Hiatus

I haven’t posted to my blog for a while, it’s a shame because I kind of got into a groove with it last year. I’ve been feeling quite depressed about my life and not knowing what to do, or how to cope with my anxiety.

Isn’t it strange that you can have all of the coping strategies in the world, but you still manage to forget them all when you’re struggling. I don’t know if that’s just a human thing or a ‘me’ thing. But today I’ve reassessed where I’m at and what I need to do to (try) and get out of my sadness.

I find that the act of walking is great for thinking things over and making decisions. I don’t know why – maybe it’s something from our hunter gatherer days… and when I got home I felt inspired to write a poem, which I haven’t done for ages. I didn’t really know what else to post so here it is:

The restless halls of my mind are spinning.

Weaving hope into existence.

With every footstep,

I tread towards a far-off goal,

It turns to dust when I’m alone.

But out in the shimmering world,

People are laughing and shapeshifting.

I try to peek at the pages of their stories.

I turn the key to my front door

The furniture is motionless as it was before,

Everything is as I left it.

Yet everything is changed.

Some thoughts on resilience

My brain is feeling like a load of goop at the moment, as I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been having a flare up of my misophonia and feeling rather stressed in general.

I feel claustrophobic at home and wish I could move somewhere with my own four walls (away from neighbours), which unfortunately isn’t an option at the moment. So instead, I’ve been keeping busy, but it’s a restless busy-ness. I still place quite a lot of value on what other people think and worry about being seen as lazy.

Feeling so low has caused me to question whether going to university is the right thing for me after all. I spoke to my therapist about it, and she questioned if it’s something I really want to do or something I feel I should do. Which is a difficult question for someone like me, who frequently changes their mind. I think it’s a bit of both.

At the core of everything, I’d like to be able to help other people, and be able to earn a living while doing it. And if I’m honest with myself, it will need to be on a part time basis to fit around my health. I think I’m going to aim to train as a counsellor instead, there’s an evening class ‘introduction to counselling’ that’s starting in September that I’d like to try.

Resilience

It’s good to have something to aim for. I’m trying to believe in myself instead of expecting anxiety to sabotage anything I ever try. It always comes back to resilience (which I don’t have a lot of!)

I’ve been reading a book called The Choice by Dr Edith Eger. Dr Eger is a holocaust survivor and was sent to Auschwitz at the age of 16 with her parents and sister. Her parents were immediately sent to the gas chamber, while she was told they were ‘going for a shower.’ Later, a guard callously points to a chimney and tells her that they’re burning there and she should get used to referring to them in the past tense. As you can imagine, she goes through hell and only narrowly survives her ordeal. I can’t get my head around such barbarity and my heart aches for the people who had to live through it.

Dr Eger is an incredible woman, and says she made it through those awful times by realising that no-one could take away the freedom she had in her mind. While she was imprisoned all of her energy was spent on surviving, and it was after she was liberated that the trauma and emotion kicked in. It sounds ridiculous, but I hadn’t considered what happened people after they were freed, and how they ever processed what had happened to them.

Feeling your emotions


A theme I’m finding crop up again and again in various books is the importance of recognising trauma in your body. Dr Eger found that she could only begin to process her experiences when she allowed herself to feel her emotions. She said by keeping her ordeal a secret it became another imprisonment. This is something I relate to, because I tend to supress my emotions a lot, sometimes without even realising it.

She immigrated to the US, where life wasn’t exactly plain sailing for her there either, but she went on to become a psychologist specialising in post-traumatic stress. She’s becoming a real hero of mine, and I highly recommend you check out The Choice, as well as some of her interviews which can be found on YouTube.

In no way am I comparing myself or my issues to hers (in her interviews she says neither does she with her patients, as all emotional suffering is still suffering), but she gives me hope that I have a bit of resilience in me to get through my own mental health struggles. I really would like to do some good in the world.

That was quite heavy, but I think there are a lot of important lessons in what she says, particularly to those of us who are going through tough times.

“We cannot choose to have a life free of hurt. But we can choose to be free, to escape the past, no matter what befalls us, and to embrace the possible.” Dr Edith Eger.


My experience with misophonia

Over the last ten years or so I’ve discovered that I’m intolerant to certain sounds. Sounds that other people might find a little annoying, can trigger a full-on flight or fight panic response in me.

Turns out this response to sound has a name: misophonia.

According to the website WebMD, “misophonia is a disorder in which certain sounds trigger emotional or physiological responses that some might perceive as unreasonable given the circumstance.”

