Guest post: Mary's story

Anxiety: A Half Life

I am thirty years old and I have had anxiety since I was fifteen; I’m assuming there must have been some kind of trigger but I’ve never been able to pin it down to one specific moment in my life. Perhaps that’s not important anyway.
            Anxiety feeling out of control but having to be in control. It’s being afraid but being unable to name the fear.
            I have had anxiety for fifteen years but it feels like forever, I can’t remember how it feels not to have anxiety anymore and I’m terrified this will always be my life. For the last ten years I have been agoraphobic, for six months out of those ten years I couldn’t leave my bedroom, for the last two years I was making progress, getting out with my husband, visiting family – I even made it on a bus!  - but then three months ago I was in town with my mum and had a BIG panic attack, you know the kind where you think you’re going to pass out and be sick? Lovely! As you can imagine I was devastated, it was the first time anxiety had made me go back home in two years and since then I’ve been struggling to do the things I was doing so well at...walking the dogs, going out to town with a I did what I should have done a long time ago – I asked for help.
            I had done this once before in my old town but the mental health service was...less than helpful. I was basically told if you can’t get in to see us we can’t help you – not very helpful for someone suffering with agoraphobia!
            Luckily the new county I live in has an excellent mental health service and I was put on medication, which after a bit of trial and error began to work and appointments were made for me to begin CBT which best of all could be done over the phone!
            I have been on Fluoxetine for a month now and so far I’ve had CBT three times; I’ve learnt that when I thought I was doing well I actually wasn’t because I was using ‘safety behaviours’ such as my MP3, bottle of water, tissues and always having someone with me which meant I wasn’t letting my brain deal with or learn how to cope with anxiety. So now I go out every day without any safety behaviours, so far I can only get to the top of my street but it’s such an achievement for me and my therapist is really happy with my progress; my next aim is to get to the shops by myself and then I’ll be going in a shop, alone for the first time in...far too long!
            It’s hard and it’s horrible because the only way you can get over it is by letting yourself feel the anxiety which is the hardest thing in the world. It’s like if someone was scared of snakes and the only way for them to get over the fear was to stand in a bucket of snakes for one hour...but will it be worth it? YES!

Mary Hoyle


This post may be triggering. Please do not continue reading if you feel it may be. 

According to The phrase ‘self-harm’ is used to describe a wide range of behaviours. Self-harm is often understood to be a physical response to an emotional pain of some kind.' 

Self harm can often come in conjunction with a range mental illnesses, including depression. Although it may provide temporary relief, it's best to try to avoid it if possible because of the way you may feel afterwards - which is often worse. 

Self harming can come in a range of different ways and can be under the umbrella of self harm if it is done purposely. It is also possible for it to become addictive. 

I want you to know that it's nothing to be ashamed of. I know in public, it's something that many people hide by covering up their wrists and body or by staying inside. It's something people would never know about unless you saw it. But, never feel ashamed. You're not weak for self-harming because you are fighting through something so massive that you cannot hold onto the pain.

For some, there is a misunderstanding that it is about attention, and although this may be a very negligible amount, it seems almost incomprehensible that someone would want to harm themselves to such a painful and horrific extent, that it was just for attention. It's well known that it can be a symptom of a range of mental illnesses. 

You and I both know that it's a difficult issue to talk about, but it is so important to talk to someone because there is usually a route cause of the problem. It's easier said than done, but getting help is so important. 

Stay strong. I know it's hard, but you can bounce back. 

I am an adult!

I know that this seems quite silly, but if you're a long time reader of mine then you'll know that I once wrote a post about myself being seven years old and how I keep being dragged back to that period of my life, no matter how old I get. For those of you who are unaware, when I was seven I had deal with a difficult period in my life which has stuck with me. Unfortunately it tends to mean that whenever I am in a situation which makes me anxious, it tends to bring me back to that age. To explain more clearly, one reason why I have never gotten a paid job is because I feel I wouldn't be able to handle it or just break down in front of the customer. Now, this is the seven year old me response, not a 20 year old me response. I know that I could handle it if I needed to, but because it is so subconscious, it is an automatic response for me, which I have tackled over time with CBT, medication and various other therapies. 

Talking to my counsellor recently, I've been reminded that I am an adult. And rather than resorting back to my seven year old me, I can instead look after my younger self, but protect her and tell her everything will be okay. It's like taking your little sister to the shop - you as an adult would say that you'll be there with her and will help her with anything she needs and this is exactly the same with how I'm supposed to look after my 'younger self'.

Taking this in mind, I remind myself every day that I am an adult. I say this to myself. Although this sounds silly, it really is important for me to do because it allows me to overcome my subconscious mind and react and be in control in a way which is relative to my age. It helps me immensely. It reminds me that I'm not that shy seven year old any more with little confidence, I am an adult who is paying rent and bills, driving and travelling.

What's your view?
Amy Xx

Breaking a habit of a lifetime

Last month, I took a break with my family and friends to a lovely house near the coast. This was during the Easter break and I was extremely reluctant to go because I hate things being out my routine. Although the thought of it seemed lovely, I just felt so uncomfortable knowing that I wasn't going to be home during this time and that it was something that I wouldn't usually do in such a small break at home. Although I usually don't do things that would put me out of sorts, I thought I would go because I was invited and it would've have been rude not to, alongside the fact that I didn't want to lose any time that I would have spent with friends and family. 

I did end up going, and I have to say that I had a fantastic time. It was lovely to take a break away from my usual routine and now I know what its like, I would go again! It was nice to be away from the hustle and bustle and experience new things. It did really help me to clear my head too. It just showed me that being stuck in the same routine, however safe you may feel, doesn't always mean that it will be the most beneficial thing to do. As I experienced, It didn't make me feel that unstable at all, which was lovely. 

