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.

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.

When someone tells you who they are – listen

After I split up with my ex, I realised that I had a problem with boundaries. I was only 17 when we got together, some people are quite worldly wise at that age, but I was not. He never treated me with much respect, or even made me feel particularly special. I remember asking him once, after I saw another girl dressed provocatively, do you wish I were her? And he said yes!

Then there was the cheating, I found conversations on his computer between him and other women we knew. When I confronted him, he’d always be in floods of tears and would come up with all kinds of excuses for his behaviour. I fell for it and even felt sorry for him… As I got older, I realised that was just who he was.

When someone tells you who they are, you should listen. He cheated on me and went behind my back many more times. I regret wasting so much time on him, but the relationship taught me that actions mean more than words.

And when you realise this, you start noticing it everywhere, people say all kinds of things, but their behaviour doesn’t always match up. Sometimes people have an image of themselves that just doesn’t reflect reality.

Beware people who tell you how great they are

In a similar example, I met a guy at a local group who I got on with. I told him I’d only joined the group to make some friends, I wasn’t looking for a relationship, which he seemed fine with. He told me a lot of things about himself. Such as how he wasn’t an angry or argumentative person – he didn’t have the energy for that.

A few weeks later he got into an argument with another group member who he felt was behaving inappropriately, when he could have just told the group leader what was happening. That was one red flag. He also told me that he respected my boundaries, but then kept trying to hug me and repeatedly sent me messages when I asked for some space. Past me might have given him the benefit of the doubt, but I put myself first and cut off contact with him. He showed me who he was, and I listened.

It’s important to know what you want out of your relationships with people. Figure out what your dealbreakers are and what’s important to you. If someone makes you feel uncomfortable you don’t have to put up with it, you don’t have to spend your precious time or energy on them, because you’re worth so much more than that.

Nice people don’t need to tell you how great and nice they are, because they just are!

Journaling for anxiety

Does it ever feel like the universe is trying to tell you something? My counsellor told me about the benefits of journaling, and then a Youtuber I follow said how much it helps his mental health, followed by a lot of mentions on Instagram too, so I thought OK universe I’ll start writing!

I used to journal last year, but I gave up with it as I often do with these things, so I’m hoping to be more dedicated this time. I write on my laptop, which might not be as romantic as writing by hand in pretty notebooks, but I don’t have to worry about anyone else reading my secrets! I used to have a hand-written diary from my teen years, which I decided to shred as it made me cringe. (Think lots of wittering on about my crushes)!

Get your worries out of your head

If you’re a worrier then you’ll know all about the thoughts going around and around in your brain. It’s exhausting. Writing your worries down is great because it puts them into perspective and allows you to challenge your way of thinking.

I have a fear of losing control, so if I have a trigger come up – like not being able to sleep and then panicking that I’ll make myself ill, I write it down and rationalise what will actually happen. Yes, it might feel unpleasant, but I always settle down into a better sleep pattern eventually and start to feel better.

Express how you feel

I’m a very introverted person that tends to bottle up my emotions. Sometimes I don’t even realise I’m doing it. I’ll have people remark that I seem so calm and laid back… (Thanks, poker face!) So, for me there’s nothing more cathartic than to have a bit of a sweary rant in my journal, complete with CAPS LOCK and exclamation marks!! I’ll reassure myself sometimes too, it’s quite nice to take it as an opportunity to be a friend to yourself, as I know many of us don’t have people that we can open up to.

Life goals

Your journal can also be a good place to keep track of your life and where you want to be. I often write down things I want to remember – affirmations, coping thoughts and strategies. “I do not base my self-worth on the opinions of others,” is a good one. And you can keep track of what you’ve written and see how things have changed.

Some people like to journal before they go to bed, as they find it helps them get out their worries before they sleep. I like to write each day whenever I feel like it. That’s what’s so good about it, it’s your free space to write whatever you like, whenever you like.

Three things I wish I knew about anxiety when I was younger

Medication isn’t a quick fix or a cure

I know that medication can be a controversial subject, and I go back and forth about whether I’d like to give it another try myself. It doesn’t help that my first experience wasn’t great. I was only 17 when I first went to my doctor about my anxiety – he immediately put me on antidepressants and diazepam! He told me that everything would be great, and my family would notice a big change in me. But that just wasn’t the case, I didn’t feel much different and the diazepam just made me dizzy, so I came off them after a couple of months.

