How family can be such a support – if only you can open up and be honest with them.
Who you surround yourself with is so very important.
what we think we become so our own perception is important.
Often this blog is filled with posts about how I’m coping in my fight with anxiety and the challenges I face, with the odd ‘advice’ post thrown in for good measure. Well for this, I wanted to merge the two. Last week I posted (here) about a challenged I faced with going on holiday. The airports scare me and at one point I thought I’d never go abroad, yet I actually did it. Looking back, I think what did it for me was knowing the end result was going to be my reward. I had something to look forward to, which acted like a shield when fighting this incredibly strong mental illness.
This made me think – if we all had something positive to look forward to, then maybe every fight wouldn’t be so hard?
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m fully aware that when faced with tough situations that make…
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Retrain your thoughts is a long process but entirely worth it.
What a strange week it’s been!
I didn’t think, for one second, I’d ever be mentally or physically strong enough to travel to another country. The fear of airports, airport security, the feeling of restriction, of flying, the pressure of remaining calm and the ‘what if I get ill’ thoughts consumed any idea of me ever enjoying a week abroad in a warmer climate.
For some time though, I’ve craved travel. Scanning through images on friend’s Instagram at beautiful poolside areas, sea views, stunning landscapes and food wrapped in culture, all I wanted was to experience it myself. When I was of a sound mind, I took for granted the ability to travel the world, and since my mind became less clear I regret that choice a lot.
Earlier in the year, I was looking at a milestone birthday and felt the time was right. I wanted to go on…
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I was a playlist on repeat.
“How could he do this to me?” I wailed to my dad as he made sure I was restrained by the seatbelt before racing off to the airport to escort me to the ruins of my once-placid life.
“How could he do this to me?” I cried to my mom, recalling how she always stated she found comfort in knowing that my husband looked after me.
“How could you do this me?” I whimpered on my husband’s voicemail as he continued to avoid my calls. I screamed it into the phone hours later.
“How could you do this me?” I carved into my journal imagining I was carving into his flesh instead.
“How could you do this to me?” I keened silently from the cold courtroom chair as I scanned his face for any sign of the man I had loved.
It seemed like the…
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Since my anxiety diagnosis, I’ve often felt a sense of grief for the person I once was. A confident, bright, optimistic guy with a good group of friends, very likeable and really approachable. He was cool. Quite a popular person who seemed to know everyone, go so many places and be prepared to face anything.
Anxiety, however, didn’t seem to like him, and over the space of around 12 months would chip away at him, making him crumble into a dust, and disappear with the wind. This made me sad. I had lost someone, I’d become reclusive, quiet, lost friends, I was irritable, unsociable and a shadow of the lad who no longer existed.
One new year I decided ‘that’s it, I’m going to get the old me back’. I sought therapy, I pushed myself so hard and powered through all of my fears over the space of 4 years…
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It does get better, recovery is possible no matter how far out of reach you think it is. Be the storm!
Today is my 3 year anniversary.
3 years ago today, I broke. I gave myself two options – give up or keep going.
3 years ago today, I called my mum, the only person I could depend on, and begged her for help.
3 years ago today I saw no future, I didn’t want a future, I just wanted peace.
3 years ago today my journey began, and I began the road to recovery.
Today I look back, and see the lost soul with absolutely nothing left, crying on a Cornwall headland looking absolutely destroyed, beaten and hopeless.
And today, I can honestly say to him ‘it does get better’.
Today is my 3 year anniversary. I survived.
Anxiety whispered ‘you cannot withstand the storm’. I whispered back ‘I am the storm’.
Read my story here: http://wp.me/p67M1S-2l
Be creative as a distraction but also to articulate your thoughts.
My name’s Matthew and I’m a writer.
We all play a number of roles and adopt a number of labels in our lives, some of which are more fulfilling than others. On the face of it being able to say ‘I am a writer’ would appear to be a source of greater satisfaction than ‘I have a mental illness’. But if it weren’t for saying the latter I wouldn’t be able to say the former.
