Eugh I did it!

After my bad day a couple of days ago, I thought I’d managed to get my anxiety back in order and was back to being confident to leave the house.

However, somehow it managed to show up again yesterday, and again today.

Anxiety is striking me every time I go further than the end of my street and last night I was unable to go into work to grab the keys for today’s shift.

But today, after much stress (and lots of doubt!), I am at work and have managed to open the shop up on my own. It’s a massive relief, not only for myself as a personal achievement, but also because my boss and colleague are currently in Barcelona so if I didn’t open the shop, the shop wouldn’t have opened!

So today I am happy, and my anxiety better be expecting more strength to come for tomorrow’s shift!

Earlier today

Below is a video of me earlier today. It’s not a happy video at all but it’s a real one and today I’ve just had a really bad day.

Right now, I’m just hoping that’s all it is – a bad day. I try so hard all the time to not be this way anymore. I’m just physically exhausted of panic. I hate letting people down all the time and letting myself down as well. And the thought that today it could have got worse frightened me more than anything else has in such a long time.

So I’ve spent all afternoon walking  to the end of the street, walking back, having a cuppa and starting again.

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I can’t let this get any worse. I can’t let myself be housebound. I can’t handle anymore than what I’ve already got going on.

Please know that I am already feeling much better than when I filmed this video – you have no reason to worry! But I think it’s important to show both the highs and lows of this illness. It’s not always ‘I can do this!‘, sometimes it’s ‘I really can’t do this.

We’re human at the end of the day.

*The Anxious Girl’s Guide to Dating – Book Review

Yesterday I spent my entire day drinking tea, eating way too much chocolate, and reading through The Anxious Girl’s Guide to Dating – a new book written by Hattie C. Cooper.

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Hattie suffers with Generalised Anxiety Disorder  and having never been kissed until she was 22, she – like many others – was incredibly anxious when it came to dating. But now happily settled down with her someone special, she shares some insight into what she’s learnt over the years, through comical anecdotes from her life intertwined with practical advice and solutions for us to follow.

What I love most about this book is the author’s sheer talent for making me think she’s my friend. The witty language, embarrassing truths and comical denoting actions throughout made me smile, laugh and relate to everything she said *claps in awe*. There are also questions dotted throughout from readers (both men and women!) much like a magazine advice column and handy summarised bullet points at the end of each chapter which make for easy and simple reading.

As well as those of us with crippling anxiety disorders, I think The Anxious Girl’s Guide to Dating also works for those that are just naturally anxious when it comes to dating (I mean, who isn’t? – I’ve never understood those people who actually enjoy it non-ironically). In addition to that, it’s also for the people that have to deal with us anxiety-riddled people! The book does a great job and taking into account the other relationships in our lives – our friends and family – as well as a chapter fully dedicated to what the person on the other side of the relationship can do to make the anxiety easier (take note, Nathan).

Personally, my favourite part of the book is where Hattie discusses how we should be less negative and start replacing ‘sorry’ with ‘thank you’ more often in our relationships. Instead of ‘I’m sorry for crying too much’, we can easily say ‘thank you for being so understanding’. It’s something I’m guilty of, so this simple tip is something I’ll be carrying through into my own life amongst lots more of your suggestions – thank you for that!

By the way, I actually challenge you to read this book without once saying ‘stealing that!‘ or ‘ha! that’s so me‘ –  you’ll fail, it’s impossible.

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I think to write something that gives advice on dating alongside openly discussing disorders that can really limit a person’s life, and yet still keep it light-hearted and non-patronising is a tall order. Hattie fully admits that she doesn’t have the answers to everything and so it doesn’t feel like you’re reading one of those typical self-help books where someone with a million letters after their name (which make absolutely no sense to you) preaches the right and wrong ways to do things.

Instead, it’s like talking to your mate that just gets it.

The best way I can sum up The Anxious Girl’s Guide to Dating is this – it’s like serious girl power, but not just for girls. I know you’re probably reading this thinking ‘really, that was the best way you could have summed that up?’, but yes. It made me feel uplifted, stronger, and made me want to dance around my living room to the Spice Girls. But it’s just not just for us women, despite the title of the book.

Please purchase the book by clicking here if you have a Kindle, or by clicking here if you don’t.

http://www.hattiecooper.com/
https://twitter.com/CooperHattie

Suggestions Welcome – Feardom Fighters

Recently, I let you all know about the Feardom Fighters who are:

empowering people to make their unspoken fears spoken and helping them access strategies to face and take control of their fears
– Feardom Fighters, 2015

You can see my full post by clicking here.

