Festival Time

So Leeds Festival is quickly approaching, and i’m going to be there for the whole weekend. I’m so excited to see Biffy Clyro & the Chili Peppers, and haven’t been to festival since 2012. I normally write about my anxiety, and it will certainly be at an all time high at Leeds Fest… but i’m much more worried about my physical health, something I usually don’t write about.

I have a bad back – a combination of scoliosis (suffered since I was quite young) and an issue with my sacroiliac joint (a newer development) which in recent weeks has left me in tears, and occasionally, literally unable to sit up unaided. And no matter how much I’m told in disbelief from friends and family ‘ you shouldn’t have back problems at your age’, I do, and it really bloody hurts!

Festivals include a lot of standing, which can be a pain for anyone. Sure, you can sit on the grass (weather permitting though?), but there’s no back support there. The campsite will likely be some distance form the arena, and we’ll be on our feet all day. But quite possible he worst part will be be dragging our stuff to set up in the campsite. Our tent is ridiculously heavy, I have a massive rucksack just for bedding and clothes, and then we also have food and drink. Quite a lot of drink.

The back pain is currently at an intermediate level, and I’ve been prescribed Naproxen. I’ve ordered a sack truck to try and put all of my stuff on, and the anticipated pain seems to be keeping at bay any worry and anxiety about the masses of people that will be there.

77 hours until we set off for Bramham Park.

I’m packed, but certainly not ready.

I have prepared so far with all the painkillers I can get my hands on, stick on heat pads, voltarol, deep heat and a  back support brace. I don’t think this will be enough.

 

The first year alone

So I realised last night that it has now been one year since I have had any help with my anxiety at all. I basically went cold turkey, and it wasn’t out of choice.

At university I was finally diagnosed, after knowing for years that I had anxiety disorders. The 3 years of study were hard, but Bangor University was so supportive. So for 2 years I had the help of my GP – who constantly monitored my levels of Citalopram needed. We raised and lowered my dosage according to how I was feeling.

I had therapy in multiple forms – the university counselling service was absolutely brilliant, easy to access and free to use. I tried out a number of techniques (which I am thinking of writing about soon), but my favourites were a mixture of CBT and mindfulness.

I’m also super grateful for the Psychology department. Being surrounded by people who had knowledge of mental illness made being open about my illness a bit easier. Being at home around people who often have little knowledge, or even believe in false information about mental illness makes me feel very isolated.

But one of the most important parts of support I had was a one to one mentor, who I could arrange to meet whenever I wanted. She was absolutely amazing. She wouldn’t hesitate to help me with anything, whether it be related to my uni work, or personal life. She was a non-judgemental person, ready to listen to everything. All we really did was drink tea and talk. But every other day I met up with her, and it got me out of the house and made sure I presentable. If there was a phone call I couldn’t make, or an email I was too scared to write she would be there, never pushing me to do it myself, but doing it for me as an example for me to follow. She had a Psychology degree herself, and even gave me some of her old work to help me with my dissertation.

After finishing uni last summer all this support was pulled away, and I moved back to Yorkshire. After running out of Citalopram on holiday, and having trouble registering with the local Doctors, I stopped taking medication altogether.

I no longer have any therapy as this was provided by the university. My mentor was funded through Disabled Student Allowance. There are no local Mindfulness sessions. I can’t even see a doctor locally most of the time. I thought life after university would get easier, but it’s as hard as ever. I’ve dragged myself through this last year, and just need to keep going.

Unemployed… again.

I am 22. I have 11 great GSCEs, 3 A levels, and a 1st Class Honours Degree in Psychology. I am also unemployed.

I have had 5 jobs in my life so far. And I’ve not loved any of them. I would like to blame this on Social Anxiety Disorder. It certainly feels as though I’ve either lost or been forced to leave 3 jobs due to my anxiety.

How do people with social anxiety work anyway? And how do you get over being told you zone out and work too slowly when this is related to your generalised anxiety disorder? It takes me a little longer to make decisions because I like to think of every possible outcome. I have a fear of getting things wrong.

