A girl with too many thoughts...

Saturday, 31 December 2016

New Year, New You?

Happy New Year!

I just thought I would write a quick post to mention a few things I've been thinking about over the past few days. At this time of year, there is an awful lot of talk (especially on social media) of new year resolutions and so forth. This is all great and I love the idea of setting myself challenges, but I also want to remind you (and myself) that there is no need to put yourself under tons of pressure to fulfil these goals.

Setting goals is great and it's a way that we can progress in our lives and gain a sense of achievement. However, I think there is a fine line between setting yourself healthy challenges and overwhelming yourself with unrealistic expectations. This whole 'new year, new me' ideology can make some people feel under pressure to become a brand new, better version of themselves in the new year, but nobody can change over night.

Therefore, if like me you are vulnerable to these sorts of pressures, I want you to know that it is okay if you don't miraculously change in 2017. You don't need to be cured from your mental illness, you don't need to become ridiculously toned, you don't need to stick to a strict food or exercise regime, you don't need any of that. All you need is to carry on being you and continue taking small steps in the right direction.

Also, I know this time of year can be difficult for sufferers of eating disorders. It seems like everybody is talking about going on a 'January detox' or losing weight. But you must continue focusing on what's best for you, not other people. If what is healthy for you is to gain weight and eat more, then that's what you should concentrate on in the new year. I know it's hard (really I do) but try and ignore talk of diets, weight loss and detox over the coming months and keep in mind what your goal is (which is hopefully to become healthier, even if that means gaining weight).

I hope you enjoy your evening, whatever your plans may be and that 2017 treats you well.

Thanks for reading.


Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Going At 100mph

I go through phases where I am completely unmotivated and uninspired - I feel empty. Like these past few days, where I haven't bothered to do much apart from lay in bed all day or sleep the afternoon away. I don't feel like talking or thinking much and I'm very distant, mostly just staring into space rather than actually focusing on what is around me.

And then, in a matter of hours, I switch. I'm the opposite to this. Suddenly, I feel hyperactive. I'm talkative, I'm full of motivation, I have a drive in me to get things done which was practically non-existent before. My thoughts are racing and I have no control over them, constantly jumping from one idea to the next. They aren't necessarily negative thoughts, just thoughts. But the whole process of feeling unable to slow down is anxiety provoking in itself.

Constantly jumping from one state of mind to the other is exhausting. Not knowing how you're gonna be from one day to the next is exhausting. I feel I can't plan ahead because it's impossible to predict which person I'll be on that day: the depressed Lisa or the super energetic Lisa. The last few days I've been in a bit of a slump. Today, however, I'm unable to stop thinking. Thinking about what I could be doing. Thinking about what I need to do. Thinking about all the things I want to do in future. Just thinking! I feel like I'm going at 100mph. I am restless. Even if my body is not physically moving, I feel I can't stop.

I just can't think straight when I'm like this, because my mind has already gone ahead and moved on to the next thing before I've even gathered my thoughts together myself! I'm struggling to even write this blog post because while I'm writing this, my brain is wondering off and thinking about endless other things at the same time. I lose where I am in what I'm saying - my brain is one big jumbled mess of thoughts.

Feeling like this has its physical effects, too. My head hurts, literally as though it's spinning. My neck is all tense and sore. My eyes feel heavy. I think sleeping is the only thing that's going to make this feeling go away...

Monday, 26 December 2016

Alone Time & Struggling Around The Festive Period

There is absolutely nothing wrong with needing to spend some time alone. Everybody appreciates their own personal space, especially when we aren't quite feeling ourselves. I feel I need to emphasise this around Christmas time because there is such a huge pressure to be sociable - more so than any other time of the year.

Christmas can be a particularly difficult time for some people, especially those who struggle with mental illness. The pressure to be sociable, jolly and full of festive spirit, coupled with the expectation to have the 'perfect' Christmas (as seen in the media) can be overwhelming. I mean, most people find this time of year stressful, so imagine what it's like for those who are more vulnerable to such a feeling.

Mental illness does not magically cease to exist at Christmas (although I wish it did, could you imagine?!), and nor should anybody expect it to. Those who suffer from a mental illness may feel as though they need some alone time just like they would on any other day and that is okay. Nobody should be forced to put on a happy, smiley face just because it's Christmas, not if they feel like they're struggling.

You may feel you are being 'rude' or 'unsociable' if you don't give all of your attention to others around this time of year, but I want you to know that you shouldn't. You shouldn't feel guilty for taking time out for yourself over the festive period. I know it feels as though you should be spending all of your time with family but you need to focus on yourself too. Do what you feel comfortable with and if you feel like things are becoming too much, take some time out. Those who really care about you will understand.

This quote was tweeted by The Blurt Foundation yesterday and I think it sums up what I'm trying to say quite nicely:

"It's not selfish to love yourself, take care of yourself, and to make your happiness a priority. It's necessary" - Mandy Hale 

(even at Christmas)

I've probably spent a bit more time alone and cooped up in my room than I should have over this weekend. It's the only few days of the year where all of my family are together (as my brother lives away and I've started uni now). However, I've just not been feeling all that sociable and if I'm honest, I've been going through a bit of a down patch this last week so I haven't been feeling all that festive. I'm sure I'll perk up again soon, but I can't force a smile just because it's Christmas.

Anyway, enough about me! I hope you've had a joyful Christmas, mental illness or no mental illness. You deserve it.

Saturday, 24 December 2016

My 2017 Goals

TW: Eating disorders, depression

So I've already posted about the things 2016 has taught me, but I thought it might be nice to also outline my goals for the next year. Over the course of this year, I've really learned a lot about my interests and the direction I might like to take with my future, so I'm excited to set myself some fresh goals that I can focus on achieving in 2017.

1) Blog, blog, blog!

I started this blog in July of this year in order to share my experience with mental illness, and I can honestly say that I'm so glad I did. I also set up my Twitter account in conjunction with my blog - both of which have enabled me to talk to so many awesome people who are battling their own illness. It has really opened my eyes not only to how common mental illness is, but also how it doesn't have to define you. Therefore, in 2017, I would like to continue blogging, reading others' blogs, talking to people on Twitter and speaking about mental health (and maybe even meet some other bloggers in person!). Hopefully, I can improve my blog and my writing to make it bigger and better!

2) Volunteer.

Volunteering is a really great way to gain skills and give something back. I feel I'm in a place now where I'm well enough to help out mental health charities by volunteering for them - whether that be by blogging, working on some kind of helpline or even volunteering in a charity shop such as Mind. I know they are keen for people to volunteer in their shops and even just one hour a week can make a difference. So, when I go back to university after Christmas, I'm will look into volunteering for my local Mind shop.

3) Work hard at my degree.

With everything else going on, I sometimes forget that I am actually at university to get a degree. Specifically, a degree in Psychology. Often people mistakenly assume that university only involves going out on the town and getting drunk, but there is actually a lot of work to do (if you want to do well in your degree). That's why I aim to put a lot of effort into my first year of university and (hopefully) come out the other side with half decent grades.

4) Focus on my health.

Something I've neglected far too much over the last year or two. It's time I looked after my physical health a little better, and that means taking control of my eating disorder. I'm fed up of restricting and putting my body through so much stress constantly. I deserve to treat my body better than that and give it what it needs, which is enough food!

Even though mentally I've been doing a bit better in 2016 (despite some ups and downs), physically I've been rather unwell. Around May time, my body was starting to feel the effects of months of restricting (something which I may go into detail about in a different post). Since then, I've managed to mostly maintain but I'm still underweight and feeling constantly drained of energy (which takes its toll on my mood). Therefore, in 2017, I will get my weight back up to healthy and hopefully start to feel a bit better!

And finally...

5) Appreciate things.

I'm by no means saying that I don't already appreciate the things in my life, but in 2017 I want to make a concerted effort to show gratitude for what I've got. It's so easy to fall into a mind set where the negatives cloud over the positives, to the point where you can't even see any positives anymore. So, in order to help prevent me from entering that deep, dark void again, I will constantly remind myself of the good things - my family, my friends, the opportunities that have been given to me and I should therefore take advantage of. I know that there is so much more to depression than your situation in life. Depression doesn't always seem to have a cause and just because things are good in your life, doesn't mean you're immune from developing depression - but that also doesn't mean we can't be grateful for the good.

I'd love to hear some of your 2017 goals.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, 22 December 2016

I Went On The Radio!

Back in September, I wrote a blog post for the UK charity Student Minds about the anxiety of starting university. They then contacted me earlier this month asking me if I wanted to share my story on BBC Radio 5 Live in a live interview about student mental health and university drop-out rates.

