SMALL STEPS ARE MASSIVE

Agoraphobia is undoubtedly one of the most misunderstood anxiety disorders; with many people assuming it simply means ‘being afraid to leave the house’. However, agoraphobia can be better defined as an intense fear of being in a situation where an escape is not easy. For me, this has included using cash machines because of the length of time you’re stuck waiting for your money and can’t leave; it has included being in elevators, cars, trains, cinemas, using pedestrian crossings; not being able to stand still because of the need to keep running; being unable to cross the road because there’s too much traffic, and a million other small and complex things that would take me way too long to list; but equally impacted my life beyond belief. The result of all of these things was what left me housebound. It wasn’t that the outside world was a scary place to me, it was that my disorder had gradually dictated all the things that I couldn’t escape from and the only option I had left was to remain inside. Leaving the house for the first time isn’t the end of agoraphobia, it’s merely the start, the first step; because agoraphobia is all of those things. Agoraphobia is being too scared to cross a bridge and it’s feeling like you’re going to faint when you’re waiting in a queue. Agoraphobia is being feeling suffocated when crammed in a small room and feeling lost and vulnerable in an open space. Agoraphobia is most definitely not simply ‘being afraid to leave the house’. But by adding together each small step, things can and do get better. Because small steps are massive.

 

World Mental Health Day

I hope you are all well. I don’t yet feel ready to come back to the world of blogging, but being that it’s World Mental Health Day, I did post a different kind of video on my YouTube channel this morning – and I thought I would share.

xxx

See you later, alligator

Quite often when I go quiet and don’t blog for a while people assume I’m not OK; like I’m too sad or anxious to want to blog.

I know I’ve been quiet recently, but really the reason behind that is quite the opposite. I’m nowhere near ‘better’, but I’ve been feeling hopefully and making progress recently. I’ve pushed myself into walking further than I have in a long time, I’ve started painting again, I’ve started my YouTube channel – I’ve just started doing things I enjoy for me and began to recover.

The reason I originally started this blog was to have somewhere to rant, lay out my feelings and speak to some fantastic people who understand all of what I’m going through and it’s great for that. I do occasionally also share some random aspects of my life and more positive stories, but it was never the main purpose for this space.

And so really, the reason I’ve been quiet is because of that – because I’ve been more positive and happy than I have been in a while. I have been busy getting better.

I love being on here and getting to know all of you great people, and I’m sure I’ll be back to using this blog more often soon – as everyone knows, recovery and general mental health comes in waves. However, I just wanted to write this post to reassure everyone I’m OK firstly, and secondly to take some of the pressure off me ‘having to’ write posts frequently.

I love being an advocate for mental health and I love that people feel as though they can come to me with their problems. I still get emails and tweets daily from people who want some advice or just a general chat and please don’t stop doing that, it’s great.

On the flip side though, I think I immersed myself into the world of mental health so much that that’s all I have been able to think about recently. Everything in my life has been concerning my anxiety or mental health in general. I have been meeting with great organisations and talking to fantastic people constantly, and I’m not by any means saying I am going to cut ties with them, but it’s taken me until now to realise that I think I need more than that.

I have been so wrapped up in mental health services and everyone has been telling me how proud they are of me for doing it, that I think I’ve forgotten all the other stuff I enjoy doing. For instance I can’t remember the last time I did a piece of art that wasn’t mental health related because it was just pretty.

Having to think about my own mental health and other’s mental health on a constant basis is too much for me right now. The whole reason I suffer from such bad anxiety is because I over think situations, and so I don’t need to be in a situation right now where I have to think about it even more.

This is not goodbye. I will be back soon, but I just wanted to let you all know where I am at and the reason I have been so quiet. I appreciate you all and I promise I’m OK!

Speak soon!
L x

Progress

I have been fairly quiet lately on my blog so I thought it was time for a long-overdue update. I’ve been super busy with starting up my YouTube channel, trying to learn new coping mechanisms and pushing myself to get better.

For those of you that frequently read my blog, you will know that the last month has been particularly difficult for me. I’ve had agoraphobia for over a year now, but this last month has left me virtually housebound; doing anything or going anywhere has been pretty much impossible.

This has also left me incredibly emotional. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt this sad all of the time. The smallest thing can happen or be said and I burst into tears. It’s like I’m walking around (clearly not far!) with frustration, anger and sadness in me at all times, waiting to burst out.

I wake up feeling dread every morning and I cry myself to sleep every night. I snap, I get mad and I cry; all day every day, just wondering around my small first floor flat.

