Introducing Leo: the poorly rescue kitten

On September 23rd, we adopted Leo! He is a rescue kitten from a shelter in Brighton and about 14 weeks old now. He's a typical moggy; 'officially' he's a black cat but he's got what look like white strips forming across his belly and I can definitely see some ginger in there too. This little man has been through an awful lot in his short life and I felt it was important to share his story and why I took him on. 

Sleepy Kitten

For a very long time we wanted to get a companion for Lily. Cats are not solitary creatures, and she definitely needed a friend to play with. Given her opinions of Ginger, the neighbours ginger tom cat while we were living in Brighton, it became clear the only way we could make this work was to find a kitten. I did not want to buy a kitten from a breeder or via gumtree, adopting from a shelter was the only way, so I contacted every single charity I could think of and was shocked to find that only two would re-home kittens to be indoor. One of these was the RSPCA and we were immediately cleared by the home inspection officer for adoption. I had selected a litter but they turned out to be entirely feral. Weeks rolled by and my calls for updates on an incoming litter were never returned so I decided to look elsewhere. I wanted to adopt while I was still on summer break and could be home 24/7 to supervise! 

Then I found Leo. My heart melted as soon as he was placed in my arms - he was so tiny at 930g and still had blue eyes - so I knew it would be a while before he would be old enough, and strong enough, to come home with me but I trusted that the shelter would keep building him up and he'd soon be mine. I was in regular contact with the shelter and got lots of updates and pictures which was amazing, but alarm bells began to ring when I was informed he had 'the sniffles' and had been placed on antibiotics. He had also come to the shelter with a serious case of worms but had been treated and I was assured the situation was under control. 

Meeting Leo

Weeks ticked by, and despite my pleading for him to be released to my care and that I was fully capable of administering medication and close to our vet, they said no. It was incredibly frustrating and time was running out. I had bought the highest quality kitten food I could find, along with supplement milk just in case. His poor little body had been through having nutrition stolen from him by these worms and also had to endure 2 weeks of antibiotics. The food he was on at the shelter wasn't great either so I knew I had a lot of work to do building him back up. I was prepared for hard work but I had no idea it was going to be such a fight. 

Finally, on 23rd September I was allowed to bring him home. He weighed 1300g, was off antibiotics and given a dose of Panacur worming treatment on the back of his neck. It did strike me as a little odd they weren't being more aggressive to treat what was apparently a very nasty case of worms but I just wanted him in the car and out of there by this point. He was a little bit snotty, he had weepy eyes, a distended belly and was quite sleepy. When I brought Lily home she meowed the entire time, but Leo went to sleep within minutes. 

We went straight into the spare room, which I had made into a make-shift kitten nursery! He would be spending at least 2 weeks in there so it had to be tailored to keep him occupied. He was happy to explore his new surroundings and I could not believe just how affectionate he was. All the did was purr with absolute joy, bop his head into me every chance he could get and insist on having cuddles on my shoulder. Lily knew something had changed and she was fuming. We tried our best to keep our routine as normal as possible for her, but she knew something was in the spare room and she wasn't happy about it. Thankfully I'd also stocked up on her favourite foods and treats, which she ate, so it wasn't as bad as it could have been! 

We alternated our time between rooms and prepared for a long night! Leo had always been with his litter mates so he'd never been alone before, so for this reason I decided to sleep in the room with him. He wasn't really doing more than picking at his biscuit, but put it down to nerves and wasn't too worried, feeling pretty sure come the morning he'd be very hungry and eat at least half of his wet food. This didn't happen. I was up all night with him. He was constantly sneezing, had horrific gas and an upset stomach to match... and I soon discovered that he wasn't fully litter trained. His eyes were streaming and his poor little nose was just as bad. He would snore and struggle to breathe through the congestion; so every 2 hours I would have to wipe his eyes and nose to keep him comfortable and take him to his litter box. 

Feline Herpes Virus

Next time I will talk about his emergency trip to the vets and our battle with Feline Herpes Virus. 

OM Yoga Show: London 2015

This year saw the biggest yoga event in Europe change location to Alexandra Palace, and also enabled me to reconnect with an old friend I had not seen since 2008! It was such an amazing day and I cannot thank OM Yoga enough. 

OM Yoga Show 2015

Relocating to the Ali Pali, as it is affectionately known, allowed for a vastly easier journey and meant that we didn't arrive incredibly stressed from navigating the labyrinth that is the underground. A short hop on the Victoria Line to Kings Cross and then the overground to Alexandra Palace, then a short walk in a straight line and you're there! There were also buses running to take you directly to and from the show; especially handy if you were heading home with vastly more than you arrived with! I was very aware that I made this mistake last year and did my best to not overload myself for the 2 hour journey back home! The layout was also much easier, due to the increased space, so the traffic jams of people between the rows of stalls were almost non-existent in comparison to the year before so there is no need to be worried about that if you're considering attending. 

