Thursday, 17 August 2017

On Doing Better

It wasn't too long ago when I found myself at one of my lowest points. In fact, the person I was at the start of 2017 is a completely different person to the person writing this post today.

It'd be easy to assume that I was still in a really bad place, because on a daily basis recently I've found myself having multiple breakdowns and panic attacks or I've found myself struggling to cope with anything. Outwardly, I still come across as a complete mess. But the only reason I'm this much of a mess is because I'm doing better.

The concept of me doing better but acting worse is one that won't be understood unless you have been there before. Or unless you knew the real person I was a few months ago. I spent most of the month of March locked away in my room. I missed all but a few lectures, completed assignments scruffily and in a few hours because I mentally couldn't do them well and the few times I socialised was because I was drinking and because I was drinking, I was in a slightly better mood mentally. The thought of having to wake up the next morning actually broke my heart and I didn't want to do anything for a long time.

An awful month for me took its toll and one night right at the end of the month saw me re-hit rock bottom, with what easily could have been me going to hospital after a few too many drinks, some really stupid things and an uncontrollable anxiety attack hit. I woke up the next morning and couldn't stop wondering how I'd let myself sink back to such a terrible place, and about how lucky I was to still be in slightly one piece in my own bed.

It was almost like a wake up call. I have been fluctuating mentally for a good 7/8 years now, telling myself it'd all be okay soon. But of course it wouldn't, why would anything get better unless I wanted  it to? How could I properly recover without the want, the need and the motive to?

I don't want to say I had a "huge revelation and it automatically changed my life". Because one night didn't completely change my outlook on life. One bad night didn't make me love myself (I still don't) and one bad night didn't make all the bad thoughts just go away. An awful night just gave me little a wake up call. A wake up call would have meant absolutely nothing unless I did something about it. Unless I made some changes that would help me to finally start fighting back, to find some happiness again.

And it hasn't been easy. I cut out a toxic coping mechanism that I had been addicted too since I was 14. And so many times I wanted to fall back into it like every other time I tried to do run away from it. But when I made that choice then, I was genuinely in a better place without knowing.

It sounds stupid, me not knowing I'm in a better place, but still having nights like that. But the whole reason that night was especially bad was because I completely had fucked up what I thought was the start of a "new chapter" in my life. It was bad because I couldn't control it after a few shitty events and waaay too much wine.

But I was in a better place. This time a year ago, I wanted it all to stop. I didn't want to be alive anymore. But here I am, alive. And now, I go to sleep with the thought that I will wake up tomorrow and no matter how bad that day was, tomorrow will be a new. I look forward to it, in a way. I want to see what life has in store for me.

That's where the whole "doing better but not really doing better" is emphasised. Yes, I still am very similar in to how I was a year ago. I still don't like alot about myself, I get really bad days and my anxiety is probably the worse it's been in my entire life. But now, I want the days to come. I don't wish the days away and then wish I don't wake up the next. I wake up and smile.

I know that now, I can actually fight off any bad thoughts. Temptations of relapse are still very prevalent, but I now find it so much easier to fight them off and stay strong. I haven't had a genuine suicidal thought in a long time. I haven't had to completely argue with my brain in a while. My mood swings aren't as bad. Any voice I used to hear has completely quietened down.

I constantly ask myself, what if this will never become okay? What if I'm like this forever?

The truth is, it's already becoming okay. I can see myself in 1 years time having even less mental fluctuations than I'm having now. Telling yourself that nothing will be okay is really easy when it's all you know. But coming to the realisation that you are okay feels rather odd when you definitely aren't okay.

No one is happy 100% of the time. No one is perfect. No one is completely okay.

And I'm sat here at 1:30am, coming to the realisation that for the first time in a long time, everything is looking brighter.

Because this week for me has been hard. In the last 8 days I've had probably 10 panic attacks, including two absolutely awfully draining ones. I've cried more times than I think I have in the rest of 2017. I've slept for so few hours that I'm surprised I've been able to move each day (and have started taking tablets for this). I've insulted myself more times than I can count. I've wondered why I was having such a shit time when I thought I was doing well.

