Anxiety Battles

Anxiety has consumed a lot of my life in the past year or the past week or past month, maybe, honestly at this point – I can’t tell or remember the difference. It often feels like the same miserable, self-pitying feeling you get when you have a cold. When you’re full of the flu and your nose is blocked, you lie there in bed surrounded by tissues with the stark realization you didn’t damn well appreciate what it was like when you didn’t have a blocked nose and sore throat. Except at the moment I feel like I’m stuck in an occasional limbo of nostalgically looking back to whenever I felt full of confidence, hope and positivity. I earn some days and nights for the last time I went outside and didn’t have intense paranoia about random possible scenarios that had a 1 to 1000 chance of happening or harrowing discomfort whenever a stranger looked slightly in my direction. The nauseating bubbles in my stomach or the tension headaches from staying up with my mind buzzing of ‘what ifs’ and ‘hey what if this happens?’ or ‘what if this thing you think negatively of yourself is true?’ is so draining and not in the way where maybe I’ll get a good nights sleep when I finally hit the pillow because lately it’s been at least an hour or two sometimes before my mind will calm down enough to let me sleep.

Now you’re probably thinking, hey Helena where are you going with this? Is this meant to be a story of anxiety struggles but something marvelous has happened and it has a happy ending? Is this a set up for a post to give advice about anxiety where you act as if you know how to handle it when really you’re probably the least tactful person when dealing with your own anxiety? Is this really a sneaky review for something? Honestly, this is just a chat. From me to computer screen to whoever may feel like reading. If you’ve made it this far, I commend you. The past few nights and especially after watching a video on Youtube, which I’ll mention in a bit, I’ve considered expressing my struggles, my aspirations, my ideas and my hopes and goals a lot more through my blog. It’s almost egotistical in some senses but maybe this will benefit me, maybe this’ll benefit someone else, maybe there’ll be one word or phrase in something that I word-vomit onto this blog that could speak to someone. Two of my current goals in life that I feel that I, honestly, need to do better at is – a) Looking after myself more and b) Looking out for others and helping others more.

Kindness and empathy are two traits I think are so important in day-to-day life and in the world we live in at the moment. I absolutely adore reading stories of people doing random acts of kindness, people setting up charities and movements that they personally run to help others, people creating art and media to inspire others and reflect a positive mental attitude. It’s something that gives me hope and lately I’ve needed hope really badly. On some nights it feels like I’ve been housing a nocturnal, pessimistic demon in my brain who likes to send my brain into a spiral as I’m trying to sleep and the funny thing is, is how I don’t feel I’ve ‘given in’ to this demon at all because deep down I want so much good for the world, I want to be an activist, I want to create things, I want to actively work towards helping others even if its small things like smiling at someone or being there for them when they feel a bit down, or making people baked goods just to see them smile – I want to do better, I want to be the ‘change you wish to see in the world’ and all that cliché, but the catch is my anxiety is almost weighing me down with opposing negative thoughts. Because of my anxiety I feel so much fear, distrust and fatigue. I feel so nervous around other people, I feel so nervous about doing new things, I feel so nervous that going out of my comfort zone will end up with me hurt, people I love hurt or embarrassment or a bigger knock in confidence. Sometimes I feel like I do not trust anyone and my anxiety makes me think everyone is out to get me or doesn’t like me unless proven otherwise.

The video I watched that randomly stirred a new feeling of being absolutely sick and done with this anxiety was weirdly a Markiplier video. Now if you don’t recognise that name, he’s a big youtube name who does gaming videos mostly but has also done quite a lot of charity work and I believe is working on an interactive project? I’m not engrossed enough to know completely but essentially the video I watched is Mark discussing ‘pain’, what some of the worst ‘pain’ he’s been in his life has been and how it’s changed him and changed his perspective. What stuck out to me is how he talked about after having quite a horrible doctor during painful recovery after surgery how a lot of his family were telling him to sue but he talks about how he never wants to be a ‘revengeful’ person even if he feels like he can be quite spiteful. He talks about how if you only ever use anger as a release for stuff, it’s going to be very toxic and damaging to yourself and it spoke to me because lately, especially during at university, I’ve had so many occasions when either things have gone wrong, people have upset me or taken advantage of me and all I’ve felt is anger and stress. Both at other people and then after trying to teach myself to understand other people’s perspectives and take responsibility, I’ve been angry at myself and when you get to that point, there’s never really any letting go of that completely. So now, yes I’m pissed off at my anxiety for how much it’s drained me and taken over my life, my perspectives and my attitudes towards things, but I want to teach myself how to not get so stressed about things, especially when they go wrong.

