Question of the day.

Do you like to go to family reunions and gettogethers, if they’re a thing in your family?

My answer:

As I wrote in my answer to the last question, not really, as it’s very hard for me because of the anxiety and other mental health stuff, and not feeling the connection with most of my extended family. I will go to some of them mostly out of duty so that no one feels hurt and my conscience is not biting me, but if I have to be honest, no, I don’t like it, and if I can, I’ll avoid it. Smaller gatherings are a bit easier, as are those on my Mum’s family’s side as opposed to my Dad’s family with whom I feel totally like a changeling or a fifth wheel. My Mum’s family, even if they are a bit overwhelming at times, are interesting people so at least I can listen to their conversations which can often be absorbing, and they see me more for me than just my blindness, though also not fully.

How about you? πŸ™‚

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Question of the day (10th September).

Hi guys! πŸ™‚

Here’s another family related question I have for you.

Do you stay in touch with your extended family? If so, how?

My answer:

Not all of them, but my grandparents, most aunts and uncles and some cousins. Our family on both my parents’ sides likes to get together so we see each other at different occasions, like birthdays, name days or such. My social anxiety and other things often make it difficult for me to be around a lot of people for a long time, it’s overwhelming, and, I have to say it, it’s frequently also boring because I don’t really have the close connection between me and my close family, so there’s not much common ground between me and most of them, and sitting at the table for hours and listening to/trying to engage in conversations I don’t really feel a part of or don’t have any real interest in certainly is boring. Eating around many people makes me feel anxious too, and anxiety makes me not hungry at all so it’s stressful if you don’t want to offend someone and eat at least something. And talking to more than like 3 people at once is hard for me, let alone when there are groups of people scattered around the room and each of them talking about their own thing, so I usually feel way more alienated and lonely in such situations than I do when being on my own, and I hate hate hate feeling lonely while being around others, and usually I end up just listening to people and forcing myself to smile all the time. And that’s largely why I often avoid those family gatherings if it’s not necessary for me to be there and if I can avoid them. Also most of us live quite close to each other so we sometimes bump into each other on the street or on similar occasions.

How about you? πŸ™‚

Working On Us – sleep disorders.

It’s week #13 of Beckie’s mental health prompts series Working On Us at

Beckie’s Mental Mess.

The topic for this week is sleep, insomnia and other sleep disorders. Here are the questions for prompt #1.

 

