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.

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.

 

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

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.

self-esteem

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.

On a good day

Depression, anxiety, and I guess all variations of mental illness leave you focussed on the negative, on what may happen, or what could happen. When in your negative state, we all focus on “what is bad about this”, and place too much energy in feeling sad about what we don’t have. And this is what is so frustrating, I think, about the whole mental illness process: you can have all the material things in the world, be the luckiest person, have the best friends and most supportive family, but if all you see is the bad, you’ll never appreciate all the good in your life.

Have you ever been asked, “What have you got to be sad about? You’ve got a perfect life”. I have! And isn’t it bloody frustrating! You just want to scream and throw yourself on the ground in a temper tantrum, pleading for the seemingly judgemental individual to hear just a few seconds of the internal fight going on in your head. They don’t see the struggle you face just waking up in the morning, the fight you have everyday just to stay alive, the constant voices in your head beating down your confidence, the worries, the anxieties, the daily tasks that are so difficult. They don’t see what your life is really like and what there is to be sad about! The thing is, these people aren’t out to get you, they only see what you present on the outside. Take me a few years ago as an example: bleach blonde hair, fake eyelashes, face full of makeup, lovely new mini to drive around in, expensive clothes and handbags, great friends, supportive family, smile on my face, my facebook was plastered in comments, photos and happy memories etc. All that was what it looked like to an outsider. Ostensibly, I was happy. Behind the scenes, I wanted to die.  I was fighting a silent, internal battle just to stay living, and the way I presented myself to the world as a smiling, pristine diva, was my protective shell – nobody would ask questions if I looked and behaved a certain way.

My point? I wished, hoped and prayed that one day I would feel the way I presented myself as being: happy. I longed to be able to walk out of the house and feel genuine contentment, instead of breathing deeply to avoid a panic attack, keeping my hands busy to prevent anybody seeing them shaking, and laughing to stop me crying. I just wanted to be better, to live a real life, instead of the fictional hell i was confined to. As I said though, I think because I was in my negative state of mind at this time, I never was going to get better. I didn’t know what a good day was like, because I’d never let myself allow it to happen. I didn’t know what happy was.

Now, as I continue to grow into what feels like a new skin, a new life and a new me, I am trying to focus on what a good day looks and feels like, until I don’t have to try anymore. In doing this, I hope that feeling, and focussing on my good, will allow the positivity to take over, and for my inside to reflect what I show on the outside, and vice versa. To do this, I have been thinking a little about what a good day is:

What is life like on a good day?

  • I wake up in the morning after a refreshing sleep and feel ready to start the day
  • I have no anxieties about what I may face
  • I feel confident and secure in my body and happy in my own skin
  • I choose to do what I want based on what feels good, not based on what doesn’t make me anxious
  • I smile and I laugh
  • I enjoy myself
  • I say positive, uplifting things, and have positive, uplifting thoughts
  • I feel good
  • I feel well in myself, and my body is not achy – I do not need any pain relief
  • Everything comes easily and naturally, and I don’t find myself pretending, or trying to be anything but exactly what and who I am.
  • I eat, what I want and when I want
  • I am grateful for all I see and do, and count my blessings
  • I spend quality time with people who lift me higher
  • I feel in control of myself and my body
  • I go to bed with a smile on my face, knowing that without even trying I have been the best version of myself

What does a good day feel like?

  • exciting
  • fulfilled
  • fun
  • joyful
  • honest
  • free
  • liberating
  • easy
  • inspiring
  • addictive
  • natural

How do others see me on a good day?

  • Confident in my own skin
  • Free
  • At ease
  • Natural
  • Pretty
  • Funny
  • Fun to be around
  • Interesting
  • Intellectual
  • Positive

This is how I want everyday to be. I have spent so much time dreaming of days like this, in which I can let go, and be free of the shackles that my mental illness places me in. I no longer want to walk out my door wearing a fake smile, a painted face, and surrounding myself with material things in order to present the idea of a “perfect” life.  I don’t actually even want a perfect life, if such a thing even exists. I just want a life! Because for so long I didn’t live at all. I don’t want to hide behind a mask, or a wall, or anything in fact.

