Inside My Head – Part 4 – Self-Worth

Welcome to Part 4 of my Inside My Head series!  If you missed part 1part 2 or part 3, definitely check them out.  Today we’re going to be looking at the second part of my self-worth and look at my confidence.  You will also get to see the one thing I actually think I’m good at.  Here we go!

Believing the good

In last week’s post I talked a lot about how I don’t believe I’m as good at things as people say I am.  I want to tap into that a little bit today and explain some of the reasoning behind it.

So this is one of the hardest things for me to control.  As I said last week, it could be because I’m something of a perfectionist and would like things to be absolutely spot on before they get going.  (Admittedly I’m getting better at that but I’m still a work in progress!)  In the darkest corners of my mind are hundreds of things that I feel I should have done better.  No matter how well things have gone, I will still find the flaws.  “You sang that song well!”  “Really?  I was shaky and I got the chords wrong halfway through.”  “You wrote that well!”  “Did I?  It could have been better.”  That sort of thing.

I suppose this is doubt, hopelessness and a lack of self-esteem working together in my mind.  Whatever I’ve done, I undervalue.  Anyone else could have done it better than I did it and it’s hard to shut that thought out.  Hear it enough times and you start listening to it.  Listen to it long enough and you might start believing it as well.  I’m sure some of you can relate.

Believing the good is such a hard thing to do but, as I go along, I’m learning that there are nuggets of truth to whatever it is people are saying.  Some of the things I do, they might have meant something to those people, otherwise why are they bothering saying anything?  It’s all about perspective and perhaps what they see in me is more valuable to them than what I see in me.  Before you ask, I’m not always convinced of that, no.

Projected Confidence

Everyone does this to a certain extent.  Mostly it’s for job interviews or asking someone out for the first time or things like this.  We project confidence so that we don’t seem nervous.  Especially if we are nervous, come to think about it.

This is one thing I really think I do well.  Whether it’s standing up in front of a crowd to sing or to give a speech I’ve prepared, I feel I do well at projecting that confidence.  Many people come up to me saying they wouldn’t be able to do it themselves so they admire me for doing it.  Me, I’d say it’s all a false front, part of my mask.

I’m good at it.

I know, with the list of things I think I don’t do well, I guess it might be a little surprising that I’d think I do anything well.  Afterwards, however, when my thoughts go 100 miles-a-minute to tell me what I’d not done right, I wonder if it’s worth it.  I’m determined it won’t hold me back though.  I guess that’s a good thing.

Yes, projecting confidence is definitely one of my strong points.  You could almost think of it as the buried treasure, the little nugget, as sometimes being able to project that confidence as part of my mask is a way of tricking my mind into thinking I can get through it.  Sometimes, just sometimes that imagined confidence rubs off on the rest of me and allows me to motivate myself or succeed where I think I’ll fail.  Not always, that’s for certain, but it’s definitely happened before.

It’s what I do.

The Last Part

So next week is the last part of the series.  Stay tuned to discover what holds this broken shell of worry, doubt, hopelessness and fear together.  You might be surprised!  Thank you for sticking with me through this series so far.

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Welcome Video

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You Have A Purpose

“Are you having a rough day?  Place your hand over your heart.  Feel that?  It’s called purpose.  You’re alive for a reason.  Don’t give up.” – unknown

Purpose

I love that quote.  It came from a depression support page on Facebook that I follow and it’s stuck with me ever since.  If you’re interested, the page is My Depression Scars and there are links to it and other similar pages on my Facebook page as well should you want to browse them.

I get a lot from these pictures.  Whether they are from My Depression Scars or Self Harmers or TobyMac, I find encouragement from them and so I thought I’d share one with you this morning.

How many times do you sit there and wonder why?  Why am I going through the things I’m going through?  What is the point of it?  How am I meant to carry on?  Why?  What?  How?  It’s when questions like these surface that purpose quickly becomes the enemy.  We feel we have no purpose, that there is no need for our suffering.  That tips us into the trap of thinking everything is pointless.

If you’re like me, thoughts like those are never too far away.  Perhaps they come at night when you’re lying in bed, trapped in another sleepless night.  Maybe they are there when you’re surrounded by friends or strangers, seeing how happy they are and how normal their lives appear to be.  Wherever they crop up, they’re usually close by.

