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. 

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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.

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. 

Just be an adult already!! 

Something happened over the past few years. It happened when I wasn’t looking. I was no longer a child, I was no longer bound by the rules of my parents, with nobody to answer to. I didn’t have to tell anyone where I was going, what I was doing or what time I would be back. I became an adult. 

What age does this even truly happen? Growing up, we seem to believe we’re “adults” by the time we’re 16, 18, 21. It’s a subjective theory in all honesty, something that is relative to life experience. I definitely remember feeling fairly adult at the age of 12, battling with what I saw to be “grown-up” depressive moods and thoughts, protecting myself from my aggressive step father and dealing with my ongoing internal monologue. That felt fairly adult to me. But in reality, it was a young girl, a very lost one at that, dealing with a world of adults who showcased very negative thoughts, emotions and relayed them onto my vulnerable brain. 

Now, at 23 years of age, I live in my own house with my partner, I’m studying for my degree, I’m learning to be my own person as I expect to do for the entirety of my life. I’m an enthusiast for the world, for travel, for work, for learning and for growth. I love to write. I love to walk. I am an adult. So why do I still feel as if those strings have not been cut from my childhood. I still feel like I need guidance, I still feel as if I need to answer to someone. And I still feel as if I need to cling to my childhood in order to be carefree. 

What I do that counteracts the fact that I’m an adult?

  • Everything I do I seek gratification from someone, somewhere 
  • If I have a sick day from work, I validate the fact that it is ok with a parent, my partner, or family and friends 
  • I explain every decision I make 
  • I justify myself constantly 
  • I live to please others 
  • I still feel unfulfilled, as if being a child allowed me to do more (that ironically I never seemed to take advantage of) and that adulthood results in not being able to really “live”
  • Living in a messy house – expecting someone else to clean it for me 

Why do I do this? 

  • Being an adult was always a negative thing in my younger life – adults were harsh and scary and violent and unpredictable 
  • I care what people think far too much 
  • I seek validation as I am still unsure in my own ability to decision make 
  • I have convinced myself that adult hood means working, paying bills and being unfulfilled 
  • I have a warped view of what being an independent truly means 

How could I step into my adulthood like I mean it? 

  • I need to consistently remind myself that adulthood is just a theory – it’s a concept that simply means I’m older. 
  • Remind myself that adulthood is not scary and it doesn’t mean that I have become a reflection of the adults I knew in my childhood 
  • Remember that it doesn’t change who I am – I’m still a big kid 
  • Don’t allow the concept of being grown up take away my dreams – it doesn’t mean the time frame has gone, it simply means I can choose when, where and why 
  • To learn that whilst pleasing people is ok, it shouldn’t be at the detriment of pleasing myself 
  • Remember that I don’t owe anybody anything. I’m my own person 
  • Believing in any decision that I make 
  • Keeping a tidy house in order to keep a tidy mind. 
  • Helping myself to help myself 
  • Staying in touch with my inner child and allowing myself to play and have fun 
  • Laugh more – laughing and being silly isn’t confined to being a child 
  • Working on my thoughts on what an adult is – not seeing adulthood as boring bill paying, as realistically, it changes nothing. 

I’ve got some great things to work on this summer! 

How do you live authentically in the concept of being an adult? 

Noticing a change

How do we truly know when we’ve made progress? Not when people point out to us that we’ve changed, definitely not when we are trying too hard to make a change, but actually when all is stripped away, the trying stops and transforms into just being, and we notice a change for ourselves.

It’s exam season again. That dreaded time that for some is not a worry and just a time to test themselves, but for others is a constant pressure, stress and source of worry. I’m sure there are readers of my blog who have suffered the same exam stress as I have over the years. I am now at a stage where I am studying for my degree (yes I know, exams that I have fundamentally CHOSEN to take!!) and it’s time for me to showcase what I have learned about animal anatomy, behaviour and care over the last year.

