My blog actually has a number of posts set to ‘private’. Sometimes I just like to go through them, because documenting my mind in those times actually helps me to see exactly how far I’ve come, even when I sometimes feel like I haven’t progressed at all. You know, the one that scared me though, was this:
“I cried when I got home. I think that says it all really. I’m no good at lengthy introductions to a class of new people on demand.
All I could think of in that space of time was “I can’t wait to hide.”” – October 2014
Now, I don’t know about you, but when I read that I got absolute chills. I remember the exact encounter. I have that memory like it was yesterday, I couldn’t believe I’d even documented it. It may read pathetic, and childish if you will. But I remember every sweaty little moment itching to just run home the second that introduction in that class was over and escape being around people I didn’t know. Which is absolutely something that never happens to me at all anymore! I thrive from getting to know new people!
But I’m pointing this out here, in relation to my podcasts. You see, I write this blog, open up about what I’ve been through and decided to do this project, because that girl in 2014 sat in that seminar room pooping her pants over saying her name and being questioned about it, would have felt over the moon if she found a bunch of podcasts discussing mental health. To even properly talk to anyone about it in that time was alien. I even hated my first counsellor, I thought she was super Freudian and intrusive. I couldn’t even process what was happening to me, because I’d spend so many days locked in my room in a fit of anxiety wishing I could just puff up into a ball of smoke and not feel like that anymore.
I’m making podcasts each night from the 1st to the 10th of October for World Mental Health day, having amazing discussions with some interesting and informed people all about mental health. The first three have already been released! What you waiting for!?
And if you wanna know more about what I’m doing and why, check out my last post here.
In the first couple podcasts I did with Luke…
…We chatted about supporting and understanding. Which was great, because it meant hearing from the ‘other’ person’s perspective, the helper, the support network, you know. The pea to your pod. The fish to your chips. And it was nice hearing that someone could be so supportive and understanding of what someone is going through, and focus on ways in which not only him and his ex-partner could work through their health and happiness, but solve a bunch of issues within the relationship.
However, in today’s podcast with Matt, we focused on men. I wanted to get someone’s perspective of being a young guy, and living in a world where suicide is the biggest killer of men under the age of 45. Not only that, but whether the stereotypical hunky man image and sadly at times, an expectation, affects the actions and mental health of young men.
All the discussions are all done barely scripted. Just casual conversations with people about life, to see different perspectives and be open about one another’s opinions in the hope of understanding the world of mental health a little better. And hey, hopefully, reach out to those that don’t quite know what to do with their heads right now.
Do enjoy the next few days! Don’t forget to donate, don’t forget to read up, and don’t forget to keep up with all my social media platforms if you want to keep in the loop!
So a lot of you know the basis of my story, and have probably seen me go on about mental health and mental health awareness on my Facebook page and my blog. But why do I do it? I do it because when my mental health journey kicked off, it became a big part of my life that still to this day I have to maintain and control. It’s a part of me, I have struggled shaking off, time and time again. But over time, I’ve learnt to accept that it’s a part of who I am. My experience with anxiety, panic attacks, and recently my depressive relapse spell, has shaped the person I am today, in both good and bad. The truth is, life just isn’t about the things that haven’t even happened yet. They’re about things that have already happened, and dealing with them in the present. After all, you can’t change what you refuse to confront. Simba found that out when he needed to scoot back over to Pride Rock and challenge his evil Uncle Scar, even with Hakuna Matata in his life (yes I did just say that). Happiness is just not linear. I’m slowly learning to accept, that I will go through huge ups and sometimes huge downs. But over this time, I’ve developed what a good friend of mine called recently, a toolbox, of things to get my feet back on the ground. Sometimes, I’m great at it. Sometimes, I’m useless at it. The latter I discovered when I relapsed over Christmas with a feeling of dread and distress, that had me contemplating my whole life.
I’m currently in one of the happiest places I’ve been in. My return to Belgrade was based on my happy connotations with the city and my time here, and my desire to help others who have also had times of distress, and have been in, undoubtedly, worse situations than I could ever contemplate. But in helping others, I’ve once again been reminded what real, wholesome love feels like, and I’m learning about life in yet another perspective.
