Gremlins

**This post contains swearing**

 

I like to think of myself as a positive thinking person despite spending  about 30 years living with anxiety. Actually make that my whole life. My first 15 years were spent being petrified of what my dad was going to do next… get another gun out.. lock us in the house… hit us… throw something at the wall… torment us… smash something… shout.. lock himself in his room for 3 days….(I’ve revisited and considered deleting this bit of the blog ten times but decided not to) …so those 15 years then led on to a life battle with anxiety and looking back it’s not hard to imagine why. I rarely talk about that abuse in detail. Ridiculously I still even now worry about repercussions. Crazy.

I spent ten years from about 16 to 26 fighting debilitating panic attacks… mostly on my own. I had really got to grips with my anxiety thanks to amazing books and my work at Women’s Aid…until I lost Tes… having spent the last few years in a war with A I’m beginning to feel more ‘normal’ but it’ll always bubble.   I like to think I’m a fighter… trying to make the most of every day. Getting up every day after losing your child is really hard. Walking around with a permanent pain the size of a boulder inside your chest is exhausting but I’ve managed it and I’m proud of that strange achievement.

But… I caught myself this week walking around just going to do some shopping and I caught it.. that bloody voice in your head that’s not happy you’ve managed to keep going…that you’ve managed today…. do you know what it was saying??!.. you’re such a fuck up.. . you’re so fucked up.

For a few seconds my subconscious mind nods along in agreement but I stop in my tracks and question this voice…Excuse me?!? Fucked up. Who are you calling fucked up?!? What even is fucked up and more importantly why the hell am I telling myself horrible things about me when there’s enough of that going on in the world without me adding to it.

So.. just a little reminder really to watch out for that gremlin in your mind that tries to ruin your day or tell you you’re not good enough … watch out for it and when you hear it .. well…tell it to fuck off and remind yourself 3 good things about yourself and kick arse for the rest of the day!

Happy Sunday.. x x

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Be more.

I’ll firstly apologise to all the humans in my life for leaving them out of this blog, mostly!

On Wednesday this week I felt pretty blue, crap actually. I got home after 14hrs had passed already into the day, I’d been up since 5am. I was tired. I was battered and a bit bruised (psychologically). All I wanted to do was get in, do what I had to do and get to bed.

 

When I drive home, before I get to where I park I have to pass the porch on my house, I always look in and there they lie, waiting. My two dogs. I am immediately lifted, I grab the keys to the house, I occasionally remember to put the car in gear (how it hasn’t ended up in the road I have no idea!) and grab my unicorn flask, my love island water bottle and my blue rucksack covered with birds, I throw this over my shoulder and walk to the house.

 

They’ve started to recognise my car, the sound of it I guess, the routine of it stopping and then my footsteps. They are now on four legs and I say through the glass – HELLO! Now I have verified my presence they dance around crazily, on two legs mostly and I can’t quite get in because they are jumping on me, they are squealing, they are besides themselves that I am home. In five seconds I am made to feel like the most special person in the whole wide world.

 

I sit down and I let them mouth their little teeth on my wrists, for some reason they like to do this then they’ll get a toy and show it to me. Their bums waggle 100mph, this goes on for a few minutes before I get ready to take them out which gets them even more excited of course. We go out for an hour every morning, the most beautiful part of the day where there’s almost nobody else around. In the evening due to the long day I often take them over to the field for their favourite thing ever to do. Ball catching, ball chasing, ball chewing.

 

I fear the neighbours probably think I have lost it a bit as I get a bit over excited during this half hour of the day. Inevitably my work will have been stressful – productive, rewarding, even fun – but inevitably stressful. So this is where I wind down, with my dogs, in a field, red ball thrower in hand.

 

Towards the end when they get tired we play ‘catch’ and every time they catch the ball I put my hands up in the air and shout ‘wooooooooo well done’ and laugh out loud as they proudly bring the ball back to me, wagging their tail feverishly and dropping the ball at my feet to do it all again.

 

This is the time of day when I often feel my best and it sets me up for the evening. The stress has almost vanished, replaced with – well a whole lot of love!

 

I got my first dog just a few weeks after Tesni died. I felt guilty about it (of course). You can’t replace anyone. You certainly can’t replace your child. But having my new furry tiny pooch made me get up in the morning, it made me walk, it made me care, it gave me focus, she needed me, she wouldn’t hurt me, she loved me. So much.

