An adventure in Thailand 

As I start ensuring that my persona of “The Suitcase Kid” takes on a new meaning, a positive meaning, I would love to share with you my latest journey.

Two weeks ago, myself and my family were uber busy on the trip of a lifetime. In a whistlestop week-long trip, we headed off to Chiang Mai, Thailand, where we were volunteers at Elephant Nature Park.If you’ve never heard of this place, trust me, at the end of this post, you’ll be wanting to book a flight.
Why ENP? When my Mum turned 60, she decided that it was now or never to do something that she had always wanted to do. As a lover of elephants and someone who has always donated to elephant charities, she wanted to do something proactive and get up close and personal to her favourite animal. As a result, and with not much arm twisting obviously, my whole family went along for the ride.

Elephant Nature Park was set up by Lek Chailet, as one of her projects under the Save Elephant Foundation charity umbrella. ENP is primarily devoted to rescuing abused, tortured and ex-working elephants who have suffered unspeakable pain. These elephants have been blinded, tortured, chained, whipped and have had their babies stolen from them. Their souls have been broken. They have no energy, no reserves and some have been known to even try and take their own lives by standing on their own trunks.

Where possible, the staff of ENP, with amazing handwork and dedication, try to buy these elephants from the cruel, evil individuals who make their lives such hell. They transport them to their sanctuary outside of Chiang Mai. Here they will know love, peace and will never work another day. Here they will be trained and guided with positive reinforcement and not pain. They will be provided with medical care, warmth and will be doted upon by hundreds of volunteers per week, alongside the truly amazing staff that reside here.


Alongside the 70+ elephants that call ENP home, there are also over 350 dogs that have been rescued from the streets, from flooding and natural disasters. 100 of thee roam free and live in harmony, however those unable to roam live just as happily in specially selected packs in large enclosures and are walked for miles numerous times daily. Alongside this, there are rescued water buffalo and hundreds of cats who roam free around the 270+ acres that ENP owns, and lay their heads in their own, aptly named, “Cat Kingdom”.


And so, knowing that we were going to one of the most wonderful places on earth, the almost 24 hour journey from Newquay to Chiang Mai didn’t seem half as bad as it should have!
If I’m honest, I didn’t really know what I had signed up for. Being a student veterinary nurse, I knew I wanted to get involved and up close and personal to different animals and help out in any way I could – it’s my life’s work and what I will always aim to do. Upon arrival, the volunteers were given a briefing about how the week would unfold, about the jobs that we would be undertaking and the safety rules associated with being around elephants. From then, it was only hard graft.


Volunteer schedule for my group was as follows:

Day 1: Cutting and loading corn

Day 2: Cleaning up elephant poo from all enclosures and walk around the park learning about every elephant followed by bathing the elephants in the river.

Day 3: Unloading elephant food (4 tonnes of watermelons and 5 tonnes of pumpkins), washing the food and prepping it before feeding the elephants, followed by fire break – building and clearing a path in the rainforest to prevent fire spreading

Day 4: Cleaning elephant poo from all enclosures, going to a local school and teaching English to the children, followed by unloading melons and making rice balls for the elephants

Day 5: Travel home!!
Due to our very tight schedule and quick trip, we only got 4 whole days at the park, which truly wasn’t enough.
We were placed into a group of around 15 people and have made friends for life. The team work needed to complete each task meant bonding and working together with people from all walks of life and all over the world. We will now call these people friends for life and they truly made our experience wonderful. We were brought together by a common interest in animals and their welfare and bonded together by cleaning up poo…amongst other things! It was amazing to share the experience of meeting the elephants and being up close to these surreal, majestic and gentle creatures with truly amazing people.