Being angry is completely valid. Being upset is completely valid. When people hurt you or let you down, you have every right to be upset. What I wish to learn though is how to make that passage or journey after something like that so less stressful and draining. I want to learn how to not let stuff like that be extra building blocks for the walls my anxiety puts up. I want to learn how to feel something, feel the feelings I am allowed to feel as a human, but then communicate with people who care about me and take the steps and responsibility to not let it break my confidence down but instead learn from it, distance myself from the pain and carry on. I don’t want anxiety to be my definition or control parts of my life.

So I don’t really have any happy ending or resolution for all this but that’s kind of how living with anxiety can be, isn’t it? Some times you will actually feel a release or something will happen and you’ll be told by others how much ‘better you’re doing’ and you think ‘Wow, I’ve done it, I’ve beaten anxiety’. But the reality is sometimes it’ll come back and come back hard and honestly that’s what I’m going through right now. I hope maybe as time goes by, I’ll be able to figure out how to live with it and accept it.

 

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When you want to change your personality

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Mental wise, I’m honestly probably not quite stable or healthy. As mentioned in other posts before I do have depression and anxiety and although I do not like to dwell on them or get too open with them on my blog, this post is slightly sinking onto that topic and mostly personal to me and looking for advice on my feelings and thoughts.

Everybody I know has unique and interesting personalities, I feel all of my friends and loved ones have twinkles of loveliness in each of them that’s unique to them. On and off for a couple of years I’ve never really been happy with my personality and I think it has a lot of traits in it that I wish I could improve on or get rid of. Therefore, I’m writing this to try and make myself aware of my clingy flaws so I can work on them and change that part of my personality into a trait that’s more healthy and helps me be more secure and safe with myself.

I’ve always struggled with friendships and relationships since starting high school and I know a lot of other young people struggle with stuff like this but sometimes when I’m in my own head I feel terribly alone on it. Everyone seems set in stone with childhood friends or friendship groups or regular outings with friends, however I feel alone. Like if there was a tree where all the connecting branches were friendship groups, I’d be a single branch that’s broken off the tree somewhere along the way. But because of social media and having friends who have their own seperate groups, I’ve still got to watch from afar and I can never reattach myself into it because, hey, nature doesn’t work that way. You can’t tape a dead branch to a growing tree and expect it to bloom and grow again. Am I making sense? Probably not.

When I get the hope up that I’m going to finally be included in outings or groups I do get extremely clingy and I am honestly embarassed by myself. It’s like an out of body experience where I’m watching me double text all my friends and try and call them and plan stuff, and I watch her get ignored or rejected and I feel like I can’t do anything to initiate the self-control to stop her from bugging people more. It seems like natural human knowledge if someone doesn’t seem interested to leave them alone but I feel like along the way my brain’s gotten foggy in this area. Sometimes people will be like ‘I rarely message first out of feeling clingy so please message me first’ so that’s why I seem to have no shame in bugging people cause I feel like unless I put some effort in; nobody will ever message me. I wish my anxiety and shame would pop up in these situations to help me calm down and get on with something else. But instead it pops up in the worse times – thanks mental illness!

So I think regarding this flaw that I pump all my self-hatred into, I’m going to try and attempt the ‘Quid Pro Quo’ phrase or ‘This for that’. I’m not gonna do a 180 and be like ‘I won’t message people first if they need me, they’ll message me’, because I already know deep down that means I’ll feel more alone. If I need someone or want to hang or talk I’ll message them, but after that message I will refrain from sending anything else(unless it’s necessary/an emergency) until I get something back. I will also try to stop initiating conversations whilst I’m at work or before bed; when I also go off to York for University, I will try my hardest to put my studies as main priority. At home it’s a bit harder because I’m always dwelling on what social media shows me so I never act productive unless something else makes me feel involved in the world. It’s like my room is a little bubble of disassociation, unless I’m talking to another human being via online or in person; I feel alone and that time is stood still so I normally just laze around. I honestly regret it every evening or even days that I do that. I want to be productive, I know I need something to keep my mind occupied to help my mental health yet it’s been so hard lately. I feel like I need to finally accept the period of my life of friendship stuff or making friends is over or at least on hiatus until University. I need to put my heart and time into other things such as my family, my love life, my work, my health and hobbies instead of repeatively scratching open the wound that is, my whole teenage life and the world convincing me if I am not constantly with friends or have stuff to do on a weekend etc., I am lonely and not worth people’s time.

