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.

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.

 

3 Days of Demons: Day 1

Happy Tuesday everybody. I’ve had a busy couple of weeks, with 14 days work and university making me feel extremely tired and out of touch with everyone in my life. With things that have been going on, I feel like I’m learning more about myself everyday, and I have decided to do another series of posts, much like my “5 ways” posts a few months ago.
Over the next 3 posts I will be opening up my scrutiny of myself and my behaviours and trying to get to grips with what is going on in my subconscious. In my “3 days of demons” posts, I will be choosing a different behaviour or thought process everyday, as I try and decipher why I behave in certain ways and how I can potentially grow to change them.
It’s, in my experience, vital to be able to accept and understand your subconscious behaviours and thought processes if you stand any chance of changing them and growing. And that’s what I want to do.

I no longer want to be stuck in old patterns and to be confined by the walls of my past. And this is my attempt to do so.
So welcome to my 3 days of demons posts, and welcome inside my brain.

I would love to hear back from you all, and to try and help you understand your demons and thought processes that you would like to change.

3 days of demons day 1: My own worst enemy.

I am my own worst enemy.

How do I know this?

  • I set ridiculously high expectations for myself, and then proceed to beat myself up and punish myself when I don’t reach them. For example, in my current degree, I want to achieve 100% on every piece of work I submit. Now for a degree, with a broad range of subjects covered and assignments that are open to interpretation, this is not always attainable. With every piece of work I submit I do work my hardest, I set aside a lot of time to complete them and I really do strive for the best. In one of my most recent pieces based on the anatomy and physiology of a dog, I got 68%. This is a pass..but not a distinction (It is 2% away in fact). And in my mind I had failed. I felt really disappointed in myself, and like a failure as I had set an expectation that I can be gaining the best of the best all the time.
  • I compare myself to others far too often – why don’t I go on as many holidays as they do? Why don’t I look like that? Why can’t I be good at that? Why can’t I have those clothes? Again, at university recently we had to sit an exam. When I got my results back I was thrilled to gain 94%…until I heard that someone else in the group got 99%. I was really upset with myself. At what stage is it acceptable to be upset with 94%??
  • I get irritable and frustrated and become aware that I need to be alone to wait it out…but I still surround myself with people I love and end up snapping at them.
  • I have far too much belief and hope that others will behave the way I would, and look to myself as the reason why they are not. I punish myself and question my own morals when people let me down. I don’t believe in who I am.
  • I often convince myself I am ugly, unattractive, over weight and that I hate my body – yet I do nothing to fix this.
  • I am often in fear of fear itself. I can be more than confident about going to an event, or doing something with my family etc, until I remember that I’m not a normal person in a normal brain. That negative voice in my head steps to centre stage and reminds me what a panic attack feels like, and I live in fear of having another one.

These are just a few examples of how I am, or can be, my own worst enemy. Particularly the events related to my degree have recently made me question why I beat myself up so often and am so quick to punish myself for not fulfilling the vision of perfection that I seem to want to be.

How can I fix this?

I definitely need to understand why I seek perfection all the time, perhaps due to the fact that I wanted attention from my parents at a younger age and as I was never sporty I needed to gain their acceptance through my grades and being perfectly behaved. I need to remind myself that others cannot be controlled and I am not responsible for their behaviour – if somebody upsets me or acts in a negative way towards me, this does not take away from me as a person, and it doesn’t change that I am a good person. I need to continually appreciate what I have in my own life, instead of looking at the things that others have, and wanting the things that I don’t need or that aren’t good for me, in the face of needing to be this perfect vision again. I need to learn that “stuff” does not define me. What others have does not mean they are happy. I do not need to be like anyone else, I just need to be me!

I need to reassure myself when I look in the mirror that I am beautiful, because I am me. And I shouldn’t need anyone else to tell me that in order for me to believe it. I shouldn’t seek acceptance for the way I look from anyone else other than the mirror. I should be happy that I have a body that works and functions, as many people don’t. I also need to remind myself that 9.5 stone is not overweight. Whilst I am bigger than I’ve ever been before, that is because I am in a good place with my eating disorders and manage to eat in 9.9 out of 10 situations now. My eating habits are better because I am happier and surely thats more important than a few extra pounds around the stomach?! And if I really want to make a change, I need to stop making excuses and get in the gym, get out in the fresh air or on my bike and get that weight off me!!

