Monday, 4 July 2016

Beatrice's Story | Anxiety Insights: Part Four

Hello again everyone. This is part four of the series Anxiety Insights. A lot of people suffer from bouts of anxiety from time to time rather than all the time like me and a lot of others. Although their anxiety is not constant, and is not something that follows them around, it is something that when triggered can be detrimental to leading a normal day to day life. This story is written by Beatrice* who is a 22 year old city worker from London...

"My anxiety first started when I got my first job working in London. It was my first proper 'grown up' job, in the centre of London in a big, well known company relating to the media and involved a lot of changes in my life, and a lot of new responsibilities. It was about a month into working there and I started to get an overwhelming feeling of worry and sadness for no apparent reason. I started turning up for work and would get asked to carry out the smallest tasks and I would want to burst into tears. My job role was to organise other people's lives so the overwhelming feelings I felt when asked to literally do my job made me so upset and panicked. I held my emotions in for around 2 weeks until one day after work I came home and it was a beautiful day. So beautiful, my family were having a BBQ, so my mood couldn't be more different. I could hear laughter from them all as I walked through the front door and it was then when the waterworks started and I didn't stop crying for a couple of days. 

My parents thought something awful had happened and when they asked me what was wrong, I couldn't tell them. I didn't know why I felt this way and that just made me ten times worse. The fact that I couldn't put it right because I didn't know what was causing it made this time so much more difficult for me. I attempted to go into work the next day however I managed to only get so far on the tube that I had to get off where my mum worked and I went to see her. I just couldn't face going into work. I was scared but I didn't know why. I just couldn't carry out my normal day with this horrible, anxious feeling on my shoulders. My mum decided to take the day off work and take me shopping to cheer me up and we spent most the day walking round the shopping centre. Before I knew it, I had stopped crying and that feeling of panic and worry had disappeared. From that moment onwards, with the help of my Mum and Dad, I realised I needed a distraction to get me out of the claustrophobic bubble of worry that I was in. Once I got used to the change n my life, having to travel into London for my new job, getting to grips with the new job, my anxiety lifted and I luckily haven't been affected since. I still sometimes feel a little anxious when the tube is busy or I feel claustrophobic but nothing like the feelings I felt when I first started this chapter in my life.

To help me control my anxiety, I try and remove myself from the situation that I'm in by reading books on my kindle or iPad or listening to music. I've found that doing an activity which focuses my mind on something completely different really helps me forget that I'm on a cramped train or standing at a rammed station platform, and keeps my anxiety at bay. I also try to think about people less fortunate than me. Putting things into perspective makes me realise that really I have nothing to worry about, however it's still important to recognise that my problems aren't "nothing", it's just my way of picking myself back on and carrying on. 

I've now managed to realise what makes my anxiety the worse and that's change. Any form of change in my life can trigger it. From changing my travel plans, changing job roles, changing social plans or plans for the week and having to rush. These kind of things send me into panic mode so when these occur it makes me really emotional and frustrated.

I think if anyone is suffering from anxiety is reading or relating to this, my advice would be to really work hard to use the technique of distraction. Turn your music up, download a new book to dive into or download an addictive game like Candy Crush. Make sure you do more of what makes you happy. Happiness helps you to have a clearer mind and this may lead you to understand why you are feeling anxious, and be able to distract yourself from it."

*names have been changed to protect the identity of the individual 

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Bruno's Story | Anxiety Insight: Part Three

Hello again! This post will be the third part of my series 'Anxiety Insight'. This story is from a 22 year old office worker called Bruno*. This story helps everyone understand that men suffer from anxiety as well as women. It is by no means a 'female illness' as Bruno will tell you in his story...

"My anxiety must have started around the start of 2014, but considering I used to spend all my time in my bedroom until the age of about 15 doing nothing, it probably started earlier I just didn't realise.  I starred realise there was a problem when I started suffering from rapid heart rate, sweating, nausea, dizziness, depressed thoughts, extreme worry and fear although there was nothing to worry about, insomnia, restlessness. I also became very hostile towards people I was close to and felt myself becoming niggardly with emotions.

