Saturday, 29 April 2017

I Can't Control My Emotions

My brain is constantly on some sort of hellish rollercoaster ride of emotions which I feel I have no control over. Up, down, up down, up down - all day long. It's absolutely exhausting and I don't know what to do about it anymore. My mood can literally change at the flick of a switch: going from extremely happy and optimistic to hopeless, angry and agitated within seconds.

I'm finding it impossible to function like this. How am I supposed to plan ahead, schedule my week or take on responsibilities? I can't even predict how I'm going to be feeling from one moment to the next, let alone this time next week or in a month.

Not only are they fast-changing, but I also seem to feel my emotions so strongly. What mood I'm in will dictate every aspect of my life: my personality, my confidence, what opportunities I accept, how I treat people, how I treat myself. Everything. Catch me in a different mood and I will probably present a drastically different version of myself.

I know this can sometimes be true for everyone. We often say 'they were probably just having a bad day' or 'I must have caught them in a bad mood' when people appear a little off. But I feel like for me, the difference is not only extreme but constant.

I don't control my emotions, they control me.

I've tried to do things that might help. I started a bullet journal, tracking my mood every month to see if I could identify a theme in my mood, but no trends are apparent. Apart from, I seem to feel a lot of negative emotions during the evening/night time - something which I think resonates with many people suffering from mental illness.

When I can feel my mood taking a turn for the worst, I try to use distractions: listening to music, immersing myself in a hobby, reading, colouring, studying. And yet, my brain won't let me focus on anything if my head isn't in a good place. The only thing that sometimes works is sleeping and hoping that by time I wake up, the dark clouds would've passed.

Perhaps this is simply a symptom of my various mental illnesses that I will have to learn to accept and find ways to manage. Maybe it is due to the bouts of restricting and weight fluctuations that I have put my body through in recent years, affecting my mind in mysterious ways. Or could it be a symptom of depression (something which I'm certainly no stranger to) or a mixture of it all! Who knows...
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Tuesday, 25 April 2017

When You Wake Up Feeling Overwhelmed

Some mornings from the second I open my eyes I'm hit with a sense of panic and feel completely overwhelmed. The day already seems too much before it has even started. I think to myself 'how am I going to get through another day?!'.

I may have planned things I need to get done on that day but from the word go my brain is just not co-operating. All I want to do is wrap myself up in bed and hide under a blanket; I can't even get the motivation to get dressed or brush my teeth.

However, I'm beginning to teach myself ways in which I can better cope with this feeling, rather than just accepting my fate, going back to bed and getting nothing out of the day. I'm beginning to realise that even though these feelings are very real and overwhelming when I'm feeling them, they will pass. So what do I do when I wake up already feeling too overwhelmed to get on with the day?


Accept How I Feel


This might seem obvious but simply acknowledging how I feel is the first step towards feeling better. Denying negative feelings is not going to make them go away; there's no point forcing myself to push on with the day as normal if it feels too much, just hoping that my anxiety will magically disappear on it's own. Instead, I acknowledge that I'm feeling particularly under the weather, and try and go a bit more easy on myself on that day.

Take it Slow


So I've acknowledged that I'm not feeling my best and that pushing myself to do too much is only going to be counter-productive. But instead of going back to bed and doing nothing, it's important I encourage myself to do even little things. Perhaps the first step is just getting up and making myself a cup of tea and eating breakfast. There's no time pressure, but sometimes I find after I've done a few little things, I start to feel calmer and more prepared to face the day, which leads on to my next point...

Basic Self-care


On days like these, even getting dressed feels like an impossible task. However, I've learnt that not carrying out essential acts of self-care only leaves me feeling a whole lot worse mentally. Therefore, even on the bad days I encourage myself to get dressed (even if it's just into loungewear), brush my teeth, wash my face and eat breakfast. It's amazing how much lighter fresh breath can make you feel. I don't even necessarily do all these things at once, but instead spread them over an hour or two. The main thing is that I do them.

One Thing at A Time


You know when you look over your never-ending to do list and it's so daunting that you don't even know where to begin, so you just don't? When faced with this I think it's better to isolate maybe one or two tasks that you want to complete on that day, and just focus on getting them done.

However, it's also important to rest when you need to. Sometimes stress is a way of our body and mind telling us we're doing too much and need to take a break. Remind yourself that it's okay if not everyday is productive.

Thanks for reading,


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Sunday, 23 April 2017

You Must Take Responsibility for YOUR Recovery


Mental illness is not a choice, recovery is.


Struggling with a mental illness sucks and it may leave you questioning 'why me?', 'what did I do to deserve this?'. It's easy to fall into a pit of hopelessness and despair. You may believe things are never going to get better, so you might as well give up before even trying. You may refuse people's efforts to help you because you're already convinced that nothing is going to work.

