My Parisian Panic Attack

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

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

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

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

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

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

All I could do was breathe. In and out.

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

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

I couldn’t believe I was ok.

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

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

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

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

It can happen to anyone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just be an adult already!! 

Something happened over the past few years. It happened when I wasn’t looking. I was no longer a child, I was no longer bound by the rules of my parents, with nobody to answer to. I didn’t have to tell anyone where I was going, what I was doing or what time I would be back. I became an adult. 

What age does this even truly happen? Growing up, we seem to believe we’re “adults” by the time we’re 16, 18, 21. It’s a subjective theory in all honesty, something that is relative to life experience. I definitely remember feeling fairly adult at the age of 12, battling with what I saw to be “grown-up” depressive moods and thoughts, protecting myself from my aggressive step father and dealing with my ongoing internal monologue. That felt fairly adult to me. But in reality, it was a young girl, a very lost one at that, dealing with a world of adults who showcased very negative thoughts, emotions and relayed them onto my vulnerable brain. 

Now, at 23 years of age, I live in my own house with my partner, I’m studying for my degree, I’m learning to be my own person as I expect to do for the entirety of my life. I’m an enthusiast for the world, for travel, for work, for learning and for growth. I love to write. I love to walk. I am an adult. So why do I still feel as if those strings have not been cut from my childhood. I still feel like I need guidance, I still feel as if I need to answer to someone. And I still feel as if I need to cling to my childhood in order to be carefree. 

What I do that counteracts the fact that I’m an adult?

  • Everything I do I seek gratification from someone, somewhere 
  • If I have a sick day from work, I validate the fact that it is ok with a parent, my partner, or family and friends 
  • I explain every decision I make 
  • I justify myself constantly 
  • I live to please others 
  • I still feel unfulfilled, as if being a child allowed me to do more (that ironically I never seemed to take advantage of) and that adulthood results in not being able to really “live”
  • Living in a messy house – expecting someone else to clean it for me 

Why do I do this? 

  • Being an adult was always a negative thing in my younger life – adults were harsh and scary and violent and unpredictable 
  • I care what people think far too much 
  • I seek validation as I am still unsure in my own ability to decision make 
  • I have convinced myself that adult hood means working, paying bills and being unfulfilled 
  • I have a warped view of what being an independent truly means 

How could I step into my adulthood like I mean it? 

  • I need to consistently remind myself that adulthood is just a theory – it’s a concept that simply means I’m older. 
  • Remind myself that adulthood is not scary and it doesn’t mean that I have become a reflection of the adults I knew in my childhood 
  • Remember that it doesn’t change who I am – I’m still a big kid 
  • Don’t allow the concept of being grown up take away my dreams – it doesn’t mean the time frame has gone, it simply means I can choose when, where and why 
  • To learn that whilst pleasing people is ok, it shouldn’t be at the detriment of pleasing myself 
  • Remember that I don’t owe anybody anything. I’m my own person 
  • Believing in any decision that I make 
  • Keeping a tidy house in order to keep a tidy mind. 
  • Helping myself to help myself 
  • Staying in touch with my inner child and allowing myself to play and have fun 
  • Laugh more – laughing and being silly isn’t confined to being a child 
  • Working on my thoughts on what an adult is – not seeing adulthood as boring bill paying, as realistically, it changes nothing. 

I’ve got some great things to work on this summer! 

How do you live authentically in the concept of being an adult? 

3 days of demons: day 3

Sorry for the delay in my 3rd post. There has been two major reasons for said delay:

1) I’ve been ridiculously busy with uni, assignments, working 7 days a week, organising a fundraising event and trying to have some sort of social life

2) this post has been the hardest to write about

Day 3 of my demons is all about my struggles to form long lasting and meaningful relationships. Welcome to my darkest demon, running deep into the pit of who I am, and through my veins. Welcome to something I never talk about, and something I would still rather keep to myself. But welcome, to my healing.

