You know it’s all in your head, right!?

No shit Sherlock. Of course it is, that’s kinda the whole of mental illness. Broken brains, misfiring messages, chemical cock ups. It’s a huge mess of problems in my head. 

So what do you take for it, the anxiety?!

I take nothing, because I haven’t been seen by doctor in person, because I can’t get an appointment at my surgery and ‘going to sit up there and wait’ doesn’t work for someone with agoraphobia and severe anxiety. 

So thanks to the wonderful system of ring at 8am and good luck getting an appointment that we have, I have suffered, mostly in silence for the best part of 4 years. Three of those I rarely left my house – probably 5 or 6 times total. 

I got a dog, I forced myself to get used to my block. I pushed myself to walk the 5 minute route with the dog, and gradually increase it to go a little bit longer. I push myself to reach points further away, with limited success. I can sometimes go to the shop on my own without falling apart, but it takes time to build myself up for it and time for me to recover from it afterwards.

Oh you must not be THAT bad then if you haven’t seen a doctor. You’ve managed this long. 

I’ve SUFFERED this long. Nothing is managed about my mental health. It’s in decline, despite the progress I do make. 

It’s completely draining, it frustrates me and I hate that I am trapped in this vicious circle. I am building up to being able to walk to the doctor surgery and wait it out. Which could take me the rest of my life. I struggle my way through everything. Trying to block out the noise in my head. Often without success. I laugh often on the outside, I put on a show of normality so that people don’t know just what’s all in my head. 

Here’s hoping to see a doctor this year, before I reach that point of no return through lack of services available to the minority of us people that suffer with this crippling anxiety. It’s no surprise to me why people commit suicide, it’s crossed my messed up mind more than once. 

344 days 

That’s how many days in a row I have left my house now! I’m feeling really proud of that, even though I have felt increasingly overwhelmed this past few weeks. 

I have made huge progress in my anxiety/ agoraphobia recovery. I went to the park, with the dog and let him off his lead on my own for the first time. ​He was great and I didn’t feel out of control with my anxiety and manage to keep my cool, despite the weather! Hooray for progress. 

One step at a time. 

I’ve set myself a challenge for May. To walk at least 45,000 steps a week. 

The weather is okayish and I have more confidence walking with the pupdog for longer time periods so I’m hoping that will put me in a good position to hit the target. 

I did have a day on Friday where I barely got out of bed due to a crippling migraine and didn’t actually put my tracker on at all. 

I think I made up for it yesterday though – I went for an evening walk BY MYSELF without the dog for an hour and I didn’t die! I also smashed 20k steps! I’m feeling pretty darn good about that, I’m not gonna lie. This year has been really shitty, so these small victories remind me that I will get there, one day. One step at a time. 

Pupdog turns one! 

Einstein, my lovely yorkie turned one today! This dog has played a huge role in My mental health journey. Before I got him last June I pretty much didn’t leave my house for almost 3 years. Since having him, I’ve had to go outside every single day (sometimes only to the garden for toilet breaks, but it’s still further than I was going!) 

He has been a cause for some stress too, puppies are hard work and he happens to be a bit of a clumsy, mischief machine, but I wouldn’t be without him. He has literally got me out of my house again. I walked to a local shop today – just like that, like a normally functioning human. Not a single worry or creeping in of anxiety. This is so rare for me, but I am getting there. Mostly I have this tiny poo factory to thank for that. 

If you have an opportunity to get a pet for your mental wellbeing I can highly recommend it. Best thing I’ve ever done.

Killing Time Shouldn’t Be Killing You.

So there you have it, my 6 favourite ways to escape my own head

Yes this is quite a dramatic title, but it is fitting for how I’m feeling today.

If I am bored, if I have spare time to fill – that I’m not using to nap! Then I need to be doing something. If I spend too long inside my own head with no distractions I know that it would be detrimental to my mental health.

Yes it’s good to delve in there, have a root around and do some filing in that ol’ brain of yours, but if you haven’t set out with that plan when you start drifting into the unknown depths of your own mind it can get scary and quickly.

It’s always good to have few things that you enjoy, to pick up when you feel yourself wandering in to the darkest depths when you’re not ready for it. Here’s a few things I tend to sway toward.

Number 1 – Reading.

Whether you are a bookworm or not it’s always wise to have a couple of books around to leaf through or get lost in rather than getting lost in your head. I tend to have a variety available from photography filled books that require little reading and not too much focus, to novels and various things in between. Currently I am reading ‘The Sun Is Also A Star’ by Nicola Yoon. You can pick it up on Amazon for a few quid.

