So Little Spoons Watch

chelseadagg3r
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So Little Spoons

Hello! My name's Chelsea, and I'm 19 years old. After a lot of thought, I've decided to start writing here about physical and mental health issues. I already know I have depression and anxiety, and next week I'll be seeing my GP to ask for a referral for further investigation into my mental health. As for my physical health, I have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS/ME), and Fibromyalgia (FM).

I'm going to write about my own experiences and my own journey, of course, but that's not all I plan on. I want to include interviews, Q&As, facts, and all sorts of other interesting stuff.

Anyone is free to ask me any questions along this journey. I want to spread awareness, and it'd be awesome if everyone learned something new from this. I hope whoever reads this enjoys
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chelseadagg3r
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Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis

Okay, so first I'd like to talk about what chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS/ME) is. I got diagnosed with this condition when I was 14, but developed it a few years earlier. I've had it for approximately 10 years. I will talk about my experience with it, but in another post.


First of all, why does it have so many names?
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Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), chronic fatigue and immune dysfunction syndrome (CFIDS), and systemic exertion intolerance disease (SEID), among other things. For the sake of my blog, I'll refer to it as CFS/ME from here. There are so many different terms for it because it is a widely debated condition that is not understood completely.

Many patients, doctors, activists, and researchers believe that the name CFS is not a good term for the condition. They believe it trivialises it and and leads to misconceptions. There is so little understanding of the causes and mechanisms of the condition, however, that there isn't enough evidence to come up with a more ideal name that reflects the severity of the condition along with being diagnostically correct - at least right now. Other names have been suggested, but these are also very widely debated.

ME is beginning to be more accepted in the U.S, and is often described as a more accurate name. 'Myalgic' means muscle pain/weakness, and 'encephalomyelitis' means inflammation of the brain/spinal cord. There are critics of this name, though. Some believe that not enough research has been undertaken to prove that encephalomyelitis is a feature of the condition, although a study in 2014 did appear to provide some evidence to back it up.

Several years ago, CFIDS became popular as a name as researchers and advocates tried to have the name reflect what was going on inside the body. This again, however, was met with criticism. While research has identified irregularities in the immune system, it isn't always consistent and there is no solid evidence as of yet.

SEID was a term coined by authors of a 2015 research paper. They acknowledge that the name isn't ideal, but say that it is better than CFS. It acknowledges the intolerance for exertion in people with the condition, however hasn't gained a following as of yet.


Okay, so what are the symptoms?
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The main symptoms of CFS/ME are as follows:
  • Fatigue that is often overwhelming, limits daily activities, and has lasted consistently for a number of months. It doesn't get better with rest, and gets worse upon mental or physical activity. The malaise felt after these activities can be felt for days.
  • Muscular pain
  • Joint pain
  • Headaches and migraines
  • 'Brain fog' - cognitive difficulties, poor short term memory, poor concentration, difficulty finding words, difficulty organising thoughts
  • Sleeping problems, such as insomnia
  • Psychological problems such as depression, irritability, and panic attacks
  • Difficulty controlling body temperature
  • Increased sensitivity - often to things like temperature, medications, foods, light, noise, and alcohol
  • Stomach pain, and issues similar to those of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) which is often a condition that is shared by those with CFS/ME
  • Painful lymph nodes
There are more symptoms, some more rare than others, but the list is as good as endless. The ones above are the most common.


Can it be cured?
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Currently, there is no cure. All we can do is help ourselves the best we can, and manage the condition as best we can. A few methods/treatments often used to manage the condition:
  • Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
  • Graded exercise therapy (GET)
  • Medication
  • Good sleeping habits
  • Specific diet (sometimes FODMAP)
  • Activity management
I plan to write up about these separately and in more detail, but feel free to look them up if you don't already know what they are


How many people have this?
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It is estimated that 240,000 people in the UK suffer from this. That's 1 in 250 people!


