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Doing something every day that scares you...

Firstly, apologies for being absent for so long - I have had some huge changes that have been happening behind the scenes.

The last time I wrote a blog post must have been many months ago now and since then I have been super busy. Amongst the few family emergencies and commitments, the main change in my life has been the start of my new career. I have been in my new job for just over a month now and I am loving every second. It has been my dream job for as long as I can remember and the actual recruitment process took almost a year and was pretty tough going, but I finally made it through! The job I have is extremely challenging and has always got me on my toes. I always find I am fuelled with anxiety every day, but in my case I can no longer run from it, but run towards it. I am often asked to do something that I would never normally do, or never think that I could do and usually everything in my body is screaming at me to run and hide, but if I did that I'd lose my job! In facing this every day and going through with every task put out in front of me, it's shown me that you can do the things that you think you're not capable of. Similarly it's taught me that failure isn't so bad after all. In a new career and job you're expected to learn things in such a short time, and although I love to aspire to perfection, I have failed more times than I can count. But even though sometimes I've felt downtrodden I've gotten back up and carried on so I can keep improving and reach my goal. At the end of the day, everyone grows at different rates and that's ok. 

This big life change has also meant that i've moved into a new flat, hours away from my hometown. I'm used to living on my own because of my time at university, but it does still take some time to get used to.

If i just take a moment to look back to when I was 17 and couldn't leave the house, to now at age 22 with a job that I love but that is extremely anxiety provoking, I would never have thought it. But it just shows you that some things you perceive to be impossible, may not be after all. Perseverance is key, and with time things do get better. Everyone has the courage inside of them. Mental illness is still a part of my daily life, but I will not let it win.

I can't promise that I'll be able to write as much as I used to, but when I get a moment I'll write my thoughts down to share with you all. You can still email me, here and subscribe to my blog, here.

Stay well.

Snippets of anxiety!

The Recovery Network, in cooperation with others, publish and share a range of resources on the topic of mental health. Below is a snippet on what is anxiety and an infographic of how family members can help. If you wish to access more information and support, you can reach them, here. They not only publish information but support charity events and support those recovering from addiction. All in all, they produce well rounded advice and support to help those who need it the most. Below are a few snippets of their work:

'Everyone experiences anxiety. It is a natural human emotion. However this feeling can grow out of proportion to life and its events. It can begin to disrupt everyday life. If anxiety feels like it is taking over, you may have an anxiety disorder. If you have an anxiety disorder, you aren’t alone. The American Psychiatric Association[1] (APA) shares, “Anxiety disorders are the most common of mental disorders and affect nearly 30 percent of adults at some point in their lives.” Many people face anxiety concerns. Many options exist for addressing this anxiety and moving forward in life. How you take these steps forward? Begin by understanding how anxiety affects your life. Look for anxiety disorder symptoms.' Read more, here.

And...remember, that recovery is possible. 

'I’m slowly gaining self-esteem and finding myself! Recovery is absolutely wonderful! I hope, if you’ve read this far, my story inspired you in some way. Recovery is possible and you deserve love and happiness!'  You can read more about Laurie's story, here and become a hero in recovery, here.

My anxiety story: 5 years on

When I first started my blog back in 2013, I wrote a blog post about my mental health journey, which you can read, here. 4 years on and I feel have a different overview and new perspective on my journey and can perhaps add details that I once may have missed...

I have always been a shy child for as long as I can remember. I never wanted to answer questions in class or ever be on stage. I didn't have problems with making friends though. I hated going to clubs, even if I really enjoyed the activity as well as being told off, so I did everything to avoid it - I guess this was all about a fear of failure, even though my parents never brought me up in such a way. 

Now I look back, my mental health problems began when I was around 8 years old, when a really nasty family break-up and extension of such, turned my world upside down. Looking back, my way of controlling the situation even though I was only 8, was through performing rituals every morning and throughout school. I would be in an absolute state if I didn't perform these rituals. I used to have my Mum write notes to me, promising me that everything would be okay, and if she didn't I couldn't walk out of the door. As years went on, I began to slowly manage these impulses to make them less severe, but nevertheless were a part of my school life until I finished my A-levels. 