Hearing the individual stories about each elephant from our extremely knowledgeable, humble and frankly hilarious co-ordinators was absolutely heart breaking. We heard of those elephants who had been blinded by hooks as they had refused to do what they had been told, those who had had their babies stolen from them, those who had arrived at the park with visible bones, cuts and open wounds, those who were disabled due to standing on landlines and those who had broken backs. Despite their horrific pasts, the overwhelming sense of happiness exuding from these elephants is magnificent. With their individual carers (official term is mahout), the elephants have an unbreakable bond with someone who will never hurt them again and who dedicates their every moment to making sure that their elephant is well looked after. These men don’t earn much and have moved away from their families to work with these amazing creatures, sending money back home whenever they can. These men are humble, kind, caring people who ask for nothing in return.


Our favourite relationship was between mahout, Patti, and his elephant, Mai Jan Peng. This 70 year old gentle giant has a hole in her ear where her previous owner had forced a hook into it when she was not compliant. Patti now puts a flower in this hole as a way to make the horrors of her past the beauty of her present. We got to handfeed this girl melon and banana – she was so strong she nearly took our hands off! We then watched in awe as she broke a stick in order to hold it with her trunk and scratch herself to soothe her itches.
Patti carves Mai Jan Peng out of wood to sell for money to send back to his family. We brought three home with us! 


The elephants of ENP are released from their very spacious enclosures at 7am and head to their chosen areas and herds to spend the day eating, having mud baths, bathing in the river and just being free elephants…something that most of them sadly have to learn rather than something that is just a regular state. They scratch, interact, bathe, roll and play with toys and tyres. They are truly at peace and this is the overwhelming feeling when you see them. At around 4.30pm, the elephants are walked into their enclosures for the evening. The reasoning for this is that they are allowed time to just be, without human interference and without restriction. These large enclosures are padded with sand for the elephant to get their essential 3 hours of sleep, sometimes have fires next to them to ensure the elephant is warm overnight, and contain plenty of food for the elephants to graze on (elephants eat for 18 hours per day!!).

And it is not just the elephants who live in pure harmony at ENP. The free roaming dogs that I had the pleasure of spending time with and giving lots of attention to are truly happy. They run for miles, they have constant food and water, they play, they rest, they bathe in the river and they are inundated with human adorers. Unfortunately, due to an outbreak of distemper, I was unable to see and walk the dogs within the enclosures. This was for their safety and mine and to attempt to contain and manage the life threatening disease which actually saw 2 puppies die in the week that I was out there. There is an overwhelming sense of urgency to care for these animals, to protect them, and to get the disease under control to save as many of these dogs as possible.
Some of my favourite dogs were: Memphis, a 12 year old dog who has diabetes and other health conditions and every night wears a coat to indicate that he has had his medication – if he is not wearing this, he needs to be taken to have them! Ahn, another 12 year old dog who spent meal times wagging his tail at your feet. Anna, a gorgeous, softer than soft, young dog who loved nothing more than smothering you in kisses and love. Allan, who came all the way to the top of the hill in the rainforest to join us in our fire break duties.


Alongside the free-roaming dogs, there are hundreds of cats, who have their own cat kingdom which they can come to for food and shelter, or they can sleep on the volunteers beds! 

All of these animals live in harmony. It’s quite overwhelming. It hits you like a tonne of bricks how happy and loved each of these animals are. They are all known by name and by character. Their back story is shared. They are truly at peace.
Every night, entertainment was put on for all volunteers. This included a traditional welcoming ceremony on the first evening, a thai culture and language lesson, a thai dancing show and lesson, authentic thai massage and an unbelievable performance from the mahout band, who played on water butts and pipes. 

The food was absolutely incredible. An entirely vegetarian menu, it consisted of flavoured rice, the most delicious noodles I’ve ever taste, soups, curried dishes and lots of tasty sauces and veg. I’m missing it already now I’m home! 
One lasting thing I will take away, one of many things actually, is to never forget how lucky I am. Some of the people we met on this tip have nothing, ask for nothing, live in the most basic of environments, sometimes are without a flushing toilet, and yet they are happy. And not the happy the world tells us we should be, but the happy that goes right down to your core. The happy you don’t have to work at, the kind of happy that just comes from being at peace, and to be truly in love with your life. These people have taught me to embrace opportunities, to not take for granted the things that I have, to be authentically myself, to be kind and to above all, to be happy. 