I have had problems with forming relationships with people for years, namely since my abusive stepfather came into my life when I was 8 years old. As a result of his volatile nature, manic depression, anger and alcoholism, I was forced to believe that relationships with men were something that should be feared. Hard wired into my childlike brain (subconsciously I might add) was that men were dangerous, and had the potential to destroy me. I truly had a fear of interaction with men on any level.

  • Growing up, I had many male friends and I enjoyed their company but it never went beyond that, neither did I ever socialise beyond the school gates.
  • I was too anxious and couldn’t meet up with any males outside of school
  • Social fears around groups with males within them prevented me from getting involved in many parties, gatherings and events.

Why do I have fears of men?

  • Fear of their strength
  • Fear of their power
  • Fear of the past repeating itself

When you have had a negative male figure in your life who has used their strength and power for abuse, it is so hard to then let that image of men be positive in your mind, and to remember that not every man will use the strength that they have.

Is it just men that I struggle to trust? No. My fears in relationships also, to a lesser extent, related to friendships, family interactions and professional ties. This shows itself in that I:

  • Am too giving in friendships
  • Am too eager to be liked
  • Managed to attract negative people – those who didn’t really value my friendship
  • Fear being talked about in a negative way
  • I do not like to let people too close to me – to see the cracks within myself
  • I do not like to be analysed
  • I like to be given space and to be alone.

I have a problem with presenting myself whole heartedly to anyone in the world, I guess I don’t want them to see me for who I really am. I guess I’m scared of judgement, of failure, and of learning of the negatives about myself.

I have grown in many ways in my relationships, however there are still things that hold me back. Ostensibly, I have anxieties and fears in creating relationships and friendships alike, and this all stems from my abusive past, fear of being judged or hurt, a lack of self belief, and needing to feel accepted at all times. Most importantly, I have a severe fear of intimacy.

I need to attack each issue one by one.

First…anxiety within my intimate relationships. I read an article on anxiety in relationships that I would like to share with you:

How to Deal with Relationship Anxiety

Taken from pyschalive.org

relationship anxietyRelationships can be one of the most pleasurable things on the planet… but they can also be a breeding ground for anxious thoughts and feelings. Relationship anxiety can arise at pretty much any stage of courtship. For many single people, just the thought of being in a relationship can stir up stress. If and when people do start dating, the early stages can present them with endless worries: “Does he/she really like me?” “Will this work out?” “How serious is this?” Unfortunately, these worries don’t tend to subside in the later stages of a romantic union. In fact, as things get closer between a couple, anxiety can get even more intense. Thoughts come flooding in like: “Can this last?” “Do I really like him/her?” “Should we slow down?” “Am I really ready for this kind of commitment?” “Is he/she losing interest?”

All this worrying about our relationships can make us feel pretty alone. It can lead us to create distance between ourselves and our partner. At its worst, our anxiety can even push us to give up on love altogether. Learning more about the causes and effects of relationship anxiety can help us to identify the negative thinking and actions that can sabotage our love lives. How can we keep our anxiety in check and allow ourselves to be vulnerable to someone we love?

What Causes Relationship Anxiety?

Put simply, falling in love challenges us in numerous ways we don’t expect. The more we value someone else, the more we stand to lose. On many levels, both conscious and unconscious, we become scared of being hurt. To a certain degree, we all possess a fear of intimacy. Ironically, this fear often arises when we are getting exactly what we want, when we’re experiencing love as we never have or being treated in ways that are unfamiliar.

As we get into a relationship, it isn’t just the things that go on between us and our partner that make us anxious.; it’s the things we tell ourselves about what’s going on. The “critical inner voice” is a term used to describe the mean coach we all have in our heads that criticizes us, feeds us bad advice and fuels our fear of intimacy. It’s the one that tells us:

“You’re too ugly/fat/boring to keep his/her interest.”

“You’ll never meet anyone, so why even try?”