  1. Have you, or do you suffer from sleep disorders? – I have a lot of sleep issues, which are both related to my mental health difficulties as well as the fact that I don’t see the light so my sleep cycle is just messed up. They change with time. Just as I sleep at different times and my sleep schedule and habits change, so do my sleep related problems. Most of the time I struggle with insomnia more or less. It is my normal to lay in bed for an hour or longer before I fall asleep. Sometimes I wake super early, like 3-5 AM and after going to sleep at about midnight. Luckily it’s not as often as it used to be for me that I have, as I call them “Zombie days” – a day after a night of no sleep at all. – Sometimes my insomnia is clearly due to anxiety or stress and I just overthink everything and worry about every single thing and ruminate, it’s gotten worse recently, but sometimes it’s like my inner clock just isn’t set on sleeping whatsoever and I may even feel a bit hyperactive, playing with Misha at 2 AM and not feeling even slightly tired, and then sleep until noon or so. Then I have times when I sleep a lot, 12-13 hours and usually miss a great chunk of the day as a result. Sometimes it just comes on its own, and then I hate it, because I don’t want to sleep my life through like that, and feel lazy and lousy, plus then it’s usually not the best kind of sleep, filled with bad dreams and such. But sometimes I do that on purpose because I’m so depressed and sleep is way more interesting than the reality. I suppose I might have non 24 hour sleep-wake disorder (what a grossly long name) which is very common among the blind, but I haven’t ever heard about it being diagnosed in Poland so I guess people don’t know much, and while I know there is medication for that in other countries, I couldn’t find the evidence that it is used over here, so I don’t see the point in seeking a diagnosis. I have very vivid dreams, which can be an incredible gift and a really great thing, I love my good vivid dreams, but it can just as well be something close to a curse, because my nasty vivid dreams are super creepy, as if I had a personalised horror movie production studio in my brain, with horrors right just for me. πŸ˜€ I’ve read that there was some Danish study which revealed that apparently blind people have nightmares more often than sighted people do, which would make sense from what I’ve heard from many blind people. If you have vivid dreams things get just a bit more intense. And on top of that I am one of the lucky ones who regularly struggle with sleep paralysis. And that’s probably the biggest sleep related problem for me. There is also my silence anxiety and sounds anxiety involved, which makes sleep often difficult. I won’t get into detailed descriptions of what it is for me but, very shortly, I just don’t do complete silence, so I need to have some quiet music in the background, and Misha, and it always works, but to a very varying degree.
  2. Have you sought treatment for your sleep disorders? – I had a point in my life where I thought I was unable to take this sleep paralysis thing any longer, I was so fed up and constantly scared and I just lost my patience with it. It’s something that I’ve lived my whole life with but suddenly I had that “why me?” crisis. And then I went to the neurologist looking for some help, also because I wasn’t perfectly sure it was sleep paralysis, because some things in it are different for me than they are for most people whose stories I read. She confirmed that and gave me some tips on things that I could do myself to alleviate it, and told me that there’s no medication that would be 100% working for it, but that she could put me on some antidepressant that is said to help with that, though it’s not certain how effective it is and it’s mostly prescribed for people with narcolepsy who additionally suffer from sleep paralysis. Since it’s not clear if it actually works, I said I’d rather try dealing with it without medication first. I was also offered antidepressants by the psychiatrist who diagnosed me with dysthymia but I’m honestly pretty scared of some of the side effects like gaining weight. I’m currently underweight actually and could probably put some on just to stop my Mum’s grumbling and make buying clothes less tricky and look healthier, but I wouldn’t like that to happen because of taking medication. And so far I am managing with just anti-anxiety meds. I’ve learnt over the years some tricks to get out of sleep paralysis or to prevent it, but it doesn’t work all the time. Sooner or later it will always catch me.
  3. Have you ever had a sleep study on you, and if so, what was recommended? – No. I would kind of like have one though, and my Mum says I should, because, in her opinion, my sleep is weird and I should get it checked out if not because of any concerns, then at least out of curiosity. And yeah, it’s interesting, I am curious, though I don’t know if my sleep is objectively that much of a phenomenon, I guess not, my Mum is just very typical. I’ve never had an opportunity though, and I don’t think there is any sleep clinic in the area or anything like that, I don’t know anyone in person who’d have a sleep study done.
  4. Has your doctor prescribed medication for your sleep disorder, if so, what has worked for you? – Not directly for sleep, mostly for anxiety, but that has affected sleep too. I took Hydroxyzine for a while as a child, and then my psychiatrist put me on it again when I was 17 and got the reactive depression diagnosis and told her about the anxiety I was having. I’ve always heard good opinions about Hydroxyzine and that it works well for people, that it’s such a safe medication and all but it wasn’t so for me. It was making me extremely groggy, I would be just switched off and away from the world for hours and hours and hours, the only thing I could do on it was sleeping, and then I would wake up hungover and with a headache. Perhaps it was because I hate being groggy and foggy and not in control and thus my anxiety got worse, but in any case, I really didn’t feel like it was working for my anxiety at all. The only times when I have found Hydroxyzine very helpful, life-saving almost, have been when I felt really depressed, only feeling like sleeping, or very unstable and overwhelmed, like last year after the first of my final exams when I was super triggered I just slept the whole night and most of the day away on Hydroxyzine afterwards, worked the trigger through while sleeping and woke up (almost) a new person, (almost) ready to face another final exam. Hydroxyzine is also an antiemetic, so when my emetophobia is through the roof and for a very sound reason – like a norovirus raging in the house – it helps too. And I don’t mind sleeping norovirus invasions through at