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So I’m home, back in London.

Saying goodbye was strange and sad. I’ve met some great people in Lancaster (and some not so great ones, but they don’t matter). I will probably go back to visit around this time next year but it still feels odd – I could potentially never see most of them again!

I got home yesterday, and my room looks like a bomb’s hit it (as my mother would say). I haven’t started unpacking yet, that’s probably a job for Monday.

As I’m writing this I’m already back at work. Started at 8 this morning, and I’ll be working tomorrow too, but at least the money is pretty good!

Also, for those who are interested, I did manage to go to the hairdressers, and I now have a fringe! People keep saying I look different but some aren’t sure why… I’ve had a couple of people ask if I’ve dyed my hair – close!

Anyway, back to work! I will be back to reading blogs tomorrow evening 🙂
Lots of love,
Ellie xxx

The end

It’s done, finished, over.
Today was the end of CBT for me.
It wasn’t a proper session, just a concluding one – questionnaires about the service, reassurance that if I need to come back after my year abroad I can.
Looking at a scale from 0 to 100, where 0 was the worst I felt, where am I now? And where is recovery?
No one feels good all the time so 100 is not recovery, It’s perfection (which doesn’t exist). We settled on 75 as acceptable – as recovery.
And where am I now? It’s hard to say because my mood varies a lot. I think I’m somewhere around 50ish, maybe up to 60 at times. But when I feel low it goes down a lot, not to 0 though, so its still not as bad as it was.
So take 55, and 75 is “recovered”… It’s not that far away.

I know I still have a long way to go and a lot of things to deal with along the way, but I’ve certainly made progress.
The fact that I’ve started some mindfulness shows improvement – mindfulness is not generally used for people who are severely depressed because it involves thinking about the negative thoughts, and would not be easy when someone is that low.
I still have my downs (and ups) but It’s better than a constant down.

Now I feel strange. CBT is done, over. It’s just me fighting my battles now, A has done her bit. I guess I was hoping by the end I would be magically better (100) but it didn’t happen because it doesn’t exist.

I feel kind of empty. Scared, and alone. Now what do I do? What if…

I can’t believe this was the last session, now it’s time to cope on my own.

“You can be whoever you want to be”

I can’t remember who said it, but someone said that to me recently. On my year abroad, I’ll be in a new place with new people, no one will know me. And I can be anyone I want to be. I wonder if it’s true, if without expectations, I can be a different kind of me. I don’t want to be someone I’m not, but at the same time I don’t want to be the me that I am here, at the moment.

I have realised I’m going to have to do something before I go to Germany. I am working in a school with kids up to 16. It would not be ok for me to be mistaken for a student… I am 20, 4 years older than the oldest pupils.

But I look so young. I am frequently told I look about 15… And when I went into my boyfriend’s work, someone asked him who I was, and said that I looked about 12. That’s not nice. And I think this is definitely a major factor in my lack of confidence.

Body image is a difficult one, a lot of people struggle with it. I don’t know if I see the me that everyone else sees, but I don’t like it… The list of criticisms about my appearance is endless. I feel so ugly, and no amount of reassurance from S or anyone else helps.

So my plan for before I get to Germany? I’m going to try and get a new style, hopefully so I look closer to my age. Everyone always says “You’ll be happy that you look young in a few years”, no I won’t. The chances are I won’t still look young when I get older, but right now it is incredibly difficult to be taken seriously when I look this young.

I hate it that I look so much younger than I am. I am a quiet, anxious and cautious person anyway, but the fact that I look so young takes away even more of my confidence. Why would anyone take me seriously when I look about 15?!

And so my plan starts tomorrow – I have booked to go to the hairdressers tomorrow afternoon, and I’m going to ask them if they can do something (ANYTHING) to make me look a bit older less young!

And I think I’m going to have to try and dress older too. It is easy to wear comfortable stuff – jeans, jumpers etc, but that doesn’t help with me looking young. So with the exception of the elephant jumper I bought the other day (Who could say no to an elephant jumper?!) it’s probably time to start buying clothes to suit my age.