I cannot begin to explain this experience, the staff, the people we met, the experiences we had, the things we’ve learned and the things we will remember forever. It was life changing, humbling and truly inspiring. I am inspired to do more good, to help others and animals where I can, to donate to good causes in whatever way possible, and to be a better person.
ENP are always looking for donations and help. They cannot function without volunteers and donations. If you are interested in knowing more, or helping out in any little way that you can, please take a look at the elephant nature park website: https://www.elephantnaturepark.org as well as the Save Elephant Foundation website for more sanctuaries all over the world: http://www.saveelephant.org

Sometimes, you have feelings of utter peace in your life, and those suffering with depression and anxiety need more of those moments. This wonderful place provided that for me. An overwhelming feeling of being in the right place, at the right time. 

A new meaning of The Suitcase Kid? 

So most of you know the reason for my blog being called “The Suitcase Kid”. It’s because as a child, I was pushed from pillar to post between my Dad and my Mum’s houses following their relationship breakdown. I never really knew who I was, or where I belonged. I never really had a chance to be me. Instead, I was living in the shadow of my parents decisions, constantly living out of a bag, happy at neither destination, not enjoying the journey and as a result, being a troubled, worried and distressed little girl. 

I’ve come a long way from that. I’ve moved on as an adult, moved home and no longer have to live my life based on what my parents want. And this is something I am finally coming to terms with. My parents mistakes are no longer to define my life and what my life is to be. I can finally be just me. And just me is enough. 

I have rooted myself in a lovely little home, with my two cats, dog and my partner. It’s a bit of a mad house, nothing really has its place, it’s all a mismatch of furniture thrown together from family members and lack of money to buy it from new. It’s small, but it’s happy and it’s home. And here is where I now set my roots. 

I suppose it’s just part of the progression of turning into an adult that means that you no longer have to live in your parents footsteps, or possibly even their shadow as I was, but for me, despite being nearly 25 years of age, I’ve still looked to my parents to validate me. 

I’ve spent years, after struggling with my parents decisions, never standing on my own two feet, and still looking to them to validate my feelings, my opinions and to make any decisions in my life. 

I feel like I’ve finally, at 24 years of age, made a step away from this. 

I no longer look to them for the validation to be me. I make decisions on my own, I celebrate my own successes as simply that, no longer waiting for acceptance and feeling insufficient. I am working on my resentment towards both my Mum and my Dad, for differing reasons, for making my life the way it has been…an uphill struggle. 

And so now, I’ve found a new me. The new me that is no longer bound by anxiety and depression that was born from my parents bad decisions and down falls. And in doing this, I’ve found a new meaning for the Suitcase kid. 

This suitcase kid, is now a traveller. I love to travel. But I do it my way. I get together with friends, plural or singular, or my partner, and go to places around the world that call to me. I throw myself into the whole experience, despite still at times being bound by anxiety. In the last 2 and a half years I have been to places I never thought I would go, done things I never thought I would do and made memories to last a lifetime. 

And now, my suitcase is not my enemy, it is my friend. I can truly, honestly say that I’m making the negatives of my past, a true positive. 

My Parisian Panic Attack

In the early hours of the morning, I arrived home following a mostly positive trip to Paris with a friend. We explored Disneyland, stayed in a beautiful spa hotel which provided the ultimate relaxation (and the ultimate 6-pillowed, memory foam bed) and ventured into the city itself for essential sight seeing.

I had many successes on this holiday…no nerves on the outbound flight, eating on the plane, eating food during the day, successfully sitting to finish a meal in a restaurant with no anxiety, going on rollercoasters, being positive and my true happy self, allowing myself to enjoy Disneyland like an inner child. However, our trip into the city centre of Paris was a terrible one for me, and one I will remember for a long time to come.

Firstly, its important for me to say, to remind myself, that I haven’t had a panic attack for around 2 years. Of course, I have experienced periods of great anxiety, but I have succeeded in preventing full blown panic attacks by distracting myself, using avoidance tactics and using a positive mental attitude.