I’m sorry if this post is depressing or even dark. It is a very personal post and will probably not be shared much via social media. Has anyone else ever gone through this kind of phase or hardship? Has anyone got any advice for putting your time into other things after a long period of unstable mental health? Or even just easier advice for being more productive?

Thanks for reading!

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The Five H’s of University Worries

I’m so excited about university, lately it’s probably one of the most prominent things on my mind and tongue. I recently accepted my unconditional offer from York St John university and come September this year, I’ll be a student there! Am I bricking it? Absolutely.

Obviously it’s normal to get a bit nervous and have some anxiety, especially if you’re moving away from your hometown to this new place. So I thought I’d share some of my 5 current worries about starting university because who knows, maybe other people have them too! Or students might have had them and known how to overcome them!

  1. Hunger
    So technically, if I was to receive my second accommodation preference this might be less of a worry(living that self-catered life), but my ideal uni flat would require me sharing a kitchen with flat mates and also cooking for myself. Now if you know me well enough you’ll know I could probably try and cook beans on toast and still mess it up. Ok maybe I’m not, that bad – but I’m hardly a chef or baker. I’m also hugely unreliable with money. I can imagine I’ll end up blowing my food allowance mainly on crap I might not need and come home and be like ‘well I forgot an actual important thing like dinner’.
  2. Home sickness
    Now I did get offers for Manchester based universities but I wanted to take this opportunity to get out of town and try a new city. York is absolutely lovely and I can imagine I’ll get used to it as a nice home but I am really prone to getting home sick. When I was in year 7 at a two night camping trip, I remember crying to sleep because I wanted my parents. God forbid this happening at uni. Not because I’m ashamed but literally not having my parents in face-to-face distance for once might be a bit more shocking to my system. My anxious, easily frightened system.
  3. Hearing
    This worry is probably not as ‘relatable’ as every students worry but I’m mentioning it anyways. Maybe to get it off my chest or maybe hopefully I can look back and be like ‘this was nothing to worry about’. Obviously my hearing will play a big part in my university life, whether or not I want it to. I’m highly scared of missing stuff in lectures or even missing out on conversations with people that might end up with not feeling as inclusive with potential friends or maybe being seen as rude or strange by others.
  4. Homework
    I have not had homework for almost 3 years. Therefore having to do essays and important work in my free time is definitely going to feel really strange to me. I am positive I’ll enjoy my course and probably the things we’ll be given assignments on but I’m praying that my procrastination side won’t kick in during university. I hate being stressed and late on work so I need to try hard to get stuff done as soon as I get assigned it.
  5. Humans
    Ok bear with me, I had a hard time think of a ‘H’ word for people/friendships. But basically, the worst fear of university – especially one in a new city – is being able to make friends. Now I don’t want to get all open and mopey but making friends has always been a toughie for me in the past. In recent years it’s obviously changed and I’m glad I’m seeing my self-esteem and confidence grow but I can feel inside me, I’m going to be shy when I go to university. Hopefully Freshers and the staggering amount of alcohol will maybe dissolve that shyness but ho hum.

So that’s basically my anxieties about the upcoming student year but the positives and excitement definitely weigh it all out! Did you guys have any of this starting university? Or maybe even have it currently about your future university? I’d love to hear people’s views on it!

 

Thanks for reading,

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#TimeToTalk Day

Mental Health (n): In regard to an individual’s psychological and emotional well-being.

Mental health problems can affect anybody. Sometimes it can be triggered by something or develop at any given moment. Nobody has a choice in how their well-being is affected and it is nobody’s fault if they develop a mental health problem. People with mental health issues can be as strong and kind as people without any.

If you suffer from mental health problems you should never sit alone and blame yourself. You are not alone and there is nothing wrong with you. However I know when your mental state takes a turn, the world can feel completely different.

