Want to be happier? Then let it happen! 

We all want to be happier. We all want to feel more content. We all want to enjoy our lives to the fullest. But do any of us really know what happy means? Do any of us know what it feels like to be really, truly, ridiculously and irrevocably happy? And not because of someone else or being in love, or having materialistic items… but just because we’re happy within ourselves?

How often can you say you have been truly truly happy? For me, it is only a number of times, and these times I truly cherish. These memories are what keep me pushing on, and keep me wanting to live, in search of a life where that feel-good feeling never goes away.

But happy isn’t fully understood in our culture anymore. It’s externalised. It isn’t about who we are, it’s about what we have. And this is our fatal error.

What has being happy and attaining this idealism become to us?  Happy has become what we filter on to social media. It is what we hope our friends, and that stranger we don’t even remember we’re Facebook friends with, will ‘like’. Happy has become materialistic and happiness has become “I will be happy when…”, starting I will be happy when…I am in my new job, I have more “stuff”, I have a bigger house, I have more friends, I have more money etc. The list is never ending, and never really gets us to the end goal, as the next materialistic goal comes to light, and we aim for that to be happy. The minute we start to externalise, is the minute we rely on something, or someone, else to make us happy. And we shouldn’t. We should really focus on being truly happy alone, in our own skin, in our own minds.

What about if we stripped it back?

What about if we really thought about what happy is, does, and means?

What does happy mean to you?

Take out the “stuff” and the situational things like job and house. What does happy really mean?

How would you look if you were happy? How would you change?

What does it sound like. Doesn’t it sound great?

What does it look like? Draw it.

Most importantly, what does it feel like? How do you feel?

What would you need to change to get there? To true happiness? What would you need to shift in your current belief system?

And if you write this down, draw it and feel it, why aren’t you putting it into practice, letting it happen and working towards it?

We all deserve happiness, we just don’t know how to let it in.

  • Open yourself up like a book
  • Remind yourself you deserve to be happy
  • Indulge yourself in things you love
  • Remind yourself of all the things that you love about yourself
  • Strip back material items and “stuff” – don’t rely on those things for happiness
  • Use relaxation techniques
  • Exercise
  • Sleep
  • Stop making no excuses – what is stopping you?
  • Follow your dreams – what are your deepest dreams? Your aims and goals?
  • Spend time in the company of like-minded people, and those who lift you up
  • Make time for alone time – be comfortable in your own skin
  • Speak to a therapist, not because you’re broken, but because you’re in search of happiness. 2 of the best therapists I’ve ever seen did not focus on the bad or the past, but upon the future and the present, and how to let the good in
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Sometimes, I do believe in miracles

My regular readers and followers on twitter will be well acquainted with my best friend, my soul mate and the four legged love of my life: Millie.

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Millie is my world, and has been in my life since she was 10 weeks old. She lies next to me as I write this, snoring away and truly making me the proudest dog mummy on the planet without knowing…

One year ago, very suddenly, Millie developed an immune system disorder (specifically Immune-Mediated Thromocytopenia) and became gravely ill. I was very lucky to have caught her illness quickly, noticing symptoms of bruising on her stomach and moving all over her body, and to speed her to the Vets within half an hour of the bruises occuring.

Millie was hospitalised for a week, on IV fluids, with ultrasound and x-ray scans almost daily, vomiting and blood in her faeces, bleeding from her nose and at risk of needing a blood transfusion. Luckily, my brave girl pulled through, and came home to us 8 days later very quiet and subdued and with a rota of medication every 2 hours throughout the morning and night.

For months, my mother and I kept a vigilant watch over Millie, making sure she took her medications at the exact times, constantly checking for bruising or any signs that this horrific illness wasn’t over. This was the worst time in my entire life, constantly watching and waiting and hoping and praying. I would stay up most of the night, every night, with the light on so that I could keep a close eye on her. The lack of sleep, lack of food due to stress and pure worry made me lose weight, struggle at work and m anxiety to worsen.

One year later and we are at a whole different stage, a stage that I didn’t think I would ever get to…my baby is off her meds!! Yesterday, we finished the year long course of steroids that have been protecting her body from attacking itself.

I cannot express how proud I am of my strong, brave little girl. She has been poked and prodded for blood samples every 3 weeks, checked over and examined, and has truly felt rotten, and the whole time she has never snapped, never given in and never stopped wagging her tail.

My millie inspires me to be a better person every single day, and every day I feel blessed to have a soul mate like her. A best friend who only listens and never judges, who takes care of me, who never leaves my side and who has saved my life on numerous occasions. She will never understand how many times I have been close to ending it all and she has been the one to stop me. She will never know how grateful I am for how she has changed me. I will never be able to give her enough love for the amount that she deserves. She takes away my fears and anxieties, and I love her more than words can explain. My life has been and continues to be truly enriched by her bouncy, loyal and truly loving presence, and I smile every time I get a compliment about how beautiful she is, what a loving soul she is and what a wonderful nature she has. Because it is all true. She is my life and my everything.

