5 things anxiety has taught me

1. You are stronger than you think - Anxiety can make you feel weak. It can make you feel worthless and that you can't do things like others can but this is not true. Anxiety is just part of your body's biological process and sometimes it can get out of control. However with all of this anxiety comes triumph because every time you learn and find a way to cope, even if you feel that you haven't. Each experience makes you stronger.

2. You're not going to die - Anxiety is your body's way of keeping you alive. Even during a panic attack when you feel you're not going to survive, it's actually the reverse that's going on in your body. I once remember my counsellor telling me that you can't actually die from a panic attack because your body is actually doing what it needs to do to keep you alive.

3. You survive, every time - Ever had a really bad anxiety episode? Well, you're here now and through it. You got over that anxiety fulfilled moment and made it through the other side when you thought you wouldn't. A weird thought, huh!

4. The mind can get confused too! - Anxiety is present to keep us safe, but sometimes our anxiety attaches itself to things that aren't actually dangerous. In a way, our minds are confused. Our body thinks there's a threat when in fact there isn't and it's about splitting this up and trying to understand the reality from what our mind believes is happening. 

5. You're not alone - Anxiety is extremely common. Everyone experiences anxiety but it just so happens that some people can have it so severely that it makes them ill and even in that case, you could name people within your group of friends with some level of anxiety disorder. You're not the only one facing this.

Stay strong,
Amy Xx 

DSA

I want to put this out there for all of those who are attending university. Unfortunately it is often not very well known, that DSA is available for students whom have long term mental illnesses that affect their daily lives, including the likes of anxiety and depression. I was a part of my university's welfare committee and when I brought it up at the meeting, the staff themselves were not aware that such a thing existed. 

DSA stands for disability student allowance and in a nutshell provides with all of the things you need to help you through university if you have a disability. In the UK this can be done through student finance. In my case, I applied through student finance before I got to university, but it can also be done during university. You have to provide them with evidence of your condition which is usually in the form of a doctors note, attend an assessment and amongst other correspondence and depending on budget, you should get the help you need. 

Amongst receiving a laptop, printer and some other things the most helpful thing for me was having access to a mental health mentor. My mentor was outstanding and was the best mentor and counsellor I have had in all the many people I have seen. It definitely helped me immensely and I would strongly recommend it because often university counselling services do not provide the in-depth service that is needed. 

I strongly recommend that you get in touch so you can get the help you need. Please don't be ashamed, it's for your benefit to get help.

Amy Xx

Anxiety poetry

Here is a poem from a reader:

Definition 
 
“What's wrong with you?” they say,
“Can't you calm down for just a moment,
Take a deep breath--
Slow down,
Get centered and
Relax.
Stop being so damn negative,
What's the worry,
What's the hurry?
You can't solve every problem,
Let it go--
Hey not so fast.
Maybe, yes just maybe
If you stopped being so damn frightened
Well then maybe for a moment 
All those fears would dissipate,
If you just stopped your overthinking 
Your hypotheticals,
Possibilities,
If you let life flow all around you
You'd have that peace you say you crave.”
 
But they are wrong.  
 
Anxiety isn't nervousness.
Anxiety isn't cowardice.
Anxiety is a call to those 
Whose eyes are open to the fight. 
 
It is a certain sensitivity
An alertness;
A war machine never idle
There’s a buzzing below the surface, 
There is no calm before this storm. 
It is the constant sentinel
Vigilant in clash with 
Paralysis,
There is no honor, 
No heroism in this struggle
Whose burden countermands reward.
 
It is not the soldier’s nature to relax.
 
It is an instinct,
It is concern for you, for me, for others,
It is a special steadfast mutiny
When
Psyche fights the soul.
 
You say it is a weakness.
You subject me to societal court martial,
Though you cavalierly create conflicts
You say I am afraid.
But those consummate in combat,
Introspective and insightful,
True veterans of life’s battles
Know,
It's fear defines the brave.

Josh Mayesh

Puppies!

Today I am publishing something a bit different. It's national dog week and for me, animals are a great help for reducing anxiety. Here's a post by puppyspot. 