Now the doctor was obviously at fault as he gave the impression that the medication would ‘cure’ me. They aren’t a quick fix or a cure, but they do help a lot of people, so it’s really down to the individual. If you think they could be a part of your recovery, try to manage your expectations and do your own research. Don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor about any concerns or questions you may have.

Therapy might not work the first time around

To get the most from therapy, it depends on a few factors:

Are you mentally in a place where you can open up and practice the techniques you’re learning? Are you and your therapist a good fit? Is the therapy itself right for you?

I once had a counsellor that I just didn’t get on with from the start. When I told her I’d already had a lot of therapy, she seemed pretty annoyed by this and said “what do you want me to say that’s any different” and “you shouldn’t be using up these resources,” which made me cry!

Please don’t be put off by this though! I’ve had some wonderful, knowledgeable therapists who I’ve made a lot if progress with. So, don’t despair if things aren’t quite right the first time round, you can request to see another person or try a different type of therapy that suits you better.

There’s no shame whatsoever if you need ongoing support. You do what you have to do to feel better – if you’ve been suffering for years then it stands to reason that it will take time to heal.

There are more people out there with anxiety than you think

When I was younger, I thought I was weird for having anxiety. I’d shake on my way to college and feel sick. I just didn’t understand what was happening to me. But I wasn’t alone, as so many young people experience anxiety, it’s just knowing where to find them as not everyone feels able to talk about it.

I think it’s brilliant that here’s so much more support and awareness out there now than when I was a teen. You don’t have to isolate yourself, reach out to support groups, online communities or anxiety charities. There have been times when being around people was the last thing I wanted, but it ended up being the best possible thing for me. When I first spoke to another social anxiety sufferer at a support group it was an incredible feeling – there were people who understood exactly how I felt. I wasn’t so weird after all.

I should have my life sorted by now… or should I?

I can’t always get my head around being a thirty-something. I still feel like a scared 19-year-old kid inside, but I guess I am older and hopefully wiser. Even so, sometimes I feel bad that I don’t have everything ‘together’. There are so many supposed milestones in a person’s life that I haven’t yet reached. I never learned to drive, I’m not married and I haven’t bought a house. I’m not established in my career and I’m not even particularly confident.

There’s a defiant part of me that’s thinks, so what I don’t give a damn, and another more fragile part that thinks uh-oh I’m a failure! I suppose my true feelings lie somewhere in the middle. I have to remember all of the adversities that I have come through. I’m doing the best I can, but that doesn’t mean I can’t still be a work in progress!

There could be endless comparisons to other people if I really wanted to torture myself. For example, my high school bully is now married with a couple of kids. But that small window into her life doesn’t really tell me all that much. Having the house, car and kids doesn’t mean someone can’t still suffer, or feel lonely. We all have our challenges.

There’s no point trying to live up to some ideal that doesn’t really mean anything. What really matters are the good things in your life, and the things to be thankful for here and now.

It can be hard when the people around you lack empathy for your situation. There have been plenty of times I’ve felt hurt when a family member has been judgemental and hasn’t understood my daily battles with anxiety. But when I think about it, it comes from a place of ignorance not truth.

What I’m trying to say here is that we all have value. It doesn’t matter that you haven’t done x,y or z – only that you’re still here doing the best you can! It takes real strength and courage to do that while you’re suffering.

So,  for anyone that needs it (me included):

“Success is the result of moving forward. Concentrate on that fact, regardless of how slow or fast, how poorly or well things seem to be going. If you are moving forward, you are succeeding.” Richelle E. Goodrich

Diary of an anxious mind PT 2

My mind has been very ‘busy’ this week. I try to always be productive but however much I do it never feels like enough. I think it comes from a feeling of guilt. I’m guilty for being unemployed, so I feel like I need to overcompensate to prove I’m not lazy. Added to that, I’m scatterbrained, so I jump from one thing to another, no matter how well I try to schedule my time.

I want to do everything, all at once. Each day there’s exercise, mindfulness, my mental health workbook, writing and housework. Which should all be perfectly do-able but I don’t always manage it! And that’s leaving out all of the books I want to read, and the podcasts to listen to. I know, I know, I should cut myself some slack, particularly as I’m also managing a physical health condition. (I have Hypermobility Spectrum Disorder, which causes lovely stuff like fatigue, joint pain, IBS and a racing heart). I’m not always good at following my own advice though, as I talked about in my post: https://anxietyanswered.com/2020/09/09/why-is-it-so-hard-to-follow-your-own-advice/

I haven’t even mentioned leaving the house or socialising with other humans. I’d like to get out more, as being at home on my own gets old after a while. But if I do go out it means less time for all of the things, not to mention difficulties caused by my old buddy social anxiety disorder . All of this uses up energy, which I don’t have a lot of – particularly if I’m also struggling to sleep. I’ll go out for a walk and feel more cheerful, but later I find myself nodding off at my desk. (Which reminds me, I need to modify my diet as I eat too many carbs – not good for energy levels!)

