Mental Health Awareness Week: Anxiety

Firstly, apologies for not posting on Monday– it’s not good that my schedule has already gone down the pan so soon after making it! — but I do have an excuse.

This week marks Mental Health Awareness Week. Someone of you might have seen the posts all of social media, some of you might not have even realised. But in my case I feel very personally about it so it’s something I like to pay attention to, especially since this year’s theme is on anxiety.

So why didn’t I write a post?

Well, like I said, anxiety is a very personal topic for me. I knew that would be my theme for my blog post this week and that hasn’t changed. I even started writing several different posts. But I really struggled.

If you check out my post My Four Post Confession: Trichotillomania that’ll explain why I feel so personally about this topic. But it’s not something I’ve exactly kept a secret, especially on this blog, it’s just not something I shout from the rooftops.

And that was my problem.

I have had trichotillomania since I was 11, and even at 22 I don’t feel like I’m an expert on the topic. Yes, I’ve researched it; I’ve tried and tested several methods to stop myself pulling; I’ve even checked out some of the communities on Facebook and Twitter to understand how other people cope with it.

But I know I’m not an expert so I feel like a fraud to offer people advice on the topic.

My problem though is people who do feel that they are experts.

I’ve seen people in these groups offering medical advice, despite the fact they’ve not even made it to university never mind completed a medical degree. I’ve even had someone turn around to me today and tell me that I didn’t even have the condition because I’ve not been diagnosed by a doctor.

That’s a blow after 11 years!

Now, don’t get me wrong, I completely understand the need for this sense of community. Though I don’t post in them myself, it’s like the fitness groups I talk in; everyone needs a support network and after growing up being laughed at I know this all too well.

But there is a difference between offering some suggestions and telling people how to feel.

The worst thing is, a lot of these people are barely teenagers themselves!

Personally I feel that it can be extremely patronising and while the majority of the people on these sites simply try and offer comfort and an ear, which is always greatly appreciated, it’s easy to get shot down with such a fragile condition.

So my advice?

If you feel you have trich, or any mental condition, then yes do try and seek expert advice. Yes, there are methods out there to help you– whether it be medication, therapy or anything else. If your doctor, like many of mine, tell you it’s ‘just a phase’ and you don’t feel comfortable with this then get a second opinion. If your parents don’t understand then research it and explain it to them, same with if your friends. My own mother called me a freak for five years before a friend of hers explained what the condition was– and that was before even I knew what it was!

The worst thing you can do is listen to one person who tells you something negative and take it as fact. In the end it could just make you feel worse and I know from experience that feeling bad isn’t going to help you at all.

x

I’m Going to be HOW OLD?

So I’ve just realised that today mark’s eight months since I turned 22– which, of course, means that I only have four months until I’m 23.

Seriously, TWENTY THREE!

And the fact that this is causing me to break out in a cold sweat is worrying since I always thought the mental breakdown over my age would come on my 25th.

I dread to see what happens then…

But anyway, I’ll be 23. I remember when one of my friends turned 23 and we all laughed at him, being the naive 18 year olds that we were. Twenty three was old and by 23 you were expected to have a job, a life, on your way to getting engaged.

This guy was still living with his parents (and their bank accounts).

In all honesty it’s not like I’ve got anything to worry about. My entire life I’ve been ‘too old for my age’ and when I hit 20 I finally felt like I was where I was supposed to be. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life of coure but I felt like a 20something.

I’d wanted to be a 20 something since I stumbled across a blog using the term.

20somethings didn’t have the lack of independence that a child did, or the negative connotations that being a teenager held– no, a 20something could do what they wanted, when they wanted. We’re encouraged to make wild decisions, to go travelling and partying, to find yourself without the constraints of a family.

So why does it feel that that freedom is disappearing?

Even though I’m still a 20something, I’m starting to realise that it might only be the ‘early’ 20somethings who can do that. By early I mean those pre 25 year olds. The rest of us need to be settling down, having kids, getting a career and buying our first homes.

Considering my diet consists of supernoodles and take aways, I better do a helluva lot of growing up in the next two years!

So I Crashed and Burned

For anyone who’s read my blog before, you might have guessed that I’m struggling with my postgraduate degree. The workload has meant that I’m resorting to alnighters in the library to write about topics I don’t fully understand and in all honesty, it is stressful.

But I don’t mean to complain, most people going through university will feel like this. The obvious answer is to get organised, to stop procrasinating and to get on with it– that’s what the wonderful British taxpayers are paying for.