Unfortunately, on Saturday, I suffered one of the worst panic attacks I can ever remember having, on the train into the centre of Paris.

I hadn’t been feeling all that well in the morning – probably due to anxiety anyway. I told myself to brush myself up and dust myself off and go and have a lovely day. I was anxious, but not overtly so. I was happy and excited to be exploring. We purchased our tickets and sat on the platform – I was fine. We stepped onto the train and found a seat – I was fine. We pulled away from the station – I was fine. And all of a sudden, I started to experience panic attack symptoms.

My hands and forehead were clammy, my whole body started shaking, I felt as if I was going to be sick. This seemed relatively manageable…until the voices in my head started. Whilst one side of my brain was trying to reassure myself that I was fine, I was in the moment and I was going to be okay, the louder, more aggressive side was screaming that I was not ok. I was petrified. I worked myself up into a mess. I felt as through I was bound to vomit. Most scarily, my face began to tingle and I lost control of the muscles in my mouth, meaning I couldn’t stretch my lips or move them properly to talk – I have only ever had this once before when I was 16 and sitting my GCSES, it was petrifying then and it was petrifying now. I couldn’t see straight, I was woozy and drowsy and felt as if I was going to pass out. I felt dizzy and as if someone else had taken the wheel in my body – someone evil. I struggled to focus on anything. I couldn’t feel my legs.

All I could do was breathe. In and out.

I wanted to get off the train. I wanted to be anywhere but there. I wanted to vomit. I wanted to curl up in bed and pretend I was somewhere else, someone else, anything else. I wanted to die.

After about 20 minutes of this hell, we reached our stop. I exited the train station feeling wobbly and unable to see properly. Luckily, it was beginning to burn out. As I stepped outside the train station and felt the bracing cold air on my face, I knew I was ok. I had made it. I sat for 10 minutes, breathing deeply, calming myself down and sipping water.

I couldn’t believe I was ok.

I have never experienced a panic attack like it. It was horrendous. I cannot explain it in any other way than utter hell. It was as if an evil demon had overtaken my body, forcing me to suffer with no way to escape. I was scared, alone and lost – figuratively speaking. My mind was my own worst enemy.

What struck me was – how can I have grown so much and come so far and yet come back to this? Is depression and anxiety cyclical? Is it my turn to suffer again? Has all my hard work been for nothing? Is my life back to this?

I’m still shaken by the whole experience. I still don’t really know how I feel about it. All I do know is that I am okay. I came through it. And whilst it was truly horrific, it reminded me how far I have come. I no longer suffer with crippling and truly terrifying anxiety every day. I have achieved so much in the last year and a half and I have done it through being positive and pro active. This was a minor set back. Although it was scary, I live to fight another day.

And cliche, but true…what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

Sister sadness 

My younger sister, 5 years my junior, at 18 years old, has always been a bit of a cause for worry for me. Its a little hard to process my thoughts and to process them in a way that results in a blog post that makes sense, as her quirky character sometimes makes my brain feel like its about to spontaneously combust, however I shall try my best!

A couple of weeks ago, after years of turbulence, arguments, anger, attention-seeking, troublemaking and family destroying, I found out that my younger sister has been self harming. She’s been acting out for a long time, but this truly shocked me.

Despite always being a difficult child who loved attention, she began to struggle from the age of about 9 years old in school. She was bullied for being different, for being extrovert and immature for her age and as a result, my Dad and her mother moved her to 3 different schools across her school career to evade this. As a result, she never really faced these bullies, never dealt with it head on, never overcame it. She was moved away from the problem instead of the problem being fixed. This led to a lost of misunderstanding from her and a lack of actions-have-consequences ideology as these bullies had no comeuppance for their treatment of her, nor did she ever really understand what had gone wrong. When my Dad and her mother split up due to an affair her mother had, my sister was never the same. Her behaviour began to spiral out of control: causing arguments, shouting and swearing, falling out with family members, causing arguments between others, developing a deep seated hatred for my Dad’s new wife,  smoking, drinking, befriending 35 year old women, becoming obsessive about individuals…

The list truly goes on and on.