Years ago, what actually feels like many moons ago, I studied for my GCSE’s. I was 16 years of age and at a stage in my life where my anxiety was at its worst. My panic attacks were sporadic, heart-wrenching, painful, scary and overwhelming. When I look back on myself, the age that I was and how much I dealt with and the fact that I have come through it, I am immensely proud for one, but extremely shocked too. I wish there were enough words in the dictionary to explain how low, how paralysed and how defeated I was by this mental illness that just enraptured my whole self. When it came to sitting my exams themselves, I would have full blown panic attacks, palpitations, sweating, vomiting, nausea, dizziness and I would even lose control of my lips and have facial muscle spasms. It was mortifying to not be able to hide something that I had kept so secret until this point, and it was so difficult to see how I could sit an exam in this state. I would work myself up, cry, physically tremble and worry that I was going to cause myself serious injury. The fear? I’m not sure I could explain. I remember thoughts of:

What if I’m sick in the exam?

What if I lose control of my bowels?

What if people notice and stare?

What if I have a panic attack in the middle of the room?

What if I vomit?

All these what if’s would go through my mind, paralysing me with fear and focussing me on the worst case scenario. It wasn’t even the exam, or the passing or failing. It was simply the sitting in a large room, the unknown, the what if.

I simply did not know how to handle myself or my emotions, fears or feelings. Worse than that, I didn’t know how to control my body. I had no way of controlling my mind, my sheer terror, the physical symptoms or the plethora of panicked thoughts that I was overcome with.

I was unable to eat the night before or the day of my exam. Nothing could pass my lips – as a control method, as a protective shield, as a preventative measure. There would be no sleep the night before. There would be various toilet trips for various eliminations.

I never thought I could get through it.

I did it though. I went through all of that 10 times. AND…I came out with brilliant grades that I was proud of. Something seemed to takeover once I sat down and immersed myself in the paper, and allowed myself to be distracted. My symptoms would be forgotten and my brain would be focussed on showcasing my knowledge. It’s just a shame that nothing could distract me during the panic attack before hand!

This week, I have sat my end of first year exams for my degree in Veterinary Nursing. This week, I know I’m a changed person. I’ve not felt anxious. If I’ve felt nervous, it’s healthy nerves that are more centred on apprehension. I have slept like a baby the night before, I have surrendered myself from the what if’s and accepted the letting go process of “I have done enough. I can only do my best”.

And today…I EVEN ATE BEFORE AN EXAM!! I have never done this in my life. I gave up the controlling, conscious thoughts that I am not allowed food or water in my belly before an exam in case something happens. I gave up the thoughts that it was too risky to eat. I gave up needing to control anything. I let go. I let the knowledge that I had worked hard, I was ok, and I have my own back take over. And it worked.

It’s not come without hard work. This is a reward for the work I have put into myself, finding myself, putting myself first, healing and being comfortable in my own skin. As a result of doing this, my depression and anxiety have waned, and I deserve that.

Whether my results are the best yet or not, whether I supersede my expectations or whether I am disappointed, I will never forget the euphoria of being absolutely ok with being me, exam or not. I was not threatened, or scared, nor on the verge of a panic attack. I was centred and content and ready for any eventuality.

And that, is how I know I have changed. Not just a little, but a lot. And I am proud.

To everybody that has exams this month and next, and is dreading them as much as the old me used to, let me first say that I wish you the best of luck. Secondly, it’s easy to say from where I’m sitting now, but anxiety and panic attacks didn’t get me anywhere, nor did they help my examinations in any way. Try your best to relax, to breathe, to look after yourself and to put yourself first. Remember you are safe in your own body. And you can only ever do your best.

 

5 days of positivity: day 1 

Today, I woke up and decided that I would be in a good mental place. I wanted to enjoy my day before I start a night shift this evening, and I really wanted to make sure I was in a positive mind set and make a start to eradicate the negativity of the last few weeks. 