I have CFS/ME, what help can I get?
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Talk to your doctor! Enquire about whether CBT, GET, or any of the other treatments and management methods may be for you. In some places, there are clinics that you can be referred to that can really help you out. It's also worth talking to someone at school, college or uni if you study, and the Citizen's Advice Bureau (CAB). They will be able to help advise you on any help and support you might be able to get, including benefits. There are a number of charities that are available to help you learn more about your illness and to help you speak to those around you about it. Association of Young People With ME (AYME) is a really good one. They're a great place to stop for some advice! There's also a society on TSR with it's very own thread where you can talk about your experiences and get advice.


I know someone with CFS/ME. How can I help them?
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The best thing you can do for your loved one is to be patient, and to try and understand. The difficult thing about this condition is that it is almost completely hidden, so it's so difficult for you to see when they are doing better or worse. The biggest thing you can do is to listen. Listen to what they're saying. If it's getting too much for them, just be there for them. Understand when they can't hold long conversations or can't attend a social event. They're still the same person as before, just ill. It's a really good idea to learn about CFS/ME so that you can understand better what is happening to them and how they might be feeling. That being said, remember that they often know best. While advice is great and we definitely appreciate it, sometimes people just assume an early night will fix it, or something like that. It's not anyone's fault that the person has CFS/ME, but they know their body well enough to understand their limits better than anyone.


If anyone has any questions about this post, I'd be more than happy to answer them!
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Sabertooth
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Did you have glandular fever before you developed CFS? That the two may be linked is about everything I know about CFS.
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chelseadagg3r
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(Original post by Sabertooth)
Did you have glandular fever before you developed CFS? That the two may be linked is about everything I know about CFS.
I didn't I don't think I've ever had it actually :laugh: In my case, I think it was caused by stress. The symptoms started when I was 8 which was when my parents divorced and I had to start looking after finances and caring for my mum and brother. When I was 9, we became homeless, so it was really stressful. I started sleepwalking and just got ill all the time, and that's when my mental health started to noticeably decline as well, so we're pretty sure that was what kicked it off. From 8 onwards, my school and college attendance just got progressively worse each year. It was a weird way to track it :laugh: It wasn't until I got into secondary school and they told me my attendance was unnacceptable that I acknowledged there was an issue either. Hope that answers your question, sorry for the long answer

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queenofswords
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Thank you for this. I struggle a lot with mental health (anxiety, depression, social phobia, and anorexia) and online forums like TSR are often my only refuge besides the psychiatrists office.

I'm glad you're encouraging open discussion about mental health issues.

And I'm sorry you're going through what you're going through.

Stay strong x
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chelseadagg3r
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(Original post by queenofswords)
Thank you for this. I struggle a lot with mental health (anxiety, depression, social phobia, and anorexia) and online forums like TSR are often my only refuge besides the psychiatrists office.

I'm glad you're encouraging open discussion about mental health issues.

And I'm sorry you're going through what you're going through.

Stay strong x
I'm glad you like the idea! That's definitely the aim

You too :hugs:
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chelseadagg3r
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Depression


Today's post is about depression. This is something a lot of us will be affected by at some point in our lives, whether we suffer ourselves or know someone close with it. It's a really important topic to talk about, just like all mental health. This is going to be quite a long post so I'll jump right in!


What's the difference to depression, and feeling down?
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Feeling sad and unhappy for a little while is just part of being human. It's a completely normal emotion that we all feel sometimes. The things about depression though is that it lasts a lot longer - maybe weeks or months. It might be brought on by a particular event or situation, or it might happen for seemingly no reason at all. Depression interferes with everyday life, and you might be too tired or unmotivated to do the things you usually would enjoy.
When it's more mild, depression can mean just feeling generally low. It doesn’t necessarily stop you leading your normal life but everything is just so much harder do do, and nothing seems really worth it. At its most severe, depression can be life-threatening - people may have thoughts about hurting themselves or committing suicide.






What does it feel like?
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Depression can take many forms. You may feel unmotivated and lose interest in the things you previously enjoyed doing; you may feel tired and lack energy; you may feel hopeless; you may feel sad and teary; you may even find yourself in pain and with other physical symptoms. It could be one or two things, or a mix of them. It's not exactly the same in every person. If you don't feel yourself, it's best to see a doctor about it.