They’re haunting.

Purpose and YouPut your hand over your heart.

If you’re reading this this morning, perhaps you’re in a similar place to me; perhaps those thoughts of pointlessness and uselessness are threatening to overwhelm you.  If that’s the case – or even if you’re currently on a good, positive note – I’d like to encourage you.

You have a purpose.

“Are you having a rough day?  Place your hand over your heart.  Feel that?  It’s called purpose.  You’re alive for a reason.  Don’t give up.” – unknown

You might not feel as though you have a purpose but let me take those questions I mentioned earlier and replace them with some other questions.

Who knows what you’re going through?  How often do they watch you without you knowing it?  How often do you bring them encouragement or strength simply by carrying on?  Do they take encouragement simply from knowing you are going through similar things to them, meaning they are not alone?

Read those questions again.  Consider them for a moment with me.  Think about them.  It might be that you know some answers to those questions.  It might be that you don’t.  Whether you know them or not, though, I’d encourage you to remember that you have a purpose.  Even if it’s just your silent presence that brings some form of light into someone else’s darkness, you have a purpose.

I’ll say that again: you have a purpose!

You may not feel as if you do but believe me, you do.  I’ll be honest with you, even if all you do is read my posts on a weekly or monthly basis, that’s still a purpose because you are bringing me encouragement and a motivation to continue blogging.  Even if there was just one of you, that would bring me that desire to blog.

You’re Not Alone

Are you struggling today?  Caught in a depressive spiral or anxiety snap?  Don’t worry, you’re not alone.  Connect with us through the Pushing Back the Shadows network, whether that’s through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or through our emails.  If we can support you in any way, we would love to try.  We don’t have all the answers, that I cannot promise, but we will do our best to bring you encouragement or support.  Alternatively, check out the forums and connect with other like-minded people, others who share similar stories.

Remember: you are not alone.

I’ll say it again: you are not alone.

Keep holding on.  Remember to breathe and remember that even if all you did today was breathe, you’re still doing well.  Stay strong.

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Pick of the Week – 28/05/2017

Take Me Back to the Start

An odd title? Yes. And I’m making no apologies for it. It’s a line from one of my favourite songs by Coldplay called The Scientist.

For multiple reasons this song has been going round in my head this week, but the line ‘Oh take me back to the start’  has been echoing a lot. Over the past few weeks, Alex has been going back over the start of his journey, and in the process we’ve also got to hear Jeremy’s story. I also got to sit in and participate on our next interview (keep checking our announcements for when it goes live) and one thing that has shone through is the importance of music. It can lift you, it can give a voice to your emotions when you can’t find the words yourself and it can give you hope in the darkness.

When I read​ Before the Morning, it took me back. I remember Alex and I discussing this song, how it affected him when he was in a particularly dark place and the hope it gave him. To read Before the Morning was quite an emotional journey for me, it took me back to the start, but more importantly it reminded me that for all of us there is a little light in the dark.

So that’s my recommendation for this week. Read Before the Morning. Let it shine a little light for you too.

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Talking Thoughts Through

Opening Thoughts

A couple of thoughts for you about the past couple of weeks.  Over those past few weeks, we have seen the birth of this blog.  You’ve had a chance to get to know me a little through the Inside My Head series – stay tuned for part 4 next week!  I hope you’ve found that insight useful.

This week also saw the launch of our Talking Things Through series.  I’m really excited about this one, as I think one of the biggest problems with mental health is that no one really talks about it.  As stigmatised as it has become, it’s quite unusual for people to be completely open about it, wouldn’t you say?  I hope that this series will equip you with the tools for talking about mental health but also encourage you to talk to the people you know who are struggling.

Over To You

Today, I’m interested in hearing some of your stories.  Do you know people going through depression?  Have you had conversations with them about it?  What kinds of things do you talk about?  Do you have any key pieces of advice that have helped them or perhaps things that haven’t worked out?  Let me know about your successes or near-misses in the comments below.

