Showing posts with label anxiety. Show all posts
Showing posts with label anxiety. Show all posts

28 March 2019

Why Should We Hide Our Mental Health?


I am lucky, very lucky in that my episodes of depression and anxiety have lessened a great deal over the past year; with the dark days decreasing in frequency.  Up until this weekend, dysthymia aside (see upcoming blog post with regard to this), I had not had an episode in many months.

I had let my guard down and as such, when a really dark day hit me on Sunday, I was not ready for it.

For as long as I have experienced them, I have always hidden my dark days from others, both in my personal life and at work. 

It is still an expectation of society that we present a "normal" front.  Somehow, people can cope with any physical illness or symptom that you throw at them (generally), but tell people you have anxiety, depression etc etc and you can see them practically running away from you in their eyes.  The "Oh God another crazy" look.

So when a dark day hits, as have millions of others, I have learned over time to hide it as best as I can.  Solitary spaces are found, plans are rearranged, if I have to work, my head switches off into a tunnel vision work mode.  I am careful in what I do and generally try to stay off social media or reading the news.

After not experiencing a dark day for many months, on Sunday, it felt like all of my strategies to cope/hide had been forgotten.  Bad enough the misery, pain and tears, I now had to figure out how to get through visitors at home, travelling on the bus and then going to my fellas, who doesn't really get mental health.  All I wanted, as I ever want, was to curl up in a ball and be alone.

I pulled myself together enough to take the dog a walk, get ready, make nice in front of the guests at home and then went for the bus.  That is where my not used in a while coping mechanisms ran out.

Needless to say, there were silent tears on the bus with people looking at me like I had grown another head.  Maybe I should have chopped my leg off and I would have received a more sympathetic gaze.

But then.  Then I reached the fellas.  I could not hide how I felt.  I didn't have the strength.  I tried holding it in.  I tried passing it off as simply having a bad mood day.  I tried brushing it aside.  He saw straight through me and that day, barriers down, I let him.

He knows nothing about mental health and does not understand it.  But he asked me to tell me how I felt rather than just stay silent and suffer "Use your words Vic".  He understood that he could not improve how I felt, so just listened to me, didn't judge me and held me.

While my dark day continues to the end of the evening, the pressure of having to hide was gone and the talking frankly about it (and cuddles of course) did bring me comfort.

My question is this.  Why, when we are already going through so much, when it is hard enough just to leave our bed, are we catering to other people first and how they feel?  Making sure that they are comfortable around us?

When my dark day hits I feel completely alone in the world.  I feel alien.  I wonder how quickly I could get over or how much less stress and pain I would feel if I did not have to hide it?

Why should we?  Why can we not admit that today is not mentally a good day.  Why can we not say "Today I am struggling a bit, so bear with me". 

Use that sick day when we need to. 

Not say I'm fine to someone who notices instead of saying I'm hurting and maybe get a much needed hug.

I am not hiding any more.  If I am not feeling well and have a cold, I tell people I have a cold.  If I am having a dark day, I will tell people the truth.  Enough. 

21 March 2019

Stopping Smoking - Can It Change You As a Person?

Just a little musing on the blog today and a question:  Has anyone experienced a real change in their personality, mental health or general mental wellbeing since they stopping smoking cigarettes?

Image by roegger from Pixabay
First and foremost, let me say that I am not one of those irritating ex smokers who suddenly think that cigarettes are the plague of the earth and shout loudly and regularly from the rooftops of how disgusting smoking is.

I MISS IT.  I miss it so much.  I miss the after dinner cigarette, I miss the pleasurable addition of smoking when having a glass of wine or a cocktail; I miss the temporary calmness they would give me if I was having a bad day.  I miss them.

As a smoker you are well used to all the people that would wax lyrical about how bad it was for your health and how much money it must be costing you etc.  You would feel like wanted to stab them in the eye?  I still feel like that.  Sanctimonious ex smokers can take a hike.

Anyway.  Back to topic.  Physical health and money benefits aside, can't say I have really noticed either yet, I have to say that my mental health and wellbeing has definately changed.