So, I got up early and I wrote a list of things that I was grateful for: 

  • The roof over my head
  • My lovely dog and cats who always make me smile
  • My comfy bed 
  • The brilliant sleep id just had
  • My ability to get up and choose what I wanted to do 
  • My car to take me wherever I wanted to go 
  • My ability to choose to be happy 

I then took myself off to the beach, initially just with Millie, relaxing, thinking, walking and taking in the world. The fresh air helped to cleanse my brain and rejuvenate me, making me feel wonderful and healthy. I then met up with my best friend and my god daughter and splashed in puddles, built sand castles and chatted nonsense. Being a big kid puts me in touch with a happy, true version of myself and I laughed uncontrollably at my 3 year old god daughter who chatted for hours about a selection of topics. 
   
When coming home and getting ready for work after this wonderful, refreshing, positive morning, I realised something…

I realised that my brain is a wonderful thing. A stern talking to and I managed to positively set myself up for a day of happiness, laughter and light (and sunshine which helped). I may not be totally out of my dark place, but today was a step in the right direction towards the light, and that’s the direction I want to keep heading in to. I’ve been positive, thoughtful, in the moment and free on anxiety so far today and oh how wonderful it has felt. 

My mantra today is this: 

  
Day 1 of positivity down and I’m ready to face the next 4 head on, with a healthy, happy mindset because I can and I will. 

Happiness shouldn’t be hard

It seems, in my down days at the moment, that I have become aware of a new foible of mine: I spend far too much time thinking about what is wrong, and not nearly enough time thinking about what is right. 

Why is it easier to moan about what is wrong in our lives than it is to celebrate what is good? 

I have caught myself talking entirely negatively about my university course, my job, myself, my home life, my family…and painting a picture of entire negativity when actually, things are going very well in my life. Is it the case that I’m just not happy with anything? Or is it that old habits die hard? 

We are surrounded by negativity in the media, by others and in our own heads and when this is the whole encompassing image around us, it’s not easy to break the mould and be positive. 

Someone once told me that you have in excess of 60,000 thoughts a day…how many of mine are negative, destructive and self deprecating? Currently, well over half. This is simply not conducive to a healthy mind and it is most certainly not going to make me feel better about my life. 

Some of the thoughts I have been having recently include: am I doing the right course; am I following the right path; am I living life to the full; am I proud of myself; I feel ugly; I feel fat; I’m always lethargic; am I better than this? 

I can see simply from writing those few thoughts down how unhealthy this is. It simply cannot go on, as I’m never going to keep myself in a happy place if I play out old habits that feed my depression. These thoughts feed my anxiety and my low self worth and spur on anxiety attacks, as well as regret and unhappiness. I don’t want to go back to the person I once was, and I have fought so hard not to go back there.

Instead of 60,000 negative thoughts, I’m going to try my best to see the best in everything, or if not the best, then to consider what is the positive, what the lesson is, and how I can overcome any issues. 

Over the next 5 days I’m going to be trialling my new positivity on my blog, along with you guys, and I would love to hear your negative habits that you’re trying to break out of. 

Everything in life starts with a thought, and mine are going to be positive. How about yours? 

Out of touch

The last few weeks I’ve felt a little as if I have been floating on a cloud, watching everyone else live their lives and being envious of how rooted they remain to life as a whole, to the earth…if that even makes any sense.

I find myself happiest when I am aware of my surroundings, really feeling at one with who I am, where I am, who I am with and what I am doing. Recently however, I’ve let all of these details pass me by, and just gone along with life, never stopping to smell the roses and feeling a little as if I’m in a dream world. I don’t feel rooted, I don’t feel grounded and time is passing me by all the while.

I am missing the enjoyment, I’m missing the feeling, I’m missing the reality. I’m totally out of touch.

I tune out when someone is speaking to me.

I struggle with focussing.

I feel like I’m not really here.

I feel as if none of this is real, none of it is truly happening.

I struggle to remember anything.

Do you ever feel this way?

This is perhaps why I have been experiencing anxiety again, because I’m not in touch with life, I’m living too much in my own head, and not enough in the real world. I’ve been allowing myself to slip back into old habits, habits of floating on my anxiety cloud, habits of the past. I have been allowing my past to take over yet again.

