Sunday, 23 December 2012

Christmas Fayre in aid of Mind Norwich.

The reason this blog has been a bit quiet of late is due to that little thing call 'Christmas.' It's like it's suddenly popped out of nowhere, and however much I love the festive season, part of me wants it to be over because I'm getting married in less than four months and have other things to concentrate on!

Anyway, now I have a bit of time, I have to write about my fayre I did recently, on December 15th. It was a massive thing for me to achieve, and if I can say so, I'm bloody proud of what I have achieved.

Within a month, I organised a Christmas Fayre. I decided from the outset that I wanted to raise money and awareness for Mind, the mental health charity, after being completely inspired by their Mental Health First Aid Training. I was lucky in the sense that I found a big community centre early on and had an awful lot of interest from stallholders. All in all, we had nearly 40 stalls of homemade gifts, crafts and Christmas goodies, and it was magical.

The Thursday before though, my anxiety went in to absolute over drive. It was the first time I'd gone back to work in five months, and I was just doing a two hour stint on my computer, getting my access back. Obviously, I expected to be anxious, I've learnt that how I felt that day about not wanting to go was completely normal. I hadn't slept, I was tired and irritable, but at the same time so on edge I couldn't sit still. When I left work, I had a voicemail from the community centre. They had double booked one of my halls.

I was devastated. It turns out it was a genuine mistake, they had been so excited that I had managed to get a second hall at the centre they had completely looked past their regular booking on a Saturday morning. So, Thursday afternoon I was crying one minute, then on the phone to stall holders the next, but everyone was incredibly understanding and said that squashing in to one hall would be 'cosy' so I wiped away the tears and got the rest I needed for Saturday.

Friday night, I made t-shirts for myself, my fiancé and my sister, as we were the main organisiers of the Fayre. They had our names on and the Mind and Time To Change logo on, with 'let's end mental health discrimination' on the back. (pictures below!)

Saturday got here so quickly I couldn't believe it. At the crack of dawn, my fiancé and I were up, throwing all our promotional gear we had got from Mind and Time To Change in the back of the car, and my hand painted board to entice passers by. I was so nervous. I was facing my anxiety head on, and it knew what I was trying to do. It knew I was trying to beat it, and at times, it did win. Within the hour, I was in the kitchen with my mum while she was making cups of tea, and I just cried. What was I doing? Not working in five months and then organising all this? So many people relying on me, asking questions, wanting to know where everything was, when I didn't have a clue myself!

But then things changed. I had a Mind Associate who had contacted me earlier in the week, and she wanted to volunteer. She was lovely. She told me how brave I was, organising this so close to Christmas and gave me a hug when I needed it but also a 'come on, we can't stop now, let's keep going' attitude when I needed it. I can't thank her enough for that.

It was what I needed to keep smiling through those tears, and whilst at first I felt like a wreck inside with a plastic smile on, it soon changed, and I realised I was enjoying myself, I was happy, I had done this, no one else, but me, Kim.

And then, a stall holder wanted to talk to me. She said she had a personal question for me. "How did you feel organising this? Did it make you better or worse?" I thought about it before I answered honestly. It had been difficult, there had been tears but overall, knowing I was making a difference was the best thing ever. She went on to talk to me about how she had been suffering from anxiety with extreme panic attacks and wanted the awareness to be better too. We shared our stories about what therapies and helped, and what hadn't and then it hit me that I had set out to make people talk about mental health like they would the weather, and here I was doing exactly that, in a community centre full to the brim of strangers, and I was talking about mental health. Perfect.

After that, people were coming up to me all day. Strangers asking for help, where could they go for more information, and they wanted to tell me (yes, me!) their stories and I hung on to their every word. While some stories saddended or surprised me, I learnt so much that day. I had so many people come up and congratulate me on what I'd done, I didn;t know how to respond. I was overwhelmed and felt I didn't deserve the response, but I will be eternally greatful for those who did give me a big 'well done.' Even stallholders at the end said they wanted me to organise another one!

Coming home was great. I was physically and emotionally shattered but coming home to Twitter and Facebook was so lovely. The comments on my photos, tweets and status updates put tears in my eyes. Never had I had so many people tell me I was making some sort of difference. That day proved my calling in life, to help other people. And if I can change just one persons view on mental health, I know I have made a difference, it's all I need to do.

Here's some piccies I really want to share:


 Above: James (my fiancé) and me with home made t-shirts, having our first (and very important!) coffee of the day.

 Above: James and Susan, a Mind Associate volunteer sorting out the tombola which sold out twice!

