An anxiety blog by a sufferer Amy, where you will find tips and explanations on anxiety and depression. The aim of her blog is to provide advice, inspiration and support to those through their recovery from personal experience.
It's become part of normal life that you have a beer after work or a glass of wine after a hard day and it's never really questioned. After all it can help you to relax. Drinking socially and out and about can be a good part of relaxation too and having fun, as long as all of this is done in moderation. It's also become very normal to drown your sorrows in drink and become a bit of a 'Bridget Jones' or have a wild night out after you've experienced something stressful or upsetting. I know that I have and so have many of my friends and sometimes it's just what you need. But again, in moderation. What it's not going to do, is change the situation or help you find any answers. This will only numb the pain for while and that's if you don't react negatively react to alcohol...
I would be lying if I said that I've never had a drink when I've been upset or down, or had it to just feel a little bit less. Last year I found myself getting into a bit of a habit that when I was stressed or sad, I would have something to drink, which never really made me feel much better. Rather, it made me feel more out of control or would just knock me out to sleep only to wake up in the morning to realise I still felt the same. I knew at the time that it wasn't the answer and I did quickly snap out of it and went back to drinking only socially or having a drink, very rarely, to relax. But as with anything along a journey of healing and recovery, it is never smooth and there are moments when your bad habits can come creeping back in and that's not a bad thing, it's just human nature. The other night, I found myself doing a bit of a Bridget Jones and watching Stranger things whilst having a bottle of wine that I had left over from a meal. I don't think I was really concentrating on what I was drinking or really cared, because it was nice not to have to feel for a while. It all soon came crashing down to earth when I was very sick afterwards then lost a night's sleep. It's not the best idea I've ever had, but for that short while, everything felt okay. Reality hit me not too long after and showed me that the answers to my problems are not going to be at the bottom of a bottle. By drinking, I'm not suddenly going to come up with the best idea or solution and never feel pain again and my life isn't going to drastically change just from a drink.
I promptly snapped myself out of it. I realised that my body was physically telling me that it didn't like what I was doing alongside recognising that nothing changes from having one to many drinks. But what does change things, is actually acting and facing issues head on. I made the decision to throw all of my alcohol in my flat away that day. That way I have to deal with my issues head on, not numb myself and definitely not get stuck into an addictive pattern which I know I could do.
I am still more than happy to drink socially, or have a drink after a hard day but being excessive? No. As much as sometimes it sounds like a nice break, it's definitely not the answer and isn't productive in any way. It's an endless cycle. Problems need to be faced whether we like it or not and the only way of getting through them, is to actually get through them. I think we can forget that we are in control of our own lives and it's how we deal with it that matters, because drowning your sorrows? Well, they don't actually drown.
Dealing with illness is never fun and although you may not be able to relate to this post, I hope you can still take something from it. I’ve mentioned this topic briefly before, here and there, but I’ve never spoken about it fully.
My Mum, one of the best people on the planet may I add, has been sick since the day I was born and beforehand. It’s pretty normal for me because I’ve grown up with it. It’s normal to see tubes, medication, ambulances, intensive care and hospital wards. I understand for many that it’s not always a familiar experience. It doesn’t make it any less traumatic though, even if it is normalised.
Throughout my life, my Mum has become somewhat of my other half and I don’t think we could be closer, which can make dealing with illness difficult because there’s always the worry of loss. We all lose people in our lives, but I feel that it is always in my mind somewhere because there have been so many times that I have almost lost my Mum to her illnesses. Of course, the hospital side of things doesn’t exactly make you feel mentally well either when you associate it with such trauma. I think the worst overall is knowing that Mum has to be in and out of hospital and how that feels her and the constant stress of wondering what the seriousness is going to be this time as it’s almost a routine.
If it’s taught me anything, it’s how important it is to cherish the ones we love and how there is nothing really much more important. I cannot change the fact my Mum is Ill or how it affects me mentally because it is a kind of trauma that is difficult to change your mentally around. But amongst it all, Mum is the one who has to deal with the illness and the pain but understandably others around will be affected but that’s not something the person can help.