 

As I watch them jump to catch the ball and as I catch myself giggling out loud in the field, it made me think about love. I love them so very much and I realise that is hard for some people to understand, but I do. It got me thinking, what is love?

 

I made a list in my head of why I love the dogs and as I got through them I realised it isn’t dissimilar to love in relationships, the reason the dogs are so happy is not by chance, the reason I love them doesn’t just happen when you get your furry friend, the two-way healthy love bond is only there because of a whole lot of work.

 

The ingredients needed for love whether animal or human are the same.

 

Love them truly and they will love you back. Want the very best for them and they will protect you. Be kind to them and they will never hurt you. Look after them while letting them be free and they will respect you. Provide them with safety and they will do everything they can to keep you safe. Be loyal to them and they will never distrust you.

Communicate softly and they will reward you with eyes full of love. Have patience and they will grow. Be fun and they will smile (with their tail!) back at you.

 

Because they know I love them so much I can also get away with the odd time of being too tired for that second or third walk and they’ll forgive me because on the whole they know I love them and every day I do my best for them to be happy.

 

Love more, love honestly, love with kindness, love without selfishness, want the best for your loved one, be kind, look after them, let them be free, provide safety, be loyal, have patience and most importantly have fun, ‘whoop’ out loud in a field, dance in the kitchen, take long walks by the sea, respect, talk, listen, smile.

 

Let’s all ‘be more dog’!

 

Happy Sunday xx

Still bubbling

I was listening to my favourite radio station, Radio 6 on Saturday morning and I caught the end of a poet talking about writing his poetry. Surprisingly he said it was a wrenching difficult job for him because it had to be about the truth. He opened himself up to the world with his words and sometimes it led to criticism but he went on to say that’s the place we need to get to as human beings was that we need to face our truth.

Sometimes I think we live in a world where it’s a bit like having backache. If something isn’t right and we have a pain many people take a pill and the pain goes away. But the cause of the pain hasn’t gone away. It still there. We don’t face the issue. The truth.

When I wrote my blog two weeks about my mental health I was really scared and I only skimmed the top of it. It’s hard. I was worrying that people would look at me different or maybe a potential employer would Google and think oh dear she’s had anxiety. Steer clear. And then there’s the uncomfortable truth that you’ve kept this big part of you away from people you’ve loved and the biggest part is letting the world know I’m not perfect.

To say I was overwhelmed with the messages after I wrote it doesn’t cover it. Some people messaged me with their own secrets and stories about their quiet suffering and others opened up about their own concerns about loved ones and there was stories of overcoming really difficult bouts of mental health issues.

The main factor in these stories and mine is we are all different, different ages, gender, background and also we are not just surviving but we are living. We are all doing stuff. I manage an organisation that serves a population of 11000. Just because I have anxiety issues doesn’t mean that I can’t hold down a demanding job or have a fabulous large bunch of friends. It doesn’t mean I can’t have a meaningful relationship. It doesn’t mean I can’t deal with stress and it doesn’t mean I’m going mad. It doesn’t mean that I’m not dependable. It doesn’t mean I miss work. It doesn’t mean I’m down a lot. It doesn’t mean I’m weak.

What struck me most when I wrote that blog was that people were shocked. You? But you’re strong? You’ve got a good job. You’re always laughing. You never said anything. And I am all those things and so are most people with mental health issues, we just need to stop skimming around those two words like they’re an infectious disease. Reality is we all have Mental health and sometimes it can be good and sometimes it can make us poorly. Mental issues does not mean failure, in fact when you face it… You move away from the cloud you thought was protecting you and finally begin to live and face your truth .

It was really important to me to write a second part to that blog and I want to thank you for your support and also your bravery x

Lots of love this Sunday x

Bubbling

This is one of those blogs that I get a bit nervous of putting ‘out there’. Do I. Don’t I? The main reason I think it’s important that I do is that my life isn’t just one of beautiful walks, beautiful people and beautiful unplanned meetings that lead me to write. This is a blog about life, life after a massive trauma, it is about the ‘journey’ and it would be wrong if I just wrote about the turquoise skies and luscious lakes and ignored the clouds of stormy days.