My instant reaction was obviously 'no way on earth can I do that'. I'm terrified of embarrassing myself in all situations, let alone on national radio. However, deep down, I knew it was an incredible opportunity and that I would be silly to pass it up and give in to my anxiety (once again). After all, the whole point of my blog and Twitter account is to open up the conversation around mental health, so being able to talk about it on the radio seemed an ideal way to do this.

So, after much consideration and encouragement from my parents over FaceTime, I decided to just go for it. I mean, what's the worst that could happen? I say something absolutely ridiculous on live national radio for my family, friends and thousands of strangers to hear and feel so embarrassed that I never leave the house or show my face in public again? Ah well, life moves on.

And that was that. This time last week, I travelled to my nearest BBC studio, stuck a pair of headphones on and took part in the hour long radio show (yay me!). I must admit, it wasn't exactly the glossy studio with lots of high-tech electrical bits and bobs that I had in mind, but it did the job.

The show was introduced with a short clip about a new wellbeing scheme being set up at Kings College London, which focuses on providing over the phone peer-support to vulnerable first-year students who may be in need of further support. It was all rather exciting, and I even got the chance to share some of my own personal experience with mental health problems in that crucial first few months at uni.

I'm really proud of myself for pushing through and doing it, especially since I was so convinced beforehand I'd be way too anxious to go ahead with it. Of course I listened back and cringed, because like most people, I hate the sound of my own voice. Yes, I was nervous and maybe that came across a bit when I was speaking, but who cares? I proved myself wrong and gained an incredibly valuable experience in the process, and that to me is the main thing.

And remember, you are capable of so much more than you think, even if your mind tries it's absolute hardest to convince you otherwise.

Thank you so much for reading. :)

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Things 2016 Has Taught Me

Congratulations to all of us for making it to the end of 2016! Although many people will probably be glad to see the back of this year, I thought now would be a good time to reflect on some important lessons I've learnt and will take forward with me into the coming years. Brace yourselves, this is probably going to be my longest post yet! So, without further ado...

1) Everybody is fighting their own battle.

Where to begin! One thing I've learnt this year is that despite what they choose to reveal, everybody has something going on in their life. Often people like to give out the impression that they've got their shit completely together and have the perfect life, but this is very rarely the case. When I started university I felt like I was the only one dealing with 'issues' and isolated myself because of it, but as soon as I started speaking to people I quickly found out this wasn't the case at all. It seemed like everybody else was having fun 24/7, but who was I to know what they were dealing with behind the scenes. Just because they chose to put on an act most of the time, didn't mean they weren't going through stuff. 

In 2017, I will continue to remind myself of this. For one, I shouldn't be so hard on myself and fear that people will think I'm 'weird' once they find out my insecurities, because it is more than likely they are too busy dealing with their own to even notice. But, at the same time, I will be careful not to judge others too quickly, because I have no idea what they might be battling.

2) Some people are really good at masking their true feelings.

This kind of leads on from my previous point, but something else I've learnt this year is that some people are really, really good at hiding their feelings. That's why it can be so difficult to tell when somebody is struggling. Personally, it's really obvious to others when I'm not quite right. I'm no good at putting on a face and pretending things are okay when they're not, but this isn't the case for everyone. Sometimes you need to look out for subtle signs that something is wrong and put in a lot more effort to get somebody to open up to you about how they are feeling.

3) I'm capable of more than I think.

I have the tendency to put myself down and instantly think 'I can't do that' whenever I'm met with a challenge. However, if 2016 has proved nothing else to me, it has proved that I CAN challenge this self-doubt. I AM capable of things that I always assumed I wasn't. This year I got my A-levels, I moved out and went to university, I met new people and made new friends and I spoke on live national radio, all the while telling myself I wouldn't be able to achieve these things. 

Don't put yourself down so much, you are capable of so much more than you know. 

4) You can often find a positive within all the negative.

Sometimes it seems like everything has turned to shit and there is no way forward. I've been there. A year or two ago I was convinced that life and everything in it was meaningless, and that I would spend the rest of my days living at home too afraid to do anything, with my Mum still caring for me at the age of forty. I mean really I could look at the past few years and say that nothing positive came out of any of that, but I would be wrong. 

If it wasn't for 'the great nervous breakdown of 2015', I would not be sitting here writing this on my blog right now. I would not have started up my Twitter account which has led me to so many inspiring and strong individuals. Reaching that low has made me realise what I really want to do in life, and that is help people who are in a similar place to me and share my experiences with mental health. I never used to know what I wanted to do with my life and now I feel like I have some idea, and that's something I've come to realise in 2016.

5) I'm my own worst enemy.

The only person putting me down is me. I have a lot of support around me, whether that is from my family, my friends, even on Twitter, and yet I continue to put myself down and basically think I'm a piece of crap. People in my life are having to repeatedly encourage me and remind me I can do things and yet I never listen, I constantly feel worthless. A lot of the time I try and convince myself that it's other people that don't believe in me, other people hold these negative opinions of me, but I realise now that it's not. It's me. In 2017 I really want to work on my opinion of myself and stop disliking myself so much, blaming other people for my insecurities isn't going to help me, it's time to face up to my worst enemy (i.e. myself). 

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Food Is Stressful

TW: Eating disorders

I'm feeling pretty overwhelmed right now because my thoughts are so conflicted when it comes to eating and gaining weight - I don't quite know who to believe anymore. Hopefully writing them all out in a blog post will help me to make sense of them. I thought being at home would make managing my eating disorder easier (it usually does) because I'm no longer surrounded by other people my age commenting on their body/weight/food and there are less people to compare myself to. However, since getting home last week, I feel as though I'm struggling more than ever.

When I'm at university I find it so difficult to control my eating disorder thoughts because it's impossible to escape comparison. When my friends start talking about how much they've eaten (or how little) I find it quite frustrating because I then compare how much I've eaten with how much they have, and feel guilty if I've eaten more than them. When I walk around campus and see girls with thinner thighs than me I get so envious of them.  I think to myself how unfair it is that they are naturally like that and I'm not. Then I have to remind myself that maybe they aren't naturally like that, and that perhaps they have just as much of an issue with eating and weight as I do.

That's one reason why I was so desperate to come home for Christmas. I needed a break from all of that to focus on my own weight, my own health and get myself back into more 'normal' eating habits. However, I should have known it was never going to be that easy and that the thoughts wouldn't just disappear as soon as I got home. I guess because there are so many factors that go into an eating disorder (as I mentioned in my previous post), eliminating one thing was never going to cure the problem completely. 

I'm constantly torn at the moment. One side of me wants to feel and look healthy again. I want enough energy to do things and I don't want to feel weak and tired anymore. The problem is I can only achieve that by gaining weight and that's where the other side of me comes in, because I also want to be thinner and lose weight. I spend hours watching eating disorder documentaries just so I can compare myself to other sufferers: do I look as thin as them? Do I eat as little as them? Do I even look like I have an eating disorder compared to them? I'm tired of it. It's not only about being thin, though, I also can't deal with the disgust/shame/guilt that comes with feeling full.

My mind changes so much and I feel I have no control over it. One minute I think I'm too thin, I don't look nice, I need to gain weight. The next, I'm not thin enough, I don't look nice, I need to lose weight. I'm weak for letting my eating disorder control me but I'm weak when I 'give in' to food and eat 'normally'. I'm stupid for making myself unhealthily thin but at the same time I haven't made myself thin enough. I can't win.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Why Anorexia Sufferers Can't 'Just Eat'

TW: Eating disorders (Please also note that I am aware there are many different kinds of eating disorders, not all of which involve restriction, but I am specifically referring to restrictive eating disorders in this blog post).

I've been watching a few eating disorder documentaries on youtube recently and when scrolling through the comments, I can't help but get frustrated. Clearly there is still little understanding of eating disorders and this can lead to extremely ignorant and misinformed comments telling sufferers to 'just eat' or accusing them of being selfish, spoilt, stupid, ungrateful etc. Telling an anorexia sufferer that they are a bad person because there are people starving in other parts of the world is not going to help them. In fact, it's going to do quite the opposite.

However, I don't necessarily blame the general population for this lack of understanding. Before I developed an eating disorder myself, I couldn't comprehend why somebody would want to actively restrict their food intake to the point where they put their own health at risk. I too questioned why anorexia sufferers wouldn't 'just eat'. The whole concept of wanting to be underweight didn't make sense to me. I mean, looking unhealthily thin doesn't look attractive, so why would anybody strive for that? (That's what I thought, anyway). Only now do I realise that this is an incredibly narrow minded view of eating disorders such as anorexia, because there are far more complex mental processes behind it than simply wanting to be 'skinny'.