 Above: Richie, James' best friend (and best man come April 2013!) who was a massive help to us on the day. To show his support, he got a pretty unicorn painted on his face!


Above: And here's me, before we left, with my t-shirt on that got quite a few comments...:)

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Sorry for the delay but here I am!

Okay firstly MASSIVE apologies... have not written a blog post since 28th November but trust me, I have good reasons!

This weekend has been a big one for me. Where do I start?

Work. This week I went to the doctors, and we discussed a return to work. This has made me feel (obviously) very anxious and at times, I have felt reluctant to go back. I was concerned that going back to a place that added to the triggering of my anxiety reaching its peak would cause me a relapse, and I was scared of myself. I soon realised though that I was ultimately scared of being scared, and that's my illness talking. I felt better after discussing my concerns with my [amazing!] doctor who reassured me these feelings were normal, and that I can only try my best.

Thursday just gone marked the start of my phased return. I went in for two hours and whilst that seems very small, for me it was massive. I was going back to an office which I recognised after working there for three years, but at the same time, it was like being a new kid at school. I felt so sick before I went in, and it didn't help I'd had no sleep for the previous three nights. What if people talked to me so much it was overwhelming? What if no one talked to me because they didn't know how? What if I fell ill? What if I burst into tears? My head felt like it was literally about to explode.

And what did happen? I went in, my breathing definitely quickened, my legs were like two sticks of jelly, but I did it. I sat down at my desk with the help and support of my manager and logged on to my computer, the first time in nearly six months. Once a couple of people said 'hi' I started to relax. My shoulders were still up to my ears with tension but I was getting through.

But then I panicked. Everyone had changed where they were sitting. I didn't recognise teams and they're formats, I didn't understand who was dealing with what, and for some reason, it frightened me. It just increased that 'new kid' feeling. But knowing my friends were around me helped. I have one very close friend at work who I did know where she sat and it comforted me knowing that. It gave me the confidence to lift my head up over the pc screen and spot another person I'm really close to. I grasped on to every smile that came my way and took a deep breath.

During the time I spent trying to solve IT problems, it was lovely that people started to recognise where I was sitting. They came up, said hello, and the best thing I remember is someone asking me if I wanted one of the crappy free coffees, just like they used to. I had managers come and just mutter a 'welcome back' with a smile and it meant the world, it truly did.

After my two hours, I was due to just head on home but ended up being waved over by a couple of good friends. I don't know how, but I ended up sitting between them for almost forty minutes, catching up on the latest news in the department, and being hassled about going to the Christmas party. I will always be greatful for those precious forty minutes.

Going home I felt positive. A few things had cropped up which deflated me a little, but I know this journey will be hard, and some days I will struggle. My anxiety is still strong, and some days, I'll be honest, it controls me, when it should be the other way round. But now I also feel strong, strong enough to recognise that what I have is like any other illness and I need to care for myself to aid recovery. 

Monday I start official phased return hours. This makes me a bit more nervous as this is a minimum requirement I have to reach and committing to something seems daunting but I know that my health is the most important thing and I can really only try my best. I will not back down, I will fight against the thoughts and realise they are just that - thoughts.

I have had the most hectic weekend EVER this weekend, and whilst I could write until the cows go home, I will love you and leave you until tomorrow. Today has been an eye opener for me, and I can't wait to share it with you tomorrow when I will have the energy to talk about it.

Thank you for your support so far x


Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Mental Health First Aid Training.

Oh. My. God.

This evening marks the end of day two of my Mental Health First Aid Training, and the way I'm feeling right now is amazing! Let me fill you in on what happened...

Turning up for the course was scary, and I put it down to thinking that lots of awkward ice-breakers would be involved and I'd be the 'odd one out.' How wrong I was. I met Simon from Mind, who seemed really approachable right from the start. There were about 13 'trainees' and no one knew each other. They were from all different walks of life, all different ages. Even better, we weren't made to do ice breakers! We had 'ground rules' so rules we decided between the whole group and that was enough.

Onto to learning. I can't believe how much I learnt just yesterday. We covered several topics, and learnt about how to care for someone in different situations, the same as you would in physical first aid. That was the best bit about the whole course - the way we all spoke was just so... normal. Like mental health is as important as physical health. Of course, it is just as important, but it's about time more people started to realise this.

The great thing was there was no pressure to speak or stand up. You did get the chance to ask questions (and answer them!) and share your viewpoints if you wish but there was no pressure whatsoever. I fell completely head over heels in love with the environment and atmosphere.

Day two was... strange! But in a good way!