Different people have different triggers, they might find chewing, breathing, tapping or even dogs barking provokes this reaction.

For me it centres on my home, as it’s somewhere that should feel safe and a place you can relax. My neighbours TV, them shouting and their dog barking triggers this sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. I’m at home a lot, I mean we all are at the moment, so there’s no escape from the noise. If they decide to blare their TV for a couple of hours, there’s not much I can really do about it, as I don’t feel able to bring it up with them face to face.

My mental health has taken a nose-dive recently as they seem to have ramped up the amount of noise they are making, their TV is louder and sometimes they wake me up early in the morning with their shouting. I’ve spent the last month or so feeling on edge. I’ve bought some earplugs that do help me get a better night’s sleep, but I’m still finding things a struggle.

I’ve sought a bit of solace on an online support group. I read other people’s posts and feel grateful that my neighbours don’t throw parties that go on till the early hours, but still the panic is there. I think it’s awful that so many people don’t care about the impact they have on others.

I’ve been ruminating on whether my neighbours are trying to ‘send me a message’ that I’ve upset them in some way, but I suppose I won’t know unless I talk to them about it.

I’ve wanted to write a post for a while but haven’t been able to summon the energy for it, as my reaction to the noise has taken up a lot of energy. Would be interesting to hear if any of you can relate to this, or if you have ever lived next to noisy neighbours.

What’s been on my mind?

I’ve been feeling a bit low and unmotivated lately. I’m slowly completing the Journalism course (that I’ve lost all interest in), as I paid for it and would like to still complete it and gain my certificate. It hasn’t helped that my tutor has been harsh with his feedback – not very encouraging! Only two more assignments left, and then I’m done.

I’ve completely neglected my Instagram page, as I’m questioning my use of social media and if it’s a good way to spend my time. It’s so relentless that I can’t keep up. Even so my screen time is, frankly, horrific! I averaged about 6 hours a day in the last week. Some of that is from listening to podcasts, which I don’t mind too much, but I need to do less mindless scrolling. In a weird way, podcasts make me feel less lonely, and they’re good for learning new things.

It’s thanks to podcasts that I hear from lots of interesting, inspirational people. One person that comes to mind is Gelong Thubten, a buddhist monk who gave up his regular life at the age of 21 after having a breakdown and joined a Tibetan monastery in Scotland. Hearing him speak about mindfulness meditation and what it has done for him is very inspiring. After all the therapy I’ve had, acceptance and mindfulness make the most sense to me. It’s one of the few things that helps me come to terms with my anxiety.

I’m trying to focus on what’s truly important to me for now. I will get back into my blogging routine, but I might be a little quiet for a while.

I’ve you’ve read my other posts you might know that I enjoy an inspirational quote, so here’s one from Gelong Thubten:

“Meditation has given me a different view about happiness. You start to notice that you can make yourself happy and that it’s a moment-to-moment skill, rather than some huge achievement that happens when you get everything in your life right. It’s actually an inside work that is about making your mind strong.”

Never try and fit a round peg in a square hole

As the title says, never try and fit a round peg in a square hole – it just doesn’t work!

I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. I’m not very good at knowing what I want to do with my life. I thought that perhaps writing was ‘the thing’ to do as a career, as it was something I could do from home.

But I don’t think it fits. I think I was just trying to force it, as it suited my life of being at home and not challenging my anxiety. I want to be out in the world. Don’t get me wrong, I love writing on my blog as a hobby, but as soon as I introduced the idea of it becoming a job it sucked the joy from it. Suddenly my blog wasn’t ‘good enough’ to be professional.

It’s not just the writing either, it’s the self-promotion you need to do on social media. I’m not a fan of the algorithms that insist you need to be posting constantly. It’s something which, to be frank, I hate.

Last week I had a bit of an epiphany. I love learning and I’m fascinated with Psychology and mental health, so I’ve decided I’ll do just that. I’m going to enrol onto a fast-track A-level so that I can apply to go to university in 2022 and study Counselling Psychology. It feels exciting! I made a decision, (which for someone as indecisive as me is an achievement), and I just want to go for it!

Not gonna lie, there are always going to be niggling (huge) worries about my mental and physical health, but I know I can access support to manage it, so I’m trying not to let that stop me.

I’m going to give my blog a makeover too. I’d like to write a bit more about chronic illness and share some of my poetry alongside my musings about anxiety and mental health. It feels nice to be excited, as I’ve spent such a long time being numb.