I read this advice the other day and I’ve been trying so hard to focus upon it…

2016-02-28 22.26.59

I’m definitely going to try this grounding technique, but I’ve also come up with some ideas of my own to stop me from living in my head, and help me to live in the real world:

  • Press my thumb and my fore finger together and allow myself to feel my own hands and that they are real
  • Breathe slowly and deeply
  • Hold and squeeze an object
  • Stroke my dog
  • Focus on someone’s voice around me
  • Stand on the ground and focus on the feeling beneath me
  • Remind myself that I am real, I am here
  • Talk about how I’m feeling and be honest about it
  • Write down 5 things I can see
  • Close my eyes and note 5 things I can hear and smell
  • Look at myself in the mirror and note what I can see – I am real
  • Exercise
  • Look at photographs of things I have done
  • Distract myself
  • Look out of the window and appreciate the world around me

It’s so important to live in the now, to not let the past and previous habits take over my life, and to recognise when I need grounding. I want to feel real, to enjoy real experiences, to indulge in real conversations, to develop real friendships and relationships and to remember all of it. I want to throw myself into life and not be bound by the chains of my past.

3 days of demons: day 3

Sorry for the delay in my 3rd post. There has been two major reasons for said delay:

1) I’ve been ridiculously busy with uni, assignments, working 7 days a week, organising a fundraising event and trying to have some sort of social life

2) this post has been the hardest to write about

Day 3 of my demons is all about my struggles to form long lasting and meaningful relationships. Welcome to my darkest demon, running deep into the pit of who I am, and through my veins. Welcome to something I never talk about, and something I would still rather keep to myself. But welcome, to my healing.

I have had problems with forming relationships with people for years, namely since my abusive stepfather came into my life when I was 8 years old. As a result of his volatile nature, manic depression, anger and alcoholism, I was forced to believe that relationships with men were something that should be feared. Hard wired into my childlike brain (subconsciously I might add) was that men were dangerous, and had the potential to destroy me. I truly had a fear of interaction with men on any level.

  • Growing up, I had many male friends and I enjoyed their company but it never went beyond that, neither did I ever socialise beyond the school gates.
  • I was too anxious and couldn’t meet up with any males outside of school
  • Social fears around groups with males within them prevented me from getting involved in many parties, gatherings and events.

Why do I have fears of men?

  • Fear of their strength
  • Fear of their power
  • Fear of the past repeating itself

When you have had a negative male figure in your life who has used their strength and power for abuse, it is so hard to then let that image of men be positive in your mind, and to remember that not every man will use the strength that they have.

Is it just men that I struggle to trust? No. My fears in relationships also, to a lesser extent, related to friendships, family interactions and professional ties. This shows itself in that I:

  • Am too giving in friendships
  • Am too eager to be liked
  • Managed to attract negative people – those who didn’t really value my friendship
  • Fear being talked about in a negative way
  • I do not like to let people too close to me – to see the cracks within myself
  • I do not like to be analysed
  • I like to be given space and to be alone.

I have a problem with presenting myself whole heartedly to anyone in the world, I guess I don’t want them to see me for who I really am. I guess I’m scared of judgement, of failure, and of learning of the negatives about myself.

I have grown in many ways in my relationships, however there are still things that hold me back. Ostensibly, I have anxieties and fears in creating relationships and friendships alike, and this all stems from my abusive past, fear of being judged or hurt, a lack of self belief, and needing to feel accepted at all times. Most importantly, I have a severe fear of intimacy.

I need to attack each issue one by one.

First…anxiety within my intimate relationships. I read an article on anxiety in relationships that I would like to share with you:

How to Deal with Relationship Anxiety

Taken from pyschalive.org

relationship anxietyRelationships can be one of the most pleasurable things on the planet… but they can also be a breeding ground for anxious thoughts and feelings. Relationship anxiety can arise at pretty much any stage of courtship. For many single people, just the thought of being in a relationship can stir up stress. If and when people do start dating, the early stages can present them with endless worries: “Does he/she really like me?” “Will this work out?” “How serious is this?” Unfortunately, these worries don’t tend to subside in the later stages of a romantic union. In fact, as things get closer between a couple, anxiety can get even more intense. Thoughts come flooding in like: “Can this last?” “Do I really like him/her?” “Should we slow down?” “Am I really ready for this kind of commitment?” “Is he/she losing interest?”