There are many, many factors that contribute to a person developing a restrictive eating disorder - none of which are a choice. Feeling guilty or ashamed for eating. Not feeling worthy of food or not deserving of it. Low self-esteem. Getting a sense of achievement from restricting. Needing to have control over food intake and weight. An obsessive compulsive personality which can lead to specific rituals and 'rules' about food. There is no one single cause and as I said before, it isn't as straightforward as 'wanting to be skinny'.  That is why telling a sufferer of anorexia to 'just eat' is not going to work (and is instead just extremely unhelpful!). 

Even I didn't used to understand this because back then I did not suffer from irrational thoughts surrounding food or weight. I just saw food for what it is - food, energy. In fact, I loved food (and still do) and could pretty much eat whatever I wanted without gaining weight, so I never even considered that one day it might be me suffering from an eating disorder. I enjoyed eating, I was happy with my weight (it was one of the only things I didn't actually mind about my body in secondary school) and calories didn't mean anything to me. 

It's all too easy to negatively judge others based on something that we ourselves are not personally experiencing and therefore do not fully understand. This is why it's important that we are willing to listen to others' perspective and inform ourselves of what they are going through before making brash judgements or blaming them for something they have no control over. Eating disorders are not a choice, they are serious mental illnesses that require medical treatment. What I've mentioned in this post is only a tiny insight into the possible thinking behind an eating disorder, but my point remains: sufferers of eating disorders do not choose to suffer from eating disorders and making them feel guilty for it or simply telling them to 'eat' is of little use. If they could, they would.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

I Feel Guilty For Being Okay

I have said this before and I will say it multiple times again: the symptoms of any mental health condition can (and most likely will) fluctuate in severity. Sometimes, you feel fabulous - as though you are on top of the world and can conquer anything that life throws at you (why can't I feel like this all of the time, I ask?). Other times, well...not so much. These up's and down's are something I deal with regularly and after the last month of constant lows, I have finally reached a more stable, rational mind set again.

So this is all well and good and I should probably just enjoy these rare, fleeting moments of clarity, right? But let's be realistic here, my brain would never allow me that luxury...

You see the thing is, when I'm generally feeling pretty good and managing my mental health conditions, I start to feel guilty. I feel guilty because I question whether I really had a problem in the first place or if I was simply exaggerating it all along. I feel guilty because mental health services have invested their time and money into helping me cope when I am now coping perfectly fine on my own (couldn't I have just done this all along instead of wasting precious resources?!). These 'symptoms' that I complain of that are no more than a distant memory now could surely never have existed if I no longer feel them?

I mistakenly assume that since I have been 'officially' diagnosed with a mental health condition, then I am obligated to show obvious symptoms of that condition 24/7 (I may as well walk around with a post-it note on my head explicitly stating my diagnosis). It's as though if I was to have a few weeks of normality in my life, then people (i.e. myself) may accuse me of a) faking the condition all along or b) being absolutely, 100% cured (and then act surprised when the symptoms return with a vengeance no more than two weeks later).

Here is an example: I suffer from a restrictive eating disorder, more formally known as anorexia (but I prefer not to use such terminology as I do not believe I am anorexic). This leads me to go through periods where I may considerably restrict my food intake, in an attempt to maintain or achieve an underweight BMI. It also means that I have a lot of (mostly negative and irrational) thoughts surrounding food. (As always, this is just my experience and not everybody with an eating disorder will experience the exact same!).

However, just because I have been diagnosed with an eating disorder, does not mean I suffer from said eating disorder to the same degree all of the time. Now and then, I might actually have 2 weeks of eating a pretty normal diet (whatever that means) - to an outsider it may even appear that I am perfectly 'normal'. However, that doesn't mean that I am magically cured (or was faking it before), it simply means I am managing my symptoms more effectively at that particular point in time. However, I will likely go through the stages of restriction and then eating 'normally' again and again and again and again and again (and so the cycle continues...).

All I'm trying to get across is that I often feel a lot of guilt when my mental health conditions aren't affecting me so severely. I feel like in order for my illness to be considered 'real' and 'valid', I must be constantly struggling. It's like I have to prove to myself and those around me that my mental illness is in fact real. However, I am slowly coming to accept that I shouldn't feel this way. I must realise that sometimes my mental health is going to be worse, sometimes better, but at the end of the day it is still something I am constantly having to manage.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Choose Recovery for Yourself

Making the decision to recover from your mental illness is definitely not the easy option, but it is worth it. From the moment that you choose to recover you have already started the process of improving your life and becoming more like the person you want to be.

I think a key thing to bare in mind is that recovery looks different on everyone. For one person it may mean facing their worst fears over and over on a daily basis. For another it may mean getting up out of bed, washed and dressed everyday. Both scenarios will be equally challenging for the person who is trying to overcome them, no matter how easy it looks to an outsider.

Something that I have come to realise though is that you have to choose recovery for yourself - you have to want it as much as anybody else in your life. It's no use only doing something because other people are urging you to unless you are willing to commit.

Since moving away to University several people in my life have encouraged me to seek support from the adult mental health service where I am now living. At first I was extremely reluctant and basically told everyone to back off (in so many words). There was no use me going to see anybody if it was only to please other people, otherwise how could anyone expect me to co-operate? I had decided that being forced into treatment wasn't going to help me.

However, I then realised that I did need support and did in fact want help, but it was only when I had reached that conclusion myself that I could actually begin to engage with what people were telling me.

Obviously it's important to listen to other people when they express concern and suggest that you should get help. It's not always an easy thing to hear and initially it can be tempting to just deny everything and refuse. Sometimes when we are so caught up in a bad state of mind it can be difficult to think rationally and decide what's best for us.

Saying this, I also believe that you have to also be active and agreeable in the decision to get help and start on the road to recovery. I have certainly found this an important aspect for myself, anyway.


Sunday, 6 November 2016

People Only Like You When You're 'Normal'

I'm beginning to realise that people only tend to like you when your mental health conditions aren't affecting you so badly, when everyone can just pretend that you're 'normal'. It's like they want to be around you when you aren't mental but as soon as you show any sign of actually suffering from your condition they're outta here!

Maybe this is exactly why people are so scared of admitting to those around them that they suffer from a mental illness, because they are terrified that as soon as people find out that they aren't quite 'right in the head', they will abandon them.

People always say crap like 'I understand' or 'I would never judge you' because it's easy to say when things are going okay. They're totally understanding of mental health conditions when they read it in a book or see it in a movie, but as soon as it's real life it's a different story altogether because believe it or not, mental health conditions aren't tragically beautiful like they are often portrayed. In reality, they are shit and they destroy all of your relationships as well as anything that's going well in your life.

The minute things get difficult people can't deal with it so instead, they just ignore you until you've sorted yourself out. Stuff you if you want help from them, they don't want to deal with you right now so you're on your own mate. Oh, but of course as soon as they're struggling with something they run straight to you asking for advice or just so that they have somebody to rant to.

I'm very aware that I sound like a bitter, horrible person right now but at the moment, I really do feel like a bitter, horrible person and I'm simply typing what is going through my head. I don't even know where the old me is anymore but she sure as hell ain't around here anywhere! I don't even recognise myself at the moment.

Lately, I only ever feel angry and irritable, constantly feeling annoyed at people. Everyone seems to be upsetting me too and it has led me to feel very isolated and as though everybody is turning against me. As I said at the start of this post, it's like they just don't want to be around me right now because my mental health conditions are worse than usual and they don't want to deal with me when I'm like this.

Another thing that is frustrating me is that I feel like everyone is accusing me of things. For example, I enjoy one or two drinks and suddenly (according to everybody in my life) I'm becoming reliant on alcohol to make me happy? I can't even have a good time like a normal nineteen year old because somehow I'm doing that in the wrong way too.

It's like I can't do anything right and every move I make is constantly criticised by people around me. I'm exhausted from it and it's led me to just say 'f*ck everything and everyone, I'll do whatever the hell I like from now on because everything I do is wrong anyway!!!!!!!'

Even walking down the street I get annoyed because I feel like people stare at me. It makes me want to shout 'WHAT, WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM?!' because I can't deal with the constant judgement anymore, it's driving me crazy. It's like have I got something on my face?! Has my mascara run?! Honestly, JUST TELL ME INSTEAD OF STARING AT ME. (Okay, so the rational part of me knows people probably aren't staring at me so feel free to tell me it's all in my head, everybody else does).

I just feel like I'm losing it! I honestly don't know what to do with myself half the time because I feel so agitated. All of this frustration is bubbling up inside of me and any minute I could explode!!!!! I don't want to be constantly judged anymore. I don't want to be accused of doing things wrong all of the time. I don't want to worry about things constantly. I don't want to feel so self-conscious. I JUST WANT LIFE TO GIVE ME A BREAK FROM ALL THE NEGATIVE FEELINGS.

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Food, Food, Food...