all. I still have it and can take it when I need but that’s rarely. I don’t see my psychiatrist regularly, so after some time I went to my GP with my anxiety problems and told him the whole Hydroxyzine and anxiety and messed up sleep story, and he put me on Afobam, which as I heard later from my psychiatrist is more suitable as a sleep med for those people who tend to wake up a lot rather than those who can’t fall asleep, as is more often the case with me, but it works great for me so I’m still on it. The thing is, it’s highly addictive so I am only taking it on as needed basis. That is, when my anxiety is really severe or when I want to regulate my sleep cycle at least for a while or when I just know I won’t sleep and I have to sleep. If I need it for a few days in a row I take only a half of it. That’s not a perfect solution definitely, but at least when I take it, it works. I often do feel groggy after it and sleep for a long time, but I don’t feel hungover like after the Hydroxyzine and it noticeably improves my sleep quality, I wake up refreshed and well-rested most of the time.
  5. Have you ever tried home remedies to alleviate your sleep disorders? – Loads of herbal-based supplements and some other OTC products that worked just as well as candy, melissa tea which apparently is placebo, melissa essential oil which apparently works very well but not for me, smelling lavender which probably didn’t work because my sense of smell doesn’t work too well either haha, CBD oil which I am still trying but with no great results, I guess the concentration is too low or something, I’d like to believe that it works, niacin, which I really tried supplementing and wanted to but as high doses as they say that you should take for mental health were not doable with me because those pills are really big and I have a bit of a trouble swallowing big pills, let alone five or more at a time, and even when I broke them into halves or thirds it was still tricky to swallow such amount of pills in one go, it was crazy. πŸ˜€ I was able to notice some small improvement on it but I just couldn’t continue this way, my life would evolve around swallowing niacin three times a day and dosing it the right way, and then they say for it to work you need to take other stuff too, because it changes the absorption of vitamin C, and the niacin itself is absorbed better with something else. Ugh no thanks, my life is way more interesting without all that, and what if that cocktail wouldn’t work? All my efforts would be wasted! πŸ˜€ Also, I am trying out progesterone cream which also my Mum is using, which has directly nothing to do with sleep obviously but my Mum, being a great lifestyle geek has read loads of material on how helpful progesterone supplementation can be for women and also how much of an effect hormonal imbalance can have on mental health, and my hormones aren’t balanced even just because I have hypopituitarism. My Mum says it works miracles for her, though I guess for her it’s a bit different since she’s going through menopause so that must be rather obvious. I can’t say much on that cream though because I’m only using it since July, and it needs some time to have noticeable effects. What helps me is Misha, listening to music, reading before sleep, doing some visualisation exercises, prayer, having my feet warm – they’re usually cold so I like having hotwater bottle and when it’s cold outside I won’t fall asleep without it ever πŸ˜€ – trying to implement some sleep routine, though for me that’s really really difficult and never stuck for long, I am trying though, so I hope that counts and makes it better than it would be without it. Doing something relaxing always helps, whatever I find relaxing at the time. Oh, I nearly forgot, I also had numerous trials and errors – more of the latter – with melatonin, which at first didn’t work, and then every time I got back to it I had very nasty nightmares every night I was on it. I’ve heard that could be transient, but no one told me how long that transience should last and every time it felt like a bit too long to keep trying and waiting so I don’t think I ever will again. With my sleep paralysis, good sleep hygiene and some sort of a routine/schedule helps. I can’t always have the latter, but what I’ve found helpful is not napping, though I was never an enthusiast of naps at all, they just make more chaos. No napping, and no laying in bed awake in the morning for ages, as I carelessly used to do especially at weekends. Suddenly, after a while I become surprisingly, extremely sleepy again and I don’t even notice when it sucks me in. Also, generally I know I need to avoid such things like waking up and then going back to sleep after a while, because that very often brings sleep paralysis. But I never know how long that while should be, seems like even half an hour break between one sleep and another at night is too much and is risky, so if I want to avoid sleep paralysis I should just get up and start to live. Of course, that’s not always practical, because even if I wake up at night I may still feel like I need more sleep, or will be very tired during the day if I’d just wake up and start my day in the middle of the night, so sometimes I do this, but sometimes I don’t. The neurologist told me that sleeping on your right side helps with sleep paralysis. I laughed at it internally and thought it must be some superstition, the more that I much prefer sleeping on my left side, it’s just comfier and I read about some weird study that has shown that it helps the brain to clear from all that could be potentially toxic while you sleep, and I’m all for keeping my brain healthy. But it makes some sense. Sleeping on my right side, as I’ve noticed so far, won’t prevent sleep paralysis if it’s inevitably going to happen, but it’s less intense and shorter. The worse is when you sleep on your back, and that seems to be the case for most people. I hate sleeping on my back but it used to be the position I laid in when awake most of the time so then it hit me hard, now I try to avoid it if I can.
    1. Β Β  What’s the longest amount of time you went without sleep? – Thankfully only a bit more than 2 days. The good thing about my insomnia and Zombie days that I feel really lucky about is that I don’t have it the way some people do, that I would go on for days without sleep. If I have a Zombie day, it’s awful, but at least it means that at night I will fall asleep like a baby, and, usually, sleep like a log until early morning, and my sleep cycle will reset nicely and will be really decent and in line with my time zone for a while. Unless I am trying to play a hero and by night am so exhausted that my nervous system just gets overloaded and I can’t fall asleep despite you can’t really say I’m fully awake and sane by then.

