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 

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Anti-Anxiety Pets | Pets As Therapy

I will just start with a disclaimer that if you don't like animals (mainly cats) or don't believe they can help physical and mental illnesses then this post may not be for you, however if you are confused at what I mean by help physical and mental illnesses, keep reading.

The title is something that many people may of heard of before, usually in the form of a PAT dog who visits residential homes and hospital to help cheer up and help patients and residents in a therapeutic manner. As someone who has grown up being the daughter of a care home manager and then going on to become a student nurse myself, I have seen pet and animal assisted therapy a lot and seen how much good comes from something that has no idea how happy it is making people. PAT dogs are very common and popular, especially in the UK, and many care establishments have a regular PAT dog that visits individuals who get great pleasure out of having a companion for a while; something to stroke, pet, cuddle with, play with or simply admire. The Pets As Therapy website linked here gives a lot more information on how and why this type of therapy is so amazing, but for this blog post I'm going to be talking about my experience with how any pet can be therapy for someone, whether they know it or not.

Many people do assume that for an animal to have any therapeutic effect on an individual, it has to be trained in doing so. Personally, I think this is rubbish. Yes, PAT dogs and some therapy animals are specially trained to obey commands, sit nicely on people's laps, allow people to stroke them and be used to a lot of human interaction for the main purpose that without the training, the behaviour of the animal is unpredictable. Trainers do not want patients who are meant to be being therapeutically cared for to be bitten, scratched, hissed at or barked at as this leaves a dollop of negativity for all those who encountered it. However, I personally believe that any animal, so long as it has a good and friendly relationship with you, can give just as much, if not more, individualised therapy as a trained puppy can.

In February this year, my Mum and Dad bought me a kitten for my 21st birthday. They told me to choose the one I liked the best and that she would be my kitten that I could build a relationship with and use her to cheer me up whenever I'm scared or low. It was the most amazing present I got, and the thought that had been put into it was incredible. I named her Darcy and she was beautiful. She was crazy but she loved to cuddle and she loved being around me. From the very first day we brought her home, she changed my mood instantly. I've always been a cat person and grown up with a cat all my life, but after a period of 2 years without one, having a 15 week old kitten to play with and cuddle and show me affection really honestly helped my anxiety a lot. She not only helped me, she helped my whole family, who at the time also needed something to lift spirits when they were low and bring smiles to faces.

Heart breakingly, Darcy passed away at 5 months old from a hereditary, incurable infection which was so so sad. The four weeks the family had without her was hard, especially for me, as I saw Darcy as a symbol for the strength, development and growth I endured with my anxiety. There was nothing to go and pick up and cuddle is I was scared or sad, nothing to sit and laugh at running around the room, nothing to come and lick my face in the mornings and want to be with me all the time. For me, I needed a new forever friend to help me and the effects of my anxiety and panic disorder like Darcy did as I started to feel all the negative thoughts and feelings starting to come flooding back. Whether that was because I missed her or whether it was because I was so saddened at losing what made me gain my confidence and strength, I don't know, but I know I needed to do something. That's when I found Nellie.

Nellie is far from normal and is 100% more dog than cat. She is the only cat that I've seen carry toys around in her mouth and rip them to shreds. She parades around the house with underwear in her mouth that she's recovered from the laundry basket and cries when she can't find you in the house. Nellie was bought at 9 months old from a lovely couple who couldn't keep her any longer and needed a new home for her. From the minute I saw her, I fell in love. The first thing her previous owner said to me was "that's strange, she doesn't usually cuddle up to people like she is doing with you" which made me feel like I had to bring her home with me. She needed a new home and I needed a new therapy cat  that could help me relieve stresses, calm me down, relax me from the whirlwind of emotions floating around my head, and make me smile and laugh. Now, almost 2 months on, she really does bring me so much happiness. Her personality is so crazy and different to anything I've ever seen, but she is so loving and caring too. The best bit about Nellie is she can recognise when I'm low or anxious and will come and sit on or near me. Sometimes, that's all I need. She sat with me while I revised for my last exam and just having her there to stroke and speak in my stupid high "kitty" voice relieves stress I didn't know could be relieved. 