Food, food, food - it's all my mind thinks about at the minute. I spend my whole day consumed by thoughts about food (if you pardon the pun). I go to sleep at night thinking about what I will eat tomorrow, how I only have to get through one night of sleep before I can eat again. When I wake up the next morning, I think about all the food that I can eat in that day.

I count down the hours and the minutes until my next meal/snack, telling myself to just wait a little bit longer or just be a little bit more patient and I'll be sure to enjoy eating it more and feel like I deserve it more. When I'm out, I look forward to coming back because I know that I can sit alone and enjoy whatever meal I've been planning. I don't have to think about anything else, it's just me and a bowl of bloody cornflakes.

This might sound strange coming from somebody with a restrictive eating disorder. Surely eating is the last thing I want to be doing? However, this is a common misconception surrounding such eating disorders. This may be true for some people, but not for me. People wrongly assume that I restrict because I don't like food or because I don't have an appetite for food, but in fact it is completely the opposite.

I love food. It makes me happy and it brings me comfort. It doesn't matter how down I may be feeling, some kind of delicious food that I enjoy will always give me at least a little sense of joy. But, you see, that's where the problem starts.

I hate that I am so emotionally dependent on food. I hate that I like it so much and that it has the power to influence how I feel. It scares me how much thoughts about food take over my mind and it makes me feel out of control. I convince myself that if I let myself be free to eat to my heart's desire, then I'll never stop eating. I'll eat and eat and eat and the weight will pile on. Therefore, in order to gain back a sense of control, I have to restrict.

I have to prove to myself that I'm better than that. That I do have will power and self-restraint. I have to fight the thoughts that are telling me to eat like a normal person because they make me feel out of control, like I won't be able to stop. I feel guilty for thinking about food and the only way for me to relieve that guilt is to eat less.

It's a vicious cycle though, because restricting makes me hungry. Depriving my body of the nutrients it so desperately needs makes the thoughts about food stronger and more repetitive. When you're body is desperate for energy, eating in order to give it that energy is all your brain can think about. Forget normal day-to-day life, that goes out of the window. Screw that essay that's in for next week, all I can think about how I'm going to both eat and not eat at the same time.

The conflict is exhausting and it's driving me crazy. All I want is to have normal thoughts towards food and to stop associating food with guilt, control and emotions to the extent that I do. Yes, it's normal to feel a bit guilty if you know you've eaten one or two more chocolate bars than you should have that day. What isn't normal is to feel guilty for eating an extra apple, or a bowl of cereal for breakfast, or bread at lunchtime.

Monday, 31 October 2016


It can be difficult to admit that you're struggling - not only to yourself, but to those around you too. We like to give out the impression that we are doing just fine and don't need any help, but this isn't always the case. Admitting that you're struggling doesn't make you weak. Everybody struggles at certain times in their life and are in need of a little support, even if they don't make it obvious.

Mental health conditions by their very nature tend to fluctuate in severity. Sometimes, everything seems to be fine and we feel in control of our illness. Other times, however, we don't feel so great. Either way: it's okay.

I'm writing this because I'm struggling a little more than usual at the moment. A lot of things are causing me stress and I'm feeling overwhelmed. I'm trying desperately to keep on top of everything (washing, cleaning, food shopping, uni work, going to lectures, socialising, my mental health, my physical health, appointments etc. etc.) but I'm finding it all too difficult right now. If I could curl up into a ball and hibernate in bed, I would. Unfortunately though, I can't.

Although we'd all probably prefer to ignore it, it's so important that we are able to recognise when we are going through a particularly rough time. I know that I'm struggling at the moment because of several things: I'm feeling teary and irritable the majority of the time. I'm constantly exhausted and unmotivated. I can't concentrate or focus on anything. My other mental health conditions, such as my eating disorder, are getting louder and my suicidal thoughts have returned.

Therefore, I wanted to write this post to anybody who, like me, is struggling right now. I want to remind you that it's okay, it's not a weakness and it's nothing to be ashamed of. You are more than worthy of help so please, please reach out to somebody if you feel you need to.

Thursday, 27 October 2016

I'm Sorry

Sometimes I have no words left to say apart from 'I'm sorry'. I spend a lot of my time feeling guilty (I believe this is a common symptom amongst many mental health conditions) because there are a lot of things I feel I need to apologise for...

I'm sorry to my friends for having to put up with me. I'm more than aware that I'm annoying all of the bloody time. I know that I'm irrational, indecisive and irritable. I wish I wasn't but I can't help it. I'm sorry that I'm constantly tired and never seem to have the energy to do anything. I'm frustrated with myself for it so goodness knows why you bother maintaining our friendship.

I'm sorry that I have to use up time and money within health services because I'm incapable of pulling myself together and dealing with life by myself. I know that there's people out there who need and deserve it more than me.

I'm sorry to the people who are really suffering from things beyond their control. I know that I have the 'perfect life' and have no real reason to be this way.

Most of all though, I'm sorry to my parents for turning out like this. They say parents like to see their children grow up to be happy and successful, and I don't seem to be either of these things. I'm sorry that you still have to pay for my entire life because I can't function enough to hold down a job. I'm sorry that I probably seem like a spoilt brat because I'm snappy and rude often. I really do appreciate everything you do for me even though I don't deserve any of it.

I want to change. I don't want to be like this. I want to be a better person and I'm sorry that I'm not.

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Life Update: Eating, Feeling Low & Exhaustion

So it feels like tons has happened over the past month or so. I started uni, I almost dropped out of uni, I decided to stay at uni, I made friends, I started having a good time, I was happy for about a week, everything was going great. Then things got a little wobbly.

The past week and a half has been...challenging. My mood is really low and I'm not sure why. I'm absolutely exhausted all of the time, so I doubt that's really helping. I just think all of the anxiety and stress of starting uni is starting to catch up with me and now that I've relaxed a bit, I feel like I've been hit by a truck.

I don't even know how to explain how tired I am. It's not the kind of tired that sleeping makes better. It's like my entire body feels heavy and I just have no energy to run off what so ever. Most of the time I feel like I'm floating around in a bit of a daze and just dragging myself from one place to another - I'm never quite 'with it'.

It's really frustrating because I'm supposed to be a student having a great time. Instead, I feel like I'm about 80 years old and would be more suited to living in a retirement home than student accommodation. 

I mean, it's not like I don't know why I'm feeling so physically drained. I've spent over a year now depriving my body of adequate amounts of food and forcing myself to become an unhealthy weight. It's funny though because when I was restricting I didn't feel this worn out, but now that I've started to increase my food intake I feel like I have less energy than ever (surely it's supposed to have the opposite effect?).

Everything feels impossible at the moment and what's worse is that my new uni friends don't really get it. They comment on how I'm tired all of the time and walk slower than them and blah blah blah, but when I try to explain that it's because my body isn't in the healthiest state right now because of my eating disorder, I think they think I'm just making a fuss. 

But then, how can I expect them to understand? They weren't there earlier this year when I was really unwell because of my weight and couldn't get up stairs without getting out of breath (I've been starting to feel like that again recently to be honest).

I just need some advice from somebody who's been there. If anybody at all reading has recovered/is recovering from an eating disorder, did you feel worse when you initially starting eating a healthy amount again? How long did it last? Did it effect your mood? DOES IT GET BETTER?!

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Not Identifying With People Your Age

Yesterday I went to the cinema with two of my University friends, and although it was really nice and I had a great time, I realised something. I realised that I'm not like other people my age. A similar sense of humour, shared interests and similar personality traits; these are all things that help us identify with other people our age and feel connected to our peers - something that I struggle to do.

The thing is, I feel like I'm so wrapped up in my own mind and thoughts, I can't even work out what's me and what's my disorders anymore. So, is it just that the real me isn't similar to people my age, or is it that my mental health conditions are stopping me from doing the things that people my own age do? Perhaps if I didn't have these 'issues', then I would in fact enjoy the same things as them. Or maybe, even if I wasn't caught up in irrational fears and thoughts, I would still struggle to find similar interests with others my age. Who knows?

This may not make much sense, so I'm going to try and explain it in context. When I'm in a group of people my age and they all laugh at something, I often don't find it funny. I find myself feeling bored when 'hanging out' in a group of people, like I'd be much happier just going home. When they are talking about how much they love this TV show or that movie, I couldn't really care less. When they speak about how they 'wanna go for a night out' or they 'can't wait to get behind the wheel' and start driving, it's usually the last thing I want to be doing.

To be honest, that just makes me sound like a really arrogant person who only cares about themselves (and maybe I am?). That's the thing, I don't know if I am or not. I don't know if it's just my personality that makes me a boring and self-centred individual, or whether it's the disorders talking.