Well today I finally crashed.

I don’t mean literally but I took the hardest mental hit I think I’ve had since I came to university. Now, I have anxiety so I’m used to waking up and just feeling lousey. Most of the time there’ll be absolutely no reason for it so I’ll force myself to get out of bed and go for a walk to clear my head, or I go to the library and throw myself into my assignments.

I refuse to let myself mope around.

Except this morning I woke up and just burst into tears.

Crying isn’t part of my normal routine, I do the sulky bitch face brilliantly but I don’t cry unless I’m drunk. The weird thing was that I just couldn’t stop. The best way to describe it is that I actually felt like my world was ending, I guess kind of how I’ve felt with serious break ups, but nothing had happened to cause it.

Well, I had had a pretty bad night out last night and I was hung over but that’s not exactly news.

So I did what any rational twenty-something girl would do, I ran back home.

Now my problem here is that I’m from the Isle of Man and I go to university in England. There’s 100 miles, a train and a sea for me to get home. So it’s not something I would often do; in fact I’ve been home twice in the past two years.

So you can imagine mum’s shock when I text her telling her I was getting the boat that night. Immediately she phoned me up:

What’s happened? What’ve you done?

(Yes, thanks mum!)

But as soon as she heard me crying she quickly accepted I was coming home and put the phone down… And then got my little sister to phone me up to find out what was the problem.

What’s happened, mum said you refused to tell her anything? You can’t be homesick, no-one would be that desperate to come home.

Like I said, it was a big deal for me to randomly go home.

But I did. And I’m slightly annoyed with myself because I’m always the one saying that running away from your problems doesn’t help; and in all honesty even at midnight I still feel horrible.

But I’ve decided that if anything is going to fix this it’s some time with my dog, some island scenery and some home cooked roast dinners.

Though if I do find a magic cure I’ll be sure to pass it along.

x

Hello: Coming in from the cold

 

 

 

 

 

So there’s something kind of strange going on but hey, I’m not one to blame coincidences. But this morning I decided to reignite this old blog malarky… I couldn’t particularly tell you why but given that I now have a diary, a “journal for notes and scribblings” as well as various pads for my university work I’ve clearly got too much to say. And I hope some of it might be a little interesting to you.

But first, and by far the weirdest thing to happen to me this morning, is that it’s mine and WordPress’ 5 year anniversary!

wordpress

Your present’s in the post, WordPress.

Of course I’ve not been five years on this specific blog. But it’s definitely strange thinking back to five years ago. That was before university, I had a boyfriend… Pretty sure it was around this time five years ago that I had plans to go to Rome. Wow, it all seems to have been so long ago!

Well, back to the present day and what to discuss? I do have a growing list of topics, but they all deserve their own updates. But since 22 January what has happened?

  • Got a new job for the summer
  • I’m going to Leeds Festival!
  • For some reason, I’m going to the Sports’ Ball… Despite not being on a team. Any reason to buy a nice dress!
  • Went to hospital this weekend, anaphylactic shock.
  • And I’m still not entirely sure I’m going to survive my masters!

Of course, I’ll write more about all of that when I’m not rushing off to work. I just wanted to give you all a head’s up- I’m back!

 

Passion and Drive

credit: chomplife.wordpress.com

credit: chomplife.wordpress.com

There’s nothing quite as strange as not realising you’re passionate about something. Well, maybe that’s just me.  Now, I’m very much someone with a lot of passing fancies. I’ve been into Mixed Marital Arts, running, gym, fitness, reading, politics, creative writing, travelling… And many other things at various points in my life but one thing I really stuggle with is the commitment to one of those things. I get bored. I don’t want to do it anymore. I stumble and refuse to pull myself back up, though tell that to my face and I’ll argue my case until I’m blue in the face.  

To be honest, I pick up the majority of my ‘passions’ because someone close to me is into it. I have a copy cat personality, or maybe I simply feed off their energy about a subject. Hell, my housemates are extremely included within each of their places of work and I find myself discussing business with them!  

But today I had my first dissertation meeting for my MA. Now, I’ve had countless sleepless nights over this and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed researching it so I wasn’t that worried. However my original plan was to focus on gun crime in the US and the UK. And by that I mean that I wanted to focus on the United States, given their increasingly frequent firearm homocides targetting educational facilities. I had to include the UK on the basis that I’m doing my dissertation within a postgraduate courses which focuses on the welfare state in Great Britain. And despite all of those alnighters in the library, it wasn’t until yesterday that I realised that there was no dissertation within that area. Solely focusing on America, yeh someone could write an entire PhD on that but guncrime within the UK is essentially non existant. It makes up less than 0.2% of homocides each year and the number is falling, in comparison to it rising in the US. We, apparently, boast some of the toughest gun licensing laws in the world… There’s no dissertation in saying how amazing we are, really is there?  

