Category Archives: Mental Health

Mental Health Update: I’d rather be happy than normal

People keep saying to me “look at all you’ve been through, look at all you’ve survived, you’re stronger than most”. But I don’t feel strong or stronger than the average person. I just feel human. I don’t think I’ve really gone through more things than the average person does in their life, maybe my bad things have all been squished together into a shorter timeframe. I’d like to think so, if that’s what’s happened, the next few years should be fantastically carefree. But I doubt it.

I’ve spent this evening reading back through old blog posts. Reading the thoughts and feelings I had in 2013/14 when I was really struggling with my mental health and anxiety. To this day I’ve no real idea how I didn’t do myself a serious mischief, but I had good friends who kept me in line as best they could. Without my friends I would have been a complete disaster.

Looking back has given me the chance to reflect on how far I’ve come and how incredibly stable I am these days. I’m quite a bit more boring too, but I think a bit of boring suits me right now.

I’ve always enjoyed going out and painting the town red, but after my Dad died in June I had a word with myself and for the sake of my sanity I decided to focus on my family more and not go out as much, after all, they were grieving just as much as I was. It’s a tactic which has paid off, we are all closer, good things are happening and home feels like a great place to be right now.

I’ve been trying to be an uber-mum and a wonder-wife. Importantly, I’ve been trying to be kinder to myself. I’ve had spa weekends with friends, the occasional night out, a wonderful weekend away with my husband. I’ve had a trip to River Cottage, I’ve taken the boy on some magical adventures and I’ve just done things which make my heart glad. I have plans for more things which will make me and my family happy too.

For years my life has been without balance. There’s a lot of talk about work-life balance and I’ve had it wrong all along. Before Ben came along I worked hard and played hard. Once he arrived I began to struggle to be the girl who loved work, enjoyed going out, to be the wife and the mother, the girl who could do it all. It quickly became apparent that I couldn’t do it all and that I was human after all. Fate intervened and the balance shifted, but I still didn’t have it right.

To be the best me I can be I need to up my mum game. I need to be a better, more supportive wife. I need not to work as hard. I need long walks in the fresh air and decent coffee. I need laughter and love. I need my friends and I need to spend more time doing the things that make me happy, rather than the things I’ve felt I needed to do just to get by. I think focussing on being happy rather than my to do list will eventually force the balance to shift.

It’s good to look back sometimes, to see the person I was and to compare and contrast with the Jane who is sitting here today. I am different. I’m stronger, maybe a little jaded and frayed around the edges. But I’m so proud of myself for pulling myself out of the mire and for just putting one foot in front of the other at a time when that felt almost impossible.

It would’ve been so easy to throw in the towel. I’m glad I didn’t because where I am today is so far beyond how I was back then. I’m no stronger than anyone else, I’m no more resilient. I’m just human and we are born to survive.

Mental Health Update: I'd rather be happy than normal - stronger

What’s it like being an Emotional Empath?

There are people in this world who will take advantage of your kindness and care. As an emotional empath there are certain kinds of people who pick up on that and take advantage of my sensitive, caring and giving nature.

I identify as an Emotional Empath, if you’ve not heard that term before, Karla Mclaren defines it here –

An ‘emotional empath’ is “someone who is aware that he or she reads emotions, nuance, subtexts, undercurrents, intentions, thoughts, social pace, interactions, relationship behaviours, body language, and gestural language to a greater degree than is deemed normal.”

Being an emotional empath means I am attuned to other people’s feelings and sensitivities on a level above and beyond the average. All my life people have said things like I’m a good listener, or I give great advice. People find it easy to open up to me and tell me their deepest darkest secrets. It can feel like a real honour to be the one person someone feels able to confide in. 

The downside is that sometimes people can overburden me with their problems. Sometimes people can be a real drain on my emotional energy and it’s exhausting. It’s easy to burn out emotionally when someone leans on me too hard. I just have to take a step back, I can’t be the emotional crutch for the world.

Emotional empaths are highly attuned to the emotions of the people around them. Often instinctively knowing that there is more to a story than meets the eye.  We are emotionally drained by crowds, noise, smells and being talked at or bombarded with text messages, and we need time alone to recover ourselves. 