“You can’t trust him. He’s looking for someone better.”

“She doesn’t really love you. Get out before you get hurt.”

This critical inner voice makes us turn against ourselves and the people close to us. It can promote hostile, paranoid and suspicious thinking that lowers our self-esteem and drives unhealthy levels of distrust, defensiveness, jealousy and anxiety. Basically, it feeds us a consistent stream of thoughts that undermine our happiness and make us worry about our relationship, rather than just enjoying it.

When we get in our heads, focusing on these worried thoughts, we become incredibly distracted from real relating with our partner. We may start to act out in destructive ways, making nasty comments or becoming childish or parental toward our significant other. For example, imagine your partner stays at work late one night. Sitting home alone, your inner critic starts telling you, “Where is she? Can you really believe her? She probably prefers being away from you. She’s trying to avoid you. She doesn’t even love you anymore.” These thoughts can snowball in your mind until, by the time your partner gets home, you’re feeling insecure, furious or paranoid. You may act angry or cold, which then sets your partner off to feel frustrated and defensive. Pretty soon, you’ve completely shifted the dynamic between you. Instead of enjoying the time you have together, you may waste an entire night feeling withdrawn and upset with each other. You’ve now effectively forced the distance you initially feared. The culprit behind this self-fulfilling prophecy isn’t the situation itself. It’s that critical inner voice that colored your thinking, distorted your perceptions, and ultimately, led you down a destructive path.

When it comes to all of the things we worry ourselves about in relationships, we are much more resilient than we think. In truth, we can handle the hurts and rejections that we so fear. We can experience pain, and eventually, heal. However, our critical inner voice tends to terrorize and catastrophize reality. It can rouse serious spells of anxiety about dynamics that don’t exist and threats that aren’t even tangible. Even when there are real things going on, someone breaks up with us or feels an interest in someone else, our critical inner voice will tear us apart in ways we don’t deserve. It will completely distort reality and undermine our own strength and resilience. It’s that cynical roommate that always gives bad advice. “You can’t survive this. Just put your guard up and never be vulnerable to anyone else.”

The defenses we form and critical voices we hear are based on our own unique experiences and adaptations. When we feel anxious or insecure, some of us have a tendency to become clingy and desperate in our actions. We may feel possessive or controlling toward our partner in response. Conversely, some of us will feel easily intruded on in our relationships. We may retreat from our partners, detach from our feelings of desire. We may act out by being aloof, distant or guarded. These patterns of relating can come from our early attachment styles. Our attachment pattern is established in our childhood attachments and continues to function as a working model for relationships in adulthood. It influences how each of us reacts to our needs and how we go about getting them met. Different attachment styles can lead us to experience different levels of relationship anxiety.

What Thoughts Perpetuate Relationship Anxiety?

The specific critical inner voices we have about ourselves, our partner and relationships are formed out of early attitudes we were exposed to in our family or in society at large. Sexual stereotypes as well as attitudes that our influential caretakers had toward themselves and others can infiltrate our point of view and shade our current perceptions. While, everyone’s inner critic is different, some common critical inner voices include:

Critical Inner Voices about the Relationship

  • People just wind up getting hurt.
  • Relationships never work out.

Voices about Your Partner

  • Men are so insensitive, unreliable, selfish.
  • Women are so fragile, needy, indirect.
  • He only cares about being with his friends.
  • Why get so excited? What’s so great about her anyway?
  • He’s probably cheating on you.
  • You can’t trust her.
  • He just can’t get anything right.

Voices about Yourself

  • You’re never going to find another person who understands you.
  • Don’t get too hooked on her.
  • He doesn’t really care about you.
  • She is too good for you.
  • You’ve got to keep him interested.
  • You’re better off on your own.
  • As soon as she gets to know you, she will reject you.
  • You’ve got to be in control.
  • It’s your fault if he gets upset.
  • Don’t be too vulnerable or you’ll just wind up getting hurt.

