Michael Finnegan

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That’s me at the moment. Michael Finnegan, begin again.

All that work I put into getting fitter – GONE.  Hello, Square One, my old friend.

I mean, I have been walking a lot, and briskly too, to get my allotted amount of exercise per day, but as I said before, the bronchitis and lack of efficient breathing ability kind of poleaxed me.   As a result, I had a couple of weepy days last week.  I’d like to say that I do the exercise because I just love it! But we all know that’s only partly true.  Okay, It’s as true as somebody sticking their head around the door and shouting ‘true!’ into the room before vanishing quickly.

The main reason I want to do this is fear… Fear of going downhill again.  And trust me, that’s a place I never, ever want to go again. Ever. Well, you get the idea.  And if rigorous exercise every day can help prevent it, then sign me up, pal.

Of course there is another, annoying reason… Remember me saying about the weight I’ve put on?  Well, I’m hoping to ditch that along the way too. It’s not nice when bending forward in a yoga pose and your stomach gets in the way. It heads for my spine and decides to squash into my diaphragm and – hello! – breathing problems and hilarity ensue.

So I decided to start gently again with the run. When I can keep going for more than a minute at a time, then I’ll pick up the Strava app again, but for now I’m using the “Couch to 5K” app.  Excellent.  A kind, non-patronising voice talks you through the entire session, and it even allows you to play a playlist en route – it quietens the music down when she needs to speak.  I’m only on the first week at the moment, so I’m at the ‘couch’ end of the spectrum.  Actually, today was the first day, so I’m more at the ‘plumping the cushions’ stage.

Funny, but the old me would have been horrified to be out, in public, in daylight, running. But it’s amazing what having your entire personality deconstructed can do for you. Hey, dog-walkers! Lovely day! Hi there, runners! Going great guns there! How’s it hanging, cyclists? Lovely day, isn’t it! They’re on their own journey, just as I am.  And we’re all at different points. And that’s just fine.

The old me would have run on the spot for months indoors first.  This is how it would have worked back then.  Or rather, these would have been my perceptions..

I go running – everyone stares at me in horror.

I wear my proper running gear – “Does she think she can run or something? She looks ridiculous.”

I don’t wear my proper running gear – “What does she think she looks like?”

I run slowly – “Look at that heffalump.”

I run fast – “Is Greggs having a sale on doughnuts, love?”

You see, the way my little brain was working before, you can clearly tell that there was no way I was going to win.

The depression has done me a favour, in a weird way..

I don’t care what people think.  I don’t actually know what they’re thinking, but I assume they have their own little dramas going on in their heads. They are probably no more horrified at me (or even noticing me!) than I am envious of the trotters than skim past me effortlessly.  We’re all on the same path. Paranoia can be awfully ego-centric, n’est-ce pas?

“Yes, I’m RUNNING!  Whoop!   Fresh air!”

*sigh*

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I thought I’d cracked it.  I thought I was done with it.

But no.

The insomnia is back with a vengeance. And because of this, I can’t cut down my dosage, just yet.

Bizarrely, I’m watching what I eat, how much exercise I do… Ah, well, thereby hangs a tale.  I got bronchitis a few weeks back, and that’s slowed me right down.  In fact, if I were going any slower, I would actually be in reverse.  Come to think of it, I think I may well be in reverse.

Has anyone else had major weight gain problems with medication?  I’ve put on over 2 stones (about 30 pounds) in the past year, and even though now I’m working off more than I’m eating, I’m still gaining weight!! How??!

I have started exercising again – slowly. Too much of anything – even laughing – and I go into a coughing fit.  Now there’s another delight I’d like some feedback on.  I’ve had a tickly cough, off and on, since I started the tablets.  Of course now it’s gone turbo because of the bronchitis. I am not so much a funk machine as a gunk machine – not impressive when you’re trying to survive even one song on Wii Just Dance.

Ah, the Wii, my friend. My buddy. My harshest critic at the moment.  I was doing some yoga on it the other day and it said “Now return to your original position.”

So, the next day, I did.

Curled up in bed.

I was going to get up, but somehow I just passed out again.  Not helping the insomnia!  Actually, the other day I only got 3 hours sleep (thanks, students!) but got up at ‘a reasonable time’, thinking that getting up early on 3 hours sleep would somehow kickstart my system, and that by bed time, I’d be so tired that I wouldn’t so much fall asleep as fall unconscious.

