Conquering

So I’ve finally decided what to do with all my free time over the next few months. The summer holidays have largely consisted of boredom so far; watching film after film and series after series – which I’m sure it will continue to do in some part, but I’ve also decided to do something proactive.

It’s simple, really.

What can I do that makes me happy? 

Art – and I haven’t done any since I finished this year of uni. So that’s number one on my list.

And secondly, what would make me happy in the future?

Getting over all this rubbish. The anxiety that stops me from doing everything. So for this next few months, my main purpose is to conquer. For a very long time now I haven’t been able to go higher than one floor in a building for fear of being too far from the exit. I have panic attacks at even the thought of it. But today, that is about to change.

I am going to spend every single day this summer walking to uni. My campus is pretty flat – much to my relief, but we do have a building which is four floors and open 365 days of the year.

jgI am going to spend my summer holidays trying my hardest to reach the top of that building.

I am going to push – one fear at a time – until this life-destroying illness leaves my body.

I am so ready to be rid of it. I am so ready to lead a more relatively normal life. When my friend asks me to visit her for the weekend, I would like to be able to say yes because I can get on a train. I would like to be able to attend all my lessons and lectures next year at uni. I would like to be able to go on holiday with my boyfriend. I would like to be able to do a lot of things that right now are impossible to me, and this is my first step. Quite literally.

pittock_mansion_stairs_by_jordan90-d6ibz1z

Mental Health Art

Just under a year ago in June 2014, I created this series of art work. The six images were each designed to depict a different mental illness or the symptoms associated with it; and they also mock some of the negative stigma that go hand-in-hand with suffering from these disorders.

I designed the series in black and red because for me, they’re the two boldest colours that there are. The black represents the illness, isolation, secrets and negativity that we face from the rest of the world; whilst the areas of red represent the glimpse of hope, which no matter how small is brighter and more predominant than the illness.

We need to stop shaking our heads and silently being at war with the uneducated comments we hear; we need to stop making peace with the idea that mental health issues aren’t as high priority as physical illness, and instead – we need to actively stand strong and fight for better.

nknk

I hope you like them, to view the rest of my art portfolio, click here.

Reality

Tonight I watched the film, Still Alice. I don’t wish to spoil the plot for those of you that would like to see it, but the basic premise is about a woman who is suffering from early-onset Alzheimer’s, and it’s a realistic and harrowing portrayal of what it’s like to live with the disease. As you all know, I don’t suffer from Alzheimer’s myself – and I’m under no illusions that I have any idea what it’s like to live with it – but somehow this film struck a chord with me.

It was the lack of control the character had over her brain. The way in which she so desperately wanted things to be better and normal but her mind wouldn’t allow those desires to become a reality.The constant and every day struggle and fight that was happening in her head. The helpless looks on everybody’s faces around her as they had no concept of what to do to help. The way it consumed her and stopped her from doing the things she loved the most.

And so now I lie here, in complete darkness, trying so hard to get to sleep and stop these thoughts racing through my mind. I can close my eyes for a matter of seconds before they’re wide open again, thinking about my own life and the similarities we all have to each other no matter our condition.

At one point in the film, the character bluntly states, ‘I wish I had cancer’ – a difficult sentence to comprehend to the average person. I actually watched the film with my mum, and at this point she almost laughed. I don’t know if it was shock or a nervous reflex, I didn’t ask, but I’m sure most people’s first reaction would be: how could somebody say that? How could somebody say that they want a disease that kills millions? How can somebody be that lost within themselves that that’s a thought that even passes through them?

But right now I’m not going to sit here and edit my thoughts before I write them down. I’m not going to lie or say what I’m supposed to say. Instead I’m going to say that I get it. I didn’t feel shocked or nervous when this line was read out. I felt understanding and almost comforted by the commonality between us. I know it’s a controversial thing to say; I’ve lost and am currently losing family members at the moment to the disease, and one of my best friends lost her mum to cancer just last year. It’s an awful, agonising, painful and traumatic thing to have, or to watch someone else have. I am in no way trying to belittle that and I do not at all wish that I had cancer. But I do get it. I get what she meant.