Always talk to someone and spend time with those you care. Take courage from those who keep battling amongst the odds, I know I do from my Mum. She has beaten the odds so many times and that’s is what keeps me going.
‘No one can make you feel inferior without your consent’ - Eleanor Roosevelt.
I’ve never really been a person whom has taken the thoughts of others to heart as I have always had a sense of self that was strong enough for it to not let it make me feel any different about myself. It would affect me to an extent, but I could always rationalise it with the morals that I was brought up with, that I have the same right to be on this planet as anyone else, so what makes anyone better than me or in turn, me better than anyone else? We are all cut from the same cloth and although people have different starts in life and challenges, in principle it makes them no better.
Recently, I have found myself feeling very vulnerable for probably the first time in my life. It’s knocked my solid grounding that I feel that I have managed to stable myself upon because everything takes just that little bit more work and everything that happens, makes you just that bit more sensitive. But, it’s how I go from feeling vulnerable to my old self of strength and how I handle the challenges that I face without being triggered into a downfall.
Amongst it all the core remains the same in all of us, is that you have worth. And at different points in our lives, we may feel that to be stronger or weaker. We will meet people throughout life who will try and make you feel small and will try to make themselves feel better. What you have to remember, is that by doing that they are inadvertently telling you that they are insecure about themselves. If you keep that in mind, you may be able to understand why they are acting towards you in such a manner.
Being vulnerable can make you feel like giving up and just putting up with other people’s detrimental behaviour, but at the end of the day, people know what they’re doing in their actions. Mistakes happen, but as the saying goes, never let someone fool you twice. It’s about recognising the behaviour and as hard as it is not to take it to heart, it’s important to keep that sense of self worth. At the end of the day, you should never let anyone treat you like shit.
If you have given someone your all and they don’t give anything back, you don’t need it. If they are not making the effort to contact you as much as you are them, move on. If they decide to take a pop at who you are as a person, get rid of them. Of course, there can be reasons why some people come across in such a way, and if there is a valid reason why, dig into it. Otherwise you do not need such toxicity and people wasting your time. It’s hard though, I know, because we like to hold onto excitement and people’s company but if it’s more bad than good, then it’s not worth it. You know who you are and if people are not respecting or willing to be a part of that, it’s ok - we’re not always going to get on with everyone. But it’s their loss, if you’ve done your bit. You’re worth so much more than being second best. Second best is not good enough, move on and move on up.
After what felt like the longest and harshest winter of my life, it finally came to an end and I found myself regaining my control. The grey had gone and I could divide between the black and white. Just as I realised this, everything came crashing down and I felt like I was in the depths of winter, again. I guess that was because I am feeling so vulnerable, which is something I always have been; what we all are. I only have a tiny plaster struggling to fix the wound and not stitches, from the conditions I faced. I have many strong parts of me which I have undoubtable control over and which I once succumbed to. But now I have this one hole left which keeps getting deeper and trying to close it is like chasing the end of the sea.
I’m tired. I’m tired of not knowing myself anymore, which is a far cry from anything I’ve ever known. I could be floating in zero gravity and everything I reach is always too far away. The closer it gets the more I become frightened and I either don’t want to reach out or feel that if I do, I’ll lose the last bit of self I have. I can’t be truthful to me and I always drown in guilt because others don't need to feel the pain like I am.
I can’t wait for the day for it to be over and to know if it’s not love, it will be a lesson. But the pain of a lesson is sometimes too much to bare, especially for someone as fragile.
I can’t change it. It is how it is, it’s just about how I reach the destination and somehow enjoy the ride without putting myself in danger whilst I only feel a shell of my body. Waiting for happiness is pointless, so enjoying what we have is key. But it’s hard when there’s always a dark cloud over you and a ray of sunshine over everyone else.
But amongst it all, I want an answer. Feelings have no time limit, but with no time limit comes pain and loss because humans aren’t immortal. The more I think the more I drown. The more I think, the more I lose. If the universe takes over then I will be sad, but just as sad as if I am to make my own uncertain choice. Pain is inevitable, but when I am so vulnerable I cling onto a cliff face because it’s the last thing I have before I fall and I know I shouldn't and I should pull myself up and over the top.