All this worrying about our relationships can make us feel pretty alone. It can lead us to create distance between ourselves and our partner. At its worst, our anxiety can even push us to give up on love altogether. Learning more about the causes and effects of relationship anxiety can help us to identify the negative thinking and actions that can sabotage our love lives. How can we keep our anxiety in check and allow ourselves to be vulnerable to someone we love?

What Causes Relationship Anxiety?

Put simply, falling in love challenges us in numerous ways we don’t expect. The more we value someone else, the more we stand to lose. On many levels, both conscious and unconscious, we become scared of being hurt. To a certain degree, we all possess a fear of intimacy. Ironically, this fear often arises when we are getting exactly what we want, when we’re experiencing love as we never have or being treated in ways that are unfamiliar.

As we get into a relationship, it isn’t just the things that go on between us and our partner that make us anxious.; it’s the things we tell ourselves about what’s going on. The “critical inner voice” is a term used to describe the mean coach we all have in our heads that criticizes us, feeds us bad advice and fuels our fear of intimacy. It’s the one that tells us:

“You’re too ugly/fat/boring to keep his/her interest.”

“You’ll never meet anyone, so why even try?”

“You can’t trust him. He’s looking for someone better.”

“She doesn’t really love you. Get out before you get hurt.”

This critical inner voice makes us turn against ourselves and the people close to us. It can promote hostile, paranoid and suspicious thinking that lowers our self-esteem and drives unhealthy levels of distrust, defensiveness, jealousy and anxiety. Basically, it feeds us a consistent stream of thoughts that undermine our happiness and make us worry about our relationship, rather than just enjoying it.

When we get in our heads, focusing on these worried thoughts, we become incredibly distracted from real relating with our partner. We may start to act out in destructive ways, making nasty comments or becoming childish or parental toward our significant other. For example, imagine your partner stays at work late one night. Sitting home alone, your inner critic starts telling you, “Where is she? Can you really believe her? She probably prefers being away from you. She’s trying to avoid you. She doesn’t even love you anymore.” These thoughts can snowball in your mind until, by the time your partner gets home, you’re feeling insecure, furious or paranoid. You may act angry or cold, which then sets your partner off to feel frustrated and defensive. Pretty soon, you’ve completely shifted the dynamic between you. Instead of enjoying the time you have together, you may waste an entire night feeling withdrawn and upset with each other. You’ve now effectively forced the distance you initially feared. The culprit behind this self-fulfilling prophecy isn’t the situation itself. It’s that critical inner voice that colored your thinking, distorted your perceptions, and ultimately, led you down a destructive path.

When it comes to all of the things we worry ourselves about in relationships, we are much more resilient than we think. In truth, we can handle the hurts and rejections that we so fear. We can experience pain, and eventually, heal. However, our critical inner voice tends to terrorize and catastrophize reality. It can rouse serious spells of anxiety about dynamics that don’t exist and threats that aren’t even tangible. Even when there are real things going on, someone breaks up with us or feels an interest in someone else, our critical inner voice will tear us apart in ways we don’t deserve. It will completely distort reality and undermine our own strength and resilience. It’s that cynical roommate that always gives bad advice. “You can’t survive this. Just put your guard up and never be vulnerable to anyone else.”

The defenses we form and critical voices we hear are based on our own unique experiences and adaptations. When we feel anxious or insecure, some of us have a tendency to become clingy and desperate in our actions. We may feel possessive or controlling toward our partner in response. Conversely, some of us will feel easily intruded on in our relationships. We may retreat from our partners, detach from our feelings of desire. We may act out by being aloof, distant or guarded. These patterns of relating can come from our early attachment styles. Our attachment pattern is established in our childhood attachments and continues to function as a working model for relationships in adulthood. It influences how each of us reacts to our needs and how we go about getting them met. Different attachment styles can lead us to experience different levels of relationship anxiety.

What Thoughts Perpetuate Relationship Anxiety?