I understand what it’s like to have your illness belittled over and over again. I understand what it’s like to be made to feel ashamed of it because it’s an illness of the brain and not something ‘real’ like what cancer is. I understand what it’s like to want to die; to end it all because being here is just too damn hard, and surely cancer would just be quicker and less painful – because nothing can be as painful as this.

I can’t watch suicides/attempted suicides in films or TV programmes, and I don’t like talking about them fiction or otherwise. Everyone knows that I’m unbearably squeamish and so most of the time people assume this is why. But that’s not really it. Suicide scares me to watch or hear about or think about in any real capacity because it’s a reality for me. It’s something that I can sympathise with and although have never got to the point where I have ever carried out any suicidal thoughts, I do understand what it’s like to be in that head space. I feel it. It’s hard to explain in words but it makes me panic and my heart beats at a million miles per hour. It’s like watching someone else die a painful death due to a disease that you have yourself.

Still Alice may be about a person living with Alzheimer’s and the harsh reality that that brings, but I think that anybody suffering with any type of mental illness would find similarities between the character and themselves. Check it out and let me know what you think.

Hopefully now that these thoughts are laid out here, I can finally get some sleep! Have a great day/night – depending where you are in the world!

Home

Just a quick little update!

Today I can officially say that my second year of uni is complete – no more exams and no more reports. Which means it’s time to go home!

I’m really excited to get back and see my mum and the rest of my family and friends. My dad is actually picking me up today. Obviously as you know, transport is not my favourite thing in the world. It triggers my anxiety more than anything else.

My dad and I aren’t particularly close, and so today’s going to be a bit of a struggle. Firstly, because of just trying to fill awkward silences with meaningless conversation, but secondly because I’m less anxious around people I feel comfortable with, and sadly he is not one of those people.

It’s going to be a loooong and anxiety-riddled four hours! It’ll be worth it though I’m sure, because at the end of that four hours, I get to have cuddles with this guy!

ch]

Life can change so much in a year

image

This photo came up on my Timehop this morning – you know the app that tells you what you were doing this day last year and all the other years since you’ve been on social media.

I took it from the roof top bar in the Hilton on Park Lane in London a year ago today. I’d been doing an event there downstairs and was enjoying a glass of wine up there with a friend afterwards, before heading into Covent Garden and having many more glasses.

I think that bar was the 23rd floor. It made me a bit nervous, but only because I don’t like lifts and I have to be honest, I did walk up all of them stairs. Only to be faced with the 22nd floor sign reading ‘roof top bar access through elevator only’ and so had to get in it anyway.

But the fact is I did it. I enjoyed a drink at the 23rd floor. I walked up to the window and took pictures; I wasn’t in a rush to leave.

One year on, I can’t go higher than the 1st floor. And I have to be real with you, sometimes I struggle with that. If I go any higher, panic runs through me; I’m too far from the exit and can’t get out.

Anyway I woke up this morning and had this notification on my phone ready and waiting, so my mood hasn’t been the best so far today. Anxiety is such a frustrating thing to live with because it rids you of everything you know you’re capable of. And this photo was just another reminder of that.

Stressed

I’ve been getting really angry and anxious recently with the way that my uni operates when it comes to mental health. It’s time they actually started taking it seriously because I’m sure there are many people like me that really seriously struggle with their system.

My exams start tomorrow morning and because of my anxiety I can’t take it in the normal exam hall; so previously the uni have had alternatives put in place for me with absolutely no problem or hesitation. This time however, the university decided to resist until I got hold of an up to date doctors note, which is fine. But even after this it’s taken ages for them to process it and decide whether or not to authorise my request.

I don’t think they understand that it’s a case of moving me, or I’m not doing the exam. It’s not one of those things where I can just ‘grit my teeth’ and get on with it. It is literally – give me an alternative or I’ll have to retake the year.

So I’ve spent all of today (in between revising!) on the phone to the uni trying to sort it out and find out whether or not I’m actually taking my exam tomorrow. Around half an hour ago they finally authorised it which is great, but can’t confirm which room they’ve put me in…

So it’s now it’s 5pm the day before my 9am exam, and I have no idea what room I’m taking my exam in.

They have confirmed that I have a room, just not where it is.

All I got was ‘Turn up early and hopefully someone will be able to find it for you’.