Working On Us – self care.

It’s week #12 of Working On Us, a mental health prompts series hosted by Beckie of

Beckie’s Mental MessΒ 

and the topic of this week is self care. Gonna be tricky, but let’s try. I’m going to participate in prompt #1. Here goes.

 

  1. Were their signs of your self-care routine lacking before you were officially diagnosed with a mental illness/disorders? – Yes, definitely, especially that all my official mental health diagnoses are relatively recent. I think I’ve struggled with self care my entire life, and not only due to mental illnesses. For a long time I wasn’t concerned about my appearance at all, which had surely to do with my blindness. Since I didn’t look at people and care about their appearance, why the heck would they look at me and care about mine? And I just wasn’t interested in that. I am still not, and I’m still not particularly caring about my appearance, when I feel OK I just do the minimum to look OK, I never do makeup at all, I hate clothes shopping, I don’t even do this myself, my Mum likes similar things to me in terms of clothing and she knows what I like and look OK in so she is my stylist as I say. Then when things with my mental health started slipping down fast, which I can’t even tell now when exactly it started happening, my self care routine slipped down too. It’s all very complex and layered and not even fully understandable to me why I experience all the difficulties with self care that I experience. As I said in a way it’s that I don’t care, then I’ve never had healthy self-esteem so on the other hand I feel sort of like even if I did care how I look like, I don’t deserve such things as self care, my inner critic cringes even at the sound of this word. I’ve got a deeply ingrained conviction in my brain that I am very emotionally weak because of what happened to me and how I reacted to all that, and also I hate feeling vulnerable and showing my vulnerability both because it makes me feel weak and even more insecure around other people. And then there is depression, which sometimes just makes my self-esteem even worse, sometimes it gives me so many other things to care/worry about that I just don’t find the time and space for self care and it feels very unimportant, or I don’t have the energy for it. And on top of that, there is the fact that I am not very independent, I need relatively much assistance with a lot of things, well it’s hard to make comparisons especially that I hate comparisons but what I mean is that I often need at least some help with certain self care activities that a fair few blind people I know can do on their own, and there are probably other things involved too that I either can’t think of right now or don’t fully realise. So when my mental health started slipping down, I started doing things like not eating on purpose when I felt hungry, not for weight related reasons but I’d say as a way of punishing myself but also distracting from what I felt, my emetophobia which was very bad at that time played also a role in it. It wasn’t like I wouldn’t eat at all and I tried not to make it obvious but at some point one of the staff at the boarding school noticed some things and was worried I am anorectic though I wasn’t. I often deliberately didn’t do things that were bringing me pleasure when I could do them, and I started self-harming, though in fact I was doing mild self-harm a lot of the time since I can remember. Pain has often been comforting for me or at least distracting, or my inner critic whom I call Maggie in English would just punish me this way. Or I would do things like when I felt cold I deliberately didn’t put warmer clothes on either to distract from my feelings or to feel that weird and crazy satisfaction that I am doing something against myself and that I could manifest how I hated myself. A lot of those things have gotten milder now or disappeared because my life circumstances are now different and my self-awareness is a little bit better.
  2. Did you (or) do you suffer from low self-esteem? – Yes. One of the things I’ve been diagnosed with is AVPD (avoidant personality disorder) which is very tightly related to having very low self-esteem. I really don’t like to talk about my self-esteem because it makes me so much more vulnerable and it’s not fun when people know such things about you, the more that deep down I have a feeling that they already know it because it’s obvious, but also because it’s hard to talk about it honestly in an open and raw way and not sound whiney and I hate sounding whiney. I try to change it on my blog where it’s much easier, but still difficult, hence this post is a little bit tricky for me. My inner critic Maggie is very good at her role and I have that niggling, snarky feeling about myself always there in the back of my mind. I do have times when my self-esteem goes higher, sometimes for a while it goes veeery high if there is something that makes me feel really good about myself or accomplished but then it doesn’t take much to crash in a big way and I end up self-loathing. When I feel more depressed or overwhelmed with all sorts of feelings I loathe myself for days or weeks very intensely and then self care is more challenging and it’s hard not to self harm.
  3. Is there (or) have there been stages of guilt when not properly taking care of your self-care routine? – Hm, well, I deal with guilt a lot while depressed and then it doesn’t need a specific reason for me to feel guilty, but I guess I never or very rarely feel seriously guilty specifically because of lack of self care, unless I look really horrific or something happens because of it that affects other people in a bad way.
  4. (You can refrain from answering the next question if you wish to).Β  What was the longest period of time between taking a shower, and/or brushing your teeth? – I try to always shower or take a bath, I’d have to be suuuper unstable not to do it or extremely wiped out and my energy rarely goes that low solely because of mental health as I only have dysthymia and not major depression so it’s not normal for me to feel so very drained. Taking a shower actually often helps me to feel better and calmer. Sometimes when I’m really depressed/overwhelmed/self-hating I only have a very quick shower just to get it over with as quickly as possible, or in turn I can sometimes stand in the shower for ages with my brain either running a mile a minute so I’m too absorbed in my own anxious/dark thoughts to do anything else in the meantime, or frozen because of the depression, and I go out of the shower and realise that: “Aha, cool, I didn’t even wash myself. Oh well, who cares. Let’s better go off to sleep”. πŸ˜€ So, completely without showering, I remember a time when I was 15 and didn’t shower for 3 days, and that’s the only single incident with not showering for a few days because of mental health stuff that I can think of. Brushing teeth is tricky. I hated doing it as a child for a while because of the sensory feel of it, then when my emetophobia got bad when I was a teen there was a situation when I saw my Dad brushing his teeth, and he was brushing his tongue so very energetically that he gagged and I was like “Oh no, no teeth brushing for me anymore, I don’t want this to happen to me!”. And it was really tough for me to brush my teeth until my emetophobia calmed down a little bit and I was able to talk some sense into myself that people don’t normally just gag when brushing their teeth. πŸ˜€ On the other hand, because I hate having things other than food in my mouth, also because of that same fear, I am also scared of the dentist visits and such, so I try to take care of my teeth. But still, when I feel shitty, I don’t care and I don’t brush my teeth or I do it very superficially. I can’t remember for how long it was when I was so scared of brushing teeth because of that gagging thing, but I can sometimes go without brushing teeth for 3 weeks or so. Then when I don’t do it for so long, I easily plain forget to do it sometimes, as I can be very scatterbrained. I am one of those lucky folks though because I’ve never even had a single cavity or any such things.
  5. If you are supposed to be going out for whatever occasion, are you concerned with your over-all appearance?Β  (Or) Do you take care of your self-care needs before leaving the house? – It depends whether I am concerned or not and how much on how I’m feeling, if I am concerned then usually because I feel so self-conscious than because I want to look well. I do basic self care things before going out though even if I’m not concerned, just for the peace of mind, because I should. πŸ˜€
  6. What advice can you give to someone who is having difficulty with their self-care routine?Β  (Note: If someone was to ask for your advice, what would you share with them?) – Oh gosh! That if they need a good self care advice, they shouldn’t come for it to me, because I’m anything but a self care guru. πŸ˜€ No, I’m kidding of course, but it’s really hard to advise people on something you struggle with yourself, it feels hypocritical. Wait a moment, I have to think… I think what I can say is that you are certainly not alone with it, most people with mental illness struggle with self care, and it is OK to admit that you are struggling, that you don’t feel like focusing on your appearance, that you are not into it at this moment, it’s OK and it is valid, and you shouldn’t feel ashamed or guilty about it if you do, because it just happens, it’s not something you chose to happen, did you? It’s important how you look, but it’s not the most important thing in the world, not the most important thing about you either, and you don’t always have to look glamourous, especially that it is such a subjective thing, and, let’s be objective for a second, most people care and worry too much about how they look to judge everyone else’s appearance and whether it is appropriate. And that everything in life is transient, so there are big chances that you won’t always struggle with it as much as you do right now. Uhhh what a lengthy post haha!