Maybe if it wasn't for the anxiety, I would want to learn to drive and go on nights out with all of my friends. Or maybe if I didn't feel so down a lot of the time, then I would find things funny and care about TV shows. Perhaps if I wasn't so tired and lacking in energy, then I would be more outgoing and 'up for things' like everybody else my age. Or maybe, even if these problems didn't exist, I would still find all of these things boring and unappealing - I really don't know.

I want to find things fun and I want to enjoy the things that my friend enjoy, I really do. But I just don't know how to or why I don't in the first place.

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Things DO Get Easier

I have now completed 3 full weeks at University (let's ignore the 4 days that I spent at home refusing to go back in between that). I certainly never thought that I'd be sitting here typing that a few weeks ago, when I was crying down the phone to several unfortunate family members about how I 'couldn't face going to the lectures' and how 'I felt like I was going to be sick all of the time'.

Nonetheless, I'm still here. And I've learnt an awful low over the past few weeks...

First and foremost, I've learnt that things do get easier. That thing that you think you can't do? You can. When you think things will never get better? They will. When things seem impossible. They aren't.

I don't know if you've ever heard of this technique that's supposed to treat anxiety disorders such as phobias, but they call it 'flooding'. This, from the 'Simply Psychology' website, explains it a little better than I can...

"Flooding (also known as implosion therapy) works by exposing the patient directly to their worst fears. (S)he is thrown in at the deep end. For example a claustrophobic will be locked in a closet for 4 hours or an individual with a fear of flying will be sent up in a light aircraft"
So, how is this relevant to anything?!?!

Basically, I feel like I have undergone 'flooding' therapy (if that's how you put it??). I can say with the upmost confidence that I was definitely 'thrown in at the deep end';

Somebody with social anxiety, who knows absolutely nobody and is forced to not only be surrounded by, but speak to, numerous strangers on a daily basis? 

Somebody with contamination OCD, completely responsible for preparing their own food and having to use 'dangerous' chemicals to clean their own kitchen? 

Somebody with an eating disorder, who no longer has people watching over her 24/7 and dictating every single little morsel of food she eats? 

All of those exposures, ALL AT ONCE?! How ever was I expected to cope?

But, the moral of the story is, I did cope. And even better? I don't feel like I'm just 'coping' anymore, I'm actually starting to enjoy aspects of University life. I've made friends (yes, me - this self-conscious, shy and socially incapable human has made real-life FRIENDS). I've been to an entire week of lectures and workshops. I go up to reception desks to speak to the receptionist. I go to doctor's appointments on my own. I even go into the library and sit at a computer, whilst only feeling mildly self-conscious (a step up, believe me).

All of these things, that seem so easy to the majority of people, are a massive challenge for me. They are challenges that I never thought I'd overcome (let alone all at once in such a short space of time). And even though at times it felt absolutely impossible, and I was adamant that I needed to defer a year (or five) before I could even contemplate facing these things, I'm still here! (go me!)

Brains can lie to you. They can make trivial things seem like a massive hurdle that you are certain you will never be able to overcome - but don't always listen to this doubt. You are so much more capable than you could ever believe at doing the things that you never thought you would. It's never easy, but you CAN do it. And I can promise you that once you've done it (whatever it is), you will feel incredible and it WILL get easier.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Decisions, decisions...

To say that I am indecisive is probably an understatement: I hate making decisions. It doesn't matter how big or small that decision may be, this still remains true. However, I now find myself faced with quite a large decision about my health, my education and generally how things are going to pan out over the next year or so of my life - and I really don't know what to decide.

To sum up, my quandary is this:

You may or may not know (depending on if you have read my previous posts or follow me on Twitter) that I have just started my first year at University and am currently living in a brand new city, quite far from home. You may or may not also know that I suffer from mental health conditions (namely OCD, social anxiety and an eating disorder).

Since day one I have been struggling at uni (which you can read about here) and now, two weeks down the line, I'm questioning whether or not I am really ready for this massive change. I don't know whether I'm in the right mind-set to cope with everything right now and whether I'm physically healthy enough (as I'm still underweight and feeling drained with all the walking). I feel as though I should have deferred a year to properly work on my health, as well as gaining some confidence (and weight), before embarking on this new adventure.

However, hindsight is a wonderful thing, and the fact of the matter is: I did not defer a year. And now I'm at University totally overwhelmed and regretting my life choices (what's new).

Having spoken to several people at the University about this, we have come to the conclusion that perhaps 'suspending my studies' until next year would be the best course of action for me. That way, I still have my University place, but I just start next year rather than this year. It's almost like being on sick leave for a year.

This gives me a chance to sort both my mental and physical health out. Not only that, but I can gradually introduce myself to situations that make me uncomfortable during that time too, so that it doesn't all come as a big shock to me this time next year when I attempt to try again. I can visit the University throughout that year, familiarise myself with the campus and also the staff.

I can get to know the city a little better and get used to taking the train on my own. I can get a job (something I've been terrified to do since my last awful job), which may help me to gain my confidence. I can learn to drive so that it's not constantly on my mind as 'something-I-must-do-which-I-haven't-done-and-what-if-I-can't-do-it-and-am-really-worried-about-doing-and-oh my-goodness-when-am-I-going-to-do-it!?!?!?!?!' I can also get more counselling to tackle the social anxiety/low self-esteem/self-doubt issues.

So, that all seems fantastic and you are probably wondering what on earth I'm hesitating for. But then there's the flip side of the coin. I was stuck in a rut at home, I was bored and unmotivated - do I really want to be like that for another twelve months? What if I don't get a job or learn to drive because I'm too scared and end up wasting that year? What if I get jealous of all of my friends who are off to uni this year and wish I'd stayed? What if, what if, what if...

Basically, I just can't decide what to do and I need to (like soon...like by tomorrow). If I don't decide by the 26th of this month (Monday), then I miss the 'grace period' that the University offers, meaning I basically owe thousands of pounds (not great when you don't have a job). So, if I stay on a few weeks, I don't really have the option to leave because of the financial implications, no matter how much I may be struggling by that point.

That turned out to be a very lengthy 'summing up', but I needed to get all of the information out of my brain and write it down. I've been tormented by this decision for days and I need some advice on which option to take:

Do I defer until next year and focus on my health (knowing that my University place will be waiting for me this time next year) or do I stick it out and hope it gets better (knowing full well that if it doesn't, I'm stuck here anyway because of money...)?


Check out my blog post that I wrote for 'Hear2Listen' all about University & mental health. You can view it here!

Saturday, 17 September 2016


Self-doubt is something I've been struggling with throughout all of my teenage years and it's only getting worse. It feeds off my confidence and self-esteem, leaving me believing I'm useless at absolutely everything. In the past week though, I've come to realise that I cannot go through my entire life doubting myself like I do. It's making it near impossible for me to progress in my life and enjoy the things that I should be enjoying.

In all honesty, I really don't know how to pull myself out of this mindset - it's like my brain's default setting. 'Oh, you're actually trying to do something useful with your life? Well you're SHIT at it'. I could achieve loads of things in my life and still feel like I'm useless at everything or 'not good enough'. I'm programmed to only ever dwell on what I can't do so well, as opposed to what I have achieved.

Rather than focusing on the fact that I got decent GCSE's and A-levels, I feel like a failure because I didn't do quite as well as this or that person or come out with all A's and A*'s or get into a Russel group University or go to bloody Oxbridge!! Instead of recognising how much I've overcome in terms of my mental health conditions, I focus only on what I can't do because of them. Absolutely nothing I do will ever be good enough for the impossible standards that I set for myself. And these aren't standards that I apply to anybody else, only myself.

I'm just really sick of feeling like this. I can't get a job because no matter what I'm doing, I'm going to feel as though I'm not good enough to carry out that job. I can't learn to drive because I'm going to feel like I'm rubbish at driving or I'm too slow to learn or it's taking me more lessons than everybody else or I'll never be at a stage where I'll actually be able to pass my driving test. I can't stay at University because I have absolutely no confidence in myself to meet new people, turn up at lectures and sit in a room full of people or approach people when I need help with work.

So, the question is, what do you do when you feel like you aren't good enough to do anything?


Friday, 16 September 2016

First Week At Uni

It's nearing the end of my first week at university and I would be lying if I said I wasn't struggling (like really, really struggling). I wish this post could have started a little more positively, but there you go! It's not like I didn't expect to find this transition difficult. I think it was pretty much inevitable that I would experience a slight 'blip' when starting uni.

So, why is it so bad? Well, for one, I've been waking up every morning feeling very, very sick (and before you ask, no, it's not because I'm hungover). My stomach has been upset every day (which I will not go into detail about). Eating has been a task in itself and I haven't actually had a cooked meal since I arrived, or any real meal for that matter. I've been running on no more than fruit, yoghurt, Weetabix and adrenaline all week.