To say she has been difficult to be around and have in our lives would be an understatement. The truth is, she is lost in life, frankly still living in the past in the hope that her parents would eventually reconcile their differences. (something that simply is never going to happen). She is immensely immature for her age, has admitted to acting out for attention and has an intense bitterness for the world around her. She is obsessive to the point that I think she could be potentially dangerous. She is angry.

She makes me feel an intense sadness. Sadness over seeing myself in her, sadness that in her core she is genuinely a lovely girl with a heart of gold, but also sadness over not being able to fix her. And believe me, I have tried. I have spent hours fighting her corner, protecting her, talking her down, giving her advice. And all to no avail. To find out she has been self harming has really hurt me. I should have done something sooner. I have been watching her suffer, fall and break apart and maybe I haven’t tried enough to prevent her from entering this hole. Maybe I haven’t seen the warning signs, and how could I miss them seeing as I’ve been there myself? How could I not have seen this coming?

The thing is, its a cry for help with her. Self harm is not always for attention – I know this. Sometimes self harm is kept so secret that nobody ever knows. Sometimes its simply an attempt at relief from a life that is like a pressure cooker with no relief. Sometimes it isn’t so that someone comes to your rescue. With my sister, I know it was an attention seeking move. She wants someone to see her. She wants someone to look. She wants to be noticed. She wants the limelight. And this is why I need to do all I can to stop this from happening again. Self harm for this reason will never work. Self harming to get the attention of others is like screaming and screaming into the wind on top of a cliff where nobody can hear you. Hurting yourself will not get the attention you so crave. It will not fix your relationships with people; in fact, it will change the way people see you forever. Self harm for attention is not productive.

I only wish that she had a literate way of asking for help, for saying I’m lost in my life and I need help, direction and love. Because this is the truth of it.

How have I been helping her since finding out?

  • Trying to be there as much as possible
  • Making her aware I’m here
  • Pushing her to remember what is good in her life
  • Creating exciting things to do for the family to include her – making her feel there is a true support system in place
  • Brought her a little necklace to wear to think of happier times
  • Trying to encourage her to go and speak to someone – despite the fact that she point blank refuses at the moment
  • Speaking to other members of my family and ensuring that they are working with me to help her and get her better
  • My older sister sent her a box of “happy things” to include chocolate, relaxation bits and pieces and a photo book of happy memories
  • Regular contact, even if it is not reciprocated, to let her know we are here, even if we are in the background

One good thing about this situation is that it does make me remember my darkest times and be extremely proud of myself. Nobody knew about what I was doing, and nobody did find out. I pulled myself out of my own darkest hole. And for that I will always see myself as brave and capable.

Through going through it myself, I was able to both sympathise and empathise with my younger sister, whilst also remembering that I was not the easiest teenager to deal with, and that our actions are a direct reflection of our past experiences.

It is important to remember to always be kind to everyone you meet, as you simply do not know the internal battle they are facing to get up everyday. Treat everybody with kindess, patience and sensitivity.

 

Happy Anniversary 


Yesterday, WordPress informed me that I registered 2 years ago. 

What a 2 years that has been! 

Thinking back to before I started my blog, and even in the 2 years leading to now I suppose, I was at a difficult age – 21 and 22 – and after having a difficult time growing up, I was totally lost. I had experienced at least 2 failed marriages from each parent, an abusive step father, anxiety and depression, bulimia, anorexia and general disordered eating, self harm, and had battled to remain alive and not just give up since I was 16 years of age. 

I was flirting between dead end jobs, constantly suffering with my health and lived like a hermit. 

I had nowhere left to turn. I was becoming extremely introverted, further depressed, my medication was no longer serving its purpose, I was pushing away those closest to me and as a result, I was not living: I was a shadow. And barely even that. 

I started The Suitcase Kid as a last chance resort. I’ve always loved writing but never wanted to have diaries lying around. My inner thoughts felt too personal for paper. I felt that if anyone ever picked them up they would never forgive my words, nor understand them. I read many blogs before I started my own and immediately felt a sense of community, compassion and home. I felt safe. 