Alternatively, perhaps you’ve never tried to talk to anyone about mental health.  It might be a topic you’ve always shied away from, unsure how to approach it.  I’d like to hear from you as well!  What stops you from talking about it?  What could encourage you to talk about it?  Leave a comment below with your thoughts.

Let’s get talking.  What’s your take on mental health discussions?  I’d love to know!

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Talking Things Through – Part 1 – Listen

Welcome to the first instalment of the Talking Things Through series!  Over the next few weeks I shall be talking you through the things to say, things to avoid saying and other aspects of talking and listening for supporting people with depression.

In this first instalment, I shall be talking a little about the importance of listening.  It may seem like common sense but stick with it and see how a depressed person views listening.

Listen Carefully 

When was the last time you were in an argument?  Was it a long argument?  Did everyone listen well?  As you reflect on that for a second, let me ask you one question: how much of the argument could have been avoided if people had listened better?  Most of it, I’m sure.

Listening is one of the key parts of dealing with depression or anxiety.  Whether you’re an expert – a qualified psychiatrist or a doctor – or someone like me with a bit of experience or even a layman with no experience whatsoever, you can still offer a listening ear.  Sometimes that is all that is needed.

Listening to someone with depression can have the following effects:

  • Greater understanding
  • It helps unburden them
  • They feel valued
  • Unlocking additional ways to help them

Let me untap those a little.

Greater Understanding

Everyone’s condition is different.  Depression can affect one person one way and another person in a completely different way.  As such, there is no “one size fits all” model to apply to it.  That also means it can be quite difficult to know what’s going on inside someone’s head.  The good news?

Listening helps!

Whether you’re talking to a friend, a relative or anyone else, they are the ones who are living with the condition and, as such, they will have the best understanding.  They know how it affects them, they know how they feel, they know what seems to be working well for them and what doesn’t work as well.  By listening, you can find out what’s making them tick, what is and isn’t helping and plenty of other bits of information you might not find otherwise.

It Helps Unburden Them

There’s a reason we go to psychiatrists and it isn’t just because they can offer techniques and advice to fix things.  Psychiatrists listen as you talk.  As one of my therapists explained it to me, talking to someone about the condition is a way of releasing it from my mind.

Just like journalling, blogging, story-writing or songwriting, talking is a way of bringing the problem out of the mind and helps them let it go.  Simply by listening to someone, allowing them the space to talk about what’s going on in their mind, it helps unburden them, freeing things from their mind.

They Feel Valued

Taking the time to listen to someone does bring a sense of value to that person.  I know from my own experiences that someone taking the time to listen to me makes me feel as though they actually want to help.  They are taking the time out of their hectic lives, daily struggles and business to sit and talk to you.  It’s something special, wouldn’t you say?

Regardless of whether or not you have the answers, listening is a sure-fire way of making someone feel like they are important to you.  More often than not, people aren’t coming to you looking for answers.  That’s what the doctors and psychiatrists and other therapists are for.  No, deep down what the vast majority of people want is a listening ear, a non-judgemental opinion and the opportunity to speak freely.

You can give them this!

Unlocking Additional Ways to Support Them

I know, I know…there should be some great secret here, no?  Mental health is a subject that is highly stigmatised and sometimes almost taboo because of how mysterious it is but do you know what?

There’s no secret.

If you take the time to listen to someone and try to understand their problem, there’s no telling how many different ways you could find to help them.  Unlocking their story and how their condition affects them could lead to untold possibilities.

Take me as an example: I don’t like quick fixes as I feel they only postpone the problem – as do many people who talk to me – but sometimes I believe they are necessary.  Sometimes, in my darkest, deepest spirals, a quick fix pulls me back from the brink of more problems, whether that’s another spiral, self-harm or anything else.

Would you have gone for the quick fix?  Not everyone would.

Tailor It

Granted, some people don’t like to talk and that’s OK.  Whether they talk a lot or not at all, listening is still a very vital part of helping them.  If they don’t talk much at all, that only makes listening all the more important as they have so much less to say.  My mind is drawn to grains or nuggets of truth.

Tailor it to each situation.  If they don’t like talking, don’t push them.  Just reassure them that you are there if ever they do want to talk about it (again, don’t push the issue).  If they want to, they will come.  If not, at least they know you’re there.