Ina Wroldsen – “Mother”.

Hi hi people! πŸ™‚

So, this song, for me, is that kind of song which lyrics are just so ridiculously, creepily or comfortingly – depending from which angle you choose to look at it – relatable to you and describing you, your life and various situations you’ve been through, as if someone just broke into your flamin’ brain and wrote about your feelings. I hear so often that people say things like “Oh God, this song is just about me!” or such things, but to me it actually doesn’t happen very often, not to such an extent that I could literally sign myself with all my limbs under the lyrics, although I did have my personal song as a child and teen, which was “Evacuee” by Enya. This one is vastly different from Enya’s music, but no less relatable to me, maybe even more relatable to me in a way because, thankfully, I no longer have to relate to that child in “Evacuee”, and this song by Ina Wroldsen describes my feelings and my life and my relationships with people in so many more ways, not just a part of my life as it is with “Evacuee”.

Ina Wroldsen is a Norwegian singer, she is very popular in her country and in Scandinavia but also in other European countries, collaborating with many DJ’s and such, I am pretty sure that I must have heard her somewhere earlier before I discovered it for myself, as for example her song “Strongest” was a real hit. I discovered her for myself when I started to listen to more Norwegian music, largely by accident, but I never was very crazy on her, just another cool Norwegian artist out there, a bit too normal for me to like her really really much. πŸ˜€

Sometimes I focus on lyrics of my favourite songs, sometimes I don’t. Usually I focus more on those I like more, and when something is just cool but normal I tend to only focus on the music, since it rarely has very striking lyrics anyway. And so was when I first heard “Mother” last year. But at some point while listening to it I focused much more and thought: “Huh, these lyrics sound familiar”, as in, something I knew from my own experience and from my own brain. πŸ˜€ And, seriously, when I listened to the song thoroughly, just everything felt so so much like me. And not at all only in regards to the time where I was at the boarding school and struggling with a lot of stuff and wanted outa there, and not only even in relation to my own Mum. Some verses, that I’m sure were written more metaphorically, were about me in such an absurdly literal way that I just had to laugh, other were more metaphorical. I could find descriptions of my relationships with important people in my life in it and things I’ve been through, and pretty much my entire life in a way, but especially my childhood. It feels odd and crazy! And, as always when I find a song that is even somewhat relatable for me in any way, I am still so very curious what inspired Ina to write it, although I believe it was a piece written collaboratively with some other people. While it speaks to me in such an incredible, almost eerie way, I also think that most people are able to find something about themselves in it, as is the case with some songs. I hope you enjoy it anyway. πŸ™‚

Working On Us – pets.

It’s week #11 of Beckie’s mental health prompts’ series Working On Us at

Beckie’s Mental Mess

and I’m joining in. The topic for this week is pet therapy and emotional support animals.