So I thought the timing of this couldn’t be more in tune! Hear me out, let me introduce my idea. For those that don’t know me, I’m Nat, and I’m one of the most useless beings on the planet. I’m lazy, imperfect, like my bed, like a few drinks, and like eating burgers. And that’s ok. But in a bid to do what I should be religiously doing to prevent mental health relapse and inform others about ways in which we can allegedly keep our mental health at bay…I’m going to be going T-total, exercising around the gorgeous Ada Ciganlija each morning, leaving happiness notes across the city of Belgrade, eating ( a tonne ) of decent meals, attempting to get enough sleep, but most importantly, TALK. And the talking part is where the next exciting bit comes in…
So, I had this really mental idea right. Usually, I post a video or poem or post or whatever all over this blog and social media to raise awareness. But some of you already know a lot about my story. Some of you, are probably sick of hearing me ramble on. So this year, I’m going to be having discussions with some of the most influential, awesome, inspirational people in my life, along with (hopefully) some psychologically aware experts in a series of videos and podcasts over the next ten days. Different topics are going to be discussed in each video/podcast, so hopefully you can all check them out and feel extra aware about the depths of mental health, and why we should fight the stigma in simply opening up about what we have been through, how we feel, and what we have experienced as a result. And specifically, learning about the ins and outs of mental health you may not have thought about before!
This time round, I’m also posting this just giving page (CLICK ME!) so that if you happen to watch any of the videos/podcasts I’ll be making over the next ten days, it would be cool if you could also make a donation. I didn’t really know how much to set as a goal, or if this would even be a good idea, but hey! Why not! So please donate on the page. All of this is for Mind (Because when I first started having my panic attacks, I had zero clue what was going on or what even mental health issues were, until my Mom gave me some awesome booklets made by Mind which started my journey in learning more about mental health. I figured since they were so vital in educating me to begin with, why not make them a part of this!)
I hope all this makes sense (and doesn’t fall flat like a pancake!) and as per, congratulations for getting to the end of this post. I’m aware I have a lot of words….
Oh, and of course…I need people to discuss things with! So if I haven’t already contacted you either before this post or in the next half an hour or so, pleaseeeeee don’t be shy and send me a message! I’d love to hear from you, the more, the merrier! Even if it was a short video of something you’d like to say and for me to share on one of my videos or podcasts – JUST DO IT! It would be really, really awesome.
So, here’s to the next ten days, and here’s to continuing to fight societies stigma regarding mental health and the expression of emotions.
Stay Smiling, Nat
I’ve had the opportunity lately to say the words “I have bigger fish to fry” and “I have bigger problems I need to deal with first, that make these problems seem like nothing at all” and to explain both of those phrases, tonight is a perfect example of what my bigger fish is.
So I feel like this is the best opportunity to both chill myself out through writing about it (because, that helps!) and to give a little insight into separating legit anxiety over “oh shit I’m freaking out over nothing” anxiety.
So Nat, what the EFF have you done now?
I’m currently freaking out, rubbing my eyebrows and scratching my skin like I’m itching all over. Serious, I’m having a moment. I’ve started about 5 unnecessary arguments in the last 8 hours and I’m attempting an early nights sleep just so the day can be over with because I’ve had enough. But why Nat?! What’s wrong?
Are you ready? Drum roll please…
I’m staying the night at my granddads, and my passport is in my quadruple locked apartment on the 6th floor in the centre of town (which is an hour and a half bus journey from where I am), and I’m nervous about spending the night away from it in case someone breaks in and steals it.
*Crowd begin to boo and throw empty sprite bottles at the stage*
I’d like to add, to break into my apartment, you’d need to be a strong burly man capable of not waking up my neighbours and barging in. You’d also probably need a drill, which my neighbours would also notice. You’d also have to somehow get into my apartment building without the key as well, which is full of CCTV. I’m also on the top floor so you’d have to get all the way to the top first, wasting a tonne of time. (all this worrying could come in handy one day if I decide to make a drastic career decision to become a high profile thief)
Ridiculous ennit. I mean most days my passport is at home and I’m out somewhere, and I never worry about it. So there you have it. I’ve been researching taxi prices, late night busses, asked all my family members if they can drive me home at way past ten at night. All because of the potential that someone well skilled with either a drill or axe is able to get into my apartment and steal the passport of a 20 something female with a useless debt ridden identity. I mean I do need a new passport photo anyway…
And I get these moments where I worry so much about these things, that I actually start panicking, maybe even crying. All for a situation that hasn’t even happened yet! This isn’t even a serious situation. It’s not even the end of the world. I mean, if that happens, it’ll be pretty crap and I’ll have to apply for a new passport. Woop de doo.