The truth is, I'm having a hard time because I'm being strong. I've lost my coping mechanism, so I'm struggling, but this only is making me stronger.

Because this week, on top of all the bad thing mentally, I've been happy. I haven't laughed this much in a long time. I've cried happy tears. I've spoken to people who make me genuinely excited to get up in the morning. The little things I've done have been on the whole, great.

Everything has a silver lining.

Even though the last days have been a bump, everything is okay. I'm okay. It's nice to finally admit to myself that I am in fact, doing better.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

A Routine of Surviving

After falling asleep at 3am, I'll find myself waking up at least 4 times from then until I wake up, usually around 9am.

I'll wake up tired, with a headache from the amount of times I've woken up.

I'll lay in bed for 20, 30 minutes to an hour, contemplating moving. "Today is going to be awful, just stay in bed" I'll tell myself, before physically pushing myself up and out of bed. I'll probably yawn, spend a while moaning about how tired I am before I start to get ready for my day.

No matter what I'm doing during the day, I'll have the same thoughts in my head. Whether I'm at a lecture, at work, out with friends or simply sat on my sofa watching TV, I'll be thinking about how I cannot wait to get back to the comfort of my bed, where no one will judge me for moping around and attempting to sleep. I'll eat, take some medication to try relieve myself of headaches or anxiety or whatever the issue is on that day (usually both), and go about my daily life. I'll go around with dark circles under my eyes and a complete weight on my shoulders that gets harder to carry with each step.

I'll get home, tucked into bed and feel completely relieved that I'm away from social interaction, from the constant fear of the unknown and judgement from everyone around me. But this fear is replaced with a sadness and a knowledge of the lack of sleep I'll be getting that night. I'll fall asleep late.

The cycle starts again.

It's frustrating.

It's frustrating to have no energy all the time, whilst acting like you are completely full of life. There's no motivation to do anything, you have to force yourself with all your remaining energy to go and do whats needed to be done, whether this is to do with work, education, exercise or simply having a bath or making something to eat.

It's near impossible, you want to give up. But you don't. You carry on and each day you get that one bit closer to actually living instead of being stuck in a routine of simply surviving.

And if simply surviving is the best you have right now, then it is definitely fantastic to do.

Because you aren't giving up. The second you give up is the second that everything starts to get worse, to become overwhelming. And even though it is unbearable, by surviving you're telling your brain that even though it is unbearable, that you can deal with it.

You can cope with all the anxiety, you can cope with feeling completely worthless. You can cope with the noise and you can cope with every negative thought that is thrown your way.

Your head may only just be above water, but it's still there.

Everyone says that you want to "live not just survive", but if at the moment all that is possible is surviving, then you are living by just doing that.

I'm there, I understand. It's really fucking hard to see everyone around you happy when you are sat thinking that not waking up tomorrow wouldn't be the worst thing that's ever happened to you. It's so hard to have absolutely no energy to do anything you love, because all your energy is sapped through a lack of sleep or being drained by doing nothing.

It's unbearable to feel like a ghost in a room full of life, but you need to remember that however ghost-like you feel, you are still one of the bodies full of life.

Right now, I'm surviving. I'm barely sleeping, I'm taking anti-anxiety medicine, I'm barely getting through the day. But soon, it'll all be okay and I know that now.

Because it's okay not to be okay, as long as you are not giving up.


Tuesday, 18 July 2017

High Functioning

It's hard to be high functioning.


I wake up, I'm sad. I'm sad and don't want to get up, but I do. I can function. There is no reason for me to not get out of bed, because I physically can.

I'm tired. I'm so fucking tired even though I've had 9 hours sleep and some form of caffeine this morning. I yawn and moan the entire day, but I continue because I physically can.

I'm anxious. I wake up panicking for no explicit reason, then find more reasons to panic as my day carries on. But I try to block all the thoughts and I carry on. Because I physically can.