I knew we were going to be focusing on anxiety, and I suppose I anticipated to feel a bit uncomfortable with it being very close to home. We covered a few other subjects too but I knew this was first thing. When I arrived in the morning, I was fine. But as the day went on and we started talking about experiences, panic attacks, OCD, and what an anxious person might look and feel like, I couldn't cope. My heart was pumping so hard it was like it was going to pop outside of my body. I knew what was happening, I knew I was just experiencing what we were discussing, but I pushed it down, telling myself to stop it, get over it, I have to stay here, I HAVE to learn. It got to the point where I got asked something. I wasn't put on the spot, nothing like that, we were just talking about a particular experience and the leader asked me if I wanted to share. I nodded. I wanted to interact but the words couldn't come. And then? I said sorry, and left.

I had to escape. It was too overwhelming. I think it was a mixture of intense learning, with a funny dream the night before, and the fact that we were talking about something so personal to me. I want to open and frank, but I had anticipated feeling anxious and in turn, I had made myself have a panic attack. At the time, I couldn't realise that. I felt embarrassed, guilty for disrupting, and I wondered what on earth people must be thinking of me.

Sitting outside the room, it was quiet. I was in a little conservatory area, with no one else around, and it was hammering down with rain. I started crying, this feeling just coming over me, my hands were shaking and my mind felt buzzy with thoughts. And then, it started to subside. My heart slowed down, and I could breathe properly again.

I got up, and I have no idea how, but I went back in. I actually opened the big squeaky door and walked back into the training room. And it was... fine. No stares, no whispers, just... normal. And it felt good! I sat down in my seat and then in five minutes it happened to be time for a break. The leader came and knelt down next to me, to check I was okay. And yes, I was, weirdly! Knackered, but fine. He said about how it's actually good that I made the choice to leave. I recognised my boundaries, and I did what was best for my health. And to come back in was a huge thing. He said that after I had left, he used me as an example of actually understanding your anxiety, knowing what you need to do. I had never looked at it that way before.

At lunchtime, people were interested in hearing about my attack. They asked if I had them often, and the amount of people who had been in the same situation as me took me by surprise. People were actually sitting and debating anxiety with me. We were talking about panic attacks like we would the weather. We discussed medication like you would discuss your favourite foods. I had never felt so content.

At the end of the day? We had a few minutes and the leader opened up to the group to ask questions or share what was the biggest thing they had learnt. I eventually plucked up the courage to say what I had learnt.

'I am not ashamed.'

And I'm not. Truly and honestly. Sitting here writing that is just adding to the relief I have felt today by accepting who I am and being proud. I have a mental health illness and while it does control me, I will recover. I may have bad days, but I'm going to have good ones too. I know that if people don't want to accept my illness then shame on them, not me, I'm not being ignorant to it, they are.

My wish would be for this training to be as common as first aid (physical) training. I'd love for it to be rolled out to schools, workplaces, and other organisations.

My mission is now to use my illness as a positive. I'm going to raise money to help fund research into understanding mental health illnesses better, and I'm going to get people talking.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Achievements

When I was in school, I had a pretty crap time. Bullying, both verbal and physical, was a part of my everyday life. I was quiet and preferred to read a good book than having the latest fashion trends. I had a little tiny group of close knit friends, none of which I am in contact with now may I add, but at the time I suppose they were my 'escape' from the name calling. If I had them, I wasn't a lone target. I did reasonably well at school because I preferred to get stuck in and work hard than chat and gossip. I wasn't 'in' with crowds, so I naturally put my energy in to studying. I came out with 10 GCSE's, all between A to C grade. Whilst I had to drop one subject due to my poor mental health, I came through okay. So going to college was the norm. I would do my family proud, and study A Levels and go on to university, the first in my family. I'd prove that working hard is more important than being in the social scene. 

But when I turned 18, and my support from the mental health care team stopped, everything else stopped. College was impossible. I couldn't study when I didn't even have the energy to get out of bed. Even though I was doing well academically, for some reason I didn't believe it. I had to quit. 

I got a job, earned a good wage, and decided to try again. I got on to a creative arts course at the same college. But it became too much - it was the first year it had ran, and I felt like a human guinea pig. I had no stability from the course, and I didn't have anything to work towards. Yet again, I had to quit.

Having the opportunity this year to study with the Open University was a massive thing for me. I chose Law, something I had always been interested in since studying Criminology the previous year using a distance learning provider. The material was interesting, but I wasn't doing as well as I thought. I found my relationship with my tutor was pretty much non existent, and working full time and then coming home and working full time was too much for my health. I had to quit.