But in my head – this situation is currently bigger than most. I’m not worried about being technically unemployed. I’m not worried about my budgeting for living abroad in a foreign country. I’m not worried about relationships. I’m not worried about most “important” things, because my head, has moments where it worries about ridiculous scenarios that haven’t even happened to the same extent as an “important” scenario.
My biggest fish is sorting out my own head, so that I spend less time freaking out over rubbish, and more time enjoying my life to the fullest.
So in perspective, everything else isn’t so important. When my head is neither happy or healthy in moments of huge anxiety over nothing, that’s when it’s time to step out and look at the bigger picture. Why am I thinking like this? What have I been doing that has lead to my brain tripping balls over a securely locked flat and passport?
The answer is amongst many factors. Hormones. New start. New life. New flat. New job. New country. Old friends. Too much black coffee and alcohol (doesn’t help with palpitations, and hangover anxiety is a thing) Not enough to eat today. Hot weather.
Ultimately, a nervousness in general that builds up and up until it explodes in a crap made up problem, that hasn’t even happened.
Really, what I’m trying to say is. How many of your worries, are things that have already happened? And if they haven’t, why are you worried about them? Why waste that time and energy?
Something my CBT counsellor advised me a while ago was to have a “worry list”. I have a few hypothetical worry questions she gave me, printed out and stuck to my fridge door. So basically, whenever I worry about anything at all, it allows me to assess whether or not it is something I should be worrying about. My mashed up brain thinks that little things are just as much worth worrying about as the bigger things. Truthfully, everything is on a scale, and sometimes we devote too much of our time worrying about little or potential scenarios, that it either prevents us from fulfilling our own lives and enjoying feelings and situations no matter how terrifying they seem, or merely wasting time, diminishing our happiness as a result.
So with that ladies and gents, I’m off to attempt to shut my eyes and pray I’ll get back to an untouched flat tomorrow and passport. But you know. If I don’t, then I’ll panic.
If it ain’t happened, why worry about it?
You know life sometimes is like a video game,
Each day comes as a new level, nothing is the same.
Aside from a secret underwater kingdom portal,
A chance anyone could take in a bid to be normal.
And I know where it is, I try getting through every time,
To try something new, I just want to see the excitement that’s behind.
But it doesn’t always last.
There’s something in my mind,
And it causes me to glitch,
And I’m not one of a kind.
I press X 61 times,
hoping for resolve,
Wild Dog mode comes on and my brain doesn’t do as it’s told.
To the point where I shout and tear everything apart,
Shit songs pour out my ears and I’m sent far away from the start.
The screen turns black.
I’m in curled in the corner and I’m crying,
Watching the countdown screen,
And here come the options to sort out my wiring.
Press circle they say to go off and cower,
Search for one way tickets to Canada for an hour.
Press triangle they say to go right off the mark,
Go out with no phone all alone in the dark.
Press square to cry until you can barely breathe,
So much you drift off into a sleep hoping when you wake the thoughts leave.
Press X to teleport to NHS tower,
Go see the wizard for potions for a happy hour.
Press UP and travel to mindful mountain,
And a parrot over 10 weeks will stop you from doubting.
Press R2 to talk to a friend,
Then constantly worry you’ll drive them round the bend.
Press R1 to commence battle with your twin,
About all the mistakes you’ve made only to never win.
And the final option,
Is to press nothing at all,
Countdown goes to zero,
Watch as the black screen falls,
And then you realise you can’t just press pause.
I’ve tried every option,
I even let the countdown get to 3,
Before things got in the way and I internally screamed what was the matter with me.
And everyone always says never wear your heart on your sleeve,
Because when you do they’ll take advantage of you,
They’ll grab your throat the second you’ll close your eyes just to sneeze.
Please tell me what’s so bad about being free,
To say how you feel if any of you have ever felt like me.
Anxiety depression and panic disorder,
When are we going to discover a new outlook is in order?
And I’m not just talking about guessing games when your heart is involved,
I mean when your life is on the line and nobody has been told.
I call bullshit and it makes me angry,
When somebody doesn’t show they cry because it looks more “manly”.
They say it costs us our identity and our pride,
If we ever bother to show what we have inside.
Well I say just take mine, and serve it up hot,
I’ll say exactly how I feel when I feel if it means I’m here, and that’s all that I’ve got.
