Abby Lacey

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Me and My Mental Health

To mark the end of #mentalhealthweek2019 I thought I’d share a little about me!

I’ve always suffered from anxiety – as a child, it was separation anxiety from my mum, which continued into my teens, when I was bullied at school. This led to a whole other world of anxiety which I’ve tried to overcome over the years and try not to dwell on.

As as an adult, my anxiety has manifested itself more as social anxiety (I am naturally outgoing but then worry after the event if I’ve said too much; have I upset anyone? Is everyone offended?) and this worsened after having my son Dylan, ten years ago.

I was made redundant during my maternity leave and ended up staying at home longer than I wanted. During which time, I saw the signs of more serious anxiety settle in, alongside what I now think to be postnatal depression. I used to go walking as light relief but felt that a dark cloud followed me everywhere. I remember listening to Florence and the Machine’s ‘Dog Days are over’ and wishing that they were – not because I wanted to end if all, but because I just wanted to be happy and stop worrying.

I started working again, which really helped but couldn’t still couldn’t shift the anxiety. After explaining to my husband one evening that I had visions of me harming our son – please note I would never, ever harm him, I was simply afraid I would go mad and do something – he urged me to seek help. I was so ashamed, reluctant and scared but felt that enough was enough. I went to see my GP who was fantastic. She listened to my (edited!) version of feelings and prescribed me 20mg Citalopram as well as a course of Talking Therapies.

Within a couple of weeks, I felt the difference of Citalopram – I felt ‘airy’; I could see a bit of blue sky beyond the clouds and my focus and zest for life slowly came back. I attended the Talking Therapies course but, because the drugs were working so well, I don’t think I really got the full benefit of it, however the course was excellent and I would recommend it – god bless our NHS!

That was 6 years ago. I have tried to reduce my dose of Citalopram but it didn’t work for me – I got what I call an ‘itchy brain’ where I can hear a pin drop (people walking on carpet sounds like sandpaper on wood), I got very irritable at everything including myself and the cloud started to creep back in. I’m fine with it though – times have changes so much that we’re now talking about our mental health and I’m no longer ashamed. I wouldn’t be ashamed if I was diabetic or asthmatic and you can’t see those illnesses, so why should I be ashamed that my brain’s a bit mis-wired – I’m quite kooky or ‘avant garde’ as my mum describes me!

So that’s why I wanted to get involved with Mental Heath Mates. In my darkest times, I didn’t talk to anyone and I don’t want anyone else feeling that way.

Our next walk is on Wednesday 22 May at Dinton Pastures – do come along if you can.


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Getting personal… my colposcopy!

A month ago, I went for a routine, 3-yearly smear test; I’m normally OK with anything medical but I can’t bear smear tests. The nurse at the surgery was lovely and put me at ease, and within 5 minutes it was over and I headed back home as it nothing had happened.

Roll on two weeks and, lazing by the pool at Hotel Isla Mallorca, on my girlie holiday (which was amazing, by the way!) and my phone bleeped with a text:

“This is a reminder of your appointment on Monday 28 October at 11:00 at the GYNAECOLOGY department, RBH”.

I dismissed the message with a reply text of “Wrong number” and carried on my debaucherous weekend, without a thought.

Once home, life carried on as normal until Tuesday evening when I got home from the gym and Sam said the doctor had called for a ‘catch up’ and could I call the surgery in the morning. Obviously, my head went into over-drive and I asked Sam a million questions, all of which he answered, “I don’t know. He wouldn’t tell me anything.”

Now, firstly I’m a firm believer that you should be able to sign a disclaimer for a loved one to be told the reason, and secondly, surely phoning at 6.30pm is a silly time as you then have to wait until the morning to find out WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG.

After spending the next 12 hours trying to guess, I eventually got through to another doctor who told me that my smear test had come back with borderline changes and a possible presence of HPV, so I would need to go for a Colposcopy – and that the text I’d received was correct. Calmy (how I don’t know!), I asked if a) I had cancer, b) why would I need to be seen within a week and c) should I worry. The answers were: no, routine, no.

Sunshine in Palma - Let's face it, I'm not going to put an image of a Colposcopy here, am I?!

Sunshine in Palma – Let’s face it, I’m not going to put an image of a Colposcopy here, am I?!

The week went by and I can honestly say for the most part, I didn’t worry. On the morning of the procedure I got to the hospital and was seen within 15 minutes of my appointed time (which was good as I envisaged sitting waiting). A lovely HCA, greeted me with a huge smile and walked me into a a large, bright room and introduced me to her colleagues.