The past few months, this quitting has really tired me. I have had to face up to the fact that I have let me anxiety hold me back, when I always vow that it won't. I have always argued and campaigned that mental illnesses do not make me any less of a person, but letting everything slow me down was just proving I was letting everything beat me. 

Today, a member of my family told me that at my age, I have so many doors and options open to me and I need to 'pull myself together.' I managed to hold back my tears but inside, I hurt. I didn't get much sleep tonight, and tried to shrug off my feelings as I can become overly sensitive when I'm this tired. I came home, and trawled the internet looking for possibilities for my future, but I've realised I ALWAYS let my illness get in my way. I always doubt my abilities to do something or other, and I always find a reason to NOT do something. And then comes the comparing. 'I'm 21, I should be partying! I should be at Uni! I should not have any responsibilities!' But these thoughts are ridiculous and I needed to write this post to give myself a kick up the bum.

One bad day does not mean that everything in life will be bad. I have done well in the past and I will do well again in the future. I am 21, my life isn't over, and if I need to restudy to get to where I want to be, I will do it when I am ready to. I know I can do it, I just need to realise that there will be days where things are harder than others, and to make sure I give myself breathing space for when this happens. Things will be tougher financially if I study when I'm older, another worry that I have, but what is money if it doesn't bring you happiness long term? 

Right now, I am proud of who I am. My successes might be different to everyone else's, but I HAVE succeeded. So I might not be like the average 21 year old but look of what I have achieved. I have my own home (rented, admittedly!) which I pay the bills for, I have a car which I pay to keep, and I have the most wonderful fiancé who I am marrying next year. They are the things that matter, as they are the things that make me happy. My education will come when I have the space in my mind to make way for it, and I'll know when that time will be when I feel it. It is never too late to do anything. 

If you're reading this and having a bad day? It's okay to have a cry, it's okay to have some more chocolate and it's okay to wear your pyjamas while you're cooking the tea. But remember what you have achieved today, this week, this month... and that tomorrow is a brand new day. And give yourself a big pat on the back, just for being you. 


Sunday, 18 November 2012

Am I the only one?

I know this is far from true. My research and my personal campaign to raise awareness about mental health and illnesses has proven this, but it's days like these I wonder if I'm the only one who thinks like this.

Today my other half and I attended a Christmas food and gift show. It was great, lots of lovely Christmas decorations, hand made crafts, and a fantastic range of food and drink. It was absolutely packed with people, which can sometimes be a bit of a trigger in itself for me. I don't like people in my personal space, and I like to have room to 'escape.'

Anyway, my other half spotted the hog roast stand before we'd even got into the exhibition (nothing unusual there!) and I had seen so many people outside eating bacon rolls, paninis, and baguettes and thought that all the food looked really tasty. Plus, the que was so long, I thought that was bound to be a good sign.

But as I approached the stand, I panicked. I always look for how hygiene the areas and staff are and at first, it looked fine. The food all looked piping hot and cooked well. So then I looked at the staff. Blue gloves - great! This is always a good sign and I let out a little sigh of relief. But this is the bit I don't get sense. They would pick up a bread roll for example, put in the burger, hand it over to the customer in a napkin and then? They'd take the customers money. With the gloves still on. Then they'd serve the next customer. In between that, they'd brush down the area where people put their sauce and other condiments on, with their gloves. And then they'd serve.

I panicked. I can't eat like that! I don't understand the point of gloves if you're going to be touching money then food, money then food, money then food. It completely defeats the point of gloves! It is simple precautions like these that would greatly improve the general health of the public. When I shared my concerns with my fiancé, he said to look around at how many people were eating food from the stand. And they did all look so happy, tucking in to their cheeky little bacon roll. So why did I feel so isolated there and then?

I don't know what from this post I am trying to demonstrate. Part of me believes that catering companies should be considerate not just to OCD sufferers, but also the general public. Surely such a simple precaution isn't that hard? They have enough staff to have one serving food, the other taking money, so why have they all got to multi - task and spread the germs? The other half of me wants this post to recognise how sufferers can feel so alone at times. It doesn't matter how many adverts we see on television and hear on the radio about talking about mental health if we don't do what they say. We need to talk about these issues like we would about bus services or the X Factor.

If you read this post, please buy a mental health wristband to support Mental Health Research UK. I'll post more about them very soon, but for now, it's important that people wear this wristband with pride. It's okay to talk.

http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/121010767266

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Thickening the skin.

Today I've let things get under my skin, and thanks to my mum, I know now that sometimes I really need to just let things go.