I guess what I'm trying to say is that animals and pets that you live with and have a relationship with really can be all you need to calm you down if you start to feel anxious, or make you smile while you feel low. Something as simple as stroking her or her choosing to sit with me while I watch the TV gives me such a positive boost like no human has ever been able to give me. I know for those of you who don't have pets or even those that do but don't understand how cats or dogs can have this effect on people, take my word for it. My mental health has been helped so much by my little furry friend. I would honestly recommended anyone who doesn't have a pet to get one if you need some therapeutic help with your health, whether that be physical or mental.

(Apologies for how crazy-cat-lady this post sounds but I write posts on my blog that help me and inspire others)

Love Luce xo

Thursday, 17 March 2016

I Can Do This.

Okay. First off I want to apologise to anyone who has been waiting for a blog post, I've been so busy that I've really not had any time to sit down and write a post, which has upset me a fair bit in the two months I've been away, but I'm back!! Today, I want to write a post about conquering a day that I really genuinely didn't think I would be able to even start let alone finish with a smile on my face.

So one day last week I hardly slept a wink, was up all night worrying about anything and everything and found myself developing a very strong migraine from it. This is not uncommon for me and usually I would make sure that during that day I had a nap so I didn't feel so crappy and that I rested and took it easy. However, on this occasion this was not possible as I was due on a 13 hour shift. With a splitting headache and around two hours broken sleep throughout the night, at 6.15am, I got ready for work and started walking to the bus. A few yards up the road my anxiety built up and my headache was getting worse. I made the decision to call my mentor and tell her that I would not be able to make the shift. She was lovely about it and it relaxed me knowing she just wanted me well. I went back to bed and managed to nap for around two hours. As the day went on my migraine stayed but my anxiety levels dropped.  I was determined that I would make it in for my shift the next day no matter how bad I felt. I made sure that I got to sleep early and dosed myself up with enough painkillers so that my headache wouldn't wake me up.

 At 6 AM my alarm went off  and to my complete horror, I felt exactly the same as I had the morning before. I felt scared, anxious, mentally drained, and didn't want to get out of bed for the fear of what the day would hold. The first thing I did was text one of my close friends the words "I can't do it".  I My heart was racing, I started shaking and I felt instantly sick. My headache still lingered. I soon got a reply back from my friend with the words "yes you can". She talked me through how to do everything just one step at a time and it worked. She asked me what I was scared about and I replied things such as "the bus". She simply replied "but you can get off at any time". And she was right. I wasn't thinking rationally  and my mind was too overwhelmed by the fear that my anxiety was beating me again. With her help and constant support that morning, I got up, got dressed, walked to the bus and went to work. I did cry all the way to the bus stop and felt like an idiot the whole way, but I needed to go to work and fight the bad thoughts. At one point I walked past a blue car exactly like my dad's and burst into tears that it wasn't his ready to take me home. I really was struggling to think rationally with everything and even having my friend on the end of the phone my mind started to wonder onto things such as "what is the bus crashes?" and "what if I have a panic attack at work?". I really wasn't helping myself but I didn't know it at the time, at the time I was trying to protect myself. Sometimes I think the fear of having a panic attack is worse than actually having one. I personally work myself up to the point where it's inevitable that a panic attack will happen and that morning I could've bet money on me having one. I had all the signs, all the symptoms, and really wasn't helping myself  preventing it from happening. Luckily, I didn't. Everyone I saw that morning on my way into work was a threat, and I felt so bad for looking so scared when a lady sat next to me on the bus. It's hard when your mind is fighting against what's going on around you and only you can hear what your mind is saying and telling you to do. "Get off the bus". "Dont make eye contact with anyone". "You'll regret all this". "People will think bad of you if you go into work crying". "Just go home".