Beverley, the Colposcopy nurse, sat me down and…

  • confirmed my smear results (explaining that had this happened 4 years ago, they wouldn’t have called me, but things have changed);
  • explained that HPV is not a sexually transmitted disease (as it very much sounds) but that 80% of women have it at one time or another is a bit like a cold sore (it just disappears after time);
  • told me all about the procedure, including that she would take a biopsy for good measure and that it would take 20 minutes;
  • determined the next steps – wait for two weeks for the results; if they are OK, I’ll go back to smears every 3 years, if not they’ll call me back and I’ll have a simple ‘scrape’ done to get rid of the abnormal cells. This will then mean annual smears for a while, but hey!

Beverley really was fantastic, making sure I was happy with all the info before starting. I won’t go into too much detail about the procedure but it’s like having a long smear test. One thing I can tell you is that it doesn’t hurt. In writing this blog post, I did a Google search on what others have written and ALL of them suggest taking Ibuprofen, having a friend with you and resting afterwards; they also say how horrid it is. Well it’s not. I can categorically say that it was FINE; I had a tattoo done in the afternoon (as a reward for being so brave!) and went to a Halloween party in the evening.

I’m not expecting praise for my heroism. I’m writing this because I don’t think there are enough positive experiences written about and I think it’s all too easy for people to get scared by reading stuff on the internet. I’m also writing this because I want all you ladies out there to go to your smear tests. DON’T PUT IT OFF – it’s not the end of the world – cervical cancer may common, but it is avoidable.

More information can be found here:

Cervical ScreeningColposcopy Exam

UPDATE: I finally got my results 5 weeks after my colposcopy and the verdict is good – low grade changes confirmed and back for a smear in a year. Yippee!

yogi - white back

#40b440 – Check out my daily updates on Twitter and Instagram, plus see the full list in pictures on Pinterest.

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An audience with the Dalai Lama

Monday was World Peace Day and we were lucky enough to get tickets to Action for Happiness’s ‘Create a Happier World’ event with the wonderful Dalai Lama and friends.

After His Holiness was welcomed on stage by Director of Action for Happiness, Mark Williamson with rapturous applause and a standing ovation, we heard from the wonderful Jasmine Hodge-Lake, a lady who’d participated in the ‘Exploring What Matters’ pilot course after suffering from chronic pain for many years.

Jasmine was followed by the amazing Adrian Bethune, a teacher from John Stainer School, who talked about how the school is championing Action for Happiness. I could write a whole blog on his incredible work, but instead, I’ll just link to Brockley Central’s blog; it really is inspirational.

IDalai Lama & Richard Layardt was then time for Lord Richard Layard, co-founder of Action for Happiness, to ‘interview’ His Holiness. What followed was an amusing, touching and (that word again) inspirational insight into the Dalai Lama’s philosophy. He touched on mental health, anger (and its place), the refugee situation (which he so wisely summed up saying that the only solution is to bring peace to their country), and our global responsibility.

After a break, the Dalai Lama having left and the protestors outside quietened, Geoff Mulgan, another co-founder of Action for Happiness, chaired a discussion on with four extremely knowledgeable speakers:

Richard Davidson, spoke about the neuroscience of happiness summing up:
* With mind training we can change our resilience
* See the positive in the world
* A wandering mind is an unhappy mind – pay attention!
* Be generous!

Editor of Psychologies Magazine, Suzy Greaves, talked about how to shift our culture towards happiness and how she’d partnered with Action for Happiness to start ‘Happiness Clubs’.

Ex-Wellington College Head, Sir Anthony Seldon, I have to say my favourite speaker of the day (bar DL of course), spoke about children and happiness; how the school system is outdated; how education is fundamental in developing a whole human being; how schools have a responsibility to draw out love, curiosity and wonderment. He took us through an exercise that he ‘punctuates’ his school days with – a simple meditation for one minute – amazing!

Finally, Matthieu Ricard, a Buddhist monk, talked about how altruism affects happiness, quoting Martin Luther King:”Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.”

The day was incredible; from the ‘once in a lifetime’ chance to be in the room with the Dalai Lama, who exudes love and compassion, to the other speakers. It’s definitely made me want to do the Exploring What Matters Course and just take those small steps to being much happier!

yogi - white back

#40b440 – Check out my daily updates on Twitter and Instagram, plus see the full list in pictures on Pinterest.

You can still sponsor me for the London to Windsor bike ride, here.