It was 2012 and GCSE year came around and this is where everything began to flare up again. As a very studious person, GCSEs at that time were my whole life and I would study at every opportunity I had. I thought if I even dropped a single grade or mark, it would be the end of the world, which I know now is not the case. But the pressure I put on myself made me have very small breakdowns and at one point, led to me trying to commit suicide. Needless to say I got through my GCSEs and that Summer was one of the best, but also when I noticed more issues with my mental health. I began to feel sick on a regular basis. In fact, every day at the end of year 11 I began to feel extremely sick every time I was in a school classroom or somewhere in which I was in a closed space. Throughout the Summer this became worse and I started to take paracetamol as somewhat of a safety blanket, even though I rationally knew that it wouldn't change anything. I began to become more anxious too and this was noticeable on results day when I had my second ever severe  panic attack behind the one when I went around town to apply for jobs. I had a real fear of being ill in front of other people, which I still have to a degree today. 

The first year of A-levels commenced in 2013 and I was still feeling sick everyday. I started to think something was physically wrong with me. I just thought it was a prolonged virus. I was so on edge and ready to leave a room within a few seconds. I actually remember  one incident vividly; we were being read the hungry caterpillar story as a metaphor of how our two years of A-levels was hopefully going to plan out, and the feeling of sickness was so intense. 

Everything eventually built up to one day when I was walking to school as usual, but instead this time I stopped at the end of the road and I just couldn't put one foot forward. I went home and my parent phoned my school to say that I was off sick. I tried again the next day where I managed to get into school, but as soon as I got there I had a panic attack and left. As far as I remember, from that day forward I could no longer leave the house. As the weeks went by, I went to the doctors to have blood tests which came back normal, which meant it was all in my head. This was on one of the days, when I just managed to leave the house. There was no virus or illness - I was in the middle of a mental breakdown. As time went on I couldn't answer the phone or door either. I had to cancel my driving lessons, I couldn't attend school or see my friends. My bedroom was my whole life. I tried every day to get to school. My mum would park outside the school gates; that's if I managed to even get out of the house that day and I had a panic attack. every day. Over many months I lost a lot of weight and just lost the will to live. I had to teach myself my A-levels. 

As can be imagined having anxiety that was that severe led to severe depression. My life was a prison and even though I tried with every bone in my body to walk out of the door and get better, I just mentally couldn't do it. People tried to physically force me out of the house and I resisted with all of my weight. I was shouted at and that didn't work either. It was time to realise that I really needed help. I had severe anxiety, depression, health anxiety and some OCD as told by my therapist. I needed help. On a daily basis, hand washing became a ritual as well as avoiding certain foods and drink, I often couldn't get out of bed, eat, leave the house, I often had periods of just losing control and just being utterly lost - it is the only was I can explain it. 

I went to the doctors to ask for help and got advised to counselling services that didn't exist, and yet wasn't even told about the services on the NHS. After doing independent research, I was put on the waiting list for counselling, which was 7 months long. But, I needed immediate help to stay alive. At that point in time I was harming myself and having suicidal attempts fairly regularly and I couldn't go on. My Mum paid for private counselling sessions which were based around hypnotherapy. They helped somewhat but no where near enough. It just didn't click with me. Eventually I got counselling on the NHS to which I saw three different people due to the severity. The CBT I had was immensely helpful, in which my therapist didn't just talk to me in their office, but actually went out into the community with me and challenged me to do things that made me anxious. It worked on a hierarchy, with the tasks that made me least anxious which was getting on a bus, to getting a job. During this time, CBT wasn't enough so after trying everything including diet and exercise, I went to the doctors for medication to which I was prescribed beta blockers, which did next to nothing for me. With continuing self-harm, suicidal attempts and loss of control, my last resort was medication and then if needed, hospitalisation. I eventually got prescribed anti-depressants which I didn't want to take because of my ongoing severe health anxiety, meaning that I worried that taking them would make me ill alongside a phobia of germs, food and drink that I was dealing with too. It took my mum forcing me to take them, to start my medication journey. 4 years later and I am still taking them. It was 6 weeks later and something clicked. I felt happy for the first time in many years. Alongside my medication and CBT I began to tackle the things that really made me anxious and I began to do the things I loved once more; from going to school and driving lessons. I couldn't get to school every day, but more than nothing at all. 