Small moments of happiness

I’m still plodding on with life but thought I’d share a nice experience I had. I went for a walk yesterday (everyone’s top lockdown activity) and had a moment when I stopped to appreciate my surroundings. It was a cold crisp day, and the sun was shining. As I walked along a tree-lined street, a dark cloud passed over and it started to snow gently. The sunlight ahead made the snowflakes sparkle, it was quite beautiful.

Even though it was a route I’d walked many times before, I still managed to see something new. I love it when quiet little moments like that pop up on my walks, whether that’s the beauty of nature or the times I see a cute little dog trotting along in its winter jacket. It makes up for the times I felt fed up with walking.

It reminded me of the self-help book Resilient, by Dr. Rick Hanson. In it, he suggests that when you’re feeling good or are enjoying yourself, that you should try and amplify it to embed it in your brain (or words to that effect!) – “Mental states become neural traits.” So that’s what I did on my walk, I tuned in and tried to ‘turn up the dial’ on my feelings of happiness and contentment.

It’s a lovely thing to do, as it’s all too easy to focus on feelings of boredom or frustration at the moment. We need all the happy moments we can get!

“Whatever positive facts you find, bring a mindful awareness to them—open up to them and let them affect you. It’s like sitting down to a banquet: don’t just look at it—dig in!” Dr. Rick Hanson

I’d love to hear from you, have you had any small moments of happiness that you’d like to share?

Finding things difficult

I’m sorry if this post isn’t very useful or informative, I do try to put thought into what I write in the hope that it helps someone else, but today I just need to vent.

I’m finding this lockdown very difficult. It’s the second major ‘lockdown’ in the UK. I hate to say it, but the first time around it was a bit of a novelty. It gave me an excuse to stay at home without needing to challenge my anxiety, I spent a lot of time in the garden as it was spring, but now it just feels relentless, like there’s no end in sight.

Last year I had plans to socialise more, to try and get used to spending time around other people, and now I don’t know when that will happen. I know there’s always online socialising, but it just isn’t the same, and due to my living situation, I don’t have much privacy, so I feel uncomfortable about being overheard. I feel claustrophobic. My mom and all the neighbours are off work and are always around which bugs me. I struggle a bit with noise sensitivity, and TV noise, dogs barking, people shouting gets a bit wearing. I found myself browsing Rightmove (a property website), looking at detached houses that I can in no way afford, which as you can imagine, made me feel much worse!

I’ve been on lots of walks and while I now know my town very well, I’m sick of that too. I feel bad about moaning, as I know I’m very lucky that my mom and I have our health and a roof over our heads. I suppose I just need to keep plodding on, as when the summer comes around restrictions will be relaxed somewhat, and there may be more opportunities for me to get ‘out there’.

I’m starting to lapse into being disorganised again, it’s funny how old habits have a habit of sneaking up on you. I have bursts of energy, I’ll buzz around the house, getting different chores or hobbies done, and then I’ll crash. Fatigue is always lurking when I sit down to relax. I think I need to get a handle on it and start writing down a plan for each day.

I’ll leave it there for now. I just felt like I needed to write things down. I know I’m not the only person struggling with the current situation, so I’m sending love to anyone else finding things difficult too.

Forget resolutions – try personal themes for the New Year!

I have a love hate relationship with New Year’s Resolutions. I enjoy having goals to aim for, but dislike putting pressure on myself, because let’s be honest it’s easy to get carried away with a list of things that you want to change, but it isn’t always possible.

I’m someone who finds it hard to stick to a routine, particularly at the moment during Covid, where the rules of what we are and aren’t allowed to do keep changing. I live with my Mom, who usually works full time, but has been off recently for health reasons to keep herself safe – (we’ve just entered another lockdown as the cases are out of control in the UK.) So as I’m easily distracted, I have to adapt to her being around, and then again when she’s back at work.

I saw a post on Instagram which appealed to my scatterbrain. They suggested that instead of resolutions, you think of ‘themes’ that you would like to focus on. It’s easier to have some general aims in your mind, compared to the dreaded lists.

I decided my themes this year will be intention, health and connection.

Intention

I often get swept along by life, so I would like to try to live more intentionally. Instead of mindlessly scrolling on my phone, I’d like to do more of the things I find meaningful – which could be studying or simply enjoying my hobbies. Writing is one example. It can be hard for me to get into the flow, but when I do it’s a lot of fun and very rewarding.

Health

I’m pretty good at taking care of myself but having a chronic illness can make that difficult, and there’s definitely more I could be doing. I love the invigorated feeling I get after going for a walk, and I know it’s talked about a lot, but it really does help your mental health. (And let’s face it, walking is one of the few things we can do at the moment!)