What do you think?
Let me know! 
Amy Xx

Amy's update

Hello guys,

I thought I would take this opportunity to update you as to what is going on in my life. 

I'm currently in the middle of my summer exams for my second year of studying law at university and I can't believe I've pretty much finished second year. If all goes according to plan, I will be graduating next year! It's really weird because it doesn't seem that long ago that I was in sixth form.

I'm also currently searching for summer paid jobs for when I come home from university. This will be the first time I have had a paid job and it's my top trigger for my anxiety. I have done my fair amount of voluntary work to build up to this and now I feel that it's my time to tackle this trigger. Hopefully all goes according to plan.

I will also be driving alone for the first time this Summer. As many of you know, I have now passed my driving test and I now have the chance to take this to the road, so to speak! This is another anxiety provoking thing for me, but yet again I feel it's time to battle this.

I'm also going travelling a fair bit this summer, which is super exciting. Travelling is one of my favourite things to do and I find it way more important to spend money on experiences than material things. It will be my first holiday abroad with my boyfriend and then, my friends. I know I managed to get back from Germany by myself last year, so I'm looking forward to seeing what these holidays can bring. 

I'm also now the president of my university's mental health society. I'm hoping that I can really make a change to those who are suffering in silence. It's going to be a lot of hard work, but it's something I'm really passionate about.

All of this takes time, and I didn't think I would ever get to stage where I would feel that I could tackle these things. Don't get me wrong, I certainly feel out of my comfort zone when approaching these things, but I feel capable of overcoming them. You too will get there.

Amy Xx

I'll never get a job

I find that one of the main reasons people struggling secretly with their mental health is because of the fear that they won't be able to get a job. I was once one of those people too, but now I don't necessarily see it in the same way. People feel that by declaring that they have a mental illness, or by it being on their doctor's notes, that they won't be able to get a job because people will see them in a different light to the rest of their colleagues or applicants. 

Firstly, it's important to note that there are discrimination laws which makes it illegal for a company to stigmatise you based upon your mental illness. As far as I am aware, you can take them to court if you find this happening. Secondly, I know a lot of people who are currently in jobs who have mental illnesses and are coping just fine. I have also had various types of work experience and volunteering and I haven't been asked about my mental health and if I have declared it, it hasn't been an issue.

Ultimately, the main question you have to ask yourself, is whether you want to live your life in pain whilst having the knowledge that you may or may not get hired regardless of your mental illness, or would you rather live a happy life with the high chance of a full recovery, having been diagnosed with a mental illness and still having the possibility of getting a job? I chose the latter, and I wouldn't have it any other way. 

What do you think? Do you have any extra information on this matter? 

Amy Xx

Something different | Win £150!

Hello guys,

So this post is very different to what I usually do, but I thought that some of you may be interested. I have recently been contacted to see if my readers would like to be involved in a competition for the chance to win £150 to spend at brand attic. 

For those of you who don't know, Brand Attic is a fashion company. So, you'd get to spend the £150 on a lovely new wardrobe for yourself, whether you're into men's or women's fashion.

All you have to do, to be in with the chance to win this £150 is to enter the competition, by clicking here.

Have you entered? Let me know!

Best Wishes,
Amy Xx

I should?

I've always been hard on myself. My best has never been good enough and even when I had done something well, I never let myself revel in it for too long before I move on to what I think should be my next improvement. 

I found myself talking to my counsellor about this and I also wrote about this in a previous post, that I should be over a traumatic experience by now, I should have a paid job by now and the list could go on. I'm forever searching for ways to be better and although we should all strive to become better people, I find that it is becoming detrimental that I am never feeling that I am good enough or if I do well and I don't give myself a chance to celebrate. It was suggested that part of the reason for this may be because I don't like attention drawn to me, thus I tend to move on quickly from achievements. It's hard to dwell too much on what I've achieved and it's probably about time that I did. 

I feel that the more pressure we put on ourselves in regards to our lives and mental illnesses, the worse we are going to feel. There is no one else out there telling me what I should be doing and what I should overcome because I am on my own journey and I am not competing with others. We all have our individual qualities, and what we may think are aspects that we need to improve about ourselves, may be someone else's goal. It's important to give yourself credit for what you have achieved as mental illness is an extremely hard battle. It may take a lot of willpower to take the stress off of yourself and allow yourself to stretch out and accept the strength that you have - I know it will for me. I have been trying to be easier on myself for many years and although I have improved a bit, it is still really hard for me to let go of that niggling voice that is telling me to do more and to be better. But, it is possible to improve and I hope you can join me on this journey. 

Let's try to take some time to reflect on all of things we are proud of and all of things we have achieved. You may be surprised at how well you have done. 

Amy Xx

Negative to positive

Mental illness is a horrible disease. It kills, it destroys people's lives and it doesn't have concern for who it attacks next. 

I can safely say that during darkest depths of my depression, suicidal thoughts and anxiety, it was hell on earth and even to this day I can still struggle.  But in a strange way, I feel it has made me who I am. I feel perhaps without this challenge in my life, I might not have achieved all of the things that anxiety has made me do. I feel if I hadn't been on this journey, then I wouldn't have gotten to the level of strength that I have today. I don't think I would have ever gotten out of my comfort zone and I reckon I would still be super shy with no driving license, without voluntary work and with never travelling by myself. Although this condition is so very detrimental, without the challenges that I had to overcome to live my life, I think I would still be doing very little and I think a lot of experiences I would have missed too, so in this way I am grateful.

I think it's important to see what your journey has brought you. Even with all the hell that you have been through, looking to see if there has been any miraculous times during struggle, might help you. I think you will surprised as to what you might find. 

Be proud,
Amy Xx