Weddings are stressful, that can be said without any sense of doubt. My fiancé and I get married in five months time, and whilst I should have been feeling excited and vibrant, I've let any negative effect me, and today I've been told that's not right. And it's true - I'm young, I'm in love, and I believe in romance. I should take the time to enjoy this process of planning. A wedding is just one day, and yes, it's important, of course, but what's more important is the bit that follows - the marriage. And whilst I know this deep down, my head has been so buzzy recently, with every possible 'what if' keeping me awake at night and taking the shine off my excitement.

After having a bit of a heart to heart with mum, I've learnt that I need to stop this. She acknowledged I can't help things repeating over and over in my head, it's why I have my mental health issues. But why stress? Why am I putting myself through these unnecessary doubts? At the end of the day, who cares about what any Tom, Dick or Harry thinks? If we are happy as a couple, nothing else should matter. It's time we learnt as a couple to say 'no' and to make our mark.

Nothing is ever that simple though, and I am sure that anyone who has gone through the process of planning a wedding can vouch for me on that. This day is for your family also, it's about them being happy, and comfortable and watching their children grow up and make such a big commitment. In the back of my mind, there always seems to be 'what if so and so is upset?' or 'what about if someone is offended by that?' and it's driving me crazy. Hearing mum today being honest and blunt was what I needed. No one else really matters on that day except me and my other half. Our family and friends should want to be there and watch us say our vows, not arguing with one another or turning their noses up at the centrepieces.

So today I've decided it's time to wake up. It's time to thicken my skin, and not let the most random of things bother me. I need to learn to stand back from a situation before jumping to conclusions and panicking. The most important parts of my life are with me and support me and love me unconditionally and that's all I really need to care about.

Mark my words, things are going to be changing round here!

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

I'm suddenly busy and I love it!

Eeek what's happened today?!

I've got a lot more pageviews, and I've been in discussions with numerous people! So what's in the line up?

I'm in discussions with a couple of people about the possibility of holding a Christmas fayre in the city centre, all in order to raise proceeds for Mind, a charity close to my heart. It's daunting doing something this big and this hectic right before Christmas, but for once, the business seems okay! My heart is racing, like it would when I'm having an anxiety attack, but it feels different. Excited. It's been a long time since I've found something I've been so passionate about. I can't stop thinking about it, it just seems to be everything I'm living and breathing. My poor fiancé must be going mad listening to my drivel, but it's his support that has given me the ability to push myself in to this, full steam.

I've contact my local Mind about getting some documentation, should the fayre go ahead. It would be important for me to provide this information to the public, to help sufferers and to get rid of some of that stigma a little bit more. I'm also going to contact Time To Change to see if I can set something up to get people to come in, have a cup of tea and talk about mental health. Now THAT would be incredible.

Am I getting too excited before my journey's begun?! I don't know. All I do know is is that it's made my IBS come back like crazy, but I know it's because I'm becoming so enthusiastic and energetic. I haven't had this energy in so long, it's like someone has given me a reason to keep fighting and to keep pushing my boundaries.

I had a chat with the other half tonight - I told him outright that I know what my health does to me, I know there's going to be times when it feels like nothing is working, because I've hit that brick wall before. I know there will be dark days where nothing seems to be going right and I'll wonder what all the effort is for. So I've told him that if that happens, to give me a kick up the bum, don't be soft on me. I need to do this. I'm not  really religious or anything, and I know this might sound contradictive to that, but this IS my calling, my purpose, and my mission.

Don't forget - it is okay to talk.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

What it's like...

... to have an 'emet' attack.

I had to post while I was feeling this. I've never done it before, I tend to curl up in a ball and wish the ground would swallow me whole, so my writing may be a bit jumbled.

I'm currently suffering what I like to call an 'emet' attack. It's basically that I don't feel right for whatever reason, and I have the fear I'm going to throw up. Just typing those two words is VERY difficult to me, and using the 'v' word is a bit too big of a step right now.

My IBS was pretty bad over the weekend. I'm not sure why, but random flare-ups are common with IBS so I know this could be part of my problem. I've been stressing about a few things going on in my life, and this sort of thing is the root issue of IBS rearing it's ugly head. But today I have been good! I've kept busy, bought us a nice couple of tables for our living room, sent some letters, done some washing... errands that I can't always do when I'm having a bad day. Now I've had my tea, it feels like my good day has now gone.

My throat feels tight, what a lot of us emetophobics call 'throat nausea' where you might feel nauseous just in that part of your body. I have that, along with a minor stomach ache, and hot cheeks. My heart is also racing, which makes me a little short of breath, despite me not really doing anything other than typing (and trying to gulp down a cup of tea).