I am very open with my feelings, I talk about them to everyone, I cry in public. I am highly sensitive, probably too sensitive and I pick up on so much around me. It can be exhausting.

I have learned to manage it to a degree. When I recognised that I was an emotional empath a few years ago, I read around it, spoke to a few people and I began to understand myself a bit better. I understood why I act and react the way I do and why I attract emotional vampires (people who instinctively see the empath in me, and take advantage of that) and how I can take steps to stop that happening.

I see my heightened empathy as a gift and a curse. I can’t imagine being any different. It’s a nice thing to be able to be there for people when they need someone to care and listen. But it can be overwhelming to be constantly aware of everyone else’s emotions swirling around me.

I used to think I was too sensitive for my own good, but in so many ways it’s good to be sensitive. Learning to listen to the intuitive voice inside me makes me a better person. It can be exhausting, but being an emotional empath is a powerful gift, and one I wouldn’t change.

emotional empath

How the playground makes my social anxiety worse

I’m sorry my social anxiety makes you feel uncomfortable. I am a huge introvert with an anxiety disorder, it’s the perfect storm which makes social situations a real challenge for me. I know I’m not the only one who struggles, but sometimes it can feel that way.

Walking into any social situation makes me anxious. Even if I’m meeting good friends for a drink I can be anxious and struggle to speak. Busy places and crowds make it worse. Going out is a real love/hate thing for me and I suspect working from home and the social isolation that brings probably makes that worse. 

Last week I went out for a drink with a friend, our children go to school together. We had a very lovely evening with minimal social anxiety. Later that week I bumped into her in the playground and something awkward in my brain kicked in and I could hardly speak or make eye contact with her. It’s not deliberate, it’s something inside of me.

Doing the school run and being in the playground is a real challenge for me. As soon as I turn the corner to go to the school at hometime I start to feel incredibly anxious. I know my mission – to locate and extract my child as quickly and safely as possible without me getting spoken to by his teacher, without him running off and without either of us causing a scene. 

I try and time it just so, so I am there half a minute before he leaves the building and I’m positioned so I can grab him and leave. There are a few mums I get on really well with, but in the confines of the playground I suddenly become near mute and struggle to make conversation with them.

I usually wear sunglasses, partly because I don’t want wrinkles and partly because it means I can avoid eye contact. Eye contact means conversation, conversation means realising I can’t speak and I end up looking and feeling like an idiot. I also have terrible eyesight, so if you’re more than a few metres away from me then you’re just a fuzzy shape and it can look like I’m giving you the stink eye. I’m not.

I know my behaviour probably marks me out as weird, I don’t know what I can do about that. When I first got to know some people I told them about my social anxiety and that it was me and not them, so most of my good friends know that on a one to one basis I’m usually fine, and that I’m fun and I can string lots of sentences together. In a social situation – the playground, a party, whatever, not so much.

I don’t think it’s the sort of situation I can easily manage. The playground will typically have a hundred or more people in it, you never know who you will see there so you can’t mentally prepare and run through the list of small talk questions you might have if you were going for a coffee with one of them. 

So I appear at the last minute. I wear my sunglasses so no one can look me in the eye. I fake some confident person in a rush body language and I extract and escape with the small boy as quickly as I can. It’s the only way I know to survive the school run and the crippling social anxiety it brings me. 

It’s pretty uncomfortable knowing that almost daily I’m in a situation where I can hardly make eye contact with or speak to my friends, let alone anyone else. I know that my trying to keep my head down has made some people feel like I’m anti-social or stuck up, but it’s very much the opposite. So I’m sorry if my social anxiety has made you feel uncomfortable, it’s pretty uncomfortable just being me.

social anxiety

Similar blog post – Mean girls – how playgroup destroyed my confidence

Review: Mindfun Tees – Adult Colouring T-Shirts

If you’re a regular reader of my blog you’ll know that I’ve had a tough time of things lately. I’ve been struggling to keep my spirits up and to start to heal my grieving heart. Just before my dad died I was sent a Mindfun Tee to review. It sat waiting for me on the kitchen table for a few weeks whilst I was being swept away and dragged under by waves of grief and emotion. 