One day I hope society can see the bravery,
Behind breaking free from emotional slavery.
I hope when someone says they are looking for a “man”,
The answer always is if that means I’m open and honest then I am.
So here is to being one of the 1 in 4,
And hoping that next time they tell you suicide is the number one killer of young men,
That it’s only to say there’s been a change in the score.
Saving our lives is more important than our prides.
Last thing we need is another death to suicide,
The more we talk about it the more we stop letting it slide.
Now realistically, I should be in bed. Actually I should have reheated my Chinese takeaway by now too. But, I just couldn’t help it, I had to write a blog post! Final year is taking its toll, but I’m keeping rolling, and applying to a few jobs so I kind of know what I’m doing with myself. Anyway, this lead me onto making a few more of my previous posts public instead of private! So have a mooch and see if you find anything new you fancy reading! But specifically, I came across my original ‘List’ post. OK OK…I’ll slow down here.
So back in 2015, I made myself a list. Yep, I fail to complete most lists these days and never really do, and then wind up up at 10 to 1 listening to Jamelia wondering when I can be bothered to reheat my dinner on wordpress…But this list was to do with the steps I wanted to take to improve my life, and start living it! A.k.a. kick anxiety in the teeth and tell it to leave me alone! It was all part of my self-help journey, and I couldn’t believe it when I came across this list just now. Because, honestly, I actually (in a way) completed the list…
“Note to self, to change yourself, you need to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.
1) Join gym (Check). Make sure you swim twice a week (I barely have the time!), Zumba once and Belly Dance once. (One hour a week, and now I’m Vice-President of the society!)
2) Make a happiness diary (Check).
3) Walk more. (It’s the only way I get anywhere nowadays!)
4) STAY organised. (To an extent…)
5) Get into meditation. (All the time, with the addition of aromatherapy…mmmmm)
6) Read more (much more.). (Are you kidding me? I haven’t put these graphic novels for my dissertation down…but seriously, since this post I’ve read a tonne!)
7) Learn how to combat caring about what other people think. (To an extent, but in comparison to this point in my life, I have definitely had a fair few ‘I will do what I like and I am entitled to feeling how I feel and don’t really care what you think!’ moments.)
8) Don’t compare yourself to others. (We are here to lift each other up, not put ourselves and each other down. Everyone is drastically different in so many ways if you take the time to notice. Nobody is perfect.)
9) Try wearing your brighter lipsticks, it’s time to feel more confident step by step. (But are you kidding me?! Brown is my favourite!)
10) Don’t dwell on the negatives. (Sometimes, I do, and that’s ok. I’ve relapsed since this moment, but it’s important to know that sometimes you can slip into these ruts. But it’s always possible to get back out of them. I feel like I’m better at finding the rope that gets me out of the rut.)
11) Don’t dwell on the past. (I try not to, but see above.)
12) Learn to stand up for yourself. (I’m sorry, there was a caterpillar in my desert and you haven’t taken 10% from the bill?!)
13) Eat better food, continue to avoid lactose and cook well. (Those who know me well, will know that I do eat much much better food now, hoorah for vegetables and finally eating egg yolk. However, avoiding lactose…)
14) Try to be less angry. (I use that anger to fuel things with positive outcomes, and address that I am just incredibly emotional and passionate.)
15) Try to think more before you speak. (Certainly. Although not after a few bevvies…I need to work on that one…)
16) Get to sleep earlier. (This one still needs working on.)
17) Avoid negative people. (Drain the swamp!)
18) Embrace positive people. (They are my closest friends, and they are the reason I feel so incredible and supported right now in life.)
19) Remember that it is a long tough journey, but Frodo managed to throw the ring into mount doom so it is always doable no matter how unfavorable the odds. (Damn right!)
20) Remember dreaming big is ok, but if you want it to be a reality you have to work for it. (Hence why I’m here at 1am, attempting to make my short-term dreams a reality.)
And working towards my dreams can only begin once I’ve started applying all of the above to my life and improve my anxiety.”
Here is to hoping my big dreams come true once I do officially master that list! Definitely recommend digging out an old list, and checking out to see if you set yourself up for a big task, and whether you eventually managed to achieve it all. And years down the line, I’m pretty pleased I made this list, because I can see how far I’ve managed to come after being so low. Starting the ball to self-help was by far the best thing I ever did, even if I was useless at times, even if I did eventually relapse. But don’t give up! Everything seems so daunting when you first tell yourself all these changes you’d like to make. But be open to any ideas you have, and take on that list one bullet point at a time, and more importantly, don’t give yourself a time limit! Hey it’s two years later and I still sneak lactose heavy goods into my gob! (shhh.)