If you’ve ever pet a dog before you know the instant calming effect that comes over you. It feels like that dog is specifically there to see you and they know just what kind of attention you need to feel better. Well what if I told you this wasn’t just a feeling, but that dogs are actually improving your health. That’s right, aside from being ridiculously adorable, dogs have evolved to become acutely attuned to humans behaviors and emotions. As a result, this means positive benefits to our mental, physical and spiritual health. So let’s break this down.
            Mental Health Benefits:
·       Reduce anxiety and depression
·       Higher self-esteem
·       Reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness
·       Improve emotional and social development

These benefits all stem from the companionship dogs offer. As human beings, companionship can help prevent illness and even add years to our lives. While the basic act of caring for another living thing can help make you feel needed, distracting your mind away from the tribulations going on in your head.

                        Physical Health Benefits:
·       Boost immune system
·       Increase oxytocin levels and lower cortisol
·       Increase exercise frequency
·       Lower blood pressure and cholesterol
·       Reduce risk of cardiovascular disease

Of course having a dog means increased exercise as dogs require daily walks. These walks, runs, and hikes not only keep you and your pup fit and healthy, but also send off mood boosting endorphins through your system. So win, win.

This graphic by PuppySpot goes into further detail on these benefits, as well as the incredible abilities dogs can be trained on. Including identifying seizures and certain types of cancers in humans.


Pretty impressive right? Well they don’t call dogs “man’s best friend” for nothing! Speaking of which, if you’re on the hunt for your new furry bff make sure you take into consideration which breed fits best with your lifestyle. Picking out your perfect puppy is an awesome experience, but it’s important to keep in mind your needs and theirs. Things like yard size, other pets in the house, allergies, kids and budget should all be considered. Or if you’re not quite ready for a pup of your own, check out your local shelters looking for volunteers or the good dog park. Fortunately a friendly pup is never to hard to find!

Why am I anonymous?

I have been writing this blog anonymously for over four years and I do often think about revealing a picture of myself, but I can't just yet. I have absolutely no problem in talking about my mental illness. I have told employers, the whole internet and people who want to know. Of course, I don't just go up to people and tell them but only if they ask or if it were to come up in conversation. The depth of detail that I go into also depends on the circumstances. However even after four years of sharing my journey with the world, I still haven't shared a picture of myself or a youtube video. This is not because I am ashamed of my illness - far from it. It is because of my planned future job in which I am disclosing my mental health and have done in work experience in the field. The job I am applying for cannot be associated with being known and recognised by many people. Perhaps if I am given the all clear to do this, I would be more than happy to do so but until that point, in spite of my dream career and giving it all that I've got I will have to remain anonymous for now. I'm hoping the big reveal won't be too far away!

Amy Xx

It all comes out in the wash

I can just her my Mother's words ringing in my ears; "It all comes out in the wash" and I guess it does. Right now I have just finished university and for the first time in my life I don't have a set plan. Because of my anxiety, I like to be sure that everything is in control and so I know what to expect, but currently I only have a very loose plan! 

At the moment I am taking it day by day and slowly forging my future. It's hard because I feel that I'm in a race against time, knowing how fast life can pass you by. But at the same time not everything can be achieved in an instant and things can take time. 

Looking back at my mental health journey, it has been extremely tough and still can be. But focusing on the present, it's strange to see how everything has come together. It's almost as if Mum was right to say that "everything comes out in the wash". Even though I can still get panic attacks, anxiety and depression, I am a world away from the severity that it once was many years ago. At that time I didn't think that I would live to see the next day, let alone ever get better and yet years later I am in a much better place and achieving the things that I want to, even if I do find it harder than others. It's almost as if it's beginning to come out in the wash. Now after university I am in a place of uncertainty and it is scary because for the first time ever I don't have a set plan. But just like my mental health journey, I'm hoping with hard work, help and determination it will all fall into place. I'm not expecting it to be easy or straightforward but it can just happen that things we never think we are going to get through or aren't working out, may do just that. It's about taking things day by day and looking at how much you have already achieved. It will come together in one way or another.

