12 May 2017

Mental Heath and Me

This week is mental health awareness week and as most of you know, it's a topic that is very close to my heart. This time last year I wrote a blog post about anxiety and I tried to explain how it makes me feel as well as the impact it has on my everyday life. When I look back at the girl I was a year ago, I cannot believe I ever felt so low. So in honour of mental health awareness week, I thought I'd do a little update post on my anxiety journey and tell you how I've been feeling. 

When I was diagnosed with anxiety disorder, it didn't come as a surprise. In fact, I'd pretty much diagnosed myself two years prior to me going to see my GP. It still baffles me how little support there is for people with mental health issues on the NHS. For three consecutive visits to doctors, I was given a printed leaflet about anxiety and told that it would get better. That's all well and good but I do know what anxiety is, and I don't need a leaflet to tell me the stuff that I already know. In June 2016, my anxiety was at it's worst and I was at a complete low. At the time I didn't understand what had triggered the feelings but now as I look back, I can see that my lifestyle choices were poor. I went to see my doctor and burst into tears as I was speaking to her. I'd hit the breaking point and couldn't take the feelings anymore, so she prescribed me with some tablets, gave me the number of a counsellor and sent me on my way. 

I had a very long phone call with a counsellor who works for the local mental health group and she diagnosed me with depression and anxiety. The depression being a side effect of the anxiety. I remember feeling very reassured that I finally knew what was making me feel this way because I knew it wasn't just anxiety alone. I was then referred for an online CBT course which was a very bad decision. If you're ever offered to go for CBT then ask to either attend a CBT group or have a one-to-one session with a therapist because it's something that needs to be done personally. I didn't find that the online CBT helped me at all, so was then referred to a group therapy. 

This was one of the best things that I ever chose to do. I was nervous to attend at first but it was so nice to be around people who understood the way you were feeling and didn't make you feel stupid for talking about the things that make you anxious. If anyone ever felt upset or had something on their mind, they could talk about it and the rest of the group would listen and offer advice. It took a bit of weight off your shoulders all whilst teaching you to control your thoughts and the things that trigger your anxiety. Finding out how the brain works is an interesting thing, and it helps you to deal with the anxiety because it makes you feel like you've got more control if you know what's going on in your head. Sadly, I didn't finish the full CBT course due to University commitments, but for the time that I was there, I learnt so much and I think that helped me to deal with the way I was feeling. 

So, what was causing my anxiety?
Well, it was a number of things. It was down to a bullying lecturer at university, stress and arguments with friends and feelings of loneliness and hopelessness. I remember feeling like I didn't have a purpose to be here, and that I just wanted to lock myself in my room all the time and never leave. However, I think the main cause of my anxiety was finishing University and having nothing to do. I finished my course in April and left with no job or commitments to keep me occupied over the summer. Due to this, I spent most of my time in the house, minding the dog and waiting for my mum to come home from work. Being stuck in the same four walls every day was not helping my mental situation and I think that had a large contribution to the way I was feeling. 

 So let's fast forward 365 days and find out how I'm feeling now. 
When I welcomed in the New Year, I vowed that my anxiety was not going to take over my life anymore and I've been working my little bum off to get myself back on track. I've got a job now, which has really helped to build my confidence. The reason I struggled to go on nights out was a mix of confidence issues and anxiety in crowds, but since working on a market stall my self-confidence has gone through the roof. I know it's all thanks to the wonderful people who I work with who've helped me to believe in myself, who continue to make me laugh every single day and tell me that I'm doing them proud when I don't feel like it myself. It's very weird to say this, but my workplace is the only place that I don't feel anxious. Sure, I can feel anxious in the morning but then I walk through the doors, say good morning to my boss and my anxiety melts away. I leave work wondering why I felt so anxious in the first place. Talking to the public every day has taught me how to speak to people and you'll be glad to know that in this past month, I've been on three nights out that haven't even seen a panic attack. Result! 

I've also started to face my fears. In October, as you all know, I went on holiday to Disney with over 40 people I'd never met before. Meeting them and travelling so far on my own was a massive anxiety trigger but I battled through and overcame it. It's thanks to my Disney friends that I'm happy and confident in myself today. They've been so supportive and so lovely. I couldn't ask for a nicer, more wonderful group of people to have in my life. I finally found the thing that makes me happy, which believe it or not, is going on holiday to Disney. It's the only place where I completely forget about my troubles and bid my cares goodbye. I can't express how important it is to find something that makes you happy and to hold onto it with all your heart. I'm so lucky that Mr Walt Disney created a company that makes me smile every day and has allowed me to meet a group of beautiful people. 

Keeping your mind occupied is a very big step in combating anxiety. I make sure that when I'm not working, I've got something to do on that particular day to pre-occupy my mind. Even if that thing is sitting on the sofa and having a Disney marathon, it still counts. It's also really important to surround yourself with people that you trust. Never befriend people who make you feel like your problems aren't problems just because they have something worse going on in their life. You need people who at least try to understand you and are willing to help you when you need them. 

I'm completely overwhelmed by how happy and content I've been feeling recently. I was so overwhelmed when I read my diary entries from last year and saw how upset and down I felt. I'm completely confident in my own skin, and I don't let things bother me like they used too. I hope I'm proof that with some work and patience, you can get your life back on track. I still have anxious moments, and anxiety is still a big part of my life but I've learned how to combat it. The confident and happy days definitely outway the bad days. 

I'm so thankful that I managed to speak up about what was going on inside my head. There's always going to be people who tell you to get over it, or that it's all in your head and that it's nothing to worry about. But you know the way that you feel, and never let anyone tell you that you shouldn't be upset, or angry or anxious or feel insecure. You are human, you have emotions and you have every right to be feeling the way you're feeling. But it does pass, I promise. 
Opening up to someone is the hardest thing you'll have to do in the process of getting anxiety under control, but once you speak to someone about it and tell them how you're feeling, you'll feel like a massive weight has been lifted off your shoulders. There will always be someone to listen. There will always be someone who cares, even when you feel like you have no one. There will always be someone to reassure you and put things into perspective. And you are never, ever alone. If you never feel like you have anyone to talk too, then come and talk to me. My Twitter/Instagram messages and emails are always open, and I'm more than willing to listen. 

Anxiety never has to win! 

Lots of Love,
Meg
xox






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