I need to spend more time reaffirming the positive voice in my head, and being able to quieten the negative one, before she takes her place in the drivers seat. I need to continue to choose to live a life of happiness and not slip back into old habits because they feel like comfortable old clothes, because the thing is they are not beneficial to me, and they lead me to unhappiness.I need to allow myself to be alone, and to take a breath before I snap at those around me who just want to show me love. I need to remember that at the end of the day, there is only me, I am the only person I can truly rely on, and therefore that person should be the best that she can be, not perfect, not a vision of a billboard or a perfectionist society, but the truest form of “me” that I can be, and someone who is truly happy in their own skin. That’s all I need. I need to support myself, congratulate myself on my successes and appreciate that a success is not defined by 100% perfectionism, but instead it is continuing to try, to use resources, to test yourself and to be better than the person I was yesterday.

As of today, I am my own best friend. Goodbye to enemies.

 

How to love someone who has depression 

“How to love someone who has depression” – There are a lot of posts going around about how to love someone who has depression and the allowances you have to make; the understanding you have to show, the hardships you have to go through etc. I have read some wonderful posts about how to be kind, how to be patient and how to cope when you love someone who possibly can’t show you love back.

Whilst I fully support that those who love us need some pep-talking sometimes about how to deal with the highs and the lows, I have’t read many posts about the real way to love someone who has depression. You. Yourself. You need to love yourself through your depression and all it throws at you. It’s about how you get to letting someone love you through your depression. You can’t let anyone in if you don’t love yourself, and if you’re consumed with your depression. And you can’t love anyone else properly if you don’t love number one. So this post isn’t about loving anyone else with depression. It’s about how to make it easier for yourself to love, and for others to love you: by taking care of number one.

It is so easy to punish yourself throughout depression and mental illness. Your brain is in a space that you don’t want it to be, you feel negative, you feel trapped and this opens itself up to self loathing. When you have no respect or love for yourself, you cannot let anyone else in, whether family, friends or all other loving relationships. When I was at my lowest point, I pushed away all those people who loved me. I wanted to be alone, I wanted to wallow, I didn’t feel worthy of being around them.

Now, I love being in the company of others. I love to laugh and I love to create memories. I can tell however, when I am in a darker place, or have dipped in terms of my mood and mental state, as I just want to be alone again. I want to spend time with myself, thinking or just being quiet. Don’t get me wrong, me time is great, however constant alone time and pushing away those that love you the most is not great. It is damaging to all involved. And this is why I felt it important to share my thoughts on how to love yourself through depression, as this is what builds the foundations for a positive relationship with not only yourself, but with others as well, in whatever calibre.

The common reasons why you don’t love yourself when you have depression… 

* You feel worthless

* You have low self esteem

* You don’t feel deserving

* You don’t see your own success

* You feel low

* You feel sad

* Your world has turned upside down

 

Reasons you should love yourself through your depression…

* If you broke your leg you wouldn’t hate yourself, you would nurse yourself, rest and make sure you were well rested. Depression is no less real than a broken bone….

* Self love improves your self esteem which can improve your mood

* Knowing you have your own back can increase your feeling of positivity and reduce anxiety

* You will feel more confident

* You are worth it

* You are enough, never believe anything different

* Being happy feels so much better

* Depression is horrendous and draining and evil and poisonous, give yourself a break and respect how much you’re dealing with. This can give you self respect and self love. You’re amazing.

* Look how much you cope with everyday

* Look at all your successes

* There are people who love you and need you

* You have skills that are unique to the world

 

Ways you can show self love through your depression…

* Going to therapy

*Write a list of all the things you love about yourself

*Believe in yourself

*Write a list of goals you want to achieve

* Reading a book

* You time

* Relaxation

* Writing a diary

* Allowing yourself to feel whatever it is you need to feel, and then let go

* Meditation

* Exercise

* Spending time with friends

* Breathing

I have comprised a list of 10 things to remember to do when loving YOURSELF through your depression.

