I’ve been finding it helpful to type these introspective little pieces as I work my way through a few struggles. The one saving grace I’ve held on to whilst I’ve had mental health difficulties over the last few weeks is the work I’ve been putting into my physical health since last June.
My stats are all green now on my Smart scales, my fitness levels are great and I’m in better shape than I’ve probably been since my teens, if I’m honest. Lots of walking, and since it’s been available again lots of playing football has been great along with tracking what I eat, making sure I hydrate, getting sensible amounts of sleep and pretty much giving up alcohol – it’s genuinely wonderful to wake up easily each morning and feel good ready to face the day.
That’s how I felt yesterday, I woke up before my alarm went off – I read a couple of chapters of my book before getting up and getting ready to start the day. I logged into work and had a really good productive day – ticked off loads of things on my list, popped out to grab some lunch, finished up early and had my assessment for the work-provided therapy I’ve been referred to.
That was a great conversation too – of course the subject matter was at times difficult, but I was honest, the lady handling the call was brilliant. She’s recommended a non-intensive course of CBT which I think means I’m suffering from mild to moderate anxiety and/or depression. I finished the call feeling uplifted – a path forward, something that might help to put a framework around some of the thinking and learning I’ve already been doing in my own scatterbrain way.
I logged back into work, we had a catch up call to close the day – it was fun, we’d all had a decent day, we had positive updates. I had one more call with one of my team to run through some stuff, also positive. It was basically as near as damn it a good day – the only fly in the ointment being a working at home day, so no actual people contact.
Work over, I logged out and headed out for a walk just to get a bit of fresh air and exercise – the sun was out, I tuned into a Podcast (Lee Mack and Neil Webster’s ‘I Can’t Believe It’s Not Buddha’ – I’d recommend it for a light hearted exploration of Buddhism – which, ironically, is not that dissimilar to the book I referenced earlier but with added spirituality). It was a fun episode, it was a good walk – I didn’t go too far, with football planned for the next day I just wanted to ‘top up’ on activity. I stopped for a while in the park half way round to read a couple of chapters of my book, pausing the Podcast and enjoying the birdsong.
Once home again I cracked open the final HelloFresh order from my box and got cracking. Mango Chutney glazed chicken with Cumin Bulgar Wheat and roasted carrots – like all HelloFresh orders it takes all the pots and pans and impliments and fills up the dishwasher! It was fun to prepare though, I plated up both portions, one to go in the fridge later, one to eat and tucked in. It was lovely and satisfying. I sat on the settee to let my dinner settle and felt generally all was well with the world, considering.
After half an hour or so I figured it was time to get up. I’d opened the front door a crack and the back door to air the house after a bit of smokiness from the cooking, I picked up my bowl and got up to push the front door to, and that’s the last thing I remember except for the initial sensation of losing consciousness. I remember fleetingly worrying about breaking the bowl I was holding, the next thing I knew I was on the floor by the now closed front door, my arms jerking uncontrollably still holding the bowl I was still worried about breaking.
I’ve no idea how long I was out, or how long the seizure/fit lasted, as it waned I sat on the floor feeling disoriented and confused. I’d struck my head either on the floor, door or bowl, it felt tender but wasn’t bleeding. As I oriented myself I crawled over to the settee where my phone was, I dialled 111. I spoke to the lady on the other end for 20 minutes or so, she put me on hold a couple of times to talk to a supervisor/clinicial after going through check lists. She said to await a call from a clinician or a visit from a paramedic in either a 30 minute or 2 hour window depending on which happened.
I texted Mum, then was naughty and went to finish sorting out the kitchen / put second portion in the fridge whilst I waited for her to arrive. We waited, I did call back to chase as 2 hours came and went – they confirmed a paramedic had been dispatched. Right on cue he arrived pretty much as I hung up. He was lovely and caring, I masked up and he checked me over – mainly focusing on heart-related issues, stroke symptoms, blood sugar levels. Everything came back looking okay, which is reassuring, but he did identify a ‘regular irregular’ rhythm on the ECG scan he ran. Whilst not a significant concern, he advised I should go to A&E for blood tests as a precaution.
So we drove down to Burton A&E (good to know there’s one so close, I had no idea!). I’ve been advised not to drive until we get more answers, so Mum kindly dropped me off but couldn’t stay due to Covid-19 restrictions, after a lot of waiting and more similar tests in A&E it was established that whatever it was, it didn’t appear to be anything that was an imminent emergency. I was to be referred for more non-emergency testing, which is reassuring. I got home by about 5am and went to bed, thankful for our wonderful NHS and that to the best of their knowledge there wasn’t any dramatically sinister medical thing I’d need to contend with.
So I don’t know what caused me to black out and shake uncontrollably, it leaves you feeling tremendously vulnerable – but I was reassured that I wasn’t dealing with some kind of cardiac episode or stroke. Upon reading up and guidance from knowledgable friends the most likely culprit is a vasovagal – a fairly common thing, and something that is unlikely to require any medical intervention at all. I do sometimes get light-headed if I get up quickly from a sitting and particularly reclined position. And I do like a good recline!
I can manage elements of that – now I’ll eat my meals sitting at the dining table I’ve set up, eat slowly, enjoy it, give myself time to let the food settle, don’t get up quickly. It’s easy really isn’t it? Lots of what I’ve been trying to do mentally recently is forming good habits – similarly with the physical health kick before that. I’m really reassured that I think whatever it was that happened – whilst scary – isn’t likely to be a medical emergency, as much as it felt like it and it was appropriate to treat it as such.
Of course, further tests etc might tell me something different – and I’m taking the advice of the A&E doctors in taking it easy, taking some time away from work, not driving, taking a break from football. Just gentle walks for the next few days and seeing how things go. I did that today, Mum came with Buddy to make sure I didn’t collapse somewhere out and about. I didn’t, I felt fine, we extended our route to be a little further than the initial conservative plan and I even included the hilly bit of the local woodland. I felt fine. I really don’t want to lose the fitness levels I’ve been building up so well.
I and others jumped to the conclusion that I’d probably reacted to my assorted woes by doing too much exercise and stuff – I don’t think that’s the case. I’ve been mindful that I’ve been doing more intensive exercise but I’ve felt great doing it, I wouldn’t have played football so much if I was struggling. As a precaution I’ll lay off it a week, but I’m tentatively planning a comeback on Sunday. So I don’t think this really was a case of my body saying “stop!”, it was just a coincidence – but it’s a useful reminder. Listen to your bodies. Mentally certainly I recognise I’m fragile right now, and there’s bound to be causal links between that and my physical faculties in dealing with things that might normally just be a fleeting bout of light-headedness.
And thank you, NHS. You really are wonderful.