I'm trying to tell myself it's just panic - hot flushes are a common sign of anxiety attacks, and the heart racing certainly is. I know that nausea is also a very common side effect of anxiety and IBS, both of which I must remind myself I suffer from. But as an emet, that proves difficult. It might seem easy for you reading this if you don't suffer, if doing the 'dreaded deed' is no different to you than it is brushing your teeth, but for me, it's the most frightening thing I can think of. I know it's down to control, and another tendency of my mental health issues.

Thankfully, I have an incredible fiancé who always seems to know the right thing to say. I've since got my fluffy dressing gown and a cat curled up by my feet watching Heston making an oversized ice - cream to distract myself from my thoughts.

I wasn't expecting that..!

Okay so the documentary I have submitted my details to be a part of? It's BBC Three!

I honestly thought it would be a documentary for a channel I probably don't even have, but turns out it's going to be bigger than I thought. This is really exciting, as this documentary needs all the coverage it can get.

I heard back from Jonny who's a reporter and researcher at Nine Lives Media, based in Manchester. He was interested in my transition from CAMHS (Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services) to becoming an adult. I had quite a bad experience of this unfortunately, and as soon as I turned 18, all support networks were cut off for me. I told Jonny how my last contact with my therapist was actually by accident in the chilled produce aisle in Tesco... not cool. He asked for my mobile number so he could contact me to arrange to meet up and talk about my progress. I never heard from him, and that was that.

Jonny suffers from schizoaffective disorder, and this is the fuelling for his documentary. I think it's incredible he's using his experiences for something so positive, and he's someone I would actually really like to follow in the steps of. He's even been nominated for a Mind Media Award for his video blogs on YouTube. You can view them at http://www.youtube.com/johnjusthuman. What an achievement. :)

Today I'm going to have a read of my first Mind Associates magazine, and I'm excited to see how I can get involved with maybe writing for them.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

"OMG how do you get to do all this cool stuff?!"

Yesterday I had a close family member come visit. Whilst checking my emails, I realised I had received a reply from a lady at Time To Change. The previous evening I had sent her my story with the chance to appear in a TV documentary regarding mental health. The lady had told me she was particularly interested in my experiences from the transition of me being a 'child' to becoming an 'adult' and how I seemed to just have all the help cut off from me the day I turned 18. She wanted to pass on my details to the producer - I was ecstatic!

Obviously this may not come to anything, but to think I am actively getting involved with sharing my story and  playing a part in getting rid of the stigma around mental health, I was over the moon. I shared my excitement with this family member, and told them about my potential opportunity to also write for the Mind Associates magazine. Their answer?

'OMG how do you get to do all this cool stuff?! You're always doing really interesting stuff like that!'

Now all I could do was laugh. I love this person to bits, and didn't take it offensively, but I had to write about this. It just proves the misunderstanding around mental health.

I am not choosing to get involved with charities and TV documentaries because I want to be famous. I'm not doing it to get a pay rise. I'm certainly not doing it just 'for the hell of it.' I have reached a point in my life now where I realise my calling in life is to help others. I just want to be a part of something massive, and that is making people realise it's OK to talk. Sufferers from anxiety, depression, OCD, panic disorder, PTSD... and every other mental health illness, do not choose to spend their lives in fear, worry and anger. We do not wish to feel the way we do. But for me, the only way I can start to see a bright light at the end of the tunnel is by helping others who are going through what I am. And if that means doing a TV documentary, then yes, I'll bloody well do it. I have to get the word out there that mental health is NOT a taboo.

Ironically enough, I then experience a similar thing again later in the evening yesterday. At a family gathering, someone asked me how I was feeling. They said that they knew I had been off work 'poorly.' It's stupid of me, but I didn't know how to respond, so I just replied 'yes, getting there.' I don't really see how mental health issues mean that you're 'poorly.' I have anxiety and depression. Is it that scary to say? I associate 'poorly' with a snotty nose and a case of the runs or something.

And then this morning, I experience it AGAIN. No word of a lie, folks!

I go to visit another family member. 'Are you feeling better now?' was one of their first questions. WHAT?! No! I didn't just wake up and the chemicals in my brain were evened out, it doesn't work like that. Oh if only it did! The conversation continued, with the highlights being 'you have to remember, you have it so much better than a lot of people out there' and 'sometimes you just have to say enough is enough and get on with it.' I've gotten past the stage where I get overly emotional. I now feel more sorrow than anything. Things need to change. Who's with me?

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Exciting day!