It is actually a myth that depression is highly uncommon. According to statistics recorded in 2014, there was around 1.6 million people got in contact with mental health specialists. Obviously all of these cases won’t always be depression. They can be related to bereavement depression, post-natal depression, anxiety, OCD, schizophrenia, a range of personality disorders, PTSD, sleeping disorders, eating disorders, stress, addiction, body dysmorphic disorder, bipolar or even trichotillomania. A lot of these can even interchange with each other and that is highly common. Some of these disorders can even be symptoms of another thing.

So as today is Time to Talk day, I’ve decided to write this post to encourage people to speak up and talk to others. Whenever I suffer from symptoms that affect my well-being and mental health I do find it helpful to talk to someone I trust and have a discussion. Bottling things up is never healthy and can even cause more anxiety or stress. Even if it’s not you personally who is struggling, if you believe someone else is, the best thing you  can do is try and encourage them to talk about it or even speak to their GP if they have continuous symptoms. A lot of excellent organisations including Rethink Mental Illness, BEAT, Mind and Time to Change talk about symptoms and different disorders on their websites.

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Illustration by Stephen Collins

I am someone who suffers from mental health disorders and struggles with my mental well-being. Some symptoms I have never been able to pinpoint the name for them or get a diagnosis but I know I am not the only one who suffers with these battles.

So this is my personal message on Time to Talk day to make anyone feel less alone and know they have someone like them. I know what it’s like to feel so extremely low you feel like there is no point in getting up to the day, I know the effort there is to get yourself out of bed to college or work and not let yourself get overwhelmed by other people and their attitudes, I know what it’s like to look at yourself in the mirror and not like what you see, no matter what exercise you do or food you eat. I know what it’s like to binge eat without even realising what you’re doing and then suddenly crash and feel guilty and sick. It feels like your stomach is filled with toxic material that you just want to release. I know what it’s like to want to scream but know nobody will hear you. I know what it’s like to feel alone.

But I promise you, you are not alone. There will always be somebody out there to talk to. Whether it’s family, friends, your doctor or a counselor. There is so much in the world for you to explore.

You are a warrior and you can do it.

So try and find someone to chat to, in person or online and have a brew. Have a conversation.

It’s time to talk.

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Helena x

 

Skin Picking

So my disclaimer to this post is that it might gross people out a bit. It’s a habit I’ve had for a good few years now that people always give me disgusted looks for or even get impatient with me when they catch me doing it.

Since puberty my skin was obviously cursed with the despicable teenage acne. I used to get really bad crowds of whiteheads on my back, chest and face. My nose and upper lip has always had blackheads and my face would always get those annoying under-the-skin, throbbing pimples at least every other week. I am thankful my acne is not as bad as it was when I was in high school or college, however every often I still get bad spots. Makes it even worse that I pick. I scratch and squeeze at spots that I get and if I don’t do that, I spend the day stroking and touching the bit of skin that has the blemish on it. At first when growing up, I used to pick and scratch at acne because I wanted it gone, part of me thought if I picked out the gross pus or dirt underneath the spot, I would help get rid of it quicker.

However now in recent years, I’ve noticed I do it when I’m stressed or anxious. If I’m anxious about going out and getting ready I find myself scratching at spots. When I’ve had a bad day, going up to a mirror and squeezing and roughly picking any blemish I can find on my face – even a blackhead not even someone with perfect vision would probably notice – distracts my mind and calms me down. Doing my own research, the skin picking seems very relevant to my anxiety and possibly ‘BDD’. When I am anxious or stressed, I become preoccupied with my skin and picking and scratching feels like I am getting rid of dirt or bad stuff on my skin. It is almost relaxing to me but at the end of the day I really damage my skin and end up with scabs and wounds that last longer than a spot would or even acne scars that last months.

I write this post today because, although the past few months I’ve gotten way better at not picking at my skin, I am having a regression week where two spots on my face I  can’t stop picking and the day after they heal with yellow scabs and I end up picking them off again. I hope maybe admitting to my problem on ‘paper’ might kickstart me not doing it again. But I also wanted to share some tips I have, in case anybody else believes they might have a problem with acne/skin picking.