I'm meeting up with friends. I'm talking, laughing but in the back of my mind I'm feeling something that I don't want to be feelings. I'm feeling anxious. I'm feeling paranoid. But I continue to talk and laugh, because I physically can.

I'm in class or a lecture. I'm contributing, I'm paying attention. I feel like I'm learning. I'm passing my exams, doing well in my coursework. But it's not enough. I'm tired. I feel like I'm failing. I feel like I can't physically finish the assignment due tomorrow, but I do.

I'm at football. I'm laughing, I'm having so much fun. I'm playing the sport I love. At the same time I'm paranoid at every little mistake I made, worried people are laughing at me. But I continue to play.


The thing with a high functioning mental illness, is that it's masked by a stigma that people with these illnesses are completely shut down, at rock bottom and unable to physically do anything. It's losing interest in what you love, your grades and attendance dropping. It's you being the opposite of who you are and staying in bed all the time. Which yes, mental illness can be. But it isn't always.

For me, it's never been completely like this. Yes, I've had periods of low functioning depression, most recently me missing near enough 3/4 weeks of lectures and lab classes in march. But for me, it's really rare. I am hardly ever low functioning, and I don't know why. Maybe it's the anxiety forcing me to get up and out of bed because the consequences of me not are too high. Maybe it's just that I'm so used to being sad that it's just a personality trait now.

And to many, I probably seem like I'm living a wonderful life. I have wonderful family and friends, I'm doing things I love and I am succeeding in things. Which, in reality, I am. On the surface, my life is pretty great. But that doesn't stop the mental illness to hold me back, slowly trying to break me.

It's really hard to be high functioning.

People don't believe you. People just think you're abit moody or upset because of something that's happened. They don't believe me when I say I'm not going out because I've had a panic attack, or that I'm abit quiet because I can't stop my head from going crazy.

 Because why would they? It's not like I'm obviously going through hardship right now. I'm laughing, I'm happy. I'm up, I'm about. I'm not fitting in with the model of depression or anxiety, so why would anyone for a second believe anything to be wrong.

Why would anyone expect me to be tired for any other reason than a late night? Why would anyone expect me to feel ill for any other reason that I'm abit under the weather?

Do you blame them for thinking it's all okay? No.

But because they think you're okay, you tell yourself you're okay. You convince yourself that nothings wrong with you, that its all in your head. You don't go and see a doctor or therapist and get the help you need because why would they believe anything is wrong with you when you are acting like a "normal" person.

It's scary isn't it? Because anyone you know right now could be in the same situation and you wouldn't know. Not everyone fits the symptoms.

There are people out there who do not fit the symptoms but still have the illness. And it's so important that we remember that.


Sunday, 9 July 2017

Holidays, Anxiety and A Fear of Flying

Holiday's are highlights of peoples years, usually. What's better than a week or two away from all your work, education and friendship/family/relationship stresses that you have to put yourself through for the other 50 weeks of the year.

Usually at the airport, you're absolutely buzzing. You cannot wait to get through security and onto the plane and into the air, so you can finally relax.

When you have a fear of flying, this is normally different.

For me, this isn't just being scared about the plane journey itself.

2 weeks (at least) before I even start packing, I have already decided that I won't make it to my destination. I have decided that either I won't make it to the airport, something will happen during check in or that simply the plane will crash. Or on the way home, the same series of events will happen and simply I will never see my family again.

You can tell me a million times that the chances of you being in a plane crash are around 1 in 17 million or that things like this happen so rarely that its the reason they make the news. I won't listen to you, I will be convinced it will end in disaster anyway.

We arrive at the airport, and whilst you are all happy and excited, I'm stood there quiet, the dread building as I think through the process in my head. I check I've got my passport (even though I checked 4 times before leaving the house and 6 times in the car) because I've probably lost it. I'll go through my hand luggage again a few times, because even though I've emptied my bag 5 times before now, I've probably forgotten some liquids and I convince myself that i'll get arrested for that. I'm convinced theres something in my suitcase that I'm not allowed to have and will get arrested (once again) or that my bag will get lost.