My aim, and my promise to myself is to drench myself so deeply in the idea of what a good day looks like, that I forget what a bad day looks like. And when someone says to me “What do you have to be sad about?”, I might agree with them, that actually I’m not sad, because I’m in a positive mind set, and I have no reason to feel anything but happy!!

What does a good day feel like?

How do others see me on a good day?

A lot can happen in a year! 

One whole year ago today, I started my WordPress blog. 

12 months ago, I decided it was time to grow, and be honest.

52 weeks ago I found somewhere to share my innermost thoughts, and somewhere to escape to. In the process, I have been lucky enough to be in contact with some of the most supportive people I could have ever wished to know. 
365 days ago, The Suitcase Kid came to life. 

  
So what has The Suitcase Kid done for me? Well, what hasn’t this blog space done for me? I’ve realised that in getting my inner most thoughts and confusions off my chest, I can leave them behind, and let them go. In letting my baggage go, I can lessen the weight on my shoulders and give in to just enjoying my life. 

In the past year, in the main without counselling or therapy, I have become a stronger, better person, in ways that I never thought possible. I have become braver, more honest, more independent, less anxious, less sad, more real, more grounded and more human. I can feel now, I can feel what it is to be happy, to be excited and to enjoy. 

In the last year, I have realised that I can do it. I can live a life of happiness, and I no longer need to choose pain and sadness. 

On the anniversary of The Suitcase Kid, I would like to thank you for reading and keeping up with me, for checking in, and for making sure I am ok. I thank you for writing your posts, as reading them have helped me through harder days. 

Here is to our first year Suitcase Kid, and here is to many, many more

Why am I proud of myself today?

Ive had a bit of an emotional day today, and if I’m honest, I’ve probably felt it coming on for the past couple of days. I am still recovering from my operation, and still having good days and bad days, the worst of which include taking very strong painkillers and staying in bed all day. I’ve been overdoing it though. I’ve had my family visiting, and as I don’t get to spend too much time with them, I have pushed my body further than I should have, considering today marks 2 weeks since my operation date. My body is still healing, yet I have been out walking, drinking, out for dinner… 

Too much, too soon. 

My body has obviously been reacting to being pushed too far, and as a result I am laid up in bed today feeling very sorry for myself. There has been tears and frustration today. I’ve felt like a failure. It has almost felt as if I have let myself down by stopping, and for not being able to carry on. My body reacted to being pushed to its limits by making me sick, dizzy and feel all out of sorts. 

I decided it’s important to listen to my body, and to recognise that I need to rest. My body is still in the healing process, and whilst I’ve done some lovely things over the past week, I am not super human! As I’ve been feeling wrongly disappointed in myself today, and a little flat mood-wise, I decided to make a conscious effort to remind myself all that I should be proud of myself for. And once I got writing, as always, I was surprised by how much I had done in the way of success. 

Let me share…

   
 
In case you can’t read my very messy scrawl, I shall share with you: 

Why am I proud of myself today? 

  • I got out of bed, when I really didn’t feel well enough too – I chose not to wallow in my self pity 
  • Today, I truly recognising that I succeeded last night – I ate dinner, in a restaurant, a busy restaurant, with my family. I was ok – and I even had fun! 
  • I ate breakfast today – I tried at least! Even if it did resurface, I recognised that I was not sick because I ate food, but because I was unwell, and they are different! 
  • I went for a walk. 
  • I listened to my body when I knew it needed rest and cancelled plans to do so – I come first! 
  • I allowed myself some alone time because that is exactly what I needed. 
  • I set up a direct debit to my local animal charity, and have sent an application form to become a volunteer – I feel so good about this. 
  • I fought off anxiety 
  • I let myself cry because I needed to! 
  • I forgave myself for being human. 
  • I wrote this list – which allows me to see how much good 24 hours can do! 

Writing this list has made me see that allowing myself to be human, needing to rest, and celebrating my successes is just what I needed today. 

Every negative day must have a positive point, it’s just about seeking it.