And the rest is 2 years of history. 

What has WordPress given me? I can’t even begin to explain. I have a platform to express my feelings, emotions, fears, successes and failures. I have an unbiased, non judgmental group of blogging friends who are constantly supportive and continue to read my blogs and compliment me on my writing. I fulfil my passion for writing in a healthy way. I read other people’s successes. I read beautiful, uplifting poetry, which inspires me to (attempt to) write some myself, which I haven’t done for years! I have written an e-book! I have the opportunity to explore realms and possibilities of myself that I had previously not considered. I have a place to write down my dreams and aspirations for the future. I have a memory box full of my growth and change that I can forever look back on. 

And where am I now? I’m training to be a veterinary nurse, a job that, although exhausting, I absolutely love. I am more body confident. I ACTUALLY EAT…Perhaps a little too much but beggars can’t be choosers. I have hobbies! I go to the gym. My relationship with my family is brilliant. I am always on the go, exploring Cornwall and where I live. I’m in a relationship and I live with my partner.  I smile, I laugh, I love. 

I owe WordPress everything. The Suitcase Kid has saved me. Happy 2 years my alter ego, and here’s to many more! 

We don’t always need a plan 

For people with anxiety, planning life down to the last minute detail can either be a blessing or a curse…

It can be a blessing because we can create a minute by minute account of how we will live out our lives, thus preventing any anxiety that may arise as we already know how it is all going to pan out…right? 

WRONG. 

It seems that plans can only really be a curse. We spend too much time thinking about the what ifs and planning for each and every outcome. We waste our lives creating maps of how things should be, weaving our way through the mundane in the safest way possible. We try to know each curve, each turn in the maze, before it arises, in order to ease our own inner voices of worry. We plan until we can plan no more. 

There is simply no such thing as a well defined plan for every moment of ones life. It’s not how it works. 

Theoretically, we can sit and think our day through moment by moment and try and prevent anxiety provoking accidents from arising. We can plot a graph of our day down to the finest detail. But what percentage of days ever end up fitting into these axis? 

The truth is, we can’t plan ahead, we simply don’t know what is going to occur day by day. The world is unpredictable…a scary word for those with anxiety disorders. But we must remember the wonderful nature of unpredictability. Let it not worry us, let it excite us. Being unpredictable creates memories and moments to live for. 

When did a plan ever go to plan anyway? And that’s the beauty of life! Our best memories are not those that were meticulously planned, they are those that were spontaneous and off the cuff, spur of the moment and magical. And that’s the memories that life is made up of, the memories that get us through the mundane days, counting down until the next special breath of spontaneity. 

And I guess that’s what we call being brave. Letting go of plans. Letting go of the reigns. 

Im going to stand on the edge of my empty map, drop my pen,  and wait for the page to fill itself. 

Not everyday is going to be the best day 

As I lie in my post-endometriosis surgery sick bed, I find myself evaluating my life. These times of quiet rest can be dangerous in a manic, noisy brain like mine. 

I’ve only been bed bound for 48 hours post anaesthetic and already I’m feeling low, as if nothing is good in my life, as if nothing will ever be good again. Why? Because my body and mind are bored, restrained within the confines of my four walls, restricted to rest that I simply don’t want. 

Maybe it’s worse because the weather outside my window is calling me outside to play in the sun. Maybe it’s worse because there is a festival on down the road, of which there are thousands of social media images of people I don’t even like having a wonderful time. Maybe it’s because I’m fed up with working, working, working and having no time for play. Maybe it’s because the only time I stop is to be poorly, or to not even be that, but to be on bed rest due to being rearranged from the inside out! 

What is going through my head? I can’t remember the last time I laughed and meant it, I can’t remember the last time I had a whole week of fun or enjoyed a full day of my life. I can’t remember not waiting for something, feeling as though the train to happiness is just around the corner but never turns up at my station. I can’t remember not feeling like this. 