So many of you reacted well to the idea and reblogged my post which I’m so happy about – the more people we can reach with this movement the better.

Feardom Fighter‘s #FeardomFestival will take place this coming October and feature guest speakers, workshops and much more, to help inform people and hopefully give them techniques to manage their anxiety. I briefly mentioned in my previous post that I will be working alongside Kathryn – the founder of  #FeardomFestival – to ensure it is as accessible and comfortable for people suffering with anxiety as possible.

For example, I suggested that during the talks that will be taking place, the rows of chairs have enough space between them so that anybody can easily exit at any point. I personally don’t like feeling stuck and would always choose an end-seat – but if everybody requires an end-seat at the event, this poses a problem!

So firstly, do you have any further suggestions on this? If you were going to attend this event, what would make you feel more comfortable? This can be things pre-event such as specific information on the website and social media, or suggestions like my own at the event itself. There are no silly answers and we want to hear them all!

Please either comment with your ideas or email me at -@hotmail.co.uk

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The building itself is three-storey, with ground level being the second-storey (and so you have the option to either go downstairs or up), and there are lots of little rooms going off the main space as well.

This big space with different rooms also allows for many different activities on the day. A few of the current ideas right now are:

  • Creative workshops
  • Meditation
  • A calm zone

…and again, your suggestions are welcome! Kathryn is very dedicated to make sure people actually get something useful out of this event and come away feeling as though it was well-worth attending. Therefore, if you have any ideas on other activities or anything else you think could be useful to yourself if you were to attend, please let me know.

Also, if you particularly like any of the suggestions listed already let me know, as if something gets a positive response we can ensure it’s definitely put into place!

Again, please either comment suggestions on here, or email me at -@hotmail.co.uk

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I look forward to your thoughts!

Feardom Fighters

Yesterday I met up with someone who is doing something pretty awesome for us anxiety sufferers in Leeds after having suffered with anxiety herself; and so I wanted to share with you all Kathryn’s project – Feardom Fighters.

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Feardom Fighters is of the firm belief that everyone suffering with anxiety should be able to access the support and services that they need. And what’s really cool, is on World Mental Health Day 2015 (October 10th), the Feardom Fighters are putting on an event to encourage you to become a Feardom Fighter yourself and grab the information they’re offering with both hands to help aid your recovery.

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The #FeardomFestival will feature workshops, speakers and lots more! There will be places to go and relax and also places to express yourself through various mediums. You will learn strategies on how to cope with anxiety, and learn different techniques of how to effectively manage it.

Most importantly though, you will be around other Feardom Fighters that have years of experience to share, tips to dish out and understanding of what you’re going through.

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It’s going to be a fantastic event and I would highly recommend you follow Feardom Fighters on twitter, whether you’re able to attend the event or not. Kathryn shares lots of tips and videos on the twitter page and so it’s well worth checking out regardless!

You can also sign up for email updates by clicking here.

I’ll be working alongside Kathryn on this event to try to make the event as accessible and comfortable for everyone as possible – being someone who finds a lot of different situations and venues difficult because of my anxiety.

It’s a really exciting thing to be apart of, and when a full itinerary of the day is available, I’ll make sure to let you guys know!

The lead’s doing nothing, really

Agoraphobia is stupid isn’t it. I mean I’m not belittling it, I have it myself. But it’s stupid.

How can I allow my brain to take over me in such a way that prevents me from doing everything I want to do? I allow it to convince me that I’m trapped in certain situations when I’m really not – and even if I was, it wouldn’t hurt me.

It’s what I’ve conditioned myself to believe, but it isn’t real.

It reminds me of my beautiful dog, Charlie. When mum’s in the front garden and leaves him in the house, he barks. But when she let’s him out, he runs out of her site.

So instead, she began putting his lead on him. She doesn’t hold the lead. She doesn’t even have to be anywhere near him, but he doesn’t leave the garden. He recognises that the lead means he’s restrained and can’t leave, but of course that’s not true.

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That’s what I feel like – my poor baby (it’s for his own good really!) being tricked into thinking something that’s not true. It’s as though somebody’s put a lead around my neck and walked away; yet I believe it stops me.

But it’s difficult to re-condition yourself. Simply knowing that you’re incorrect isn’t nearly enough to stop feeling it. So how do you do it? How does one with agoraphobia finally take the lead off and be free?

Let’s do this.

You know I say this a lot – I’m going to get over this; I’m going to face my fears. But then when it comes down to it, I avoid the situation yet again because of the sheer agonising and encompassing fear that I just can’t shake off no matter how hard I try. It’s beyond anything that I can explain, but I know some of you know what I’m talking about.