If you’ve read my blog you’ll probably know that after I lost Tes I was diagnosed with suffering with an anxiety disorder. Anxiety can be hard to explain, people often say – yes I’m a worrier too. Anxiety isn’t like worrying. It’s a controlling tiny voice changing your reality, creating a world of danger that doesn’t truly exist. In truth anxiety had probably been bubbling due to issues from a long time ago for a long while. It manifested itself in my late teens with severe panic attacks that lasted for years and that I mostly hid from those around me. That was a very bad move I realise now. In fact, I did try to tell someone but I was told not to be silly, I think they hoped that if I didn’t talk about it that it’d go away. So I didn’t open up again for a long long time. Suffering and coping in silence.

When I learnt that panic attacks were just serotonin levels raising due to the flight or fight instinct within my body I was very annoyed that I’d spent years avoiding things I perceived as ‘dangerous’. These included any situation really that I thought I couldn’t easily get out of… like busy supermarkets or even sitting in the middle of a row at a concert. Buses. Ferries. Planes. I was the worlds best at coming up with excuses to avoid these situations. Eventually after about 5 years and learning about the physiological causes I managed to take control back (thanks in most part to the book I’ve talked about so much before – Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway – it changed my life).

Anyway. Since I lost Tes over five years ago, after a 20 year absence, anxiety entered my life with a gigantic crushing wave. I spent the first two years fighting it off. Fighting it off with running. Fighting it off with wine. Fighting it off with mindfulness. Fighting it off with being ultra busy. It wasn’t getting me again. However. Get me it did. After two years of fighting, I was exhausted and admitted defeat. Ending up at the doctors before it had even opened one morning crying, asking for help. With that help medically and psychologically I learned to live alongside it and it stopped controlling me.

So it’s been a bit of a shock this last 2 weeks or so to realise that I’ve had a mini relapse. Anxiety has managed to seep it’s way in somewhere, only a little bit. More like a light drizzle than a full blown storm. I realised because I’d started worrying about strange things like where I’d normally walk and feel safe I’ve started walking in busier places again, just incase. When I’d go to sleep for a few hours (I don’t sleep much now anyway) I’d wake up at 2am and convince myself someone could try to break in. When my son was picked up to go to footie instead of watching something on tv or writing, I sat imagining the worst until he came back through the door. And I start thinking I’m getting ill. A lot. Again.

The best thing is, since I talked to someone about this 3 years ago, I’m not scared of it any more, I know I will get better and because of that I’m nowhere near as ill as I was a few years ago because I’m not frightened and I’m also not pretending that I’m fine. In fact I am actually genuinely feeling pretty much very fine. I’m thriving in my new job, I’ve lots of plans and holidays coming up, I’ve a lovely life. That’s the thing with anxiety (and I’m sure other mental health issues) it can seep in whenever it pleases at times but by talking about it with someone we trust and who can help we can also eliminate it as we would a headache with paracetamol and some rest, we wouldn’t ignore a migraine so why ignore your mental health

As I write this I know some people will think I’m exposing myself but someone else will, I hope, read it and feel some hope of their own.

Most importantly for me .. I can talk about it.. to you! That helps more than you know x

Thanks for listening.

Happy Sunday

Xx

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How are you?

  

You know that time you’re at the doctors, sitting in the waiting room, picking up any magazine so you don’t have to look around and make eye contact. Reading all the posters on the walls and scouring any old leaflet just so you don’t have to communicate with anyone.  Then. That time. Invariably someone will walk in and say hey, how are you?

Fine thanks.  Spouts your involuntary response. 

How are you?  You say, because that’s what we do. I’m good, comes the ridiculous lie.  You’re both at the doctors, you’re both not fine or good.

I read an article by the singer Lulu today, here’s a short excerpt (thank you The Guardian) ….  “I’ve been afraid my whole life. Afraid of everything. Afraid to reveal myself. Afraid that if you knew me, if you really knew me, you wouldn’t like me”. 

I felt guilty reading it, I kind of felt betrayed. Lulu  the chirpy smiley singer living a life of utter anxiety and we didn’t know.

Why would we?

She seemed ok.

It reminded me of a brave conversation I had recently that began in the same way as that waiting room (I’d hate anyone to be identified so I’ll keep it vague). How are you, I said. Better now, she replied, and went on to explain the roller coaster ride her life had suddenly become through events that could not be controlled. She was brief, concise and without any want of pity. She wasn’t ok. She’d had a scary time but she was getting to ok.  It was so honest. 

How are you? She said in return. 

Pause.  