Nah-ah.

I was still wide awake at 4am and starting to resemble that twitchy little rodent in the Ice Age movies.

And heartburn?  What the heck?! I’ve been good.  Honest. I’ve not eaten late, or too much (I don’t think) but I go to bed and suddenly I feel like I’ve been gargling lava.  Apparently it’s to do with the cough. You cough, you get all GERDy. You get all GERDy, some of it slips down the wrong way and you get an irritated larynx. You get an irritated larynx, you start getting a tickly cough.  Stop me if you think you can guess what comes next…

I also did as the doctor advised me and stayed off the chocolate. I looked into this. Apparently it’s something to do with anxiety levels. Luckily, I’ve been fine.  I’ve not been craving it or anything.  So clearly I’m not addicted to the stuff, thank goodness.  And then, with it being Easter, I did indulge a little bit, with half a bar of some dark plain chocolate with orange and almonds.  Very nice.  But I don’t think I should ever eat much (ordinary) chocolate again. I couldn’t find the ultra-thin package in the freezer and threw something of a wobble as a result. The hubby gave me a play-by-play. It seems it was the kind of strop a 4-year-old throws at a supermarket checkout… I’m fairly sure he embellished for effect… Hm.

I have however been having a bit of raw chocolate at the weekends which hasn’t had any effect on me at all.  I think I know where this is going.  There’s a difference between raw cacao and ordinary cocoa.  The raw stuff is way gentler. It’s getting easier to find these days too.  Just ask in the nearest health store.

If you want a quick recipe, here you go…

3 tabs coconut oil, 2 tabs RAW cacao powder, 1 tab coconut sugar (powdered). If you want to swap 1 tab cache for milk powder, go ahead (I’m allergic).

Another quick recipe – the oddly named Cocochocofudgies

INGREDIENTS
1/2 block Creamed coconut
6-8 dates, soaked (no need to soak if they’re fresh, obviously!)
Aprox. 2 heaped tablespoons raw cacao or carob

METHOD
Melt the creamed coconut in a bowl in a pan of warm (not boiling). It doesn’t take much, to be honest. In fact, if it’s a hot day where you are, that’ll probably be enough!

Put the dates in the blender and whizz till smooth. Add the melted creamed coconut, mix thoroughly and then add the cacao till you have the right choccy taste for you. It varies. The amount of cacao depends on how much of a chocoholic you are!

Spread onto a tray, about 1/2″/1cm thick and mark lightly into squares. Put in the fridge to set. That’ll be the coconut doing that…

Beware – this is very moreish!

Hmm… Feeling peckish now…

What, no chocolate?!

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4th March

A week ago I went to see the doctor to see whether I could cut down the medication. I was told that, given my disruptive sleeping patterns and my ongoing tendency to have panic attacks that it would be best to stay on my current level of medication. A bit gutted at that. And then… I made a joke that when I get anxious, my hubby helps to calm me down, but if I get too anxious he just stands well back and throws chocolate at me. The doctor asks if I ate a lot of chocolate… I, er, said that, I er, ate it every now and again. I was then told to avoid chocolate.

Who says that?!

I think that was more upsetting than the tablet thing. Oh well… It’s been a week since I’ve had any (after teasing a friend for giving up chocolate for Lent – Karma!) and I don’t know what I can attribute to the lack of chocolate in my bloodstream, and what are the effects of withdrawal from the medication…

The insomnia itself is starting to wear off, and is now being replaced by the urge to sleep the clock round. For instance, last night I fell asleep before midnight, and I only woke up at 11am.  But I know that tonight I will still probably fall asleep around midnight, rather than stupid o’clock in the morning!

I’m getting lots of headaches and general aches as well, which is less fun.

That’s the thing with depression, you see – happy pills alone won’t work.  If the depression has been set of by a set of circumstances or a specific event, then perhaps fair enough. But, as in my case, where it was due to the situation I was in, then that situation has to change.  I know someone was starting to feel themself go down the depression route simply because they didn’t feel they had any control over their work.  Loss of locus of control is key to triggering an episode in someone who has a natural tendency towards depression. So they have also changed their situation and found a new job where they know they can feel in control.

For me, it had to be changing a lot of what I was doing at the time.

