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.


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

Letting go of Angry Annie

Before you read this post, it is perhaps a little different than my others. It is a rant, but I hope a coherent one with an important message. It is a plea. It is a polite notice of my thoughts on the world we live in and a truly hopeful attitude that we can change, together, as a society. Thank you.

Throughout my childhood, I have truly been an angry Annie. In fact, I’ve been angry Annie, Adrian and Alice too. I’ve been angry at you, me, him, her, that, this and everything in between.

Why so angry? This is a question with a multi-faceted answer. I was angry about the lack of childhood I had, about the things I couldn’t say that I wanted to, about the things I had to see, about the lack of direction, love and affection from my parents. I was angry about their choices and how they affected me. I was angry that I was suffering and I didn’t know how to help myself and about the things I needed to say but did not have the mental capacity to articulate. I was angry at how angry I was and the way I acted out. I was angry that I wasn’t normal. All of this anger, especially in a young girl, played itself out in many destructive ways. I hit, kicked, swore, was rude, made myself sick, refused to eat, screamed the house down (no, literally, comments from neighbours provide the proof), and was generally a nightmare child. As I grew up then, it turned into self harming and suicidal thoughts. The anger stemmed from living in a household entirely controlled by a vicious and unpredictable alcoholic, that brought about my total lack of control of my emotions, thoughts and feelings and turned me into a lost little girl. Despite this, I am so lucky that my anger didn’t make me act out in more destructive ways – no drugs, no major alcohol problems etc.

One of the more recent counsellors I saw told me that she could see the anger surrounding my aura and to this day I am still quick to anger, and have an extremely forceful temper when pushed. She taught me to scream when I needed to scream, to draw what I was feeling, without the need to rationalise it or make sense of it, draw exactly what I felt or the colours I saw, and even performed an exercise where I punched a pillow with all my might and just let it all go. I continue to use these methods to help to control my anger, as well as deep breaths, talking myself down, relaxation techniques, and trying to keep myself from situations and people who potentially may spark my anger.  It really is time to let go of Angry Annie. She is not helpful. She is spiteful and hot headed and says things in the heat of the moment that I don’t actually intend to say, and in the most part things that aren’t even true.

Anger can come in many different forms. However…I’m lucky that my anger didn’t damage or harm anyone else. My anger didn’t kill anyone, nor would it ever. My anger was tiny on the grand scale of things. My anger was internal and minute. My anger didn’t put anyone in hospital, nor would it have. I’m not that kind of person, despite my anger, I was always in control. I would prefer to hurt myself than another human being or animal…

However, what all I see in the world now is more than a colony of Angry Annie’s, more than people who have had a hard time and are having a hard time coping with it, but instead, a civilisation that is turning evil – Each new news article I see, I get more angry at the state of the world we live in, and the kind of people I share this planet with. I am currently feeling ashamed to be a human being, and share the species title with the evil individuals that reside on this planet. Everything I read about disgusts me…An innocent soldier, a friend of a friend, was beaten to death in a town 20 minutes down the road from my home, for no reason, by two people who did not know him. Animals being raped by humans, dogs being burnt with chemicals or set on fire. ISIS torturing innocents. Mothers murdering their babies. Teachers abusing their pupils. The abduction of children. The sex trade. The list is truly, and sadly, endless.

The whole world seems to be angry. Angry enough to intentionally hurt, physically or mentally, another life on this planet. I can’t believe I ever worried about my anger…my anger that only ever escalated into an argument. My anger that never hurt a fly. My anger that was contained within me and more often than not just came out as tears. This world isn’t full of just simple anger, this is evil. Pure evil. This is not a race I want to be associated with. This is not a part of history I want to be involved in. I cannot bare what anger does to people, and what acting out this anger means they will do, and not bat an eyelid.

This is where I beg…I beg you, if you have anger issues, seek help, seek guidance and don’t let it become you. Anger is powerful and it can take over you. If you have children who you observe to be angry or resentful, or whom you believe capable of aggressive behaviour, get them help, get advice, and ensure that they don’t become the faces you see on the news. Make them put down these aggressive, fighting games for the PC or the PlayStation. Don’t feed their fragile brains.

We only get one life, and anger hurts both us, and others. I’m sick of seeing others act out their anger in cruel and barbaric ways. We need to stop this. We need to get in control of anger at it’s root, before it has the chance to spark. We need to rely on the help of counsellors and therapists to ensure that our world is a kind, honest and respectful place, full of humans that we are proud of, working towards making a history that is steeped in success, and a legacy for the next generation. There needs to be lessons within schools teaching young children how to deal with their emotions and the hardships of life. There needs to be accessible government information and funding for help for these children. There needs to be policies in place that help those who could one day turn into the culprit of a heinous crime, one that we all turn our noses up at, and one that will be shunned from society. Why not help these people before they get the chance? Why not stop the angry thoughts that turn into cruelty? Why not just teach to be kind just to be kind? Why not teach them make someone’s day? Why not teach them to rescue an animal? Why not teach them to be gentle, and sensitive and patient? These are the qualities that make an honourable person. These are the qualities we need in our society.