My experiences with mental illness and the need to make sense of thoughts and emotions swirling through me were a major catalyst in igniting the dormant spark that urged me to write, on a miserable night – in both senses of the word – in December 2015. And on that cold, rainy night in a hotel room in Tamworth I could not have conceived of just how much of a blessing writing was to become…
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Highlighting how what we put into our bodies affects our mental wellbeing.
Since the age of 10 I’ve battled with my weight and with my relationship with food. It’s always been my ‘go to feel good’ remedy. When something bad happens, I seek comfort in sugary treats, deep fried deliciousness and carbtastic bread. When my parents split up, that’s when my diet and relationship with food changed. I was less active through depression, and I ate my way through the sadness. Over the following 8 years, I saw myself balloon to 19.5 stone, so unhappy with myself and my own skin. At the age of 18 I decided enough was enough, and went on a crash diet to lose 6 full stone. 6! I was so proud of myself, I got down to a size 32 waist, I still had a belly but meh, I’d lost 6 stone.
Since doing that, I’ve been up and down. The problem was, I’d managed to…
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The benefits of CBT – worth the wait.
During my 4 year battle with anxiety and depression (early on), I was in a position where I had to turn to the NHS to help get me better. This started as a doctors appointment, where after numbering a few boxes she felt capable of prescribing me with medication, no further questions asked, and sent me on my way. As I decided medication wasn’t for me, I was referred to a therapist, and after a 9 week wait, there I was, sat in the room with her.
She suggested I try CBT, which would retrain my thoughts and realign brain – but sadly that wasn’t the case and around 6 months after, I relapsed, and relapsed bad. I was in total darkness, solitary misery just dragging my lifeless body from one day to the next.
It was then I realised something wasn’t right and I needed more help. I was…
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Words matter. Choose yours carefully – even when speaking to yourself.
Words, spoken in seconds, can echo throughout history.
Words so simple, yet so profound. Words that changed the world, forever.
Which brings me to ‘The UKIP Apology’ (perhaps not yet part of the modern lexicon but I live in hope). You know the one I mean: UKIP candidate makes grossly offensive comment about foreign / gay / female person; UKIP candidate’s grossly offensive views are splashed across the nation’s press; UKIP candidate apologises profusely for ‘any offence caused’, grovelling for our forgiveness for his ‘mistake’ when he was
tired / tricked / taken out of context / talking honestly and openly without realising his honestly expressed but grossly offensive comments were being recorded.
Because of course he didn’t mean to offend anybody. One of his best friends is gay, and he’s watched every episode of ‘The L Word’. And, his mother is a woman. Hell, his cleaner is from Eastern…
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Proud to say this lady is a great friend of mine and so proud of the barriers she broke through today!
Twitter saved the lives of many and brought people together #friendsnotfollowers
A little over 16 months ago, I made the decision to open a secret Twitter account as an outlet/sound board for my anxiety. This would remain anonymous, and would allow me to be completely open and honest about my anxiety, and use my experiences to help other ‘new sufferers’ as I called them.
Little did I know what was to come from my account!
I started to call myself ‘the anxiety warrior’, constantly fighting battles with my own mind, hoping to win a future that would mean I could live a normal and happy life. Since then, so much about me has changed and I wanted to explain why.
Having started relatively new, I followed the typical ‘anxiety’ accounts, began tweeting my life, my anxiety and my issues, in a bid to try and reach some new people – and reach them I did!
I began to get a small…
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Some great ideas on alternative coping mechanisms from the ‘Storm’ that is @anxiwarrior A warrior, a fighter and great friend!
As I make my way on this little journey with anxiety and mental health wobbles, I’ve turned to so many different things that in some way or another get me through the days. This isn’t necessarily anxiety related, but more things that I relate to with individual challenges along the way.
Basically, I thought I’d write a post about the things, people and places that inspire me to be a better version of the somewhat strange little thing I’ve become.
First off, there’s my mum. Yes, I’m a self proclaimed mummies boy and no, I don’t care. She’s a brilliant person with a heart of gold and where she came from (homeless with 2 kids) to where she is now (owns her own business and raised me, a fine specimen) is nothing short of amazing and I’m so very proud of her. Secondly, My girlfriend – she’s everything I look…
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Matthew sums up Depression brilliantly and the short video is VERY moving.