Despite this, it's up to you to take steps towards recovery; nobody can do it for you. It's up to you to pull yourself out of this deep dark hole, nobody else.

Your recovery is your responsibility.

At the end of the day, only you can make that choice to recover and then take the necessary action. If you want things to get better, you have to be willing to work for it. Nothing is going to change unless you initiate that change.

Sure, you can spend the rest of your days wallowing in self-pity over how unfair it is that you have to put up with this shitty illness. You can be angry at the world or try and find somebody else to blame for the way you feel. You can take your frustration out on those around you; your loved ones, your friends, your dog (yes, I probably have blamed the dog for my mental illness at some point). 

But what good is that going to do? 

Even when all hope feels lost, there will always be something you can do to make things even the tiniest bit easier for yourself. Your mental illness may make you feel helpless, but that doesn't mean you are. Nobody is going to come and save you and if that's what you're waiting for, then prepare to be disappointed. 

Thanks for reading,

P.S. I realise this is my first post in a few weeks but at the moment I'm having to focus solely on my recovery. I also have a shit ton of uni work that I can't find the motivation for. Plus, I've been doing the very thing I said not to in this blog post: wallowing in a pool of self-pity (and by a pool of self-pity I mean my bed) whilst wondering why I'm never good enough, why nobody seems to like me and why I can't just be a successful, confident young woman like others my age. Perhaps it's time to take my own advice..
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Tuesday, 4 April 2017

'But Other People Have It Worse'


'Everybody else has it worse than me'

'I don't deserve treatment when other people are more ill'

'I have no right to feel this way when others go through worse'

These types of thoughts regularly go through my head. It seems these are in fact common thoughts amongst those with mental illness, along with the tendency to compare our struggles with that of others. Since when did mental illness become a competition of who's is more severe?!


This thought process can be really damaging because it can leave you feeling as though you aren't as worthy of help as somebody else, whose condition is deemed 'more serious' than yours. However, this is far from the truth. It can also make you feel guilty for experiencing certain emotions, such as sadness or anger, because you think you don't have the 'right' to experience such feelings. I've therefore decided to approach things from a different angle, so that whenever these thoughts pop into my head, I can quickly dispel them.

Early intervention is key


So what if your experience of a mental health condition isn't considered as 'severe' as another person's? Why should anybody have to wait until their mental health has reached breaking point before they feel worthy of treatment? As far as I'm concerned, the earlier people get the help they need, the better.

It's not 'better' or 'worse', it's just different

I've been replacing the phrases 'better' and 'worse' in my head for the word 'different'. Each individual's experience of mental health is so unique, how can you possibly compare them to each other? It's not as simple as shoving them all on a scale and categorising this person's illness as 'mild' and that person's as 'severe'. So, instead of saying to myself 'this person's symptoms are worse than mine', I simply say 'this person's experience is different to mine, and that's okay'. Everybody is different, after all.

Focus on No.1

What use is comparing yourself to other people anyway? Most of the time, this only ever results in negative outcomes. Your main focus in your life should be you - you are your main priority. This may seem selfish to some people, but I'm really starting to believe that the key to health and happiness is putting yourself first. It doesn't mean you don't care for other people. If anything, looking after yourself makes your ability to care for others even greater. 

Therefore, there really is no reason to say 'that person has it worse than me'. Maybe they do, maybe they don't. Either way, it doesn't really matter. If something is negatively impacting your life enough for you to think 'I need help with this', then you deserve just that - irrespective of everyone else's experience.

Thanks for reading,

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Monday, 27 March 2017

A Fear of Allergic Reactions?

TW: I go into detail about my experience with contamination OCD, my fear of anaphylaxis & briefly mention suicidal thoughts.

Is a fear of having an allergic reaction a specific phobia? Has it got a name? If so, I think I might have it. This isn't something I speak very openly about with anyone (online or offline) because, if I'm honest, I'm quite embarrassed by it. I more than anyone know how completely irrational it is. However, this is a fear that has had (and still has) a significant impact on my life and has accompanied my experience with mental illness for some time. Therefore, it only seems right that I'm honest about it on my blog.


When people think of contamination OCD, they instantly assume a fear of germs. Yet for me, it wasn't bacteria that I saw covering every surface - it was potential allergens. My life revolved around a fear of going into anaphylaxis; the thought of it plagued my mind every waking hour. I was so petrified that it was going to happen that I developed relentless rituals to try and prevent it. It took over every aspect of my life, to the point where I could no longer function.

I soon began to avoid all foods that are well-known for causing severe allergic reactions; all types of nut (particularly peanuts, something which I still fear to this day), egg (who knew egg could cause anaphylaxis? I didn't, until I devoted my entire life to avoiding it), certain types of seafood and even specific materials such as latex gloves. Any food that possibly contained these substances in any way, shape or form were out of bounds.

