Reawakening

Spring helps me feel better. The warmer weather and increased hours of daylight encourage me to do things which benefit my mental health, like exercising and spending time outside. Sunlight also has an effect on your hormones, which helps you to sleep better and improves your mood — great for people like me, who struggle with depression and insomnia.

Many of the benefits are psychological.

Spring is a time of hope and reminds you that nature follows cycles. Just as trees and flowers burst back into life, there is a possibility of emerging from mental illness. This emergence may be a complete recovery or, as is more likely in my own experience, a period of relative wellness during which I still battle mental health problems, but can work towards my goals.

For me, mental illness follows these unpredictable cycles. Sometimes I can anticipate shifts in the cycle — such as expecting to feel generally better in the summer months — but often, my symptoms change in ways which have little rhyme or reason.

Dealing with unpredictability is difficult, but learning to roll with it is easier and better in the long run than railing against it.

Mental illness is unfair. Part of the reason why stigma surrounding mental health is so prevalent is that people don’t like to admit that mental illness can be random. They prefer to think it affects only a certain type of person or is consciously caused by sufferers. If you are nentally well, it’s probably more pleasant to believe mental illness only happens to weak people and therefore can’t happen to you. The truth, that mental illness can affect anyone at any time, is difficult to accept.

In fact, the truth is difficult to accept even when you experience mental health problems. I would LOVE to blame my mental illness on something specific I have done, because it would answer the persistent “why me?” question and means I could do something to fix it once and for all. The truth is trickier: I can adopt strategies to actively manage my mental illness, but I can’t control everything.

Sometimes you can do everything “right” and still experience a decline in mental health.

This happened to me at the end of last year. I was exercising regularly, eating healthily, socialising more and going to bed at a reasonable time every night. I was working and volunteering. I had goals. I was practically the poster child for self-managing mental illness, having stopped taking antidepressants in September. Yet my mental health got worse.

There was a clear catalyst, in the form of successive winter viruses which prevented me from doing a lot of my self-care tasks, but the sudden downward spiral in my mental health was unexpected and couldn’t be sufficiently explained by my physical illness. As I’m emerging from this episode, I’m learning to accept it as part of the cycle of my mental illness. I didn’t do anything wrong. I didn’t deserve to get worse — just as I didn’t deserve to get mentally ill in the first place. But it happened.

My instinct is to bemoan the fact that it happened, but it’s unhelpful. It means I focus too much on the negative aspects of my life and prevents me from making progress. Instead, I need to look forward.

 

 

Looking forward means acknowledging the past, working through it while focusing on the future.

One of the reasons I love history is how much it teaches us about the present. We can learn from both the similarities and the differences between the past and present. I have been doing this in counselling over the past couple of months, learning to recognise the patterns I have followed (often without realising) so I can break them. Finding the causes of certain patterns can be helpful, but it’s not necessary — the pattern can be broken without a full understanding of how it developed — simply noticing the pattern is the important part.

So I’m striving to create new, healthy patterns which promote good mental health. Yet I must acknowledge that it might not be enough. I could experience another episode of worse mental health despite developing these patterns.

Because there are no guarantees with mental health, it is vital to do whatever you can, when you can. Work with the cycles of your mental illness, striving towards your goals when you feel relatively well and allowing yourself respite during worse episodes.

Spring is a reawakening for me and heralds, I hope, a period of better mental health. However, if my health declines in future, I hope I can apply what I have learnt. I wish I didn’t suffer from mental illness, but I don’t want to waste time wishing things were different — I want to learn from my experiences and use them to help others. I want to look forward.

 

Weathering The Storm

Things have been difficult over the past few weeks. I feel guilty for saying that, because there has been a death in my family and here I am talking about how it’s affected my mental health. Part of me thinks I have no right to complain about how I feel when other family members are grieving more. It feels selfish to acknowledge how stressed and anxious I have been when other people have been far more involved in the arrangements. But it’s true: although I’m sad about my grandad dying, I am also stressed, depressed and anxious.

 

Seascape

 

I don’t want to write this post, which is why I know I need to write it. I guess there must be a lot of people in a similar position. The fact is, when you have mental health problems, everything gets filtered through the lens of mental illness. This applies to good things and bad. Achievements and bereavements.

I’m not going to write about my grandad. While many people think I’m very open about my life, because I talk about my mental health with as much honesty and openness as I can muster, I prefer to keep some things private. Personal relationships fall into that category. Sorry if that seems cold or weird, but I’m not comfortable blogging about some things.