The specific critical inner voices we have about ourselves, our partner and relationships are formed out of early attitudes we were exposed to in our family or in society at large. Sexual stereotypes as well as attitudes that our influential caretakers had toward themselves and others can infiltrate our point of view and shade our current perceptions. While, everyone’s inner critic is different, some common critical inner voices include:

Critical Inner Voices about the Relationship

  • People just wind up getting hurt.
  • Relationships never work out.

Voices about Your Partner

  • Men are so insensitive, unreliable, selfish.
  • Women are so fragile, needy, indirect.
  • He only cares about being with his friends.
  • Why get so excited? What’s so great about her anyway?
  • He’s probably cheating on you.
  • You can’t trust her.
  • He just can’t get anything right.

Voices about Yourself

  • You’re never going to find another person who understands you.
  • Don’t get too hooked on her.
  • He doesn’t really care about you.
  • She is too good for you.
  • You’ve got to keep him interested.
  • You’re better off on your own.
  • As soon as she gets to know you, she will reject you.
  • You’ve got to be in control.
  • It’s your fault if he gets upset.
  • Don’t be too vulnerable or you’ll just wind up getting hurt.

How Does Relationship Anxiety Affect Us?

As we shed light into our past, we quickly realize there are many early influences that have shaped our attachment pattern, our psychological defenses and our critical inner voice. All of these factors contribute to our relationship anxiety and can lead us to sabotage our love lives in many ways. Listening to our inner critic and giving in to this anxiety can result in the following actions:

  • Cling – When we feel anxious, our tendency may be to act desperate toward our partner. We may stop feeling like the independent, strong people we were when we entered the relationship. As a result, we may find ourselves falling apart easily, acting jealous or insecure or no longer engaging in independent activities.
  • Control – When we feel threatened, we may attempt to dominate or control our partner. We may set rules about what they can and can’t do just to alleviate our own feelings of insecurity or anxiousness. This behavior can alienate our partner and breed resentment.
  • Reject – If we feel worried about our relationship, one defense we may turn to is aloofness. We may become cold or rejecting to protect ourselves or to beat our partner to the punch. These actions can be subtle or overt, yet it is almost always a sure way to force distance or to stir up insecurity in our partner.
  • Withhold – Sometimes, as opposed to explicit rejection, we tend to withhold from our partner when we feel anxious or afraid. Perhaps things have gotten close, and we feel stirred up, so we retreat. We hold back little affections or give up on some aspect of our relationship altogether. Withholding may seem like a passive act, but it is one of the quietest killers of passion and attraction in a relationship.
  • Punish – Sometimes, our response to our anxiety is more aggressive, and we actually punish, taking our feelings out on our partner. We may yell and scream or give our partner the cold shoulder. It’s important to pay attention to how much our actions are a response to our partner and how much are they a response to our critical inner voice.
  • Retreat – When we feel scared in a relationship, we may give up real acts of love and intimacy and retreat into a “fantasy bond.” A fantasy bond is an illusion of connection that replaces real acts of love. In this state of fantasy, we focus on form over substance. We may stay in the relationship to feel secure but give up on the vital parts of relating. In a fantasy bond, we often engage in many of the destructive behaviors mentioned above as a means to create distance and defend ourselves against the anxiety that naturally comes with feeling free and in love. Learn more about the fantasy bond here.

How Can I Overcome Relationship Anxiety?

In order to overcome, relationship anxiety, we must shift our focus inward. We have to look at what’s going on inside us, separate from our partner or the relationship. What critical inner voices are exacerbating our fears? What defenses do we possess that could be creating distance? This process of self-discovery can be a vital step in understanding the feelings that drive our behavior, and ultimately, shape our relationship. By looking into our past, we can gain better insight into where these feelings come from. What caused us to feel insecure or turned on ourselves in relation to love?

In my intimate relationship, I also manifest my lack of self esteem. My hatred for my physical self inevitably affects every part of this relationship. I need to learn to love myself, practice my loving exercises, eat healthily and exercise, and learn to be truly grateful for the skin I am in. I must not fear men – their strength is a positive, and will never be used against me. Most of all, I need to remember that I will never let myself be surrounded by anyone who remotely resembles my step dad ever again. I will not relive my past. And I must move beyond it now.

