Tag Archives: Mental health

Mental Health: Burning out and fighting back

It’s been a while since I’ve written a post just about me and what’s going on inside my head, so I thought I’d write one. Actually, that’s a lie. I’m not writing this because everyone needs an update, I’m writing this because doing so would get a lot off my chest. I’m burning out and fighting back, sort of.

I’ve had a tough couple of months. May in particular was hard. I’ve been working over the last few years to be less anxious and less depressed and for the most part I was going ok. There has been the odd bump in the road, but returning to my self care routine and fighting everything usually pulls me out of the hole. 

May has been hard. I’ve been suffering from burnout. The boy was ill for nearly two months and the worry and stress took its toll. I work hard, probably too hard and I’m never off from work. I start early in the mornings and work till late at night and take little time for myself. There are a few other things going on too, but essentially I’ve been suffering from emotional and physical burnout. I’m spinning too many plates, struggling to keep up and it’s taking its toll.

The boys went away for a weekend and gave me a little bit of space, but it boiled down to two short evenings. It wasn’t enough but I missed them loads; proving that I’m complicated if nothing else. 

My anxiety has been through the roof, I’ve been angry at everything and everyone, I’m easily upset and oversensitive. I’ve tried to hide it all, but sometimes it spills out and without meaning to I upset people. I hate upsetting people and it just starts a weird shame, self-critical, low self esteem hate spiral which is hell on earth to get out of. 

Right now I seem like a happy and normal mum. Inside there’s all that shame, self criticism, low self esteem, hateful stuff I mentioned earlier. I hate that the careless words of strangers, or indeed of loved ones can have such an impact on me. My self esteem and self worth is an easily bruised peach and I’m feeling quite bruised and battered right now.

There’s no major plan for getting me back on an even keel. I know I need to not work as much and to take time out for myself sometimes. I know I need to look after myself more. Yes, I know I could probably do with some kind of digital detox, but that’s hard when the majority of your friends are based on twitter and you don’t want to feel more cut off than you already do.

It’s half term and we don’t have any major plans; go to the park, bake cakes, make crafts, watch telly, be excellent to one another. I’m trying not to stress, I’m trying not to let my anxiety personally attack me. I’m trying not to hit full burn out again. But I’m not well. I’m ok but I’m not well. I just need a regular afternoon off, a spa day, time with friends, time where my brain can switch off from everything and time to love and laugh again. Is that too much to ask? 

Mental Health: Burning out and fighting back

Five ways to take some time out of your busy day

Where you’re busy working and looking after a family, if you’re anything like me, you’ll put yourself and your well-being in last place most of the time. I’m a spa junkie and a few times a year I’ll book a day and take myself off. Despite this, I know I need to take 10-15 minutes time out each day to keep some semblance of personal sanity in between spa visits.

If I’m being honest, it’s not always possible for me to take a full 15 minutes, sometimes I forget to put me first for just 1/96th of a day and the habit slips.

Part of my problem, and quite possibly yours too, is that I’m available to other people; friends, family, kids, the internet, every waking hour and sometimes in my non-waking hours too. It’s advisable to turn off phones, tablets and laptops at least an hour before bed. Apparently the blue light can stop us winding down properly and interfere with our sleep patterns. I’m terrible at doing this, but I’m going to try a bit harder.

Five ways to take some time out of your busy day

Here are my five ways to take some time out of your busy day. 

Meditate. I love to meditate. I don’t sit cross-legged on a rug, I generally make myself comfortable on the sofa, or curl up in bed and listen to a mediation app. Andrew Johnson has a great “Power Nap” meditation which lasts for half an hour and is usually enough to wind me down and then power me back up again. I’ve recently downloaded a couple of other apps – Calm and Headspace which are great for shorter bursts of meditation. Even just five or ten minutes can be enough to save your sanity; it’s important to let a little bit of peace and calm into your day.

Read a book. Finding 15 minutes during your day to sit down with a brew and a book. It’s a much better use of your time than you’d think. Transporting yourself to a fictional place and forgetting the state of the house for a few minutes can leave you refreshed and ready to crack on with whatever is waiting for you on the other side. Reading a book before bed is also an excellent way to wind down and stops you scrolling on your phone.

Have a bath. Have a bath, not just any bath, but one with nice fragrant oils or bubbles. Enjoy it in a room lit by candlelight with the door locked to stop invading children is a thing of beauty. I’ve had that kind of bath less than a handful of times over the past few years, but when I have, it’s always been incredibly relaxing. I have friends who manage this every night and their lives are genuinely enriched by having a peaceful bath before bed. Lucky them hey!

