A girl with too many thoughts...

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.

Monday, 1 August 2016

The Secret Side Of OCD

Before I begin, please ignore the silly title of this post - but I do honestly believe that there is a secret side to OCD that doesn't get much recognition, and there's a reason for this. The reason being, we are ashamed of it. This unspoken side to OCD brings with it masses of guilt and embarrassment, so we just prefer to keep it under wraps. Well, not anymore, because I'm going to speak about it...

Intrusive thoughts. Yes, I said it. Those nasty little thoughts that most of us who suffer from OCD get, but do not divulge to anybody. Intrusive thoughts are characterised by unpleasant and involuntary thoughts. They can take the form of images or, sometimes, they are just ideas that pop into your head uninvited. I took to OCD-UK's website to help me explain them a little better, and this is what it said:

'Intrusive thoughts, in the spectrum of OCD, are where a person generally suffers with obsessional thoughts that are repetitive, disturbing and often horrific and repugnant in nature.  For example, thoughts of causing violent or sexual harm to loved ones.' - taken from OCD-UK

The media doesn't appear to cover this aspect of OCD very much. Sure, you can watch a programme on TV of somebody cleaning obsessively.  Everyone knows of that one celebrity who has OCD because they keep their tins neatly lined up in their cupboard. And it doesn't take much searching on the internet to get the idea that OCD equals nothing more than a need to be organised and excessive hand-washing. But what the media fails to emphasise, is that there is so much more behind this image that is portrayed to us. And that 'so much more' is the intrusive thoughts.

With OCD, intrusive thoughts can cover just about any topic, but usually, they are based upon the things that we value the most. So, if you care dearly about your family, your intrusive thoughts might concern you causing harm to a loved one. However, that is just one example, they can cover a range of different themes, from sexual to religious thoughts - there is no limit to the topic that intrusive thoughts can target. There is no limit to the torment they can put the sufferer through.

For me, my intrusive thoughts used to be based around violence and they mainly came in the form of images. They started at the age of around thirteen. I would often have disturbing thoughts about murder and harm. Watching the news would only fuel these thoughts further, providing my mind with more ideas to worry about, more terrifying thoughts to conjure up and punish me with. I developed compulsions in order to deal with these violent thoughts, convinced that if I didn't carry them out, then they would surely come true.

The problem is, we prefer not to admit to these thoughts. We are scared that if we do, people will undoubtedly accuse us of being a terrible person, or even worse, a murderer, a paedophile. We are convinced that there must be something seriously wrong with us, if we are capable of having such thoughts. So, if we were to tell somebody about them, then they might also believe that we are crazy and actually want to carry out such actions. In reality, these thoughts symbolise the things that we are most averted to. They go completely against our morals, our personality, our beliefs. And yet, we can't help but ruminate about them all of the time. We are powerless to stop the thoughts from infecting our minds, no matter how much we do not welcome them.

Don't get me wrong, OCD sufferers aren't the only ones to experience intrusive thoughts. In fact, I have read before that something around 95% of the population get them. Yes, as high as that! But, the thing is, people with OCD respond to them differently compared to the general population. They can't believe that their very own mind was capable of producing such a terrible thought, and they dwell on this. They dwell on it so much that it soon becomes an obsession, that is, they reoccur again and again, until they can't focus on much else. Intrusive thoughts can soon take over the OCD sufferer's life, sometimes to the extreme that they can no longer function. Their life revolves around these thoughts -  there is no room for anything else.

Unfortunately, that is the harsh reality of intrusive thoughts. That is the truth of the part of OCD that people refuse to acknowledge. Many people assume that OCD is only about cleanliness and tidiness. Little do they know, there is so much more to it than that. Behind every OCD behaviour, lies a intimidating intrusive thought - one that they feel responsible for, and must rid their mind of forever. But it will never work, because the more they try to destroy the thought, the more it will fight back - it's never-ending.

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