For as long as I can remember, probably my whole adult life, I have had a numbing or  muting of emotions.  General the positive emotions.  Sadness, pain and anxiety I never had a problem with.  How typical. 

Feelings of anticipation, excitement, joy, happiness, feelings of just being damn normal, were just not really there.  I said the words and played out the emotions for people, but I never felt them.  I knew what they felt like because I used to experience them, but hadn't in many many years.

Not feeling, felt normal.  All the bright colours of emotions just did not live within me, except the black that occasionally would overtake me.  Everything was just muted.

Image by Alexandra Haynak from Pixabay

The only reason that I knew that I was not "normal", if anyone ever really is, is that on the occasional day, I felt everything.  It felt wonderful.  I would just wake up one day and experience a full day of normal feelings.  The world became exciting and full of wonderment.  Sadly, the next day, I went back to normal, my normal.

Not to tempt fate here (please fate, I'll be good I promise), but after around four weeks of not smoking, all of these feelings have come back.  I feel genuine happiness.  I feel excited when plans are made.  I feel anticipation when something good and new is about to happen.  I feel.   I feel everything.

Is this an effect of stopping smoking?  It would a be a very large coincidence if it was not related. 

My question I guess is very specific as I do not know anyone else who lived with the muting of emotions that I did.  I am sure that there is a name for it but I do not know what it is.

Whatever the reason, the world is full of colour again.  I look forward to each day, whatever it may hold and there is always now, some happiness to be found.  Even in the smallest corner.

25 September 2017

Taking The Time to Take Care Of Your Mind

A few years ago it was my good friend Shona's birthday and she wanted to go to a spa for the day and stay over at night.  As it was her 30th birthday, I could not say no, but I was dreading it. 

The whole process and (to be honest), the thought of walking around wearing a swimsuit, did not appeal at all.  I bought a swim dress which eased my nerves a lot and steeled myself for what was ahead.  I cared so much about what other people thought back then.  I worried that it would ruin the day for me.

It turned out to be a revelation.  By the end of a day of relaxing, laying back in the jacuzzi, steam rooms and swimming a few lengths in the pool, my mind was calmer and clearer than it had been for a long time.

Fast forward a few years and I am now a member of my local thermal spa.  I started by going a few times with my friend and then one day, I decided to go it alone for the first time.  This was a huge thing for me, but my mind became so clear and calm every time I went to the spa, that I knew that I needed to try.

Each step that I accomplished sounds so small, but for me, it was a huge leap.  Going on my own in the first place, sitting on my own in the jacuzzi, getting a cocktail, having a meal midday.  The first few times were hard, but the calmness in my mind that followed was worth every step.

Do you like my new swimsuit?  It is the first swimsuit that I have worn in 15 years. Probably more. I have finally gotten to a place in my life where I accept my anxiety issues and am in a better place in my confidence that I have ever been.

Previously on this blog I have posted many photographs of myself.  My dresses that I wear 24/7 do not hide the fact that I am fat, but have always been flattering, cut to diminish size sometimes and whilst always honest, have never left me feeling completely exposed.

Today, here I am.  I have a belly, I have wobbly thighs.  This is me.  Exposed.

I own my body, in every form that it takes.  My legs are thinner than they used to be due to walking my puppa, but do I care if my body does not change further? No.

My body is my own and I accept it whether I remain the size I am now forever, or lose weight.  My weight is unimportant to me.  My self worth, my self confidence and my happiness mean everything.  I am happy.

Now I can sit alone and not feel exposed.  I can sit and have a meal or a drink and not wonder if people are staring at me.  All I care about is that I can go to a place where I can put my feet on the side of the pool and float, looking at the stars in the ceiling above and reach calm.  Wipe my anxiety filled head and feel like me again.

This is a massive step for me, showing myself so exposed on this blog; and it makes me happier than you will ever know.

Last shot of the puppa who wanted to be involved in the photographs today and for someone so cute, who was I to deny him?

*This swimsuit was gifted to me by UK Swimwear but all opinions are my own

10 January 2017

The Stigma of Mental Health

This is one of those posts where I am starting with no idea what the end will be.  I am just talking, through my fingers tapping against the keyboard.