In my opinion, my doctor didn't help me comes to terms with my anxiety very much. I was referred for CBT (Cognitive a Behavioural Therapy) and it didn't really work for me. I don't believe you can teach someone to think differently, but that may just be me being stubborn and believing only intrinsic affirmation can help you. I was prescribed Propanolol by my GP and helped for a period of time in terms of calming my heart rate a fair bit, but after a while I got used to them and they didn't help. When I told my Doctor this, I was prescribed double the doseage, but this just produced bad side effects such as confusion and feeling completely brain dead because my heart rate slowed right down so I felt I had no energy. What helps me? A cigarette helps, but only for around 5 minutes. It's not a permeant solution. Music is a big help. I helps me escape my anxious thoughts. And although I cringe at admitting it, being in the company of my girlfriend is probably the biggest help of them all.

My anxiety does affect my job and the work I have to do. I work in an office and I find it hard to concentrate and struggle to sit still sometimes. This means I make mistakes which I normally wouldn't, which makes me feel crap some times. I also have no motivation to socialise and have no interest in the things that I used to love like playing football. After work and at weekends, I just want to relax and be in the comfort of my own home.

My advice to anyone who can relate to any of my story and thinks they may have anxiety is to seek medical help. This may seem hypocritical considering what I said above about my experience with NHS services, but this was just for me, and as I said, I can be quite stubborn about my beliefs. Going to see your doctor may help somebody else dramatically and really should be the first point of call in terms of getting help. I would also advise someone to find something in life which gives them solace. Something that allows to escape from the world even just for a little while. Things like watching TV or listening to music are great solaces for me"

*names have been changed to protect the identity of the individual.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Chloe's Story | Anxiety Insight: Part Two

Hello again everyone. This is a second post in the Anxiety Insight series. Chloe* is a 20 year old university student who suffers with overlapping and integrating mental illnesses which is very common for a lot of people. Here is Chloe's story...

"I thought that my anxiety started when my bulimia surfaced, but after having some counselling and learning about anxiety I realised I'd probably had it since I was 5/6.  I had a bit of a turbulent home life so I thought it was normal to feel incredibly nervous and self-concious all the time. As my eating disorder and depression got worse, so did the anxiety and that's when it became a real problem because I was stuck in a toxic cycle.

Eating disorders often trigger anxiety and depression - and the three are very closely interlinked. I began to have panic attacks frequently and isolated myself. I get very shaky, short of breath, fidgety, and just in general, extremely overwhelmed. If I had a problem related to my food issues I would get incredibly anxious, but then at the same time revert to the habits of my eating disorder if I felt overwhelmed. I stopped going to college, stopped seeing friends until it became too much to handle on my own.

When it comes to dealing with my illness, I did seek help from my GP when it got really bad. After the third visit, my doctor referred me for therapy and my therapist was amazing. CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) helped me deal with my illnesses and made me feel like there was hope. I also love writing, so whenever I'm anxious I try to write everything down on a piece of paper. It doesn't matter to me if it doesn't make sense, just getting everything out of my head helps me so much. My mental illnesses still affect me daily even though I consider myself  to be well into recovery. I still isolate myself quite a lot when I'm anxious or low, and have the odd panic attack now and again. I get really anxious talking to new / certain types of people. Going out can be really difficult because I am so self critical and a perfectionist all the time and I am terrified of what anyone might say / think about me - my looks, behaviours, anything. It's hard to describe how consuming living with mental illness is because it does affect a huge amount of your life, but explaining it is quite hard, as those of you who suffer from a similar illness will know. I feel like I should be much stronger than I am. More 'normal' and like everyone else. But on positive days I do sit back and reflect and think "well done, you've come a long way". I'm so much better than I used to be and reminding myself of this helps a lot.

If you're reading this and you suffer with any kind of mental illness, the best thing to do is talk to someone. It's the one thing you never want to do, but make sure you reach out to the most trustworthy people in your life. Yes, I've been burned before by opening up to an exboyfriend and he started to use them against me, but my best friends have been so amazing and supportive. My advice would be to be prepared to possibly educate them a little bit on what you're suffering with as they might not actually understand it as well as they think they do. This way they can support you a lot more and understand why you are the way that you are. Also, go to your GP and ask for help is a great thing to do, as talking to a professional can do amazing things for your mental health. Because they are professionals and are there to help any illness, whether that be of mind or of body, they can help you find a way out as well as speaking to someone who won't judge you.