  1. Putting plasters on pimples or blemishes when at home/in private to prevent picking.
  2. Face masks! Not only do they help cleanse and soothe your face but also prevent mindless picking.
  3. Always clean your makeup brushes and take makeup off before sleeping. This prevents any blemishes from dirty makeup. Which then prevents picking.
  4. If you do unfortunately scratch, wash your face and then finish washing with cold water. Cold water helps close open pores preventing further dirt entering.
  5. Gloves – admittedly I don’t do this often, but I’ve heard on other blog posts that people with compulsive skin picking have written, gloves can create a barrier.
  6. When you feel like picking, paint your nails. This gives you a reason to keep your hands still.
  7. Continuing the painted nails – if you feel like picking your skin, pick at the varnish on your nails instead.
  8. If you can, stroke a pet when you feel like picking. This is a numbing situation in which you can zone out whilst stroking your pet, much like you might zone out and relax when picking or after squeezing a spot. Plus your pet will love you!

If anybody else can share any other tips – believe me I’d appreciate them!

Thanks for reading,

Helena x

You do not decide the world that lives inside my brain

Sometimes in my life my anxiety causes me to not feel that I am really inside my head. Sometimes I feel like something that is watching a human walk around and I try to help it make decisions but sometimes it just zones out and isn’t completely present. This is called dissociation and it is an experience where you feel separate from your body and your sense of identity and thoughts, as well as the way you view the world and yourself change quite drastically. Sometimes when I get into these weird states where I don’t feel 100% there I find it harder to remember memories or even mix up memories that are other peoples or sometimes I’ve noticed recently when I have realistic dreams I sometimes believe these are actual things that happened way in the past. For example I had a dream one of my friends had a tooth growing out of their gum, as if they were having their final adult tooth growing through or something along that lines and I feel like I can remember avidly them telling me they had toothache and pulling up their upper lip to show me it. However a few weeks later when I asked them about their tooth apparently that never happened and their gums were normal.

In these states my anxiety can be a real struggle as well, you don’t feel right about your identity, you worry that people think different of you than what you want to believe, you are worried that your interests and what you like might come across as fake or false or even in really  bad  states I even feel that I don’t have a personality at all. But at the end of the day my anxiety and struggles make me. They help me grow as a person and coming to terms with them and being able to sit back and go ‘no your worries don’t define you, you have these personality traits that make you lovable’.

Growing up it was definitely not that easy to accept how sensitive I was to comments about my personality, choices, thought processes or dreams. When I got to the age of picking my GCSEs, I excitedly dragged my mum to the GCSE Art stall to discuss what doing the GCSE was like and the head of art turned around and said that I shouldn’t do it. That I wouldn’t be able to handle it and I would not pass it. Yet here I am, I passed GCSE Art and passed my college course of Art and Design with a DMM Grade (D being Distinctions, M’s being Merits. These are almost like A’s and B’s in A Level Terms).  I am proud of my younger self for not letting the teacher’s words cut me to the core although the amount of times I’d sit at home over my work and cry cause I didn’t think art was right for me. I will continue being strong like my younger self was during that time and not let people tell me what and what I shouldn’t do with my dreams and ambitions.

People who do not know you and the world set out in your mind cannot dictate what you are here on earth for. This post is a reminder for everyone struggling with identity struggles, personality struggles or anxiety. This is for anyone who is trying to decide what to study in University and their peers are telling them to go towards other areas of study yet something else feels right in your head. If you feel drawn towards Science, you go for that Science course – you know yourself better than anyone else knows you.

Today I was having a really bad case of anxiety attacks and symptoms whilst I was at work and whilst putting back some baskets a customer approached me and asked me for some help. She asked if I could recommend a product to cover a hole in her garden. I was hired for the job of working on checkouts at my current job so I advised this lady that I did not have training in homeware or gardenware and that I would go and get someone to help. After running all the way to customer service, unable to find anyone that wasn’t busy and ran back to her. When I told her she turned around and went “No. No. You people are supposed to know this stuff, you are hired to help me.”.

So to this customer and anybody else who thinks I am supposed to know certain things to aid them.
I have a name.
I am a person.
I am not ‘you people’.
I am hired to help as much as I possibly can and to help the store make money.
I am not here for you. I am here for myself.
I am here to learn and gain experience so I can go to University.
I will not let your rude attitude define me and define why I was put here in this store.

I am Helena and I am here on earth to make my dreams happen. I am here to gain happiness and education. I am here in this job because I want to work and earn experience and income so I can go to University and travel.

 

Thanks for reading,
Helena