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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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. 

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.

 

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.

Friend or foe? 

Over the last few years of my life I’ve had to learn the hard way that not everybody is who you think they are. Not everybody is as kind and giving as you, and not every person will reflect back the kindness you show them. 

As a person I think I’m fairly transparent. Obviously my deep and darkest secrets or past memories are for myself only, but as a person, I think I’m easy to read, honest, reliable and will do absolutely anything, I mean really go above and beyond, for any of my friends. I’m really interested in humans and relationships and as a result I love to interact, I love to make friends and I always want people to like me (I’m sure everyone feels this way to a degree). 

My approach to creating new friendships is one of pure transparency and willingness. 

I believe myself to be a good hearted person who would never intentionally hurt another, a trusting and trustworthy friend, and someone who will always be at the end of the phone. 

However, as I find myself in another predicament whereby I have had the ultimate “friend rejection”, the dreaded block from Facebook, I sit here and wonder, is it me?! 

A friend who I have known for 5 years and who I considered to be a close friend whom although I didn’t see often, I could always chat to and this month I booked a flight to visit her in Copenhagen. Unfortunately, due to a change in circumstance, I was no longer able to go at this time, and instead of being an understanding friend, I was instead met with the dreaded block on Facebook and no response to my last 7 confused text messages and phone calls trying to understand what had gone wrong. In this situation, whilst it was rather frustrating that I was not able to go to Copenhagen, I don’t believe that warranted the abrupt end to a 5 year friendship based on laughs and trust. I’ve spent days trying to come up with a reasonable explanation in my head and I simply cannot. 
This isn’t the first time that a friend had turned on me either. 

Last year, in my previous workplace, a group of girls, whom I had become friendly with, began to bully me, put me down and in the end pushed me out of my job. Previously to this again, one friend who I had genuinely thought was like a sister to me, turned on me one day, for no apparent reason, and to the total disbelief of all my other friends and colleagues who knew her. This truly broke my heart. 

Now there could be a few things going on here: I could be completely choosing the wrong friends; people could be more odd and unpredictable than I ever gave them credit for; I am incredibly too nice and a pushover, or indeed I am not the person I think I am, and push people away myself, facilitating these odd behaviours.

I do think now that at 23 years of age I have gathered what kind of person I am. And that is not a person who is nasty or who would ever shut out a friend or cut off a friendship without just cause or opportunity for explanation. I judge others on my own virtues, and perhaps this is the mistake I make. Others do not have the same respect and love for friends or cherish friendships as I do. 

I have been very upset and hurt by people I thought were my friends, especially this week over something so petty as to not being able to make a flight out of the country. I have felt truly disheartened and negative about myself, not only because I’ve lost a friend, but because I’ve wondered whether I am unwillingly doing something that upsets people, or else so easy to drop, forget and “block” that these people don’t have space for me in their lives. 

I have spent 3 days feeling emotional on all ends of the spectrum about friendships past, present and future. I have felt like I don’t know my own head, can’t trust my own judgement and perhaps overall don’t know the affect that I , myself, have on others that may lead to their reactions to me. 

I need to learn to accept that not everybody lives to the standards I set myself. 

I need to remember that I have worked for years on becoming the person I want to be and to truly believe and focus on the fact that I am a kind, caring and giving friend who would never treat people the way I have been treated myself. 

I need to learn from other people’s actions.

I need to not jump so fast into new friendships and offer up everything I have to people I barely know.

I need to respect that people are all different and do not all behave in the way I expect them to. 

I need to not lose sight of who i am.

I need to be strong and happy and focuses and content in my own life. 

I need to value and cherish the friendships with those people that truly matter. 

I need to forgive and let go.

I need to not get caught up in analysing too hard. 

I need to give myself a break. 

I need to not let the opinions and behaviours of others allow me to feel insecure or change my positive frame of mind.

I need to remember that people do have dark sides and to try my best to avoid any further situations whereby I may come across them. 

I need to not take everything so personally. Not every fall out is a reflection of me as a person. 

And finally I need to remember that at the end of the day, I am not who other people say I am, I am who I want to be, surrounded by wonderful family and faithful friends…just not everyone makes it for the whole journey! 

You won’t…

You won’t just get over your depression You won’t find yourself feeling better miraculously one morning when you wake up. 