You made a choice to click on this and give this a read, right? Course you did. Something in your head was like “Yano, I’m gonna give this blog a bit of a read.” or maybe even, “I’m gonna search for happiness on the web and see what comes up.” or, “I’m gonna give anxiety, mental health and depression a search and see what pops up.” Now – for the latter, personally I’d rather you be here than the other places of your mind, and I hope this blog gives you some solace.
So. It’s 2017. People say new chapter, I say new book. You can’t fit a year into a chapter. But besides that, it’s a new beginning, right? Starting all over again. New year new me, and the remainder of what hashtag trends online to let people believe that we are all starting afresh. Life doesn’t work like that. There are elements of 2016, which will in one way or another impact on 2017. There are things that we cannot shrug off. But nonetheless, a new year is a moment of motivation for all of us. We feel like because it’s the start of a new year, we can become motivated to be a new person. Go to the gym. Go vegan. Get up earlier. Get a new hair colour. We feel like we can reform. I like the beginning of a new year, because of that sense of motivation. Because motivation otherwise, especially in certain scenarios, can be difficult to find, when the outcome feels so big and impossible.
To get motivation to feel like you can manage your mental health takes time. It doesn’t come out of a new year, and just because it’s a new year doesn’t mean it automatically washes away. It stays, niggling away, and you may feel motivated to go get a new hair colour, but who is to say you won’t come home and have a heart to heart tear sesh with yourself and your stuffed gorilla.
There are times it feels impossible, or too big a thing, to manage your mind. We wind up in dark, horrible, irrational mindsets, that persuade us to think that what we have become, or how we feel in this moment will be like this forever. But I did not want to live like this anymore. I still don’t now. It’s a completely consuming illusion, and it can make you forget about all the things that you still have, despite feeling like you have already completely lost who you are. That in itself is what eventually motivated me, to want to try and change what was going on with my mind and my life. I want to feel like I have the power and control to recognise and escape the illusion, and I want everyone else to feel like that too. And it’s what is motivating me now to try again.
But aside from hating how I was living, and who I’d become and wanting it to change, I wanted to get myself off of tablets which at the time I relied on to make me a ‘normal’ functioning human. I needed to work out my own way of self-management. Here is the first thing I did to get me started on finding other options in managing myself, which I am now repeating based on my relapse phase.
‘My Favourite Moment Of The Day Journal’
Now this is just food for thought. You might be thinking, that’s probably the cheesiest, instagrammable thing you’ve ever heard. It might be. But I feel like it works. You see, when I’m stuck in my dark bubble, it’s because there have been crap parts of my day and they manifest into this big ball of ‘argh’ and then I end up in a complete meltdown moment. So, what I used to do, and what I’ve started again, is the journal. Write a thing, or a couple things, that happened in your day that made you feel good. It can be anything, whatever you can think of that brought a smidgen of positive stuff into your day. But it means, next time you hit a meltdown moment, you have a selection of memories and things to read back on to remind you what keeps you going, or you can try extract those moments from the terrible day you may have just had.
It’s a book that reminds you to keep going, and to begin to see positive bits in your life, when you feel like you don’t so much anymore. It allows you to remember to appreciate the things, and be grateful. It can potentially begin trying to manage your mind.
Begin with small steps. It may feel like the end. You may hate yourself, to your absolute core, because of what mental illness makes you feel. But it’s those moments I tried reminding myself of the reasons I should stay, not just why those irrational illusions made me want to go. Just because it might consume you now, doesn’t mean it will consume you forever. It’s a battle that you have to somehow, be motivated enough to win now, to win in the long-term.
You don’t need a new year, to tell you that you should be making huge, impossible seeming changes to your life. Motivation is hard to find, and I may also find it hard to find myself, and be writing this all again now because of that. But once I found it, I managed myself. I am desperate to do that again. Not just for myself, but so I can potentially in any way possible help someone else. And I can tell you, that once you have found it, things will slowly but surely start rolling.
I think, personally, you deserve to go out and treat yourself to a book, to end each day with a grateful heart, to prepare for future meltdown moments with just that tiny step. And maybe, this can be the beginning of learning how to outsmart the illusionist.