  1. Remember to let go – When you feel sad, lonely, emotional, tearful, angry, or any other plethora of emotions, let yourself feel them. And I mean really feel them. If you want to scream, go to the top of a rooftop or a cliff and scream, or scream into your pillow. If you want to cry, let it all go until there are no tears left. The important thing is to let go of things that are holding you back. Don’t bear grudges, don’t hold on to resentment and don’t wallow in your emotions. If you let them go you can move on, and the weight of your shoulders will feel make you feel 10 times lighter.
  2. Remember to give yourself a break -You’re fighting a battle every minute of every day which uses up reserves in your body that you didn’t even know were there. you’re arguing with yourself in your head with every decision you make.You’re going to therapy and laying yourself bare. You’re crying onto the shoulder of a loved on. Whatever state you’re in, you’re fighting. And that deserves a pat on the back. Give yourself a break…you’re trying your best and every positive step is a step further from the person you used to be.
  3. Remember it’s ok not to be ok – Jessie J said it herself. We are all human, we are all trying to find our way. We won’t always get it right. We won’t always know which way to turn. And this is ok. It doesn’t make you a failure, it makes you just like the rest of us.
  4. Remember to be thankful for the good things – When I’m feeling particularly down, and trying to think of reasons why I am still fighting and trying not to lose my cool, I write a list, or comprise a mental note, of all the good things in my life. This is a constant reminder that not everything is negative, and not everything is bad. There are things worth fighting for.
  5. Remember to be patient with yourself – you’re learning new ways to grow and change and heal everyday. Be patient with yourself as you find out which ones work for you. There will be some days where its 2 steps forward and 3 steps back – but breathe in and out, and be patient for the days where it’s only forward. They will come. Nobody expects you to be “fixed” in a record time.
  6. Remember to talk about how you’re feeling – whether with a therapist, a friend, your mother, a boyfriend, it is so important to talk through what is going through your head. I cannot express how much talking through things and getting an insight into how others reason with themselves, as well as analysing how I behave together, has taught me to be a better person. Sometimes I have heard things I really haven’t wanted to hear – although that probably only means that it is true! It’s really helped me to grow and heal and get better, by simply getting my feelings out there. You know what they say, a problem shared is a problem halved.
  7. Remember that there is a community of people waiting to support, advise and listen to you – Throughout my younger days of dealing with depression, I wish I had known that there were communities of people who would understand me, listen to me moan and cry, share their stories with me, and generally make me feel more human and less like a monster in my own brain. For me, today, this community is my wordpress community, or family. I love reading blogs that inspire me, often I feel that some of you have taken the words right out of my mouth. When I feel down, this is the place I come to feel less alone. It is wonderful to be able to share, to not be judged and to have advice and understanding from those people who are dealing with their demons right alongside you.
  8. Remember to get outside into the fresh air – fresh air and exercise of some sort releases endorphins, makes you feel good, gives you space to breathe, gives you silence, gives you clarity. Fresh air can help you to breathe in positivity and breathe out negativity.
  9. Remember to focus on self-care – Focus on yourself, focus on taking care of your mind, body and spirit. Remember to meditate, to exercise, to pamper yourself. Often, I have found when I have been at my lowest of low, my personal hygiene has gone down the pan (disgusting I know), and I have been less likely to shower everyday, less likely to wash my makeup off or wash my hair, less likely to bother with looking presentable or dressing up to make myself feel good. If you pamper yourself, and feel good on the outside, it will help to make those low days feel that bit better. And then when you are feeling good on the inside, it will resonate even louder all the way out for all to see. Self care is of great importance, it includes me time, relaxing, reading a book, taking a candle lit bath, meditating, and doing whatever it is that you love.
  10. Remember to set yourself realistic goals and celebrate when you meet them – at my lowest, my goals included just making it out of the house for 5 minutes, or calling the doctor, or getting out of bed. Now, my goals include exercising, going on holiday, writing, coming up with new ideas etc. Creating goals and having something to look forward to and celebrate is something that really keeps me going. Keeping a diary of all the little goals you set yourself, whether thats a to-do list that you tick off, or an extensive list of little things you achieve in a day or a week, from grocery shopping to climbing a mountain, can help you to see all the things that you are achieving, and to help you feel great about yourself.

I would love to hear your ideas on how to promote self-love and how to love yourself even through the hardest of days.

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

5 ways I try to keep myself from slipping into a depressive state

Welcome to last of my 5 days and 5 ways posts. I hope you have enjoyed them so far. The idea behind the “5 ways…” posts is for me to acknowledge how I am changing and evolving in my life, and beating my issues and mental illnesses. It is all about acknowledging how far I have come, and reminding myself of the things I need to do to keep growing, in the hope that it also resonates with you, who is reading this!