Listen to some music. sometimes I’m too agitated to focus on some meditation, so instead I listen to music. Music has the power to lift me up, calm me down, help me process anger or frustrations; it can make me sing and dance,  and it generally raises my spirits. Choose some music to fit your mood or give you what you need and lose yourself in it. For just 15 minutes sit and appreciate, or dance your socks off around the house. Whatever you need.

Go for a walk. I have a dog, so going for a walk is part and parcel of my day. Getting some fresh air, a bit of exercise and physically removing myself from the laptop and the mess in the kitchen does wonders for my mood. I know it’s not always easy to leave home to go for a walk; but even getting off at an earlier bus stop, or going for a quick walk during your lunch break can work wonders.

These are simple things that with a bit of effort you could fit into your day. So what have I done today to give myself some time out? I read a book for a while after lunch in front of the fire, and tonight I will be falling asleep listening to the Penguin Cafe Orchestra. Their music sends me off to sleep a treat, I say that in a good way!

How will you take 15 minutes time out today?

Five ways to take some time out of your busy day

If you enjoyed this, you might also like these 28 Self Care habits to stop anxiety in its tracks!

28 Self Care habits to stop anxiety in its tracks

Having an anxiety disorder I try to manage it myself. I personally don’t like myself on medication, but I absolutely don’t judge anyone who benefits from it. Different strokes for different folks and all that. What I am very keen on is self care.

I’ve had a lot of therapy and one common thing which has come up is that I understand myself, my problems and my triggers really, really well, which is great when it comes to managing myself more effectively. Understanding and recognising when things are going to start to slide is a big help, and once they do I have a whole raft of self care tricks up my sleeve. They don’t always work, but nine times out of ten I can head an episode of anxiety off at the pass these days.

There are five recognised areas of self care, these are –
  • Physical – sleep, food, exercise, medication etc
  • Spiritual – meditation, prayer, forgiveness
  • Lifestyle – routine, relaxation, time in nature, setting goals
  • People support – family, friends, therapist, church, support group
  • Emotional self care – positive thoughts, writing it out, dealing with and processing emotions such as grief.

28 Self Care habits which can stop anxiety in its tracks

28 Self Care habits to stop anxiety in its tracks

Ask someone for help. People you love will almost always want to help you, or at least hold your hand a little.

Bake something from scratch that will make you focus on the process of baking. Most baking or cooking from scratch is process driven and needs a little concentration and consideration, it’ll occupy and distract you and you’ll have a cake to eat and share afterwards.

Be in nature, go for a walk and enjoy the fresh air and gentle exercise. Try to find beautiful things to admire, like blossom on the trees, small flowers or fluffy clouds in the blue sky. Take notice of things.

Buy some flowers. Treat yourself to a bunch of your favourite blooms. They don’t have to be expensive. Right now I have a very cheery bunch of daffodils in a jug which smell fantastic and brighten up my home.

Cuddle a human. If you have a human to cuddle, a partner, a child, a parent, a friend, cuddling them can help soothe you. A therapist once told me if you hug someone and your heart is pressed against theirs, the hug has extra love and soothing power. I’ve tried it and I think she might have been right. If you can’t find a human, a cat or dog will be just as good.

Declutter. This has two benefits, you get a tidy house and the act of physically doing something and focusing on the task is great. My anxiety means that over the last few months, my drawers and cupboards have had a lot of attention and it’s quite pleasing to live with some order and no chaos.

Do something you’ve been putting off – grasp the nettle. Sometimes my anxiety is around something I need to do that causes me anxiety. It might be replying to an email or making a phone call, or just tackling something I don’t know how or where to start. Just finding the nerve to just do it can take the anxiety away.

Gardening – getting out in the fresh air is almost always good, digging, planting and creating a nice spot for you to sit in the garden with a cup of tea is never a waste of time.

Get crafting. This is something you can do at home. During a very bad spell a few years ago I took up cross stitch which was great, it really focused me on something other than the inside of my head. I’ve now joined a monthly craft club and sitting for a few hours and working on creating something new gives me one evening a month which I know will be anxiety free.

Go out with friends. Anxiety can make you feel really isolated and alone. Meeting friends for a quick coffee, or going for a night out will help to remind you of the good people around you. Surround yourself with good people if you can, they can make such a difference to you.

Go to bed early. Insomnia, poor sleep patterns and anxiety go hand in hand. Sometimes when I’m anxious I won’t sleep a wink for days. Sometimes all I want to do is sleep. If you can sleep, then an early night and stocking up on a bit of precious rest can help.

28 Self Care habits which can stop anxiety in its tracks

Go to the seaside. I find being near water very restful. I live by the river, so a walk by the river can help soothe me, a lake is good too, but a walk on the beach, even a blowy wintery beach really calms the mind.