I got off the bus and walked into work. Walking down the hospital corridor with my placement ward right at the bottom end,  I took a deep breath and told myself I can do it. I put my coat and bag in the staffroom, looked at myself in the mirror, washed my face, and walk down the corridor to the nurses station. The minute I entered the ward, my panic stopped. As if somebody had switched a button off in my head. I said good morning to my patients on my way to the nurses station and then said good morning to my colleagues I'd be working with that day.  I was shocked to say the least, it was like nothing has happened that morning. As if anxiety wasn't even a thing. My mentor asked me how I was and if I was feeling better and I told her I'd had a rough morning but I feel fine now. As the day went on, it seemed that the mornings occurrences had simply been a dream and never really happened. My heart started beating normally, I stopped shaking and my sickness disappeared within the blink of an eye. It really was odd. Good, but odd.

 I started to think about why this had happened and how my mood changed as soon as I got to work. Nothing has ever been able to snap me out of anxiety and panic like that, and I was very confused. The more I thought about it the more I realised that the ward,  my patients, and the idea of me looking after them for the day over ruled my anxiety and panic. It was where I needed to be. I spoke to a friend about it and my mum and I soon realised that once I have to put somebody else first,  and work hard to make them feel better, I feel better. I feel useful, happy and proud of myself for what I am doing. Yes, I had a crap morning, probably one of the crappiest mornings I've ever had, but after seeing the smiles on my patients faces as I said good morning to them and asked how they'd slept, I realised there was nothing to worry about and if something but did happen, I would handle it the best I could.

 I really am doing the best job in the world for the type of person that I am. I need to feel useful, wanted, and needed or I begin to feel low, anxious and irrational.  When it is your job to care for those who are unwell, you have to leave your worries at the door. It is your job to make people smile, to relieve anxiety from them and to make sure that they have nothing to worry about. This is why my anxiety and my panic stopped as soon as I was needed to ease theirs.  Of course I realised I had been irrational that morning, but that's all part of my illness. I always understand and realise that my thoughts and actions are often irrational and are a product of my mental illness afterwards,  but at the time, everything seems so frightening and you are almost certain that everything will go wrong. If I hadn't of text my friend that morning and has she not replied with what she did, I wouldn't of had the confidence to get up and go to work. I wouldn't of been able to realise that I can do it, that my mental illness cannot always beat me, and that I am strong enough to push through anything if I take things one step at a time. Now this is happened to me, I know that if I ever wake up feeling like that again, I just need to take things one step at a time, push through it, and know that what ever happens, I can only try my absolute best. I am so proud of myself for getting through the day, not just getting out of bed, and I really do have the most amazing friend for texting me from 6am and throughout the day. You know who you are and I love you.

No matter how dark your day may seem, there is always something to light up your path.

Love Luce xo

Monday, 25 January 2016

Citalopram | My Side Effects

I woke up the other morning and sat thinking about the side effects, both good and bad, that I have experienced since September 2015 when I was started on Citalopram. I thought it would make an interesting blog post for those of you who have no idea what Citalopram is or be interesting and insightful for those of you with a close one on the medication or if you're on it yourself. 

So Citalopram is a Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor or SSRI and basically means it ensures there enough serotonin to flow around my brain to have a positive influence on moods and emotions. If I wasn't on Citalopram, my brain would absorb all the serotonin and there wouldn't be enough floating around to have a positive impact on my emotions. It is classified as an anti-depressant medication due to its chemical use within mental health conditions, but it is also used with panic disorders as the brain acts in a similar way. It is a prescription only medication so cannot be bought over the counter, and they are definitely not given out like sweets. Taking SSRIs can have a real positive effect on people whose brains lacks enough serotonin, but they are unsafe to be used for people who have no chemical imbalances in their brain. Despite them being a real life-saver for me, Citalopram in particular is a medication that is known for it's many side effects, many of which I have experienced. When I was first prescribed them, my doctor told me it was likely I would experience some side effects for the first 2-4 weeks while my body adjusts to the chemicals readjusting in my brain and this was certainly true.

I once counted the side effects listed on the information leaflet that came with my tablets and there were a grand total of 48 side effects. The list surprisingly included 'anxiety' and 'panic attacks' which blew my mind, but if you look at the information leaflet for paracetamol, it says it can cause headaches!! I did experience 3 weeks of worsened anxiety and panic attacks which was awful and did land me in A&E on one occasion but once I got over the initial 3-4 weeks, everything seemed to settle down. During these first few weeks, I also experienced loss of appetite, fatigue, headaches, dizziness, terrible nausea and lack of sleep, so as you can imagine it wasn't fun for me. I actually met up with friends at a local pub during the worst week for side effects and I can honestly say it was one of the worst experiences of my life, especially because only three of the 8 friends sat round the table knew I wasn't well. 