However, I will discuss the impact of the past few weeks on my mental health.

The main effect is that I had more to worry about. Again, I’m not comfortable with going into detail, but I stress out about everything at the best of times, so you can imagine how my stress worsens during times which anyone would find stressful. I found it hard to think straight – I can spend hours worrying, not even paying attention to the television because I’m so caught up in my thoughts. This makes it difficult to be productive.

Of course, when I’m less productive than usual, I get stressed and anxious about my lack of productivity. I put a lot of pressure on myself. I can’t help it: my mental health struggles make me feel like I have to constantly prove myself. I have to work ten times harder than someone with good mental health in order to do things they find easy.

Another facet to this issue is that I fear I’m reinforcing negative stereotypes about mental illness when I show weakness. I know I don’t represent everyone with mental health problems, but I’m afraid other people will view me as such. Every time I miss a deadline, I think “I’m unreliable” and I’m terrified other people will think not only that I’m unreliable, but that everyone with a mental illness is unreliable.

The logical part of my brain points out that being ill isn’t synonymous with being unreliable, but anxiety persuades me to ignore logic and interpret the symptoms of my mental illness as proof that I’m unreliable, lazy, stupid, a failure, etc.

My counsellor set me homework on Friday and part of the homework is to recognise that my negative thoughts are symptoms of my mental illness, not the truth. It’s easier said than done, but I’m trying! It’s strange how I find it so much easier to dismiss the physical symptoms of mental illness. I can experience gastritis and accept it as a manifestation of anxiety, but I find it difficult to do the same with negative thoughts. When I think “everyone knows you’re worthless and a failure” I don’t immediately recognise it as a symptom – I believe it.

Once you start believing negative thoughts, you give them power and they can spiral out of control.

I have struggled with this spiral of negative thoughts a lot recently. Negative thoughts are my reflexes to external events and since I have trouble challenging them, they turn minor problems into catastrophes. At times, all I can do is cling on and try to weather the storm as my brain produces a torrent of insults, criticisms and accusations.

Living in this state is exhausting and makes problems proliferate. It exacerbates my anxiety and depression, leaving me paralysed by my thoughts. I know I would feel better if I could only do something, but doing anything feels impossible. The simplest things take a gargantuan effort – one morning, I had to give myself a 10 minute pep talk to convince myself to check the time when I woke up!

My counsellor is helping me to realise that I’m still on the right path, despite the obstacles being strewn across the way. I’m still training for my Machu Picchu trek, which is getting scarily close. I’m still writing, albeit less than I’d like. I have to focus on these priorities and trust that I can stay on the right track.

 

Walking My Own Trek

The past 4 months have been a constant struggle, thanks to a succession of viruses (all of which affected my chest) and an increase in my mental health problems. Stressing about my Machu Picchu trek didn’t help – especially as I was unable to do much in the way of fundraising or training – but thankfully two of my fellow trekkers got in touch with me via Facebook and offered support. Something these amazing women both reiterated was the importance of focusing on what the challenge means to me, what I’m accomplishing and my own progress.

The Lane aka my main training ground

Trying to do this is a challenge in itself! It’s bloody hard when everyone else seems to be doing so much better than me – raising more money, training more and generally being excellent Machu Picchu trekkers. It’s hard not to get discouraged when I see someone else in my group has raised thousands of pounds, even when I know that they are not self-funding and therefore need to meet a large minimum amount. It’s difficult to feel motivated when I’m so depressed and anxious that getting out of bed is a challenge.

 

Now I’m feeling better, I have been able to follow my fellow trekkers’ advice and here are my conclusions…

What walking my own trek means to me:

  1. Focusing on the personal meaning the challenge has for me
  2. Recognising my progress and what I have achieved
  3. Not comparing myself to others
  4. Accepting my particular problems, challenges and setbacks
  5. Appreciating the experience and doing my best

 

Comparing myself to others is stupid.

I have mental health problems. I can’t change that fact. I can’t even control my symptoms, though I am getting better at managing them to some degree. When I signed up for the challenge, I knew I would be lucky to hit my £1000 fundraising target, because depression and anxiety prevent me from doing the traditional fundraising activities which raise lots of money. I knew I might experience a relapse, though I hoped otherwise, which would interfere with training.

Knowing these things doesn’t make them easier to deal with, but I need to acknowledge that I have a big disadvantage compared to people who are mentally healthy.