I obsessively checked food labels, scanning the back of packets until I found the 'allergy advice' section and instantly putting it back down if there was any mention of nuts, sesame seeds or egg. The phrases 'May Contain...', 'Not Suitable For...' or 'Made in a Factory That Handles...' soon became a great source of dread for me. In fact, these foods were forbidden from entering the house altogether and just to be sure, I would open all of our kitchen cupboards with a piece of kitchen roll to avoid potential allergens transferring onto my skin.

This wasn't enough to reassure me, though.

I began to take it even further when presented with the realisation that, in theory, absolutely anything could cause an allergic reaction. Therefore, the only things I could consider truly 'safe' were the things I knew for certain (or as certain as I could be considering that with OCD, nothing is certain) wouldn't cause me a reaction; the foods that I ate and clothes that I wore every single day. And so the obsession, along with the tireless compulsions that accompanied it, spiralled.

My diet became limited to a few, very specific 'safe' foods (namely coco pops, pasta and cheese...not all together, that would be too far). I wore the exact same items of worn out clothing every day, and these would have to be be washed several times per day as they easily became 'contaminated'. I had to shower if I thought any allergens had come into contact with my skin, my hair, my mouth. This meant that if I left the house, no matter how briefly, I would have to shower when I returned. In the end, I barely left the house to avoid spending most of the day in the shower.

I could no longer sit downstairs with my family; the sofas were covered in far too many potential allergens. I wouldn't let my family (including the dog) come too close to me or my possessions. Not even my Mum, the person I trusted the most in the world, was allowed to hug me. My bed became a safe haven free of contaminants and so I would spend the majority of my time there (only if I was 'clean' enough, of course).

I would wash my hands until they bled, getting through an entire bottle of soap in a day or two. I would get stuck in what me and my Mum deemed a 'hand-washing loop', where I could wash them 30, even 40 times at once to the point of tears. Every time I attempted to stop washing my hands and get back into bed, something would contaminate them again. Did I touch the door handle on my way out of the bathroom? Did I touch the door handle on the way into my room? I couldn't use any cream to heal them, however, as this was also a potential allergen.

I started to severely neglect my appearance. Everything could possibly cause a reaction and so shampoo, shower gel, deodorant, toothpaste, skincare products and make-up became too 'dangerous' to use. Basic self-care went out of the window, along with any shred of dignity I may have had left. I can't even begin to describe how embarrassed I am to think back to the state I was in, or what those close to me must have thought of me. By this point, it was too much for my family to handle alone and it started to seem like the only option would be for me to receive inpatient treatment.

I had become unrecognisable - a ghost of my former self. I had no personality, I didn't care about anything (apart from fear) and the only way I could express this was through constant outbursts of anger and crying. Living in a constant state of terror completely destroys you from the inside out and to be quite honest, I wasn't sure I wanted to live anymore - not like that, anyway.

On that note, I'm going to wrap things up. If I was to describe any more of my rituals, this post would quite literally be never-ending. It was a real eye-opener for me to go into that much depth about my past experience with OCD. It tends to be a period of my life I try my best to block out - mainly because I'm so embarrassed by it, but also because it's not particularly something I wish to remember.

Writing this post is the first time I've admitted to myself just how bad things became. I've since undergone CBT and still take medication to control my symptoms and so, even though they still affect me daily, they aren't anywhere near as severe. I can function now.

If anything, I hope this post will make more people realise just how detrimental OCD can be to a person's life. Many people continue to ridicule this illness, whilst remaining completely ignorant to the awful impact it can have.

OCD is a serious mental health condition, and it destroys lives. So please, don't make it even harder for sufferers to access support by making light of it.

Thanks for reading (and congratulations if you made it to the end),



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Sunday, 26 March 2017

The Physical Consequences of Eating Disorders: They Will Catch Up With You

Eating disorders such as anorexia are mental illnesses. They are often a result of negative emotions, thoughts or feelings that the person is experiencing and finding difficult to manage. The individual may therefore resort to using food as a coping mechanism, in order to gain a sense of control over these feelings. However, although the root cause for eating disorders is psychological, they bring with them many adverse and even life-threatening physical effects.


If you engage in disordered eating for a prolonged period of time, these physical consequences will be unavoidable - no matter how much you think you are immune to them. Often, eating disorders provide the sufferer with a false sense of security, fooling them into believing that what they are doing is 'healthy'. They may fail to recognise just how damaging their behaviour is. Or, even if they are aware of the potential impact it can have, they may mistakenly think to themselves 'it will never happen to me'.

Some people continue to 'function' with their eating disorder for years and years. They may think that because their blood results or other health checks have repeatedly come back normal, there is nothing wrong with them or they aren't ill. However, just because you may have gotten away with it up until now, doesn't mean it will remain that way forever. Sooner or later, you will be caught out. Our bodies work in incredible ways and will do all they can to keep us going, but you can only push it so far. Very suddenly, you may find yourself rather physically unwell and sometimes there's no going back, the damage can be irreversible.