You won’t find a magical cure 
It will take work and dedication and tears and falls and get back ups. It will be peaks and troughs. It will be shit and it will be great. 

But when you come out the end you will be a much more well rounded person. A person who knows what it is like to have been lower than low. A person who understands the deepest parts of them self, and who can truly rely upon yourself. 
You won’t be able to reverse your past, erase the bad memories or get rid of the scars. But you will be fitted with reminders of what was and how far you have come. Everyday you will remember how hard your fought to just live, and that will be empowering. 
There will not be one medication that fixes you, but instead a combination of treatments, relaxation, you time, friends and family, memories etc that help you get back to who you are destined to be. And that’s much more meaningful than popping a magical pill. 
You will feel blessed with the amount of people who reached out a hand to help you in your darkest moments. You’ll remember all the lovely things people said. You’ll treasure the loving texts, the phone calls that stopped your tears, and the conversations that made you smile. And relationships will mean so much more to you. 
You will appreciate life and the world in a way you beer thought you would, noticing beauty that you never thought you would see. You will feel lucky to be on the earth, because for a moment back there you didn’t believe you would make it. You’ve known what it was like to be close to losing your life, and now you appreciate all it means to live. 
You will wake up in the morning knowing you are lucky. You’re lucky to have and be and feel. You’re lucky to be you, depression and all. 
So don’t see the journey as an uphill slog, it’s so much more than that. 

It’s growth. 

It’s self love. 

It’s deservability. 

It’s a roller coaster. 

And you’ll feel wonderful when things start looking up, and so much the better for the journey it took to get you there. 
And you will beat it. Simple as that. 

Its beginning to look a lot like…the time for social anxiety

Christmas is wonderful. And I genuinely mean that. I love the cosy nights in, the mulled wine, the snuggles under the tree, the shopping, the lights, the laughter, the family time, the wintery walks, the trips to see santa with my god daughter…I just love it all.

What I don’t love, is the social anxiety that comes with the season.

The invites to parties, the work christmas do, the drinks at friends houses, all of the festive outings. It can all get a bit overwhelming. Two days before my first proper work christmas party, I’m starting to get those butterflies that I know are telling me I’m anxious. And I really hope I can overcome it.

I have suffered with social anxiety for years and years. This used to manifest itself so terribly that I was physically ill (vomiting, stomach ache, dizzy etc) and tended to just shut myself behind my bedroom door and miss all the fun, in fear of the fear itself. I used to let down the people that I love the most, unable to get the courage to just push myself that little bit further.

I have grown a lot since then, and I have achieved many things socially that tell me I can do anything I want to do now. So why is that niggling fear still at the back of my brain? And why does it persist even now? Why does social anxiety stick around long after you think you’ve gotten over it?

In my opinion, old habits die hard. I lived 22 years within my 99% anxiety focussed brain. And 1 year outside of that percentage has been wonderful yes, but my habitual brain at times directs me to those old habits, wanting me to fall back into patterns of anxiety and seclusion.

How can I avoid that this year?

  • Remind myself how much I want to socialise – I don’t want to miss out, I want to have fun, I want to laugh with my friends and make memories and form strong bonds with people.
  • Be authentically myself – the real me, the truest presentation of myself, is fun-loving, silly, constantly giggling, confident, funny and happy. And this is the person I need to channel.
  • Be present – I need to stop myself from thinking about what could happen, what used to happen, and what I used to be afraid of.
  • Remember how far I’ve come – I must remember that I am not the person I once was
  • Believe in myself
  • Think about all the great things I have accomplished that were much bigger than a Christmas social occasion – who would have ever thought that little old me would have been on 2 holidays this year! I have been living outside my bubble of anxiety, and living the life I want to, I will not go backwards!
  • Remember that anxiety has no hold over me
  • Enjoy myself – allow myself to just have fun and let my hair down
  • Ignore my unhelpful thoughts – “you can’t do this”, “what if you’re sick”, “what if people notice”…these are all old voices in my head that have no control over me now, and have no place in my new life. I will not succumb to these evils anymore.
  • Remember that in my own company and in my own body I am safe – I have got my own back, I will protect myself
  • Act my age – I am 23 years of age and I should be out having fun, I don’t need to spend anymore of my life locked behind a door in fear of fear itself.
  • Allow myself to be happy

I am determined to make this Christmas season my best and most social yet, and not be bound by the fears of my past. I have written a list of all the things I want to do this Christmas, and that includes lots of socialising, fun and laughs with friends, family and my loved ones.