Sure, I didn’t expect to get physically ill for so long, but it happened. I can’t change it, so I need to deal with it as well as I can. This means getting back to exercising when I’m able – this week, I have been walking again and re=establishing a foundation for my training. I hope to increase the amount and duration of walking as soon as I can and go back to gym classes once I stop coughing up phlegm.

I’m able to gain a little more perspective when I compare my current situation to the past. Ten years ago, I was experiencing my worst episode of depression and barely left the house. When I graduated from university nearly 6 years ago, I was a size 26 and so unfit that walking for a few minutes was painful. I’m now slimmer (though by no means slim, at size 18) and go walking alone – which a year ago, I hadn’t been able to do for around 12 years. Given all this, it’s stupid to compare myself to people who haven’t experienced my struggles.

 

My contributions, however small, are valuable.

I have raised £355 to date, which I consider a substantial amount of money. Especially since I don’t know many people, let alone wealthy people! I also know that many of the people who have sponsored me so far have made sacrifices so that they could give me as much as they can afford, so I really appreciate their contributions. Thank you to all of them for supporting me and a great cause.

#TeamAmnesty

As I’m self-funding, I have no official target to meet and every penny I raise goes to Amnesty International, so I shouldn’t feel like I’m letting anyone down if I fail to hit my £1000 target. Part of me thinks “my place on the challenge could have been taken by someone who could raise thousands,” but it’s equally probable that my place could have been taken by someone who would raise less than me. Besides, the challenge could not take place without a minimum number of trekkers; so if nothing else, my mere presence on the trek has contributed towards it going ahead.

I also hope my doing the challenge and talking about it (whether in person, on social media or by blogging) is raising awareness for both human rights and mental health issues.

I want to show everyone that mental illness needn’t prevent you from following your dreams. Sure, it can force you to put your dreams on hold and/or tackle them in an unconventional way, but it’s possible to achieve your goals. Actually, I’m not sure whether I would feel so motivated to follow my dreams if I hadn’t experienced the misery of mental illness.

 

Walking my own trek applies to life, as well as this challenge.

I know that trekking to Machu Picchu will teach me a lot, but the learning has already started. The challenges I am facing as I prepare are reminding me that I need to stop worrying about how I measure up. I have to enjoy experiences as they come and try not to take it to heart when things go wrong. My life has been affected by mental illness to a massive degree and I cannot change that, so I need to work with the material I have been given and use what I’ve learnt as I work towards my goals.

And I hope completing the Machu Picchu challenge is just the beginning.

 

Note: if you would like to sponsor me and support Amnesty International, please visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/HayleyNJones Every penny counts and gets me further towards my goal. Thank you.

Why I’m Open About My Mental Health

Mental health is being talked about more nowadays, but I suppose I am more open about my mental health problems than the average person.

Acknowledging this is strange to me, because I don’t feel like I am revealing a great deal. Even when I write personal posts, like A Shift in Perspective and The Delights of Anxiety, I am being very selective about the information I share. While I try not to censor myself, I don’t want to reveal some personal information or all the gory details, especially when it relates to other people in my life instead of just me.

My main reason for being so open about my experience of mental illness is to help reduce the stigma. While I don’t judge anyone who prefers to keep their mental health problems private, I felt that I was being hypocritical in complaining about the stigma surrounding mental health without doing my bit to help reduce it.

 

People have said I’m brave for talking about my mental illness, but I don’t feel brave.

Talking about my mental health problems can be difficult, but not compared to staying silent. It’s easier to be honest about my struggles than to pretend I’m fine, which is an approach I tried for years. In some ways, I feel I didn’t have a choice but to express myself, because not talking made me feel isolated and caused more pain.

I have also been privileged to have other people tell me they have experienced mental health problems, which reassures me that speaking out is right for me. It means a lot to have people say they are glad I talk about my mental health openly. If my blogging and talking about mental health helps anyone feel a little less alone, it’s worth the risk.

 

I know some people will judge me and use my openness against me, given half the chance.

There is still a lot of ignorance in the world. I know some people would read my blog and conclude that I am weak or lazy. They will use my blog as an excuse not to employ me. They might avoid establishing a relationship with me because I have revealed so much about my mental health. Maybe my openness will make many other things more difficult for me, though my instinct says I wouldn’t want to deal with anyone who judges other people because they have an illness.

I suppose my attitude is influenced by being unable to stand up for myself in the past. My mental health problems have led to me resigning from every job I have had, partly because I didn’t have the confidence or strength to argue my case when employers treated me unfairly. I’m determined not to let myself be undermined in the same way again — which is partly why I’m a freelance writer!