And then I stop and realise how far I’ve come, how many memories I have made, how many steps forward, how many achievements, how many barriers broken, how many laughs, how many celebrations. And I realise that actually, 48 hours of bed rest should not allow me to view my life as negative, or to fill my mind with poison. 

Just because I’ve had 2 days of boredom, pain and loneliness, I am not to think that all my days are filled with this. 

Not everyday is going to be my best, and not every moment is going to be filled with radical, Earth-shattering moments. Sometimes, the moments in between are the space fillers required to get through this crazy thing we call life. And right now is one of those. 

My best days are yet to come, and the train will be at my station in no time. 

I can’t 

I can’t be bigger, I can’t be taller, I can’t be someone else, I can’t be smaller. 

I can’t be something I’m not, I can’t make everyone proud, I can’t always do what I want, I can’t always be loud. 

I can’t always be happy, I can’t always have things my way, I can’t always be heard, I can’t always have my say. 

I can’t live the perfect life, I can’t have everything I dream, I can’t be everything I want to be, I can’t be everything I seem. 

I can choose to be braver, I can choose to be me, I can choose to be honest, I can choose to be free. 

I can choose to be richer, in spirit rather than wealth, I can choose to be simple, and promote my own good health. 

I can choose try hard, to be all I want to be, I can choose to make promises, and keep them all for me. 

I can choose to chase my dreams, knowing they might not all come true, I can choose to learn, even when I don’t have a clue. 

I choose to explore, I choose to drench myself in memory, I choose to make myself proud, I choose to be all that I can be. 

I promise to try to be loyal , I promise to be true, I promise to trust in all that I can be, and I promise to do it all for me, not you. 

Wedding worries

2 years ago my sister got engaged…and for 2 whole years, I have had anxiety about her wedding day. 

Knowing I would have bridesmaids duties to fulfil, and knowing that I would have to walk down the aisle to a sea of faces watching me, gave me panic that I simply haven’t felt in a long time. The panic of being watched, in a dress I may not feel comfortable in, in a body I definitely don’t feel comfortable in, and living for a day well outside the realms of my safety bubble was a prospect that was breaking down all the walls of great work I have done over the past 3-4 years. 

Isn’t it amazing how one day, one thought, one looming event, can break barriers within your brain, can make weak what was once strong, can challenge all you thought you had rid yourself of. I couldn’t believe I was stepping backwards again. I felt I was falling, back into the sea of anxiety that I pulled myself out of with moments of life to spare. I couldn’t breathe again. 

2 years of distractions in my own life (work, university, studying, exams, partner, friends etc) kept me relatively sane during all the planning stages. However there were certain moments that made me panic: hen party planning, wedding dress shopping, bridesmaid dress fittings…it was in these moments that I could not escape my own brain, my own panic, my irrational fears. 

And as time continues to move faster and faster as I grow older, 2 years came past like 2 minutes and it was wedding week. 

Anxiety building into pure panic for the week leading up to the wedding was truly horrible for me. Especially as my sister is someone who likes a big fuss. In fact, she’s the polar opposite to me. She likes attention, to be the centre of a big fuss and to make everything about her. As a result, she wanted to go out for 2 meals and have a big celebration at my dads house with family and bridesmaids. I had to show up, put on a smile and hide everything I was truly feeling. 

What was I even worried about? 

  • The way I look 
  • People looking at me 
  • Embarrassment 
  • That I would have a panic attack for all to see
  • I wouldn’t cope 
  • I would let people down 
  • I would feel body conscious 
  • I would trip/fall over 
  • People would notice me and laugh 
  • I wouldn’t be able to eat 
  • I would ruin the day 
  • I would be unhappy 

Battling not only with anxiety, I found myself battling the fact that I felt so selfish. It wasn’t my wedding, I was not the centre of attention – why should I allow this anxiety to make this day about me?! 

I surprised myself by actually enjoying the two different meals that we had in the run up to the big day. I’ve never “enjoyed” eating out before, I’ve never let myself. I’ve always had disordered eating leading to panic around people watching me and eating in public places. This was a great success for me and something I am so greatly proud of. I ate exactly what I wanted, finished the whole dish, and never even gave time to the niggling feeling at the back of my brain saying that I shouldn’t be able to do this. I conquered a fear! 

