Out Smart cards!

The other day I was contact by a company called 'out smart cards' offering to send me their product to help with stress and anxiety. I thought I'd share the product, because I feel that their product would and will help a lot of you! 

Out smart cards is a company which seems to be based upon some sort of mindfulness. Currently, there are loads of mindfulness colouring books out there, but these cards are slightly different. Depending on the pack you get given, you get given a small pack of cards which are a perfect size to carry in your pocket or in your bag ready for the times that you become anxious. The aim is to give you some time to breathe and to reduce the anxiety you are feeling by tracing the patterns on the card with a pen. You can stop and start whenever and wherever you like and it allows the brain to focus on something else rather than your anxiety.

I have included some pictures below so you know what they look like. If you wish to buy some then you can do so by visiting their website, here.

Amy Xx

Mental health questionnaire

Note: this may be triggering for some. Please don't read if you feel it will be. 

Although I've written my story of my mental health before, I feel a questionnaire of sorts may allow you to understand my journey and some aspects of mental illness itself in a little more detail. I hope it can help you in some way. 

Q: What have you been diagnosed with?
A: I have anxiety and depression. My main anxiety is health anxiety. 

Q: What does your anxiety and depression feel like to you?
A: My anxiety makes me feel very uncomfortable. I often can't sit still, I feel sick, I can't sleep and if I have a panic attack I feel tingly in my hands, I can't breathe and am very restless and I feel unsafe and unsure of what's happening around me. I can feel like I'm losing my mind. My depression takes my happiness away. I often struggle to do the simplest of tasks and even struggle to get out of bed. I can't think about the simplest areas of daily life and sometimes it feels like I'm in a hole which I can't get out of or I'm drowning and trying to keep my head above water. My health anxiety affects me on a daily basis by not eating certain foods, taking hygiene to the extreme with regular rituals, intrusive thoughts and sometimes even struggling to eat and drink anything with the fear it might make me ill. Even going out can sometimes be a struggle on a bad day. 

Q: How long have you battled mental illness?
A: I first went to the doctor in January of 2013. However, signs of mental illness began as early as the age of 8, with certain rituals I had to do before I left the house and so forth.

Q: When did you first feel suicidal?
A: I must have been around 15? That seemed to be a one off until I was 17 where I battled those thoughts on a daily basis. I'm now 20, and these thoughts are few and far between. 

Q: How do you cope with your illness?
A: I currently take anti-depressants (which also help with my anxiety) and I have a mental health mentor at university. Previously, I have been on beta blockers and have had four different stages of mental health counselling and hypnotherapy through the NHS and privately. My mum is my life saver and without her, I'm certain I wouldn't be here. Talking is important!

Q: Have you ever self harmed?
A: Yes, but this isn't often. However, I know for others that it can be a regular occurrence. 

Q: Have you experienced stigma?
A: Yes - luckily not as much as some people. It's something we as a community need to work on. 

Q: How did/does it affect you?
A: Although I feel I am over half way to my recovery, sometimes I find myself too anxious to go to university and sometimes I can still struggle with transport and other daily tasks. Health anxiety is part of my daily routine and depression can rear it's ugly head now and then, alongside suicidal thoughts. It used to crippling to the point where I couldn't leave my house, go to school, walk to the end of the road, catch public transport and so on.

Q: Any mental health memories?
A: Although I have some clear bad episodes of depression and anxiety that I will never forget, I will always remember the achievements and the day that my medication kicked in. It was the first time in 1 - 2 years that I felt happy! In fact looking back at my journal the other day, made me realise how far I have come! 

Q: Anything else you'd like to write?
A: Looking back, I realise how bad I was. I was beginning to run out of options available to me. I remember many a time I felt I had lost my mind and was speaking to doctor about further options to take because I was so hopeless and felt nothing was working. I want you know, that it does get better even if you think it never will. Just hold on in there. Talking is so important too. My blog here contains a lot of advice and support and I'm always available to talk to through my various social media. I feel I'm a at a good stage in my recovery and hoping to be able to come off my medication soon. I hope you can feel better too.

Wishing you all the best for your journey,
Amy Xx

My mental health view

Growing up with mental illness and also speaking to others who have mental illness has led me to notice a few things about the services offered and I thought I'd share my two cents on the matter.

I find firstly the mental health services available less than satisfactory. For those who want to access services on the NHS have a very long wait, in which time mental illness could have deteriorated to the point which could become dangerous. When I applied to the NHS, I had a 7 month waiting list in which time my mental health was getting so much worse that I had to find private counselling. For a lot of people I know that it wont be possible because of the price. In this period of waiting, people's health is deteriorating and people are even dying. I find this utterly disgraceful. More money needs to be put into such services to decrease waiting times and to start helping people before it's too late. 

Similarly there are not enough beds for people who need urgent help and this is causing a grave problem for people who are struggling and are left in the community and trying to cope.