 

I also hope talking about my mental health will encourage others to talk about mental health.

I want everyone to talk about mental health in the same way we talk about physical health. It doesn’t mean that we all have to reveal everything about our experiences as soon as we meet someone (I certainly don’t greet people by saying “Hi, I’m Hayley and I have anxiety, depression, borderline personality disorder, keratocconus and a long history of ear infections”!), but it should mean that we can talk about our mental health without shame — if and when we choose.

If being open about my mental health problems makes it easier for anyone to start a conversation about mental health, I will have accomplished something good. That is all any of us can hope for!

The Delights of Anxiety — and More Glimmers of Hope

Anxiety sucks. It makes things which you have done many times before, even easy things, very difficult.

Case in point: modern jive classes. It took me two years before I became confident enough to try jive and even then, I met my best friend in the car park so I wouldn’t have to go in alone. Since that first time, however, I have been to lots of classes — several on my own. Yet when I went last night, after 2-3 months of not going, I was extremely anxious.

My hands were shaking so much I could barely get the money out of my purse. Of course, I then felt like an idiot for shaking so I got more anxious and kicked the chair when I was trying to sit down. I felt even more embarrassed and anxious after that…

Thankfully, modern technology saved the day and I focused on my phone to distract myself from the negative thoughts running through my mind. Once the class started, I felt a little better because I had to focus on trying to control the movement of my limbs. After a while, I began to enjoy the class — despite my nerves.

That is a glimmer of hope for me: despite feeling anxious, I had fun.

There have been several glimmers of hope this week, after a tricky weekend. On my walk yesterday (a glimmer of hope in itself, since I hadn’t been walking much lately), I saw more signs that spring is coming. As you can see from the pictures, snowdrops are in abundance and primroses are beginning to bud. There were also lots of daffodils shooting up. These are such little things, but they reassure me that the warmer weather and lighter evenings will come and the difficult times will pass.

 

The trouble with anxiety is there’s no easy path: you can battle it and feel awful as you try to push outside your comfort zone, or you can give up and let it rule your life, sucking every bit of pleasure out until you stay at home every day and do nothing fun.

I have tried the latter in the past and it just made me more miserable, exacerbating my depression. Letting anxiety rule my life is not an option. But that doesn’t make battling it any easier.

I have let anxiety rule me too much in recent months. I have developed a fear of driving, for instance, so have been avoiding it as much as I can. Last night, I drove on my own for the first time in 3 months — a couple of weeks ago, I drove home with my mum in the car, which was the first time I had driven at all in nearly 3 months.

Pushing through the anxiety is not easy, but it’s necessary if I don’t want it to limit my life to a massive extent.

The weird thing is, once I started driving I became less anxious. I had to focus on the road, of course, which introduces an element of mindfulness and takes me out of my head, but I also found it easier than I had been dreading. I had been letting a couple of bad incidents — which weren’t actually that bad, since they involved scraping things at 2mph — outweigh the hundreds of journeys I have made without incident.

 

Today has brought more glimmers of hope, which are helping to lessen my anxiety.

I had a counselling assessment and will now be starting counselling, which is a huge relief. It helped a lot when I had counselling at the beginning of last year and led to many little achievements — including starting the aforementioned modern jive classes! I hope it will have a similar effect this time and help me to build my confidence, control my anxiety, get more motivated and feel less stressed.

I have also had 3 donations for my Machu Picchu challenge. One of the  sponsors is 3 years old, so I suspect her mum (who also donated today) helped, but I’m still counting it as 3! I’m now just £10 away from my initial target of £250 and my ultimate goal of raising £1000 for Amnesty International seems a lot more possible.

I have also had messages of support from a couple of other women who are doing the challenge with me, which has helped to reassure me. They both urged me to focus on what the trip means to me, rather than stressing about whether people will think I have raised enough. I know they’re right — I have wanted to trek to Machu Picchu my whole life and I need to appreciate that, instead of obsessing over what others think.

I feel like I have turned a corner this week: I’m still very anxious and quite depressed, but I am more able to glimpse hope. I might feel stupid for finding things like driving and going to jive class difficult, but at least I did it — that’s got to count for something!

A Shift in Perspective

A weekend away should be fun and relaxing, right? Not so much when you have anxiety and depression.

I stayed at Bathampton in a cottage for a couple of nights with a few friends. It was beautiful, despite being January, and it was great to spend time with my friends — I even had some fun, playing games and drinking a little wine and appletinis… Yet it was very difficult.