Recently though, it’s been more than just the fear. I’ve always avoided situations and sure sometimes it’s frustrating, it angers me and it completely alters my life, but in every other aspect I’ve always been happy.

My boyfriend, my family and my friends are all incredible. I’ve finally reached that stage where I’m with who I want to be with and only the friends that are genuine are still around. Even the family that weren’t worth being in my life aren’t any longer.

But this last couple of weeks I’ve lost that happiness that I’ve carried with me throughout. I suddenly feel depressed and defeated. I’m tired and sick of being this way. I loved going to Canada when I was 18 and mine and my boyfriend’s plan last year at uni was to travel the UK to random places that we pointed to on a map with our eyes closed. But instead just weeks after making those plans, this happened and I can’t even travel to the next town.

And whilst he wouldn’t want me feeling guilty at all, it means he hasn’t got a holiday this year because I can’t go. It means in January he walked three miles with me in the snow to a show we were going to see, because I couldn’t get in the taxi. It just means everything is difficult and it doesn’t just affect me.

But I think I had to reach this point. I think I had to reach this rock-bottom of whatever the hell is going on in my head. And so I’m really going to do it this time. It’s going to take a while and I already feel sick at the thought of it. But what else am I going to do?

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I think a holiday is in order this time next year, don’t you?

Thank you for your guest post yesterday, Becky – you gave me the confidence to believe it could be done.

#TheHeartProject

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Any project that shreds light on mental illness and aims to help eliminate stigma is worth doing in my book – so here’s my contribution to #TheHeartProject.

I could have added a few more hearts to my wrist, but anxiety is the major issue in my life right now and so this is the one I’ll be wearing today.

Ironically, it has a strong resemblance to one of my tattoos…

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Not a girl, not yet a woman

Don’t be fooled by the Britney Spears inspired title of this post (for some reason the song came into my head as soon as I decided to write – it must be the 90s child in me trying to escape!); this is about being a teenager and getting the help within the mental health service that’s needed.

Now I’m aware that the NHS can’t cater and design their service around everybody. There are way too many people with differing needs and they do the best they can; whether or not that’s good enough. But yesterday, I came across a drawing of a dinosaur whilst researching anxiety, and it made me remember how much I struggled as a teenager with the NHS’s services.

When I was fourteen, panic attacks came out of nowhere. I was sat on a plane and lost it, and from then on they came into my life every single day. For no obvious reason. I’d walk into a room and there it was. It was awful and it meant that I was missing a lot of class as I spent the majority of my time down in the school’s medical room with a plastic cup of water trying to calm down – so I went to the doctor and tried to get some help.

As I previously said, I’m aware that the NHS can’t cater to everybody, and I’m also aware that there has to be a cut-off point and a line drawn as to who classifies for one service or another, but as a fourteen/fifteen year old girl was the children’s service the best for me?

I’m not saying I was an adult and I’m not saying that I had the mentality of an adult, but if you think back to being that age I bet you think you did at the time. You don’t want to be patronised, and you don’t want to be spoken to like a child. But that’s how I was treated, because there was no in-between service for teenagers.

The methods used on me in my treatment were not altered in any way considering my age; I was still spoken to in a way that the psychologist could have spoken to a seven-year old. I was still shown cartoons and pictures of dinosaurs (much friendlier and less horrifying than the ones I could find!) and I just remember being sat there in that same room every week thinking ‘why am I here?’.

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My panic attacks did eventually go away for a good few years, but I still think they just went by themselves. I grew out of whatever was making me have them at the time and that was that. I didn’t feel less anxious by the services that were provided for me and they didn’t make me determined and positive that I could overcome them, and this was only around seven/eight years ago so I’m sure they haven’t changed much in that time.

So my question to you is simple – are these services good enough for our teenagers and can anything be done about it if they’re not?

If mental illnesses can’t be managed effectively in childhood and as teenagers, the problems manifest into much bigger issues and full blown disorders in adulthood where they’re then harder to treat – so I think it’s incredibly important that healthcare systems are good enough for people of this age. Yes, the issue is in-part surrounding the individual therapists and how they tailor the system to each individual, but the fact remains that regardless of this, teenagers are put into the category of children and so a standard of care surely cannot be met across the board when the pyschologists are only presented with material for a young child. The NHS (at that time anyway), wasn’t necissarily helping teenagers form in to healthy young adults; but instead teenagers were just the in-between that got forgotten about.