One day I walked into the kitchen, opened the package and took a closer look at it. I immediately sat down and began colouring.

mindfun

Adult colouring books have been huge in recent years and this is a similar thing but on a t-shirt. Mindfun Tees are unique t-shirts designed to help people relax and unwind. There are lots of designs to choose from and they come with a selection of coloured fabric pens and some simple instructions.

To start, put the instruction card inside the t-shirt so the ink from the pens doesn’t leak through to the other side of the t-shirt. My top tip would be do one colour at a time and leave it to dry. Where I coloured in different colours next to each other while the ink was still wet the colour sometimes leaked a little across the line. It wasn’t a disaster, but if you’re a perfectionist you might get a bit twitchy.

Over a few days I would wander into the kitchen and do some colouring in each day. It really did help me take my mind off things and mentally zone out for a little while. Although I had a whole skull design to colour in, I quite liked just picking out some of the details and colouring them in. 

Once I’d finished and I was happy with it, I ironed the reverse of the t-shirt and it was good to go. Here’s the finished article as modelled by my lovely husband.

Mindfun Tees

I think it looks pretty cool.

The t-shirts they use are lovely, good quality t-shirts. The material is nice and thick, made from 100% cotton and the stitching looks good. There are a huge range of designs to choose from and the prices are £11.99-£23.99 depending on the size and design you choose. The price includes everything you will need, including the fabric pens.

As the t-shirts come in both child and adult sizes, with a number of appealing designs suitable for children, I think these would make an interesting gift for a child, and it would be something kids would enjoy doing, especially if they can let their imaginations run wild with the colouring of it.

Mindfun Tees are launching a campaign called “Outside The Lines”. The idea behind “Outside The Lines” is to promote a sense of not staying inside the box, it allows people to express who they are while helping them to switch off and unwind after a long day. They offer a safe space for people to share their story through their creativity and the Mindfun Tees designs.

The Mindfun Tees are a lovely product at a good price. The simple act of focusing on a creative activity, even for a few minutes a day has been a great help to me at a time when I needed a little distraction. I was pleased with what I produced and hubs liked his t-shirt too. It was a winner!

For more information about Mindfun Tees visit their website.

 

Anxiety spiral. Make it stop.

I feel like a bit of a fraud. There are people around me with real problems making a better fist of this life than me. Yes, ok so I got dealt a bad hand, but life could be a helluva lot worse and I feel like I’m full of first world problems and petty rubbish.

Right now I’m feeling overwhelmed by life. Struggling to cling onto the safety raft, my fingers keep slipping and I keep floating away before someone grabs me and pulls me back. Drowning, I feel like I’m drowning. I’ve felt like this for a couple of weeks, I did think that it was hormonal, but I don’t think it is, not entirely. I did think it was because I’d had a big drink one night, and maybe that didn’t help, because it does negatively affect my mood. I just think I’m overwhelmed and instead of methodically working my way through everything, my brain has just thrown me into the anxiety deep end with a dodgy floatation device.

Here I am, struggling to focus, struggling to breathe, my mind racing and racing and racing. There are real people with real problems and I can’t breathe and I feel so selfish. Anxiety makes you selfish though. It makes you want to scream out and stamp your feet, it overwhelms you and takes over everything you think and do. I’m in another anxiety spiral and I’m tumbling and tumbling through it all. Trapped in the rip tide and I can’t escape it.

The self care kicks in. Pills for sleep. Pills for pain. Caffeine to wake me up. Go for a walk. Walk, keep walking, breathe the fresh air, walk, breathe, walk, repeat until calmer. Do something nice, hug the small boy, laugh together, watch the stars in the sky. Remember how small you are in the universe and how big and important you are to some people. Walk, breathe, walk, love. Be loved. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat until calm.

Repeat until calm. Repeat until calm.

Repeat.