This year I decided to focus on the workshops and it was a truly amazing. They are for all levels, unless you book in to a more advanced class, and it provided an opportunity to learn new versions of yoga and refine your 'basics' such as the sun salutation. Mats were provided but you can bring your own. Despite the workshops having something of an audience, which was a little anxiety provoking at first as I am generally the one that loses their balance and falls over quite a lot, it soon melted away and the time just flew by as we got into our practice. In fact, the biggest problem was deciding which classes to attend before going! It is very easy to over-do it, so if I could offer one piece of advice it would be to only do 3 if you're just going for the day, and space them out so you have time to grab a snack and hydrate before the next one. By the end of the day I was absolutely exhausted and my legs were gone! Next year I am definitely going to make a weekend of it. 

The Classes

Our first class was 'Beautiful Mind Beautiful Body' with Julia White. It was an aromatherapy based practice which was really unique and very relaxing! Although, I will say that the oils made gripping on the mat more challenging, to say the least! We practiced sun salutation and used the oils in our hands to breathe with which was oh so nice. 

Next up was 'Yoga for Health and Well-being' with the British Wheel of Yoga. I think this was my favourite class although it's a really tough call. We focused more on postures and balances here, and even had some children joining us in the class which was adorable! 

We ended our day with a workshop: 'Lessen the Hold of Anxiety and Be Your More Fearless Self ' with Yogacampus yoga therapist Lisa Kaley-Isley PhD. A clinical psychologist with yoga training is the holy grail for those of us in the mental health and yoga communities so the take part in this class for less than £10 was such a gift. This class reaffirmed a lot of the tools we have in our little survival box and was based on her obvious commitment to studying anxiety and how it impacts on the body and mind. She closed the class with chanting and relaxation which almost made me fall asleep! 

Helpful Tips

  • If you're going to an open class, get there 30 minutes early or it's quite likely you won't get a spot!
  • Coconut water. Coconut water. Coconut water. Take advantage of the juice bar too! 
  • Take time out for yourself to rest. It's very easy to feel the need to do everything and see everything but you risk either injury or fainting! 
  • Make a plan before you go and set a budget. I take cash so once it's gone, it's gone! 
  • Bring a larger bag to take your goodies home in so you don't have to control loads of little ones on the train. 
  • Battery packs! These are an absolute must if you are going to be using your phone to take pictures and instagram/tweet your day. I highly recommend these Anker packs: 

The next OM Yoga shows are 2nd and 3rd April 2016 in Glasgow and 20th-22nd May 2016 in Manchester!

Grab your subscription to OM Yoga Magazine here!

Adventures in Psychiatry: THREE YEARS SOBER

I don't really know how to start this. I'm partly sat here in disbelief and partly annoyed at myself that I ever doubted I'd make it to this point. One thing I am sure of, is that this year has taught me more than the previous two years combined about how strong a person can be when the walls are closing in around them and the floor is beginning to crack under the pressure.

Invictus Poem
via Pinterest

Bottom line: I told myself multiple times a day that this wasn't going to be what takes me down, and reminded myself that I survived respiratory arrest and coma due to this evil disease. That wasn't the first time my body has all but given up, but it certainly is going to be the last. The survival instinct is an incredible powerful thing and that has been the source of my so-called 'strength'... I call it stubbornness but whatever!

I'm not going to say I've worked recovery perfectly, because I haven't. In search of relief from the CONSTANT barrage from my brain I engaged in behaviours I shouldn't have. People make mistakes. It's part of life. The important thing is that you learn from them, and I certainly have learned a lot! 

It's something of a minor miracle that I was under the watch of my GP and psychologist during this time. They helped me utilise the tools I'd learned with Addaction and other groups I found helpful during my tenure with mental health services. For a while it felt like a huge failing to have to 'go back' to these and couldn't stop kicking ten tonnes of shit out of myself for being in this position again, but now I can see that this is exactly why they are there and with support I can maximise these tools and it did indeed keep me free of alcohol. 

I've said it time and time again. I owe my life to Addaction and I'm starting to think that maybe addiction services is where I belong...

If I wasn't sober: I wouldn't be entering my final year of undergraduate study with Sussex, I wouldn't be able to have travelled to Spain and now Turkey, I wouldn't have my amazing friends, I wouldn't have a home, I wouldn't have Lily, I wouldn't be alive right now. It feels weird to say after so many years of trying to self-destruct but life is actually pretty darn cool - and you don't need to drink to be around people or make friends, you're awesome enough already! You just be you, as you are, and that's perfectly ok. 


Adventures in Psychiatry: The Lizard Brain

Soooo.... I don't know how to start this off really. I dropped off the radar in December and only recently re-surfaced. Absolutely every aspect of my life has been hit by the events of the past few months and I honestly cannot believe I'm a) still sitting in my flat in Brighton and not hospitalised, and B) back in control of what was rapidly becoming a losing battle.