Another thing that's bothering me? Living in halls. Being next door to loud, drunk, scary teenagers is proving to be very challenging and it's leaving me constantly on edge. Every time the light goes on outside my door, every time I hear somebody come out of their room, every slight sound, is making me jump. Listening to people shouting outside my door at 12am isn't really my idea of a relaxing night in.

The thing I'm by far struggling with the most though, is socialising. That doesn't come as a massive surprise (I do have social anxiety, after all) but it has been a whole lot worse than I had anticipated. I'm constantly self-conscious and overwhelmed being around all of these people and I've only had one-off conversations with people here and there, never to speak to them again. Therefore, I'm feeling quite isolated and cut off right now, which is only making the homesickness even worse. It appears that everyone else already knows somebody or has somebody to walk around with, whereas I am a certified loner.

And, of course, it's wasn't long before a new set of obsessions took hold, just to make everything easier for me. What if I set the fire alarm off and everybody has to leave the building because of me? What if somebody got into my room when I wasn't in and poisoned my milk? What if my next door neighbours are actually murderers who are plotting to break into my room in the night and murder me? What if I get murdered walking to Morrison's?

So yes, I'm finding the whole experience a bit too overwhelming right now and just want to go home. I've decided the best thing for me to do is take the train home for the weekend, in order to be able to think rationally about everything and decide whether or not I'm truly ready to deal with uni and all of the new challenges it brings along with it right now. I'm not thinking clearly here, since I'm just constantly filled with anxiety and dread, so going home seems like the only way to make a proper decision.

On another note, I wrote a blog post for the mental health charity, Student Minds, all about worrying about starting uni and some tips that may help (although, I need to start taking my own advice now). Check it out here!

Monday, 5 September 2016

Why I Shouldn't Be Ashamed of Taking Antidepressants

My last post on antidepressants became my most popular post, so I thought I would talk about them a little more. It also led me to have some interesting conversations with people about the topic of antidepressants and I like to talk to people! (Well, not in real-life, but on social media I can just about cope).

So, today I wanted to speak about why I'm not ashamed to be taking antidepressants. I've heard all sorts of opinions about these drugs. 'They are over prescribed', 'They don't really do anything', 'It's just the placebo effect!' etc. etc. And I'm not going to sit here and tell you that any of those statements are incorrect. But the fact of the matter is, antidepressants seem to help me, so I take them.

Just like with any medication you may take for a physical condition, I need medication for my mental health condition. So why, I ask, is that such a problem?! Why should I feel ashamed about that? Why should I feel like that is a dirty little secret that I shouldn't tell anybody, just in case they judge me? (And I wouldn't want anybody judging me, now would I?).

It's ludicrous really. Could you imagine having diabetes and feeling guilty for having to take insulin injections? Or having somebody tell you that you really shouldn't have to rely on those insulin injections, just to be able to function. You just wouldn't. So why is it any different when it comes to medication for our mental health?

(In fact, I was having a conversation with my Dad about this and when I used the diabetes analogy, he replied with: 'yes, but diabetes is due to a physical imbalance in the body'. I just looked at him with confusion and said 'SO IS A MENTAL HEALTH CONDITION!? It's due to a chemical imbalance in the brain?!' Safe to say, he couldn't really argue back).

But it doesn't matter how much I tell myself that I shouldn't be ashamed. I can't quite seem to shake that feeling off. Even when I go to the chemist to pick up my prescription, I feel like they are negatively judging me when they look at the little piece of paper and it says 'Fluoxetine 20mg'. Or like the other day when I had my eye test, and the optician asked me if I'm on any medication. I actually felt embarrassed to 'admit' that I was taking Prozac. And when he asked me if that was a 'long-term' thing or not, I felt like he was suggesting that it shouldn't be. 

When people take medication for their physical health, they are being 'sensible' and 'responsible'. We commend them for looking after their health and their body. In fact, if they have a physical complaint, we actively encourage them to go to the doctor and get something for it. Or if somebody has a headache, we say 'I have a paracetamol, do you want one?' as if it is nothing. However, when people take medication for their mental health, it is viewed as 'a failure' or 'a weakness'. 

I'm working on getting rid of that feeling of shame when I tell somebody I'm taking antidepressants. I've slowly come to realise that I shouldn't feel ashamed about it at all. A mental illness is an illness just like any other, and sometimes it needs to be treated with medication.

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Antidepressants: Expectations vs. Reality

Going on antidepressants was not a decision that I took to lightly. I had read all sorts online about the possible side effects and why you should never go near them. There are a lot of misconceptions floating around about antidepressants, and I ended up with a very confused perception of what being on them may be like and what they might do to me, so I thought I'd write down a few of them here. However, please bear in mind that these are only my experiences and yours may be very different.

(Just a little side note: I'm currently taking 20mg of Fluoxetine daily, and have been since around September 2015, so about 1 year now. Woah, typing that just freaked me out, how has it been a year already?!)

Anyway, here we go...

Expectation 1: I would get every side effect on the list

If you've looked on a leaflet for antidepressants, then you will know that the list of potential side effects is practically endless. When you look at this list it can be very daunting - it makes you question what exactly you are going to be putting in your body. I wrongly assumed that just because a certain side effect was written down, then I would automatically get it. However, this wasn't true. Sure, I got some side effects (namely an upset stomach and an increase in anxiety for a few weeks) but most of them never happened and one year on I am not noticing any side effects what so ever.

Expectation 2: I would become overly happy and care-free

I thought that being on antidepressants would completely change me - that suddenly all of my worries would go away and I would become a different person, a person who was super happy all of the time and up for anything (if only!). Safe to say, that really didn't happen. Going on antidepressants has helped me better cope with my anxiety and fully utilise the CBT techniques that I have learnt to control my OCD. It has also lifted my mood, motivating me to focus on my goals more. But I'm still me, with the same worries - I'm just a little more equipped to deal with those worries. I'm not immune to getting down just because I'm on anti-depressants, either.

Expectation 3: My personality would change

This kind of leads on from my second point, but I thought that going on antidepressants might change my personality. The idea of a medication that would play around with my brain chemistry seriously freaked me out. I thought to myself, surely if it is effecting my brain, then my personality will change as well? But, as I said in my previous point, it didn't. I'm still me! I still have the same likes and dislikes and the character traits that I had before I went on the medication, I still have now.

Expectation 4: I would feel emotionally numb all of the time

If I wasn't worrying that I would become TOO emotional, I was worrying that I would turn into an emotionally-numb zombie instead. I can't exactly say that this didn't happen at all. Okay, so I didn't turn into a zombie, but there are times where I think I should be feeling certain emotions but I am just unable to. It's really difficult to explain. Say there is a sad news story, for example. I know that I should be feeling really upset, but for some reason the emotion doesn't seem to be there. Of course, depression also causes symptoms like this, but I'm also wondering whether the antidepressants contribute too...

So there are just a few of the expectations that I had when I was considering going on antidepressants. As per usual, most of them never actually happened, which just proves there is often a lot of misconceptions and hype in the media that is rarely realistic. I think that this is especially true when it comes to matters surrounding mental health.

I understand that some people have had really bad experiences with antidepressants and don't get on with them at all, and I'm really sorry if that is you. But I also don't think we should be creating yet more mental health stigma by telling everybody that taking medication for your mental health condition is a terrible idea that will only make everything worse.

Nonetheless, I would just like to reiterate that this is MY experience, and that YOURS may be completely different. Just because I got a certain symptom, doesn't mean you will. Likewise, just because I didn't get a certain symptom, doesn't mean you won't. Everybody's body will react differently to certain medications.

You can read more about my experience on antidepressants in the blog post I wrote for 'Penny For Your Thoughts', here...

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Is Happiness Really a Choice?

Recently, I've seen a lot of things on Twitter etc. saying that 'happiness is a choice' 'you must CHOOSE to be happy', and it got me thinking...

You see, I don't necessarily agree with these statements, is happiness really a choice? Surely if it was, we would all just choose to be happy, right? But we aren't all happy. Some of us suffer from mental health conditions such as depression. We want to be happy but something in our mind is just stopping us from achieving this, and instead we continuously feel low. Do you not think if we could CHOOSE for that feeling to go away, if we could CHOOSE to not suffer from depression, then we would without hesitation?

We aren't always in charge of how we feel, especially when it comes to mental health conditions. Trust me, if I was in charge of my feelings and emotions then I would most certainly choose not to feel anxious over the most irrelevant and irrational things. I would choose not to overthink every tiny detail, every interaction that I have with people. Surely if I could choose not to wake up one morning and feel like crying my eyes out for no apparent reason, then I would? Or if I could choose to feel confident instead of feeling inferior when comparing myself to others, there would be no question about it. But the reality is, I can't always choose how I feel.