Friendships: Although I have yet to figure out how to truly tackle problems friendships, trust and self esteem issues for good, I am on the way to improving them. I have long-standing friendships, I let people go when they no longer add positivity to my life.

I need to remember that:

  • Other people’s opinion and judgements of me are not reflective of who I really am, nor do they take anything away from me
  • If I don’t like something that someone has analysed about me, I need to consider whether it is true, and whether it is something I am proud of – if not, I need to change it
  • I need to choose people in my life who are positive and easy going and do not give me anxiety
  • I need to be surrounded by supportive people
  • I do actually enjoy the company of others, bouncing off of them and learning about them
  • Appreciate all those already in my life
  • I need to let go of the reigns more, breathe and stop panicking
  • I need to allow myself to just enjoy the company of others

These are my personal aims at the moment – working and building upon healthy, happy relationships on all levels with great, happy, positive people. Have you had any similar experiences? Please share them with me, I would love to have your advice.

3 Days of Demons: Day 2

Thank you to all that read my last post, in my first part of my trilogy: 3 days of demons! It’s no Lord of the rings, but it’s real, it’s true, and it’s me baring my soul and opening up in order to move past my problems and learn. 

Day 2’s post is a demon that I have posted about before, but it is something that I have a real ongoing struggle with and have yet to overcome. My 2nd demon is money! 

When I think about money, I think about a red devil pinching 20’s from my purse, or the shop declining my card or being minus in my account. I never associate money with positive things, and I never allow myself to have it. 

My problem with money started way back when I was a child, but in a totally different way…I was constantly hoarding and saving. Why? To have something for my own, that nobody else could have or take away from me. I suppose in the back of my mind I felt in control of something, and that I could leave my violent home at the drop of a hat if necessary. I had squirrelled away hundreds and hundreds of pounds in my wardrobe. Oh how I wish I had this habit now! 

Now, my habits include: blowing money, spending it when I know I shouldn’t, a heavy addiction to “things”, buying people presents or “things” in order to gain what I hope to be more valid friendships, never being able to say no to spending, having no limits. 

Why do I have such a problem with money? 

  •  No control as a child, needing something to control and have for my own. 
  • Now with the spending – my low opinion of myself meaning I don’t believe I deserve to save and to have and keep? 
  • The constant need to be liked and to have material things in order to gain that. 
  • To meet other people in their material possessions and to stop my jealousy. 
  • To buy clothes and makeup to feel nice about myself on the outside when I don’t feel good on the inside. 

This results in no savings for my future. Or for emergencies, or for a rainy day. 

What do I need to do to defeat my money demons?

  • Open a savings account that I do not have constant access to and cannot dip in to whenever I like. 
  • Treat myself less often, but still remember to allow myself to live and enjoy things. 
  • Remind myself that I am worthy and deserving to have and to save money, and that I deserve a future that this money can help me with
  • Work on my sense of worthiness and deservability 
  • Spend time making my internal me feel good, and not feeling the need t spend so much money making the external me paint a different image. 
  • Perhaps get someone else to be in control of my finances for a while – this could help me to see how much money I waste from week to week on things I don’t need. 
  • Learn the power of no. Even internally within my head – do I need this? NO. Should I spend my money on this? NO 

One positive? Despite it still being spent, in the last year or so I have focused on spending money on experiences rather than material things. I rarely buy new clothes, instead I spend my cash on holidays, memory making activities and weekends away. Whilst I am still spending money and not saving which is something I really need to focus on, I’m finally living my life! The girl who lived in a bubble and who had no new experiences, or any experiences at all really, has been exploring places, relaxing on beaches in Europe, and planning exciting trips to Thailand, Greece and Costa Rica. 

Yes, I may not be a millionaire, I may not have money to spare in fact, but I am choosing now to spend my money on things that regain back my life that I lost in so many years of being too afraid to step outside my bedroom in fear of what life may throw at me. And if I can save along side that? Well then that’s a balance I cannot wait to have.