Are there different types of depression?
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Alongside diagnoses like major depression, there are a number of different types of depression. You've probably heard of a few of them.
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) -depression that (usually, not always) occurs around the time of Winter
  • Dysthymia-mild depression that lasts continuously for a couple of years or longer. Also referred to as chronic depression and persistent depressive disorder
  • Prenatal Depression-occurs during pregnancy. Also referred to as antenatal depression
  • Postnatal Depression -occurs soon after (weeks or months) becoming a parent. This is usually diagnosed in women, but can also be diagnosed in men.
  • Psychotic Depression - depression that also occurs with other symptoms such as hallucinations and/or delusions


What are the signs and symptoms?
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There are a large number of signs and symptoms. Here's a handy table from Mind about what they might be:



If you have psychotic depression, you may experience symptoms alongside those listed above, such as delusions and/or hallucinations. If you do, it's important to tell your doctor so that they can help you in the best way.









What causes depression?
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There are many ideas and theories about what causes depression. The causes are often different between people, and sometimes a mix of different things may have contributed.

Childhood Experiences - Things such as an unstable situation, abuse, loss of a loved one, neglect, and traumatic events may cause depression later in life

Life Events - Depression may be caused by events such as unemployment, bereavement, bullying or abuse, and major life changes

Other Mental Health Problems - Depression can even be a symptom of or alongside other mental health problems such as anxiety, PTSD, eating disorders, and more

Physical Health Problems - Things like chronic illness, life threatening illness, and health problems that require a significant lifestyle change may cause depression as these can have a really big impact on your mood. Conditions with the brain and nervous system, hormonal problems, low blood sugar, and sleep disorders can all cause depression as well

Genetic Inheritance - While this is still under research and no specific gene has been identified, research suggests that having a close family member with depression may increase the chances of developing it

Medication, Drugs, Alcohol - Side effects of medications can vary widely, but depression and low mood can be one. If you find yourself experiencing symptoms of depression while on medication, check the leaflet included in the box and read through the side effects, or just ask your doctor. You and your doctor can discuss alternatives to your medication if it is the cause of your depression. Alcohol and street drugs can also cause depression. While you may use them to feel better for a short time, or as an escape, longer term it can do a lot of harm to not only your physical health, but your mental health too

Sleep, Diet, Exercise - A poor diet and sleep routine can have massive effects on your mood, which makes it much harder to cope with difficult things happening around you. These won't directly cause depression, but can make you more vulnerable to developing it.








What kind of treatment is there?
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There isn't one treatment that works or is suitable for everyone. What treatment you'll be offered depends on your personal preference, your medical history, and how much/the way your symptoms are affecting you. The main two types are talking therapies and medication.

Talking Therapies:
  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) - focuses on how different thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes can affect your feelings and behaviour. It teaches you coping mechanisms, and how to deal with difficult situations and circumstances
  • Group-Based CBT
  • Computerised CBT (CCBT) - CBT delivered over the internet or through a computer programme
  • Interpersonal Therapy (IPT) - Addresses interpersonal issues
  • Behavioural Activation - Focuses on activity scheduling to encourage people to approach activities that they are avoiding and on analysing the function of cognitive processes that serve as a form of avoidance. This helps people to refocus on their goals and valued directions in life
  • Psychodynamic Psychotherapy - A form of depth psychology which helps people understand and resolve their problems by increasing awareness of their inner world and its influence over relationships both past and present
  • Behavioural Couples Therapy - A form of therapy that is sometimes recommended if it would be beneficial to involve a partner in the treatment plan


Medication:

As part of your treatment, you may be offered medication such as antidepressants. If you're offered this, and what exactly you will be offered, depends on a number of factors. There are a number of different types, the most commonly used being selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI). The main different types are:
  • selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
  • serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
  • Tricyclics and Tricyclic-related
  • Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs)

This is all very complicated, and not something easy to understand. If you and your doctor decide this is a good treatment method for you then you can talk through what it all means, and what would be most beneficial according to your personal history and circumstances.