We could all learn a lot about how to deal with everyday life from Millie: enjoy it, love it, be excited by it, be brave and never give up. And that’s my message today.

Today, I rest my head happy, lucky and in the arms 0f my furry baby x

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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.

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The blues

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 ways I have taken steps towards eradicating my eating disorders

Welcome to the first of my “5 ways” post.  For the next 5 days, I will be posting about 5 ways in which I have conquered something, changed something, improved something or managed something in my life.  The aim of this is to not only see how I have grown in different areas, but also to prove to anybody reading this that overcoming and changing things is possible, and to hopefully help to give recipes for which to do so.

So, without further ado…

5 ways I have taken steps towards eradicating my eating disorders

If you have kept up to date with my blog, you will know that from a very young age, I have suffered greatly with my relationship with food, and tried to develop ways in which I could change this, often to no avail. I have had anorexia, binge eating disorder and bulimia on and off since I was 8 years old, and still to this day on occasion feel more in control of my body if it is empty. I have battled and fought hard for years to change my disordered eating habits. How have I taken the steps to do so?

1.Doing my research – I have researched into how not eating and controlling your food intake in a negative way affects your body, your organs and your mind.  In doing so, I almost scared myself into making little steps into changing my eating. By researching what could happen to my body if I continued my eating patterns, I saw how dangerous it truly was.  When you skip two meals a day, starve your body, and then overfill it, followed by making yourself violently sick, your body is driven to the extreme. I took for granted how lucky I was to not have any serious problems, but the fear of what could happen to my body if I continued these dangerous habits, definitely did hit me like a tonne of bricks. I needed to make a change!  I would like to share with you the information I found on the National Eating Disorders website:

Health Consequences of Anorexia Nervosa

In anorexia nervosa’s cycle of self-starvation, the body is denied the essential nutrients it needs to function normally.  Thus, the body is forced to slow down all of its processes to conserve energy, resulting in serious medical consequences:

  • Abnormally slow heart rate and low blood pressure, which mean that the heart muscle is changing.  The risk for heart failure rises as the heart rate and blood pressure levels sink lower and lower.
  • Reduction of bone density (osteoporosis), which results in dry, brittle bones.
  • Muscle loss and weakness.
  • Severe dehydration, which can result in kidney failure.
  • Fainting, fatigue, and overall weakness.
  • Dry hair and skin; hair loss is common.
  • Growth of a downy layer of hair called lanugo all over the body, including the face, in an effort to keep the body warm.

Health Consequences of Bulimia Nervosa

The recurrent binge-and-purge cycles of bulimia can affect the entire digestive system and can lead to electrolyte and chemical imbalances in the body that affect the heart and other major organ functions.  Some of the health consequences of bulimia nervosa include:

  • Electrolyte imbalances that can lead to irregular heartbeats and possibly heart failure and death.  Electrolyte imbalance is caused by dehydration and loss of potassium, sodium and chloride from the body as a result of purging behaviors.
  • Potential for gastric rupture during periods of bingeing.
  • Inflammation and possible rupture of the esophagus from frequent vomiting.
  • Tooth decay and staining from stomach acids released during frequent vomiting.
  • Chronic irregular bowel movements and constipation as a result of laxative abuse.
  • Peptic ulcers and pancreatitis.

Health Consequences of Binge Eating Disorder

Binge eating disorder often results in many of the same health risks associated with clinical obesity. Some of the potential health consequences of binge eating disorder include:

  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol levels
  • Heart disease as a result of elevated triglyceride levels
  • Type II diabetes mellitus
  • Gallbladder disease

2. Listening to my body – In a similar way to the research I had carried out, another way I realised that my eating disorders were dangerous, was in the signs of my own health.  I have always seen myself as a ‘sickly person’, which here means that I picked up every cough, cold and bug that was within 100 miles of my location. I now realise that as a result of having an empty body, not nourishing myself and trying to run my body with no fuel, I left my immune system weak and a target for attack. When I finally realised how much feeling poorly and picking up all of these illnesses was affecting my life, I knew this had to stop. Hand in hand with my anxiety of social situations, and my depression wanting to keep me indoors, I used to miss out on things I wanted to do with my friends, as I simply felt too poorly, or had no energy. I can totally see why! You can’t expect a car to move with no petrol in it! When I realised the effect that this was taking on my body, and the lack of energy I had, alongside always feeling unwell, I began to make a change. I began to listen to my body. Although there are still times where physically my body is hungry and my anxiety implores me not to eat, in the main I do listen to when my body needs food, and when I should stop eating. I listen to my body rather than my mind, and as a result I no longer make myself sick. I have realised that my body needs the food, and to process it to release energy throughout the day. I now put my physical health well up there in my priorities – especially following my recent operation – and this has allowed me to see the importance of regular food intake and encouraged me to listen to what my body needs. In doing so, I have gained the confidence to eat out in public – something that I never thought I could do and used to induce terrible panic attacks. If my body wants it, my body gets it!