If you haven’t had a chance to read the last 4 days’ posts, I have already discussed eating disorderspanic attacksself confidence and self belief and stopping the worry about what others think. Today’s final topic is a very close one to my heart, as it is probably the biggest thing I still face to this day…

5 ways I try to keep myself from slipping into a depressive state

I had severe depression from the age of 8 up until, probably last year.  I still have depression yes, but it’s control over me is minimal, and I have managed to be almost totally behind the drivers seat when it comes to my moods and low days. My depression was so severe, when at large, that it kept me in bed for 3 months straight, made me physically ill, destroyed friendships and relationships with family, and ultimately, made me want to die. It led me to self-harming, and suicidal thoughts on many occasions. I just didn’t see a way out, and I lived a half life, probably not even that. I was a prisoner in my own mind, hated myself and my life, and could see no way of breaking out of the habits that I had cultured myself for so long.

It has been nothing but an uphill struggle, with various trials of medications, therapists and self-help techniques along the way. What keeps me from slipping back?

  1. Taking my medication – I appreciate that not everybody agrees with medication, or believes that it is the path to choose when dealing with mental illness. Perhaps if I could do it all again, I would choose a different route. I have been taking antidepressants and beta-blockers for anxiety since I was 15 years old. It has taken some tweaking to find the right drug for me, and balancing the dosages, however I am finally at a stage that I can genuinely say my medication helps me.  I notice a difference in my moods if I forget to take it for a couple of days, and some more frequent low moods too. I don’t want to be on my medication forever, and I would love to slowly wean off them over time, however right now, as someone who is finally tasting what happiness is and getting addicted to it, I really don’t want to slip. Therefore, as medication is working for me at this present moment, then I am going to continue taking it regularly.
  2. Reminding myself why I want to live – As someone who knows that it feels like to want to give up on life, to wake up every morning and wish it was over, to hurt yourself yet feel no pain, to just want to die and to think about how you might do it, I know how blessed I am to be far from those thoughts now. I know how exhausting it is to feel so intensely sad that your energy to even breathe is depleted. I know what it is like to confine yourself to 4 walls. I know what it feels like to want people around you, but want to be alone even more. I know what it feels like to want to ask for help, but you can’t find the words, and you simply don’t believe anything will help. I know what it feels like to not have a purpose on this earth. I know what all of this feels like, and I never ever want it to become my reality again. I have fought so hard to get to a place of stability and I never want to feel as if my life is worthless again. To help myself from feeling that low again, I remind myself of why I choose to live: because I love the fresh air and nature, my dog, my friends and family, because I love to learn and gather knowledge, because I love food, and cooking and my kittens. I recently blogged about the reasons that I want to live: Reasons I choose life.  Hopefully, that blog post will explain in more detail how important it is to remember why you want to live!
  3. Doing things I love – when you feel low, you don’t enjoy doing anything, or seeing anyone.  The hardest thing is to break out of a pattern like that, and indulge in your favourite hobby or interest, and spend some time doing what you love, with who you love, or just spending time alone with yourself.  I love to read, cook, walk my dog, laugh with friends, spend time with my god daughter, explore Cornwall, eat, working at the Vets and I’m also very good at shopping! Doing the things I love helps to lift my mood, especially when done with people who lift my mood and support me.
  4. Having some alone time – recognising when I need to be alone to just think, and breathe is so so important to my mood. Sometimes I can feel irritable when surrounded by people constantly, as I think anyone can. Allowing myself some me (and my dog) time, allows me to recoup, and to just allow myself the healing time to get back to feeling calm and in control. My favourite alone time, is to just get the dog in the car, and drive where the mood takes us.  I am never happier than when she is running in front of me, wagging her tail, and this is the personal bliss I allow myself regularly; guilt-free me time is my favourite. IMG_1157
  5. Constantly reading blogs, articles, old notes etc – To keep growing and learning and finding new ways to improve my mood and keep myself positive.  I am always up for trying new home self-help techniques, and reading up on how to do so. The internet is a wonderful place for tools and information.  One article I would like to share with you is all about what depression is, what it feels like and how you can make a change: Mood Juice article about Depression. There are also worksheets, hypnotherapy apps, relaxing music apps, guides and blogs that assist me in remaining calm, and help to remind me that I am in a good place, and it can only get better. Moreover, WordPress has become my little agony aunt. I truly have no words for how much this blog has turned my life around. I am able to read the words of like-minded people, and those who have gone through what I have, and I receive comments from wonderful people who support me, and lift me up! That keeps me positive and happy!

I’m still battling the aftermath of the storm that depression brought to my life, and trying to create a calmness that helps me know I am in control of my mood. I want to continue along this path, to feel strong and happy, and able to overcome any adversity that life may throw my way, whilst remaining rooted to the ground and remembering that my life is worth something. Most importantly, I never want to feel worthless and like I want to end my life again.  What I must remember is that I am not my depression, and my depression is not me. It does not define me. It is an illness, and we can all recover from it.