The key to tackling depression is three-fold: medication, exercise and therapy.  I’ve been blessed to work with a superb counsellor from church, who not only got me through the issues I was having in my daily life, but all the underlying issues that had, over the years, created that present situation. Well, if not the situation itself, then it had definitely laid the groundwork for the breakdown!

On their own, pills will just make your current horrible situation a little more bearable.  Like the prescribed equivalent of getting drunk or something. It’s just covering over what’s really going on.

The thing is, even after everything may be changed, dealt with and sorted, the medication has to continue because it’s allowing the brain to continue healing even while enabling you to still be in the real world.  It’s not like a broken leg where everything stops until it’s healed. Perhaps that’s why depressives want to hide away – perhaps it’s their way of giving their minds space to heal. Perhaps it’s an instinctive self-preservation thing. Perhaps that’s why so many basic behaviours go out the window…

Anyone else been told to stay off chocolate? Inquiring minds need to know!

Mood Swings and Roundabouts

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Okay, so my brain and my body have gone swapsies this week….

With depression, I found personally that initially your brain is ill, feels bad and takes your body along for the ride. Then you get medicated. It helps your brain heal, or at least puts the horrors on hold while your brain gets the time off from them to heal. Meanwhile, while your brain is busy, the cat’s away and the mice come out to play with what’s left… Energy changes, weight gain/loss, memory goes up the swanny, and lots of other fun things (fill in the blanks).

I have tried to counter all this by changing my eating habits and getting loads more exercise. I (bizarrely) love running now… So… you get to a point where your brain is almost there, and so is your body. The two meet in the middle and yay! You can start cutting down the meds. Your brain knows it’s time to start flying free, but has actually quite liked the freedom the tablets gave. Your body doesn’t quite know what hit it.

Hence the raging insomnia which kicked in with me, and now the combination of raging insomnia, raging over-sleeping and, well, just plain raging. It’s like that scene in a teen movie where the teens have promised to be good while their parents are away, and you cut to the scene of the ill-advised wild party then cut to the next scene where the parents return and see in horror what has happened to their beloved homestead. I’m at that final scene. I’m the parent, and my body is the house. Which, I suppose, makes the tablets the teenagers. I never said it was the best analogy… And I definitely never said there was any party!

Putting it another way, my brain has (mostly) healed and my body is sulking, because I’ve started taking away its comfort blanky. My body and my brain don’t seem to be on the same page at the moment. I’m starting to experience the same behaviours that I had at the start: not wanting to leave my room – or even my bed, wanting to shut down and hide. But whereas at the beginning it was because my brain was desperate to be left alone, to stop thinking, to stop existing, now it’s my body that wants all these things…

BODY:     Oh leave me here, please, this bed’s nice and warm, plus I just prefer it here.

BRAIN:    No. Come on, get up. There’s lots we want to do.

BODY:     Not me. I don’t want to do any of it.

BRAIN:    Come on. Out of that bed.

BODY:     No. My bed will miss me. It’s got a memory foam mattress and I don’t want it to forget me.

That’s one of many situations you find. Your relationship with food gets weird again. Initially you ate rubbish because it made you feel good. Well, perhaps not good, but it was comforting. Nobody ever got solace from a lamb’s lettuce. Your brain had left the building and your body was fending for itself, Lord of the Flies style. And possibly it was another cat’s-away situation which enabled your body do  a little more to add to the damage.

Now, on the other hand, it’s the body that’s on the rampage, wanting to be self-destructive all by its lickle self (not so lickle, at the moment!)…

BRAIN:    Come on, Body. I’ve made you a delicious kale and pineapple smoothie, Yummy and packed with nutrients! It’ll make you feel fantastic!

BODY looks up from its nest of crisp packets, chocolate smeared all around its mouth, its hands clutching at various sweet wrappers.

BODY:     Huh?

Whereas before Brain felt bad and dragged Body along, now Brain feels better, but Body thinks it’s calling the shots and is repeating all those behaviours. I feel like a healthy brain trapped in a depressed body. Weird.

Oh well, better go play ‘Here-comes-an-aeroplane’ with that smoothie…

Wish me luck!

“Sleep is the best meditation”

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So, it’s nearly a year since my, er, ‘episode’. The tablets have done what they could. The counselling has accomplished more than could have been hoped for. The exercise regime (amongst other stuff) will continue to keep me on the straight and narrow. Now a few other things have fallen into place and a couple of lightbulbs have appeared above my head.