I also find GP's awareness of mental health causes massive problems. Often when people go to the doctors about their mental health get told that it's nothing significant and it isn't taken seriously. Although my first doctor I met understood what was happening, I was told about counselling services that didn't exist. Similarly, other doctors I have encountered have been really insensitive. However, the doctor I am currently seeing is amazing and understands what I am going through. However, I find it extremely important that all doctors are trained in mental health so that less people are turned away, struggling and on their own being told that their problems are 'part of growing up' or that it's not important. 

Currently I feel there is not enough help for people with mental health issues. More money needs to be injected. However, hopefully with the increase in awareness there will be an improvement of services. 

Amy Xx

Step by step

Sometimes people come to me for advice for their anxiety and depression. What I tend to say seems to follow a similar formula and step by step process. To help more of you, I thought I would share this guide with you. Please remember that I am not a doctor, and this is based upon my own experience.

A lot of the time, people who ask me for advice have never had any help for their illness and so I suggest the following:
  • Talk - talking is key. A lot of people don't like to talk about their mental illness because they feel ashamed or because they don't want to burden their family and friends. I strongly advise people to talk because bottling things up will cause more damage than good. The people who support you in your everyday life, love you very much and will want to support you through your illness. Please try not to see it as a burden. If you found out that a friend or family member was ill and they didn't tell you, you would've wanted to know and wanted to help them. I know it's scary, but please try to talk through your problems. I know if I didn't, I wouldn't be here today.
  • See you doctor - If people have never sought any professional advice before, I suggest that they see their doctor to get on the road to recovery. Your doctor will have access to services and can refer you if need be. I know it's scary to talk to your doctor, but it's very important to do so. Remember that not all doctors are trained in mental health and the first doctor you see may not understand. Don't give up, see another doctor to see if they will be more understanding. 
  • Counselling - usually doctors will advise counselling as a first step. Here in the UK there is a long waiting list on the NHS, nevertheless it is important to sign up because the services they offer are really beneficial. You can also find other counselling services in your area, online. Counselling can allow you to get to the root of your problems and hopefully get you on your way to recovery.
  • Lifestyle changes - I know lots of people recommend lifestyle changes, which I don't completely agree with. I feel that something simple as a lifestyle change cannot help people with mental illness and counselling and medication may be the way forward. However, little changes such as diet, exercise and yoga for example can all help in their own ways.
  • Medication - medication for me was a final step. I had followed all of the steps I have just written and I was still severely depressed and anxious. I couldn't keep living the way I was. Although I didn't want to take medication in the first place, I am extremely happy I did because it has changed my life for the better. Your doctor will be able to help you with this and if at first the medication doesn't work, you can always try another.
Don't be ashamed. Be proud,
Amy Xx

My Buddy Box

I was so excited when I got contacted to review Blurt Foundation's Buddy Box. For those of you who don't know, Blurt Foundation is an organisation that is helping people through their mental illnesses, namely depression. Not too long along ago, they set up a monthly box which they send to their subscribers filled with a range of different things to help you through that month and continue to help you battle your struggles. I like to think that it's a hug in a box. Although it won't solve your mental illness, it certainly does help to have things that can help you through it. I'm really happy that such a service exists because I forever see boxes for beauty, but I have never seen one dedicated to those who are affected by depression. I can't wait to try all of the items included and see how they help me along my way. 

This month's box included a notebook and pencil, some tea, some seaweed for the bath, some postcards and an origami set. I will certainly be using the notebook and pencil as I am always writing, as for the seaweed I find having baths as a great way to reduce anxiety and so I will try it next time round. Tea is also another calming method I use - I always find it it to be a cuddle in a cup. However, I've never tried this flavour so it will be all new to me. And finally, I used to do origami when I was younger, but I gave it up. I never seem to do many things that are creative these days so perhaps this is a sign to get back into something like this. It's also a great way to take a step back from the day and have some time not think about the world around you. 

I am really impressed with this box and I think it will help many people. If you're interested in becoming a subscriber or wish to get a box for someone you love, then click, here.

Thanks again,

Guest post: Khiron House

Now and then I have the occasional guest post here on my blog, and today's post is from Khiron house. I hope reading both this blog post and mine on tips to help with anxiety, will help with your recovery.

9 steps to deal with anxiety

Dealing with anxiety every day can feel like a losing battle, especially when you feel like you’re the only person dealing with it. In the UK it has been estimated one in six people will suffer anxiety or depression every year. It’s important to know that you’re not alone and there are many ways to help you deal with anxiety.

Here are nine steps you can introduce into your daily life to help reduce anxiety and chances of having a panic attack.

1) Be early

At any event, make an effort to get there early so you’re not rushing. Being afraid or nervous about being late to an appointment can make you feel really stressed. You can avoid this by making sure you set off early so you can erase any possibility of being late.

2) Follow a routine

You can sometimes feel stressed if your plans get thrown off course, whilst you can’t always control your daily schedule, you can try to follow a routine that can minimise any stressful situations from rising up. 