The view from my bedroom window.

Mental illness sucks the pleasure out of everything and turns me into a negative person, which I hate. I believe I’m naturally optimistic and positive, but these aspects of my personality are obliterated by depression and anxiety.

I can’t help but compare my life to my friends’ lives: they all seem to have so much to live for compared to me. They all have proper jobs and none of them live with their parents. They have all had relationships. I feel like a freak next to them.

I know my friends will be appalled if they read this, but I feel like I’m dragging them down when I’m feeling this way. I spent a lot of the weekend feeling guilty because I know I’m not fun to be with right now.

 

The good times also tend to emphasise the bad aspects of my life — and most aspects of my life feel bad at the moment.

Feeling happy for a fleeting moment is great at the time, but afterwards it reminds me of how few happy moments I have experienced lately. I come crashing down to the reality of my problems, which I managed to forget for an hour or so, and the contrast makes me feel even worse.

As I said in my last post, I have been repeating “this too shall pass” a lot, in an attempt to find comfort and hope, but most of the time it doesn’t feel like my depression will pass. I know it will, on a logical level, but I can’t feel it emotionally.

My friends (who are awesome and supportive, by the way) did their best to cheer me up, but nothing really works. They kept reminding me that I have my Machu Picchu trek to look forward to, but that didn’t help because it doesn’t feel real yet. I’m constantly expecting bad things to happen which will prevent me from enjoying the experience. Even now, I’m convinced that everyone else in the group is a lot better than me: fitter, more prepared and much more successful fundraisers. I feel like I will be the fuck-up in that group, too.

 

But it’s not all terrible. It gave me a slight change of perspective.

I did enjoy many parts of my weekend away and getting away from my daily routine did me some good. I missed my dog, which makes me appreciate him more! It was also nice to get away from my family (in the best possible way, of course) because living with my parents and brother often feels claustrophobic.

I’m also looking forward to returning to modern jive classes, after missing loads due to illness, and seeing the friend I go with more often than I have over the past few months. I’m also terrified, thanks to the anxiety, but it will do me good to get out more again.

We walked along the canal into Bath and back on Saturday, which reminded me of how walking improves my mood. I hadn’t walked much last week, since it rained a lot and I felt too unmotivated. However, I walked up the lane today and intend to keep walking regularly.

I managed to find small things to appreciate, despite my low mood: pleasure in watching the boats on the canal, playing a singing game with my friends, finishing the novel I was reading. That’s improvement.

I wish I could tell you that the weekend led to an epiphany which has given me a fresh new mindset, but mental illness just doesn’t work like that. I enjoyed my weekend overall, but I came home exhausted and spent a lot of yesterday crying because I hate my life at the moment.

However, you may have noticed I keep using the phrases “at the moment” and “right now” which indicates the possibility of change. I think that’s hopeful.

 

Light in the Gloom

This photo sums up how my depression feels at present:

I took it a couple of nights ago, when I was walking along a seafront so obscured by fog that I couldn’t see the sea. It was a strange feeling, being able to hear and smell it without the familiar sight. The streetlight did little more than cast some colour into the gloom.

My level of depression at the moment is affecting me enough that I feel like my life is in shadow, but I can see some light — even if all it illuminates is fog.

That probably sounds pessimistic if you haven’t experienced mental health problems, but it’s actually hopeful. There is light.

Glimmers of Hope

The end of January is limboland: the year is no longer shiny and new, but spring feels far away.

My depression tends to get worse in winter and by the time February comes around, my mood has been low for weeks. I have to search hard for small signs of hope, like the gradually lightening evenings and these catkins I saw when I went for a walk today.


As trees, flowers and other plants emerge from winter, it shows the strength of nature’s faith.

Nature doesn’t doubt that spring will come. It knows there will be better times ahead, when flowers can blossom and leaves can flourish. I struggle to find that faith in the midst of depression, even a comparatively low level depression such as I’m experiencing now, but seeing glimmers of hope in nature helps. It reminds me there is a cycle to everything, including mental illness — even when the seasons seem unbearably long.

Nature is preparing for the spring and summer ahead: I need to figure out how to do the same.

I need to search for the glimmers of hope in my own life and use them to motivate me to prepare for better times. It’s too easy to focus on the negative aspects of my life and ignore the positives.

In fact, seeing those catkins today counts as a positive in my life, because I can walk my dog on my own — this time last year, my anxiety was so bad that I couldn’t go out alone. When I walked up the lane alone in March last year, it was the first time in over a decade. That’s another glimmer of hope.