Number 2 – Something Creative, I usually paint or bake.

This one isn’t for everyone. Lots of people loathe creativity but I think that’s more out of thinking they’re not in the least bit creative. I disbelieve that, I think everybody is capable of creativity in one way or another. You don’t have to be Van Gogh to create a marvellous painting and sometimes, just throwing paint at a blank canvas is quite the release. Messy play is an age old thing that we often don’t follow on into our adulthood. That, in my opinion, is a great shame.

And if arty stuff isn’t your thing, dig out the recipe books! What’s better than a slice of homemade bread or a piece of cake with a brew and a good book for a little bit of ‘me time’!? Not many things.

Number 3  – Go for a walk.

Surprising one from an agoraphobic, I know. However I have an almost 1 year old puppy, so getting out of the house is a daily battle for me, but I am starting to win it more regularly. It doesn’t have to be a long, scenic route. A simple jaunt to the shops or round the block for 20 minutes with your headphones in is good enough to distract your brain and gets your some little exercise endorphins too.

Number 4 – Music.

I’ve discussed this before. Music is something any one can enjoy when they find the sounds that their souls dance too. Explore some new sounds. Listen to something you wouldn’t normally choose, you might surprise yourself. Learn a new instrument, give your brain a challenge to focus on and yield some new skills. This technically falls into creativity too! Two birds and all that.

Number 5 – Watch a film.

I am a sucker for watching films when I am creeping off into pit of despair that is my noggin’. I usually pick from the same 10 – 15 films. Ranging from The Aristocats to The Shawshank Redemption. Really the choice is yours, maybe you could watch something you’ve never seen or find something old that you’ve not seen in ages and fall in love with it all over again. It’s a great way to lose yourself in the moments of another life story without actually leaving your bed/sofa/house.

Number 6 – Get a Hobby.

I have a few, I appear to be eclectic and chaotic in most aspects of my life. My biggest hobby of the moment is Philately – Stamp collecting. I love seeing the designs from all over the world, wondering about the journey of each stamp, the message it was posted to carry. It’s very easy to get lost in the mystery of the unknown behind a well travelled stamp. I don’t collect for valuable stamps. I like to collect for variety of country and design. It evokes many emotions imagining the story behind each stamp.

So there you have it, my 6 favourite ways to escape my own head. I am aware this list of things are quite common ways to kill time, but that is because they work for so many people. Obviously not everyone will find something here – but there is a nice variety of not too taxing things that give you just a few moments of peace in your loud, overwhelming lives.

 

Get some exercise…eat properly..ugh 

That fact of the matter is most of us don’t want to hear it. Don’t want to believe it’s true. Though deep down I’m sure the majority know it.

When I am struggling, really low and feel like utter shit, the last thing I want is a salad and walk let me tell you. It’s the kind of advice I hate to hear – not because it’s not good advice for the average person, just because it’s not good advice for someone who is struggling to motivate themselves to put socks on, let alone go outside. That being said – when I get through my funk, I genuinely do try to get out a little bit more and yes I do try to eat with more regularity – though that one I tend to fail with, can’t keep up with that wagon. 

My biggest problem with food and ‘diet’ is erratic eating. I don’t eat for a day, then order pizza, then don’t eat or only eat something ridiculous. Skip breakfast in favour of extra hours in bed and generally eat two meals late in the day and subsequently feel horrible for it. 
Not an ‘eating disorder’ but it’s definitely not a healthy relationship with food for the most part, then it become habitual to eat like that, even when I’m not feeling low. Today marks day one of eating breakfast before 10am on workdays. I’m going to track it all with the My Fitness Pal app on my phone, so it keeps me accountable. Wish me luck! 

As for the exercise…yeah this one is tougher because I know I can do it, I just need to kick that lazy bastard out of my head.

I got myself a treadmill when I was in the depths of my agoraphobia in the hope it would keep me semi active – since I have got pupdog though it quickly became a dumping ground for other people’s stuff. I finally put my foot down this week and have cleared it off and even USED it last night. 

Obviously I’m not Usain Bolt by any stretch but moving more than sitting on my fat ass has gotta count for something right?! Even if it is at a snail’s pace. 

It did come with a little sense of pride in the fact that I actually did it, I bothered to follow through on what I had said and I felt better for it. I plan to use it, along with my daily dog walks, at least 3/4 days a week. I have a walk to the post office once or twice a week too, so hopefully this will all count to keep those little exercise endorphins firing. It’s a start at least. 

Depression, it’s not all doom and gloom. 😉 

Have a good week folks! 

When did your mental illness start?

what is your mental illness story?