Have a bubble bath. Wind down with a warm bubble bath, light candles and create a restful atmosphere. Close your eyes and relax, or take a good book in with you to keep you company.

Listen to music. Music for most people has the ability to lift moods and put a spring in your step. I find some music empowering, some comforting, some makes me happy and some makes me sad. Make a playlist of your favourite songs and listen to them when you need a mood lift.

Make a plan. Having something to look forward to, be it something big like a holiday, or something small like a night out with friends, can give my chaotic mind something to focus on. Having something I really want to do on the horizon can give me something to focus on and aim for.

Meditate. Meditation, breathing exercises, yoga, all of that can help you clear your mind and give you some respite from the constant chatter of anxiety. Look on YouTube, download an app or join a class. There will be something out there that will suit you and help you find a bit of inner calm.

Mindful colouring can be great for adults. Mindful colouring books and magazines are widely available and when my mind is really racing, sitting down for an hour and focusing on colouring in can take my anxiety down a notch or two.

Pamper yourself. Give yourself a manicure, pop on a face mask or book yourself in to a salon for a treatment. It’s easy to neglect yourself, especially if you’re feeling negative about yourself. Giving yourself a little pamper can make you feel a bit brighter about things. If I’m down I will dye my hair a cheery colour and it makes me feel a bit less grey and dowdy.

Remove toxic relationships/people from your life. If someone is having a negative impact on you and your life, then you need to start taking steps to remove them from your life, or minimise contact with them. These people are often the trigger for anxiety and removing the trigger can make a huge difference to your long-term mental health.

Say no. If you find yourself saying yes to people or things because you don’t want to let people down or disappoint them, but really you’d much rather say no. Maybe you need to look at why you’re saying yes and what you are getting out of the situation. Maybe it’s ok for you to say no to a few things. It really is ok for you to put yourself first sometimes.

Sing. You don’t have to get on stage and sing, you can sing in the shower, or in a choir, or at church or a concert. Sing along to your favourite songs, let yourself go and sing, sing, sing. You’ll feel better for belting out a tune.

Change your routine. If you can shake up your routine a bit, do. Walk a different route to work. Do something different during your lunch break. Take an afternoon off and go to a gallery, walk in the park. Find something you’d not normally watch on TV that someone has recommended and give it a try. Step out from what you’d normally do and try something a bit different.

Take a social media break / digital detox. I find at times social media can be a bit overwhelming. If it’s not the contact messages, it’s checking likes, it’s feeling bad about the number of likes, and it’s comparing myself to other people and feeling inadequate. Stepping away for a day, a week or forever can be a really healthy thing to do. Sometimes when it all gets too much I delete the apps on my phone rather than deleting the account. That way I can access things if I want to, but they’re not there on my phone, throwing up notifications and vying for my attention. Stepping away for a few days can help to refocus me on the important things in my life and just gives me space.

How to keep track of your Social Media Followers

Turn off your phone. Being available 24 hours a day is all very well and good, but there are certain times when the phone needs to be turned off or put away. Family mealtimes are a time to focus on each other. I try not to use my phone on the school run, so I can fully focus on my son and what he has to say. Turn it off an hour or so before bed and give yourself time to disconnect before bed. Plus it’ll help you wind down for sleep too!

Watch TV or a film. Turning you mind off and watching something that really interests you for a few hours is great self care. Watching a favourite film can be as comforting as putting on an old pair of slippers. Think about what your favourite film is, which film always makes you feel warm and fuzzy, or helps you process feelings of anger. Which film puts you in your happy place? Dig out the DVD, grab some popcorn and treat yourself.

Wear comfortable comforting clothes. I have some clothes in my wardrobe which make me feel better for wearing them; an especially snuggly cardigan, a nice pair of pyjamas or a special jumper. Equally, I have clothes I wear when I need to feel confident. Clothes maketh the man (or woman), so if you need to, dig out your snuggly cardigan, or your uber-confident jacket and put them on.

Write a letter to someone. My postman mostly delivers bank statements and bills. Last year, fed up with the number of brown envelopes on my doormat, I asked if any of my Twitter followers wanted me to write them a good old-fashioned letter. Five people said they’d like that very much; so I sat down and wrote five chatty letters and popped them in the post. They were thrilled and I was equally thrilled when they wrote back. It was a lovely feeling to correspond with someone, like the good old days. What was lovely was to sit down and think of lots of nice, happy, chatty things to talk about it my letters. It helped me focus on the good and the positive. Having a pen-pal is a wonderful thing.