Wow I can't believe how today has gone! Fingers crossed that this is the start of exciting things to come...

So now having finished my Stress Control class through the NHS Wellbeing Service, I took some time over what I wanted to do next. The class explained in the last session what my options were, and I decided to take all the help I could get.

I've enquired about a class for Mindfulness, which sounds different to anything I've done in the past, but dates are yet to be confirmed. I've also expressed my interest for an anxiety workshop, but again, no dates. My other choice was the Mind Mental Health First Aid Training.

The Wellbeing service weren't sure about availability, and asked me to contact Mind direct, which I did so this morning. I read through the leaflet before making the call, as sometimes making a call can make me a bit anxious and stuttery anyway. I discovered something in this leaflet that I hadn't heard of in the Stress Control class and that was the option of becoming a Mind Associate. It sounds exactly like what I need so thought I'd enquire.

When I called, a really nice chap called Simon picked up the phone. Now here I was thinking this Simon was probably just an administrator, answering the calls and what not, but it turns out he was one of the people involved in delivering the training and attended Associate meetings. It was fab to talk to him! He told me exactly what the Mind training involved, and due to the popularity of the courses, the next availability isn't until January, but I've put my name down on a cancellation list so fingers crossed I'll get in before.

The training is a two day course and isn't any form of therapy or counselling, but seems to take a more educational approach, and giving me the tools I need to start recovery. I'm excited at the aspect of taking a different journey in helping myself so I'm very excited.

When chatting to Simon, I told him I wanted to be an Associate and I shared with him how I would love nothing more to help others with my problems. Even if I change the attitude of one person with regards to mental health illness, I'll die happy. I told him about this blog, and how I have been applying for tons of opportunities with Time To Change in the hope I can share my story. He told me how he had got to the point for working for Mind and he's invited me along to the Associates Christmas party (which seems daunting!!!) and a chance to chat through my options of building on my experience for my CV.

Plus when I mentioned the blog, he talked to me about the possibility of writing for the Associates magazine. This would be amazing for me - it doesn't matter that it's minor, it won't be global or anything, it's the fact that my words are published somewhere. It's something I have dreamt of for years, the chance to tell people exactly what it's like. Not a sob story, just a factual piece on what it's like living with this disorder day in and day out. I know it's early days but I'll be fighting as hard as I can to get a piece published!

So nothing really spectacular to blog about... sure... but I'm excited! Perhaps this could be the start of something.

Another sign off, but not a setback!

My appointment on the 5th went OK. My doctor asked how I felt about returning to work and whether it was something I wanted to attempt in the new few weeks. That was a hard question to answer - of course I want to work! I want to get up and earn my way like any average person. I want to succeed and progress and achieve, and make a name for myself. But unfortunately it isn't as simple as that.

Right now, I feel I'm doing OK. I've done my Stress Control class, and am looking to take part in three other courses/workshops. I don't want to lose the momentum of doing well, and I'm enjoying spending the time to understand why I am going through what I am and understanding how my mind is working. I've never had the opportunity before, and I feel that going back to work won't give me that option necessarily. That might be just the anxiety talking of course, but I'm determined to give myself the time I need this time round.

The doctor has signed me off for another month. That means I will have been off for over five months now. Sometimes when I think of it like that, I feel disappointed. But more often that not these days I'm realising it's not an awful thing. It's bad in the sense that I let my anxiety control me as much as it did, but it's good that I am finally, and for the first time in my life, taking the time to recover.

I've also taken the time to find out about organisations that help with mental health. Time To Change is something I am particularly interested in, and their aim to get people talking about mental health illnesses rather than shying away from it. I want to get involved, so I've emailed my story with the chance to take part in two documentaries about mental health. If I get picked, I'll probably worry myself to sleep, but at the same time, I'll give a well deserved WHOOP! because I can share my story. FINALLY I'll get heard! So please keep your fingers crossed for me.


Monday, 5 November 2012

What will happen today?

The anxiety has started to kick in today about the telephone appointment I have later with my doctor. The reason I'm worried is because he decides whether I should go back to work or not at the moment.

I'm 50/50 as to what he'll think. He's the first doctor who's ever helped me get the help I need, and quickly. He understands how I'm feeling and seems genuinely concerned. I've heard through the receptionists at the surgery as well that he's really good with mental health problems, and I wouldn't ever beg to differ.

When I first told him about my anxiety, he asked all the general questions... what had I been taking? How long had I been feeling like this? What do I want to do next? But he helped me understand that it was OK to be off work, and it was fine to feel this way. I wasn't abnormal or alone in the process and it was time to start planning on how to get better rather than masking the problem with more tablets.