I often don’t have much trouble talking about mental illness to other people. Whether I’m talking in general, or about myself, I find it easy – the Psychology degree certainly helped with that. But in my last job I never had an opportunity to let anyone know about my anxiety disorders. And that could have potentially lost me my job.

Now I don’t know what I want to do, or where to turn. So if I could just stay at home and get paid for doing so that would be great….

….Right. Enough of being down. Time to work on my C.V. !

Happiness is easy

Where I find happiness

In the sunlight

In the stars

In smiles

In fur babies – mine and anyone else’s

In achieving things i doubted I could do

In  long walks

In nature

In being hugged

In eating chocolate

In helping others

In a good bookshop

In independence

In family

In love 

In life.

 

 

I’ll work on it

Looking back I can see I often come here when I’m down. I’ve previously said this is one of my coping methods, a release of my internal screams. I guess that’s why I’m here again unfortunately.

Everything was wonderful, I’ve just been away for a fortnight with my boyfriend of four and a half years. We hugged dolphins and swam with sea lions, ate as much as we wanted, and played Pokemon Go down the marina. It was amazing.

Then everything came crashing down.

The penultimate day we got a message that my hamster had died. It broke my walls down completely, everything I’d put up to keep the anxiety and depression out was smashed to dust. It was as though my ‘sane-ness’ was tethered to that little animal. I wouldn’t talk, or drink, or eat. It was my first real breakdown I’d experienced in 5 months.

Yesterday I went back to work, only to be told that I no longer have a job. I wasn’t dismissed completely unreasonably, it was the end of my probation period. But the reasons behind the dismissal resonated clearly with my anxiety disorder – not making quick enough decisions, seeming zoned out whilst thinking, not being motivated enough.

But it hasn’t broken me the same. I was already broken days ago. There was no wall to break. Instead this will make me stronger. I’ll build on my mistakes. The one positive I went away with is that my telephone manner is ‘brilliant’ – for someone with social anxiety that statement made me so happy. So once again, I’ll take a negative, and turn it into a positive. The job was more experience on my CV. It was a chance to improve myself – and I did. I’m no longer so scared of phone conversations with strangers.

So I think I’ll try and think about things more positively, without hiding behind the facade I often place. And this is the start (well, i’ll work on it) – i’ll write here about positive things too 🙂

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Desk zombie

1 month into another new job, and I’m finally feeling as though I got it right! The phone calls here don’t scare me so much – but then working in a call centre for 4 months can do that to you I suppose.

Although I do worry about my commute every day. A 10 minute drive to the train station, 25 minute ride on the most ridiculously full trains I’ve ever been on, then a 15 minute walk to work through the busy city centre, crossing roads I can barely comprehend… sometimes the roads intimidate me so much I cheat, and get the bus. And the location means I don’t really like to go out at lunch. So here I am, a semi-anxious desk zombie, eating a salad that tastes awful.

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Spin it to a positive

Think of your negatives. Now turn them into a positive.... That’s the most important thing I took from the last counselling session I attended at university. And it works, once you start turning everything around you feel better. It didn’t work for me immediately,  and is definitely something you have to stick to, but over time it has helped.

I have social anxiety disorder. I’m scared of talking to people, scared of being judged. I also have generalised anxiety disorder. I worry far too much about everything. But being reserved may mean I’m more approachable, and one on one I can talk to people really quite well. I worry a lot, but I plan, to ensure I’m not out of my comfort zone. As such I’m always on time and very prepared. There, more positive already.

So what I’m trying to say is don’t get yourself pulled down with what your bad at. There will be a way to put a positive spin on it. I often think of the fact that I pretend to be somebody else in a very negative light. But acting is one of my coping methods. Just recently I’ve had 2 interviews with top companies, in a field I really want to be involved in. ‘Pretending’ to be confident makes me actually confident. And as such whilst just acting, in reality I’m practicing, and eventually it gets easier. So in reality pretending to be someone that I want to be makes me that person. As such it’s a positive.

So starting small, with changing just one negative into a positive has helped me see things so differently. That’s not to say that I can fight my depression or really bad days with this technique, but the good days are simply better.

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Fight the negatives…. or bite them?

