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.
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.
I've been writing these for 5 years now...if you want a throwback, you can click here for my look back to 2013.
I must admit that 2018 has been the hardest year for a good few years now. The last time I had a year as challenging, must've been 2013 when I had just been diagnosed with anxiety and depression. Of course every year has had its challenges with it high and low moments, but this one has been particularly difficult.
I began the year working in a dead end job, but with prospect of my dream career in the distance. I moved back home and walked back into a life surrounded with illness. The illness that surrounded me led to me almost losing my mum on an operation table only to be saved by intensive care, but losing my Grandma at the same time. I felt utterly alone and lost because the two people I was closest to, had disappeared However I was extremely lucky to have amazing support from those closest to me and if you're one of those reading this - it means the world.
It was also a confusing year for trying to understand myself and what I wanted from life - cliche I know. But it made me go on a journey from love to loss and what felt like back again and despite the happiness I did feel, it's one of the hardest things I've had to experience as well as what else I undertook this year. It pulled me to and from the edge of what I knew to be reality and showed me a depth of pain I didn't know existed. I had no idea how powerful the heart and mind could be and how it could transfer so strongly into physical pain.
Later in the year I moved away from home again and this time on my own and by doing so, I've felt what true loneliness is. I went through training for my new job without making any friends and considering I am a hugely social person, this was very hard. All of my family and friends were hours down the road and I found myself coming back to my flat, not knowing anyone and sitting amongst my thoughts - not the best thing to be doing.
But amongst all of this, I did manage to achieve my dream career. When I was 7 years old, I drew a picture and wrote a small paragraph of what I wanted to be when I was big and strong...and now I am that person I drew in that picture, at 23 years old. There are challenges and it can be traumatic, but at the moment I still don't feel like I'm going to work!
This year has felt like I've been pulled through a hedge backwards...which is probably quite generous to say the least. I'll be glad to see the back of it, even though life can change at any moment...There have been moments where I smiled and felt my heart fill up with love and laughter, but I've also felt it break and cried enough tears to fill an ocean, only to wonder how much longer I can take. All of it has showed me strength and just what the body is capable of handling, which is much more than the brain likes to believe.
Many people get that dread in their stomach, that the beginning of the week is coming round again and Monday is raising its weary head. This is sometimes referred to as the Sunday scaries, which I only found out recently...but this is also the name of something that could possibly help relieve some of the scare from the week.
I've written before about the new trend of CBD that has been on the rise recently. Now as you know, I only have limited experience of CBD due to not having consulted my doctor first - which I definitely recommend before using any CBD product as you need to be completely sure that it isn't going to affect you or anything you're currently taking, in a negative way. The Sunday Scaries, aptly named, have released a range of different CBD holistic treatments that purport to relieve you from some of the anxiety that you may have on a Sunday, or any other day of the week for that matter. CBD can come in range of different forms, but they particularly specialise in gummies, which are also vegan! Alongside this, I'm glad that the company is aware that it is not a replacement for medication, or professional judgement but is supportive of the use of CBD alongside any other treatments or words of advice.
If you weren't sure, CBD is the legal, non-THC part of cannabis which is said to have anxiety relieving effects - they state that it is legal in all 50 states of America. I am also aware of CBD being legal in the UK, but you may wish to do a check on this product in your country first! Of course, every person will be different and will respond in different ways, which is why I want to reiterate, as the company does, that you need read the label and consult a doctor before consuming any of the products. CBD may not be the cure to your mental wellness but it may be something that you wish to try on your journey to getting better.
As mentioned earlier, gummies is something I haven't seen before, so if you were concerned about sprays and drops then this might be for you!
If you're interested in the company and what they have to offer, then you can go straight to their website by clicking, here.
Below is a handy video from the AA driving school that could help you with your driving anxiety!
The AA Driving School releases a new VIDEO and research after a reported 60% of young drivers still rely on superstitions to pass their driving test
A quarter of drivers resorted to extra measures such as lucky pants, superstitions or a long drive to get their nerves in check before their driving test, reveals the AA Driving School*.
60% of young drivers aged 18-to-24 were by far the most likely to turn to extra measures – 7% admitted to wearing lucky pants, 6% said they carried a lucky charm and 9% said they took herbal remedies such as Rescue Remedy before their practical test.
You can watch the New AA Driving School video designed to help learners combat their test nerves and pass with flying colours here:
Only one in ten (13%) drivers said they felt no nerves before their test.
Nearly half of all nervous drivers (44%) said their nerves affected their test in some way.
Women and younger drivers were the most likely to admit nerves affected them on their test day (52% and 77%).
Drivers in Northern Ireland were the most likely to put their faith in superstitions in the run-up to their test, with 2% saying they avoided walking under ladders or crossing the path of black cats before the big day.