Tell people what they mean to you. I’m a lover. I’m always telling people what they mean to me. Friends and family get told I love them all the time. People who help me get thanked and told how much they’ve made my life easier. It’s not fake, it’s genuinely meant. Sometimes I feel like no one cares about me or appreciates what I do, so leading by example, I tell people what they mean to me. Someone has to start spreading the love, why not let that start with you?

Do you have any self care habits which help you?

28 Self Care habits which can stop anxiety in its tracks

A weird thing happened in the park today

Today I met some friends and their kids in the park for a picnic. It’s half term here and we wanted to try encourage the kids to run some off their excess energy. I had a lovely time, we all had a lovely time.

After a couple of hours we were ready for a coffee, so we ambled over to the cafe in the park and sat outside and watched the kids playing. We were chatting and one of my friends pointed at a woman in the distance and waved. She came over and said hello, we were introduced to each other and she recognised me. She reads my blog! (Hello Sarah *waves*). It’s weird to be recognised.

It’s weird being recognised. I’m not famous, or special, or especially gifted in any particular way. But when I write blog posts, I know people will read them, but I don’t imagine they will. Sometimes hundreds or thousands of people will read the words I write, these words I write, but when I sit at my laptop and write about my thoughts or feelings, or my struggle with my anxiety, I don’t imagine for one single second someone will actually read it or relate to it. But they do. 

Sometimes when I’m pouring my thoughts and feelings out onto my keyboard, someone will read my words and relate to them. Knowing that you are not the only one having these thoughts and feelings can actually really help. I’m not actually helping anyone, I don’t have a cure or a magic bullet to make anyone feel better about themselves, least of all me, but not being alone in feeling anxious or depressed and not feeling so alone can be some comfort. 

I don’t write about my mental health because I’m attention seeking. I don’t do it for clicks or to win awards (because I’ve not won any for a start). I don’t do it so people will pat me on the head and say there there. I write about my mental health because it gets it out of my head and articulating my thoughts and feelings makes me feel better inside.

When I started blogging, about 80% of what I wrote about was awful dirge about the spiralling mess my life was in. That percentage has thankfully dropped and my blog posts about my mental health hopefully read less like a girl falling into an abyss, but a woman who is more in control of things and able to mostly nip things in the bud before worrying things happen. And I thank my blog for that, for the most part anyway.

I guess what I’m wittering on about in my round-about kind of way is talk. There’s no shame in having anxiety or depression, or whatever. Find someone to talk to, find an outlet for all the swirling thoughts in your head and I promise once you open up in whatever way suits you best, you will start to decode the things inside your head. You will figure out your triggers and the things to do and the things to avoid. You will be better, not cured but better.

Things won’t always be as dark as they can be. Talk about it, open up, write a blog. Who knows, you might even get to be as not-famous as me one day.

A weird thing happened today in the park thoughts and feelings

If you’re interested in reading more posts about Mental Health and general thoughts and feelings on the matter, my blog posts can be found here.

I will not be beaten by my Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

In 2012 I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, commonly known as PTSD. I was given pills and then more or less was left to get on with it. There were two episodes in my life which were the triggers for my PTSD, both occurred in hospitals. One was an assault and the other is the result of a traumatic birth and a poorly baby. 

For me my PTSD symptoms centre around hyper-vigilance, flashbacks, anxiety and panic attacks. The events which brought on the PTSD happened in 2009/2010 and it wasn’t until mid 2010 that I became symptomatic. Before the first incident I was calm, level headed and strong. When things began to change I felt out of control, anxious and weak.

My son was born in November 2010. His birth was traumatic. In the week afterwards he was subjected to a battery of tests, one of them was a stress test which went on for a couple of hours. Hearing his screams echoing down the hospital corridors haunts my dreams. Just writing it now, I’m reliving it in my head and my chest has tightened and I can’t breathe.

Since my diagnosis in 2012 I have worked hard to find ways of coping with my Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and self care is at the heart of a lot of what I do for myself. Pouring my thoughts and feelings out and into my laptop is one of the things I find really helps me. 

Last night I was triggered over a very small silly thing. On twitter I shared a small anecdote about the time I met a very minor celeb (who was in the news) outside a pub. I remarked that his behaviour when I met him was edgy and unsettling. Someone I’d known on twitter a while got snappy with me about it. I obviously touched a nerve with her, although my tweet was innocuous enough.

It got me thinking about why this very minor celeb had unsettled me. Finding the root of the things which bother me or trigger me is something I’ve started to do over the last few years. Doing this is the only way I can confront and deal with the bits of dark inside me which will help me to heal.