Anxiety spiral

Anxiety, self discovery and all you need is love

The other day Facebook dutifully reminded me that it had been three years since my last spinal operation. Whilst these daily Facebook memories are meant to be a nice thing, perhaps reminding you of lovely memories of years gone by, my reminder that three years ago I was in hospital wasn’t a great one.

On one hand it’s nice to look back and reflect on how far I’ve come since then, but on the other hand it’s an unwelcome reminder of a dark and unhappy time in my life. Three years ago I was a mess, I spent much of the summer in the grip of anxiety and having the worlds longest panic attack. I couldn’t bear to be in the house after eight months of enforced exile and once I got out it was one long non-stop party, all great fun until the hangover kicked in and I was alone with my racing, panicked thoughts again.

During that summer in many ways it was like being a teenager again, always out at parties and on boozy nights out. I was part of an intense little group of friends who propped me up and enabled me in equal measure. I still see them now, though not as often and our nights out are less wild and carefree than they were.

Since 2013 I’ve been on an intense and sometimes painful journey of self discovery, there have been long and intense periods of navel gazing and introspection. I know and understand more about myself and what motivates me than ever. I’ve had therapy and CBT which were useful and useless in varying degrees, but importantly, most importantly, I’ve had very good people around me.

People who have posed questions about me and my actions and what drives me. People who somehow manage to completely understand what is in my heart better than I do. People who love me for who I am and without coddling me, love and support me when I’m down and champion me when I’m up. I am lucky, so bloody lucky.

Some people come and go, but they always leave their fingerprints on my heart however fleeting our friendship. I am intense, I know this, but if you’re my friend I will love you, support you and fight your corner. My best friend (who knows me better than myself) says that I love unconditionally; which is a beautiful, innocent thing, but it does leave me open to bumps and bruises. A slight snub that most people would brush off, a passing remark, a small criticism, it all hurts and scars.

I know I’m not alone in being tender hearted. The world is full of people quietly breaking their hearts over a half imagined injustice. There’s no known cure other than toughening up, but why should I? I have a heart full of pure love, why should I harden it and become like the others? I know I probably sound like some old hippy, banging on about love, but an old hippy once said “all you need is love”, and they might just have been right.

How it feels to be the victim of online bullying & trolling

Tuesday was a funny old day really. I got trolled on Twitter by some men with nothing better to do than pick on someone for being not very feminine. They suggested a number of things about my lifestyle and life choices, but were unnecessarily nasty about it and then patronising when I failed to respond. This is online bullying. I’ve encountered these types before, they were doing it to provoke a reaction, so I gave them none, but it just made me feel very sad and cast a gloomy cloud over my day.

I’m not perfect, but I try where I can to be nice to almost everyone. Online I’m friendly and supportive, occasionally forthright in my opinions, but more often than not I am very happy to see both sides and as a result I rarely get any stick. I’m not used to it, I’m not a fence sitter, but I’m not naturally argumentative. I hate conflict, so when it happens, when people turn on me for no other reason than for their own entertainment, it shocks me and gives me an unwanted shake up.

Of course the right thing to do was to block them and try to give no further thought to it. It’s something or nothing in the grand scheme of things and I doubt they’ll go to bed with anxiety about it twisting in the pit of their stomach.

I’m not even going to attempt to figure out why randomers are mean to people on the Internet. If I was putting myself out there with maybe a slightly outlandish political opinion, or I was inviting heated debate into my Twitter timeline, then I would almost expect some stick or some online bullying, but I’m not. I’m a normal girl who writes occasionally amusing tweets, chats online to friends and Tweets pictures of her breakfast (a lot, sorry about that).

There are plenty of women, ballsy women, who take this unwanted attention in their stride. I am not one of them. I had thought of a rather good retort, but I felt a response would give them some satisfaction that they had got to me in some way, which of course they had.

My anxiety is always there, sometimes it is a big voice, a grinding in my stomach, a pounding in my heart and I can hardly catch my breath. Sometimes it just whispers that I should be fearful, but when it whispers I can usually ignore it. Today it’s been the big voice anxiety. I’ve seen Twitter pile-ups happen and I have a dread that my notifications would be swarming with hate. Thankfully (touch wood) just a couple of nasties said their piece, got bored when I wouldn’t bite and then I quietly blocked them.