I would love to feel good about myself. There is only one time that I can remember that I thought I actually look good. And that was when I did a photoshoot with artist, and I had loads of make up on and the photos were edited… so it wasn’t even really what I looked like. But in those photos I look confident. I would love to have confidence. I would love to walk along the street without looking down at the floor as I walk. I would love to walk into a room and not be scared that people might be looking at me.

I have a very low self-esteem. In my eyes I will never be good enough in any way. I don’t know how to change this but I’ve decided it needs to change. I want to feel good about myself.

So this summer things are changing in Ellie-land, I wonder if I can pull it off…

New things

Too many new things can be overwhelming. I am visiting a friend at her uni this weekend. We went shopping and for lunch and it was really nice.

Then we went to one of her friends for drinks. They all knew each other (obviously) and I only knew my friend. This was a bit difficult, but I could cope and settled down a bit when I got talking with some of the others.

We played some card games. I realised I get irrationally stressed by these things… Maybe it’s like A says, I have this need to do everything perfectly – including playing card games apparently. We played a game called “cheat”, which involves putting down cards and saying what they are (you can either tell the truth or lie) and if someone thinks you are lying they say “cheat”, and if you are lying you take the cards, and if not they take the cards. It’s a fun game, but I find it difficult. I realised I feel genuinely guilty when I lie (even in this game) and so I struggle to do it. The other thing is that I’m terrible at lying – you can always tell if I’m lying. I look guilty.

After that we went back to my friends house where there was (is) a house party going on. There was loud music and lots of people (who I obviously didn’t know). They all seemed really nice and I had some good conversations but I felt pretty anxious and on edge for most of the evening. (Especially as the alcohol started wearing off).New people, new place, loud music… Not a good combo.

So now I’ve gone to bed and I hope my friend isn’t annoyed. I am tired but needed to get away.

I can hear my critical inner voice: “they all think you’re boring”, “monkey will be annoyed with you”, etc etc

Time for sleep, good night xxx

When things go right & CBT

Things seem to be going right at the moment (not to jinx this!)

Today has been pretty productive:

For my psychology dissertation I am using a computer program to make the experiment (a dot that moves, pictures that come up, and it records reaction time etc.) So today’s first victory was making a dot move across a screen (no, I’m not joking!) It’s not quite right in terms of timing yet, but there’s a dot and it moves so I’m half way there with that bit!

I also had an email back today from my project supervisor, and he has only made a few suggestions for changes on my ethics proposal, meaning that with any luck I will be able to finish it and hand it in early next week (ahead of the deadline on Friday.)

I also had a response back from my old school about doing my research there, using the pupils as research participants, and they said yes!

I also rang work (I will be starting work again once I’m home for summer) and sorted out some hours, and they’ve said I can have a few days off in mid-July so it turns out I probably will get to go away with S afterall! 🙂

This week I have also heard back from my school in Germany and my mentor teacher seems lovely. And she’s sorted out somewhere for me to live for the first few weeks of my stay in Germany, so I will be able to find somewhere for the rest of the year when I get there!

More good news on the Germany front – apparently if you register at a university you can get a card that gives you free travel (bus, tram and train) around the region… this sounds amazing!!

And today was also my CBT. We talked about the progress I’ve made this week – about going out last Friday and Saturday and that I managed to think mindfully that I was safe, and in doing so actually enjoyed my nights! We also spoke about these negative thoughts, the next thing to do is to try and stop them when I identify them. At the moment I seem to have a negative thought (now I become aware of it) but then it turns into a negative spiral and I end up feeling really low, paranoid, sad, lonely (insert other negative emotions here!) SO as I become more aware of these thoughts, hopefully I will start to be able to look at the thought, accept it, but stop it (because it is a thought and not a fact!) and thus not “Put the same DVD on”/”Get on the negative thought train”/go into a massive negative spiral. It sounds so easy when it’s put like this, but in reality it really isn’t. BUT I am determined to continue to make progress even after my CBT is finished.* I have bought a book and CD about mindfulness, (but silly Ellie sent it to London instead of Lancaster so I don’t have it yet) so I will write about that when I get home and start using it. Apparently the book has a mindfulness program that you can follow (I think A said 8 weeks?) so that should be interesting (and hopefully helpful!)