How Does Relationship Anxiety Affect Us?

As we shed light into our past, we quickly realize there are many early influences that have shaped our attachment pattern, our psychological defenses and our critical inner voice. All of these factors contribute to our relationship anxiety and can lead us to sabotage our love lives in many ways. Listening to our inner critic and giving in to this anxiety can result in the following actions:

  • Cling – When we feel anxious, our tendency may be to act desperate toward our partner. We may stop feeling like the independent, strong people we were when we entered the relationship. As a result, we may find ourselves falling apart easily, acting jealous or insecure or no longer engaging in independent activities.
  • Control – When we feel threatened, we may attempt to dominate or control our partner. We may set rules about what they can and can’t do just to alleviate our own feelings of insecurity or anxiousness. This behavior can alienate our partner and breed resentment.
  • Reject – If we feel worried about our relationship, one defense we may turn to is aloofness. We may become cold or rejecting to protect ourselves or to beat our partner to the punch. These actions can be subtle or overt, yet it is almost always a sure way to force distance or to stir up insecurity in our partner.
  • Withhold – Sometimes, as opposed to explicit rejection, we tend to withhold from our partner when we feel anxious or afraid. Perhaps things have gotten close, and we feel stirred up, so we retreat. We hold back little affections or give up on some aspect of our relationship altogether. Withholding may seem like a passive act, but it is one of the quietest killers of passion and attraction in a relationship.
  • Punish – Sometimes, our response to our anxiety is more aggressive, and we actually punish, taking our feelings out on our partner. We may yell and scream or give our partner the cold shoulder. It’s important to pay attention to how much our actions are a response to our partner and how much are they a response to our critical inner voice.
  • Retreat – When we feel scared in a relationship, we may give up real acts of love and intimacy and retreat into a “fantasy bond.” A fantasy bond is an illusion of connection that replaces real acts of love. In this state of fantasy, we focus on form over substance. We may stay in the relationship to feel secure but give up on the vital parts of relating. In a fantasy bond, we often engage in many of the destructive behaviors mentioned above as a means to create distance and defend ourselves against the anxiety that naturally comes with feeling free and in love. Learn more about the fantasy bond here.

How Can I Overcome Relationship Anxiety?

In order to overcome, relationship anxiety, we must shift our focus inward. We have to look at what’s going on inside us, separate from our partner or the relationship. What critical inner voices are exacerbating our fears? What defenses do we possess that could be creating distance? This process of self-discovery can be a vital step in understanding the feelings that drive our behavior, and ultimately, shape our relationship. By looking into our past, we can gain better insight into where these feelings come from. What caused us to feel insecure or turned on ourselves in relation to love?

In my intimate relationship, I also manifest my lack of self esteem. My hatred for my physical self inevitably affects every part of this relationship. I need to learn to love myself, practice my loving exercises, eat healthily and exercise, and learn to be truly grateful for the skin I am in. I must not fear men – their strength is a positive, and will never be used against me. Most of all, I need to remember that I will never let myself be surrounded by anyone who remotely resembles my step dad ever again. I will not relive my past. And I must move beyond it now.

Friendships: Although I have yet to figure out how to truly tackle problems friendships, trust and self esteem issues for good, I am on the way to improving them. I have long-standing friendships, I let people go when they no longer add positivity to my life.

I need to remember that:

  • Other people’s opinion and judgements of me are not reflective of who I really am, nor do they take anything away from me
  • If I don’t like something that someone has analysed about me, I need to consider whether it is true, and whether it is something I am proud of – if not, I need to change it
  • I need to choose people in my life who are positive and easy going and do not give me anxiety
  • I need to be surrounded by supportive people
  • I do actually enjoy the company of others, bouncing off of them and learning about them
  • Appreciate all those already in my life
  • I need to let go of the reigns more, breathe and stop panicking
  • I need to allow myself to just enjoy the company of others

These are my personal aims at the moment – working and building upon healthy, happy relationships on all levels with great, happy, positive people. Have you had any similar experiences? Please share them with me, I would love to have your advice.

