Anxiety and I..

October 10th 2017: World Mental Health Day

A day dedicated to fundraising and raising awareness about mental health, breaking down stigma’s and speaking out about the reality of our illnesses.

Roughly around this time last year I was diagnosed with depression which had a huge impact on my life, it changed everything about me but it also brought me to creating my blog. I’ll link my story with depression here. Something I don’t think I’ve really spoken or written about is anxiety and considering I’ve dealt with it for as long as I can possibly remember, I guess today would be the day to speak about it.

What is anxiety??? 

Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD): feelings of unease such as worry or fear that can be mild or severe – NHS. OR: Regular or uncontrollable worries about many different things in your everyday life – Mind.

Social Anxiety Disorder: extreme fear or anxiety triggered by social situations e.g parties, workplaces or any situation where you encounter others – Mind.

I’ve dealt with anxiety for as long as I can remember, I’d say I was anywhere between age 13-15 when I first noticed it but I didn’t know what it was. I had the typical symptoms like increased heart rate and sweating and I think my dad was the first person I’d mentioned it to. He said it sounded like anxiety but he didn’t really explain what that meant so I guess I just ignored it for a while. As life went on, I learnt to understand what it was and how it worked for me. I realised it was based on my thoughts or worries or anything that made me feel nervous. I would have anxiety meeting new people, going to new places, interviews or exams, talking to people I wasn’t very comfortable with etc. I never went to a doctor or really told anybody about it because it really just became a part of me and I learnt to live with it.

The only time I had any help with my anxiety was when I was diagnosed with depression. I was taking anti-depressants for a few months which also helped make me feel less anxious and considering I no longer take any medication, looking back now I see how much it really helped. Anxiety affects me literally everyday and back then, I was anxiety free for months! Having depression and anxiety at the same time is the equivalent of having a devil and an angel on your shoulder. Depression meant that I didn’t care about anything, the world could pass me by and I wouldn’t have cared but anxiety was a constant reminder of everything I should have been worrying about – a mental battle. At times when I would be quite stressed out or have a lot going on, I’d wake up in the morning and my instant and first thoughts would be me worrying. Whether it was an upcoming deadline, a family issue, bills I had to pay or my incomplete but urgent to-do-list, I’d be thinking of it. First thing in the morning – anxiety.

Lately my anxiety has been extremely social and situational based. I developed social anxiety almost a year ago at a time when I had a lot going on. It started with university and I never wanted to go in, I honestly feared seeing people I knew or being around so many people. I’d avoid it at all costs and if I ever had to go, I’d go at a time when I new it would be quiet and I’d be in-and-out as fast as I possibly could. I was dealing with a situation that everyone seemed to think they knew about. At that time my stress, my pain and my problems was simply everyone else’s entertainment and gossip and I hated that. I just wanted to hide from everyone and I guess that’s where my social anxiety started.

Recently, my anxiety has been fuelled by all the recent and frequent incidents and attacks happening. I never used to live in fear and I always said I wouldn’t but it’s becoming harder not to. Acid attacks, bombs on trains, vehicles mounting pavements – I never used to think “tomorrow isn’t promised”, I just never thought like that at all but unfortunately, those are some of my everyday worries now. I hate to think that anything could happen to myself or a loved one and it makes me feel uneasy knowing there are people I’m not on the best terms with right now.

Mental illnesses are real. There is so much stigma that surrounds mental health, a lot of disbelief and a lot of downplaying, but as someone who has experienced mental illness I want to speak up and encourage others to do the same. When I was diagnosed with depression I didn’t actually speak to people about it for a while because I didn’t think I’d be taken seriously. A lot of people don’t understand it because they can’t see it and it’s not always easily explained. If someone breaks their leg, you can physically see the problem but if someone asked me to explain depression I wouldn’t know how to. Be kind, be sensitive and be as understanding as you possibly can. If you don’t know, aim to educate yourself. It’s okay to ask questions, as long as they’re not asked in an insensitive or malicious way.

If you have experienced mental illness, I encourage you to speak out. Feel free to comment below! If you want to share your story or know more about mine or just have any general questions but want to stay anonymous, you can email me at elisemathurin@gmail.com or simply fill out my contact form.

elisekirstenxo.

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My Autoimmune Disease: Living with Rheumatoid Arthritis

I wrote a similar post over a month ago now on how I’d been diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis and as it was all new to me, I felt really alone with it all and was hoping there were others out there who could share their stories with me. Almost two months later and I’m ready to do an update!

If you haven’t read my last post which I’ll link here, and you’re unsure what Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is, here’s some info:

RA is a chronic and progressive autoimmune disease that mistakenly attacks the healthy cells in your body, causing inflammation (painful swelling) in various joints of the body. It can also affect and cause problems in organs such as the heart, lungs and eyes. Long term, it can result in deformity and immobility.

At age 20, I had a left knee injury which caused the onset of my RA. My knee became seriously inflamed and swollen and very painful. Walking let alone anything else became a task. A year later after many tests, x-rays and MRI’s, I was told I had RA and at that time, it had spread to my right knee. A month later, it had spread to my right elbow and the left side of my jaw. Typically, RA is more common in hands and feet but it can affect all joints.