I truly hope you have enjoyed my “5 ways…” posts, and that you have taken something from at least one of them that you can apply to your own life. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for taking the time out of your day to read my blog.

5 ways I have stopped myself from caring so much about what others think of me

Welcome to day 4 of my “5 ways…” posts, in which I have been blogging about 5 ways I have changed, overcome, or improved something in my life. I have already written about eating disorderspanic attacks and worthiness and deservingness and today’s blog addresses a topic that has been particularly relevant in the last couple of months of my life.

Today’s “5 ways…” deals with helping to stop yourself from caring about what others think of you, but also to keep yourself from adversity and bullies, and to stay strong and resilient to taunts:

5 ways I have stopped myself from caring so much about what others think of me

We all know how hard it is to ignore, or rise above the comments of others, and especially when we are dealing with mental illness. Mental illness often provides us with a more sensitive attitude towards the comments of others, as well as confidence and anxiety issues, and low self-esteem. With all of this going on in our heads, of course it is difficult to forget comments with a sting in the tail.

In my life recently, I have been dealing with work-place bullies, a situation made worse by the fact that these two individuals used to be my friends. The adversity I faced due to the comments of these individuals, along with their taunting and pushing for a reaction, caused me to feel extremely anxious, and doubt myself and all that I have worked to achieve in the past decade.  Then I got to thinking, why do these people get to have any affect on me? They shouldn’t.  And so I thought about how I could stop myself from being sensitive to the comments.

  1.  Evaluate what the person means to me – is the person who is making negative comments about the way I look, the way my hair is, my clothes, my hobbies and interests, or my family and friends important to me? Do I respect them? Would I trust them with my secrets? Do they have any hold over me? Do I like them? Do I value their opinion? If the answer to these questions is no, then why do I care what they think of me…I shouldn’t. Of course, it is easier said than done to let the opinions of others just go over your head without second thought, but in general, if I don’t hold this person high in my regard, then their comments should not be important to me.  The other thing to remember is that it is human nature to judge others, whether we like it or not.  We are all guilty of it.  The difference between me and perhaps another, is that I choose to keep negative judgements and opinions to myself, as I know that they will not be helpful to anyone.  The only way a negative criticism is helpful is if it to help the other person, to support them and to constructively aid them to a better resolution.
  2.  Continue working on my self belief and self esteem, and be the best version of me – the thing with bullies is, they are often just jealous people, who are green with envy over what you have, or what you are. Not to assume that all nasty comments come from bullies, but in my experience, this has been the case. Therefore, if the individual is jealous, and I keep working on being the best version of myself that I possibly can (the happiest, most content version for myself, and myself only – not to prove a point), then I’m neither letting them bring me down, nor interfere with my journey, all the while allowing their jealousy to eat them up inside, and not me! Furthermore, it is so important to continue to work on your self-esteem and self-belief. Ways in which I do this, are stated in my previous “5 ways…” post: click here to read. In doing so, you are allowing yourself to be in the best position to ignore, and give no credibility to the comments of others and their beliefs about you.  If you strongly know who you are and what you stand for, right down to your soul, and you believe in yourself, then small-minded comments will never hold much credence…and this is what we want
  3.  Stand up for myself – If someone makes a comment about you that you think is unfair, unjust or uncalled for, why shouldn’t you calmly and rationally assert your ability to stand up for yourself? Nobody should have to be a sitting target. Without sinking to a level of nastiness, question, respond and give yourself the power to defend yourself.
  4.  Walk away/ignore – one of the most powerful things to do in the face of adversity, is to walk away.  What it is vital to remember is that walking away DOES NOT make you weak. Walking away actually makes you the stronger person.  Why? Because you are stronger than the need to retaliate, and sink to the level of others. I also practice the art of ignoring comments that are made to rile me.  For example, when at work a couple of months ago, I was asked “why aren’t you eating? You’re weird. You’re not normal. Why can’t you eat like everybody else?”  I identified this comment as neither caring, nor helpful, and therefore I decided it best to ignore the comment, and not give this person the time of day.  To me, it seemed these questions were asked by someone who did not think before they spoke, and could not fathom the fact that there may be a reason behind my not eating.  By ignoring and not rising to her comments, as well as deciding that this person was not relevant or important in my life, I allowed myself to be unaffected by them. By walking away or ignoring a negative comment, you are allowing yourself to take the upper hand, and to save yourself from participating in a conversation that could potentially be further damaging to your progress.
  5.  Surround myself with supportive and loving friends and family – with loving, supportive and like-minded people (and one specific springer spaniel!) around me, who only comment to build me up, boost my confidence, compliment me, and make me smile or laugh, I am much more able to not worry about the opinions of those who do not add to this bubble of happiness. Neither can they take away from what I do have. It is so important to remain yourself, don’t give credence to criticisms or negative opinions, surround yourself with wonderful people and wonderful things, and build a life based on positivity, confidence and contentment.