So on Saturday, I lay there in my bed crying at four in the afternoon. I lay there feeling as I always do right now – disappointed and annoyed that my life has come to this. It had just occurred to me that my upcoming trip to my hometown next month to see my friends and family was in jeopardy. If I can’t make it to the end of the street how can I survive a four-hour car journey home?

And then, something just snapped. Or clicked. Or a combination of both. I quickly downloaded a meditation app on my phone, put in my headphones, and went out; in the middle of a thunder-storm.

I felt nervous and there were points where I felt beyond uncomfortable, but not once in the forty minutes I walked did I have a panic attack. Not once did it all become too much that I had to go home.

Instead, for the first time in around a month, I walked without feeling like I was going to pass out, without feeling like I couldn’t breathe or my heart was going to burst through my chest. I just walked, like a normal person.

And again today I did the same thing. The only time I nervously rushed was in Sainsburys, and by doing that it just made me drop my purse and all my coins across the shop floor making me stay in there even longer. But ultimately I was fine.

These things may not seem like massive deals to most people. Walking down the street isn’t an achievement to the majority of us. And I still have a LONG way to go, but regardless of all that, I feel like I’m turning a corner, so that’s something to be proud of.

I feel a little bit of hope for the first time in ages. I feel like maybe getting over this is possible after all. As for the sadness, that’s still there. My brain’s just had enough I guess. But I do also think that’s what’s driving and pushing me forward, and I do have a little help from some extra serotonin around my neck to cheer me up.

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Guest Post by Claire – But you were Doing so Well…

Recently I’ve decided to feature some guests here on my blog to showcase some other people’s troubles with mental health. Here we have Claire who talks about having Bipolar Disorder and making sense of what other people may say to us when we’re unwell. Please check out her blog by clicking here.

claire

Learning to live with a diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder means learning to live your life quite differently. You have to get used to what triggers you, to make the most of the days where you feel well, to recognise the signs of slipping into depression, and equally raising into hypomania and for those who go there, mania.

The people around you also have a steep learning curve, and despite all their efforts, sometimes it’s really hard for them to understand that your recovery will not be straightforward.

Many of us with mental health issues have felt as though our families and friends don’t understand us, or that they don’t support us. In recent month’s I have started to realise that a lot of the time it is less that than it is near impossible for them to wrap their head around the reality that life really is a roller-coaster for us.

My reality is bipolar disorder, but I know many other illness’ have similar patterns and many people hear phrases similar to one’s I’ve heard from people. These are a fraction of phrases I’ve heard in the past few years from friends, family, and others. I’m sure everyone reading this has heard at least one of these at some point…

“But you were doing so well…”
“You’ve done this on purpose to ruin my careful diary planning”
“Just stick a smile on your face”
“When I was depressed I didn’t…”
“You look fine”
“But you’re laughing”
“Well if you can write a blog, you can work”
“I wish you would come out, just for a bit”
“but I miss you”

I could write these all day, but you get the idea!

Some people are very well-meaning with what they say, and it’s maybe just the wrong thing to say and shows it’s just hard for them to understand exactly what it’s like in your shoes. I find this a lot with family. I know they try very hard to support me, but unless you’ve lived a week in my shoes it’s impossible to know how this feels, to know how one minute everything can be fine the next I can either be in a foul mood or bouncing off of the walls and often for absolutely no reason. The psychosis must be terrifying for them, to see someone afraid of things that aren’t there.

With my sensible head on as I write this, I can understand that as a carer, someone who loves me this must be awfully scary. They must hold onto the moments where we are well so tight and then when we start to get sick again it must be devastating. As the person who is sick, we know it is going to happen, we prepare ourselves for it. But I think our loved one’s hold onto some hope that the last time was the last time.

Often some people just get plain sick of us, and that’s where the more snarky and nasty comments come in. I find these often come from people we had considered friends and it can be soul destroying to find that these people we had found a source of comfort and support are no longer there for us.

From their point of view though, it must be very difficult having friendships with people who consistently cancel plans, aren’t always happy, and I’m being honest here can be quite self-centred at times!

Before the comments get inundated with abuse I am just playing devil’s advocate here, I’m trying to see what they must see. I’ve fallen foul of friend loss because of my illness as much as the next person. I think it helps for us to step outside of ourselves sometimes and see the bigger picture, to see what other people may see.

You then also have the people who are dealing with their own problems, remember that one in four of us have a mental health issue. Not everyone can handle dealing with somebody else’s aswell as their own, or they don’t own up to having one, or won’t realise they have one.