We walk to the gate, I'm convinced I've lost my boarding pass. I check 100 times, then think I've lost my passport. I'm worried that, even though I've taken my travel sickness tablets, I'm going to be sick on the plane, which will panic me even more and make me even more ill. I'm worried i've left something in the airport or that I'm at the wrong gate or that even though all my friends boarding passes are okay, mine for some reason won't be.

And then we're on the plane, and I'm panicking. This is it. This is how i die. The take off panics me to an extent I can't even portray, any small turbulence feels huge to me and I start to panic that the wings been blown off. It's torture, completely shattering. We touch down and I'm worried we've crashed. I run off the plane when I can because I'm just so happy to still be alive.

Then the holiday can start right? Wrong.

Anxiety doesn't leave me on holiday. If anything, it's actually worse. I'm in an unknown place, surrounded by unknown people. I'm paranoid about money constantly and worried that someones going to steal all of my things. I get anxious about walking around in summer clothes and I get anxious at the thought that everyone is staring at me and judging me.

I get panicked that I'm going to end up in hospital or end up alone somewhere I don't know so I'll be lost forever. I normally stress myself so much that I'm constantly tired and find it hard to move, and so I miss more of my holiday than I want.

I've paid to come away and relax and I just end up doing the opposite.

Don't get me wrong, I have a great time when I'm away. I make some amazing memories with my friends and have a chance to sit and do very little for how ever long and I get to (on the whole) relax.

But when I feel anxious, it's completely awful.

And my personal issue, is that I tend to try and drink my anxiety away. A few drinks will calm me down, but then I won't stop. And I don't stop til the point I can't control my actions, I'm anxious again and I'm leaving a night out early because I can feel a panic attack coming, which then happens when I'm sat in my room drunk, tired and upset.

Holidays cause my anxiety to skyrocket. On average, I'll have a panic attack around once every 2 weeks, but when I'm on holiday I usually have 3/4 in 7 days, around 8 times as many as I do when home.

Once I'm relaxing, I never want to leave. When I'm calm, I'm happy. I feel like nothing is wrong in the world and that things are amazing.

Until anxiety comes across, which then goes to ruin it all.

Monday, 5 June 2017

Summer Body

With summer soon approaching, the sun is shining, the beers are out and everyone starts to count down til they board a plane and go on holiday. Pools, cheap food and bevs and a sun that doesn't make you want to cry, what isn't there to love about a holiday? It's a getaway, a chance to relax and forget about your life for how ever long you go for.

But with holiday season, comes a season I dislike. It comes the season of body shaming, lack of confidence and uncomfort.

With each passing year, I seem to see more of a "I need to be holiday ready" attitude spreading. A complete push for weight loss and healthy eating completely kick starts in this period, which don't get me wrong, isn't the problem here. Everyone wants to try look their healthiest before holidays, especially after stress of exams (for us students) or a hard years work for the people in full time work. The year always gives you weight gain that you really don't want.

My issue with the whole concept lies where body shaming begins.

There's a significant difference than working to lose a few pounds and shaming people for not being your idea of a perfect figure.

Even if you simply Google "summer body", it comes up with COUNTLESS tutorials on how to get a bikini, summer or beach body, many of which contain weight loss tips and tricks. One of them is even called "hot to get a hot body" which is just weight loss stuff. Which is fine (the title however, is not okay). If people want to lose weight, gain weight or remain the same weight, that is wonderful. A person should be able to do what they want in terms of their own body.

So heres the thing. All bodies are summer bodies. It's genuinely that simple.

It's time we stop shaming people for their size, and start appreciating people for more things than how they look.

It's time we stop comparing each other. It's time we spread the fact that everyone is unique, beautiful and can pull off any clothes they want. Because there is genuinely no reason why a person can't wear what they want and look fantastic doing it.