Β Β Prompt #1 Questions:

 

  1. Do you own a pet for emotional support and/or service/therapy? – Yes, but it’s not strictly speaking an emotional support animal. I have a cat called Misha, he’s been with me since he was a few months old, and he is of tremendous support to me.
  2. Is your pet a certified therapy animal? – No. As much as Misha is helpful for me, he’s definitely not a fit whatsoever to be an emotional support animal formally. If you’d spend even just a day observing him closely you’d rather say it’s him who needs emotional support. Misha is an anxious loner who is scared of touch and closeness, and chronically stressed about everything, afraid of every noise and a more sudden movement. Strangers and travelling scare him as well, he doesn’t do changes and other cats. He is a well-bred aristocrat with loads of noble ancestors but looking solely at his behaviours and reactions one would think he must have spent years on the streets or in a shelter in the middle of a war zone. I really don’t know why he is like this, apart from that I’ve heard that just as much as parents can “infect” their children with anxiety if they are very anxious, same applies to pet owners. My Mum says he’s practically the worst fit for me, also because he only seems to tolerate eye contact fully well. Yet, despite our ups and downs, we get along really well. I have the added benefit that I know I am not alone with my anxieties and fears, weird reactions to stuff and avoidance. I know he understands me, although at the same time he is the only being in the world in whose company I would be happy to be ALL the time, but he so often prefers to be alone, and sometimes it’s hard to not take it personally. I have to often prioritise his needs when he needs his solitude or has a bad anxiety day and is all jittery and jumpy, but I know he understands how important he and his support is to me and that when he recuperates he’ll give me his attention and support and I’ll be happy to give him the same in return if he wants. I’ve heard so many people saying he is selfish, but in fact, taking everything into consideration, I think he is of an extremely noble and generous nature, but also a very difficult and complex character. I guess it’s good he’s not a human, he’s already enough of a complexity.
  3. What kind of pet do you own? – Misha is a Russian blue tsar, he’s over 3 and a half years old. We also have a mixed-breed dog called Jocky, who sometimes works therapeutically for me as well, even though I don’t have usually as much of a connection with dogs as I do with felines. Jocky is the lively, happy type, he’s mostly Zofijka’s, her cure for loneliness and lack of friendships, but my family says he must like me in some special way because he’s always very engaging with me. I mean, in a bit of a different way than with the rest of us. Especially when I feel low, I have a suspicion he really is able to feel when I’m depressed. And then he is so very funny and jumps at me and all and wants to play with me, and he always wins in the end because I can’t not laugh. We also have aquarium fish. I’ve heard people saying having aquarium fish is very calming and therapeutic because it calms them down to be able to look at them swimming, but since I can’t see them, they might as well not exist to me.
  4. Do you believe that support animals truly assist those in need? – Sure they do! I am not sure what to think about that animals can respond to our emotions, I think it depends in a way on an individual animal, but in any case, just having a pet that you love, whatever that animal does to make you feel better, can sometimes truly help. And there are trained service animals who help and assist people and I think that is unquestionable that they do and to a huge degree.
  5. Do you believe that any animal can be a therapy/support pet? – I think it really depends. On a specific animal, how engaging and interactive it is, but also on the human who is on the receiving end and is supposed to get some help from that animal. If you are sceptical, I don’t think it will help, and if you are scared of horses for example, it’s doubtful you’ll benefit from hipotherapy, unless you want to overcome your fear. It’s slightly hard for me to imagine how those less interactive animals (like the fish I mentioned for example) can support people, but I guess if you really like fish and are attached to your fish, it’s possible. I think it’s primarily the connection and love between you and your pet that is healing and therapeutic, not some unusual properties of the animal itself.

Prompt #2 Narrative:

Describe how your pet is of support to you? EXAMPLE: Helps with anxiety, depression, PTSD, etc… (And, please… Share their name and a photo) if you desire.