We live with an illness that cripples us, but can be so consuming for us that sometimes we forget to see that it does affect those around us aswell. There could be a whole host of reasons why someone reacts negatively towards you and your illness. Of course, some people are just plain rude and uncaring, and in those cases we are best off without them in our lives.

But for the most part, when you through the rough patch, take a moment to think about why someone has said something hurtful to you. Did they actually mean it in the way you took it? Was it meant as a word of support, a show of love, an act of frustration because they do actually care, do they have an issue you could show them support over?

Youtube Channel & Mental Health Patch Update

A bit of a random post today guys!

Firstly, I know a lot of my followers will be interested in the outcome of my email to the Girlguiding UK association last week. I messaged them after hearing about a mental health patch being introduced to Girl Scouts throughout the US to find out if there was anything similar in the UK.

You will be all happy to know that the project is in negotiation, and they hope that Rainbows, Brownies & Guides will be able to earn mental health patches by the start of 2016 as apart of their training, which is fantastic!

Secondly, I know this won’t interest the majority of you, but I have just started a youtube channel. This isn’t going to be mental health based; instead I’m going to focus on makeup/fashion/upcycling – all the other interests in my life. I’m sure there will be the odd mental health vlog though as it’s a major part of my life.

I love speaking to you guys about mental health over here, but I want a place to talk about all the fun stuff too, so I’ve finally got around to finding somewhere!

If you are at all interested, please click on the picture below for a link to my first video, and I would really appreciate some subscribers so I’m not sitting talking to myself!🙂

Speak soon!

haul

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RV4Vz4i–6k

Telling your mum you’re not well

As my mum has just created her very own blog over at Proud Mumma Bear, I thought I would write a post which I’ve been meaning to do for some time: how to tell your mum, dad, brother, sister, other half, friend – anyone – that you’re not well.

I get so many comments, tweets and emails discussing how open I am with my mum about all the issues that I have. I get messages like ‘How do you do it?‘ and ‘I wish I could be that open‘ all the time.

mum

I haven’t always been that way, but I love that I am now. I had a lot of problems as a teenager and if I could disguise them and ‘put on a brave face’, that’s what I did. I felt like I was being silly and I thought it was easier to just get on with it on my own.

These days of course I don’t really have a choice but to tell her about my agoraphobia, because it’s hard to fake leaving the house when I spend a weekend with her, but I do  tell her the rest as well. I tell her about the highs, the lows, the risks I’ve taken and then regretted, and all the other messy bits to my mental health, or lack there of it. I do this because for me, it’s nice to have someone unconditionally on my side.

But parents seem to be the one limitation that a lot of you have when it comes to sharing your own mental health experiences. So often I hear bloggers say that they have to remain anonymous because the fear of their parents seeing what they’ve written is too much, and even those that do have faces are often anxious at the idea of mum or dad discovering their writing.

I’m not here to say whether or not that’s right or wrong. If keeping your problems away from some of the people you love – for their sake or yours – is the best thing to do, then carry on. You know yourself and what is good for you better than anyone else. I also appreciate that not everyone’s mum is like my mum, and some people feel misunderstood and stigmatised in their own homes, making it much harder to be open.

Additionally on the flip side, it can also be damaging towards the parent. I know that my mum loses sleep over me and my problems constantly. She’s always stressed and worried because she wants me to be as happy and healthy as humanly possible, and none of us want to be a ‘burden’, which is another reason we often downplay our troubles.

But what I will say is that if you have a strong desire to tell someone what’s going on in your life – do it and just trust that they care about you as much you do them.

And this doesn’t mean you have to go into vast detail if you don’t want to. I don’t necessarily explain how bad some situations are to my mum. I might say ‘I’m feeling depressed at the moment‘, but that doesn’t mean I have to go into anymore detail than that. What it does mean though, is that I know she’s there, ready to come and rescue me if I need her.

If you want to tell somebody, find a way no matter how hard that is. There is always something you can do to make it easier for you; you just have to figure out what it is.

For me, when I’m sad or scared I find it incredibly hard to speak. When I’m face to face with someone my mind goes completely blank and no words come out. So whenever it has come to telling my mum something important in the past, I have left her a note or a letter.

Sometimes these have been rather amusing in hindsight, like telling her that my boyfriend when I was fifteen had a three-year old child, or that the boyfriend before that was in a youth offenders prison, but I have also told her about family abuse and deep depressions I’ve suffered through letters.

It may not work for everyone, but it works for us.