As you can tell I go round in circles with this, but I think it’s quite common, as we’re all juggling different aspects of our lives.

I might let myself off completing my ‘list’ tomorrow, I think I need to just be.

Why is it so hard to follow your own advice?

Do you ever feel bad that you can’t seem to follow your own advice? Then you’re not alone! I’ve blogged about several different topics and given advice that I sometimes struggle to follow myself. I might know what I need to do, but the problem is getting started, or even completely forgetting things when I’m in the moment!

Pesky emotions

One reason I think it’s so difficult, is that we’re often too close to our own problems. After all, we aren’t completely rational creatures – we experience emotions that can be overwhelming. Take fear, for example. It keeps you alive by alerting you to danger, so it makes sense that it would get in the way of your problem solving! It takes an iron will to push through fear, even if your rational mind knows that there’s no real threat.

Perhaps you feel guilty when you need to prioritise yourself in certain situations. If you’re a people-pleaser, then looking after number one can feel strange, or even selfish.

And it’s not even just ‘negative’ emotions. For me personally it can be hard to pass up the instant gratification of avoiding things, even though I know they might be good for me in the future. I have been known to avoid a social gathering in order to go shopping by myself!

Driven to distraction

Sometimes life just gets in the way. There’s a whole list of essential things to think about. Work, family life, education, and household chores can take up a lot of time and energy, so it’s understandable that our problems can end up on the back burner. We can be so busy that it’s not always clear what our problems are, let alone how to fix them.

You’re not in the right place yet

It’s easy to judge yourself harshly, but the truth is you may not be in a position to follow your own advice. Perhaps you’re ill, busy or you don’t feel strong enough to deal with things right now. Whatever the reason, try to be kind to yourself, with help you can get there.

So, when you think about it, it’s easy to see the basics of someone else’s life and give them advice. The hard bit is navigating it all by yourself and turning advice into action. This is where I think a therapist, mental health professional, or even a trusted friend can guide you. It’s great to listen to your inner wisdom, but don’t feel bad if you need help, you’re only human.

Are you thinking too much?

I’ve always been a thinker. I tend to get lost in my thoughts, and at times this can be wonderful and positive, but on the flipside, it can often descend into negativity. I mean, daydreams can be a pleasant distraction when you’re hanging around waiting to see the dentist, but not when you’re using them to escape from reality. So, if you’re losing hours to your daydreams, it might be worth thinking about more fulfilling ways to spend your time.

On a more positive note, being a thinker could mean that you’re a great problem solver, with the ability to use your creativity to come up with fresh ideas. I think it’s important to actually acknowledge the things you’re good at! But there are times when us thinkers fall into ‘analysis paralysis’ – thoughts going round and round your mind, preventing you from taking action. I know for me it doesn’t take much for my thoughts to turn into horrific worst-case scenarios.

Know your triggers

There might be certain points in the day when you know you’re prone to this over thinking. It could be during activities when you’re on autopilot, like while you’re taking a shower or travelling to work. For many people, their minds come alive at night when they’re in bed. Once you figure out what your triggers are you can put things in place to occupy your mind. For me, I ruminate when I’m in the shower; it’s incredible how long you can be doing this for without even realising it! I’ve decided that I’m going to incorporate more mindfulness into my morning routine. If bedtime is your trigger, try writing in a worry journal to clear your thoughts.

The mind is a powerful thing and I think it’s easy to fall into bad habits when it comes to worry and over thinking. Even if you only start by taking more notice, then that’s great!

As you might know from my Instagram page, I love a good quote, so I’ll leave you with this:

“Instead of worrying about what you cannot control, shift your energy to what you can create.” – Roy T Bennett

Umbrella Heart

The rain often caught me,

Ice water etched rivulets into my bones,

The cold soaked so deep,

I couldn’t catch my breath to breathe.

I only knew I couldn’t fight,

Fear wrapped me up and held me.

And cosy comforts became puppets strings,

Wrenching me from my door.

I wanted to scream at it to disappear,

But the water still fell a crystalline grey,

Always in my way, always in my way,

I had to search for something today.

A red umbrella covered in dust,

Trembled in time with my beating heart,

And with it in hand, I stepped outside,

The rain ran off and fell away.