And this gave me a certain strength to cope with the wedding day itself. The evening before I found myself panicking, unable to sleep, sweating, deep breathing…you name it. 

The morning of the wedding arrived and for the first time in as long as I can remember, I vomited through pure panic. I was clammy, stressed, my heart was beating faster than a mouse, and I could not see how I was going to be able to cope. 

And then I stopped, and breathed, and took every moment as it came, second by second, minute by minute. I breathed. I remembered how much I have achieved recently and how much I did not want to let my sister down. I remembered that this wasn’t about me. I talked myself through every minute, telling myself I had my own back. 

All of a sudden everything felt calm.I walked down the aisle, I was in lots of photos, I stood strong, I ate all my dinner, I drank and I danced the night away. I didn’t panic. And most of all, I had fun. 

Memories were made, family was brought together, and I allowed myself to let go. I amazed myself 

I can do anything I set my mind to, and I am so, so proud of myself. 

It can happen to anyone

Hello strangers! I feel as thought I’ve dropped off the wordpress wagon for too long now. I’ve been working so hard in my training as a veterinary nurse that my feet have barely even touched the ground, working 60 hour weeks and barely finding a moment to take care of myself, or even just take time to breathe. During this time, I have been up and down, but on the whole I have remained positive despite being extremely tired and overworked and underpaid!

But I miss blogging, I miss getting a moment to log my thoughts and to just try and make sense of some things. And it is my new month’s resolution to ensure that I do it more!

The title of this post, “it can happen to anyone” is a bit of a jumbled concept in my head. Let me start from the beginning and then I’ll explain why…

A colleague of mine whom I have been working with for the past 6 months, appears to be a very capable, very very intelligent, funny and bright woman. There is no job too big or small for her. She is sensitive and caring and the whole workplace has found her to be a wonderful addition to our team. She is always laughing and joking, with just the right amount of humility. She cares for the animals within the practice, and is a source of answers to many questions and appears to be a fountain of knowledge.

When working with her a few weeks ago, I found out that there was a dark secret she was hiding. She confessed to me that she was really struggling with depression and anxiety, that she hated herself, that she often considered suicide and that her children would be better of without her, but then stops herself because she knows that this is not true. She has to distract her mind constantly from negative thoughts. She hates her body and refuses to attend public events as a result of this. She views herself as a negative person, hates her home life and the only good thing in her life is her children. She is seeing a counsellor and is on medication, yet still feels this low.

I was entirely taken aback at this, wondering what on earth she sees when she looks in the mirror, as it is simply not what is reflected on the outside. She is a bubbly, outgoing, clever woman whom everyone adores. I was saddened to think that she could see herself in this light. And then I remembered. A few years ago, and to a lesser extreme at rare intervals even now, this person was me. I was the one hating myself, wishing I could die, thinking of ways to end it all, wondering if everyone would be better off without me, living a life of anxiety and all of this, in silence. And then I realised how many other people there must be going through exactly this, painting on a face of positivity every day at work, for friends and family.

This is why we must be kind to everyone we meet, even if they give us reason not to. We have no idea what battles they are facing, and just not a clue how close they are to ending it all.

And whilst her story was awful, it made me feel a little better to feel less alone.

So why do I feel a little conflicted about the title of this post? Well, just because depression can rear its ugly head at any moment, in any brain, male or female, adult or child, it is not to say that it is to be viewed as commonplace, or to be taken for granted. Just because depression can strike at any time, does not make it less important to tackle. It does not mean to say it is not important, nor real, nor any less crippling for each and every individual that it gets it’s grubby mitts on. Do not mistake a common illness for a common cold. It cannot be treated with a little rest and a nasal spray. Depression is real. So, my point in titling this post as such, was to reassure each and every individual reading this that struggles with depression, anxiety or any form of mental illness, that there may be others around you that are suffering in silence… do not feel alone, do not feel weak, or silly, or a failure. It can happen to anyone. And it does.