Quite simply. Why do some people need to be so mean?

I’ve been watching The Island with Bear Grylls (which has been brilliant). He has a saying which I’m quite taken with, “with courage and kindness you can conquer the world”. And do you know, I think he’s right. I need a bit more courage and mean people need a bit more kindness. Wouldn’t the world be a better place for us all if kindness, compassion and courage were at the heart of everything we did? Nannight xx

Online bullying

“With courage and kindness you can conquer the world.”

Healing, happiness and the beauty of my recovery

I was sat in the autumn sunshine at the weekend. I was feeling happy. It’s a rare feeling for me, any happy I have usually has a small undercurrent of my ever present anxiety running through it. But the sun was shining, I had a pint in my hand, was in great company and I felt relaxed and happy. Carefree almost.

I sipped my drink as I listened to my companions chatting away, it was warm and I was wearing a t-shirt. I’m not so self conscious of my scars these days, they’re part of me and my history and whilst I regret one or two of them, I don’t hate them so much.

The sun lit up the silvery lines of my scars and made them shimmer slightly in the bright light. For a moment I ran my hand across them, trying to hide them or rub them out so the others wouldn’t see, but I can’t erase them, so I paused and made a conscious choice to admire their beauty rather than be ashamed of them. I looked at the shimmering silver on my arms, like rivulets of precious metal running over my flesh and I was reminded of Kintsugi.

Kintsugi is the Japanese art of fixing broken pottery with gold, silver or platinum. It literally means “golden joinery”. It’s a beautiful thing and rather plain and ordinary bowls and dishes become breathtaking and rather astonishing works of art when they are repaired in this way. I am Kintsugi. I am an ordinary thing made beautiful by my scars; the rivulets my of scars in shades of silver and platinum show the world my recovery. They tell everyone how I am healed and that I am stronger because of these shimmering silver lines, not in spite of them.

I am Kintsugi. I am beautiful.

healing

101 reasons why I’m anxious

Ah anxiety my old friend. You come, you go, I might not see you for a week or two, then suddenly you’re back, waving at me from afar, moving closer, your shadow looming over me and across my life. But why? Why won’t you leave me alone?

Tonight anxiety is casting her ugly shadow again and I don’t know why. I always figured if I knew why then I could make it stop, at least for now. So my brain runs through all the likely and unlikely reasons for my anxiety, so here goes. I might not get anywhere near 101 reasons why I’m anxious, but we’ll see…