When you have a headache, you take an aspirin.  When you have a cold you take Vitamin C.  When you wake up in the morning feeling really ill, you call in sick at work.  Mental health is different.  It is stigmatized by society in a way that you feel that you have to hide it.  Are obliged to.

My work is great.  I have never had any indication that if I called in with a mental issue, that they would be anything but nice about it.  But yet, I hide it.  

Last night, I was having major anxiety.   I have not had an episode for a while now, but like a boomerang, eventually, it always comes back.  At 1.20am this morning I posed a thought on Twitter which still plagues me now, whilst my anxiety ravages me once again.  I was praying for physical illness today.  To have a "real excuse" to call in sick.

I got to sleep around 3.00am and awoke with the same feeling.  Sometimes my anxiety lasts a few hours, sometimes a few days/weeks.  The feeling is always the same.  Irrational worry, fear, panic; tears.  When I woke this morning I begged my head to sort itself out.  But instead, I cried when my eyeliner broke, whilst simultaneously thinking how utterly pathetic I was for crying about eyeliner.

I wasn't crying about eyeliner,  I was crying because my damn soul hurt.  For reasons I did not know or could explain.

Yet, I got ready for work.  I piled on the makeup to cover my ravaged face.  I put a nice dress on to detract people from looking directly into my eyes.  I stood at the bus stop, wondering how the hell I was going to get through the day, eyes streaming from pain I could not, can never, understand.

9.00am hit and my "I'm fine" personality kicks.  I smile, I joke, I overcompensate.  No one notices.  I have played this game so many times before that I wonder if my personality has split, like the pieces of a Horcrux.  Regular happy Vicky, mentally screwed Vicky, work Vicky.  

There are so many pieces of me, so many images that I portray that sometimes I wonder who the real me is.  The real me is the one I was at New Year.  Drinking cocktails, sharing fun with friends; throwing death stars; shoulders utterly relaxed and my mind clear.

It is midnight now.  My heads is clearing a little as I write.  Writing helps me.  But yet I know that as soon as I stop tapping the keys, the cogs of my mind will start turning again.  The fear, of what I do not know, will come back.  The tears.  I am tempted to use my coping mechanism, which can work on the second night of an episode.  A complete brain switch off.  My mind locked away whilst music plays in my ears.  An escape from me. 

The cycle will start again tomorrow.  Either I will wake up and my anxiety will have left me, or it will keep its hold, while I fake my way through the day ahead.

It should not be like this.  Someone with mental health issues should not have to do this.  Yet we do.  Some people, every damn day.  We should not have to hide, which only makes us worse.  We should not have to fracture our personalities to hide what we are going through.  Someone with the flu is visible, we are the invisible.

I guess one way to combat this is through awareness.  Being as honest as we can, as I am being now.  Yet I am a coward, because tomorrow again I will hide.  Because we know what society thinks of mental issues.  How those who do not understand will never look at us the same way again if we admit our struggles.

Writing at this time of night gives me clarity.  Honesty.  I say how I am feeling, without a filter.  It is my sanctuary, for a short time, until the laptop lids closes.  But I have recorded me tonight.  My feelings.  No filter.

Someday, I hope, that the filter will be gone.  That I will not be ashamed of something that I cannot control.  This is a small step.  It is the second step though, not the first, that takes us where we really want to go.

29 November 2016

Catching Yourself

I feel like I have just woken up.  Not from sleep, but a state of mind.  

Have you ever been in a rut without realising it or a downward spiral that you did not know you were on?  This has been me for the past few months.  Except that I did not know, until I was sat in the dentist's chair last Thursday.

Now the dentist's chair is of course not the normal place for self reflection and realization.  But there I was, petrified and shaking as usual when I happened to look down at my legs. They were hairy.  I'm not talking about forgot to shave for a couple of days hairy, I'm talking not shaved for weeks and weeks hairy.

(By the by, nothing wrong whatsoever whether you choose to shave or not; it's just my own personal preference for myself).