Misha – despite being a bundle of nerves himself most of the time – has a very calming effect on me. He is my best friend. I spend a lot of my time alone, which I am most of the time happy about but having Misha gives me some company and on those days when I do feel lonely, I feel less lonely because I have him. He helps me with anxiety. Like I said, I know he is anxious himself and that sort of adds to the connection between us. We understand each other on this front, I know I am not alone with what I feel, because a lot of the time, when I have a bad anxiety day, he does too. I call him my charger because he always helps me to recharge after a lot of socialising. Misha is very quiet like most of cats, not even particularly vocal, but he helps me with what I call silence anxiety (basically when there’s complete silence and my brain doesn’t get enough sensory stimuli, it’s really hard to explain and understand), even if Misha doesn’t make the slightest sound his presence can sometimes make it go away completely. When I feel depressed, he keeps me company and gives some purpose to my existence. He makes me feel useful because he needs support too. There are days when he does want a proper, long, relaxing cuddle, and he always comes for it to me, and he comes to me in search of refuge when suddenly there are lots of shouty strangers downstairs, smoking and listening to loud music, or stranger kids running around the house and wanting to hold him and calling him a she. It’s funny by the way how he’s always able to understand that an invasion of human beings is about to happen and run away to my room just in time, and it’s interesting how he doesn’t mind some people coming over to us and is happy to stay downstairs with them. He is my sleeping pill. We’ve established a routine on most of the nights (and Misha loves his rituals and routines) that he sleeps in my room at night, in his bed, and it really helps me to fall asleep when I have him close. Or if I can’t sleep, it’s even better, because I can pet Misha. My Swedish teacher encouraged me once that I should talk to Misha in other languages, because that’s what he did with his cats and they understand. And that’s what I do now. It’s cool because he seems to understand me no less than in Polish, while the humans don’t get a word. So I can talk to him about things that I wouldn’t talk about to people, that I don’t feel like talking with people, or that I don’t have anyone to talk to about. Misha doesn’t purr very loudly, I’ve read somewhere that purring isn’t only a signal of pleasure for a cat, but a self-soothing mechanism first and foremost. And when he does purr, it sounds more like he’s purring to himself. I’ve also learnt that a cat can purr when anxious or in pain and that would be true for Misha I think. But when he purrs for himself, I love to eavesdrop and get some of it for myself. I like to lie near him and listen to all his inner sounds – his purrs, his breath, his tummy gurgling, his heartbeat, every Mish sound is like a music for me and it is very soothing. – Playing with him always makes me happy. And just his presence changes the atmosphere in the room where he is. Basically, after those 3 years with Misha, I can’t imagine my life without him anymore. I guess Misha is like a drug for me. When I’m away for a few days, like on holidays or something, by the time I come back home to Misha I have full-blown withdrawal syndrome.

Here’s a pic of Misha, I don’t even know how presentable Misha is on it and don’t remember what he looks like here, but this photo’s been lying in my Dropbox so I believe I must have used it somewhere earlier, and I don’t think we’ve made many new photos lately, so I hope this one is good.

Misha standing alone

Other than Misha, I’ve also had some experience with hipotherapy. I’m currently having a hiatus (which will likely be over in September), but I used to horse ride regularly. I’ve written a fair few posts on my complicated relationship with riding and how it all started but to give you an idea, the very first time I started riding was at the boarding school for the blind when I was 5 and in the nursery. I didn’t like it, I was scared of it, probably because of my issues with balance, and any time I was supposed to ride I was sick. That stopped when I went to primary, because since then only those with multiple disabilities could do hipotherapy and it turned out I had allergy to horses, so I was happy with it. The when I was in what we call integration school at the age of 10 my Mum read an article on the benefits of hipotherapy and she felt like I could benefit a lot from it, especially emotionaly, and she found a stud and signed me up for hipotherapy there. All without my knowledge. I guess she didn’t even know how scared I was. But after the first time I rode there I suddenly discovered that I love horses and I love riding and it is amazing! I’ve been riding there until now with some longer breaks in between, still with the same instructor, and, until last year, always on the same horse. Sadly, last year, my faithful horse – Czardasz aka ŁoΕ› – died of old age.

At some point my instructor suggested to me that we could do more actual riding and less hipotherapy. That is, the stud where I am riding is exclusively for the disabled, and most of the people riding there have severe cerebral palsy or similar things, and they can’t really ride. I have some additional stuff apart from my blindness, like my shitty balance but it’s definitely not quite as severe a thing so overall I was able to ride and do much more on horseback. So I agreed and since then we’re doing what’s apparently called horse riding with elements of hipotherapy. πŸ˜€ My instructor is both a hipotherapist and a riding instructor, and a keen rider herself, but she is also a doctor – a neurologist. – So, apart from having fun riding, I have conversations about the brain with her and it’s thanks to her that I realised that had I been sighted I’d like to be a neurosurgeon.

I find horse riding very therapeutic. Very helpful with releasing the stress, tensions, all that stuff. Makes you feel free. You can’t ride while you’re tense so you naturally have to relax. Which can take for me just about the whole 45 minutes to fully relax my muscles at times, but oh well, it’s worth trying, isn’t it? It’s incredible how you bond with a horse while riding, especially if, like me, you don’t really change horses a lot, so you can get to know 1-2 horses really well, get to know your horse’s personality, the way of walking, what they react to and so on. My horse – my first one, the one who died last year – was really good and patient with me. He always felt when I was anxious, he seemed to understand me and I usually understood him too. He was very, very big and very, very phlegmatic. He once fell asleep while walking and tripped and I fell off of him, that’s how phlegmatic he was. πŸ˜€ We got along really well, although sometimes his size scared me and he wasn’t easy to ride because he was very demanding and I needed to work real hard to make him feel anything from my movements, since he was so much bigger than me. πŸ˜€

My current horse is a bit of a nervous type, and very receptive. I am not quite as bonded with him primarily because I haven’t ridden much on him, but I like him a lot.