Stay Tuned

Next week I shall be looking at the first aspect of talking to someone with depression. Don’t worry, it’s nothing too complicated, just a few tips and suggestions of how to leave a better impact.  In the meantime, check out my journey or connect with us on our Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or LinkedIn accounts.  We’d love to meet you!

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Before the Morning

Sitting at my desk, I want to tell you why I decided to start blogging.  Before I do, I need to tell you two things about me:

  1. I really love music.  Whether I’m doing chores, working or relaxing, there is almost always music on.  For me not to be listening to music, something must be wrong, as my dad will tell you.  I’m always listening to it.
  2. Music speaks to me in so many different ways.  It’s one of my main sources for inspiration, one of the best ways I can connect to the deepest parts of me.  I love it!

Right, with those two key things out the way, let me tell you about the inspiration behind the blog!

Before the Morning

This is the title of my original blog that I started back when my journey started.  Not long after the official diagnosis, I felt a strong desire to start blogging my journey so people could get updates as to how I was doing, but also encouragement from someone going through a similar struggle.  I couldn’t begin to explain that feeling but it manifested itself into Before the Morning and, later, into Pushing Back the Shadows.

I distinctly remember sitting at my desk, staring at an open blog template, wondering what to call this blog.  As always, I had music playing in the background and a song came on, a song that others had shared with me over the few weeks I’d already been struggling.  It’s title: Before the Morning by Josh Wilson.  Let me tell you about that song.

Tim, Paula, Josh Wilson and Me

“Do you wonder why you have to feel the things that hurt you?  If there’s a God who loves you, where is He now?  Or maybe there are things you can’t see and all those things are happening to bring a better ending.  Some day, somehow you’ll see…you’ll see…”

Josh Wilson penned this song around 2012 and it has meant so much to me during some of those years.  To use his words, he wrote the song about “the frailty of the human heart, the struggles that people face but also about hope”.  It’s about two of his friends named Tim and Paula who were expecting their second child and when they went to find out what they were having, doctors told them that there was a problem with the baby’s heart and that he was missing the entire left side of it.  They were advised to have an abortion as they wouldn’t be able to afford what was coming.  They said their son would never have a good quality of life.  They didn’t know what to do.

In my opinion, my situation doesn’t compare to this.  Perhaps in its own way it can seem as colossal as this news but I still find I draw strength from this song.  Being diagnosed with depression, even though I had long suspected it, my first thought was “why”.  Why did this happen to me?  What had I done to deserve it?  Somehow through this I managed to hold onto my faith and think that somehow I would be able to get through this. On discovering the meaning behind this song, it reinforced the feeling that I could get through this.

Despite what the doctors were saying, Tim and Paula decided to have the baby and soon Jacob was brought into the world.  The doctors kept him wired up to various machines, held him in intensive care and kept him under observation to try and correct the problem.  They said Tim and Paula may not ever be able to take him home…to expect three months. Then, fourteen days later, the doctor walked in and said “We don’t know what’s going on but you’re gonna take your son home today.”  Admittedly my eyes got a little damp when I heard that.  God took that situation, a broken child with a broken heart, and made him new and it made me think.  What if He can do the same for me?  Can He fix what I feel like I’m missing?  Well…yes.  I don’t know why I’m going through this just like Tim and Paula didn’t know why they went through what they went through, but I know I’m not forsaken, just as they knew.

“Would you dare would you dare to believe that you still have a reason to sing?  That the pain that you’ve been feeling can’t compare to the joy that’s coming.  ‘Cause the pain that you’ve been feeling can’t compare to the joy that’s coming.  So hold on, you gotta wait for the light.  Press on and just fight the good fight.  ‘Cause the pain that you’ve been feeling is just the dark before the morning.”

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Inside My Head – Part 3 – Self-Worth

Welcome to Part 3 of my Inside My Head series!  If you missed part 1 or part 2, definitely check them out.  In today’s post, I’m going to be looking at self-worth and how it plays a big part in my depression.  You’ll learn a little bit more of what makes up “Alex Davies” as well.  Let’s have a look.

Who am I?