I had no idea whatsoever why I had hairy legs. I was so confused.  It was quite a good distraction from what was going on in my mouth to be honest, as I racked my brains for an answer as to how I could have forgotten to shave for so many weeks.  I wear a dress every single day.  How did I not notice for all this time?

When I got home, I looked in the mirror.  Again, I felt like I was looking at myself properly for the first time in months.  My makeup looked like a five year old had put it on and my hair?  It looked like it had not had anything but my fingers running through it since I washed it.  Being honest, I could not even remember last time I brushed it.

I felt and looked like an old house that was previously well kept but was now in a state of disrepair. The only way I can describe it is that I felt that my mind and who I am had a vacation away from myself, but not bothered to tell me.  Like I had just been on autopilot for a while. Does this make sense to anyone else or just me?

Looking back over the past few months, I see nothing that would have triggered this apathy.  Because that is what this was.  It was not laziness or a change in my routine.  The thoughts of shaving my legs, brushing my hair; applying my make up; did not ever factor or occur to me.

I have still been going to work, having a normal home life; writing blog posts but I really do think that the essence of what is me disappeared for a while.  Hell, I did not even blog about the debacle of the UK referendum or the catastrophic screw up that is Donald Trump.

I feel like I have been on safe mode, like you do with your computer.  My screen flashed back on in the dentist chair.  Maybe I needed a jolt.  Something to get part of me going again that I did not realise was not working anymore.  I don't know.

What I do know that I feel more alive than I have for the past few months, more alert.  More ready to make plans, do things; live my life and plan for it.  My legs are returned to their shaved selves.  My hair has been brushed.

I do not know where I went, but I am glad that I am back.

10 October 2016

I'm Not Fine

Depression is a strange beast.  The black dog.  

The illness that you are ashamed of, although shouldn't be.  The thing you don't talk about.  The thing that you shield from others.  The thing that you deny to yourself, until you cannot deny it.  The thing that is a stigma.  The supposed "fake illness".  A joke.

Today is World Mental Health Day.  Today, more than any other, is the day that those suffering from depression and anxiety should not be afraid of speaking out.  IT IS OK TO SAY THAT YOU ARE NOT FINE.

If I have made any progress in the last fifteen years of having depression and more recently, anxiety, it is to say that I am starting to realise that it is ok to admit how you feel.  

I am lucky.  I do not have debilitating depression.  I can function day to day.  My depression comes, and it goes.  Well, when I say that, what I mean is that it is manageable.  It is the social friendly version.  The kind that I can function with in day to day life, without falling apart in public.  

^ See.  Look at me.  Even in this blog I find it hard not to sell my feelings as "Don't worry.  I can still function as a human being.  My illness will not affect you".

My anxiety can be debilitating.  But yet again, I hide it.  Like with my depression, it is something that is not seen in my professional life, something that only a few people whom I care about, know about. I have been more honest in this blog about how I feel that to any person in "real life".

That is so wrong.

So do I feel?  Really?  What is being like this, for me, really like?  In honesty.

It is spending six months of my life last year in tears at work; whilst simultaneously hiding it from my boss.  It is having a wonderful day, and then at the end of it, realising how strange it feels to actually feel happy; and then realising just how few of those days I have.  It is your heart hurting, not from physical pain, but your soul crying; for reasons you do not know.

It is looking way back at the first two years, when it all first started and wondering how the hell you survived when so many days; you did not want to go on.  When pain was preferable to the sadness you felt.

I have come a long way,  I still have a long way to go.  I feel scared about what the future holds.  I wonder if I will ever meet someone as a partner that will put up with me when my depression comes to call.

But that is the problem isn't it? Depression should not be a stigma.  Something that we have to hide.  Something that we deny and try to deal with behind closed doors.  

I am not fine.  I doubt that I ever really will be.  I have dealt with that. There are millions of others, just like me.  We should not have to hide.  Our depression is part of us, but is no way all of us. 

We are not fine.  But that is ok.  We are allowed to feel this way and should not, ever not, cater our mental health to other people's comfort levels.  We are not whinging.  We cannot just think that it is lovely day and cheer up.  We do not choose to feel this way and believe me, if you had ever felt it, you would not choose it either.