They all wore off after 4 weeks and I slowly started to notice the good effects of Citalopram. I was feeling positive, I didn't have the sinking feeling I was used to feeling every day and I started smiling and laughing a lot more. To this day, I still do often feel nauseous in the mornings and do get very bad headaches and these are because of my tablets, but its nothing I can't handle, and the benefits of my tablets outweigh the negatives. The main inspiration for this blog post was one of my more stranger remaining side effects which is vivid thoughts and dreams. This side effect has again been confirmed by my doctor to be medication related and it's something that makes me laugh sometimes. I experience vivid daydreams, so much so when I enter real life is it very difficut for me to believe what I was daydreaming about hadn't actually happened. Similarly, the dreams I have are dreams that are so real life and vivid that I honestly believe they've happened. I don't dream about being in a different country or people turning into animals, I dream about my Dad waking me up and making me come downstairs for breakfast, or a normal shift on the ward or going shopping and buying milk and gherkins. The other weird thing is that when I'm at home, my dreams are at home, when I'm at my uni flat, my dreams are at my uni flat or when i'm staying with Ben, my dreams will be located at his house. However funny this may sound, I also have real life and vivid nightmares, like a family member dying, which is obviously horrible and more upsetting after I wake up than if I dreamt about a lion chasing me across a field. 

Another side effect worth mentioning just as a finishing point is that if I take two tablets too close together, my mood can go one of two ways; I either get hyperactive, excitable and show the same effects as drinking 5 cans of Redbull, or my mood increases my anxiety and I feel very nervous, scared and worried. For this reason, I am very particular about when I take my tablets. This was just a small insight into the side effects of my medication but will write another post regarding Citalopram and its functions in more detail and my thoughts about it if this is something people would like to read? Remember all medication works differently with different people and all medications have their risks alongside their benefits.

Love  Luce xo

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Anxieties before Anxiety.

I was speaking to my Mum the other day about how I've always been an anxious child even from being very small and since then, random memories about strange things I did growing up which could (not certain, i'm not a psychologist) have pointed in the direction of anxiety. I spoke about how uneasy I was (and still am) while out in public with friends and family in this post but here some more of my personal memories that show similarities to the way I feel nowadays. 

The memory me and my Mum were speaking about was my behaviour when I started secondary school. I was 11 years old and since my first day of secondary school, I went off breakfast. I didn't eat it and it was because I always felt sick in the morning. I was scared I would be sick on the bus or at school if I ate my breakfast so I started throwing it in the bin, or leaving it on the side and running out the house before Mum noticed. Then when she started to notice, I used to come down for breakfast earlier than anyone else and pour a tiny bit of milk into the bottom of the bowl so it looked like i'd eaten my breakfast, but obviously when the cereal wasn't getting eaten, my parents found out again. (I will just add, I was vegetarian at the time and very petite body shape wise, so my parents had a reason to worry about me not eating.) My Mum then confronted me and asked why I wasn't eating breakfast and I told her it wasn't because I didn't want to, it was because it made me feel sick, so she took me shopping to buy something that wouldn't make me feel sick in the mornings and the only thing I chose out of the whole of Tescos was jellies fruit pots. Fair enough, it did work. I ate one a morning, but still felt sick. Gradually over the course of 3 years and as I got older, I moved onto cereal bars but that was because as a 14/15 year old girl, I had no time for breakfast in the morning(!). I believe that this 'sickness' I felt for a good 3 years of being at secondary school was nervousness about the bus journey and school itself. I had lots of friends, there was typical girl fall-outs, and being in an all girls school, there was obviously bitchiness, but as soon as I got to school, the sickness went. Still to this day, I know when I'm having a not so great day when I wake up and find myself feeling sick, and nausea is a regular feature in my panic attacks too. 