Time will pass and life will go on. It’s not going to stop, just for me. It’s down to me to make the choices that I know that I want and will make me happy. The rest? Well I’m hoping that will just unfold alongside the pressure that I put on it. We are all going to feel pain either way, but it’s how we react to it that matters. I am me and that's my power.
This is how I feel; that being abandoned is going to leave me unable to cope and live which was born when I went from a stable household as a child, to one that was no longer. I began to develop a negative behaviour that I didn't know really existed until last year - my fear that I will not be able to function if someone just disappears from my life.
I wouldn't say I am a people pleaser, but in my very young years I would make sure that I would do everything in my power to not upset people and if I did, accidentally, then my world felt like it had been turned upside down and I would need to do anything to bring back the equilibrium. Once I had gone over and beyond to make sure that the person understood that my actions were not intentional and we became friends again, I was happy and I could cope. But when I began to experience a person of great trust, at the time when I was just at the end of primary school life, was leading a different life as well as leaving my life, my life changed before my eyes. I could't understand why it was happening, but I was angry more than I wanted the person to stay. In fact, I wanted them to go and never see them again, at the time. I'm glad to say that now, through lots of hard work I don't let that side plague me as much anymore. What it did create however, was the biggest mental health trigger that I have and one which I only really discovered last year. That is; abandonment. I developed a huge, almost irrational fear that if someone extremely important to me, leaves then I will be unable to cope. I believe this attached itself to my younger self's need to keep the equilibrium between people and that's why it became one big difficultly for myself.
I experienced something last year, which brought this abandonment fear to the surface. I didn't really know that it was something that I needed to deal with until then. The feelings that resulted from that experience were strong and powerful. It took over my mental and physical capabilities and I'm not sure I have felt something so overwhelmingly powerful since my phobia of school, but I guess if I didn't experience the fear then, it would've caught up with me eventually and I would've had to deal with it at some point. It was always hiding in plain sight. At the time, I felt like I couldn't cope as it was such a strong automatic reaction. Even trying to practice self-care was hard and working through daily life, but slowly over time it got easier until one day the abandonment hole was filled and that's when I felt I could cope again.
Throughout the year following, I had worked really hard to overcome the fear of abandonment in such a way that I can appreciate that it is there and know that I am going to experience it a lot throughout my life, but it is something that I can cope with, rather than die of. Believe it or not, the thought that I wasn't able to survive as a result of abandonment was a huge thing to rationalise and something that I can still feel to the core of me, today. It's like an automatic switch where I get taken to a place of not being able to function and feeling like I can't live. It lives alongside the fact, that the reason I avoid abandonment is because I'm so strongly taken back to such a traumatic painful period in my childhood, that I couldn't rationalise at that age, which now lives in my sub-conscious. Now I can understand the situation with a more adult mindset. My counsellor taught me that we have two parts of us and maybe more; but there is an adult side and child side. The things we experience as children, affect us as adults as they tend to stay in our subconscious and become normal parts of our actions that we don't even second guess. But, it's recognising when there is an an unhelpful behaviour that you learnt as a child and becoming the adult to look after this part of you; so you can overcome it and be the hand to hold, that the child always wanted.
I still have a long way to go and I know that abandonment is still my biggest trigger and can still put me into a huge downward spiral. But instead of running back to the easiest known path, like a racing pigeon does to get home, I have to take a step back, evaluate the situation in all in its glory and maybe take the route which is not as comfortable, but one that will help me to get through this big trigger, like I have done with other situations that used to terrify me. The thought of abandonment may put me further into my shell when communicating with people, with the thought at the back of my head that I don't want to go through the pain of abandonment if I can help it, but I know that if is going to help me on my mental health journey, it is something that I need to do.
Mental illness is not an excuse. How many times have you heard that?