This is the first, of what is soon to hopefully be, the first of many podcasts in link with the posts I write on my blog. Think of this as a kind of draft/pilot before the real seriousness begins. I’ll give you all some extra information in the next few days, but enjoy the first one, and have a very Happy New Year! – Nat xoxo
Mum said to me this week, “You’re the one that never plans anything, you never want to have expectations and this is how you wanted to live your life, what has changed?”
As a rare hobby, I have fortune telling cards. I tell the fortunes of my friends using cards, though In my beliefs tell me it’s something more psychological than real, maybe in the eyes of others something more believable.
It’s been some time since I’ve told my own fortune, and today was the first time I’d done it in some weeks. My main card was a snake. They say the snake, if speaking about you which is what the central card does, is it demands wisdom. It explicitly suggests, in relation to the other cards I pulled out, that I must be cautious and to abruptly turn around onto a new path. Though this is all really, to me anyway, a psychological way of deciphering my thoughts and getting me to use these cards as prompts, in my mind I know it’s gotten to that point in my life where something must happen, now.
You see, we might believe that there is a destiny out there for us. We might set ourselves up to getting certain grades to getting onto the supposedly right path, or the path we want, or the path others want us to be on. Well, what happens when something interrupts the path? What happens when we are forced to go a different way to the way we thought was destiny?
I stopped believing in life having plans for us, and my way of life in living with no plans in mind came about from all the times I was disappointed, and all the times my pathway diverted completely. Every time my plans didn’t go to plan.
I was going to be a graphic designer, and use my mild skills in drawing to create characters for the gaming world. I was going to go to a good college with an amazing arts department, study graphic art. I changed my mind, in hindsight based on a boy, and ended up dropping graphic art from stress in the first few weeks of it. I found my passion in English, which I naturally always seemed to do decent at, and wanted to go into creative writing. My obstacles in education meant that I was rejected from my dream course, and English with Serbian became an accidental option. I got in, with the idea of working in the education system, to become a teacher after a PGCE year and combat the struggles I had with teaching in my own education. Then it got to the second year and my mental health collapsed from an unexpected situation, and I lost passion for everything, and my plans. I didn’t want to do it anymore, and I didn’t know what I wanted to do either. I focussed on the time, and I focussed on finding myself and being better. When that eventually happened, I went onto my year abroad, and stopped blogging, something I also thought I’d go into. Life changed again, and someone I thought I was going to spend my life with became an acquaintance, and I began living more so by the no plan rule. Subconsciously, making plans the entire time. With the constant desperation of “you should find someone and get married” being shoved down my throat every five seconds and “you don’t know what you want to do with yourself? Why are you living like this?” though I was content, I’d made plans still, too close to the time that hadn’t gone the way I’d liked. Which has lead to this podcast.
I subconsciously decided, I was better. I was better mentally and I planned a life of fun, friends and an easy final year of university where I would be going out most nights, discovering new places and studying hard. And though it’s taken me far too long to admit, the denial has ceased. I expected I would never reach this part of my life again. I told my own future, despite telling myself it would be ok to do so because I wasn’t thinking as far ahead as when or whether I’d get married and to who, or what job I’d have, it turns out this planning comes into other baskets as well.
I don’t plan, to avoid disappointment, because when it happens I have something of a breakdown. Sounds bizarre, but that’s really why I don’t plan. I don’t allow myself to dream, to think ahead, to imagine the things I could do with my life. This idea got worse, the worse my mental health was getting this past couple months. It made me angry, and frustrated, the more I regretted my life, the more I thought what if, the more I regretted what I could have done or said better. What’s worse is I didn’t expect to get this low again, which has made me feel like I failed.
A great inspirational guy called Robert, told me this was something called approaching anxiety. I am anxious of what is or hasn’t happened yet. To the point where the worse it gets the more I restrict myself in how I can think, all because I want to save myself the emotion.
What I am yet to understand, is that just because planning upsets me, expectations upset me because I often face disappointment, that I shouldn’t restrict myself to dream or punish myself for doing so.
But it’s in times like this, at my lowest, that I realise it’s time to do something about it and pull myself back up, instead of handing myself the cord.
So I can’t tell the future, so I can’t predict my fortune with a bunch of cards. I can’t make plans because usually it doesn’t work out that way. Things go wrong, mistakes get made, and sometimes it seems and feels like all that ever happens are a bunch of plans that get thrown out the window. Just because destiny may or may not exist, doesn’t mean we should restrict ourselves in saying we have control over the path we take.