Most importantly, why not address anger, and eradicate it before it stems into something bigger. Angry Annie’s can be controlled, but a world of angry evil humans cannot.

This has to stop. It just has to.

Rant over.

How to build your self-esteem

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the status of my self esteem. Am I truly comfortable in my own skin? Or do I just tell myself that I am, and push it to the back of my mind, hoping that nothing comes to fruition that proves me wrong?

What do I think self-esteem is? I believe self-esteem to be the alliance between loving yourself, appreciating yourself and respecting yourself. I see self-esteem as being comfortable in your own skin, being able to tackle anything that life throws at you, and feeling strong and in control. I see those with good self-esteem as being proud to be who they are, strong in their beliefs, and content with themselves and those around them.

What is it really? What is it’s definition? The dictionary definition of self-esteem: selfesteem reflects a person’s overall subjective emotional evaluation of his or her own worth. It is a judgment of oneself as well as an attitude toward the self.

How do I show good self-esteem? I think I know my own mind, I can be very self-aware, and as my blog shows, I am learning to be congratulatory of my successes and focus less on my weaknesses or mistakes. I am beginning to feel just as worthy of all the good in the world as every body else. I am learning each and every day to feel more confident in my own skin – to wear what I like, to be able to leave the house without being plastered in makeup, and to be content with the person I am on the inside, which is kind, caring and loyal.

How do I show I lack it? At times, I still struggle to be the confident, self-loving person that I so truly want to be. I can sometimes feel inferior in the company of outgoing, loud people and this can sometimes make me retreat into my shell. I sometimes notice that others are more comfortable in their own skin than I am, and this makes me envious. I can be too quick to point out my flaws and not my successes with much more focus on the negative. My mind can continually beat itself up over genuine and unintentional mistakes.

What do I think caused my self-esteem issues? I believe that the majority of my negative behavioural patterns, including my battle with self-esteem, stems from my childhood. I wasn’t shown enough love and affection and attention from my parents, I saw things that a child shouldn’t have to see, I wasn’t complete, I didn’t know myself or how to conduct myself, and this relayed into adulthood. I was thrust from counsellor to counsellor, none of which actually helped me – which led me to the belief that nobody could help me because I didn’t deserve it. My depression spiralled my low self-esteem deeper and deeper into a pit of self-loathing, which ultimately led to suicidal thoughts and self harm. I had no respect for my body, or my mind. And no sense of worthiness or deservingness. I had no sense of control over myself, and simply was lost in my own little bubble. Every step I took in the wrong direction worsened my self-belief, or lack thereof.

My experiences with low self-esteem: We’ve all been there, we’ve all felt lower than low, hating our appearance, our lives our jobs, our hair, amongst all the other things there is for us to dislike about ourselves. I have felt, even now in my current training position, not good enough to be doing a job, not clever enough, not worthy enough, not physically fit enough, just not enough.  And feeling not enough for something or someone is a miserable place to be. It turns into self-hatred, self-loathing and deep seated anger with yourself. I have struggled to build my self-esteem since I was a young girl, bullied at school, struggling with anxiety, depression and eating disorders, and trying to work out who I was. I have felt unable to cope, broken and unworthy of being fixed. Even in my counselling life, I have had some turbulence with my self-esteem and I share with you one memory of a particularly bad experience. I remember one particularly low point in my life when I was seeing a counsellor who specifically dealt with relationships – with family, with friends and with lovers – to try and break down this cocoon of so-called “safety” I had wrapped myself in that involved no trust, lots of aggression and fear and ultimately, to conquer these issues and become more positive and trusting in all relationships in my life. This was my goal anyway.  I went in to the therapy room which is, as I’m sure any of you who have experienced therapy, really quite daunting.  I sat down with a clear intention, and a good level of self-esteem and self-belief, in the mindset that I was here, I was proud of myself for taking the step, and I could overcome these issues I was facing.  When I began to explain my life story, this woman made me feel small. She made me feel small using her body language, her words, and her mannerisms. My self esteem immediately had been sucked out of me. This woman told me, in her own words, that I would never find love, and I would never find happiness and get rid of my anger. At this point I felt I had nowhere to turn – even the professionals were telling me I was no good, I was broken! I felt totally unworthy – someone else was confirming my worst fears, someone with a qualification! It took around 2 years for my self-esteem and self-belief to start building up after that, after seeing a new counsellor.

How has low self-esteem affected my life? Due to low self-esteem I have avoided social situations, lived a life of total exclusion and seclusion whereby I have not had any exciting experiences or made memories. Low self-esteem has assisted my eating disorders – my view of my body and hatred of it making me feel I had to starve myself or make myself sick. I have been to the depths of depression and self-hatred, and ultimately, it has aided my self-harm and suicidal thoughts too.

I no longer want low self-esteem to be an issue in my life. I want to be able to feel comfortable in my own skin, and for it to be clear in the way I conduct myself that I am confident, content and comfortable. 

By doing a little research, and gathering information from the internet and also from my experience in life and seeing different counsellors, I have begun to write a list entitled ‘How can I build my self-esteem?’