For instance…

I’ve since realised that the reason I’ve had a tickly cough for nearly a year is, lucky me, a side-effect to the medication… Now, according to the official website for such things, this is an ‘uncommon’ side effect. According to my other research (at about 3am in the morning), it’s actually extremely common and quite puzzling for those who have it. I, for one, will be glad to see the back of this particular delight. In fact, one night I coughed so hard, I ended up with a couple of floaters in my eye.  Not nice for an arachnophobe to have something  that really, really looks like a spider swinging around freely in your eyeball!

I say 3am because, as I’ve started gradually reducing my daily dosage, my brain has started throwing tantrums like a toddler. And of course, one of the big things that toddlers throw hissy fits about is going to sleep.

11pm comes…

ME: I’m going to sleep so well tonight. I’m shattered.

BRAIN smirks.

Midnight comes…

ME: Come on! Let me get to sleep..!

BRAIN: Nope.

4am…

ME: Seriously? Are you taking the mick? LEMME SLEEP!!

BRAIN: NOOOOOO!   I’m not going to let you sleep and you can’t make me! NONONONONO!

5am…

ME: Just a little?? Pleeease?

BRAIN: I hate you.

Each night the same so far for a week. I’m tempted to designate a ‘Naughty Step’ and go and sleep with my head on it. I’m joking, of course. There will be no sleep. Perhaps a little bit of headbanging, but that would be it.

And, of course, there are the throngs of students that meander/stagger their way past our place throughout the night. And they’re not quiet.

Here are 4 points they should consider:

  • You may think you sound like Michael Bublé or Lana Del Rey when you burst into song. You actually sound like a variety of small household pets being throttled.
  • Rethink your footwear, ladies. They can’t be safe. The clip-clopping sounds like the horse fair has hit town. I fear for your ankles. Seriously I do. No, really, I mean it.
  • I don’t care who’s cheating on who or who’s been stalking who. It’s a private conversation? Keep it private!
  • No, I don’t give two hoots who you think the best/worst football team is. Neither do any of the dozens of people you’ve also just woken up.
  • Just wait till you’re my age, sunshine. Revenge will be mine.

5 points. Okay, there were 5 points. You see, I can’t even count these days…! I need to sleep.

Luckily the exercise/running/etc is still going well, so that’s helping me keep what little sanity remains. But let’s just say I could still give Grumpy Cat a run for his money at the moment. Hopefully this will begin to lessen over the next couple of weeks. In the meantime, thank goodness for Flixster…

Addendum

Saturday, fully prepared for another long clock-watching night, I passed out at 11pm and didn’t wake up until 9am.

Gahhhhh!

Moves like Jagger

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I didn’t run the other day and do you know what? I almost missed it. Almost. In fact after less than two weeks I now have started looking forward to my every-other-day run. I mean, I am actually starting to look forward to my run. And when I really, really start looking forward to it, it’s at that point that I’ll probably start to miss it when I don’t do it.

So the next day out I went, quite gleefully although I almost didn’t make it. The air was bitterly cold. That’s a problem if you happen to be asthmatic, as I am. I don’t suffer from asthma as such, but my respiratory track can be quite the little diva at times. At one point, I’m fairly sure my left lung started singing “Do you want to build a snowman?”

But I trudged on relentlessly. Luckily (I think), I’d gone for a sugar rush breakfast of grapes and pineapple. Too much pineapple, as it turns out… My lips sort of swelled up till I looked like I was doing a Mick Jagger impersonation. Luckily, no moves like Jagger though. Let me explain… in our house the phrase “Moves like Jagger” is not a reference to the song, but a description of that knee-rubbing, thigh-clenching walk you tend to do when you make your way desperately to the toilet. You can’t unthink it…

I admit I did pick up pace while passing a pair of much fitter joggers, although I had to stop halfway to deal with muscles screaming for rest. This is what a year of medication, depression, little exercise, and no running results in!

Still using Strava app. Brilliant. Wondered why it wasn’t telling me how far I was running the other day. Turns out the volume was down too low. But probably just as well –  if I had passed the fit joggers looking like I’d just run a Marathon and then a cheery voice booms out “half a kilometre!”, it would have been very embarrassing.