This is a really difficult question for most people to answer. I can’t actually pin point the time in my life where things went from Emily Rose to Me. I’ve always been quite a socially shy person, I’d prefer doing something more small group sized, rather than a nightclub or big gathering. I didn’t have trouble making friends as such because I had my friends I had grown up from nursery level schooling with me. I was bullied, I was in a school I didn’t particularly like because of that and my attendance was less than favourable to social services. I would say that secondary school was the time that my life changed the most. I lost more and more of my sparkle as the years have gone on. Despite holding down various great jobs, with some fantastic opportunity. My life hasn’t been unusually sad or negative. It’s probably an average life of a girl who was bullied. Yes it was hard – but I have always had supportive family & friends. Even if I have never really opened up about just how bad I feel on the inside.

In the years following education, I found myself turning down more and more social invitations and then they just stopped coming altogether. I was too ashamed to admit why it was I couldn’t come and would always just say I was unwell. I couldn’t find the words or the moment to open up to all the people closest to me and tell them what was going on and I pushed them all away. I isolated myself, I made excuses and fell deeper into the abyss. My depression ebbed and flowed, I functioned through life, but I always fizzled out any chance of social gatherings and preferred to spend a great deal of time hiding from the world.

I do know that my time living and working in London was a catalyst to throwing me into the worst cycle with my mental health – which is the current one. I came home – I moved back in with my parents and for the first 3 months I did very little in the way of work, apart from searching for a job. I started a healthy eating plan and I exercised regularly, almost daily. This was the summer of 2013. Then I fell, literally and figuratively, I tore all my ankle ligaments and was given a mobile cast thing, affectionately named ‘The Moon Boot’. It was a knee-high black boot that squeaked in the hinge if I walked too fast, so I had to really stop and just slow down. The week after that my granddad had a fall in his home, where he sustained a broken neck – a gruelling couple of days in hospital, a surgery to try to mend his neck and unfortunately a downward spiral which resulted in the decision that his life support should be switched off. That was probably the hardest moment I’ve ever endured in my life and one I relive in my mind on an almost daily basis. The feeling of guilt, of helplessness, of wondering if I could have done more to prevent the fall in the first place began eating me up, and it still does now.

I think that was the real turning point for me. I couldn’t get out to exercise in a time where it had been my saviour, of sorts, from myself. I couldn’t stop the feelings surrounding the death of my granddad. It was a vicious cycle of battles then I was going out less and less. The time between going out was increasing and my home became my sanctuary. The thought of leaving it became a horror story. To even go to the dustbins 6 foot from my front door was a mammoth task that resulted in 3 days of complete and utter exhaustion.
I spent almost 3 years in a perpetual state of fear about leaving my home. I probably left 3 or 4 times in that period. 2 of those I forced myself out of the house with all the might I could to attend family weddings. That was VERY hard. To put on a brave, happy face to all the people and relatives that you don’t always see, that hadn’t seen just how isolated my life had become. I did it though, so that was a massive accomplishment, but it came with  price tag. ‘Oh you went to so & so’s wedding, so you’re all right now’. No, no I am not cured because I managed to get outside.

I got offered my current job in March of 2014. That became my main focus, a distraction from myself and something I so desperately needed to keep me sane, to keep me from the deepest, darkest thoughts in my head. Of course, they still pop up and I still have days/weeks where I feel completely hopeless. I’m just this week coming out of a 5 week stint of utter despair. I am totally exhausted but I am still here.

I begged and begged my mum and dad to allow me to bring a puppy into the family home. I knew I needed something that would force me to get outside, whether I liked it or not, and finally in June 2016 he came home.
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Einstein, June 2016 aged 9 weeks.

This tiny little four-legged fur ball was my ticket to the outside world, I have to go outside numerous times a day for toilet break and for walks. I have to do it for him, he depends on me to do it. Do you know what? I do. Every. Day. Sometimes we only go in the garden, and I do still hover by the door. Sometimes we go to the park behind my house and sometimes we venture as far as a whole mile away. This might not seem like much, but to me it is incredible. I feel proud of myself for going out there. I even go to the post office and the local shops – on my own. Yes it is still scary, yes the deafening silence in my ears is still there. My heart still pounds, my palms are almost always sweating and I constantly feel like I’ve swallowed a 5 tonne weight that is stuck in my throat and simultaneously pulling its way through my digestive system. It’s never easy and I am definitely not cured but this little puppy is slowly bringing my confidence in the outside world back. I know that I will never be the same person I was, and I am happy with that. I just want to get my life back, one tiny step at a time.