So why am I nervous today? I'm not sure of the thought of going back to work. I'm nervous as I know a lot of changes have taken place... where will I fit in? I'm going to have so much catching up to do with regards to training, and how will people respond? That's the worst bit - no one talking to you, like you might explode or something if they ask how you are. It doesn't work like that folks, and I don't know how many times I have to say it. I'm still Kim, I'm the same deep down, I'm just not very well right now. Would you act that way if I had been off with a cold? I thought not.

I also feel like I want to do some more to help myself before I concentrate on working full time again. I've enquired about three other self help classes, which I'm really hoping I'll get a place on, so watch this space. I have realised the importance of not losing the momentum of getting better. I'm prepared and understand some days will be bad, and I won't even want to get out of bed. But if I just brush it off and say 'I'm all better now!' like I have done before, I'm never going to be able to control this.


Sunday, 4 November 2012

Welcome!

I've written other blogs but this one is about me and my little journey with my mental health issues. Let me tell you a little bit about myself.

I suffer with severe anxiety. As in... severe enough to not be working right now. It's not always been this way thankfully, but due to never really facing my issues "head on" it reached tipping point back in July this year and I've been off sick ever since.

I've always been a hard worker I'd like to think, but I've let my anxiety take it's hold and stop me from pursuing certain paths, including furthering my education. I did well academically in high school but had to leave college on two occasions and give up an Open University degree earlier this year when my anxiety got too bad. I'm hoping that by doing this blog and changing my ways of treatment I'll be able to restart my education.

What does anxiety entail? Absolutely everyone will experience anxiety more than once a year, every year, for all their lives. Anyone who tells you otherwise would be fibbing. It might be that you're anxious about a job interview, maybe you have to stand up and give a presentation and your palms are sweating like crazy because of the worry of it or you're facing a big fear that starts you panicking just to think about. It might seem little to everyone else but it's a big thing to you, which may I add is absolutely fine!

Anxiety that has been diagnosed by a healthcare professional however is different. It means that my anxiety controls me, when it should be the other way around. A little bit of anxiety is actually good for you. It keeps you on your toes, it keeps you alert, it helps you prepare. But when it gets out of control? It's hell.

Panic attacks can pop up out of nowhere. I can often be sitting at my desk at work, doing my own thing, and suddenly I can't breathe. My heart is pumping so quickly I think something is seriously wrong. I've got this lump in my throat that makes me feel nauseous. I have to get out, leave, I can't speak to no one, I just have to go. And when I can't? That's when I start hyperventilating. I've often had my lips turn blue because of it. I get pins and needles in the tips of my fingers and toes. It feels like everyone in the world is watching me, and I'm slowly dying (even though I'm not).

It's not just about the panic attacks. It's the constant worrying. About everyone and everything. I don't like being in the dark. I don't like being at home on my own. I can't sleep and when I do I have bizarre or frightening dreams that make me wake up in a cold sweat all over my body. The constant stressing affects my skin, and I suffer from adrenal exhaustion so I get spots all over my jaw line and neck. The stressing takes other affects too, the biggest one being my IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). I am unable to tolerate dairy due to my 'worried tummy.' I suffer with horrible cramps sometimes, and when I go out I worry where the nearest loo is.

I also have emetophobia. This is the fear of vomiting. Now you might be thinking 'but no one likes being sick!' but it's a completely different ball game for me and other 'emets'. As soon as someone mentions they feel a bit under the weather, I panic. Will they be sick? Have they already been sick? Have they got a bug? My mind works overtime and more. I won't eat any form of meat while in a restaurant apart from beef because of this phobia. I also tend to avoid salads if I can as this is an 'uncooked' food. I have to use a certain hand sanitiser and carry it with me wherever I go. I also carry anti diarrhoea tablets and anti sickness tablets. It's horrible living like that.

So why would I want to blog about all this? It's personal and private, why share it with the world?

Because I'm fed up of people judging those who suffer from ill mental health. I do not choose to suffer from anxiety (and also depression) and I do not like my life revolving around doctors appointments because of it. But that is how I am and until I recover, society is going to have to bloody deal with it. Too many of us sufferers get penalised for our conditions. We do not choose to be like this, the same as you don't choose to get the flu. It's no different, so stop treating me like I'm a freak and for your sake more than mine, don't tell me to just 'get over it' unless you have time for a lecturing.

I'm going to change your view about mental health. Even if it's not completely, I aim to make you think before you speak at the very least. We are all equals, so let's start living like that.