Which leads me onto a general memory. I always remember having one group of friends at school really, but this group would obviously split and mingle with others when typical girl-ness got in the way. I would always always always do what anyone told me to and everyone knew that. I wouldn't say I was ever 'bullied' but if someone said to me, go to the canteen and fetch me a sandwich, I would do it. This behaviour is 100% related back to my social attachment anxiety and the fact I have a fear of being rejected and a fear of people not liking me, so I did everything everyone asked of me. A lot of friends knew this and would tell me to stop letting people walk all over me, but I never saw it like that. I just saw it as doing something nice for someone else. I'd be the one to tear my hymn book in half to save a friend from getting a detention for forgetting hers, and risk getting a detention myself for ripping mine up. I'd be the one to fetch and carry things for other people or lend people money I didn't really have to lend out. Bad move sometimes, but to me, I was always just doing something nice for others. To be fair, looking back now, a very small amount of people took advantage of the fact i'd do anything for anyone, but a lot would step in and tell me not to things because it wasn't fair on me. The fear of not having anyone like me and having people not want anything to do with me is still apparent in my personality today but I think back then I was a lot more naive and immature to realise when people used it to their advantage. Nowadays, I can tell when people are walking all over me and although it takes a lot of courage, I do say something. It's hard when I have an irrational but very loud voice inside me screaming "Don't say anything, just do it! They'll hate you and you'll never have any friends" but I have to to be good to myself. 

Memory 3 made me laugh when I remembered it. In primary school, there used to be a library van that would come to the school every Thursday after Lunch and we would be able to go into the van and choose a book to have for a week until the van came again. I chose a book and took it home and throughout the week, it somehow ripped. Just one of the pages ripped but it had ripped down half the page. I only noticed it in the car on the way to school the following Thursday morning - hand in day. When I saw it I felt sick. I felt like I didn't want to go to school, because if I didn't go to school, I didn't have to give the book in today which means no one would know I ripped it. I went to school nonetheless and I spent my whole morning totally distracted by the fact I had ripped a library book and it was sat in my bag and the librarian and my teacher would hate me. I thought about fixing it but didn't have a anything to fix it with. The saddest bit of this memory is I distinctively remember walking up to the library van with my classmates to exchange books and feeling panicky that everyone would hate me when they knew I ripped the book. In the end, no one even noticed and I chose another book and went about my day. Best afternoon ever. But again, its that same familiar feeling of "everyone is going to hate me" that I still get today. 

This ones funny too and I know if my Dad and Brother read this they'll be laughing along, even though at the time it was not funny for me. When I was about 7, my brother was 5 and we were playing in the garden swinging from a conker tree that my Dad planted when he was a boy. The branch broke. A big branch that stuck out into the garden. My brother turned on the 'I'm telling Daddy' and I told him if he did that i'd tell Dad it was him. Obviously. I honestly thought, even as a 7 year old that my own Dad would hate me and never speak to me again if he knew I broke the branch, so me and Bradley decided to hide the branch in a nearby ditch and collect all the brown felt tips in the house to colour the broken section of fresh new bark on the trunk. We spent ages colouring in where the branch was in hope that Dad wouldn't notice. Nothing was said and every day I looked at the tree and hated myself for breaking the branch and was scared every day that Dad would realise and hate me. 7 year old me genuinely struggled getting to sleep because of the fear that Dad will hate me and wouldn't love me anymore, and would that mean I would have to live with Grandma and Grandad.....I know.....irrational. He never mentioned it. He knew and we still laugh about it today but he wasn't even mad. And FYI my Dad doesn't hate me and I am still welcomed into the family home and don't live at my Grandmas. 

I'm sure there are a lot more memories, and a lot of my childhood is remembered because I relate to the feelings I felt then to how I do now. I can tell you the exact timetable of activities the Summer Club at the local leisure centre held the day Mum took me and my brother there because the feelings I felt there are similar to ones I feel now when I do feel anxious. Some of you might think, 'yeah, but loads of people feel like that', and that's the point. This is anxiety and everyone will feel anxious at some point in their life, but for me, it gets worrying when  I realise I never grew out of my already-weird childhood fears like all my friends did. Normal 7 year olds are scared of the dark, I was scared of people hating me or scared that i'd go to a kids club or friends party and my parents wont pick me up and i'll be left there forever. I don't know why I haven't been able to grow out of these sorts of fears, I know where they stem from but I honestly don't think anyone does hate me or ever has done (that I know of). All I can do is learn from my memories, realise they are part of who I am, and learn how to cope with situations that may bring me anxiety or panic better.