After some thought (at 2am, never ever a good time for deep thinking) I realised I was unsettled by the celeb as his demeanour was almost identical to the man who assaulted me. He was edgy and dangerously unpredictable. I doubt the celeb would have laid a finger on me, but remembering the assault triggered a panic attack, which triggered some flashbacks, which meant I was too worried about having nightmares to go to sleep. And now the PTSD, anxiety, flashbacks, hyper-vigilance, insomnia cycle has kicked itself off inside me.

More than 12 hours after a something or nothing throwaway comment on twitter I’m now swimming through the sludge of PTSD. I’m trying to keep a lid on my rising panic, but every time I close my eyes I’m back in that clinic room. I’m not sure what to do for the best. I think a good walk and some air will help. I might distract myself with some baking and new puppy cuddles. I need to somehow turn my brain off from thinking and reliving.

But this is what it’s like. You think you’re doing alright keeping control of your demons. Holding things together when the big stuff goes wrong in your life. You take a step back from the things which you know will trigger you, look after yourself and do all the good self care things you know will keep you on track. Then out of nowhere something small and insignificant throws a lego brick under your bare feet and you have a wobble.

A wobble is all it is, I’m sure of it. But it’s a wobble all the same. A Post Traumatic Stress Disorder wobble which will not beat me.

I will not let my Post Traumatic Stress Disorder win

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

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.

 

Taking care of me – why I need some self care

Since my dad died a month ago I’ve been trying to process everything and find a way forward. It’s all become a bit too much for me this last week or so. I know I need to have a word with myself and get myself to a tolerable place before the school holidays start. Rolling around in a mixture of grief and self pity whilst looking after a lively five year old do not make happy bedfellows. Self care is the order of the day.

I have a week to sort my head out as much as I can, so here’s my self care plan:

Stop constantly refreshing Twitter. Take a social media break as best I can. Social Media, Twitter especially is a real life saver, but sometimes I need to step away and stop obsessing.

Go out with friends. I have excellent friends and they shower me with love, support and sarcasm. They will put me in a different headspace and help me process things and move on a bit.

Cuddle my boys. There’s nothing quite as healing as holding someone you love and who loves you right back really hard for as long as possible. Hugs help a lot, so I’ll be going in for them as often as I can get them from as many people who offer them. I may leave the hugee with a slightly damp shoulder. Sorry.

Sense and Sensibility. I have many favourite films and right now I have a very deep yearning to close the curtains and watch Sense and Sensibility and cry my little heart out. For some reason quotes from that film keep popping into my head and I think I just need to spend a couple of hours watching Alan Rickman quietly break his heart and mend it again over Kate Winslet.

Writing. I often (much like I am now) write my feelings out of my head and onto my iPad. Sometimes they end up on my blog, sometimes they get deleted. Either way it gets those thoughts and feelings out of me and it does help me feel better to articulate my emotions, which can only be a good thing.

Sleep. I hardly sleep anyway so it will do me no harm at all to aim for some decent restorative kip, even if it means taking pills to achieve that. I usually get around 3 hours a night and I’d like to try for 5. Anything above that would be something of a miracle. No, I don’t know how I function either.

Work. I continue to dabble around the edges of work. I’m freelance so that’s a luxury I have, I can’t really afford that luxury but for the sake of my sanity this is how it is. I’m pickier than ever because I’ve only got so much inner battery life in me each day. Work is useful, it occupies me and gives me some structure to my day, but I don’t want to overwhelm myself when I’m already feeling pretty overwhelmed by life.

Food. Well this is the best diet ever. I’m either not eating at all or eating tiny portions of stuff. Not great stuff, not overly nutritious stuff, but I’m trying to eat something every day.

Plan nice things. I’ve got a couple of nice things in the diary coming up. Again I don’t want to overwhelm myself but it’s good to have things to look forward to. Like my best friend coming to stay and us making a dent in the case of red wine I’ve got sat gathering dust.

Plan nothing. I also recognise that importantly I need time by myself to recharge, regroup and gather strength for whatever lies ahead.

Times of emotional crisis of this magnitude are thankfully rare. It’s times like this when true friends and the people who really do care step up and offer support, either by sending the odd message of support, taking me out for a pint or offering a shoulder they don’t mind getting cried on.

I’ve been lucky that some excellent people have been there for me and helped carry me from one day to the next, but I’ve found the odd person who you think will be there for me through whatever and they’ve ditched me. That’s human nature, it’s a particularly crappy side of human nature, but it happens. 

Over the coming days, weeks and months I’ll be focusing on what is best for me and my little family. I’m running on empty, but I hope some self care will help me gather the strength to continue and return to a version of my old self again.

self care

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.