Anybody that tells you they don’t care what others say, and don’t listen to criticisms and think on them, may be telling the truth, however they have not always been this way. It is important of course to remain able to distinguish between the comments of those you respect, and whom love and care about you and would only comment to further you growth, from the comments of small-minded, often jealous and immature people who comment to get a reaction, or make themselves feel better.  The first of the two, is what we need in life, and the latter, we have no space for in our minds. That way, bullies will never win, and we will always remain silently, internally victorious…because we are strong, and untouchable.

5 ways I remind myself that I am worthy and deserving

For 5 days, I am uploading posts entitled “5 ways…”. These posts explain the ways in which I am moving forward in my life, and making changes towards a future in which I no longer suffer, or feel fear and sadness.

If you’ve missed the first 2 posts, I have already discussed eating disorders and panic attacksIn today’s post, I will be discussing:

5 ways I remind myself that I am worthy and deserving

In all my life, I have never seen myself as worthy and deserving of pretty much anything. As a result, I have chosen paths in life that will only cause pain, in my social life, personal life, and in simple daily choices, as well as the things I tell myself in my own head. Believing I am worthy and deserving of  anything and everything this life has to offer is one of the first steps to being able to fully heal and live a life of happiness and fulfilment. So why is it so hard to fathom that we deserve all the good in this world? I guess depression gives you a false picture of yourself, low self esteem, and a worthiness rating of -100. This doesn’t mean the belief has any truth behind it of course, but convincing yourself you are not worthless and undeserving when your opinion of yourself is lower than low, is something I have really had to work on.

  1. Saw a therapist – One of the main things I used to discuss with one of the therapists I have seen, one of the ones that have really understood me, is my lack of self esteem and consequently my worthiness and deservingness. When I first started therapy, I didn’t believe that I was worthy of feeling better, I hated myself, and didn’t see why I was worth all the effort and time that others were showing me. I was drowning in insecurities, and, alongside my anxiety and depression, they paralysed me entirely, keeping me from wearing certain clothes, going to certain events etc. Changing the belief that I wasn’t worth it was one of the hardest things to tackle for me, and I still tackle it today.  My therapist told me to spend a lot of time meditating, writing down 50 things I like about myself (which seems quite a lot, but is something I still haven’t completed and something that I add to as and when I think of something else), to exercise and eat right, to spend some time looking in the mirror and telling myself that I was worth it and I loved myself (something that is easier said than done!) and to surround myself with people who only build me up.  Further to this, I read around the subject a lot, and there are some great online free courses which I completed that made me change my way of thinking, and see that I am just as worthy and deserving as anyone else on the planet.
  2. Thought of myself as a baby – My therapist also used some powerful imagery that sticks with me and actually makes me feel very emotional every time I use it to remind myself of my worth.  Imagine yourself as the new born baby you once were, just hours old. Imagine looking down at the baby. Imagine saying to that baby all the things that you think of yourself now. My comments included, “you’re not good enough”, “you’re not strong enough”, “you don’t deserve to be happy”, “you aren’t worth it”. Why are these statements true for a newborn baby? Why would you say these things to another soul? This imagery really resounds with me, as anyone with a heart would say that no, that baby does not deserve those comments and any negativity. The thing is, we all are still those babies…just a little bigger. So if we wouldn’t say it to our younger self, why do we deserve to hear it now? What have we done that is so awful that we don’t have the right to happiness, and to feel worthy and deserving, just like that little baby? The truth is, we have done nothing. We still are worthy of all that we were on the day we were born. It’s so important to remember that.
  3. Questioned the negative beliefs – Following the thought that we are as deserving as we were on the day we came into this world, I got to thinking about challenging all of the negative thoughts that those darn voices in my head insisted on screaming repeatedly at me.  I wanted to question why…Why wasn’t I good enough? What had I done wrong? Why wasn’t I strong enough? What evidence was there for these beliefs?  Why wasn’t I worthy? Why aren’t I deserving? The truth? I couldn’t answer any of these questions with an answer that had any credibility. Doesn’t therefore prove that I am all of the things I have believed I am not for such a long time?
  4.  Ignored the thoughts – Just as I would ignore negative comments from bullies, and outsiders, I focussed upon ignoring and quietening the thoughts inside my head, and trying to forget them.  Yes, it is hard to reverse and ignore the beliefs that you have taught yourself. It is so much more peaceful and serene when you ignore those voices, and when you remind yourself of the baby imagery, and question the beliefs, and spend some time writing 50 qualities you like about yourself, get out into nature and exercise, spend time with people that love you, and doing what you love. It’s another form of distraction, just like when I try and avoid my panic attacks.  If I shut up the thoughts as they develop, and distract myself, then I don’t give the negativity the time of day to flourish.
  5.  Reached for my dreams – When I was feeling particularly low, with no self-esteem or self-belief, hating myself, and believing I wasn’t worthy of any good in the world, I hardly lived. I experienced nothing but the mundane, day to day life that I confined myself to out of fear and anxiety of change. I woke up, went to school or college or work, ate, and went back to sleep. That was that. No excitement, no enjoyment and no memories. I will never get that time back, and that makes me sad.  Since I started working on my self-esteem and my positive thoughts about myself, challenging my past beliefs, and realising that I am worthy and deserving, I have been able to see that in following my dreams, I will be living the life I want to, and the life I should! Believing in myself and my ability to live as I wish, and believing that I should be allowed all the good the world has to offer has allowed me to follow my dream career path of veterinary nursing, go on holiday, book a volunteering experience to Thailand, and perhaps most importantly to write this blog.

