Whitemoss Lodge B&B in the heart of Perthshire for an overnight stay with a different feel to it. We stayed in a Pod which was a wooden cabin looking much like a hotel room inside with all its luxuries & central heating & ensuite bathroom but felt more like the adventure of camping. Without the sore back, cold weather & creepy crawlies!

Our pod overlooked the beautiful Perthshire Hills surrounded by green fields as far as the eye could see. Sheep roamed the fields & the rabbits darted in between them. Soon to be replaced by little bundles of joy, with the sheep due to have their lambs. The long windows in the pod gave a great opportunity to sit back in the comfort of the pod & enjoy the wonderful views of Perthshire.

The air was still as we walked Chewie in the fields while he jotted about like the happy pup he is with a watchful eye on the rabbits & sheep. Being pregnant, I tried to keep up & was left feeling jealous of my pups energy levels.

In the Morning, we had a lovely breakfast made by the B&B owner who delivered our hot meal with a selection of cold items in a wicker basket. This was the perfect end to the overnight stay.

Whitemoss offers the peaceful getaway in a perfect location to explore the countryside & local towns with the option of visiting the City of Perth. Free WiFi, parking, breakfast included & dogs go free!

Managing My Fibromyalgia during Pregnancy

Since I was diagnosed in 2016, I’ve struggled daily with widespread pain, brain fog, anxiety, migraines, IBS, skin sensitivity & sleepless nights. Living with Fibromyalgia was never easy before I conceived & I knew that it would continue to challenge me during my pregnancy.

Similar to my Arthritis, the first 12 weeks of my Pregnancy were relatively pain free & I felt a burst of energy like never before. I was able to walk in the mornings & got through much of my days pain free. I made the most of this unusual feeling & was able to enjoy a trip away to New York & Philadelphia. Thinking back, I would have struggled to enjoy that trip with Fibro flare ups.

Although the symptoms of pain had eased during this time I experienced morning sickness or should I say all day & night sickness! From the moment I woke up until last thing at night I felt sick & I developed a sensitivity to smells. Even the smell of my husbands aftershave was enough to tip me over the edge.

From week 12-20, the little burst of energy I had left me & the fatigue creeped back in. I struggled to find a work-life balance & was so exhausted after work & I felt myself sliding back into a flare. My IBS symptoms were active during this time which left me feeling sluggish.

As I mentioned in my previous blog Arthritis & Pregnancy, I was diagnosed with Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction (SPD) also known as Pelvic Girdle Pain which is common in pregnancy. This has caused much of my pain to be in my hips & lower back.

My fibromyalgia has been up & down during my pregnancy but I do feel like I’ve been able to manage it & battle through it. I was relieved to experience 12 weeks pain & flare free & I made the most of that time. I’ve now reached my third trimester & final stretch is in sight.

This blog was also published on The Mighty & can be accessed here:

https://themighty.com/2018/03/managing-fibromyalgia-during-pregnancy/

Mother’s Day

I wrote this for Mother’s Day on the 11th of March & posting it on International Women’s Day. I feel it’s a fitting post for both.

I’m well aware that life with a chronic illness has been just as difficult for my Mum as it has been for me. From a young age I’ve been attending hospitals for various conditions & my mum was always there supporting me & making sure I followed treatment plans.

She was there every step of the way with me, she endured as much of the pain as I did as she watched me & had many a sleepless night looking after me. Not once did she complain, or question my pain & fought hard for me to get support.

Many times I would falter. I would question my ability to do things. I wanted to give up. It was that voice of my Mum in the background “Leann, you’ve came this far. You can’t give up. You can do this”. She reassured me things would get better & she instilled in me a can do attitude where giving up was never an option.

A strong, independent & determined women who brought me up on her own & supported me through High School exams & University. Through the tears & tantrums she guided me.

I’m blessed to have such a strong women by my side & I hope that I’m half the Mum she is to me.

Photo by Premier Photography

In Memory of my Nephew

On the 24th of February 2014, my nephew Tyler was stillborn. The awful news tore through the family, grinding us all to a halt & filling us with utter sadness. Our happiness & joy of a new baby coming into to the family quickly turned sour to heartache & pain.

Not only did it affect my brother & his wife but the wider family were devastated. As an Auntie, I felt lost & heartbroken & I turned to online resources to help me through this.

The Stillbirth & Neonatal Death Charity Sands provided me with much comfort & support through this experience. The group meetings provided great support & comfort to both my Brother & Sister in Law. Peer support & a safe place to talk helped them through their most challenging point in their lives.

In Memory of Tyler’s 4 year Anniversary I have donated money to the charity Sands & to raise awareness of the great work they do to support families who are affected by stillbirths & neonatal deaths.

For further information & support please visit: https://www.sands.org.uk/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI9arqhey02QIVBomyCh3OjQuBEAAYASAAEgIrq_D_BwE

Fertility Support: How to Plan & Prepare

My husband & I went down this route after two years of trying & struggling to conceive. My periods were irregular because of medication I was on for my Arthritis & Fibromyalgia. So it was difficult to track when I was ovulating & we were very much in need of the support from the infertility service.

I had to get a referral from my GP to the consultant at the hospital but this wasn’t a straight forward process. I was 25 at the time & I remember vividly the GP commenting on my age & how I had the rest of my life in front of me. She uttered the words “You’re 25, not 35.. plenty of time for a family” & I quickly chipped in to remind her that it was my choice. I never did get a referral from that GP but that didn’t stop me. I went to another GP, explained my circumstances & the referral was made.

After a 6 months wait, I was seen by a Gynaecologist who examined me & discussed the issues I had been having. I remember telling her the main reason I was there was because I was looking for answers. Her response stays with me to this day & at the time I didn’t understand what she meant. She told me not to look for answers because they might not be there, I might never get the answers I need. It soon made sense to me that this would be the case.

The first appointment with the infertility service was with a Nurse who took our medical history, performed blood tests, ultrasound & a further appointment was arranged. The appointment focussed on do you drink alcohol? Do you smoke? Do you take drugs? The line of questioning changed to weight & the dreaded Body Mass Index (BMI). I’ll be honest my weight and BMI fluctuates; managing chronic conditions & trying to be active is difficult & this was reflected by my weight.

Don’t search for those answers; what if they do remain unanswered. Most couples who receive fertility support are classed as “unexplained fertility” & we fell into this bracket. I hated that it was out-with my control but so many things remained in my control. I stopped drinking alcohol & I altered my diet for it to be more healthy & found a meat free diet was much more beneficial for me.

The best advice I would give you if you are about to embark on your journey is to prepare, support each other & aim for a healthy lifestyle. If you get the opportunity I would recommend pre pregnancy counselling, it’s especially useful if you have chronic conditions & are on medication.

Still to this day, I remain in the unexplained category but with changes made to my lifestyle I’ve been lucky enough to conceive without any support. Those questions still remain unanswered and I feel very lucky to have conceived before starting the IVF journey.