Love Luce xo

Saturday, 9 January 2016

My 2016 Wish List.

Laying in bed last night reading my book, I started to think about how much I want 2016 to be different than the last. I have never been someone to believe in or make New Years resolutions as no one ever sticks to them, but 2016 has so much in store for me, and I am more determined than ever to make it a better year than 2015 for myself. I started flicking through my thoughts about what I want to achieve, or do, or change in myself. So here is my wish list for 2016, which I hope in a years time I can review and be proud of myself to achieving my dreams for the year:

1. I want to qualify as a Registered General Nurse. 

After 3 years of working my bum off to achieve my dream of becoming a nurse, this year is the year I get to finally say 'I've done it'. It has, by no means, been an easy road and I will say it over and over again, Nursing is not a normal university degree. Working full time as a nurse on placement blocks, while balancing assignments, exams, placement books and reflections and being able to enjoy life with your family and friends is the hardest thing I've ever had to do. I have had more low times while studying to be a nurse than I ever have in my whole life but I would not be able to do what I've always wanted to do without going through it all. I hope to qualify in October 2016, so long as I pass my 2nd year resit exam in February. Fingers crossed.

2. I want to move back home with my Mum and Dad
I can hear 80% of you reading this thinking "why on earth would a 21 year old want to move back home?" but I have struggled so much with home-sickness and feeling unsafe and lonely throughout the past 3 years while living away for university that to be back at home where I am safe, secure and never on my own is what I've wanted for a long time. No, I can't deny that I am looking forward to not having to cook for myself or wash my own clothes, or never again having to open to fridge and internally cry at the half a pepper and tub of butter sat only in the company of each other on the second shelf down, but the main reason I want to be back home is so I can be myself and be happy again. I'm not saying it's forever as hopefully after Ben has finished university in 2017, we will save up and move into our own place, but until then I would much prefer to live in my family home with my support system close and available, than in a flat on my own.

3. I want to be accepted for a newly qualified job that I actually want to do. 

So many nurses have told me how after they qualified, they took the first job they could just so they could get working, or how they have took a job on a ward they didn't necessarily like or have a passion about just because they felt they had to. I know I do not want to work in medicine as for me, it doesn't give me the drive or fulfill my passion for nursing in the same way surgery does. I know I like acute and fast paced departments, and departments that take patients straight from A&E have been my favorite placements. My community placement involved spending some time with the practice nurse in the GP surgery and this is when I realised this was something I really enjoyed as I could work independently and have a problem presented to me for me to solve. Practice nursing, in my eyes, has a stronger and tighter support system with other nurses and GPs just around the corner if needed. So when I qualify I will be looking for jobs in acute surgery/outpatient settings or GP surgery settings. Watch this space.

4. I really would like to make something from this blog.
I starting writing this blog for me, and for my own personal therapy however, it quickly developed into a space for others to learn about mental health conditions like mine, and for people who struggle with them too to feel less alone and to develop the confidence to make a change for themselves. The amount of messages I have received from people I know and people I don't know thanking me for giving them the confidence to get help, or helping them learn more about it all is unreal and I will never regret starting this blog. The more this blog is being shared and liked on social media sites or shared by word of mouth, or emailed to friends, the more it is helping people all over the world (Literally, hello to those of you in Australia, Barbados, Mexico, Bolivia, Algeria and all the other countries. I see you watching me!). Because of this, my aim it to have at least 10,000 people read my blog this year so more and more people can learn and feel less alone.