On my way home from CBT, I bought a card and a box of maltesers for my friend (pres**) as it’s her birthday tonight, and I am going to her house later for predrinks (jelly shots? Yes please!) and then out to a bar/pub and our student club. BUT I am being nice to me (yes, really!) and I am saying that I will go to predrinks and the bar/pub but I might not go to the club if I don’t feel like it. I am very tired and have had a lot going on this week, so I will see how I feel later. Quite proud of this development – compromise: I am still not letting down my friend (because I do want to celebrate her birthday with her) but I am not forcing myself to go “out out” if I don’t feel like it later. 

Final good news for today was that I rang a Mental Health Centre where I am going to be doing some volunteering over the summer. Originally they had asked me to do Fridays (as it’s their busiest day) but unfortunately work said they can’t give me Fridays off (because it’s a busy day!) so I was worried about what they would say when I said I can’t do Fridays anymore. But the man (who I met in the easter holidays) was lovely, remembered me, and said it’s fine to do Thursdays. In fact he said Thursdays are the nicest day to be there, so that’s exciting! I will be volunteering at a mental health drop-in centre where people can come and chat, have some tea, do different activities etc., and Thursday is the women only drop-in.

Oh yes, and another good thing! Tomorrow I am off to Warwick to visit one of my best friends – Monkey. That will be great as I haven’t seen her since easter, and Leamington Spa is a really nice place as well!

So I probably won’t be back (on WP) until Monday as I’ll be in Warwick and socialising rather than blogging, but this afternoon’s plan involves a nap and catching up on reading blogs before I go out!

Lots of love,

(from a pretty positive) Ellie xxx

*Next week is the last session with A! Arghhh!

**Not sure if I have mentioned her before. She is called “Pres” as she is the new president of one of the societies at uni.

Ellie’s little think (and ramble)

Today I went to the doctors. It seems like I haven’t been in ages! Last term I was going every week (not an exageration) but I think this was only the 2nd or maybe 3rd time I’ve been this term (and the term is nearly over now!) That’s progress in itself, I haven’t felt the need to go because things have been improving.

Over the last month or so I have felt a bit worse again and had a few wobbles. But I’m still a lot better than I was, so maybe recovery isn’t a straight line all at one gradient, it seems like it has its ups and downs, and times when things seem to stay the same for a while. But looking back, things are SO much better than they were, and I’ve come a long way this year.

I also got a copy of the letter from the psychiatrist (that I saw in February) to give to my GP in London when I get home. So obviously I had to read it… (Ever tried having a letter that is about you and not reading it? No thank you!) I thought it might upset me a bit, it is the reality of how things are (were?) in 4 pages. Written without compassion or explanation, just the bare bones of it really… And it was difficult to read. I had a little cry.

And then I had a little think, because these kind of things do make you think. One thing about this letter was that it had an actual diagnosis. It says depression and anxiety with post traumatic symptoms. And in that one sentence, it brings validity to what I am feeling. Someone else’s words shouldn’t be worth more than my own experience and emotions, but somehow it is. Sometimes I still think that maybe it isn’t that bad, or I’ve been overreacting to normal emotions. Sometimes I still doubt that it’s all real. But this man knows his stuff, and he is saying it’s real.

But since February things started to improve, little by little. Sometimes there were big changes, sometimes tiny, almost insignificant changes. And still now, I have my wobbles, and I have my little victories, but most important of all I have hope again. Hope that things can change and get better, hope that I can do this!

Well this is all sounding a bit positive and progressive isn’t it?! Time to add some worrying (because otherwise this wouldn’t be an Ellie post!)

I got an email back from the school I am going to in Germany today. I emailed them yesterday, in German. My “Betreuungslehrerin” (mentor teacher) emailed me back today, in English. So now I’m stuck; a decision that probably wouldn’t phase most people, but somehow any decision gets me into a flap! I’m just not good with decisions. So do I reply in English? Do I reply in German? Do I do half and half? (No Ellie, that is ridiculous!)