For someone who suffers with anxiety, the last thing I need is to be anxious about where I need to be, on top of the actual exam itself. I have literally never come across such a disorganised and unnecessary system. I have tutors that can vouch for me and confirm my condition, but apparently they still had to make the process as confusing and stressful as possible – and it’s still not even 100% sorted.

To make matters even more annoying, those with a physical disability get put in to these alternative rooms regardless of if they need it, and without going through this process. I don’t begrudge others having it, don’t get me wrong, but come on now, I need it as well. A good friend of mine has a hearing impairment. The exam is taken in complete silence and not one element of it requires the need to hear, and yet she’s had her room sorted for weeks now and can’t understand (along with everyone else) why they can’t do the same for me. And it’s not like they need to source other invigilators and rooms, they’re already in place for the people with ‘real’ disabilities.

It’s absolutely ridiculous and it makes me want to give up before I’ve even started.

Control

*Trigger warning*

Anxiety is something I haven’t spoken about much on this blog. It’s much more centered on the BPD and Cyclothymia, but anxiety is a part of my every day life.

I have an overwhelming fear of not being in control. This manifests itself in Claustrophobia – because I can’t get out, and Agoraphobia – because I metaphorically can’t get out.

I haven’t been on a train in 8 months. Trains are the easiest and cheapest connection between my life in Leeds, and my family in Ipswich. I can’t sit on a train without having a panic attack because I can’t get off it if I need to. So I can’t get to my family.

I can’t sit in the middle of an exam. Or stand in the middle of a crowd. Because I can’t get out.

I carry water with me EVERYWHERE I go. Without fail. If I don’t have it. I will have a panic attack. I can’t even go to the toilet in a restaurant without taking a bottle of water with me. I can’t go to the bar without taking a bottle of water with me. I can’t walk across a room without talking a bottle of water with me.

It’s irrational. It’s draining. And it’s every single day.

It makes my life impossible and undesirable. And when you throw in a mix of depression and mania and all the things that come with a personality disorder, everything is beyond difficult.

I’d like to quickly thank the current members of The Mental Health Art Auction that I’m conducting in August. It’s been less than 24 hours and we already have some fantastic bloggers joining the fight.

mental health art auction

The reason for doing this is so that something positive can come out of all this rubbish that can be my life at times.

The rubbish that can be everyone’s life. 

It’s giving me something to look forward to – and for that, you’re all amazing. 

Borderline Blonde
A Day with Depression
As We Seek, So Shall We Find

Onomatopoeicbliss
Luke Hood
Lost-One
Blissfully Crafted
Asparagus Speaketh
Manic Medic
Lifeofmiblog
David Susman PhD

If you’d like to join The Mental Health Art Auction fight, please let me know.
https://bylaurenhayley.wordpress.com/the-mental-health-art-auction/

love lauren x

Charlie, you hero.

I haven’t written on here in a long time because – well, I’m completely useless. I haven’t had any inspiration to talk about anything. I’ve been up and down and all over the place recently. I promise to try and do better.

But something caught my eye tonight and gave me some inspiration; Charlie from Educating the East End. Charlie suffered from panic attacks and often didn’t make it to class, and with his GCSEs coming up, the teachers recommended he perform with his band at the school talent show to boost his confidence in crowds.

charlie

And wow, what an amazing kid to rock that Ed Sheeran song on stage whilst suffering from an anxiety disorder which prevented him from carrying out normal tasks. From struggling to sit in a class room to singing and playing guitar in front of 200 people in a matter of hours out of sheer determination to conquer what was holding him back, and because of the love and support from the two band mates and best friends he has (who I’d quite like to be my best friends too).

I also suffer with anxiety and it stops me doing things everyday. Things that look ridiculous to everyone else but are as real as a broken leg in my head. Anxiety is a horrific thing to live with because it’s irrational and noone understands it, including yourself, but it can be beaten.

Tomorrow I’m waking up with Charlie in mind. What a hero.

Watch it on 4od if you didn’t catch it tonight, he’s an incredible young man and by the end of the programme I had a massive cheesy grin on my face out of pride for him; I’m sure you will too.

You can accomplish anything you put your mind to.

love lauren x