The courage to complain

Not surprisingly, I’m pretty much terrified to speak out about anything. Whether that’s telling someone that they’re wrong when I know the right answer, telling someone I don’t want to do something, or even just having to tell my boyfriends mum what I want for tea.

I’m pretty scared of just going into the post office and buying stamps. It’s really difficult to go into my favourite shops – Lush and The Body Shop, because the staff, albeit trying to be ‘friendly & helpful’ feel very much in my face, and ‘can I help you’ needs a reply. So the point here is that, in the typical social anxiety way, I’m awful at anything involving other people.

But I’ve just made a major triumph in attempting to do something for myself! Over the past few months my Fitbit Charge had been getting very tatty. Eventually the rubber casing just started peeling away… So after months of being very unhappy I actually emailed the company about the situation! A few photographs, a number of emails, and a day later I had confirmation for a brand new replacement Fitbit to be sent out to me! So with just that little bit of courage to complain I managed to get a successful outcome, and it’s so new and shiny!!

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Now if I could only have the guts to ring up a couple of companies to cancel my monthly subscriptions…

I once held a brain

I once held a human brain in my hands.

It felt cold and smelt awful. It was greying in colour, due to the methods of preservation, and much harder than a brain should feel. Not at all jelly like as I had expected, but not hard like stone. Just an in-between.

I was supposed to be assessing the locations of the different lobes. Feeling down the longitudinal fissure, in order to reach the corpus collosum.  All I could think about was that this strange thing in my hands, this was someone’s life, so don’t let it fall out of your hands, stop those hands from shaking! Dropping it from waist hight would result in an awful mess. I wondered if this person ever had any mental health problems like myself. Those invisible on the outside like social anxiety and depression.

I cradled it gently, not really wanting to pry with my fingers. I looked intently at it, and I tried to think of what that person may have done with their life. I silently thanked them for donating this wonderful part of their body to science. Then I got on with my own life – First class Honours degree in Psychology – Achieved. But what to do with it now?

I’m really stuck with what to do with my life. But thinking back to holding that brain always seems to spur me on just a little bit. That man donated his brain to help improve science, improve the world. So in my own silly little way I feel as though I owe that man at least a little bit of effort….

Living again

The past few months have been terrible. I have been perpetually trapped between two states – being completely hateful, in pain, lonely and utterly depressed, or the better of two – being simply empty, getting batted along by other people, the forces of life. Not really being present at all.

I had barely seen that I never returned to reality, because returning to that zombie state had been such a relief from the pain. It was applying a cold wet towel to a deep burn. A sigh of relief, letting go of that breath I had been holding in for far too long. But not enough to be anywhere near healed. In those months I was scared to write anything. Stupid really, seen as this has always been my own personal type of therapy. But the voice in my head insisted writing about things was wrong, ridiculous. That I couldn’t possibly trouble anyone with what I had to say because it was too dark and would lead to other people being depressed.

My stupid head daemon is always worrying about what other people have to think about me. Classic social anxiety I guess. But it occasionally brings me to a point of not wanting to be here any more. I don’t mean that I want to die. Suicide would require a lot more effort than I had to give anyway. Existing was just something that I wanted to stop. Sometimes I think that’s what my vacant state is. My strange attempt at not existing as much as someone who is still living can.

Never the less, here I am. Writing again. Living. Enjoying the beautiful things that life has to offer. Thank you Richard, for being there, no matter how useless you feel. All you have to do is be there. Thank you to my driving instructor, for your simple and kind small talk. For asking what I want to do with my life and letting me answer honestly without judgement. Yes, I want to be creative, and first thing’s first, I want to write. For shyly asking about my mental health (18 months ago, in my anxiety riddled state I had my first attempt at driving lessons). And one more thanks to you, to leading me to a book that very gently pulled me out of my hole. Finally thank you Matt Haig, for writing ‘Reasons to Stay Alive’. It touched me in a way I didn’t think possible. Made me smile, and cry. Made me laugh at the way it feels as though you’ve spied on my life and wrote about it. Thank you for being truthful, and giving me the hope I needed.

Oh yes, I haven’t forgot about you, thank you for your animal therapy, you furry bundles of love!

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