  1. Is my son ok?
  2. Is he developing properly?
  3. Has he settled into school ok?
  4. Am I a good enough mum?
  5. I’m lonely
  6. I’m tired
  7. I work too hard
  8. I don’t work hard enough
  9. I can’t pay a bill
  10. Are things ok with my husband?
  11. Is my house about to fall down?
  12. Worry about friends
  13. Worry about my health
  14. Worry about my pain levels
  15. Worry about dying and leaving my son alone
  16. Worry about my family
  17. Is my Dad ok?
  18. I’m tired
  19. Am I working hard enough?
  20. I can’t afford my prescriptions
  21. I’m lonely
  22. I miss my friends
  23. I want to go out for a drink
  24. If I go out for a drink am I an alcoholic?
  25. Is my work good enough?
  26. I’m stupid
  27. Why am I stupid? I used to be so sharp
  28. Terrorism
  29. The world
  30. Dying children and heartbroken parents
  31. Do I live in a bubble?
  32. Do I care that I live in a bubble?
  33. Do I think too much?
  34. Do I think enough?
  35. What can I do?
  36. What can anyone do?
  37. Are we all going to die?
  38. Are we all going to die alone?
  39. Am I going to die alone?
  40. Yes.
  41. I’m going to die
  42. Will it hurt?
  43. Everything hurts anyway
  44. Everything hurts
  45. I’m hungry
  46. I’m hungry and there’s nothing to eat in the house
  47. What can my son have for breakfast?
  48. Rivita.
  49. My son will hate me
  50. He hates me anyway
  51. He’s not the only one, lots of people hate me
  52. I am worthless
  53. I am ugly
  54. I am useless
  55. I have let my son down
  56. I’m stuck here
  57. I’m lonely
  58. I’ve got no one to talk to
  59. Why do I feel empty?
  60. Am I dead inside?
  61. How would I know if I were dead inside?
  62. Why do I care about people who don’t care about me?
  63. Will I always be anxious?
  64. I’m feeling anxious because I don’t know why I’m anxious
  65. Why am I anxious?
  66. Remember that dark place? Lets not go back there
  67. Please don’t get like that again
  68. Oh god, the thought of it is terrifying
  69. Panic attack!
  70. Why can’t I breathe?
  71. Gah. I wish I had someone to talk to about all this.
  72. Hey did you know I have an anxiety disorder?
  73. You want me to stop banging on about it?
  74. Me too. Stuck record and all that
  75. *texts friend* why won’t they reply?
  76. *sends another text* WHY WON’T THEY REPLY?
  77. They hate me. I don’t blame them
  78. I’m worthless
  79. I’m ugly
  80. I’m useless
  81. I’m always asking for help
  82. They’re bored of me
  83. I’m boring
  84. I hate myself
  85. Sorry I’m boring
  86. *texts friend* sorry for pestering
  87. Hates self for texting about pestering because it is actually pestering
  88. I’m the worst person
  89. Why am I the worst person?
  90. I hate myself
  91. Why can’t I breathe?
  92. Why am I so anxious?
  93. Why can’t I just calm the hell down?
  94. Why doesn’t anyone love meeee?
  95. What have I done wrong?
  96. Why am I so hateful?
  97. My life is basically an Alanis Morissette album
  98. Oh god my life is an Alanis Morissette album
  99. I’m so lonely. Isn’t it ironic. Don’t you think?
  100. Agh I’ve got that as an earworm now?
  101. So THAT’S why I’m anxious. Crap.

Nope. Still anxious!

101 reasons why I'm anxious

Little girl lost – another anxiety attack

I used to have a general feeling that my mood, my mental health went in cycles, often dominated by the extremes of hormones rushing through my body each month. To some extent I think that’s true. It became normal for my mood to dip, for anxiety to pulse through my veins, for wild swings of rage and despair to appear and to feel the unrelenting panic of an anxiety attack. I never really mentioned this to my GP for fear they’d put me on the pill, something I’d like to avoid at all costs thank you very much.

Sometimes I found that I just was depressed or full of anxiety. Sometimes there was a trigger; maybe a comment or action by someone towards me. Something that would just edge me closer to falling into the black hole of my mental health. Swirling. Spinning. All consuming.

Sometimes there was nothing. No rational explanation for why everything was black.

I woke up yesterday and everything was black.

What I want to do is go to bed and cry it out. What I want to do is be held tight while the darkness seeps from my body, the little girl inside me wants to stop being frightened and fearful and anxious. She wants daddy to make the demons go away and to kiss it better. But I’m 38 and I’ve been standing on my own two feet for twenty years, so my two feet need to find their way out of this.

What I want to do is go to the pub and to drown the noise with drink. I want to sit and talk through the blackness with someone who knows and to laugh a little, cry a bit and go home with a grey heart, not a black one. But I can’t do that.

What I want and what will happen are two different things. It’s the school holidays, so I go to a soft play centre, the worst place imaginable if you’ve got a head full of negative noise and a heart as heavy as lead. So I force myself to go for a walk with the boy, who runs ahead laughing and chatting his head off about fire engines and dogs, and I try and focus on that, because it makes a small dark corner of my black heart glad. I make myself engage with people, because my silence and introspection achieve nothing but more darkness.

I do what I can to force myself into normal patterns of behaviour, edging slightly further back from the edge of darkness and negativity with each positive action.

But what I need, what the little girl inside me really needs, is a cuddle from my daddy to soothe the anxiety, and for him to shoo the dark demons away.

PS. I am often reminded of the artist in The Fast Show whenever I get like this, strangely watching a clip or two on YouTube can often brighten my mood. Top tips for depressives with a sense of humour there.