A photo posted by Sami (@thatredheadsaid) on

In January, to kick 2015 off in spectacular style, the lizard brain took hold of me and would not let go. Usually, having had almost a decade of practice at dealing with the lizard and it's evil ways, I can shake it off and recover quite quickly. Not this time. This was vicious, uncontrollable and took about a month to successfully medicate; yes I am back on venlafaxine. It was a real shock to realise that despite all the progress I've made in terms of managing my panic disorder, there is still a 'cut-off' point where no matter what techniques or skills you try to employ to deal with it on your own, sometimes you still need medical help. I haven't had to go to hospital for sedatives for years, but in early January I knew I had absolutely no choice. Even making that decision triggered panic attacks because I felt so conflicted about using benzodiazapines again following my sobriety from them. I was terrified it'd press that magic button in my brain and I'd be trapped in addiction once again; but the thought of having the lizard kicking the shit out of me multiple times an hour was far worse. 

I used lorazepam for 7 days and then changed to buspirone - after having a difficult discussion with my doctor about it and forcing him to read my notes from the addiction psychiatrist! Thankfully, for reasons I don't fully understand, the lorazepam didn't seem to trigger any addictive thoughts. The need for alcohol however, that took on a life of its own. It took every ounce of strength I had in me to make it though the day without giving in. Some people say I'm too stubborn for my own good, but it's that stubbornness (if that's even a word) that gave me a little voice to cling on to... "don't let this be the thing that takes you down..." and thankfully it didn't. I sit here today, 2 years and 11 months sober without needing disulfiram (aka Antabuse) or acamprosate (aka Campral). I very nearly sought out relapse prevention support but was having a hard time rationalising whether or not it was indeed somewhere I needed to go. While I felt at breaking point, I hadn't used. Although I did buy an emergency supply of alcohol, it's untouched. I managed to get through it on my own using what Addaction taught me.... and refusing to be beaten by a ridiculous situation. 

Fast forward to February and through to March; I was contending with ESA and very imminent homelessness. University had to be pushed aside and I spent up to 15 hours a day trying to find a solution to a situation I prayed I would never be in again. I tried everything I could possibly think of but I had two choices, give up my flat and Lily and move into emergency social housing or move onto campus and give up Lily then be back in the same position once the semester was over. What some people fail to understand is how much I need Lily to function, and she needs me just the same. I couldn't bare to think of giving her up to foster care for months on end. She wouldn't cope and I certainly wouldn't... especially with the added pressure of being in a hellish environment that would absolutely have killed any mental strength I had left and thrown me into the deep end of alcoholism once again. Yes I am strong and stubborn, but everyone and I mean everyone, has a breaking point. Losing Lily and losing university are those for me. Both were at serious risk until 48 hours before I was due to leave my flat. Yup, just 48 hours. I'll talk about what went down with ESA in another post. The solution came from somewhere I never expected, and in a scenario I never fathomed would ever happen, but it did and it gave both me and Lily a safe place to be. I'm moving in 3 weeks. 

The most enraging part of this is that when I told my mother about the situation and how desperate I was, she offered no support whatsoever. I wasn't looking for money or a place to go, just..... a mother to be a mother. I guess that shows the desperation of my mental state.... Rational-Me knows that she is not the place to go to for support and will always do the exact opposite of what I'm looking for. When I told her about what happened in January I got a "get over it" and then my desperate cries for help where basically ignored. I had no help. I was completely alone with this and for the first time ever, that scared me so much. People rarely appreciate their family and friends... take them for granted. That was certainly the case with someone responsible for this entire situation. 

So. I was barely at university and by the time March rolled around I was mentally and physically exhausted, with the added challenge of side-effects kicking my arse. I had assignments to write and so much to catch up on. It was terrifying. The second year counts for 40% of the final degree classification, and this semester really needed to finish on a strong note. I've done the best I can, but I know it's not enough. Irregardless of that,  I can't rate Sussex University highly enough for the amount of support they have given me during this entire ordeal. They really are incredible. I've all but given up on the idea of getting a first, so I'll settle for aiming at a strong 2:1. That is do-able. 

It's now May and all my assignments are submitted and I have finally been able to rest for the first time in months. It's hitting me hard. I forgot how cruel M.E/CFS can be. The muscle weakness is coming back and despite sleeping upwards of 12 hours a night, I'm knackered. I wake up more tired than when I went to sleep. Some days, like today, I can write and talk fairly coherently but there are days when I just can't. Venlafaxine is working in terms of controlling the depression side of my mental health, at 150mg this time around. I'm taking 160mg propranolol a day, spread into 2 doses of 80mg. During the peak of my panic disorder 'flare up' I was relying heavily on anti-emetics, but thankfully I don't need those so much anymore. I didn't realise the toll it had taken on my body until people started commenting on the change in my appearance. I have lost 55lbs since September, about 20lbs of that came off during January-March. It's no wonder my body is struggling.

I'm frustrated that I'm back on medication, but the trouble with the lizard brain is that it cannot be controlled any other way. Especially when it decides to come out of it's cave and remind you it's there and what it can do. It didn't beat me though. Things are looking up and I seriously hope that trend continues!

Samantha Nicholls. Powered by Blogger.


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