My Parisian Panic Attack

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

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

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

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

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

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

All I could do was breathe. In and out.

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

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

I couldn’t believe I was ok.

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

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

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

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

Sister sadness 

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

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

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

The list truly goes on and on.

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

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

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

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

How have I been helping her since finding out?

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

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

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

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

 

It can happen to anyone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To medicate or not to medicate?…that is the question

The topic of whether medication is the correct way to address depression is controversial. People seem to attach a negative stigma to seeking help through medication, as if by not tackling depression alone you are somehow weaker. This is simply not true. Whilst I agree that medication cannot be the sole treatment for any form of mental illness, there is absolute proof that it really can make a difference.

Of course, the use of medication really does need to go hand in hand with therapy, as mental illness is exactly what it says on the tin…within the mind. It is essential to get inside our own minds and really pick at what it means to be in our heads, what our flaws are, what drives us, and what needs to change in order to be positive and healthy. Whether this be in the form of meditation, CBT or simply talking and voicing your thoughts, therapy is healthy, it’s positive, and its a step towards a new mindset.

For me personally, I have done the therapies and used them to my advantage (not always, I resented talking and trying for a long time), ultimately leading me to be the person I am today. I have tried CBT, hypnotherapy, meditation, holistic therapists, healers, talkers, relationship counsellors…you name it. I’ve been helped of course by all of these individuals who have shared their advice with me, and now I am lucky enough to be in a place where I don’t feel I need to speak to anyone anymore. I do use this blog as a sort of therapist now, with freedom to express myself, my thoughts and feelings and the ability to read back on who I used to be yesterday, as I grow into the person I am supposed to be tomorrow.

Despite this, I possibly may not be here today without my medication. I do feel that there is such a negative attitude towards the use of antidepressants. The truth is, the use of a small white pill does not make you weak, it actually makes you strong. It means you stepped up and asked for help. It means you’re giving in to the fact that you can’t simply “fix” everything. It also is not a ball and chain attached to your ankle forever, it doesn’t mean that when you start you can’t stop. It’s an extra boost in your time of need.

The use of antidepressants doesn’t come without it’s negatives, and its a big decision to start taking them. Side effects, memory loss, weight gain…these are some of the negatives that people discuss in relation to these medications: Article regarding negatives of antidepressants. Will they help? Will they make things worse? The thing we need to remember, is that there are negatives in putting anything into your body – one week we’re told bananas are brilliant for you, the next they give you cancer, too much fat is bad for you, too much water can make you unwell etc etc. The other thing to remember is that the use of these medications is only appropriate when advised by your doctor, and should never be abused.

My personal experience is one of positivity. I have been on antidepressant medication since I was 15 years of age, and now being 23, I have been able to see objectively how they have changed my life over a period of time. How do I know they have made an impact? Well, I no longer want to end my life, which is a massive indication! I am less irritable, more out going, more positive, more able, I have more get up and go, I have more energy. I notice when I don’t take my meds for a few days, either through forgetting or through running out of my prescription. I become irritable, fidgety, lethargic, emotional, aware of a deep sense of sadness, lazy and uninterested. These are all the traits I used to have everyday prior to my medication. I find myself feeling more balanced on my medication and more able to face life. My antidepressants work on my mood and also my anxiety, allowing me to lead a more stress-free life, balancing me out to be a more capable individual.

Never be influenced by the stigma attached to taking medication for your mental illness. Remember it takes bravery to step up and ask for help in any form. Be brave. You are not confined by your illness, use every stepping stone available to get yourself back on track.

What are your experiences with antidepressants? Are you for or against? 

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.

Dear Mum, I’ve got depression…

Eavesdropping slightly and picking up on small bits of a conversation, I overheard a child a few days ago telling her parents that she felt anxious. Unfortunately I didn’t stick around long enough to hear what this little girl, no older than 7 years of age, was anxious about. I did however, hear her father dismiss her concerns, telling her “oh you’ll be fine”, and trying to move the conversation onwards.

This rang all too true to me. My parents didn’t understand me and my struggles. They didn’t understand the fight that I had going on in my head because they couldn’t physically see it, and I was too young to articulate it efficiently enough for them to really hear my cries for help. Now, in this snippet of conversation I cannot say that this young girl’s parents dismissed her fears entirely, they may well sit at home with her for hours every night listening to her worries, comforting her and talking to her. All this conversation did is spark up memories for me of feeling like an alien in my own home for having all of these thoughts that nobody else around me appeared to be thinking. I felt totally alone, scared of my own thoughts and emotions and afraid of being dismissed and shut down should I open my mouth to attempt to communicate.

I was made to feel, whether intentionally or not, that I was “bad”. I was a bad child because I caused disruption. I was a nuisance. I was an anomaly in my family. I was an “attention seeker”. I was a pain.

What they really could never understand, because I was too young to communicate it, was that my core was dying. The light inside me was barely even on. At 8 years old I didn’t want to live. This is not what any 8 year old should feel. I was losing at a battle that I didn’t know I was fighting, and that I didn’t have the weapons for. And nobody could help me, because nobody asked me how they could, nobody understood, and nobody seemed to care.

I think that when depression and anxiety shows its head in young children, parents are not very accepting of this as a diagnosis. They do not want to even fathom the thought that their child may be depressed or have mental illness. Perhaps they do not see children’s brains as being capable of thinking the complex things that depression forces upon your brain.

The truth is, depression and anxiety is even scarier when you are young. You don’t understand. You can’t explain. You can’t escape.

Children can be sad, they can have depression, they can have panic attacks, they can be anxious.

I want parents to understand the signs of depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses in their children and realise that just because it is living inside a smaller body and a smaller brain, does not mean it is any less real. Acting out, lashing out, refraining from eating or eating too much, crying, bullying, being a victim, self harming, low self esteem, panic attacks etc. These are signs we need to be looking for. We need to be acknowledging the problem, and preventing long term scars.

“Every stress leaves an indelible scar, and the organism pays for its survival after a stressful situation by becoming a little older.”

Hans Selye (1907-1982)

When I become a parent, I will remember all that I went through as a child, and make it my priority to prevent my child from bearing the scars that I had to from 8 years of age.

The stressors in a child’s life may be different to that of an adult, but the impact of stress, anxiety and depression can be just as loud in a child’s brain.

If I could give my parents any advice for all those years ago, I would have told them to listen to me, talk to me, don’t ignore the signs, don’t underestimate the power of my mind, and don’t let me suffer in silence. Don’t make me feel bad, for I can’t help it. Don’t make me pay for this, as it is not my fault. Hold my hand, and guide me into a better life.

Whatever you believe about the origin of stress, anxiety and depression, alongside all mental illness, you cannot deny their impact upon an individuals life, just because they are invisible to the physical eye. And if you don’t believe that children can be depressed…think again. It’s scarier, and they need you more!

Italian Adventures

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

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

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

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

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

Here are some snaps of my wonderful time.

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

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

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

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