Alternative Treatments:

There are a number of other treatments you can try, even alongside medication and/or talking therapies:
  • Physical Activity Programmes - these are specifically designed for people with depression and run by qualified professionals
  • Arts Therapies
  • Mindfulness
  • Peer Support
  • Ecotherapy - aims to improve your mental and physical wellbeing through doing outdoor activities in nature.


How can I help myself?
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Alongside professional help, there are a number of ways you can help yourself alongside other treatments. They won't 'cure' you, but may help you feel a little better. Some things work better than others for different people, so it's worth trying lots of different things to see what helps you best.

Looking After Yourself:
  • Sleep well, and keep to a routine
  • Eat a balanced and nutritional diet
  • Keep as active as you are able
  • Look after your hygiene
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs
  • Treat yourself
  • Figure out what makes you happy and try it when you're feeling bad
  • Try and be kind to yourself
  • Keep busy - maybe join an extracurricular group or society, or try volunteering
  • Set realistic goals for yourself
  • Try online CBT courses like MoodGYM
  • Keep in touch with people when you can't see them face-to-face
  • Join a support group


Where can I get help?
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Getting help is a really important step, and it's a big achievement to be considering it so well done! The best place to go to first is your GP. They can talk to you about what's happening, and either help you themselves or refer to to someone else that can do so. They may discuss your options with you, some of these being medication and different kinds of therapy.

If you're feeling suicidal, or at risk of harming yourself, you can call an ambulance or head straight to A&E. You can also call the Samaritans for free at 116 123 for someone to talk to.









How can I help someone who has depression?
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As a friend or family member of someone with depression, you can play a very important role in recovery.

Support your loved one in getting help - you can't force them into it, so reassure them that's it's okay to ask for help, and that help is available.
Be open about depression and mental health in general - let them know that it's okay to talk about how they're feeling and their emotions, even if they're particularly difficult
Learn about depression and try to understand what they're going through - they can't just 'cheer up' or 'snap out of it'
Make sure that you also have a support system in place, because it can be tough on you as well









Useful Contacts
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Mind / 0845 766 0163
Samaritans / Helpline: 116 123 (free)
NHS
NCT (National charity for parents) / 0300 330 0700
Childline (for anyone under 19) / 0800 1111 (free, doesn't show up on phone bill) / online chat
TSR mental health section
TSR Mental Health Support Society (MHSS)
Cruse Bereavement Care









I hope this helps one or two people, and that everyone learns something. If you feel there's something that should be added, just shout!
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chelseadagg3r
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Stress


Hello! Yesterday was National Stress Awareness Day and I figured I'd make a quick post about it. I posted this over in Mental Health, but it's something that's really important for us all to talk about so I'd like to drop it in here too. I plan on making a separate post dedicated to stress as part of my blog as well

Stress is something really important, and something most of us will deal with at some point or another - often a lot. We may experience it at work, at home, or in study. It can be healthy in small doses, but there really is a limit as to what we can take. As adults, we grow to just brush it off as a normal thing and come to expect it, but there are ways to combat it. In fact, this is really a key way to stay healthy.

Mind are urging people to learn more about stress today, and to talk about it. Their top tips on dealing with stress are as follows:
  • Work out your triggers: Working out what triggers stress for you can help you anticipate problems and think of ways to solve them. Even if you can't avoid these situations, being prepared can help.
  • Change how you plan your time: For example, list things in order of importance, try not to do too much at once and plan lots of breaks.
  • Address some of the causes: There are probably lots of things in your life that you can't do anything about, there might still be some practical ways you could resolve or improve some of the pressures on you.
  • Try and accept some of the things you can't change: It's not easy, but accepting that there are some things happening to you that you probably can't do anything about might help you focus your time and energy more productively.


What you have to remember is that while common, stress can be difficult to deal with. It's okay to need help. Talk to your GP about support you can get, and any stress services in your area.

Do you have any tips you'd like to share about reducing and preventing stress?
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