Finally, for anyone reading this who suffers with a mental illness, you are doing so well just by tackling a mental illness in the first place so don't be hard on yourself. "

*names have been changed to protect the identity of the individual

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Belle's Story | Anxiety Insight: Part One

This is the first blog post of a series I have called "Anxiety Insight" which other people suffering from anxiety get to share their stories with my readers too. This insight really will show how diverse and different anxiety is from person to person. Part one in this series is Belle's story. Belle* is a 23 year old student who has suffered from anxiety for 9 years...

"For years I never knew what was wrong with me. I suppose it started when I was 14. I was really really poorly with a virus over Christmas and stayed off school for about a month, then when I went back I just remember being so scared. The fear that I had when I was outside of the house and at school meant that I stopped eating because I was so scared of getting ill and being sick again. Every morning was a constant battle with my Mum to not go to school.

After a while my Mum went to the doctors on my behalf and explained how I was. I had lost between 1 and 1.5 stone in a month so I had to go the doctors and talk about how I was feeling. At this point I still didn't know what was wrong with me. Eventually, I got referred to  CAMHS (Child and Adolecent Mental Health Services) where I was diagnosed with an eating disorder at the age of 17. This was solely down to the fact that I didn't eat because of the fear of becoming ill like I was over that Christmas again.

While all this was going on, my anxiety had progressed to the point where I was unable to even leave the house at all some days, and if I was able to leave, I had a huge checklist of things I had to take with me in order to make me feel safe. I would take plastic bags in case I was sick, three bottles of water (I hardly ever took a sip out of one let alone 3, but I would worry that I would run out of water if I only took one bottle), ginger biscuits to settle nausea, hair bobbles and hair grips in case I was sick in public and lots of tablets. Paracetamol, ibuprofen and antiemetics galore. In reality I never needed them. It was the only way I'd go out of the house.

Only in recent years have I been able to accept and understand that my anorexia diagnosis was incorrect and was only given to me by CAMHS due to the fact my fear of the unknown outside the four walls of my safe home was causing me not to eat. What I was actually suffering from was anxiety. I have since tried to get this diagnosis label removed as its got in the way of things in my life and nearly prevented me from getting a place on my course at university.

I was referred for Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) which in my opinion hasn't worked for me. I soon realised that I had to accept what was wrong with me and find my own ways of dealing with it all. Something that helps me a lot with my anxiety is tackling each little thing at a time and not expecting everything to be fixed over night. Knowing everything I've accomplished, and the things I've got through, proves it can't control my life and I understand now that there are going to be down days and things I struggle with but I stay positive and remember how well I've done. I have to try my best with things that trigger my anxiety, and if it doesn't go to plan, I try again another day.

I think something that I would like others dealing with anxiety to know is that it does get better. I'm proof of that. I've gone from not being able to leave the house and having my attendance at school at 42% during my GCSE year, to studying for a university degree that will get me a job that I've wanted my whole life. My anxiety controlled my life to the point where I didn't have a life. It's been 9 years, and it's important to note that I do still struggle but I am 110% better than I was and ever thought I could be."

*names have been changed to protect the identity of the individual 

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

The Weight Gain Support Programme | We Need Your Help.

Nursing instincts have hit me again. 

A few weeks ago, I read an article in a national newspaper about a lady in my home town who was trying to spread awareness and support for an issue very close to her heart and a lot of others. I thought her story was so brave and wanted to show my support, so I hunted her down on Facebook and told her. 

As someone who writes my own blog to spread awareness on anxiety and panic disorder, I know how difficult it can be sometimes, so I really wanted to actively help in spreading the awareness her cause definitely deserves. So far, I have volunteered to admin some social media pages which I will do my very best for to help those who need help, find it. I do hope to help out more as the organisation progresses. 

The founder of the support group, Kimberly, has taken it upon herself to start support groups, similar to Weight Watchers and Slimming World but for those who struggle to put on weight, rather than lose it. Being underweight is an 'invisible' illness and one that needs to be talked about more. Not everyone who is thin wants to be thin, in the same way that not everyone who is bigger is happy at the size that they are. As many of you who have experienced weight loss groups, they are motivating. They are empowering. They are a place of moral support. They are a place to make friends. They are a place to not feel so alone. They are a place to discuss your problems and be educated on how to help solve the problems. This is what we want for those who want to gain weight. 