Believing in yourself when you have a mental illness is one of the hardest things, and it really does take some practice, and some time and dedication to making sure you see how wonderful you are. It’s not about being cocky, or arrogant, but having a confidence in you, and in your own skin, and the ability to recognise that you are just as deserving of all there is on this planet and beyond, as every other human, animal and alien.  And in believing this, you will see that you are oh so worthy of getting better, and being happy, and laughing, and making memories, and love and warmth and light, and all of those other things that make you feel fuzzy inside.

5 ways I prevent my anxiety from spiralling into a panic attack

As you will know if you’ve been keeping up with my blog, this week I am posting everyday for 5 days. These posts, entitled “5 ways…” are about how I have conquered, changed, or am improving upon, something in my life.

If you didn’t manage to catch it, yesterday’s post was all about eating disorders: 5 ways I have taken steps towards eradicating my eating disorders.

Today’s post covers another sensitive topic, and one that has been extremely prevalent in my life:

5 ways I prevent my anxiety from spiralling into a panic attack

Firstly, I would like to outline a few things…What is a panic attack? NHS UK website describes a panic attack and its effects on the mind and body:

 A panic attack is a rush of intense psychological and physical symptoms. These symptoms of panic can be frightening and happen suddenly, often for no clear reason. Panic attacks usually last between five and 20 minutes, and although it may feel as though you are in serious trouble, they aren’t dangerous and shouldn’t cause any physical harm. It is unlikely you will be admitted to hospital if you have a panic attack.

You may feel an overwhelming sense of fear and a sense of unreality, as if you’re detached from the world around you.

As well as psychological symptoms, you may also experience physical symptoms of panic, such as:

  • a sensation that your heart is beating irregularly (palpitations)
  • sweating
  • trembling
  • shortness of breath (hyperventilation)
  • a choking sensation
  • chest pain
  • feeling sick

The physical symptoms of a panic attack are caused by your body going into “fight or flight” mode in response to something you think is a threat. As your body tries to take in more oxygen your breathing quickens. Your body also releases hormones, such as adrenaline, causing your heart to beat faster and your muscles to tense up.

Upon reading the NHS UK’s explanation of what a panic attack is, accompanied by a non-exhaustive list of crippling symptoms that it can cause an individuals body and mind, it is clear to see how panic attacks can be so frightening.

Panic attacks used to entirely control my life. If I didn’t have pre-panic attack anxiety, the fear of fear itself, or butterflies, I was fully enveloped within the attack, wondering when it was going to end. They have never been predictable or recognisable in a pattern, and often when I think a situation would bring on a panic attack it doesn’t, and I may be surprised by an awful one in the most normal of situations.  Panic attacks themselves, or the fear of them, have affected my ability to do anything and everything. I particularly struggled during my education with exams – this seemed to spark the worst panic attacks I have ever had.  I couldn’t hide them, my lips would seize up, my whole body would shake, and I would be violently sick. Not really a good basis for which to sit an important exam paper.