It's time we stop congratulating a friend for losing a few pounds, it's time we stop shaming if someones gained a few pounds.

For some reason, our culture is obsessed with the idea of perfection, without anyone actually knowing what perfect is. You can be any size,and you'll get shit from someone. Someones a clothing size or two smaller than you? Don't tell them they need to gain weight or skinny shame in any way. Someone's a size larger? Don't tell them they need to lose a few pounds. The only thing you should say about anyone elses body is positive, complimentary vibes. You don't know what people are going through, they might be a size you deem to be "perfect", but inside they hate their body and want nothing more than it to be like yours.

You want to wear a bikini? Put one on and look fantastic. You want to wear shorts over your swimsuit? Go for it, you look wonderful. You don't feel comfortable showing skin? You still look great in what you're wearing.

In a society that is so obsessed with shaming everyone else, the next generation will grow up believing that they are not perfect, regardless of how much they change their appearance. It's the exact same for men and women too. Don't laugh at one of your guy friends for "not having enough muscle", because at the end of the day, the only person who should care about how they look is the person themselves.

How to get a perfect body you ask?

Wear what you want with a smile, go on holiday and be yourself. Because nothing is more perfect than yourself. Put on that swimsuit, wetsuit, bikini. Put on those shorts and tshirts. Put on whatever you want with pride, because you look damn well amazing doing so.

Don't be the person who laughs at other people because they don't fit into your view of "beautiful." Nothing is better than giving a person a compliment and making them feel so much better and more confident about themselves. Self love is the most important type, and by reinforcing the fact that everyone should just rock themselves, it will eventually lead to a society much more positive and healthy, than the toxicity we are in now.

Sunday, 28 May 2017

On Recovery

Taking the step towards recovery is one of the biggest steps you'll ever take. It takes alot to decide that you're going to do whatever it takes to get better. It takes alot to come clean and say you need help. And many people attribute this to needing to recover for a loved one.

Recovery should be for yourself. 

Yes, people will benefit from you getting better. Your kids may live better lives, your mum may not spend her days worrying about you and your best friend will get to remember the friend you used to be.

But you need to recover for yourself.

Not for your family, not for your friends. Not for your partner and not for your colleagues. Not for the customer you served today and not for the people you pass in the street. Not for the author of the article that pushed you towards recovery or for your favourite singer or band. Not for the therapist who is aiding your recovery.

Recover for yourself. Recover for the 7 year old you who always dreamed of growing up a famous singer or dancer or footballer. Recover for the you who worked hard to get all the grades they needed to eventually get their dream degree or job. Recover for the you who smashed all the interviews they went to for work. Recover for the you in 10 years time, who will look back on this and be happy they survived. 

Recover so you can wake up happy and are excited to start the day. Recover so you can do the basic things you could once do easily. Recover so you can sleep at night and actually want to wake up the next morning. Recover so you can take that step closer to loving yourself and loving life.

Recover so you can breathe again. Recover so you can see your future in a positive way, instead of quietly hoping that your future doesn't exist. Recover for your health and well being. Recover so you can help other people get better too.

Recover so you don't have to lie to yourself every morning when getting ready for the day. Recover so you can feel comfortable in your clothes and in your skin. Recover so you don't feel the need to cover up all the time to hide things and recover so you accept the person you are. Recover so you don't feel guilty every time you say you're okay, when inside you feel like crumbling.

It won't be easy.

You won't just wake up tomorrow a completely better person, whether this be in relation to eating disorders, anxiety, depression or addiction. You won't suddenly be a happier, healthier person. You don't have "transformed" overnight from one simple choice. The voices won't just stop. No recovery from any mental health problem will be easy.

You'll have to fight with yourself alot. You'll have to rely on others to help you through situations that a recovered you will soon be able to do yourself. You'll have bad days. You'll have them alot. You'll continuously have mood swings and really low moments. But this time you'll fight it off. You'll eat the apple, you'll get out of bed. You'll refrain from hurting yourself and you'll refrain from breaking down. You'll do it, be proud of yourself for staying strong. The next day, you'll have the same arguments with yourself, and you'll fight it off again.