And what about living arrangements. She mentioned that in the past sometimes the assistant has found a flat in the town, sometimes lived in the nearest city (about an hour away) or she said I could live with one of the other teachers… Too much choice, too many decisions! I’ve decided not to reply today, but I’ll think about it and try and get out of this anxious worrying. Because really, whatever decisions I make – English or German, town or city, alone or with people, it’s not that important. And living arrangements can be changed if it doesn’t work out when I get there…

So time for Elllie to take a deep breath, and CALM DOWN.

Talking of breathing, I must do my meditation for today! And that’s another thing I want to blog about.

I’ve also been trying to plan my dissertation. As I’m doing psychology, we have to do an experiment so need ethics approval. I’ve been working on my ethics proposal today, but have been stopped in my tracks as there is a large flaw in my experimental plans… I have a PC and not a Mac. I have never seen this as an issue before, but apparently the software that I was planning to use for testing in my dissertation which measure reaction time does not exist on PCs!! (I mean seriously, come on!!) So there has been a lot of rushing around, panicking, and emailing my supervisor… hopefully we will sort this out soon! The problem is that next week is the last week of term, and I’m leaving Lancaster then so won’t be able to organise these things once I’m gone!

(Once again, breathing may be useful here!)

So little time, so much to do! In just over a week I will be leaving Lancaster until after my year abroad! Scary stuff!

Edit: I have just seen that I have passed the 200 mark on followers! Wow!! 🙂

A positive post!

This is going to be a list of positive “mantras”, quotes and phrases:

A great quote from "A Cinderella Story"

A great quote from “A Cinderella Story”

I can do this.

I can and I will.

Doing my best is enough.

Keep calm and carry on.

This too shall pass.

I will accept the things I cannot change.

Be the best version of you.

Everything will be ok in the end, and if it’s not ok, it’s not the end.

Every day may not be good, but there is something good in every day.

When everything feels like an uphill struggle, think of the view from the top!

I am who I am.

Never give up.

winniethepoohquote

If anyone has any more to add, please let me know and I’ll add them to the list, with credit to you of course!

I hope you enjoy this list and can draw some positivity and motivation from it 🙂 (and if you fancy some more happy things, I’ve updated by Instant Happiness page!)

Experimenting on Ellie

Today (yesterday now) was the last time that all of my housemates were together so we decided to go out to our student club in Lancaster for one last night. I have to say I was not massively looking forward to it, but as last night was quite good, and it was a chance to see everyone again, I decided to go (and having pre-bought a ticket was also encouragement to go!)

It just so happened that tonight was the night that we had guest DJs in our club – which doesn’t happen very often. It was Rudimental, and the tickets sold out way before the actual day. Obviously this was a recipe for disaster for me: loud music + smoke and flashing lights + LOADS of people = my idea of hell.

But I went, and hoped it somehow wouldn’t be too busy.

It was busy. Immensely busy! Everyone was crammed in like sardines in a tin, and it was boiling hot. But as I was there, I thought hey, let’s do an Ellie experiment here.

So I tried some mindfulness techniques – I tried to be aware of the present moment, I looked around at the exact situation I was in. I tried to identify escape routes, and decided that wasn’t really an option – something even worse than being squished would be being squished and lost! And I allowed myself to become aware of the panic I was feeling – the dissociation I was feeling, the fast heart beat, the increased breathing… and accepted this.

I told myself: I am safe, there is nothing that is going to hurt me here, and I can do this. And as time went on I accepted the current situation – I was surrounded by a lot of people, it was quite tightly packed, it was very hot and there was loud music, flashing lights and smoke… but none of this is actually dangerous. Especially as I was very fortunate to have my lovely housemate (Mr Maps) to try and keep a bit of space around me so I didn’t get too squashed!

And once I had done this, I wasn’t so scared anymore. And as time went on, I started to relax, and maybe became a bit desensitised to it all, and even started to enjoy it. 