Last year over 1,700,000 people took their driving test - just 46.7% passed
Edmund King, the AA President, said: “Passing your driving test and getting on the road is a real milestone for many people.
“While we’d be more likely to advocate an extra lesson or two to combat pre-test nerves, if wearing lucky pants helps someone feel more confident on their test day and they pass as a result, then good for them.”
The top ways that nerves affected drivers are listed below:
Made minor mistakes - but still passed their test
Woke up early
Had a bad night’s sleep beforehand
Made a serious mistake that led to a failed test
Couldn’t eat before the test
Had a sudden ‘blank moment’ about something they knew how to do
Said something silly to the examiner
Couldn’t stop shaking
Got lost on the way to the test centre
And spare a thought for these drivers who spent most of their test feeling less than fresh.
“I remember sweating so much that I had to pull over to wipe my brow and clean my spectacles! And put talcum powder on my hands!”
“Sweated profusely and the instructor had to open the windows to clear them!”
Finally, let’s remember the poor person who almost accidently bribed their examiner…
“I handed my instructor £20 instead of my license, and it looked like a bribe.”
*Populus received 20,435 responses from AA members to its online poll between 13th and 20th March 2018. Populus is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.
It isn't always what you see when scrolling through posts on Instagram whilst eating your breakfast. It's not the media's warped version of being locked up in chords and chains and it's not bottles of orange tablets on the side of your kitchen counter. It's the pain of your heart falling out of your chest, the struggle to get out of bed with weights on your feet and needing sticks for your eyes to keep them open. It's the struggle to chew and swallow every mouthful of porridge even though it's got your favourite syrup in it. It's the want to make the right decision, but being in so much turmoil on the inside that you can't see in front of your face. It's the worry of being a burden on others and yet wanting someone to come and shake you to see if you're still alive and the thought of not taking another breath and yet wondering what your children would look like smiling back at you. It's the questioning as to when things will get better, when staring back at you in the mirror is someone you can no longer recognise when writing yourself letters and running out of pages in your journal with all of the words that escape your head. It's wondering how you're going to get through the next day, let alone the week when each step brings you more stress onto your shoulders. It's the pain of people leaving, tenfold. It's the ship in the ocean with the waves crashing over the boat, the sea salt sticking to your skin and the water filling up the deck. It's the isolation in that sea that you're told keeps you safe. It's the big red brick walls which are built to heaven and back to keep you protected with the reinforced steel to stop people from getting close to you. It's the theft of sunshine and the country lines into the darkness. It's also the strength, the light and the truth. It's the big dark monster which has an achilles heel which only courage can contain. It's the untold story that people carry on their back when walking the mountain. It can be big, bold and beautiful. It is a test that never seems to end, but it has an attachment of achievement that is only known to those who live with it. It carries with it a hidden power, bigger than those who have never experienced it. In the end, it can be the smallest dot on the wall surrounded by colour. It can almost be invisible, it can be cured. Most of all as if I never knew, there is nothing stronger than someone mental illness has flowed through.
Grief. A word that makes most of us shudder, either because it relates to the stress of work or sadly, the loss of someone we love. Mental health can be affected by so many different things and Grief is certainty one of them. I almost feel as if grief can have its own hold on you, somewhat different to your anxiety and depression that you can become used to.
I'm not just talking about grief in the traditional sense of the word, that someone has passed away but we can also feel this emotion for a range of difference situations too such as heartbreak or moving house. I think all of these involve a grieving process.
Supposedly there is a 5 step process to grieving, from denial to anger and to acceptance but that doesn't necessarily mean that everyone experiences grief in the same way or routinely every time it is experienced. I remember when I lost my Great Grandma when I had just begun primary school and I cried as soon as I found out the news. Later down the line I lost my other Great Grandmother and I didn't cry for a long time. This year I lost my Grandmother whom I was very close to. I think the first and last time I cried was at her funeral and only now 5 months on am I beginning to feel the pain of her loss. Some people may find that unusual but, it just shows how it can take hold in a variety of ways.
Experiencing heartbreak and loss of someone important in your life has taken hold of me in way depression couldn't in the past. I became lifeless and couldn't function at all. I didn't really cry, but I did find it extremely hard to get out of bed, even more so than perhaps some of my worst days of depression.
To me, grief can sometimes be a bigger beast than mental health on it's own because often becomes it's own unpredictable emotion, where as with my mental health I can usually predict the way it is going to turn out. The important thing is to allow yourself to grieve, it's normal and it's okay. It's also important to remember to look after yourself and your mental health at these times because it can often become overwhelming and debilitating to experience. Some may also be experiencing mental illness for the first time when they grieve, and that's okay. Look out for the signs and be that person that they can talk to.