This is me, taking control. So I was thrown curve balls, all the way, and I have entered so many new paths I feel entirely lost, scared and unsure about what my future and fortune holds. I don’t want to make plans, or at least I don’t like making them for now. Maybe that will change one day, maybe I can overcome that to not be so scared of when those curve balls happen.
But today, I plan on being here. And today I plan on being here until it naturally comes to me. I do not plan to give up. Though I don’t know where I will end up, I won’t let the story end up here. Not this time. This time I was ready to recognise what was going on, despite the denial because it was going against my plans. I’ve been given this curve ball. But I won’t let it tell me what my destiny is, based on the past.
This isn’t how I planned my blog would be, after all this time. This isn’t how I thought I’d be feeling. But to feel like a failure for it is wrong. Failure, is not talking about it, and not trying to turn something horrific and traumatic, into something strong, positive, and beautiful.
Self-confidence is a topic I’m fond of discussing, and discussed a lot on this blog prior to deleting certain posts. One element I want to discuss today, is my least favourite part of the body, bellies.
It is an understatement to say I hate my stomach. I loathe it. I hate it so much, that if someone offered me to pay every penny to my name towards having a flat stomach I’d do it. Growing up, I was told I was fat. And although those that said it said it entirely jokingly, being given clothes far too small for me or for a female a lot less broad and butch, I still cried to myself feeling disgusted in the body I was in. I must have been around 10 years old.
My self-confidence in my childhood was horrible, and remains one of the worst parts of my experience growing up. My belly was poked, and I was asked “What’s this?” and laughed at. To make things worse, I matured earlier than most girls, so when they eventually sprouted into being thin, tall, decently breasted and adored, I was the brown potato with acne, a belly and a small breast size, who would dart her eyes at the other girls in the changing rooms hoping nobody was looking at me and remaining unhappy and envious.
Strangely enough, when I now look at myself, I wonder why I worried so much. I clearly had issues with my all-cheese all-nutella diet, hence the acne too, and a little exercise wouldn’t have hurt had it not been against my interests. Then again, male attention was also something included in the mix (which shouldn’t ever be, might I add) and it seemed even the attention I did get remained unfulfilling to my confidence. Through growing up and maturing in my body, no man’s comments on my body and attitude towards it in that way have ever satisfied how I felt towards myself, be it a combination of my anxiety and the memories of growing up.
As I grew older and came to university, it wasn’t until then I was ultimately semi-satisfied. And I think it wasn’t until this year I truly had moments of feeling satisfied in myself.
Whilst being diagnosed with anxiety, I became even more embarrassed and a lot more self destructive in moments of darkness. Habits such as scratching and picking at my skin, mean that I’m now covered in strange dot scars across my body, namely cheeks, neck, chest, stomach and legs. I now have an issue with my weight, to which I’m being looked at for, but I’m slowly gaining little by little but intend to not be as big as I was. But ultimately, despite this, I still have moments where I can look at myself in the mirror and smile. And I would even say, in my anxiety improving this year, I’ve genuinely had moments where I’ve felt happy in my body. No man, nor woman, nor comment of sorts, had done that. I still have days where I can be unhappy in myself. But there are actually days where I can feel happy in myself, and that is better than never having those moments at all. My improvement in my mental health achieved that, and a lot of it is thanks to the following.
I’d say the main reason towards this is the belly dance society I’m a part of. The society itself is welcoming, to all shapes, all sizes. And despite scarily perverse remarks asking me when our next performance is, “can I see a photo of you in action?” and “maybe you should do some for me sometime ;)” (genuine quotes, shudder!) that is not what it’s all about. Belly dancing is beautiful, and culturally interesting to me and always has been. Though I never felt like I could even dream of it, given my loathing of my own stomach, it is the one place I feel comfortable with it and my body as a whole. I feel in a room with others, all of different body shapes, sizes and self-consciousnesses and confidences, I am an equal. Not only that but my body isn’t looked at as “sexually appealing” or judged based on my abilities, or judged based on how I look in a costume or the fact I belly dance at all. It’s a place I can be free from the perverse world of body shaming neanderthals and concentrate on how I feel about my own body for a change, and not think about what others would think of it or invite them to judge my body in front of me.