You'll relapse. You'll think you're back to where you're started from, when reality you're further towards recovery than you ever were before.

But soon, it'll get easier. Bad days get far and few between. You'll find it easier to beat the bad days, you'll find it easier to block the negative you out.

We are comfortable with familiarity, so the idea of relapsing back into your old self is tempting, but once you become familiar with a happier, healthier you, then it'll be so much easier to be the person you want to be.

Continue to fight when it seems pointless and continue to fight when you don't feel like fighting anymore. Continue to battle when you feel like you've lost the war and when people are telling you it isn't worth it.

Recover.

There is nothing better than getting better. You need to get better.

Recover for yourself, open a new chapter and no matter how much you fall just keep getting back up again.

I promise you, it will all be worth it.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

You, My Mental Health

You lock me up with shackles on my wrist, and when I think I've freed myself, you lock me back up again.

My mental health, you won't leave me alone. It's like you're a heavy weight strapped around me that I have to pull around everywhere I go.

When I look in the mirror I don't see me. I see an act, a mask I hide behind because the depression gives me a face I do not recognise or want to see.

You have told me I'm this broken person, a lesser human being who doesn't deserve the world. We have a toxic relationship I cannot free myself from, because you always find your way back.

You are every overused metaphor about the feeling of drowning, all combined together and living inside me.

You pick out the flaws inside and out, reminding me of every last detail I hate, forgetting all the qualities I have.

I'm like an old doll, once loved now thrown away, left there to rot day after day Like a balloon released into the sky, who would continue to do nothing until I'm way too high.

And you grab me tight and pull me around, it hurts from my head all the way to the ground, as you slowly shape me into something I will not recognise.

You plague my thoughts all the time, like what if me walking here is actually a crime? What if the words I said to my friend 3 years past, are still in her mind and forever will last?

I cannot go to a doctor or talk on the phone, my anxiety prevents me from doing anything alone. I cannot leave the house without a fear that I'm being judged and it brings me to tears.

You bring me tears when I try to sleep at night and I grip onto my hair and I pull it so tight, because it hurts less to do so than listen to your voice playing in my head. Every time it plays it brings me dread and I feel like I'm being stabbed with pieces of lead as my face loses colour and I forget words once said.

You bring me to tears as I neck down some booze, thinking I have nothing else to lose. As I drink another glass of wine and think back to a time where I was happy, smiling and free and a person I want to be.

You, my mental health, bring me misery. You are why I can't conquer the world, I fall at first chance. I feel like the world has just stopped and I'm stuck in a trance.

As I lie awake at night, anxiety at it's height, wondering when I will once again get a good nights sleep, before thinking of thoughts that are ever so deep.

Like what would it be like if I wasn't alive? Would everyone prosper, be happy and thrive?

Or would the sky remain grey with easy passing day? Would the stars still shine? Would you see light of day? Would your mind stay clear, even though I turned you away? I always wonder, would you be okay?

Would you be okay if I told you now, would you listen to me or would you raise a brow? If I told you I was unhappy, what would you do? Would you tell me you love me or want to start anew? Would you stay or would you leave? Would you hate me forever because you cannot believe.

Dear my mental health, I blame you for this. I cannot mend myself with one simple kiss.

Please release the chains, they're ruining my inside, please leave me alone I am too tired to hide. I'm too tired to fight your intruding thoughts, I'll instead sit here with the one you brought.

All the lies running round inside my head, as I lay up all night crying in bed.

What did I do to deserve a brain that hates me? A brain that wants to constantly battle and let evil thoughts run free?

You may seem stronger mental health, but be aware I can fight too, the only loser here will be you. One day I will win, this I know. I'm already getting better, and one day you will leave my mind. So hopefully soon I will find some happiness and love, of myself and of my life.