3) Start the day positive

I understand this one is not always easy. But, if you can start the day on a positive note, it can help pave the rest of your day. Before you even get out of bed, think about three positive things: these can be three things you’re thankful for or three things that make you smile (like that cute puppy video you watched the other day). This simple daily routine can relieve stress and naturally make you feel happy.

4) Get plenty of sleep

Getting enough sleep is important for many reasons. Along with benefiting your health, sleep can also benefit your attitude and dispel any negative feelings. When you’ve had a bad night’s sleep you can sometimes feel sensitive and easily stressed, but getting enough sleep can contribute toward having a positive outlook.

5) Exercise

Doing daily exercise has been proven to help with anxiety. Yoga is regularly recommended because it’s a soft and relaxing exercise. Yoga helps stretch your muscles, relieve stress and the controlled breathing summons a wonderful feeling of calmness and serenity.

6) Avoid caffeine

I understand you might enjoy your cup of coffee in the morning but caffeine can make you feel even more stressed. Studies have shown that caffeine can inhibit the way you cope with anxiety and can provoke panic attacks. Instead of caffeine, get plenty of sleep or try exercise as that helps reduce stress and releases endorphins.

7) Write it down

Get in a habit of writing your thoughts and feelings down. Writing is a recommended therapy when dealing with anxiety because you can write down your worries and it helps you process those moments. Keep a journal with you or wait until you get home in the evening to write down what you did that day.

8) Controlled breathing

Often you can calm your nerves with a simple breathing technique. Take a smooth, deep breath through your nose, feel your diaphragm stretch. Hold it for a moment. Then slowly release the air through your mouth. Repeat the technique. Focus on your breathing. Controlled breathing exercises relieves stress and helps calm anxiety. You can do the breathing technique standing or sitting, but personally I find it easier to stand.

9) Speak to a therapist

The process of talking to someone can be very beneficial when you’re dealing with anxiety. Speaking to friends and family is always recommended but if you find it hard to talk to them, try speaking to a therapist. Seeing a trained therapist on a regular occasion can be therapeutic and they can offer advice on how to treat your anxiety.

There are many ways to deal with anxiety, don’t let it take over your life.

If you would like me to write a guest post for your magazine/website etc, then please get in touch. Similarly, if you would like to write a blog post for my blog, do get in touch! You're welcome to email me.

The past can change you forever

I was talking to my counsellor the other day about how I feel that I should have gotten over a traumatic experience that happened to me back when I was seven years old. I kept saying that as a twenty year old, I should be able to have the strength to not let it affect me any more and I feel angry that it still manages to be present in my every day life. My counsellor suggested an analogy and said for me to imagine a burn on my arm. You wouldn't just put your arm in a box and ignore it, rather you would try to heal it and make it better and in the same way, when a piece of your past raises its head, you mustn't put it down and feel bad for it appearing, but care for it and let the feelings flow. Although, this is important to do, I still can't help the feeling of frustration that the past still affects me so much. To this day, I am still haunted by it because there hasn't been a time where I have had a full and understanding closure, but rather a continuation of harm and hurt to which I cannot heal.

But, I had the choice from that day to let it affect me to the core, or to try and get through it and that's what I've done. To this day, I have accomplished so much in regards to my anxiety, depression and other family issues that have made daily life an incredible struggle and I am proud. On the other side, I know that the past will always be with me, as hard as I try to let it go or put it away. If the person still acts in a way that is detrimental, it is still going to be with me. But, this doesn't mean that we have no choice. You have the strength to get to where you want to be, regardless.

Even though the traumatic events that I faced as young child have caused me problems and changed me for the rest of my life. I know that the events have caused me issues with mental illness, with health anxiety, with relationship struggles, with trust and with shutting down to protect myself. I know that and as much as I hate it, I must continue to battle to get where I want to be. 

I want you to know, that you can do it too. It may take everything in your power to get through it, but you have the strength to beat your past. Even if your past may be part of your journey, it doesn't mean that's the end. 

Amy Xx

Not another thought

How many times have you second guessed your actions? Not just once, but even hundreds of times? I know I have.

At the beginning of my mental illness journey, I second guessed everything I did. I spent hours thinking about what could happen to me. I always came to the conclusion that something bad was going to happen to me, which was drawn from my irrational thoughts and I know I'm not the only one who experiences this. It meant that I would have panic attacks when I tried to leave the house, catch a bus, go to school and so on. Any task was a challenge. 

If I compare this to now, I can automatically walk out of the front door and catch buses. All of those struggles I used to battle for hours before I could tackle them, are now a natural part of my life and hold little to no problem. I don't have a second thought about what if's and even if I do, I can control these thoughts. 

There are areas of my life which still do cause me panic and lots of thinking, which usually comes in the form of health anxiety or societies, for example and it is something that I am working on. Nevertheless, it's awfully strange to think that just a few years ago I spent hours debating whether or not I had the strength to walk out of the door and now it's such a natural process. I am proud of how far I have come and you should also be proud of yourself! Progress does happen, even if you feel it never will. One day, a struggle that once cut you up inside, will not even be a worry in your head. It's almost magical.

Amy Xx