  • Being kind to myself and forgiving all my misgivings, mistakes and allowing myself to see that I am only human.
  • By not pretending to be anyone else, I can build myself up to be who I want to be, instead of basing my confidence on the confidence of someone else. I need to be self-confident in my own right and in my own skin, as me.
  • Whilst not pretending or trying to be anyone else, I can pick up hints and behavioural patterns from those around me, and those who make me feel comfortable in their presence and who exude self-confidence and contentment. Sometimes we learn a lot from observing behaviours we do and do not want for ourselves, and applying them to our own lives.
  • Learning to say yes when I want to say yes, and no when I want to say no. Becoming more assertive can mean that I am expressing what I want to do and what I don’t and therefore having some control over myself.
  • Challenging myself and putting myself out of my comfort zone in order to have new experiences and live the life I have always wanted to but perhaps haven’t believed I could – for example, I have booked to go to Europe to visit a friend alone next January. This is something I never would have believed I could achieve a year, or even 6 months ago. Now, I believe I can, so I will.
  • Looking at myself in the mirror more, and appreciating what I see and making an effort to feel good in my own skin.
  • Taking good care of my body by eating healthily, drinking lots of water and exercising
  • Repeating positive mantras such as “I can do this”, “I am strong enough” and “I am worthy and deserving”, to really drill into my brain that I can do whatever I set my heart on.
  • Challenging old beliefs. What do I believe about this? What made me feel this way? Is this true? What about if I thought about it differently? Which leads me to…
  • Creating new beliefs about things that I have previously held negativity around. For example my beliefs about marriage have been entirely negative: dangerous, emotional, hard work and confrontation (to name but a few). By writing down a new belief system, beliefs that I want to invest in, and training my mind to see what I want to see, I can begin to live this way. This can be done for friendships, love, jobs, parents etc.
  • Doing things you enjoy – having a job that is fulfilling and challenges you in the right areas, before coming home and having a fulfilling personal life, full of great friends, stimulating conversation, hobbies, reading, exercising, and love.
  • A good personal hygiene regiment. This sounds silly, but when you feel low and lacking in self-esteem, you tend to (without realising it) let go of your personal hygiene routine. Keeping yourself clean, washing your face, brushing your teeth, applying a face mask or a hair mask, going for a massage or a facial etc will make you feel much more positive and ready to face the day.
  • Trying to be open – to give and receive advice, love, compliments etc
  • Sleeping better is one of the linking factors that can help all mental illness and negative thought patterns. A good sleep hygiene routine can make you feel more equipped to face the day and truly refreshed.
  • Focus on the good things about myself, for example writing a list of qualities I love about myself – kind, caring, intelligent, inquisitive, loyal, honest, feisty, funny, hopeful, passionate (even writing that short list made me feel good!!)
  • Creating a scrap book of positivity is something I’m working on right now too. Something that I can go to that contains my list of positive things and things I love about myself, positive affirmations, my hopes and dreams, my loves and hobbies, ways I have made myself proud etc. This is something I can look back on when I’m feeling a bit low, and realise my accomplishments.
  • Spend your time with loving, uplifting, supportive, honest and caring people who want to see you happy and build you up.
  • Getting into the habit of saying more positive things, thinking more positive thoughts, smiling more, keeping note of the good things no matter how little, and trying to shift the balance to 90:10 to positivity!

There is a fine line between being confident in yourself and being self-loving, and being arrogant and cocky. The latter is not an attractive quality, nor is it truly conducive to a healthy and happy person. It is so important to be comfortable with yourself, to love who you are and to believe in yourself, as at the end of the day, when push comes to shove, ourself is all we really have, and if we’re happy with that person, it’s all we need.


The blues

Since my “5 ways…” posts, I feel I’ve gone a little quiet – both virally and personally. I’ve been ill again, ended up in the out of hours doctors, picked up another infection and possibly now a virus. So, I have the blues. 

I have been trying to hard to ensure that my physical condition doesn’t affect my mental state and my mood, however as I move into my fourth week of feeling lethargic, unwell, sick, dizzy, achy and general under the weather, I can safely say I’ve had my fill! 

I’m missing out on things. I’m bored of staring at the same four walls, but not quite well enough to go out and live my life as normal. My energy levels fall very quickly, and the pain I am in makes me angry at myself, frustrated and irritable. 

I’m not a person who does well just sat constantly doing nothing. At first, I enjoyed a bit of me time, watching back to back Pretty Little Liars, and eating biscuits. Now however, I’ve had enough. I don’t feel like me. At all. I don’t feel like I’m doing anything that makes me me, anything that I enjoy, I feel frumpy and horrible and lacking in self confidence as a result. I want to leave the house but I don’t want to be seen like this. Catch 22 anyone? 

My life is a constant time warp between when I need to take my medications and when I feel like I need to take them…which is always!

I’m trying very hard to keep my mood high, by catching up with friends on the phone or just inviting them round to see me, taking the dog on short walks, eating nice foods, watching TV, sitting in the sun etc. I’ve tried to remind myself that four weeks post laparoscopy I should be proud of how far I’ve come.

I need to allow myself more time to heal, as that is what my body is asking for. Turns out I’m just not so good at listening! 

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.