Amy Xx

The cure for your anxiety?

Throughout my mental health journey I have always credited CBT to be a huge help. CBT is cognitive behavioural therapy where you are exposed to situations which trigger your anxiety. It sounds scary I know, but it's not as bad as you think. Usually with CBT you start small, with the things that trigger your anxiety the least and as you move on you get to the things that trigger your anxiety the most. By facing your anxiety head on your mind learns that there isn't a threat there at all and soon learns a new positive behaviour. It does take willpower, but it is definitely something you are capable of! You may not be able to complete the task first of all but you will get there.

Recently I have come across an app called nOCD whom contacted me to highlight their new app and asked to collaborate with me. I downloaded the app and have given it a go myself. In comparison to therapy in which I had CBT, it is pretty much the same thing but without a counsellor being there. I think if you are finding it hard to talk to someone and/or need something to help your anxiety then this app is definitely something you can try. I know I wish it was around when I was having therapy and struggling with my anxiety. It's free to download, so you're not losing anything by just giving it a go. You can download the app free to your phone, here; http://m.treatmyocd.com/ReliefFromAnxiety

I hope it helps you. If there's just a small chance it may help, then why not give it a try? I know CBT really helped me, so I hope this app can help your anxiety and/or OCD too. Below is an example of how I have used the app!

Amy Xx


#spon #ad

The new additions

Pets have always been a soother for the soul and if you have been following me on social media recently, you will know that I have gotten some pet rats; RJ and Remmy. I did have a pet rat before around ten years ago, at a time when life was tough. It was one of the main things that got me through. I don't know how or why, she just did. With my love of pet rats still strong (and all other animals, but I can't get a dog just yet!) I thought it was time to get some more. Many people are horrified of the thought, but in reality domesticated rats are clean, loving and intelligent and make great pets. I feel they also do wonders for my mental health because it provides a purpose to look after something else other than myself and are just generally therapeutic. It sounds weird because they can't talk and yet they seem to provide some peace in the mind. 

With this, here are some introductory pictures. Do you have pets or animals that help you?




Amy Xx

A mental health sick day?

Don't you find it weird that you can phone into work and say that you can't come in for a broken leg and it will be accepted and yet you can phone up about your medically diagnosed depression and it could be brushed under the carpet even though the outcome is the same; that you can't get out of bed? 

In my previous job I did phone in sick because of my mental illness (that wasn't before I had a massive panic attack about opening up about my illness!) But I thought that if I didn't explain it then I wouldn't be able let them know if I was ill at any point in the future and so I did. After this explanation of mine, my past employers were very good and I felt less pressure which provided less triggers and meant I didn't take another sick day. But, it was my employer that told my colleagues that it was a cold when in fact it was crippling anxiety and depression and from that point, I put my colleagues straight and explained to them exactly what was going on and in turn, they reached out to me. I thought to myself that if I was to live a healthy life I am to tell those whom I work for the truth, and if they don't want to know, either I don't need that in my life or in some circumstances, it could be breaking the law and with a law degree, it is certainty a passion of mine to uphold the rights of people. 

In my latest job, my employers have also been very good and understanding.

The problem still remains is that even though I have told people of my illness and have no issue of it being known, I still have concerns about phoning in sick due to my mental health. I still feel this shame that people don't see it in the same light and I won't be believed or that it's not a real reason, when we all know that it really is. I am totally all for having sick days for mental health and in fact, it is a legitimate reason but there is a stigma which makes it appear that it's not right. What must be understood is that there are laws, there is happiness and there is health. There are laws to protect us, our understanding that our happiness must come first and our health, that we must not compromise just because another person doesn't understand. You have every right to take a sick day for your mental health and there is nothing to be ashamed of. I have done it before and I am willing to do it again. Nothing should stop you from living a healthy and happy life, regardless of the stigma that surrounds it and this is something I am campaigning for and allowing myself to be more comfortable with. Without mental health, there is no physical health.