Wishing you all the best, bravest Christmas season to date x

Italian Adventures

One of the biggest things that has happened in my life since my blogging absence, and one of the biggest things I have achieved in many years, is that I went on a city hopper trip to Italy with a friend.

At the beginning of November, I (yes me, that homebird, scaredy cat, at times agoraphobic, anxiety fuelled and change hating individual) hopped on a plane, and saw the beautiful, idyllic sites of 4 major italian cities all in a week!

My friend and I flew from London into Venice, then went on to Florence and Pisa, and ended our journey in Rome.

If you would have asked me a year, or even 6 months ago if I could have achieved this, I would have said no way? What would I have been scared of? Flying, change, being somewhere different, being away from family, the fear of a panic attack, the worry if I could cope, wanting to come home, fear of fear itself, doubting myself, public transport, eating problems…the list is endless. One year ago I simply wouldn’t have put myself in a scenario like this.

This year however, as I step into the life that I have always wanted, I wanted to challenge myself beyond anything I have ever done before.

Here are some snaps of my wonderful time.

Despite having a wonderful time, I found some old demons coming out to play. On a few occasions I found myself feeling very emotional, missing home and mostly, my dog. I reasoned with myself that this was allowed seeing as my dog is coming off her medication and I wanted to be close to her. I think its greatly important to recognise why you’re feeling sad,analyse it, let yourself feel it and then let it go. I allowed myself to feel sad as I knew it was for a justified reason. What really made me feel down in the dumps, was my anxieties around eating seemed to rear they’re ugly head every night. I didn’t eat much in the day, telling myself it was because we were too busy to eat, but actually, if I am really honest with myself, it was me trying to control the one thing I could in a environment that was all new to me. I know this oh too well. And I’ve certainly been there before. So all that beautiful Italian pasta, pizza and ice cream? I barely saw any of it. I practically starved myself for a week. And I’m really disappointed in myself. I wanted to just step outside the norm and really allow myself a good time. After all I’ve been through I wanted to just let go, and yet I still had an old demon lurking in the shadows. Now that I’m home I also seem to have binged a little, and that has upset me too. I’ve put on weight, and I’ve become more unhealthy. I seem to be making up for not eating in Italy that’s for sure. I was starkly reminded that I do still have a problem surrounding food, and one that I really do want to fix as soon as possible. I want to be able to enjoy food, and have a positive relationship with food.

On a positive note, why was I proud of myself?

  • I didn’t have a panic attack
  • I laughed lots
  • I went on lots of public transport and didn’t have a freak out – to be precise, I went on at least 20 buses, 6 trains, 2 metros and 2 planes. As someone who spent my teenage years having panic attacks at the thought of public transport, I was so proud of myself for remaining calm and actually quite enjoying the experience
  • I was able to let go and allow myself to enjoy something for once
  • I’ve started to live life the way I want to, and to do the things that I want to do
  • I surprised myself with how eager I was to see as much and do as much as I could
  • I believed in myself
  • I didn’t make myself sick with nerves
  • I didn’t have a panic attack before flying
  • I made lovely memories, learned a lot of historic information and truly soaked everything in, taking it all in my stride
  • I felt great pride in myself, something I have yet to get used to. I was proud of myself for reaching out of my comfort zone and having the balls to do it!!

All in all, although my trip was only a short one, and only a holiday, it taught me a lot. It taught me I can actually do anything I put my mind to, and I can even enjoy it. I learned that not everything outside my comfort zone has to be laborious and strenuous, that actually, if I let myself go, I can learn, experience, laugh and really get a lot out of a situation. I learned that I have my own back, and on my own I can achieve whatever I want to. I learned that I can overcome my fears. Perhaps most of all, I learned that life is what happens when you’re busy making plans, and I really don’t want life to continue passing me by as I sit on my arse and panic about what could have, would have and should have been. I’m going to be a go-getter, not a fretter!! And I’d say, for just one short week, that was quite a few important lessons for little old me.