Around us in the world today there are constant pressures, aren’t there?  Pressures and standards of how to act, how to dress, how to speak, what to do, etc.  There are so many stereotypes and standards that it’s sometimes very easy to get lost in them and lose your own identity.  So in today’s world with its standards and pressures, who am I?

If I was to ask the people who know me who I am, I’d get a variety of different responses.  I’m a brother, a son, a Christian, a pastor’s child, a linguist, a writer, a singer, a songwriter, a friend, a bit of a geek, a joker…the list goes on.  Admittedly, all of those are factual.  I am, by definition, a brother and a son and my parents are both pastors so, by default, I am a pastor’s son.  I did linguistics at university, I write books and blogs and songs, I play musical instruments, I have friends.  I like computer games and Star Trek (which apparently makes me a bit of a geek) and I tell awful jokes which is the aspiring joker in me.  I cannot deny any of these because they are intrinsic to who I am.

But it’s more complicated than that and that’s where self-worth comes in.

Self-Worth

Everyone has their own concept of self-worth.  For some, they believe they are God’s gift to whatever community they find they excel in.  For others, they believe they are worthless, useless, with no redeeming or enhancing qualities to themselves.  And, as with everything, you get a full spectrum of people in between those two, people who can have elements of both extremes or people who sit almost squarely in the middle.  Everyone is different.

For me, self-worth comes in when you start attaching qualifiers to all of the attributes that make me.  Am I a “good” writer?  Do I sing “well”?  Am I a “skilled” linguist?  When you start adding qualifying adjectives or adverbs like these, you start giving me things my mind can argue with,  and in that comes the problem.  It’s those qualities that my brain starts to pick apart and I am certainly my harshest critic.  Take my writing, for example: I’m no Shakespeare or Tolkien but I get told my writing is good.  I’m not Pavarotti or Freddy Mercury either but I get told I sing well.  To my mind, however, I’m less than average.  Very much so.

Perhaps I’m a little blinkered, looking at my life through black-tinted spectacles, or perhaps I’m too much of a perfectionist (guilty as charged on that one!) but that’s the way I am.  Every achievement I make, every good quality I have, I tend to belittle.  Sometimes I think it’s a wonder I do anything at all.  If you ask me what I do, it takes a great deal for me to admit to some things – like writing or songwriting – because I don’t put much faith in them.  I enjoy them, yes, but I’m always surprised when other people enjoy them.

In truth, I don’t think much of myself.

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What do I see?

I suppose it would be a good idea for me to tell you what I see when I look at myself.  I’d go so far as to say these are more or less concrete core beliefs that I have surrounding myself, which is probably why they’re so hard to shake.  Here they are though.

When I look at myself in the mirror, I don’t like what I see.  A frequent joke of mine is that I’m surprised the mirror isn’t cracked.  I don’t think my face is great, my overall shape isn’t what I might like it to be and my hair drives me mad because it has a curly waviness to it that makes it a nightmare to tidy.  I also see the mask and I hate that.  It feels fake, as if I’m living some sort of double life.  Sometimes it feels as if I’m trying to change myself to fit in so that other people will like me or accept me and I hate it.  It feels hollow.

Parallel to all this is a paradoxical darkness that I don’t like either.  I’m the comedic joker who rarely finds things funny.  I’m the bubbly cheerful person who would rather never smile.  I’m the person who is always around, always at the other end of the phone who would rather shut himself away and never come out.  Some twisted mass of contradictions that fight to break free of the mask I put on.  I’m sure I don’t need to explain why I don’t like it.

Moreover, I feel like a failure.  If I’ve not told you how I’m feeling, I’ve failed.  If I’m not succeeding at putting that mask on, I’ve failed.  If I can’t be there for you or let you in, I’ve failed.  On the other hand, why should that matter?  You wouldn’t want me if you saw the real me…or would you?

Next Week

That about sums up where the biggest, darkest chunk of my self-worth is.  Can you see yourself in it somewhere?  I’m quite curious on that part.  Either way, take a look at next week’s post where I delve that little deeper into my self-worth.  I didn’t feel one post was enough for that.