After doing some research, Kimberly found that the only help available for those underweight and wanting to gain weight was BEAT, an eating disorder charity. However, and this is a big however, BEAT do not offer support for individuals without a diagnosed mental illness or eating disorder. Kimberley's personal story involved unexpected weight loss after a stressful time and she really struggled for years to put the weight back on. She still struggles today but in well into her recovery. She herself dropped to a shocking 5 stone 4 lbs and a BMI of 11.3 and was given no support other than 'try to eat more' and 'try to eat little and often'. 

Problems like this are so much more than just 'eat more', just like losing weight isn't just 'eat less'. Both take strength and need courage and support which society is lacking at the moment for those trying to lose weight. So many people I know have had success using weight loss support groups out there, so why not help support the creation of the same groups for those on the opposite side of the spectrum? There are people out there that need empowering to come forward and ask for help. 

With the right support, the right education and the right services readily available for those in need, individuals who are struggling with their weight can reach out and get themselves the support, motivation and inspiration they desperately need. Services like the support groups hoping to be set up in the near future can drastically change an individual's life or even save it. 

The Facebook support page The Weight Gain Support Group is linked below and if we want to make a difference, we need it spreading so people who need help, just like Kimberly did, can get it. 

There is also a UK government petition that needs signing by supporters to allow us to move forward with the support initiatives to help those in need of a help in hand. It's completely free to sign the petition. Please enter the details and an email will be sent to your email address to confirm you want to sign the petition.

The Princes Trust have offered to support Kimberly on her mission to change lives by offering training and qualifications to be able to provide the appropriate and essential support people who come forward for support need. 

Please please please help us save lives and give those in need the support and help that they yearn for and deserve. Please sign the petition and share the Facebook Page. 

Article about Kimberlys Story:

Facebook group:

UK government petition:

On behalf of Kimberly, thank you in advance for your support. 

Love Luce xo 

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Reasons To Stay Alive By Matt Haig | A Book Review

"Anxiety takes away all the commas and full stops we need to make sense of ourselves" - Matt Haig

 Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig was a book that I first heard about when one of my favourite YouTubers, Amy, from the channel 'shoutame', posted a review about it. The link to that video is here, go watch her if you're a book lover like me! Amy's review on the book really did draw me in and make me want to buy the book and read it. I'd never come across a book quite like it and I wanted to read about somebody's personal experience and how they overcame the difficulties that come with living a 'normal' life with a mental illness. From the title, I was concerned that it would be based more on depression and suicidal thoughts rather than anxiety, which aren't illnesses or feelings I suffer from and debated if it was for me, but because of Amy's review and the description she gave of it, I gave it a go and downloaded it onto my kindle.

The first thing I have to say about this book is the words and language that Matt Haig uses to describe mental illnesses are spot-on and explain exactly how I feel about my mental illness.

Here are a few examples:

"Understand, for instance, that having a sad thought, even having a continual succession of sad thoughts, is not the same as being a sad person. You can walk through a storm and feel the wind but you know you are not the wind. This is how we must be with our minds"

"The weirdest thing about the mind is that you can have the most intense things going on in there but no one else can see them. The world shrugs."

"If you're the type of person who thinks too much about stuff then there is nothing lonelier in the world than being surrounded by loads of people on a different wavelength"

I have honestly never been able to relate to a book so much in all my life and reading about Matt's experience with his anxiety not only gave me hope that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, but it taught me so much about depression as well as anxiety that I didn't know. I found myself reading personal things Matt talks about and thinking to myself 'why did I never realise this?' As I said, the title did scare me a bit and made me worry me about what I was going to read on the next page, but I believe it is the perfect title to describe Matt's life and Matt's strength.

I think I related to this book a lot because Matt wrote the book for the very same reason that I write this blog - as therapy, and as a result of the therapy, to help others. Matt sold his brave story to the whole world to make people like me feel less alone, make people like me recognise that they're not crazy, and to give people like me hope that life will not be dark forever. Having said this, it must be noted that Matt remains very truthful in that he never denies that he is 'cured' from his mental illnesses, as he believes, as do I and many others out there, that mental illness do not disappear. It become a part of who you are and you learn to handle it better.

For anyone reading this who suffers with a mental illness and needs a bit of 'ah, so I'm not so strange after all', please read this book. I must warn you though, some parts may be triggering for those who maybe a little unstable in their mental health so please please please be careful. Nevertheless, even the darkest chapters make you realise the strength that Matt has and the strength that anyone can have when you learn to accept who you are, and learn to handle and live with your illness.