The inflammation, swelling and pain is called a ‘flare’ and flare ups can happen very frequently or every now and again. RA is genetic and my dad was diagnosed with it several years ago yet he’s only experienced one short flare up in his wrist. Whereas I on the other hand, feel as though I’ve had this flare for roughly a year now. Shortly after my knee injury when it became inflamed and began to swell, it has never gone away. I only have bad days or better days.

Generally I’m happy, smiling and getting on with life and as much as I don’t want this to come across as a pity post, this can be a very serious disease and I want to share my honest story so far. The mornings are always the hardest. Because I’ve been sleeping for several hours, my joints become very stiff and I dread the morning stretch because it’s so painful for me now. My legs and right arm can no longer straighten properly so where my body naturally wants to stretch out, the swelling and inflammation acts as a painful barrier. I can barely open my mouth first thing in the morning because of my jaw so I try to keep yawning to a minimal. I practically crawl to the bathroom in the morning where getting up and down from the toilet seat is like mission impossible and I’m currently trying to learn to use my left hand for most things like brushing my teeth.

Honestly, I hate having to do things early in the morning because it doesn’t allow my joints time to ‘warm up’ so it’s all very painful. I’m very slow and can’t fully focus on whatever I should be doing. On bad days, it can affect my whole body because for all my affected joints, I usually have to substitute another part of my body so although my knees are inflamed, a lot of the time my legs generally ache because I’m shifting my weight and the pressure elsewhere. I often have a lot of pain in my hips and lower back too.

By mid afternoon, I’m usually back to my idea of my current normal self and I’m a lot more active and can move around more freely however as of lately, I am really struggling with fatigue. I feel exhausted all the time even with a decent amount of sleep. One thing I really have to focus on is my diet and what sort of foods I’m eating. There are a lot of inflammatory foods such as take away meals, fried foods, alcohol, bread, fizzy drinks and any processed foods. It might not sound a lot but on a daily basis it can prove a little hard to control. There are certain foods/drinks I have to have to help reduce inflammation such as fish, ginger, garlic, chai tea, green tea and fruits.

I’m currently waiting for my next few appointments to discuss treatment going forward. I’m expecting to take steroid injections mainly for my knees but as my disease has progressed I’m hoping to receive another medication for pain-relief too. I have been lucky enough to have private healthcare for the past few months which really has helped to speed up the process and answer a lot of questions for me. I’m sure I’ll do another update once I’ve started my treatment!

elisekirsten xo.

Another Diagnosis!

I usually write posts like these as a way of raising awareness as well as reaching out to others who can relate to my life, and know they’re not alone in this! This post follows a similar theme except this time,  I’m the one who needs to feel I’m not alone in this and hoping there’s somebody out there in the same boat.

My long term readers will probably know that almost a year ago now, I had a sports related injury that affected one of my knees and a lot of my day-to-day activities. Well, a quick little update – all the swelling and pain of my left knee (the originally injured knee) also happened in the right knee! This was a cause for concern which left Doctors absolutely confused. Over time I’d had nurse’s, GP’s and doctors take a look at my knee and now roughly eight months on from the initial injury, my specialist doctor looks me in the eye and admits he’s never seen a case like this.. GREAT! I was referred to a knee surgeon because we were now looking at the possibility of at least keyhole surgery.

From the pictures you can pretty much see how over time, my knees have completely changed and swelled as well as how visibly obvious it is that I’ve lost almost all muscle tone. By this point, I’m exhausted. It’s been almost a year of constant pain and no answers, no treatment, no cure and not to mention it was all getting worse! However, one visit with the knee surgeon and he was ready to diagnose me… with arthritis! I was told I have Rheumatoid Arthritis, but what is it??

Rheumatoid Arthritis – a chronic progressive disease causing inflammation in the joints and resulting in painful deformity and immobility, especially in the fingers, wrists, feet, and ankles.

In layman’s terms, my immune system attacks the cells in my joints, causing inflammation, swelling, thickening of the tissue and pain! The only thing that really runs through my mind is, I’m 21 and I have arthritis! There’s a lot of things I feel I can’t do anymore, or when my friends say “lets go and do *insert activity*” I have to think, can I really do that? It’s great that I now have a diagnosis because I can finally begin treatment and working towards regulating my flare ups. I’m aware I have to change my lifestyle by avoiding certain foods, taking different vitamins and reintroducing light exercises but honestly, it all feels quite surreal. There’s still a number of unanswered questions and as much as I understand RA, I still feel so unsure about what this means for me and what I can expect long-term. Especially as it’s now spreading to joints other than my knees, I can’t help but worry about how far this will go!

I would love to hear your stories! Especially if you’re around the same age as me. If there’s any advice you can offer or anything you feel I should know, please get in touch! I’m also more than happy to share more of my story so hit the contact button my lovelies!

elisekirsten xo.