So, today I went to see the doctor who commented on my ear-to-ear grin. Okay, perhaps not so much that, but definitely the fact that I seemed much happier and steadier from what she saw a couple of months ago. She asked the basic questions … How much do I drink? Nothing (Word Of Wisdom!). How much exercise was I getting? At least an hour a day: running, cycling and yoga. She then said something that startled me: “This is better than any medicine I could give you.” I wasn’t startled to hear the words, as much as I was startled to hear a doctor use them. And then I remembered, I have a very cool doctor.

And then, the best thing I’ve hard in ages – I can start decreasing my dosages. Woohoo! Watch out world, an unmedicated me will be with you in the next few months. Time for you to batten down the hatches, emigrate or whatever you feel necessary!

So, after that twin delight of news, I went home the extremely long way, and when I finally hit the river path, I thought, “Stuff it. I’ll run the rest of the way!” Possibly not the best idea with walking boots, rucksack and fleece but what the heck, I did it. In fact, I can now say I am halfway to my goal, which was to do this very distance, there and back.

Onwards and upwards!

How long?!

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I can’t believe it’s been THREE YEARS since I last posted anything. So what happened?  Midlife crisis? Alien Abduction? Nah.  Like most things of mine, I just put this blog somewhere really, really safe.  And again, like most things, I only found it again when looking for something else altogether.

Anyway, I thought it was once again time to put pen to paper. Er, finger to keyboard. Er… key clicks to screen? Oh, whatever. And after my mindquake last year, or psynami if you prefer, I thought perhaps it was time to restart verbally rambling as well. Oh yes, as well. I’m doing even more walking now, and just exercise in general.It’s all part of having a healthy mind as well as a healthy body, and I just didn’t appreciate that until recently.

For example, for pretty much all of last year I did no running and very, very little yoga, so it’s no surprise that I ended last year like a creaky clockwork toy – that had lost its key.  I had been doing a lot more walking, more than the usual A to B to C functional walks, but I needed to step things up a notch.

I’ve never been a brilliant runner anyway, so now that I have a gym just at the end of my road, I’ve decided to start river-path running instead. Hee hee. I remember my ‘proudest’ ‘achievement’ in Grammar School was not coming last (out of 60 girls) in the cross country run.  And the only reason that happened was because no. 60 had the flu that day….

So, after signing up to Julie Creffield’s inspiring blog at http://toofattorun.co.uk/ I decided the time had come. So last Monday, after downloading the superb Strava app on my iPhone (yes! I finally got one!), I took the plunge. Thankfully not literally, although that river path can get a bit narrow and slippery in places!  The app tracks where you’ve run, how long it took, compares it to previous runs and lots more things that running-savvy people would understand (what the heck is a split-pace? It sounds painful).

My goal is eventually to be able to run 5km without stopping and, preferably, without collapsing in a heap. My short-term goal is to be able to run to Ladymead and back without stopping , and I’m giving myself till the end of February to accomplish this. It’s probably about 2km in total. I’ll have to check.

Anyway, last Monday, my reminder to shift my backside ran out loud and clear. I got my gear on (I thought I at least wanted to vaguely look like I was meant to be there, and not just running away from something), and off I trotted.  And yes, that’s about as good as it got. Trotting. I decided I would go almost as far as I could and then turn around and come back which, in theory, would be as far as I could go.

It turned out “As far as I could go’ was a mere 300 metres, and even then my life was flashing in front of my eyes. My lungs were threatening to disown me, too.  So that was my baseline. I gave it a day (I did something else on Tuesday and Thursday) then on Wednesday I managed to stretch that to 500m. On Friday, I stretched that to 700m, followed it up with a 1.6km walk and then finished with another 700m.

Big mistake.

While my chest didn’t feel like an incendiary device had just gone off, the legs were a teensy bit achy.

Until the next day.

I then spent the next 24 hours walking around like the Bride of Frankenstein, and making the same squealy noises whenever I tried to do something my legs muscles had banned. Luckily the following day – yesterday – I was fine again. In fact, today, I actually was able to make 1km without stopping, so that’s this week’s baseline. So – so much for recovery time increasing with age… Or perhaps mine actually has increased – but to 48 hours.  I’m just blessed with accelerated healing.

Something tells me I’m going to need it over the next few weeks!!