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

Give yourself a break

The thing with mental illness? It makes us our own worst enemy. We start to punish ourselves for the thoughts in our head, the fact that we’re not ‘normal’, the things we miss out on, the things we make ourselves do. The list is endless.

The question is, why do we do this? Seeing as we’re going through such turmoil, I don’t understand why we punish ourselves further! We make our lives difficult, and pick holes in everything we say and do. We lower our view of ourselves, and we feed self-hatred.

The more I read this, the more I realise how damaging we are being to ourselves.

Being inside your own head, when your brain purges your every thought, turns your every positive into a negative, and is your own worst enemy, is exhausting.

Give yourself a break. Recognise how hard your brain is fighting, day in day out, to keep you alive. Realise how far you’ve come. Write down all your achievements. Acknowledge how many obstacles you’ve overcome. Allow yourself to smile, or laugh. Do what you love. Be with family. Spend some time with friends. Rest. Sleep. Read. Eat well.

Silence your mind. And try to learn to be your own best friend, because really, you don’t deserve to be punished. You deserve to celebrate the good you’re doing, and the progress you continue to make.

How would you treat a friend who told you they were going through what you’re going through? How would you look at them? How would you speak to them? What would you say? Try treating yourself like that – with some kindness. And try it now! Without hesitation.

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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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Why it is so important to worry less

Stress. Stress. Stress. Stress

This is a pattern we all seem to see in our lives in modern day society. We live in a fast-paced world, where we are met with unreal expectations of ourselves, and of others. We live in a world where we are expected to juggle balls of fire, whilst walking a tight rope, whilst dressed in a business suit in heels and a full face of flawless makeup. We have unrealistic and unobtainable goals, both set by ourselves and our peers, whether they be friends, family, co-workers, bosses or the general expectations of society, and we try too hard to reach these goals, whilst trying to remain peaceful and calm when we undoubtedly cannot. We try to carry on, running at 100mph, even when our bodies and minds tell us to slow down. We encounter stressor after stressor, and we allow this stress to overtake our lives, our bodies and our minds. We are a society of hot-headed, exhausted, anxiety-fuelled stress-heads who will eventually run ourselves into an early grave if we don’t take a step back, slow the pace, and realise that life is given to be enjoyed.

I have worried for a good 95% of my life so far. I have worried about every little thing you can possibly imagine there is to worry about, and on top of that, all the things you would never think a human could worry about. I have had panic attacks about the smallest of things, held myself back from living due to anxiety, pushed myself to the limit of my mental and physical capability trying to beat anxiety and stress at its own game – and of course losing.

And where has all of this stress got me? No where. Simply, no where.

I want to share with people what stress, anxiety and panic attacks has done to my life, and share with you why it is so important to worry less, and enjoy life to the full.