I was very proud of myself for staying in there, I have run away in much less busy and calmer situations before, but not today. I stayed, I experimented, it paid off and I quite enjoyed it. It was a night where instead of constantly checking my phone to see if it was an acceptable time to leave, I was not the one to suggest leaving. And I stayed until 2:20, which may not be that late to most people, but considering there have been many times that I have left before 1:30, or even 1, I think it was a pretty successful night! 

So sometimes when you have the right people, the motivation to experiment, and more importantly, the right shoes*, things can turn out much better than expected, and you can do things you didn’t realise you could do.

So today turned into a pretty nice day. I also went to Morecambe with Mr Maps and Footballer earlier in the day. We went to the seaside, which was incredibly windy! And then we went bowling, (where I decided not to pursue a career in bowling) followed by a game of pool (where I decided definitely not to pursue a career in pool!) It was a really nice day, followed by a great evening with great people. I will really miss those two when I’m away in Germany… unfortunately my other housemate decided she had more important things to do and people to see to spend the day or evening with us, but we weren’t going to let her ruin this!

And now it is 3:45, I am sober and about to go to bed, and I just ate some yummy cake (that Footballer made for me as a leaving cake – it says “miss you” on it!) So now I am feeling pretty good, and I’ve decided that some people are worth the effort and some aren’t – and that’s ok.

Now time for lots of hours of sleep! – I definitely won’t be getting up early in the morning!

Lots of love,

Ellie xxx

*Tonight I decided to wear heels – my most comfortable ones. It was definitely a good move tonight because those extra 4 or 5 inches really helped me not to get too squashed in the crowd, and being only 4 feet and 11 and 3/4 inches tall at my natural height, I need all the help I can get!! Although, that aside – my feet are killing me now!

A realisation

As you might have read yesterday, I was not feeling like doing anything. Hiding felt like the best option. I went to CBT, and I’m glad I did. But still, when it got to the evening, I really didn’t want to go out.

It was raining, and people were dropping out left, right and centre, but I didn’t want to let my friend (Pres) down. Other people told me “If you don’t want to go just don’t go”, and that kind of makes sense. But I’d feel really bad – I had told Pres I was going, and helped her organise it, I couldn’t just not go! So I went.

On the way there I was thinking: Why are people so selfish? Why do people think it’s ok to let people down? Why don’t people seem to have any loyalty? And then I thought: Am I just too nice? Should I only do the things I want to do and screw other people’s feelings?

And then I thought: No, because that wouldn’t be me. 

(A lot of thinking went on in this 10 minute walk!)

But I came to the realisation that maybe I am “too nice”, and that means that sometimes I do things I don’t really want to do but I do it for other people. And sometimes it means that people take advantage of me, and I can get hurt easily (because it turns out that most people don’t do what I do.) BUT that’s just who I am. I care (sometimes too much) about other people, and I am very loyal. If I say I am going to do something, I will do it (unless there is a very good reason!) And even though I’m not “popular”, I have friends and sometimes people appreciate the fact that I’m always there. I remembered my birthday, which was in the middle of exams season… and so many people came. I was pretty surprised actually because I always think that people don’t care or notice me as much as I care for them, but people came to celebrate my birthday with me and it was great.

So, what I am saying here is that I have realised that it’s ok to be nice. And it’s ok to be me.

I realise this post may sound a bit strange. I am saying that I am a nice person, that might come across as arrogant or self-centred, but that’s not the way I mean it. I have always seen my caringness and willingness to help other people as a negative thing – and they do always say “being nice never gets you anywhere”, but I’m realising that’s not true. And so for once, I am going to be content to be me.

So what do you think? Is it good or bad to be “nice”? Is it good or bad to do things for other people? Is it possible to be too nice? I can see it from both perspectives now, but I can’t change such a central part of my personality, I just wouldn’t be me anymore.