5. I want to get fitter and live a healthier lifestyle. 
Back in the Easter-Summer of 2015, I really had a health kick and along with a fellow nurse friend from Uni who is the best gym motivator ever, I worked out and ate healthily. I lost a healthy amount of weight and toned my body up so well. I showed everyone my 'before and after photos', even my brother and dad despite them not really wanting to see photos of me in my underwear (awks), but I was so proud of myself. I never had to force myself to go to the gym, I just simply fitted it around lectures at university and went 2 to 3 times a week. I really did enjoy it. When I started my third placement of 2nd year, I found it difficult to keep up and was too tired to fit the gym around my shifts and slowly lost the motivation. Then in August I was diagnosed with my mental illnesses and lost a lot of weight with that from not having an appetite at all. Since then, my weight has fluctuated and obviously Christmas and my love of cheese did not help. Exercise is also an amazing way to self help myself when it comes to my conditions and people have always mentioned how much more energy I had last year and how liberated I looked, and I did feel good so I would like to feel that again. I have my goal weight and I really want to reach it this year and keep myself there. With then help of my little gym buddy, I know I'll do it. (Helen, if you're reading this, thanks for offering to help me reach my goal xox)

Now the top 5 have been written an explained, here are some silly little wish list items that i'd like to achieve by 2017:

6. I want to swim in the sea. I never got to last year and I love the sea. 
7. I want to say 'yes' to a lot more. It is the only way my confidence will grow and I can develop as a person. 
8. I want to fill my first Project Life album.
9. I want to grow my blonde highlights out and keep my hair its natural dark brown colour. I haven't had my natural hair colour since I was 13 and kind of want to try something different!
10. I want to go to a proper spa where they do massages and things. 
11. I want to stay creative and keep hand-making and personalising gifts for friends and family.
12. I want to sort my wardrobe and draws out back at home. I've has a few 'i don't wear that anymore, I'll chuck it/sell it' moments throughout the past 12 months but I have 2 sets of draws with clothes that have no organisation at all and a wardrobe with clothes not even on hangers (!!)
13. I want to successfully insert an Naso-Gastric tube for a patient. 
14. I want to read at least 15 books this year. 
15. I want to see a medium or a clairvoyant. Mainly because I want to see if they're real and if they are, I want to speak to my Grandad. 
16. I want to go to Madame Tussaud's!! 
17. I want to drink butter beer at the Warner Brothers Studios. 
18. I want to own at least one more item of Mac makeup. (My Mac bronzer, kindly gifted to me by a special someone, is my absolutelife)
19. I want to watch a musical in the West End. I've always loved Les Mis but all West End musicals are a dream to me. I grew up singing along to songs from the Musicals but have never seen one. 
20. I want to start my saving fund for my Invisalign braces. I need my front nashers straightening and have wanted Invisalign braces for years but I will only allow myself, with my earnings to pay for them!

Make you're own list, see what you really want to do with this year. See you in a years time to see how i've done!

Love Luce xo

Friday, 1 January 2016

Page 365 of 365.

As the clock turned 12 am last night/this morning, I was surrounded by my friends and boyfriend and was honestly happy the 1st page of a new 366 page book was being opened for me. 2015 was a whirlwind of emotions and a big journey for me, and those closest to me too. I thought i'd take the opportunity to use my blog to talk about the highs and lows of my year and why I'm looking forward to 2016. This is mostly for my sake, so I can reflect on the past year, but it may also help others who have followed my blog and supported me throughout to understand a little bit more. 

2015 was an odd year for me in that I could feel something inside me wasn't right from early on in the year. I moved out of my second year, privately rented university accommodation into safer student accommodation due to a case of violence and breaking and entering while in the house at the time. My Mum and Dad say that they cannot believe how well I handled this due to the fear and shock I endured the night it happened and for the month following it. Myself and my housemate were sent back to our hometowns by our university 2 weeks early for Christmas 2014 to ensure we were safe and happy which helped a lot, and moving into more secure accommodation really settled us both. Alongside this, early in the year, I was referred to a gastrointestinal consultant for a painful reflux/hiccup/squeak/weird-noise-that-sounds-like-a-dog-toy. I had to have blood tests, breath tests, multiple examinations and an endoscopy.