I say, better thanks…..I’ve been quite anxious of late but I’m getting better. The conversation would  be so normal had we been talking about a cold or the flu but we were talking mental health, it was liberating. It was true.

I’m an advocate of honesty about illness, particularly mental health because the more it’s normalised the more people will surely feel they can ask for help or just talk about it. It’s not easy breaking the taboo but unless you want to be a Lulu living fifty years of fear in secret then the alternative of honesty has to be healthier? 

We’re not talking all doom and gloom, how are you can be ….I’m fabulous thanks  but prepare yourself for a different response or for giving  a different answer sometimes. 

We’re not all ‘fine thank you’ all the time and the sooner we can admit this the quicker we’ll get to being fine, thank you.


X

Happy (almost) International Happiness day

                                              daff 

 Did you know it’s International Happiness day on the 20th March? Well it is and I’ve taken it as an excuse to look at what’s made me happy lately. After the dark days of a few weeks ago it’s been good to face a literally brighter world. The grass is actually greener, the rare bits of blue sky are bluer and even the frost seems to glisten more. 

 It really is in the mind how you feel but sometimes your mind can take over and that has to be ok. I watched a fab Ruby Wax TED talk today (if you don’t know TED talks, google now – lots and lots of inspirational videos on there). As you probably know Ruby Wax was diagnosed with clinical depression over ten years ago, she simplifies our stress and anxiety with the fact that when we were cavewomen (ok she did say man but hey) – you literally did fight or flight…. or you were eaten by a really big hairy animal. Nowadays most of us choose not to fight so when that car cuts you up or your colleague makes a sneering comment, we no longer pick up our spear (it’s tempting) …. that’s where she says we stumble as we’re left with the fight and seemingly nowhere for it to go.

But there are places for it to go and that’s what we can do to keep healthy and happy, we exercise, we run, we meditate, we box, we play football, we do quizzes, we ride bikes or horses or quad bikes (yes mum I’m thinking of you there!). We tap dance, we act, we swim and we walk. We exercise our bodies and we also need to exercise our minds, to keep happy. 

 I was thinking as I drove home about what makes us happy. I saw a home made banner waving gently in the breeze on the corner welcoming someone home and that made me smile, someone had made that banner and wanted that person to know they were loved and had been missed! It struck me in a world where we are faced with frankly miserable terrible news via the media, hour after hour, we can miss what makes us happy. 

 So this is what made me happy this last week – if you want to, add yours to the comments either on my blog or on my facebook page for International Happiness day! Here go mine…. 

 1. a rabbit in a field – it’s soppy but it was cute and caught my eye as I drove past (hope it was ok!)

 2. some daffodils growing near Tes’s bench, a poignant place but it reminds me of the day friends gathered together to make it look pretty and I love the stunning view of the mischievous river 

 3. my own very seedlings – I am the worlds worst gardener with the most enthusiasm and this year I really will remember to feed them and water them and thin them out and plant them into bigger pots, I will, I will, I will! 

 4. home made broccoli and blue cheese soup, I was feeling all germy on Monday and this made me feel so much better (basically it’s onion, celery, garlic, broccoli and blue cheese – you can add cream oh and I get Tescos value blue cheese which is ace for soup and makes a cheap but yummy dish) 

 5. while home and being poorly I finally managed to watch Julia and Julie which is completely crazy as it came out in 2009 and Ive been wanting to see it since then – if you haven’t seen it, WATCH it (I’m definitely thinking of you here Mrs Lowe!) 

 6. Saturday, Wales and the rugby. Need I say more! 

 7. Mothers day, as tough as it was, after my sobbing as I chatted with Tes and drew hearts on the raindrops of her gravestone, I returned to a frankly fabulous afternoon with my nearest and dearest. My love of cheese meant that almost every sandwich was a version of cheese… cheese, cheese and chutney, brie and cranberry and a few ham ones thrown in for the carnivores, oh …. and of course there was cheese and pineapple. Swilled down with some gorgeous Pinot Grigio from my son and a Mothers day quiz hosted by yours truly (great way to find out your sister in laws most embarrassing story – splinter in the bum story anyone?) – all turned out well

 8. A card through the post, not just a card but with two little gifts and it’s not even my birthday! And another gift in work hanging on my door which said – if life gives you lemons then drink tequila… on that note I fear I’ve bombarded you enough with happy stories so may I wish you a fabulous International Day of Happiness. x