Winston Churchill used the metaphor of the black dog to describe his bouts of depression and (in the only sentence I will ever be mentioned alongside Churchill) I too am the non-too proud owner of a black dog.
I have referred to my previous struggles with depression in earlier posts and the resulting feedback from others that are struggling has prompted me to want to tackle the subject head-on. I have always sought to be open about my struggles; I like to try and find the positives in the challenges that I face in my life and being an open person by nature I feel something of a responsibility to try and help others by challenging the stigma and misunderstanding that exists around the illness.
And make no mistake, depression is an illness.
At its worst it is an all-consuming, torturous, desperate, lonely, terrifying illness that has the power to strip…
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Don’t just take my word for it. This is what @zelandroid009 has to say about the mental health twitter community.
I am very fortunate to have stumbled into a vibrant mental health community on Twitter. Many of the posts are poignant as people share their deepest fears, and hurts and struggles that echo those I faced, and still face, myself. It is shocking how so many can feel so much and yet be so alone within the misery their illness creates.
Yet, within this community is hope, and vitality and compassion. The emotions are honest, the hope is wondrous, the stories are true inspirations. Much can be conveyed through a simple image or phrase.
Here are some images and thoughts that caused me to pause and reflect:
The “Black Dog” of Depression
Note to self:
It’s a matter of perspective:
A single word can hide so much:
Inspiration can come from anywhere:
We often have an inner strength we forget is there:
Who can look at this image and not…
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A very clever piece of writing from Matthew. See depression as a gift?
Boxing is not only a good exercise and a way to help express your anger in a relatively controlled manner, as Matthew so cleverly points out, it is a metaphor for life.
Rocky Balboa changed my life. Really.
30 years ago, almost to the day, I sat down with my family and watched Rocky 2. I had previously tried to watch the original Rocky but gave up when I couldn’t understand a word he said, misinterpreting strongarming threats to break someone’s thumb as “I’ll break your tongue.” The Italian Stallion and I just didn’t click. Until Rocky 2. And a lifelong obsession with Rocky and all-things boxing was born.
Now, at this point you may be wondering where all this is going, and indeed where, and who, it is coming from. You thought you were reading another post by that sadsack whose women have done left him, again, didn’t you? Well, don’t worry, you’re in the right place. And I will attempt to skilfully draw the threads together so that this all makes some sort of sense by the end.
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Saturday 16th April 2016
Having snoozed the alarm more than once I finally realised if I was ever going to make it to work on time I had to move. As I sat on the side of the bed composing my thoughts, I had this real urge that I needed to cry. I won’t deny that the thought was there to crawl back under the duvet and let my emotions take over. I fought the urge and headed to the bathroom.
The shower seems to be a place where I unintentionally practice mindfulness, letting the thoughts flow like the water. I often have my greatest ideas when I’m dancing under the spray. This morning though I couldn’t let go of the thought of what was causing the need to cry. The urge had passed but he questioning remained.
I’d had quite a late night. In fact, the last few nights have been late ones and I can’t remember the last time I got a good eight hours sleep.
Maybe I was just tired? Or was it something else?
As a lady in my early forties, I can’t ignore nature. My period is a week late and I know for a fact that I’m not ‘with child’ (and if I am, I stand to make a fortune with an immaculate conception).
So having battled depression, do I now have to tackle the menopause? Or was it something else?
Friday evening I decided to ‘treat myself’ to a chinese takeaway. I’m not normally one for take aways and junk food, I try to eat nutritious meals as much as possible. However, it was very tasty and typically for me, I cleared my plate. I’d definitely eaten too much and despite it being a noodle based dish, it wont have been as healthy as I’d convinced myself it was.
Had I just over eaten and my body was missing out on nutrients? Or was it something else?
I was also aware I hadn’t had many cups of (herbal) tea during work on Friday and then hadn’t drunk a great deal when I got home. Along with the undoubted high salt content in the chinese I’d gotten into bed on Friday evening feeling dehydrated.
Was I just dehydrated? Or was it something else?
Ten days ago, I started to reduce the dosage of my anti-depressant, only taking tablets on six of those ten days.
Was this the start of the withdrawal symptoms? Or was it something else?