And just as an end note, for my next post I am planning to compile a list of positive quotes, phrases and mantras, if anyone has any they want to add, feel free to comment (or email: anxiouselephant@hotmail.com) and I will of course give credit to the right people 🙂

Lots of love,

Ellie xxx

P.S. I forgot to mention – I actually had quite a good night in the end. There weren’t that many of us (about 10 when we expected around 30!) but it was nice to chat and dance together. In the club I got a bit panicky at some points – sometimes the loud music, the lights, the people and the smoke get too much. But I went outside for a few minutes and took some deep breaths. I even used a bit of mindfulness, focusing on the present moment. I said to myself – I am here, I am safe, nothing bad is going to happen. And it actually worked! – A would be proud! So even though I didn’t feel like going out at all, it was actually alright.

CBT: Get up and get out!

No don’t worry – these were not words said by my therapist to me (or vice versa.) Yesterday I was feeling pretty down and really didn’t feel like doing anything. But my appointment was at 2pm, so having finally dragged myself up at about 1, I called a taxi and went to my CBT session.

And I’m glad I did, I felt a bit better afterwards. And once you’re up and about, things normally feel a bit better. If I stay in bed hiding all day, what have I achieved? Nothing. But by getting up and out and going to CBT, I have (hopefully) helped myself a bit. So that’s the advice: Get up and get out! 

I was pretty tearful in my CBT session yesterday – the realisation that it’s coming to an end is scaring me. Then I have to cope by myself!! I have 2 more sessions left, then I’m back home in London until September, and then the big move to Germany – eek! The fact that I won’t have A to speak to anymore is a bit scary, especially because I think the CBT is helping, but there’s still a lot that hasn’t been dealt with.

A said there are some things I am still not ready to deal with. She said in the future I will be and then I can have some counselling/therapy to help me deal with it. She said when I get back to Lancaster I can get re-referred if I need to.

A gave me another CD with some guided mindfulness meditations on it. There is one called Mindful sitting practise and one called 3 minute breathing space. I’ll write about these sometime this week when I’ve done them a few times.

We talked about the way the mind works (according to CBT.) We have the situation or event and the emotion/feeling, but inbetween there is the thought which triggers the emotion. So I am working on spotting the thoughts and seeing – is this a fact or a thought? This is of course easier said than done, but it’s work in progress.

We talked about my insecurity and constant fear about S leaving me. This is rational to some extent because my previous experience (with the ex) has shown me that people can leave me. However, this does not mean everyone will leave me, and it does not mean I am not good enough (which is the thought that goes with the event: ex leaving me and the feeling: depressed/lonely/scared.)

A has asked me to write down how I am feeling each half day, and more importantly the negative thoughts that come with the feelings. Then I can look at them and say – fact or thought? Do I have any evidence of this? The chances are, probably not!

The other thing I am meant to look at this week are when I have these thoughts that S is going to leave me. We have established that seeking reassurance doesn’t really help… it may help for a brief moment, but soon afterwards, the thoughts will be back. And I know they must be irritating for S, to constantly reassure me that he’s not going anywhere, he’s not going to hurt me, and yes he does love me. So the aim here is to identify these thoughts and look at them without engaging with them. Using mindfulness, the idea is to see the thoughts as thoughts (and not facts), not engage with them, and ignore them. But baby steps – this week I’ve just got to identify them as early as possible.

A used the analogy of the “thought train”… so once the thought comes into mind, it starts a trail of destruction, with each thought encouraging the next, until I’m in a massive negative spiral and I truly believe that S is going to leave me because I’m just not good enough. So instead of this, I should try to identify the thoughts early and get off the thought train. Another analogy was “putting on the same DVD”, so once you have had the thought (put the DVD on), the same thing happens (the same DVD plays) and it results in the same behaviour and feelings each time. So instead of letting the same thing play out each time, it is better to catch the thought early, and throw away that DVD 😉

Anyway, enough about DVDs and trains… me thinks this is more progress.

Oh – and A said she thinks if I use the mindfulness stuff we are learning and use the book I have bought (The Mindful Way Through Depression), I will be ok in Germany without any therapy. I hope she’s right! But I have my blog too, which I think is therapy in itself!