What is important to remember is that panic attacks are petrifying and paralysing, and whilst they can feel that way, they are not going to kill you.  If you can get in control of your breathing, find techniques that help you personally, and try and override your anxious thoughts, you should be able to stop them in their tracks, or at least ease them. Luckily, of recent, I have been able to get my anxiety under control, and whilst I still upon occasion feel anxious or fearful of a situation, I am generally able to prevent a panic attack before it arises.  How have I done this?

  1.  Living in the present – I went to see a therapist regarding my panic attacks, in fact just one of many, and she said a few things that really stuck with me.  One of them was to live in the moment.  If you think about it, when you are anxious, you are living in both the past and the future. Why? You’re in the past due to the fact that you are reliving old patterns of behaviour and allowing your memories of how you have behaved in anxiety inducing situations to control your current behaviour.  You are in the future because you are focussing on the “what if”, and worrying about what could or might happen that means you have to be on your guard.  If in fact you live in the present, you can’t be anxious at all because you’re too busy focussing on the fact that you are fine, in control and in the present moment you are coping.
  2.  Not listening to the voices in my head – the voices in my head have been both my best friend and my worst enemy at different times in my life.  When I succumb to a panic attack, the voices are allowed to scream red alert about all the things that could and might happen, to inform me of all the dangers, to wind me up, to taunt me, to embarrass me, and to make me feel ashamed. One of the most important, but difficult, ways in which i have prevented recent anxieties from turning into panic attacks is to quieten the voices in my head.  This is difficult yes, but once mastered, you are no longer a victim of your own bullying. You are not weak, you are not different, you should not be punished by your own self for having a mental illness. Shut those thoughts up! When my brain tries to interfere, I…
  3. Distract myself – being able to distract yourself from your negative thoughts is so important, but also to focus on something else, anything else, to distract yourself from the anxiety itself.  For example, when I was anxious about flying off on holiday last month, every time I thought about it, I read my book, or watched a TV programme, or engaged in a conversation about something entirely different.  The distraction really does help in changing your thoughts and therefore the focus is much less on the anxiety provoking situation.
  4. Using homeopathic/alternative therapies – I have been using a variety of alternative relaxation techniques for a number of years to try and get on top of my anxieties for the past few years.  As anxiety works up your whole body, makes it rigid and as a result I often get a lot of muscular pain. To relax my muscles I get regular massages, and also have recently tried cupping (if you don’t mind the bruising for a while!) and acupuncture. Acupuncture is also a renowned alternative therapy for helping with anxiety and depression.  Furthermore, whilst on prescribed medication for anxiety, I have been using a herbal remedy made by Bach. They have many different essences for different things, however I use Aspen.  With this, 2-3 drops placed under the tongue or in a glass of water always help me to feel more in control and less anxious. Relaxation at home also helps: long warm baths, reading books and good sleep hygiene routine, as well as lots of “you time”. All of these contribute to helping me feel more in control of my anxiety and therefore less likely to succumb to a panic attack.
  5. Becoming my own best friend – a therapist I once saw (again, one of the many) told me that one of the most important things in an anxious situation is to remember that you have your own back.  This means that whilst you may be anxious, you feel safe in your own body, know that you have got this, and you can handle this. Being there for yourself, and not relying on others or external factors to “save you” allow you to become your best friend, and in turn, realise that all you need is your inner strength to overcome any situation.  This is still something I am working on, however when in an anxiety provoking situation I am getting better at reminding myself that I am in control, I have my own back, I can do this just as I have before because I’ve got me myself and I, and that’s all I need.

Panic attacks have been the bane of my life since I was 8 years old, and have controlled my existence right down to the simplest of tasks. I have been at times, unable to go to the supermarket just to pick up a few bits of shopping, have had to leave a restaurant half way through a meal before the full on panic sets in, I have thought I was close to dying, I have been so afraid I thought I couldn’t go on. I don’t feel quite so scared of my own fears and anxiety now, and as I said, I seem to have my panic attacks under enough control that they only occur very, very occasionally now. I feel so very grateful and lucky to not face this everyday.  I have fought to override the voices in my head, live in the moment, and trust myself. And I will continue fighting until that voice of anxiety, doubt and fear in my head is not just quiet, but she no longer exists.