Work was a great distraction and sixteen hours after surfacing, I havent cried and the urge has gone – but the questioning hasn’t!
I’ve consciously drunk plenty of water today both alone and with cups of (herbal) tea. I also made sure this evenings dinner was light and nutritious (my favourite go-to of spinach and feta scrambled eggs with added tomato and avocado courtesy of the Medicinal Chef, Dale Pinnock.
I have no need to be up early tomorrow so I will set my alarm, but will set it to wake me up eight hours after lights out.
I can’t control my hormones and so for once, I will wake up wishing my period to grace me with her presence (instead of wishing it would go away. Maybe I should be careful what I wish for in future).
So that just leaves the withdrawal from my anti-depressant. It is only early days but is something I really hope to do, yet do accept it might not be possible. I can’t give up at the first obstacle. I know it wont be easy but I have to at least try.
In all circumstances, I want to remain positive and like to seek the good and gratitude in situations. There is good in todays emotion – I am aware of how I feel and am not running away from it. I am also grateful that I didn’t succumb to my first thought of curling up under the duvet and giving in to the day. That makes it a win-win kind of day to me!
Saturday 30th January
Sixteen months ago I stood on a familiar train platform waiting to board a train into the familiar city centre to go to an appointment. I was unsure of the location of my meeting but had a rough idea and knew the train would be the best way to travel despite it being during rush hour. I’d done the journey many times before (though never during rush hour). However, this was to be a very different journey.
I stood patiently waiting for the train with other commuters and as it pulled in to the platform everyone moved to board. I was in the middle of a group becoming more aware of the bustle. Once on board I realised there wasn’t a great deal of room. The seats in all carriages were full as were the aisles. It was definitely standing room only and standing in the door ways at that. I found myself in the middle of the corridor pushed up against a young child who was sitting on the fold down seat with his mum and sibling on the other side. I was conscious that I didn’t want to crowd this young boy or block his view from his mum so ended up stood in quite an awkward position. To my horror, at the next stop a couple more ladies were determined to board and despite it already being cramped, pushed their way in, being very vocal about moving up to make space for them. My heart began to race, my face flushed crimson and beads of sweat poured down my face. I couldn’t physically move to either side to get near a window to get air and I was too frightened to try and move anyway. I was rooted to the spot, face glowing, sweat dripping and heart pounding with paranoia rising that everyone was staring at the strange, sweaty, red faced female. It was only a journey of around 15 minutes yet it felt like a lifetime. I was jostled off the train in the middle of everyone else onto the platform. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to curl up and cry or run and hide. It was the rising fear of the meeting and pure adrenaline that carried me away from the platform to the exit with all other passengers. Once outside and in the fresh air, I could feel myself relax a little, enough anyway to compose myself, dig my directions from my bag and head to my meeting. My face still glowed and my heart still thumped but at least the air had helped the dripping beads of sweat.
This was to be the first of many ‘incidents’ that I now recognise and understand to be panic attacks. It was also the worst (train) journey I have ever had and certainly the last time I’d boarded a train – until now!
I’m now 60 minutes in to a 90 minute journey to Euston station. It’s safe to say phase 1 has gone totally to plan, without any anxiety. Simple things like getting the tickets from the machine, making the connecting train and changing platforms all seemed ‘normal’. I’m not quite sure if I’ll take the challenge and travel by tube but then is a trip to London a full on challenge without the tube? I do have a couple of hours to find my way from Euston to the Arts Theatre so plenty of time to enjoy a walk in the fresh air or time to master the tube! I’m going to spend this last half hour enjoying the scenery fly past the window and just enjoy being in the moment.
Arriving at Euston I decided to ground myself. Having moved with the crowd, away from the platform I stood in the centre of the station and just looked round, took in my surroundings. A cafe recommended by a friend caught my eye. I didn’t need to compose myself but to be kind to myself, I stopped for a celebratory cup of tea. This ‘me’ time allowed me to process my thoughts and calmly head for the tube!