  • Anxiety has made me sick, which has developed into eating disorders which I am still trying to overcome. Over my life I have had anorexia and bulimia as a result of my anxiety – a need to be in control of my body, which in my brain meant it needed to be entirely empty of food and water. This ultimately led to stomach ulcers, dramatic weight loss, acid reflux, and a whole number of complications.
  • Anxiety makes me ill. Undiagnosable, physical illnesses are the most frustrating. Do you find yourself constantly tired, achy, sick, lethargic, having painful periods, painful joints, dizziness, headaches or migraines, amongst other ailments you just can’t fix? This was my life. I would head to the doctors at least 3 times a month asking what they could do for my physical symptoms, however there was no illness to fix. No blood test showed any physical symptom, and no medication helped. My anxiety and reaction to stress in my life was not only making living inside my head exhausting, but making my body feel constantly unwell.
  • Anxiety and worry added to my depression. When you are constantly worrying about what may or may not happen, feeling unexplainably unwell, having panic attacks etc, you simply do not feel good about yourself or the world, which only adds low mood, low self-esteem and depression to the list of problems.
  • Stress makes me irritable which impacts on my relationships with friends, family and my boyfriend. It starts arguments that didn’t need to be started and turns me into a person I don’t like. I can be so quick to anger and really quite feisty (usually over nothing) when I am in an anxious state. It makes me push those I love the most away from me, at a time I need them the most. Makes lots of sense right? Not!
  • Stress affects my sleeping pattern – in fact, most of the time I didn’t have a sleeping pattern, unless a pattern means not sleeping at all. 2-3 hours of interrupted sleep a night is not healthy, nor is it conducive to a healthy and productive day the following day. Stress keeps your mind working into the early hours, worrying and playing over what could or might happen. It’s silly, but it happens to us all at some point. And we are left feeling truly exhausted. Lack of sleep can also add to making us feel unwell – it truly is a vicious circle.
  • Stress makes my hair fall out – and no girl wants clumps of hair falling out all over the place!

This non-exhaustive list of ways that worry and stress has affected my life is really quite troubling. We only get one life, and the majority of us are wasting our precious, short lives on worry over what may happen. And I almost guarantee that what we worry about never comes to fruition anyway. And if it does? So what?! We’ll handle it.

How can we worry less?

  • Getting into a good frame of mind and repeating positive mantras, with a good level of self-esteem and contentment is a great way to begin to worry less. Easier said than done of course, and often needs time, a counsellor and some serious work. But once you feel more balanced in yourself, you find your ability to deal with stress and external stressors much better.
  • Good sleep hygiene and routine will benefit physically and mentally and put us in the best position to deal with the coming days, months, looming events and worries that we may have.
  • Writing down our worries can often help to rationalise them. Sometimes as soon as you see them on paper you can see how silly they are, and if not, you can work out how to rationalise them, and how you’d cope if it did all play out the way you are so passionately worrying it might.
  • Having a calming routine if you do get into a worrying or stressful situation. Managing to calm yourself down and understanding that you can do so is a great reassurance.  I find deep breathing exercises, herbal remedies and being alone and talking to myself really helpful.
  • Herbal remedies are a really great alternative to medication and can really soothe you in a stressful situation. I find it works for me anyway. Anything like Kalms, Rescue remedy pastilles or my personal favourite  flower solutions are really helpful.
  • Belief in yourself and your ability to cope with anything that life throws at you, as well as surrounding yourself with great friends and family who think the same. I have some great friends who are positive, and happy and encourage me to be the same, all the while teaching me positive and calming behaviours which I can apply to my own life.
  • Doing lots of exercise and calming activities, as well as having your own time to indulge in hobbies and interests is so calming. I enjoy reading and walking my dog the most – which both so happen to be relaxing pastimes.
  • Self help books are wonderful, cheap ways of learning new relaxation techniques.
  • Lighting candles always helps me to chill out and relax of an evening.
  • Writing down my worries and rationalising them, and writing down after the event if my worry came to light, and if it did, how I coped, always helps me to learn from each event.
  • Praising yourself when you tackle something you’ve been particularly worried about.
  • Don’t overload your life with things to do, people to see, and race around at 100mph. Allow yourself to slow down, and enjoy even the mundane things in life, for every day is only here once.
  • Live in the moment. The saying goes that if we’re we’ve got anxiety we’re living in either the past or the future, and we cannot control that, so if we live in the present we cannot worry…or something to that effect. If we live in the here and now, we cannot panic, because we are ok, and we are coping.

Above all, it is so important we slow down our fast paced lives, stop putting unfair pressures on and setting unrealistic goals for ourselves, and enjoy the ride more. Because let’s face it, on our death beds, we’re only going to remember the good things, and regret the things we didn’t do. So let’s increase the good and eradicate the regret.

Worry less, live more. Our new mantra