Perhaps I am misunderstanding something here or possibly misinterpreting the message of these quotes. However, every time I come across something that says 'happiness is a choice', I instantly think to myself 'that's not always true'. Every time I am told 'I am in charge of my emotions', I think 'I wish I was!' (things would be a whole lot easier if I was!). Sometimes, it only ever feels like my emotions are in charge of me, rather than the other way around...

Surely it is phrases such as this that contribute to the stigma around mental illness. If we all go around telling people that they could be happy, if only they chose it - what does that say to the sufferer? Are we putting the blame on them? Are we telling them it is THEIR fault that they are unhappy, that THEY are the ones that CHOOSE to be ill? Do sayings like this initiate (or at least contribute) to feelings of guilt and shame amongst mental health sufferers? Or am I taking this far too personally and reading into it more than I should?

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Moving Out & Living On My Own

I can't quite believe that I'm sitting here with only two weeks to go until I move into my University accommodation. TWO WEEKS!

The truth is, I am nervous beyond words about moving away from home for the first time because I honestly don't know if I'll cope. I feel as though I am completely stepping into the unknown (I am) and if there is anything that anxiety feeds off the most, it is the unknown. You see, I like to be in control, and when I do not feel that I have that (by moving away from home to live in a strange city that I don't even know my way around with a bunch of strangers) everything goes a little pear-shaped.

Don't get me wrong, I'm really excited as well. I absolutely love everything being organised in such a way that I'm happy with, so I cannot wait to set up my University room with my kitchen and be able to have everything just the way I like it. I have no qualms about keeping things clean and tidy, doing my washing or anything domestic like that - I love doing that kind of thing! (I know, I'm wild - why go for a night out to a nightclub with friends when I can spend my Friday evening washing my bed clothes and folding pairs of socks into neat piles?) (I'd also like to point out here that this is NOT a symptom of my OCD - I don't find it distressing, I enjoy organising).

So, yes I'm excited, but I'm also shit scared. It's funny to feel such opposite emotions simultaneously. Both the excitement and nerves kind of mix up in my tummy and create some kind of weird sick feeling, but I can't quite tell if it's a good sick feeling or a bad sick feeling, if you know what I mean. (but then, when is there ever a good sick feeling?!)

Anyway, I feel like I'm rambling because I don't really know exactly how I'm feeling because I'm confused! All I know is that I'm really (like really really) scared, but also really excited. Anticipation! Perhaps that is the word I'm looking for. I am feeling anticipation.

Part of me is always wanting to chicken out. That fight-or-flight response that is ever so recognisable with anxiety is fully kicking-in now and I most of the time choose the flight, as opposed to the fight, option. Oh, how easy it would be to just run away from the whole situation right this very minute and scream 'I'm not doing it! I'm not going!' to everybody that is around to listen to me - but I'm not going to let that happen.

I know that I want to do this. More to the point, I know that I need to do this. Eventually, I must learn to face up to my fears of becoming more independent and venturing off into the big, wide world - no matter how frightening I find this. I cannot, and will not, live boxed up in my childhood bedroom for all of my adult years because of the fear of...well of just about everything.

So no matter what happens. No matter how many times I wake up in the middle of the night with that horrible sick feeling in my stomach and tight feeling in my chest, that feeling of utter, pure panic when my brain kindly reminds me at 3am of just-how-many-things-could-possibly-go-wrong-ever  - I must go through with this and deal with whatever challenges may lie ahead face on. Easy to say now, I know, but I shall aim to take each day as it comes for now and see where that gets me...

So, what about you? Tell me what massive challenges you have ahead of you and how you plan to conquer them (because you are more than capable!)

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Feeling Hopeless

Lately I've been feeling what I can only describe as hopeless. It's as if I just don't see the point in doing things anymore. One minute I'm really excited about starting University and all of the opportunities that it may hold. The next, I feel like there is just no purpose to it - like I'm not going to get anywhere in life anyway, so what's the point in wasting the money?

I plan on doing things that I really like the thought of doing, but when it comes to it actually doing it I just think to myself 'I can't really be bothered, what's the point?' and then don't bother with anything. However, then I just find myself sitting around feeling bored and miserable because I'm not progressing in my life. So it's like a never-ending and rather exhausting cycle of wanting to do things but then not really having the motivation, nor seeing any real point.

I really need to get out of this mind-set because I know there are things that I'm passionate about and would like to achieve in my life, no matter how much it doesn't feel like it at times. Going to University has been something I've been looking forward to for a good few months now, and the idea of working within mental-health services and helping people with similar conditions to me is really exciting. But my mind always seems to circle back to this negative thinking. This 'what's the point in doing anything because I'm never going to be happy in life' type of thinking.

As much as I don't feel like there is any point in things sometimes, I have to ask myself what the alternative is. So I don't see the point of going to University because I don't think I will ever get a good job anyway - do I just stay at home and do nothing instead? Obviously that can't happen, so I need to carry on ignoring these thoughts and moving past them. I need to focus on exactly what it is I want to achieve in my life and exactly why I am doing the things that I am, even when I get that feeling of hopelessness crawling back in.

Perhaps I am only thinking like this more now, because things are becoming an awful lot more real. The reality that yes, I am moving out and yes, I am an adult who now needs to take responsibility for my own future, is kind of hard hitting. The whole thing just seems a little overwhelming right now and it will take time for me to adjust - but I will because I will have to, that's just part of life.

I thought about perhaps upping my dose on antidepressants in order to help with the low moods, but I'm also considering just accepting that obviously my anxiety will be heightened during this time and that is bound to effect my mood. Maybe I just need to let it pass and recognise that it is all part of the process when your whole life seems to be changing and you are unsure as to whether you can cope.

Although, I'm worried that even after moving and settling in at University, my mood still will not improve and I will continue to experience these low moods often. I don't want that to happen because then I might begin to withdraw from social situations and become very isolated, contributing even more to my low mood. I guess I'll just have to wait and see and if I feel I am struggling even after a few weeks of moving in, go and speak to a doctor about increasing my dose.

Anyway, that's about where I am in terms of my mental health right now. I hope you are well and if not, you are receiving the support that you need (and deserve).

Saturday, 20 August 2016

University Open Day

Today I went on an open day to the University that I will be studying at in only three weeks’ time. Events like these are my idea of a nightmare. I do not find being around tons of other teenagers, sitting in a packed room to watch a presentation and feeling under pressure to make a good first impression fun. In fact, I find the prospect positively terrifying – as anybody with social anxiety would.

However, if I’m going to survive University life, I must challenge myself to be in these sorts of situations more often. After all, I do not want to spend my entire three years at uni shying away from every social situation and eventually becoming a recluse with absolutely nobody that I can call a friend – this idea is not particularly appealing to me either.

‘Start as you mean to go on’ I like to remind myself, so that’s exactly what I did by forcing myself to go on the open day. I want to enjoy the next three years, meeting a lot of new people and being a more confident version of myself, and the only way that I can make that happen is by pushing myself.
I’d be lying if I told you that I didn’t find it difficult, because I did. Socially I found the whole day to be a bit of an ordeal, and after only a couple of hours I was absolutely exhausted and felt like I just needed a break from being around such a large volume of people. But I got through it. I put a smile on my face and spoke to the appropriate people to found out all of the information I needed to, however much I didn’t want to.

I found out all about the course (I’m going to be studying Psychology, if you didn’t know) and it certainly looked interesting. The tutors seemed to be passionate about what they taught and the University generally seemed to offer a lot of support, not only academically but also in terms of anything else that may be bothering you, and that is something that is important for me. Something else that I liked about the University was the fact that it is rather small (as far as University’s go) so it is much more close-knit and there’s certainly a more personal feel there – something which I think I may be more comfortable with as it's less daunting than larger Uni’s with at least double the number of students.

In terms of accommodation, I don’t think I could get any better than this University is offering me. I will be in my own self-contained studio flat, with my own kitchen facilities and an en-suite, all to myself! This will be perfect for me because my OCD will be so much more manageable and if I ever feel like being around people is just too much, I have the option to stay in my room for as long as I need.

Things slowly seem to be falling into place, but with only three weeks to go the reality of the situation has dawned on me. Being completely responsible for my own wellbeing is going to present a massive challenge to me and really test me in terms of my mental health conditions. I feel under so much pressure not to slip up, both regarding my eating disorder and everything else as well. Having so much freedom over what I eat and not being watched 24/7 will be the perfect opportunity for slip-ups to happen!

I think just getting everything organised over the next few weeks should keep me occupied, so hopefully my mind will not stray to all of the 'everything-that-could-possibly-go-wrong-ever' kind of thoughts. Also, I need to bear in mind that facing challenges is not a bad thing, and I need to focus on the good things that will come out of this. For example, the friends that I might make and living independently in my own space.