Surely, how hard could this be. I realised you could go through the barriers just by swiping your bank card ‘contactless’. I tried but it wouldn’t work. I turned to a line of people’s faces behind me and calmly walked away toward the ticket machine. As much as I embrace technology, give me the old fashioned ticket through a machine. This was it, there was no going back! I walked with the crowd down in to the platform. I must’ve stared at the map so hard but still couldn’t memorise the stops, but who cares. If I end up riding the tube all afternoon then I’d achieve something. I boarded the carriage, found a seat next to a rather odd looking old gentleman and joined the rest of the miserable faces all just travelling. A slight panic of working out how to reach the door through the crowd when we reached my stop started to rise in my mind but I decided I’d just move into position the stop before. So not only have I ridden the tube, I’ve stood up and ridden the tube!
We pulled in to Leicester Square and I again moved with the crowds back up the stairs into daylight. Once again, out into the cool winter air I took a few deep breaths and just looked around. Yes to appreciate my surroundings but also to take in landmarks for going home. I’m torn between embracing where I am but also being aware I have to get back again – in the dark.
I’d studied maps so knew where I needed to be and expected a walk. However, I was surprised at how close the theatre was. Without knowing it I was outside the Arts Theatre looking at posters of Ms Wax. Tickets in hand, I had 20 minutes till doors opened and 50 minutes till the show starts. Do I stay put or find Covent Garden to do a spot of retail therapy? What challenge would it be to stay put? So off I trundle, following my nose and street signs. I was back in the theatre in my seat with the purchase I’d wanted and a copy of Ruby’s book ‘A sane new world’ by 2:45. Perfect seat – 2nd from the front and on the end of the row. There was a slight apprehension that I was possibly easy picking from the stage but it was a full house so had no option to move.
So the theatre is quite small and a bit shabby looking and the stage is quite bare. There’s a piece of artificial grass with a grass topped tree stump almost like a chaise and a mass of blue and white striped cushions. Then a random green exercise ball. I’m not sure what to expect as Ruby Wax walks on to the stage with a mug of coffee in hand.
I know she has just released her second book ‘A Mindfulness guide for the frazzled’ and it was reading this book that made me realise I had to see this woman, who I suddenly admired live. I guess we all know Ruby Wax as a comedian and writer but very few realise she actually has a masters degree from Oxford university in mindfulness based cognitive therapy. As she puts it “it was like Peppa Pig learning about quantum physics.”
Mindfulness is suddenly a buzz word and there are many fluffy, wind chime, hippie, Buddhist interpretations of it but in Ruby’s words it is “noticing your own thoughts and feelings without kicking your own ass for doing it.” Some alarming facts are that 1 in 4 people will have depression in comparison to 1 in 5 that have dandruff. More alarmingly, by 2020 stress will be the biggest killer!
So as an over view Ruby is going to chat to us about how we think, why we burn out and why we have negative thoughts. It isn’t just for those that have depression but anyone who leads a busy and stressful life. “We all have the same plumbing under the hood” and despite the evolution of man, every cell in our body is rooting for survival; going back to caveman times where man had to be vigilant and aware of dangers.
There is scientific evidence to show the effects of stress on the brain and evidence that with mindfulness based cognitive therapy there is a 60% chance that people with depression won’t relapse. For the 40% that do, they generally climb out of the hole much sooner and easier than the first time. There is no cure for depression, recovery is about recognition and taking a step back to remove the causes.
The show is funny and not lecturing, clear but scientific and illustrated wonderfully on screens with some very child like drawings that Ruby is very proud of.
For just over an hour Ruby entertained and made the very serious topic of depression very amusing with some laugh out loud moments and many statements or Ruby-isms.Suddenly Ruby leaves the stage, the house lights came on and it was the interval. I didn’t rush off with the crowds. Instead, I sat on the stage steps and just observed and watched.
I wasn’t prepared or expecting what was to come in the second half. Ruby sat on a garden chair in the middle of the stage and answered questions from the audience. People were opening up and asking for advice about some very personal issues. Questions were slow in coming at first but as Ruby rounded up this part of the show there definitely looked to be some stroppy people sulking because they didn’t get the microphone in their hand to ask their question. What was clear, was the love and appreciation in the room for the fact Ruby Wax was a ‘poster woman’ for mental health. After all, it doesn’t discriminate, it can, will and does affect every walk of life, even those perceived to have it all with nothing to be depressed about.