I usually feel really euphoric for a while after hipotherapy, you know, endorphines kicking in and all that. But also, I said I have a complicated relationship with riding, because I do. While I love it so much, at the same time it’s still scary for me. Not that type of scary as when I was a kid, but it is scary. I can’t even exactly tell you why. I am scared that something awful will happen when I’ll be riding, I once had a panic attack while riding, and that I have poor balance doesn’t help and doesn’t make me feel safer on horseback. I know I go through the same fear every time I am about to ride, and I know that 9 times out of 10 everything will be fine, and I am willing to take the challenge, and my willingness to ride is (usually) stronger than the fear, but the fear is just there no matter what. Sometimes it still makes me feel sick and like I won’t do it this time. Things would be much easier if I didn’t have that fear, and I think I’d be able to do more and in less time.

Just like with Misha who makes an impression of not fitting for an emotional support animal, same applies to my horse riding, it’s a bit paradoxical that I ride, because technically I don’t have in abundance all that stuff that you need to be a good rider. My balance is screwed up, my sensory integration is screwed upΒ  and my coordination is screwed up. It makes things tricky. But at least thanks to riding I can improve them as much as it’s possible. But I think overall, taking everything into account, I am a pretty decent rider anyway, and I used to take part in local, small competitions and scored high which I am proud of.

Working On Us – music.

Hi guys! πŸ™‚

It’s week #9 of Beckie’s Working On Us prompts at

Beckie’s Mental Mess

and this week’s topic is music.

Because I already share loads of music with you as part of my song of the day series, and all of it is music I like that has some sort of a beneficial effect on me, this time I decided I’ll only participate in prompt #1.

 

  • Have you ever received music therapy as part of your treatment?Β  If so, what kind of music was introduced to you? – Maybe not exactly as part of my treatment as such, but there was music therapy at the boarding school for the blind where I was going to, and I did take part in it for some years. Back then I had already a lot of emotional/mental health issues but I only sort of knew that “something’s wrong” and nothing more specific, I didn’t want to know even in a way, and some people in my surroundings also knew about it to some extend, at least what was obvious and visible. I liked music therapy a lot. As far as I can remember, we mostly listened to classical music, some soundtracks or electronic music, but we had some other music too. What I – and all the others who participated – loved the most were relaxations. We’d listen to relaxing music and the music therapist read some guided imagery to us. You could follow it, or just let your mind wander, or not think about anything, or fall asleep, just relax. I was struggling with stuff like racing thoughts at that time and didn’t sleep much at all so that could sometimes be very very helpful. And I loved the sort of exercises when we were listening to a piece of music and had to imagine some sort of situation that it would fit to, or what it represents.
  • Do you listen to music ( if/when) you meditate?Β  If so, what kind of music do you listen to? – I don’t meditate a lot actually. We’ve recently started to do some Christian meditation – me and my Mum, usually once a month – but I’m not particularly good at meditation, I have real trouble with shutting up my mind and focusing on just one thing at a time. If we do that, we usually don’t listen to music. But, also quite recently, I’ve noticed that my generalised anxiety has worsened which makes some things more difficult for me, like settling down for sleep, I’ve been overthinking and ruminating more since a few months and I still have yet to discover what’s the exact reason if there is any. Anyways, because of that, I started doing some more visualisations and imageries, especially before sleep, as a way to relax and soothe my brain. I’ve always liked that but now as my anxiety has sort of relapsed, I think I should do it more often. And when I do it, I do listen to music. It’s usually some sort of calming, instrumental music, for relaxation and meditation, though I try to be aware of what I’m listening to as much as I can and not listen to new age-y stuff. Also gentle, calm folk is good, or electronic but not too electrified music. I love harp, especially Celtic harp and especially solo, but almost any type of harp will do to me, and I find this instrument extremely soothing. Also Enya’s music calms me a lot. Sometimes I will just listen to nature sounds or such but usually I need a bit more to create some sort of fuller relaxing image in my mind based on the music I’m listening to.
  • If you have never tried music therapy as a treatment, what types of music calm and/or mellow you? – Apart from what I’ve mentioned, it’d be all my music crushes, who always fascinate me, inspire me and are sort of like antidotes for all sorts of negative things, not always necessarily their music calms me down but always gives me positive vibes. Other music I find calming is acoustic pop, some indie, maybe chillout and such but not too jazzy, psychedelic rock/folk, lighter alternative rock…
      • Do you believe music helps everyone and there is really no use for therapy in this regard? – I do believe that music helps everyone, it can help immensely, but it doesn’t mean that music doesn’t have additional therapeutic values which can be used when they are needed, and I believe that it’s beneficial effects are even more pronounced in people with mental illness or mental health issues, even other sorts of chronic illnesses or disabilities. And music has that quality that it helps to release emotions, or express them, you don’t have to be the one who creates the music to be able to express yourself through it, I believe. I think there aren’t many other ways that would be as universally effective in this, and people with mental illness often struggle with releasing their emotions in healthy ways, and that’s why I think it’s mostly so therapeutic for us.