I started to notice my worrying and panicking over the smallest things was getting a lot worse, very quickly and it got to the point where family members and friends were starting to notice. My Mum recommended seeing a psychotherapist in my local town to see if talking to a professional would help me deal with my emotions better. This is where I was diagnosed with anxiety. My psychotherapist was lovely. I saw her regularly and she helped me dig out the cause of my anxiety which I talk about in this blog post and believe me, working it all out helped so much to not feel stupid and understand it better myself. 

I then googled blogs and Pinterest boards with ideas on how to help myself with channeling my emotions, fears and worries in a creative and positive way and I started journaling fauxbonichi style (heres a link to Pinterest posts on the style I journalled in) - writing, doodling, drawing and storing memories. It helped me reflect on what I have done that day and how I feel.

In the summertime, after achieving Firsts in all my assignments and projects (70% or over), I had an exam for my nursing degree which I didn't reach the required mark to pass. This was the biggest shock to me as I have always worked my bum off to gain high grades. I was not expecting it at all and only lacked 2%. I still to this day, along with others (including academic staff!) believe I was unfairly marked, but rightly or wrongly, I decided to go ahead and just retake the exam to avoid any further stress. Things were making me very anxious for no reason now. I asked my doctor for help as it started to really affect my life and was prescribed Propanolol for anxiety to help me keep calm and settled.

4 weeks later, my boyfriend, Ben, sustained a head injury while playing football which ended up leading to an admittance to hospital. This shook me up a lot as I wanted nothing more than to come home and be with him while he was unwell but I was on placement and looking after poorly people in hospital. But it got too much and I rushed home to be with Ben. This was around the time I feel first felt the effects and signs of the panic attacks I have nowadays. The fast heart rate followed by the flush of heat and so on. A few weeks later, while I was on placement, I had my big panic attack that ended me in A&E and had me diagnosed with anxiety and panic disorder (here's the blog post about that).

I was started on Citalopram and was told by my doctor I was too unwell to be in university or on placement as my mental health was too unstable and I was physically and mentally drained. I had to put myself first. I came home and spent 4 weeks getting myself better with the help with my family and was taken on a lovely week getaway with my Aunty, Uncle, Granma and cousins in Fowey in Cornwall, which helped me escape life and relax all day every day. At this time, no one knew about my diagnosis other than my immediate family, my bestfriend and boyfriend, my Aunty and my cousin, so being treated like normal and being on 'holiday' was exactly what I needed. Fowey and the people I had around me will always be so important to me for bringing me out of a dark place and giving me the courage to get up and start again. However, while in Fowey, I was told via email by my university that I wouldn't be allowed to take my resit exam due to being off sick and this may mean I will have to be deferred 6 months in my course, and this news broke my heart. I didn't want to feel like a failure to myself and to others around me. This is when I started scrapbooking with Project Life. This was my therapy and still is to this day. It is the only thing that really allows me to concentrate on happiness and good things in my life. 

Luckily, after weeks of stress and anxiety, I was back at university and I was told that due to the circumstances, I wouldn't have to be deferred and would be allowed to remain in the group I started with (and now will be ending with!). I was ecstatic and was told my resit exam would be in February 2016 - plenty of time to revise.  I finally felt like I could get on with my life and get myself better with the help of my support network around me.

My motivation to be organised and work hard is now stronger than it ever has been (and I didn't think it was possible!). For Christmas, my cousin bought me the Oh Deer Daily Journal for this new year which is absolutely perfect for the type of organiser I am. I blog on here to release my thoughts and help others, which is therapy for me, more than anyone realises. I am looking forward to starting a fresh page in my journal, and a fresh page in my life. 2016 is the year I turn 21, the year I become a qualified adult nurse, the year I move back home and the year for proving to myself I can do it. I am strong and I have it in me to be anything I want to be. Everyone who has supported me this year, who has written me letters, emails and texts of encouragement and pride, made me personal and special gifts after reading my blog, and those who have shown your support for me by simply liking my blog on Facebook, thank you. Thank you for sharing my story and allowing yourselves and others to learn about my disorders and the way in which I, and many others may work differently. To those of you who feel you share similarities with me, be strong, be confident and believe you can be whoever you want to be. Make this year the year you change things for yourself. Things will get better. Happy New Year Everyone. Here's to a fresh, new year. 

Love Luce xo

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