Amy X

The bubble

University is real life, but it's also only exposing you to a certain side of it. Although you can experience the darkness that life has to offer, it just doesn't have the same tinge to it as it does outside of the university bubble; I guess this is the post university blues. At university if you're lucky, you have three years of studying a subject you love, meeting new people, trying new things and not having to worry too much about money or finding a job. The real world is another three years away and it's not something that you need to concern yourself with. You know that in one way or another, your parents, friends or the university itself will have your back. Whether that be problems with rent, exams or friends, there's always an immediate fallback. Although it doesn't feel like this at the time and you do feel solely independent, the university was always involved in some way or another, whether that be grants, exams, events or renting out the house you were staying in, unless you went private. Even so there would be a university service to help you with that. This isn't to say without a university that there is no organisation out there to help, because there is. But perhaps it's not as immediately accessible and you didn't always have them watching over you.

Now that I've finished university, I am beginning to realise that I am not in a bubble anymore and it's a pretty hard lesson to learn when you've acclimatised to something for three years. I no longer get grants from the government, live with my friends, or only have to worry about my upcoming exam. I  now have to get a job to pay the bills, am back living with my parents away from all of my university friends and worrying about what I am to do next in my life. University almost felt like a euphoric side of life in which I would still have extremely bad moments, but it's nothing that couldn't be solved and now it almost seems like I'm on my own again. I know I have my family and friends to rely on, but I don't have a big organisation to protect my back. I no longer have a three year break to figure out my future, but am now thrusted into the middle of it, working to buy more time to figure out which direction I'm going in.

I guess I feel like this as intensely as I do because I have almost been ripped away from everything I've known for three years and have almost lost my independence because I'm back living at home in the place where everything went wrong. But, I know I haven't gone backwards because I have still achieved everything I have and that can't be taken away from me. But, what I do feel is young and trapped because I feel I am not developing and that is only something that I can change, and am changing over the next few months; to moving and becoming independent again and to applying to my dream job. It will just take time. There is nothing to say that I can't feel the way I did at university ever again, I just need to set the wheels in motion to make it happen, and with time and being as determined as I am, I'm sure I can. University will always be a fond memory, but there is nothing to say that I can't experience the feelings that university gave me, ever again.

Amy Xx

I graduated!

After finding out a few weeks ago that I would be graduating with first class honours in Law, I knew that it wouldn't be long until graduation weekend came around. The strange thing is that it has all happened in a blink of an eye. Literally, blink and you'll miss it. I remember my first day of university and feeling like a small fish in a big pond and that the thought of graduation was so long away. Right now though, it almost feels as if my university experience has been blurred into one big momentous memory. It was the time of my life and I don't regret it all, I'm just sad that it's over and that it seemed to last merely seconds. 

When graduation came around, I couldn't quite believe that the day was finally here. I registered and ran into all of my course mates, friends and lecturers that I had spent time with one way or another over the years. I proceeded to collect my robes and had endless photos. In those moments though, it all felt surreal. It was the weirdest feeling because I was feeling a mix of emotions; both happy and sad, excited and nervous. But what scared me the most was the fact that I knew this day would never come again and I was finally living the dream that I had always wanted to achieve. I attended the ceremony which was very formal and full of university tradition. We had the head of our Law school, a high court judge read out our names with all of our family, friends and fellow graduates onlooking and to whom we gave huge applause for the support they had given us over the years. As quickly as the lecturers, sheriffs, chancellors and students went up on the stage, it was the end of the ceremony. I even combatted one of my biggest fears of being on stage which soon became a moment of happiness. It's definitely a day I won't be forgetting. 

I am no longer a student but an alumni of the university, which is weird to say because I still feel 17 years old. I can't really put into words how it felt, but for all of you who have graduated, you will know what I mean! An amazing three years, with amazing people. It has changed me as a person and I will miss it dearly. I am extremely proud of what I have achieved and I will hold on to the bundle of emotions of graduation day for the rest of my days. I will always be fond of those and hold it close to my heart. 


You are stronger than you think and can 
achieve anything you put your mind to.