 

 

 

Getting Restarted – Slowly

I’m beginning to do more as I recover from being ill, but it’s difficult. My energy is low and I’m frustrated that I can’t do more. I wish I could think more clearly, too. I have so much I need – and want – to do, but my body isn’t cooperating.

I know that pushing myself too far will be detrimental to my health, so I’m trying to take it easy as I recuperate, but my to-do list is stressing me out and I’m worried that tasks will continue piling up until there are so many I won’t be able to cope. My strategy is to prioritise the most important things first, then the tasks which won’t take too much energy. The other stuff will have to wait.

The situation is affecting my mental health and it’s a constant battle to keep perspective.

I know that getting stressed and anxious will result in my getting even less done, but logical observations and emotional reactions are different animals… While I know that prioritising my mental and physical health will help me get more done in the long term, I find it hard to justify sitting back and relaxing when I know I will have to do everything sooner or later.

Looking on the bright side, I feel better this week than I did last week – and last week was great, compared to the week before!

Hopefully the cycle of recovering a little and then getting hit by another virus will be over soon. I’m doing more walking this week and hope to return to gym classes next week, depending on how my chest feels, so my fitness is gradually getting back on track. I’m also making an effort to eat healthily, planning meals with lots of vegetables and cutting back on junk food.

Keeping up self-care takes a lot of effort when I’m feeling under the weather.

I know it helps my mental health when I meditate, repeat affirmations and use my SAD lamp – which probably has a positive effect on my physical health – but finding the energy and motivation seems like a gargantuan task. I have been getting better at it over the past few days though, which is a good sign.

Mental health problems make simple, common things more difficult and physical illness is a prime example.

I have to find the energy to look after my mental health as well as my physical health, which probably isn’t a consideration for most people suffering from a winter virus. Plus I have no idea whether my current lack of energy is 100% due to the virus, or if it is being caused by my depression worsening. It’s hard to tell when most people feel tired and demotivated when they are ill; I hope these symptoms will disappear when the virus finally goes, but I’m also afraid that they won’t.

My Crappy Christmas

Christmas did not go according to plan. It wasn’t disastrous in a good story kind of way – nothing dramatic happened, there were no embarrassing incidents which become amusing with hindsight and there was nothing unique about the situation. Instead, Christmas was ruined in the most mundane way possible: my whole family got a flu-type virus.

The dog was fine.

My mum and I worked extra hard to force ourselves to make preparations. I ensured I had plenty of delicious vegan food available – only to completely lose my appetite from afternoon on Christmas Day. I didn’t feel like eating my favourite foods: homemade stuffing, trifle, sprouts (yes, honestly – I know, I’m weird), cranberry sauce, mince pies… Instead, I have been living on Marmite on toast for the past week.

The lack of appetite has its advantages – I have lost a couple of pounds, kickstarting my New Year’s resolution to lose more weight.

If that had been the only symptom, the illness would have been annoying but bearable. But no, I have also been kept awake by constant coughing fits. I thought the cough I had before Christmas was bad, but this one has been kicked into hyperdrive.

I spent 5 nights downstairs on the couch, watching television until I felt too tired to concentrate and then lying in the dark hoping to snooze for a couple of minutes between coughing. I discovered that I love Rebel Wilson – I watched Pitch Perfect, Pitch Perfect 2 and How to Be Single on consecutive nights. I sucked mentholated sweets, hoping I wouldn’t fall asleep and choke on them but also acknowledging that death would provide me with relief from the BLOODY COUGHING.

I feel entirely stuffed up with catarrh – including my brain. I had to abandon my photography course assignment, resigning myself to failure, until my mind cleared a smidgeon on Saturday night and I managed to complete it in a frenzy. Yep, while other people were partying on New Year’s Eve, I sipped a (non-alcoholic) ginger beer and tried to write something about my selected photos which made sense. I paused briefly to acknowledge Big Ben’s chimes on television and wish my parents happy New Year, before returning to my assignment and submitting it online at 1:24am.

I still feel pretty crap, but am functioning a little better. I think I managed to sleep for at least 3 hours last night, which helps. I’m frustrated because I wanted to achieve so much over Christmas, but simply couldn’t do anything constructive. Or anything apart from drink hot Ribena and watch endless episodes of The Big Bang Theory.

I’m hoping to recover fully ASAP, so that I can be more productive and make progress towards achieving my New Year’s resolutions…