If you don't turn up to work, you're lazy. If you're not listening, you're rude. If you're short tempered, you're selfish. If you don't want to go out, you're boring. If you're upset, you're sensitive. ...and in many situations in life, that may well be the case. But mental illness can make us come across in particular ways but are actually symptoms of the illness we are dealing with.
Many years ago when I couldn't go to school, I remember being called lazy because I never attended when in fact I was in the midst of severe anxiety and depression. Rather than Mental illness being an invalid excuse, it is in fact a valid reason.
If I don't turn up to work, I'm actually struggling with depression and I'm not lazy. If I'm not listening, I'm dissociating and I promise I'm not intentionally being rude. If I'm short tempered, I didn't get any sleep because of my depression and I'm stressed. If I don't want to go out, it's because I can't move my legs due to my anxiety. If I'm upset, it's because I am feeling hopeless and suicidal.
On the other end of the spectrum, mental illness really isn't just an excuse. Mental illness isn't just something you can pluck out of thin air and use as an excuse to some of your negative actions. Regardless of whether you have mental illness or not, being intentionally selfish or rude is not something you can support by the fact that you have a mental illness. I In the same way, every time you are sad or angry doesn't necessarily mean it's related to your depression, it could simply be part of a normal human emotion.
Similarly, using conditions in relation to mental illness as adjectives for a reason as to why you are acting in a particular way isn't appropriate either. It can invalidate others' experiences and also make it harder for people to be open as more people will view mental illness are crying wolf rather than seeing it as a real, pertinent issue. If you really feel that you are going through a difficult experience and are struggling with your mental health, going to the doctors is the forward step.
Remember to be proud of who you are and the conditions you deal with. Never feel ashamed if your mental illness is making you come across in a particular way because those who understand will know that it is just part of the symptoms of your conditions.
Meditation has always been a recommendation by doctors and practitioners for anxiety for many years and a good one at that. Yes, it isn't a cure but meditation and breathing techniques tend to help to calm you down in times of stress and panic attacks. During the various panic attacks that I've had, I have always used breathing techniques; from following imaginary shapes in my mind, counting numbers or copying someone else which has helped to calm my breathing and heart rate back down to normal.
I was recently introduced to a product that could help me as well as yourself, to do just that. Let's face it, trying to focus on breathing when you've been triggered and are having a panic attack is not an easy thing to do. But what if there was something to help you during your time of distress? Some people use cigarettes to focus on to calm down and as I said earlier, I usually try to focus on numbers. Whichever method you choose the undermining thing is to focus on is breathing.Calmigo is a product that can help you with your breathing and meditation during times of distress by giving guidance. I myself have already used it and it definitely helps.
I'd describe Calmigo as somewhat of an inhaler. The key is that you exhale into the product and not just inhale. As you do this the lights on the Calmigo will turn blue according to how long and steady you exhale. The aim is to keep these blue lights on so you are seen to exhale for long enough. As well as this, the product incorporates aromatherapy. When I was younger, I had a lavender spray that I would put on my pillow to help me sleep and this has a similar idea. With every other inhale, it suggests for you inhale through your nose so that you can smell the lavender scent that you attach to the product. This alongside your slow and steady breathing accompanied by the machine should help you to reach your ultimate mediation and breathing technique. The Calmigo also learns your breathing technique and can vibrate when you have exhaled enough - that way you're able to get used to what the right breathing technique is for you.
I have used the machine myself and it is quite novel as if it's an inhaler which most people are used to. Focusing on the blue dots helped me to understand whether I was exhaling for long enough and steadily enough. The aromatherapy was also really helpful in adding that sense of calm as well as lavender is known it's ability to help calm. After using this regularly and when I needed it for a few minutes at a time I definitely felt a lot calmer and learnt about my breathing. Of course I guess people could say; 'well what's the difference to counting your breathing and doing it on your own?'. As I have said, I believe the aromatherapy aspect and the physical guidance, gives the user something to focus on, smell and be a bit of a help during a time of need. It gives you that guidance and something to work with. It also comes with a one year warranty and can last for years! You can take it anywhere and is simple to use. I haven't found any issues with the product and will be using it as part of my meditation.