Ultimately, to be happy in your own body is way more worthwhile than to question the way others perceive it and if they are happy with how you look. Who are we in a position to make us feel unpretty? If there is anything my anxiousness has taught me, it’s that being happy in yourself is worth focusing on much more than social acceptance, because it’s only when you become happy in yourself, you can be a happier person all round, and life just becomes a lot easier.
But to talk about becoming happier in yourself and how to achieve that is for another time. I actually have a few body-confidence tactics which I will share another day which have kept me going along the way, but for now, go to your nearest mirror, and smile. You are beautiful. 🙂
Happy Monday readers! It’s making me pretty sad to see my blog empty, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve considered republishing everything in a big bombshell as I’m concerned about previous readers, but no! I won’t give in just yet! So, I have something pretty exciting to share with you all to kick things off.
I’ll be releasing mental illness related stories that have been sent to me by others who wish to tell their story in order to benefit readers. I think it’s great that people have come forward and wanted to share their stories after my previous post, because talking about it helps! I really hope even more people come forward as I’m not the only one out there going through day to day life in this way, and I feel like this is a great way to show that.
Different accounts also help present things that I may not have personally gone through or ways anxiety can affect people that I haven’t experienced, and talk about different types of mental illness.
As it says in my ‘My Story’ page, “Everyone has a story that deserves to be told” here is Olivia’s! Do enjoy :D!
“I have suffered with social anxiety my entire life. However, I did not know that what I was experiencing was an actual thing until I studied about it during my psychology degree about 3 years ago. Up until this point, I just assumed it was extreme shyness.
Not that being shy or quiet is a bad thing, but I always imagined it as someone tightening a belt around my voice box whenever I attempted to speak out or when talking to someone new, to the point where it was actually a little painful to speak, so I just chose to avoid social situations wherever possible. I always got made fun of by my peers for being really quiet, found it extremely difficult to hold lasting friendships because starting conversations was near impossible. Similarly, I got so nervous about having to speak in front of people that giving presentations at school and university was antagonisingly stressful. Making mistakes is a massive anxiety-provoker for me that I even quit a job working in retail after 3 weeks due to not being able to cope with customer’s calling out on my mistakes. I vowed never to work in retail again after that!
Once I read that social anxiety is an actual condition and there are many individuals who suffer the same thing I do, I felt this huge sense of relief and understanding. With this newly found knowledge, I began finding methods to help my anxiety. In mid-2014, I firstly started taking antidepressants which I don’t believe solved anything on their own and eventually stopped taking them. I then confided in a stranger through weekly counselling sessions. It was good to just let everything out to someone but I found that my counsellor kept relating every issue I had back to my father after I mentioned my negative relationship with him. I then decided that I wasn’t getting much more out of those sessions.
In January this year, I started 15 weeks of cognitive behavioural training (CBT). With the benefit of having a psychology degree, I knew there was a vast amount of evidence supporting CBT and thought it was worth a shot. CBT basically aims to change an individual’s irrational and unhelpful thoughts, instead replacing them with more realistic ones. Each session pushed me a little further out of my comfort zone and involved a lot of homework and practise which I am encouraged to continue despite my sessions being over.
I learnt to postpone my worries and that nothing will be gained through losing sleep about something I said slightly wrong that day. I learnt that making mistakes is human and that I wouldn’t judge someone forever if they made a mistake so why should I assume people will judge me? I realised that avoiding situations only makes it more likely that I will avoid the situation again and again and it doesn’t actually solve anything. Through conducting little activities, deconstructing my thoughts and some roleplaying with my therapist, I feel that my anxiety has definitely been reduced.
Currently, I feel my most confident. I recently moved to a city where I only know my partner and I’m trying to make a fresh start and some new friends along the way, hopefully! I am glad that I have this opportunity to write this because I had a slight relapse the other day when I made a mistake and was so upset that I have let people down and that certain people will dislike me. I needed to be reminded of the progress I have made and that it’s ok to still be affected by some things.
Although I am still not quite where I want to be, I am confident that as the weeks and months and years go on that I will become who I want to ultimately be. It’s a lot of work and dedication to keep pushing myself but hopefully one day the confidence will come naturally to me.
My only point to come from this is that if you are suffering with something, find the method that is best for you. Just because you tried one thing and it doesn’t work doesn’t mean that you should give up. A certain therapy worked best for me but it might not for someone suffering a similar condition. And remember you are entitled to slip up and make mistakes because that just proves that you’re human.” – Olivia