Anxiety UK

Charity providing support if you've been diagnosed with an anxiety condition.
Phone: 08444 775 774 (Mon-Fri, 9.30am-5.30pm)

Bipolar UK

A charity helping people living with manic depression or bipolar disorder.


CALM is the Campaign Against Living Miserably, for men aged 15-35.

Depression Alliance

Charity for sufferers of depression. Has a network of self-help groups.

Men's Health Forum

24/7 stress support for men by text, chat and email.

Mental Health Foundation

Provides information and support for anyone with mental health problems or learning disabilities.


Promotes the views and needs of people with mental health problems.
Phone: 0300 123 3393 (Mon-Fri, 9am-6pm)

No Panic

Voluntary charity offering support for sufferers of panic attacks and OCD. Offers a course to help overcome your phobia/OCD. Includes a helpline.
Phone: 0844 967 4848 (daily, 10am-10pm)

Rehab 4 Addiction offers a free helpline dedicated to helping those suffering from drug, alcohol and mental health problems. Rehab 4 Addiction was founded in 2011 by people who overcame addiction themselves. You can contact Rehab 4 Addiction on 0800 140 4690.

3 March 2015

A Slippery Slope

When life gets busy or times get stressful, taking care of yourself can often be at the bottom of your list, if indeed you even make the list. You feed and water yourself and live your life on basic instinct, but often do you feel stop and take a minute to assess how you are feeling?

Neglecting yourself emotionally can be just as damaging as anything that you can do to your body physically. If you already have existing issues such as anxiety or depression, it can be a dangerously slippery slope if you do not look ahead.  You can find a psychologist online.

This is something that I have realised recently. These past six months have been rough; but my mental health is not something that has been on my radar. Actually when I say that, I am lying. It has been on my radar, sometimes with a very large red flashing warn sign, but I have ignored it; choosing to focus on bigger issues.

Sweeping aside these feelings has not really worked out for me so well.

I like stability. If I can make a plan, I am happy. Whilst I have a habit of making snap decisions sometimes, you had better bet that the outcomes are planned to the nth degree. I have my coping mechanisms for my anxiety and I know how to hunker down during a dark day. Unplanned issues and long term uncertainty do not fit well with who I am.

These are core aspects of my personality, hardwired in and hard to change. When things out of my control mess with my hardwiring, I am sent into a tailspin.

My unconscious way of dealing with that was to withdraw inward. I stopped calling my friends to catch up, I rarely went out on a weekend and my ability to say yes to invitations was practically non-existent. My blog also suffered, my motivation and inspiration were just not there anymore. Aside from going to work, I just wanted to be in my house and not go anywhere.

Can you see where this is going yet? Because I didn't.

Over the Christmas break, I had managed to book holidays from work meaning that I had around 11 days off. Nearing the end of my time off, during which I had only been out of the house once, I had event planned. Nothing major, just drinks and a catch up with friends at someone's house.

The day of the party arrived and suddenly, unexpectedly; I was terrified. It was not that I did not want to go, I was really looking forward to it in fact, but I did not want to leave the house. My safe space. My head was spinning, thinking of excuses that I could use not to go. My anxiety levels were spiking and I felt like I was in sheer panic.

It was at that point that the lightbulb went off in my head and I realised that my self preservation mode had lead me to a very dark place. A place where going outside even seemed like a bad thing.

I forced myself to go that night from sheer will, a will that has gotten me through many things over the years. I have started to say yes more and am no longer scared to leave the house; a feeling that I did not even know was there, until it reared its ugly head.

Today I am happy. My life is returning to more of an even keel and I am planning outings and events as much as I can. It is my birthday this weekend and have two fun nights out planned. I am back to my old self.

It is a while since I have shared something so deeply personal here. But I feel that it is important to do so because it shows just how close you can come to the edge, without ever realising that you are balancing on the edge of a precipice, where only you can pull yourself back.

No matter what is going on in your life, take the time to take care of yourself. Look for warning signs and do not ignore that red flashing light on your radar. It is important for us all to take care of the people around us, deal with bad situations well and look for that silver lining; but just as important is to take care of ourselves.