Of course before you use any product make sure you inform a health professional if you have any concerns. Calmigo have their own website where you can order one yourself or read more into the product, here.
I first remember feeling severely depressed during my GCSE's when I must've been around fourteen. I'm also pretty sure that was around the age I first tried to end my life.
I was an extremely happy child and I loved life. I was also a very shy child, but that never really bothered me because I had good friends and a great family. When my family fell apart when I was around eight years old, mental illness did begin to creep in with OCD behaviours and severe anxiety. I'd say I was sad and angry during this time, but I was still happy. I wouldn't say I was depressed.
Throughout the years running up to my GCSE's, I had experienced mental illness but I didn't know that's what it was. I thought the behaviours I was expressing were completely normal but I know now that they weren't. GCSE's came around and it became too much. I was being constantly picked on at school and the pressure of being a high achiever, alongside my family falling apart, felt like my whole world was drowning and that's when my depression journey began and almost ended.
In the following years my depression played a huge part in my life, especially through my A-levels when I had my breakdown and my anxiety and poor mental health became severe. I was self-harming and often had suicidal tendencies and thoughts. I wasn't eating, I couldn't get out of bed to go to school and I just wanted to end the nightmare that was in. I won't go into too much more detail about my whole journey now because you can read more about my mental health journey in a different post, here.
I got to university and I felt like my depression had finally left me. But I did have moments when I felt like I was drowning and losing my mind. I did find myself on the odd occasion falling back into my own habits. I think this was even more so because everyone had the ideology that university was meant to be one the happiest times of your life and yet there I was barely able to get out bed and having no lust for life whatsoever. Going back home during the holidays whilst I was attending university was probably the hardest challenge and the times when I did become quite sick, especially in the Summer months. I just didn't feel that I could handle the environment I was in anymore and just wanted to get back to university, which was like an escape, for various different reasons. But overall university was probably the best time for my mental health.
After graduating from university and having to do a year in a dead end job and being back home, my mental health did take quite the dive. And although I transgressed into my dream career a year later, the first six months of that was what I could only describe as traumatic. This wasn't because of the career itself, but because of all the things that were going on around me.
As you can probably tell, depression is a rollercoaster and just because you have a depressive episode doesn't mean that you're going backwards. You've just got to hold onto the cart and keep going no matter how much you feel like you want to get off. As well as this, please make sure you are reaching out to people and talking because bottling up will always cause more damage than good.
You've helped me in so many ways I cannot begin to tell you. I've seen a lot of counsellors and therapists over the years and each one has brought something different to the table to help me along on my journey. Sometimes it worked and they helped me to overcome some anxieties, but other times it had no benefit to me at all.
I first met you when I was in the midst of a huge change, when I'd only recently begun to be able to catch public transport again and was slowly rebuilding my life. I was fragile and severely sick but for the first time I had someone outside of my family who understood me, who clicked with me and gave me explanations as to why I felt and was acting in such ways.
It's been four years since then...and it's gone so fast. There were a lot of moments in the those past years where I didn't think I'd even make it to today. I remember our first session, where you asked me to explain my life and I soon realised I had a lot of trauma and underlying issues that hadn't even been touched upon by previous counsellors. You started from the very beginning and delved deep to rebuild my foundations.
Looking back to the beginning, we were talking about my first year of university exams and how scared I was, as well as taking driving lessons, the fear of going back home, how I couldn't get taxis and found relationships really hard and now I'm sharing my stories with you from my new career. Who would believe it?!
You've been there during some of the most difficult times in my life, someone to turn to when no one else would understand, giving me explanations to set me free from the traps in my mind and allowing to have the "oh wow, I finally understand, I get it" moments! You help give me sense of clarity, understand my worth and given me the power that allows me to overcome and progress in the most challenging times.
You have had such a positive impact on my life, a hand to hold when I needed it and a huge support and encouragement - so thank you.
If I had anything else to add to this letter, it's to reach out to others to given the encouragement to get counselling and therapy as it can give you the help you need that you wouldn't have otherwise been able to reach on your own. Keep searching until you find the person that fits you.