So I went to my first meeting today feeling a little disheartened. I had a vague idea of sticking to the comparison idea and instead asking why the levels of crime were falling in the UK and yet rising in the US. What I came out with was a dissertation looking at how far the schools’ themselves and the education system could be blamed for classroom violence. Though still comparing the US and the UK.  Of course, the fact that my dissertation question completely changed wasn’t a surprise to me- the same thing happened when I was doing my undergraduate degree. I don’t think many people appreciate how wide a topic their question covers until they start getting questions shot at them: But who are you targeting? But who are you looking at? And where will you be looking at? And obviously, I’d accepted that my guncrime idea wasn’t quite sufficent for a 15,000 word dissertation. 

Instead, within a single hour, I had managed to cut through 100 odd different angles that she had thrown at me to one question. It’s a bonus that I can still include gun crime and I can still use the comparison of the two countries, but it also seems much more manageable when faced with 15,000 words.  But that wasn’t the most surprising part. That came when she had stopped throwing questions at me and I started talking- which generally starts happening when I feel an awkward silence building. I ramble on and on, usually going off on a huge tangent and not even answering or acknowledging the question- which I did this time too, since every time I stopped to breath she’d say “so really you want to look at…” And quickly summerise a completely different topic to what we had been discussing. At first I thought that it must be incrediably tiresome listening to me go on. Especially since I was clearly making no sense and usually finished my sentances laughing nervously. But somehow within my notes I managed to string a theme and a sort-of question together as well as a framework. I especially was shocked when she’d refer back to stuff that I had said in my nonsense and agree. I hadn’t meant to say anything clever, I just didn’t like the silence!  

Then she asked me a question that I’ve been asked many times: who was the most influential teacher in your life?  

I already know the answer to that question. My head of sixth form, Mr Kay. I enjoy calling him the ‘shouty’ teacher who demanded respected, and who also very nearly kicked me out of sixth form for trunency, though I can’t deny that I didn’t deserve it. But it was him who sat me down and forced me to apply to university, and it was him who dragged me out of regristration to shut me in his office while he demanded to know if I was willing to commit to A Levels or if I was going to leave right then. I hated sixth form, I was no where near as smart as my peers though I managed to scrape a couple of Ds and Es. But being confronted with the concept of being expelled woke up the primary school good girl in me, the one terrified of causing trouble and getting sent to the head teacher’s office, and the one who was certainly not going to tell her mother that she had dropped out of school and therefore would lose her claim to child benefit. He’s  the reason I’m at university.  

When I finished describing him I was almost in tears, I’m not sure why though… I’ve told the story many times but I don’t think I quite understood the reality of it until now. How different my life would be if I’d followed the same path that many other children, my friends, who were in the same socio-economical position as me had followed by having children during their teens and not going to university. They’re onto their second child, many of them engaged, and I’m here struggling with my Masters. At first she was shocked that the teacher I had began describing as ‘shouty’ and scary was my main influence. Then she acknowledged that clearly my personal experience was extremely influential in my choice of dissertation area. Finally, she told me that she loved my passion, my drive. And that one day, I would be able to take it a step further and influence policies for myself and make the change that I wanted to see in the world. 

Little old me, a world changer.  Now that was the real shock!

NaNoWriMo

Thank you to everyone who has been commenting, liking and simply reading my posts lately! It’s always a great motivation to have some interaction on the blog.

But now, on to the main focus: writing.

Now, many people reading this will be avid writers. By an avid writer I don’t mean to imply a published author, but we are all blog writers however frequently we might take to writing down our tales. Therefore I do feel that we are writers, Of course there are those who argue otherwise, who say someone has to achieve a certain goal before labelling themselves under a specific title such as a writer, or a runner; but for me, it’s about personal feelings.

I like writing. I always have. Though I wouldn’t say I’m especially creative, how J, K. Rowling came up with the whole world of Hogwarts I will never understand, but I am quite a daydreamer. In fact, I like to think of myself as a realistic daydreamer (which probably stems from my tendency to worry.)