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Just Hold On

Just hold on

It’s a lot easier said than done, isn’t it.  More often than not, when the depression hits it hits hard and we’re left just clinging on.  Buffeted by the storm raging all around us, holding on is sometimes all we can do.  It’s hard.  Very hard.  Still, we can do it.

Many times over the past few months, I’ve felt as though I’m just holding myself together.  More often than not I’ve found myself running on fumes, having barely scraped a couple of hours’ sleep.  When you manage 5 hours sleep in 72 hours, it doesn’t give you much energy to fight the problems.  Caffeine and sugar quickly become best friends to keep me awake so that I can simply try and make it through the day.  Not quite healthy but I suppose it could be worse.

Breathe

It’s days like those that you don’t want to climb out of bed.  You don’t want to leave the house, you don’t want to see people, you don’t want to eat or drink or do anything or be anywhere but you know what?  That’s OK.

That’s right: I said that’s OK.

Even if all you did today was breathe, I’m proud of you.  On my worst days, simply making it through the day has been a trial.  Productivity, enthusiasm, motivation, all these have gone out of the window and it feels like all I’ve done is breathe. That’s alright, though.  I’ve made it through.  It might have been by a fingernail’s grip or I might have been holding on tight with both hands, but I still held on.

That’s the point, isn’t it?  It doesn’t matter how well we cope or how tightly we hold on, how close we are to reaching our limit or anything like that as long as we hold on.  Fall seven times, get up eight.  If anything, that’s the secret to making it through.  Believe me, I’m not out of the woods and sometimes I doubt I’ll ever be rid of this depression but I keep holding on to hope.

Just Hold On

If you’re reading this and if you live with that dark cloud hanging over your head, please continue to hold on.  So far you’ve made it through 100% of your bad days and I’m sure there are plenty of people cheering you on.  They might not say it – they might not know what to say – but I’m sure they are.  Even if they aren’t, I am.  I believe you can make it through.  Amidst all that darkness there is a little light shining.  Hold onto it.  Whatever you do, just keep holding on.

You are not alone!

I’ll say it again: you are not alone.

Remember: breathe.  And just hold on.

Hold on.

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The End of the Week

Well our Connections and Conversations week has come to a close and I have to say both Alex and I have been overwhelmed by the support and positive responses we’ve received. It’s been amazing! So a huge thank you to all of you!

A Look Back at the Week

The week has had some definite highlights, most notably the interview with Jeremy. I had the privilege of listening to his story on Monday evening and I was blown away by his openness. Like a lot of people, my own issues with depression began to manifest in my teenage years and to hear his own account of his journey was incredibly moving. The podcast of the interview is going to be available on our Patreon page shortly and I have to say it’s definitely worth a listen. We’ve also got more interviews lined up for the coming weeks, so if you don’t want to miss any of the fantastic content we have coming up, subscribe with the button on the right.

Pick of the Week

As for my pick of the week…Well to be honest it’s difficult with so much good stuff to choose from. Like I said, the interview is a particular favourite and I do recommend giving it a read.

My recommendation, however, is Aspects of Choice.  This post is a must read for all of the friends and family of those supporting our loved ones through the shadows. I’ve sat on both sides of this particular issue: shutting myself away from social situations because I just didn’t have the energy when I was in my dark points but also a friend/family member who’s had to watch someone I care about make those decisions of how best to apply what energy they have.

It’s difficult.

Part of you wants to drag them to whatever social event it is, be it just out for coffee or a big birthday party.  It could be you just don’t want them to miss out, or there’s a preconceived notion of an obligation for them to be there. It might even be that you’re scared to leave them alone.

But that’s the thing, on this one it’s about them. Not you.  All you can do is support them. If the person you are supporting makes it to whatever social situation you can rest assured it’s taken a lot of energy to get there.

Alex is going to be unpacking some hints and tips in future posts for helping through such situations which I know will be useful. My best advice for now is to just be there. The person you’re helping appreciates you being there more than you realise. By taking the time to listen, or to talk or sometimes just sit in silence you help more than you know.

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Become a PatronDisclaimer: I am not an expert, nor am I medically qualified.  This blog is based on my personal experiences only.  Always seek medical advice in the first instance.