My intention in writing this is not to scare anybody. I simply want anyone who is suffering with disordered eating to realise the seriousness of the situation. When it comes to eating disorders, there really is no such thing as 'not being ill enough'. If you're struggling with any sort of unhealthy thoughts surrounding food, that is ill enough in itself. If is something you are going through, please seek support as soon as possible. Don't wait until the point of no return to get help.

You can read more on the health consequences of eating disorders here and if you feel in need of further support, check out the B-eat website.

Thanks for reading,



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Thursday, 23 March 2017

I'm Lost

I spoke in a recent post about making the decision to take some time out of university, in light of a decline in my mental health. In general, I have been doing somewhat better since returning home (by not doing much at all). I have been following my meal plan and making sure to physically rest, both of which have enabled me to concentrate more effectively on my studies.


However, moving back home has also provided me with the time and the energy to ruminate over every other aspect of my life, and has led me to a feeling of doubt and dissatisfaction that I can't quite seem to shake off. 

I am somebody who requires a constant focus, else I become restless and agitated. I like to be continually working towards an end goal - one which provides me with a great sense of achievement. If I feel I'm not doing this, I feel lost and without purpose, lacking any real sense of direction in life. Soon, I'm overcome with feelings of hopelessness and despair and this appears to be where I'm currently heading.

For a short while, I felt I knew which route I wanted to take and what I hoped to accomplish from it. In my mind, the path was neatly laid out in front of me - all I had to do was follow it. More recently, however, I've become increasingly doubtful.

University


Towards the end of school, university seemed like the only option for me and I'm sure I wasn't the only one who felt this way. Young people are sold the idea that in order to be successful, they must have a degree. They therefore shell out thousands of pounds that they haven't yet earned in the hopes that one day, they will end up in their chosen career (so that they can start paying back those thousands of pounds). 

I'm not doubting that for some people, this does end up to be the case and there are of course careers that require you to undertake a degree. Yet, the further through university I go, the more I wonder whether this was truly the right path for me. 

I can't help but compare myself to others I know of a similar age who made the decision not to attend university, and they all appear to be doing much better than me. They have full-time jobs, own their own car and are already completely self-sufficient (and all without the anxiety of outrageous debts hanging over them). 

Perhaps I should have gone straight into employment or an apprenticeship, rather than pouring my non-existent money into something which let's be honest, doesn't come with any assurance of success or financial stability. Whilst I love studying and I'm passionate about my course, right now I'm questioning if this is truly enough.

My Blog


I love writing my blog and getting to know the many others out there that share similar experiences to me. More than anything, I'd like to believe that my blog can reach out to people and reassure them that they are not alone when it comes to matters of their mental health. 

At the beginning, simply having the opportunity to openly write about my experiences felt sufficient. Over recent weeks, however, I've grown increasingly discontent with my blog and everything in it; the content, the photos, the header, the logo...

If I'm going to create something, it needs to be the best version it can possibly be. At the moment, my blog is not fulfilling this. I want to make improvements, in order to make my blog accessible to more people - sitting in bed droning on about my problems (like I'm doing right now) isn't cutting it any more. 

Does anybody even really care about a blog on mental health anyway? It seems in our commercialised society, people would much rather read about the latest fashion trend. I'm not saying there is necessarily a problem with this, but it's almost as if most of us prefer to overlook the more pressing topics such as mental health, because they are just too complicated and daunting. 

It's about time mental health blogs and the like were given a bit more recognition. Sharing publicly your experience of an often stigmatised issue can leave you feeling rather vulnerable and sometimes I'm left wondering why I bother (woah, steady on there). 

A Job

The final thing I wish to discuss in today's post is my total inability to hold down a job. The fact that I do not earn my own money and therefore depend entirely on my parents at my age makes me feel deeply ashamed and insecure - something which I discussed in more depth in a previous post

It also makes me feel incredibly out of control because if my family were to suddenly decide to stop funding my life and everything in it (I'm not saying they would, but if they did) I would be, to put it bluntly, completely screwed. 

It's not that I don't want a job, I could probably do with the routine and like I've already mentioned, I like to gain a sense of achievement from whatever it is I'm doing. However, my crippling anxiety makes it kind of difficult to apply for, let alone carry out, even a part-time job. 

A previous job that I had in retail at sixteen just reinforced what a nervous wreck I truly am and how I am rendered useless in all social situations. I was unable to fold the clothes and pack them in bags at the till because my hands would shake so severely; I couldn't cope with the pressure of the customer watching and potentially judging me. I can't imagine what both the customer and other staff members must have thought of me, nor do I really want to. 

But what help is there for people with mental health problems trying to ease their way into the world of work? Sod all as far as I know.
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