Then there’s my nemesis… sugar. I have a fast metabolism so I’m usually hungry, and when I get hungry I snack on all of the sweet stuff. But then of course I get the inevitable energy crash afterwards which leaves me feeling rough. I’m not a fan of diets as I don’t think they work, but I’ll try to be more mindful of what I’m eating.

Connection

I think we’re all looking for this one. I don’t find it easy but I’m going to try and reach out to others a bit more this year. When the restrictions ease up, I’m going look for ways to meet other people. I’d planned to do this last year but any opportunity to do so in person was extremely limited. I can’t bring myself to socialise on Zoom as I find it painful having to watch myself on a screen. But if I can make a connection with at least one person then I’ll be happy.

I’m sure there’ll be plenty of times I won’t live by my themes, but that’s not the point. I want to take small steps towards where I want to be, and the beauty of it is there’s no pressure!

What would your themes for 2021 be?

Struggling with motivation

I’m not feeling great. And when I don’t feel great, I want to withdraw, and much of my motivation goes out of the window. Ordinarily I’d give in to feeling crap and so wouldn’t bother writing this post, but I’m trying to improve my resilience.

I listen to a lot of podcasts with successful people, and many of them say that the secret to that success is to carry on when most people give up. I think there’s a lot of truth in that, as everybody has times where they feel rubbish and can’t be bothered – it’s the showing up that counts.

The thing is, I hold myself up against these people which only leads to me feeling unhappy. There might be thousands of people just like me, but I feel sad because I don’t have the get up and go of some motivational speaker! I know that I have a lot of potential, which winds me up even more because I never achieve the things I want to because I’m scared.

I’m scared of how anxiety makes me feel, and the sensations of discomfort that I experience. I’m scared that I won’t have the energy as I always seem to be tired. Sadly, the course of recovery doesn’t always run smoothly. I have a folder full of printouts of techniques I could try, but it’s having the ability to do them. Sometimes that feeling of progress and motivation is there and others it seems to slip through my fingers like sand.

I know that I’m hard of myself. It’s difficult not to be, because I’ve had other people be hard on me too. We live in a culture where it matters what we do and how we contribute to society, and so It hurts that I can’t seem to find a place for myself.

If I come back down to earth for a moment, I know that I have the therapeutic tools that I need to feel better, and that this dark cloud will pass, but it’s still hard in this moment. The joys of being human!

Loneliness at Christmas

I usually really enjoy the Christmas season, but sometimes it can amplify feelings of loneliness. My Mum loves watching those cheesy American Christmas movies where the main character falls in love, finds her happily ever after and is surrounded by friends and family. Which is quite the opposite to our own Christmas experience!

I try to make light of it and joke that I’m not bothered as I’m antisocial anyway, but it does make me feel sad that we don’t have much family left. Most of the relatives from my childhood have died. I know I’m not alone in this, and many people struggle to cope with loss at Christmas time.

Pandemic loneliness

The pandemic hasn’t helped matters either. “2.6 million UK adults reported they felt lonely “often” or “always” between 3 April and 3 May 2020, about the same proportion as pre-lockdown.” UK Office for National Statistics.

This reflects how I feel about loneliness. I can usually busy myself and get by okay, but it’s when things go wrong that I feel it the most and I wish I had more people to call on. These times of Covid have added a lot of stress to our already stressful lives.

I do try to count my blessings. I feel lucky to have a wonderful friend that I know I can rely on, and my Mum of course. Friends mean a lot to those of us without family, and I really want to make more effort with meeting new people in 2021. I thought this year was going to be ‘my year’ for socialising, but Covid has meant everything that I wanted to do is cancelled!

Socialising with mental illness is hard

Mental illness makes it tough connect with people and maintain relationships at the best of times. I have spoken to people online with social anxiety who are completely alone. My heart goes out to them, as we might traditionally think it’s the elderly who are most isolated, but many young people fall through the cracks in society too, and it doesn’t take much to end up in that situation.

So if you usually find Christmas Day a struggle, then try to plan ahead. Could you call a friend or family member for a chat? If you’re on your own could you look into volunteering? Or you could log on to Twitter and follow the hashtag – #joinin to chat to others also in need of a bit of company. It’s a lovely idea started by the UK comedian Sarah Millican.

Above all please be kind to yourself. The reality is, even people with family don’t always have happy lives. Drunken rows over the dinner table don’t feature in the soppy festive ads, funny that!