Throughout my childhood, I’ve probably started about a dozen different story ideas. As I grew up, this gave way to a more academic style of writing thanks to university. But I’ll always remember what one author told me:

My friend’s stepdad had paid for me and her to attend a five day creative writing course with a published author. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and by the end we were expected to have completed a short story and she also suggested that if we were currently writing something that she would read through it. So I decided to let her read a short piece that I had written about a police woman who had given up her child at birth.

I was 16, what I thought I knew about post natal depression I have no idea but the story worked.

In fact, she seemed rather impressed- though that might have just been because we were all too young to handle real criticism. But one thing she did say to me was that I’d managed to squeeze a nine chapter book into nine pages. In her words, I had the real basis for a novel (whether any good or not she didn’t say).

That was by far the most encouraging thing anyone could have said to me.

Which brings me on to NaNoWriMo (or National Novel Writing Month, if you think I’ve lost my mind). November is a month which a nationally dedicated to writing, and blog posts if you were choosing to look at NaNoBloMo. Either way the aim is to write every day. If you are taking part in the blogging version, the aim is to write a blog post every day.

However, NaNoWriMo goes a little bigger (in my opinion anyway). Those taking part in this are ultimately aiming to complete a 50,000 novel by the end of November.

Fantastic!

In fact, the charity provides support networks and writing groups in local areas to motivate you along. There’s an entire online community focused on helping you to your goal. They even break it down and point out that it is only 1,667 words a day to reach that target. That’s feasible right?

This isn’t a competition though, everyone who reaches the 50,000 word target is considered a “winner” but in fact just making it even a few days in is an accomplishment- it’s only day 2 and I’ve already hit 4,000 words (using my beginner’s momentum to get ahead of myself for the slump later on) but that’s far more than I’ve ever written in my life.

But don’t think you’ve lost out since you weren’t ready, you can sign up until November 5th so jump on the bandwagon!Image

Pushing People Away

Have you ever really analysed yourself about how you react to certain situations? Just me then…

Well ever since all that stuff with my mum I’ve found that, for lack of a better phrase, I’m just messed up. It’s been just over a week since she phoned me with the dreaded “I’ve found a lump” and tomorrow it’ll be a week since she text me with the all clear so really, I should be fine now. But I’m not.

The first thing I noticed is my alcohol tolerance has gone out the window. Given that alcoholism is a family trait, I’m always paying attention to my drinking habits and though I do enjoy a “quiet drink” in the pub it’s more of the likelihood of that quiet drink turning into a loss of memory the next day. Generally, I’m quite good. The night before my mum’s day in hospital I did admittedly go out with the intention of getting very drunk, but when the first club shut at 2pm and my friends wanted to continue the night I knew I had to draw a line.  However, the last few nights I’ve been out and ended up forgetting the majority of the events.

Another sign that something’s not right is my anxiety is playing up. I’ll be sat thinking about nothing in particular and suddenly feel the urge to hide away and cry. Now, I don’t think about depressing things or anything like that, if I was I wouldn’t be so concerned but I’ll be sitting in the library and suddenly be overcome with the urge to cry. It’s weird to explain unless you’ve felt it. My ability to space out when I’m sat with a group of people is becoming more and more often too, even if my friend’s in the middle of a conversation I’ll zone out completely unintentionally and end up looking every awkward when they’re expecting an answer!

Sleep is become a thing of the past. I don’t have insomnia or anything, and I’ll have a good 12 hours, but they’re a very restless 12 hours. I’ll wake up in the morning feeling like I’ve simply been lying there, awake, the entire night. I must be tossing and turning because I’ll wake up tangled in my bedcovers. Bad dreams are becoming more common, though I have no memory of them. I’ve even started cutting down on the amount of caffeine I drink but it doesn’t seem to be making a difference- expect the fact I’ll be dying of tiredness in work.

But the scariest aspect of all of this is my ability to push people away just as I really need my friends. Like, I don’t think I do it on purpose- but I’ve become a lot more aggressive when I’m drunk, and a lot more confrontational over petty matters. I seem to be causing arguments with ease at the minute, or making sarcastic comments as if I’m testing people. It’s not like I’m wanting to lose all of my friends, and even as I’m doing all of this I’m scolding myself but I can’t seem to be able to help it. It’s as if my brain and mouth just aren’t connected. Or my emotions are running amuck.

I hope this passes soon since it’s only been a week as I said. But I could really do with my normal attitude returning sooner than later in all honesty, this is even testing my own patience never mind everyone around me!