After a year or so, I was discharged from therapy, which was an amazing feeling. I went onto university in which I had a mental health mentor to continue my counselling. Now, after university I see the same counsellor privately. 

Today, I am 22 years old, a first class honours Law graduate who is going through the application process of my dream career. I am driving and living independently in my flat with my partner. I still have my triggers and I still suffer with anxiety and depression, but nothing compared to what it used to be. I haven't written about every single thing in detail and I don't think the real severity can be understood unless one was there to experience it, nor do I feel it appropriate to go into every detail. Nervetheless, I hope this has given you an updated insight!

If anything, I wish this story gives you hope that even in the darkest times, you have the strength to get better. I wouldn't have believed it when I was is in it, but now I am on the other side I know it is possible. 

Best Wishes,

Cannabis oil?

Recently there has been a rise in sales of CBD and it can be found in many health and food stores across the UK and USA. It uses a very small extract of cannabis (not the part that gives any psychoactive effects) to potentially help with pain, anxiety, cancer and many other illnesses. Currently CBD oils and sprays are legal in the UK due to the small amount of cannabis contained in such products, of which do not produce a high or cause any psychoactive effects.

I was contacted the other day by Verified CBD whom are collaborating with me on their range of CBD products. I was asked if I wanted to try out their anti-anxiety spray, which you can find through my affiliate link (which I will be adding soon!) You can also view their other products by clicking on the link above. The aim of this spray is to just what it says - to reduce anxiety. 

I myself was sent a free sample of the spray to see if it improved any symptoms of my anxiety. It’s important to note before going any further that you should contact a professional before using any CBD products. I have used the spray but not in copious amounts due to currently being on medication myself, but when I did use It, it had a pleasant taste and I did feel a slight sense of calm. I guess this is a similar feeling to when I used beta blockers which were prescribed by my GP. Beta blockers are essentially used for a range of things such as high blood pressure, but in terms of anxiety it's meant to produce a calming effect.

I have heard many success stories from such uses, but unfortunately I can only share a limited review of mine. If you need more information, or wish to buy CBD products, then you can do so here. I’d love to know if such products have helped you in any way.

Instant and affordable counselling!

As the charity 'Time to Change' promotes, talking is a key element in dealing with mental health at whatever stage and I couldn't agree more. Although I am on medication myself, I am aware that my problems don't just disappear because I take medication but are helped because I often talk about my problems, especially to my counsellor. I also understand that talking about such personal and sensitive topics can be extremely hard and so talking to someone in person can be harder than writing it down or through social media. But I know that without talking, that I wouldn't be as well as I am today. 

I've recently partnered with Better Help who offer online counselling services. When you sign up, it takes you through a questionnaire to match you with a counsellor that will best suit you within 24 hours. If you don't like the counsellor you are then matched with, you are more than welcome change it. Each counsellor on the site is licensed and chosen specifically for better help, in order to give you the best service. You can contact them at any time and via whichever method you choose - text, video streaming, on mobile etc. 

Often one of the other worries besides talking to someone in person is the financial cost. And I agree. Waiting lists for counselling services here in the UK are ridiculously long and often people have to resort to private and paid counselling services which can be expensive. Better Help has the option to opt for financial aid, which can give you discounts to the price of the counselling services themselves. The counselling from Better help itself is by large, cheaper than traditional counselling by as little as $35/£25 a week, for access to help at any time.

If you wish to sign up and give it a try, you can do so using my affiliate link, here.

If you need any more information, feel free to leave a comment below. I can't stress enough how much of a life saver counselling has been for me. I hope it can help you too.