3. Forgiveness for myself – one of the most important things I have learned to do is to forgive myself. I forgive myself if I can’t eat lunch that one day, or if I eat too much the next. Because I know what not eating at all felt like, I know how far I have come and how much the uphill struggle has nearly pushed me over the edge, and I am proud of myself. And that deserves forgiveness for the slips, and for the past.

4. Allowing myself to eat what I want, when I want it – I will never be a breakfast eater.  If you call 11am readiness to eat breakfast, then I guess I can do breakfast.  However, upon first waking, I simply couldn’t think of anything worse than eating. I know, I know, they say it is the most important meal of the day. But I still know my own body…I’ve been in it for 22 years! My body simply isn’t ready for food in the morning, and I need a little warming up before I’m ready to eat. But I allow that. And if I want brunch, followed immediately by lunch, I’ll allow that. If I want two lunches, I will. If I want 7 meals a day, I will do that too. I know this doesn’t work for everyone, and I am super lucky to have a fast metabolism that means my eating ups and downs doesn’t really seem to have much effect on my weight at the moment, but it works for me. I feel differently every day, and I eat what I want, when I want.  This particular rule has made me feel more in control of my eating habits, and taken the pressure off myself. I am not the same as everyone else, and neither are you! We do not have to stick to the “norm” and eat 3 meals a day with a few snacks here and there. People who have suffered from eating disorders can eat when the hell they want!! It’s a celebration that we feel comfortable enough to eat, and no longer feel constricted by dangerous habits.

5. No longer listening to the opinions of others – leading on from the idea that we do not have to follow the “norm” of 3 set meals a day, another way that I have taken a step forward into the eradication of my disordered eating, is to stop listening to what others think about my eating habits.  If I had a pound/dollar/insert currency here for every time someone had commented on my not eating being “weird” or been questioned as to “why aren’t you eating?”, I would be a millionaire in all four corners of the world. I used to worry so much about what people thought, that it would make me more anxious, and therefore even less likely to eat.  It was a vicious circle. But why should I let small-minded, sheltered individuals who simply don’t understand dictate my health? I decided that I no longer care for the opinions of people who judge without asking caring questions. They just want to pass judgement, not find out if I am okay. And those are the people we need to ignore. Those are the people that bring us down. Ignore, and be you!

I’ve still got a long journey ahead to be happy with where I am in my little eating bubble, but my progression has exceeded anything I ever expected, and I am truly proud of myself. This was one of my biggest problems, and the improvements have genuinely changed my life for the better. Here’s to more growth, more change, and more food!

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. 

Learning to love my flaws

I recently went on holiday…. which I still can’t believe I’m actually saying, as the old me would have flinched at the thought of leaving her comfort zone to venture to a different country. But anyway, yes I recently went on holiday and as a woman, taking off your dress or coverup by the pool and at the beach to reveal your not quite perfect bikini body, was one of my biggest anxieties.

Now, I live in the UK, where we probably get one week of summery weather a year, and the rest is bleak, overcast or rainy and as a result I don’t really get to wear a bikini so much at home. I’m not a dieter, and I don’t really exercise other than walking my dog everyday, due to my medical issues. Whilst I am lucky to have a fast metabolism thanks to my stick thin mother, I do carry some good old love handles and some extra orange peel around my thighs. As you can imagine then, I have body hang ups. Like everyone, there are parts I really hate about my body, parts I don’t mind, and parts I would gladly have a little nip and tuck if I could!

So there I was, pool side, anxious to get down to my scimpies and reveal my body to the other holiday era. (I don’t know why I thought they all cared by the way, but self esteem and insecurity doesn’t work rationally) Despite this initial holiday bikini fear, as soon as I took off my coverup, I felt free. It was like taking off a heavy, wet coat and feeling ten times lighter. For some reason, I just no longer cared. I was free, having fun, and didn’t give a hoot about who was looking at my cellulite.

I want to share this moment with you…


This is me, as a 22 year old woman, embracing my body.

Hello love handles, cellulite, the little bit of muffin top that hangs over my jeans, the boobs that aren’t quite as big as I’d like and the thick legs I got from my father. I embrace you all. I embrace the things I do like, even though they are few are far between.

My body may not be a temple, but it’s mine. I’m lucky to be able and agile and I’m here, saying I love my flaws. Because my flaws are what make me, me. And I’m coming round to the idea that me isn’t all that bad.