I think it's very easy to search for a 'get out clause' when you are confronted with anxiety - anything that will make the uneasy feeling go away. However, working through this anxiety and trying to think more rationally can provide us with some incredible new opportunities.

Friday, 19 August 2016

Dealing With Rejection

Yesterday was A-level results day and I had pinned all of my hopes on going to my first choice University, as most 18 year olds going to University do. Everything had been perfectly planned out in my head for months; exactly what I was going to do and where I was going to be and where I was going to live - I couldn't wait.

Unfortunately, those dreams quickly came crashing down when I logged into UCAS track at half past seven in the morning, only to be greeted with the words 'unsuccessful' before I was even aware of what grades I might have achieved. Now of course, I assumed the worst. 'I must have failed every exam', 'I must have got terrible grades', I thought to myself. I then proceeded to spend the next hour and a half dreading going in to school to pick up my results to be met with an inevitable feeling of failure and disappointment.

However, quite the opposite happened and I was actually pleasantly surprised with my grades. As it turns out, I had only missed the offer by 2 UMS points (which is barely anything, if you don't know what UMS is) but they still out-right rejected me. I tried ringing immediately after finding out, practically begging for them to still consider me, but they wouldn't budge. They didn't want me and that was that (which was put quite bluntly to me on the phone).

Rejection can be hard to cope with - especially when you already struggle with feelings of not being good enough. It makes feeling inferior ten times worse and it is difficult, if not impossible, not to take personally. It leaves you feeling crap about yourself, questioning whether the fault is with you and often coming to the conclusion that it must be.

However, it is totally okay to feel disappointed if you have been rejected - it is a perfectly natural and normal response. Whether you have been turned down for a job, or just missed out on your University offer, know that it is absolutely fine for you to feel upset. In fact, sometimes you need to just cry about something in order to move on from it, and that is nothing to feel ashamed about. Let yourself feel sad, disappointed or angry, but also bear in mind that these feelings will pass.

Being rejected is a part of life and that really sucks, but it brings with it new opportunities. Taking a different direction than what you had planned out isn't necessarily a bad thing, in fact it could work out to be the best thing to ever happen.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Things Will Work Out...

A-level results day is fast approaching (only one more day to go, ahh!) and it has got me thinking...a lot. I've probably been thinking about it a little too much, actually. In fact, this one day has completely taken over my life recently. I'm becoming increasingly impatient waiting - I just wish it would hurry up!

Anyway...something that I have been constantly reminded of in this past week by various different people in my life; whether that is my Mum, my therapist or my friends; is that whatever the outcome on results day, things will work out for the best eventually. And the more I think about it, the more true this becomes.

Even if I don't get the results that I want and I don't get into my firm choice University, perhaps there's a reason for this. Perhaps things will work out better for me as a result. Maybe I'll go to my second choice University instead and really love it there. Maybe if I'd gone to my first choice, I wouldn't have enjoyed it as much. Maybe I'll go elsewhere and meet somebody down the line who becomes really important in my life, who knows?

The moral of this story is that sometimes, we might be disappointed about the outcome of a situation. We may feel like it is the end of the world. But in reality, it could turn out to be the better option for us - we just don't know it yet. We can't possibly know the reason behind everything that happens to us and we certainly cannot predict the future. There could be a reason for not getting a certain job or getting into a certain University - a reason which we may not be aware of at the time.

I know it can be disappointing when something doesn't work out the way that you want it to, the way you had imagined. It can be a major setback for you. However, you must remember that whatever the circumstance, life goes on regardless. Things work themselves out because they have to, and they inevitably do.

Try to let go of that disappointment if something doesn't go ahead as planned. I know this is easier said than done, but instead try focusing on how you can progress from here. You are in this situation whether you like it or not. The only thing you can do is move forward, to make the best out of it that you possibly can.

I feel like I'm going to have remind myself of this, this time on Thursday when I am crying into my bowl of cereal because I didn't get into the University that I wanted or come out with the grades that I had hoped for (positive thinking as per usual). Nonetheless, what will be will be and I must learn to accept that and carry on moving forwards, whatever happens.

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Perfection Doesn't Exist

I was inspired to write this post after a conversation I was having with my close friend a few days back. We were speaking about the sort of pressure that particularly the younger generation are put under to be a certain way - especially when it comes to our appearance...

It seems that, in life, we are all just on a quest for perfection. And it comes as no surprise, really. We are constantly bombarded with images from the media encouraging us to be 'perfect'. You see it all of the time in adverts, magazines, on TV, in music videos and wherever else - certain ideals that must be fulfilled in order to be considered 'attractive'. For example, the perception that females should have glossy, beautiful hair; a slim, yet still curvy body; wear flawless make-up, but not so much that it puts people off and be strikingly trendy.

We are all conscious of this pressure on us, and particularly mindful about the affect it might have on young, impressionable girls - but I don't just think it is aimed exclusively at females anymore. Now, males can have their fair share of expectations to live up to as well. The media continuously fuels this pressure to conform to such impossible standards. And, quite frankly, I find it infuriating. It can lead to feelings of inadequacy, impact upon self-esteem and confidence, and make people feel that they are somehow sub-standard. Most of us complain about it, but yet, nothing seems to change.

I spent my entire teenage years feeling like I wasn't good enough because I didn't personally look like the women I had seen in the media. I was flat-chested (still am), small with pathetically short little legs (still am), and didn't have the first clue how to apply make-up. And now? I hate myself. I grew up believing that because I didn't have all of these things, I was ugly - and that is not a belief that is easily reversed. Of course, I'm not suggesting that every single teen is going to end up self-loathing because of an image they came across in a magazine, but we must be aware that some people are more easily influenced than others, as well as more susceptible to feeling this way.

Despite how I felt growing up, I have come to the realisation that perfection doesn't exist. And why spend your life searching for something that doesn't exist? All of these images presented to us in the media, are edited in such a way that they portray a false ideal - one that is unattainable and unrealistic. As cliché as it sounds, I do honestly believe that we must embrace the things that make us unique. Attractiveness is subjective, there is no mould that you must fit into to be pretty or 'perfect'. Each of us are made differently, so why waste our time comparing ourselves to others?

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Recognising The Small Achievements

Often, it is all too easy to fall into the trap of focusing purely on what you are not currently capable of achieving in your life - whether that is because of your mental health condition or not. Only ever acknowledging what you may not be able to do, as opposed to what you can, has the potential to impact poorly on your self-esteem. It causes you to see yourself in a very negative light - that you are a failure, useless, pathetic, weak.

This type of self-loathing is not beneficial to you or your mental health. How can you expect to start recovering from your illness, if you only ever put yourself down? How can you expect to move on with your life and achieve your aspirations, if you are stuck in a mind set where you continuously criticise yourself? (To be quite honest, I'm being unbelievably hypocritical here, because I am a culprit of this type of thinking myself. I repeatedly criticise myself. As the saying goes, 'I am my own worst critic').

Anyway. Being surrounded by friends who appear to be achieving great things in their life can be discouraging. Obviously you are happy for them, but you're also kind of not. (I get jealous of them. There, I said it). I mean, that sounds pretty terrible of me, but I think I'm not the only one to feel this way sometimes (or I am the only one and I am just a bad person). The truth is, seeing those around you progress in life, when you feel unable to progress yourself, can make you feel like crap. It causes you to believe that you are not making any achievements in your own life - that everyone else is somehow a better person than you because they have managed to be successful in ways which you have not.

However, I believe it is vital to escape from this type of thinking. I know, I know, this is far easier said than done. How can you stop thinking like this, if you are so convinced that you are a complete failure in life?! But, it is important that you try. You must recognise even the small achievements that you make, that may not seem a big deal to others, but are a massive deal for you. We are all unique, we all find ourselves in different circumstances in life. It is impossible to compare ourselves to others, because we are nothing like anybody else. We all live completely different lives - and, for this exact reason, it is impossible to bear comparison between our achievements.

So, from now on, try and recognise those small achievements, however irrelevant they may seem. Maybe you got out of bed and got dressed for the first time this week. Perhaps you made the effort to meet with a friend, or ate out in public after years of avoidance - whatever it is, recognise it for the immense achievement that it is for you. I've said it before and I will say it again: fighting with a mental health condition is difficult. It can make even the simplest of tasks seem daunting, impossible even. So when you have the courage to overcome such an obstacle, that is an achievement in itself. And it is one you should be proud of.

Also, remember that just because you may not be able to achieve something at this point in your life, doesn't mean you'll never be able to. Give it time, be patient with yourself, and focus on your mental wellbeing...everything else will fall into place later, when the time is right.
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