This book is also the most amazing book for a family member, a friend or someone in your life that you feel needs a little more explanation into what on earth mental illness is and how it makes you feel. As I said, the words used throughout this book are nothing but the truth for me, and I'm sure they will be for a lot of others too. The way he uses symbolism and examples made me scream "YES. THATS IT!", and for those of you who get tongue tied when people don't quite understand your illness, you'll understand what I mean about the language in this book. I'd really love my parents to read this, as reading the journey of Matt's life and reading all the symbolism in the book I think would benefit them a lot in the part they play in my own journey. Acceptance is one thing, but having someone you love understand how you feel or how you work, even just a little bit, is on a whole other level.

This book will stay very close to my heart for a long time, simply because it's the first book I've read that discusses mental illness in such an honest, personal and relatable way. Matt Haig - you have given me the strength I need to, pick myself up, brush myself off and get back on track. You really are an inspiration to me. Thank you. 

Here's a link to Reasons To Stay Alive on Amazon.

Love Luce xo

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Mind | How Mind Helped Me

Mind is a charity that solely focuses on not only spreading awareness and advice for those surrounded by mental illness, but empowers those who suffer from illness of the mind. For me, the first time I approached Mind was two years ago when I started to to question my mental health. I read through the information sheets on the different mental illnesses that affect people and realised a lot of the signs and symptoms listed on the link titled "anxiety and panic attacks" correlated with my personality, emotions and behaviour.  Back then, I didn't think much more of it and didn't return to the website until a year later when my illness started to develop and change aspects of my life that I didn't want it to.

 I had already been diagnosed with anxiety and had ended up in A&E after a panic attack and had been medicated to sedate me so I know I needed to educate myself on what was going on. Funnily enough, when my GP told me he thought I had anxiety, I did no research as I thought I knew it all (typical student nurse). I already knew I was the perfectly painted picture of what anxiety would look like in human form but never even considered having a panic disorder too. The doctor in A&E mentioned panic attacks and the morning after my trip to hospital (which was the day of being signed off sick), I googled 'panic attacks' and was redirected to the Mind website. At this point, I reached out to Mind for advice and answers. 
What was wrong with me? Why was my body doing this? Why me? Why now? How can I stop it? When will it go away? 

Of course, I learnt more from that website than I ever had in my two hour lecture on mental health and Mind wrote the information in such a way that I lost possession of all the negative attachments I'd linked to these mental illnesses I'd suddenly been diagnosed with, even just for a few minutes. The first paragraph on anxiety on the Mind website is this:

"Anxiety is a word we use to describe feelings of unease, worry and fear. It incorporates both the emotions and the physical sensations we might experience when we are worried or nervous about something. Although we usually find it unpleasant, anxiety is related to the fight or flight’ response – our normal biological reaction to feeling threatened."

For me, even this first paragraph allowed me to feel somewhat normal. The fight or flight response was normal. The word normal was within that paragraph. I wasn't crazy. The information was subcategorised into sections focusing on the different questions I had. There was a section on why it happens, a section on how to treat it. 

The best bit about the website for me is the links it offered to videos, podcasts and blog posts, on personal experiences people have with their mental illness. Sitting in front of my laptop reading a story about a girl who's anxiety controlled her life at university made me feel like I wasn't alone. It was like I was reading all the words I wanted to scream. In a world where people assume anxiety is being 'scared for no reason', there were people out there just like me. 

Mind gave me the confidence to open up to people closest to me. It allowed me to simply send them the link to the information surrounding anxiety and panic disorder so my loved ones could read and educate themselves before asking me questions I was afraid to answer. Mind sets it out so their webpage is not difficult to navigate around, the information is not full of medical terminology that floats straight over your head. It's simple, easy to read material that allows for further research if needed and that's amazing. At the beginning of it all, I was very embarrassed about my illnesses and Mind gave me the power to be able to be strong and feel somewhat normal. I still refer back to Mind when I feel like I have an unanswered question and Mind is always the website I recommend to people who come to me for help and advice. If anything, Mind gave me the courage to start talking openly about my mental health and the passion to empower others to be honest and accepting of the way that they are, no matter how difficult it may be. 

Here's the link to Mind website and all web pages I have discussed above. I hope Mind can be as much help for you and your family and friends as it was for me.

Love Luce xo 

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