I love how open we are. It makes my life so much easier to be able to share with my mum. And sure, sometimes I feel guilty because I know it upsets her, but I know she’d be more upset if she knew I didn’t feel like I could come to her.

If you need someone to share your battle with, then take the first step and make it happen!

Happy 1st Birthday ByLaurenHayley & Day 1 for ProudMummaBear

Today my blog is one year old which definitely calls for a celebration in my mind!

I never thought I’d fall in love with blogging in the way that I have.

I never thought a single person would be interested in anything I have to say.

But instead, one year on, I’ve had 7,315 likes on my posts, I’ve had 30,918 visitors check out my blog, and I have 2,613 loyal followers. (I’ve literally just looked up those figures and I’m shocked – thank you, guys!)

I’ve also had thousands of beyond amazing comments from some incredible people.

I’ve helped people and I’ve been helped by people.

This blog has given me somewhere to be myself and express my feelings, it’s given me friends, advice and the opportunity to work with some fantastic organisations to improve mental health services.

It’s given me more than you could possibly imagine, and for that I thank every single one of you, and make Nutella cake to celebrate!

Here’s to the next year, and the next cake!

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On another note, today is a very special day for my mum too when it comes to blogging; as today she wrote her first blog post! Go check her out and give her a follow for more mental health talk and a super awesome person – ProudMummaBear

Guest Post by Fryn Lane – BPD & Creativity

Recently I’ve decided to feature some guests here on my blog to showcase some other people’s troubles with mental health. Here we have Fryn Lane who talks about having EUPD/BPD, and how she uses creativity as a way of managing it. Please check out her blog by clicking here.

fryn

Hi, I’m Fryn, I’m 22 years old and I have recurrent depression as a result of Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder, also known as Borderline Personality Disorder. This has quite a big impact on my daily functioning; my feelings are very intense. Relationships with me can be intense at times no matter how hard I try to curtail it. My boyfriend Joe has his own mental health problems (we click because we have good mutual understanding and empathy) and it is very tricky to manage our individual problems alongside supporting one another. I also have extreme self-loathing, and a constant stream of self-critical thoughts narrating my every day.

One of the key ways I cope with my mental illness is through creativity. I am currently recovering from a depressive episode that hit back in November 2014. It’s been a long time, and keeping me as sane as possible have been my many creative outlets. When, in November, my depression was at its worst, I could not function. I could not think, I could not cope. At this point, I was not creative. I went into Hobbycraft, my favourite shop, to find a new project. For the first time, nothing inspired me, I felt broken. Where was the creative spark I relied upon to get me through? I left the shop in tears.

It was not until a few months later, as the depression was beginning to lift, that my creative ‘spark’, or energy, came back. My creativity is a huge part of my identity and helps me define who I am in my murky sea of moving goalposts and slipping standards. I love being creative, and with a diagnosis of EUPD, with my intense emotions I have a lot of feeling to pour into what I create. I need to feel something strongly in order to create, and the EUPD helps with that! I only ever feel things strongly!

What I do creatively really varies. I go through phases and bore easily so what you see me working on one week will not be the same as what I work on the week after. I paint, I crochet, I design and sew cross stitch, I bake, I cook new things, I draw, I colour, I make things with clay, I build things and I make a mess. I get stuck in, I rip up paper for collages, I use pastels, paint, pencils, felt tips, I write I craft I create. It varies based on my mood, I never plan my future creations, and as I say I go through phases. I’m no real artist; perhaps it is my low self-esteem talking but I often make something and then wish to destroy it straight away. I often detest what I have created, but equally sometimes I feel I have created something truly beautiful.

My favourite at the moment is colouring in (the adult colouring book craze that’s hit the UK is amazing! Seriously, there are so many designs and books to choose from, it’s brilliant!) I often get frustrated with my own drawing inability, so to colour a pre-drawn design feels really therapeutic. It’s great for mindfulness, and you can really express your emotions through the colours you choose. I have stuck all my pictures on my wall to cheer me up; the images I coloured when more depressed used darker, foreboding colours yet my more recent stuff is multi coloured and fun – It’s a visual log of my progress in escaping this depressive episode. And it’s great to pick up and do when I feel a bit stressed out.

I have also been making clay figures that express my emotions from air drying clay. The process of mixing paints and decorating the models, as well as squishing the clay in my fingers is really calming. I can be making models for hours and not notice the time passing. Which is great; because I’m not able to work at the moment being creative keeps my mind active. Someday perhaps when I am better and more able I hope to embark on a creative career, too. My creativity comes hand in hand with my mental illness, and I’d never manage without the release for my emotions and the structure it provides for my day.