round and round and round we go – update

So ahead of getting started with twochubbycubs stuff, and partly because I want an excuse to write, I thought I’d update on last week’s post because I received so many lovely comments and questions from people about it. I can’t decide if it comes across as too naval-gazing or self-indulgent to temporarily use a food blog to discuss mental health issues, but fuck it, let’s roll the dice. I can always stick a scrambled eggs recipe on next week to take the edge off things. Social media, blogs, reels, updates – they all present these perfect little glimpses into us living our best lives. Nobody ever writes a blog post about a time they want to forget, after all. Such curated happiness is all well and good, but if you’re suffering with your mental health it can seem a bit like you’re the only one out there who can’t quite get their ducks in a row. Whilst I don’t pretend to be any sort of expert on the matter, and lord knows we don’t currently need yet more armchair-experts online, I hope that by writing about the bad times and how I’m getting through, it can hold a mirror up. It also helps me on a personal note, because having a catalogue of my thoughts that I can refer back to at a later point when things have settled down and I’m not totally doolally is a comfort. Of course, I could do that privately (and I do – there’s as much blog unpublished than there is published), but well, got to keep the wheel spinning.

So yep, please do forgive the (hopefully temporary) change of pace here.

In truth, I’m actually feeling a bit better. To recap: started having eye-pain back in December (and yes, I’ve been to the opticians twice over now – was a bit remiss of me to miss that key part out in my last post) and since then, have been in a cycle of expecting it to go away, being disappointed it hasn’t, worrying about it, trying to stop that worry swelling up and triggering my health anxiety and now full-blown anxiety about the fact it is clearly a brain tumour. Or MS. Or Parkinsons. Or CJD. Or a brain bleed because I saw that on a reddit post. Or any number of exciting and terrifying cancers.

When I’m feeling rational, this is what I think it is: I strained my eye muscles watching TV whilst lying down, and rather like when you sprain your ankle, it took a while to heal. Because it wasn’t immediate, my brain took issue with the fact that it hadn’t disappeared and started fretting. When you’re anxious, you tense up, and that means more strain on the muscle – and that makes it worse. Plus, I’m hyper-aware of my body at the moment, so every little pain or twinge that I’d normally dismiss is a CLEAR SIGN OF THINGS GETTING WORSE.

But because I’m anxious, I’m over-analysing everything, and this constant state of feeling anxious and worried is keeping me in this little vicious cycle. When you are anxious, your body is in a heightened state of alertness and adrenaline is pumping all over the place – it’s why the heart races, it’s what a panic attack is: a fear response. Because I’ve had two months of living like this, my body is worn out. My newest symptom is jerky legs and arms which has been fun, but totally normal when you think of what’s going on in my body. My body is like a spring that someone has been tightening ever so slowly for the last few weeks, and all that built up energy needs to come out. Essentially, I need to relax, and take a few weeks to calm the body back down. Which sounds incredible when you think I’ve just been away for five weeks, I know, but it was still always at the back of my mind.

But I said I was feeling better, and I am. Remember I said I was going for a CT scan? The lovely folks at my local hospital moved my appointment forward from late March to this morning – brilliant. I should say they didn’t ring me up with a grave voice advising me to come in as soon as possible – the CT scan remains ‘routine’ not ‘fuck me, don’t make any weekend plans’, I had called up on the off-chance of a cancellation and the sun of good luck shone on me. Naturally being me I turned up an entire hour early which gave me an opportunity to fret about things before going in. I was distracted by a cleaner who seemed in remarkably good cheer considering it was 7.40am and I had (accidentally) kicked her cleaning bucket and then sat in the chair she was trying to clean. I did apologise profusely and offer to help but she was having none of it, possibly guessing how distracted I was and fearful I’d start a fire with her bottle of Flash or knock a wall down in my haste to assist. You know though, I’ve poured countless words into this blog over the years about how amazing the NHS is, but today was another good example: from the receptionist who pointed out I was in the wrong department, to the cleaner who was whistling and cheerful at such an early hour, to the kind nurse who answered my questions about the scan with patience and good humour and who didn’t laugh when I stopped being brave and shut my eyes during the scan – we’re still on a perfect hot streak with wonderfully kind and patient NHS staff. You’ll miss it when it’s gone, I promise, and for the love of God think about that next year when it comes to putting an X in a box.

But the scan itself was nothing – lie on a table, try not to move. I’ve had a number of MRIs over the years (surprise!) and this was nothing compared to those. If anything, I missed the chance to try and doze whilst the world’s worst techno played. I did have a little seatbelt put over my skull to keep my head still, something which didn’t pass without snark from my mate who enquired whether they needed to get one of those bright orange extenders like they do on aeroplanes for those of us carrying significant extra baggage. Luckily I’m used to being restrained and told to keep still – indeed, it made a change not to have a pair of boots perched on my back during.

I’m now facing seven to ten days before someone takes a look at the results and lets my doctor know. Whilst I am fully expecting this week to be a rough one – for all the time I spend telling myself it’ll be nothing, another scan I’ve had done which shows I’m alright really, I spend an equal time trying to block out the ‘what if it is this’ and ‘what if they find that’. I’ll be fine – as I said, feeling better – but it’s still exhausting. Weirdly, if they do find something – chances vanishingly small, remember – I’ll cope. I didn’t think I would, but the same chap who made the seatbelt gag also pointed out that when I’ve previously had a genuine medical issue, I’ve been remarkably stoic about it and got through it with minimal fuss. Well no, lots of fuss, but not as much as you’d expect from someone with a brain capable of turning an ingrown toe into advanced sepsis or diagnosing himself with weeks to live when his hayfever was bad. I cope so much better with absolute than abstraction: that’s why health anxiety is such a fucking knobhead. If someone tells me my ear will fall off tomorrow, I can plan and deal with it accordingly, but if I read somewhere there’s a chance my ear could fall off, I’ll spend weeks worrying about it until I kick myself mentally up the arse and get on with things.

So that’s where I am right now. I am hopeful that the scan will come back with nothing to report and once that happens, I can work on calming my anxiety back down. As that happens, the adrenaline and stress rolling around in my body will abate and the symptoms will ease off. That means I won’t have so many ‘triggers’ and I can begin the climb back to feeling normal. I’m going to try and keep busy this week and keep my fingers crossed (that’ll be my stenosing tenosynovitis getting worse) that the report comes back as soon as possible, though. I want to get started, whatever that means.

Before I go, a final thought. I’ve touched on it a few times as the reason I’m writing these blogs, but it bears repeating: it really does help to talk to people about this. I’ve made the mistake way back when of keeping this bottled up, and trust me, it’s the worst thing you can do. It’s like getting a bottle of fizzy pop and shaking it up – at some point that lid is coming off and it’s going to be messy. I’ve made a point this time of letting people know what I am going through. When people ask how I am, I’m not replying on autopilot and pretending everything is fine, because lord knows it isn’t. And it helps so damn much. Sometimes you need to just pour your thoughts out and have someone listen. If you’re on the other side – if you have someone confiding in you – listen. You don’t need to provide answers and solutions, just an ear. I’m lucky to have a pretty damn good circle of people I can trust and talk to, and doubly so for having this space to get it all down, and if you’re in the same boat I encourage you to try and find the same.

That’s enough from me, anyway. Thanks for reading!