Stepping out of my comfort zone

Today my boyfriend had a day off, which is very unusual for a Saturday. We went for a walk this morning and then did a bit of shopping, went for dinner and then met up with his work friends. Let me first say, his friends are lovely and they always make me welcome. 

But I feel very anxious about being around lots of people, especially when I don’t know them very well. So we were going to a pub in central london on a Saturday evening, I knew it would be busy. 

Yesterday I said I might not go to the drinks in the evening. Today I decided I’d see how I felt and then decide. When we arrived at the drinks I said I would leave after about an hour. 

I actually stayed for over two hours. And I had a nice time. Yes I felt a bit anxious at first and I am bloody knackered from all the walking I’ve done today, but I enjoyed the evening and I’m glad I went. 

I guess the point of this post is to say I am trying to push my comfort zones. And it’s a good thing to do. I always put in my safety mechanisms, for example I took my car home before we went into london so that I could leave the drinks earlier than my boyfriend if I wanted to (I did and he’ll probably be out most of the night) and that helps with anxiety. I find if there’s no way out, that’s when I struggle. Like with the hike, I was more anxious because I knew that if I dropped out the whole group had to stop (minimum group numbers). It’s also important not to push yourself too hard (where is the line? You’ll have to judge that for yourself!) because sometimes you feel like you go backwards that way, but usually if you are taking small steps, a step out of your comfort zone is a step in the right direction. 

So go on, push your boundaries and do something that’s a bit difficult, you might surprise yourself! 

Love,

Ellie xx

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Pushing my comfort zone

Today my boyfriend had a day off, which is very unusual for a Saturday. We went for a walk this morning and then did a bit of shopping, went for dinner and then met up with his work friends. Let me first say, his friends are lovely and they always make me welcome. 

But I feel very anxious about being around lots of people, especially when I don’t know them very well. So we were going to a pub in central london on a Saturday evening, I knew it would be busy. 

Yesterday I said I might not go to the drinks in the evening. Today I decided I’d see how I felt and then decide. When we arrived at the drinks I said I would leave after about an hour. 

I actually stayed for over two hours. And I had a nice time. Yes I felt a bit anxious at first and I am bloody knackered from all the walking I’ve done today, but I enjoyed the evening and I’m glad I went. 

I guess the point of this post is to say I am trying to push my comfort zones. And it’s a good thing to do. I always put in my safety mechanisms, for example I took my car home before we went into london so that I could leave the drinks earlier than my boyfriend if I wanted to (I did and he’ll probably be out most of the night) and that helps with anxiety. I find if there’s no way out, that’s when I struggle. Like with the hike, I was more anxious because I knew that if I dropped out the whole group had to stop (minimum group numbers). It’s also important not to push yourself too hard (where is the line? You’ll have to judge that for yourself!) because sometimes you feel like you go backwards that way, but usually if you are taking small steps, a step out of your comfort zone is a step in the right direction. 

So go on, push your boundaries and do something that’s a bit difficult, you might surprise yourself! 

Love,

Ellie xx

Things that help: pampering self-care

I am trying to find as many things as possible that help. Things that help when I’m feeling low, things that help with the aching, things that just make me feel a bit better. This post is about pampering and self-care in a more physical sense. Would love to hear any more suggestions! 

Bubble baths are one of my favourites. I put in some bubble bath or a bath bomb (I love the selection at Lush!), run a nice hot bath, put on a relaxing playlist and sink into the bubbles. It’s a chance for “me time”, to relax and unwind, and as an added bonus, it often helps with the aching. If there’s no time for a bath, a hot shower can also help lift my mood and reduce the aching, especially if I have a deliciously scented shower gel! 

Painting nails. This sounds really strange but if my nails are painted I have no urge whatsoever to bite them. If they aren’t painted and I start getting anxious, I get the urge to bite them. Then I get annoyed with myself, then I get more anxious and bite them more, and so it goes on. The other thing is, when my nails are painted a bright colour it cheers me up when I see them. And that’s why when I did the dreaded hike, I painted my nails green with orange dots!

Face masks – another way to “pamper”. I have one that goes on and feels very cool on the skin and then just sinks in. This is great when I feel run down and my skin goes dry. The ones that set (clay/mud masks) are great because you can feel them setting which keeps you in the present moment. Also you are guaranteed a laugh if you look in the mirror while it’s on! 

Lipstick – never underestimate the power of a good lipstick. Despite not being a very “girly girl”, I own an embarrassing number of lipsticks. There is something about lipstick that gives me confidence. I have a lipstick for every occasion – nude lipsticks for days when I just want a little extra something, bright lipsticks which scream confidence (even if i don’t actually feel confident, the lipstick helps!) and everything inbetween. I think a bit of colour helps brighten up my face, especially on days I feel very tired. I joked with a colleague once that if I was wearing a bright lipstick, it meant it was a tired day, and that’s probably true! 

Spa days. This one I have yet to try, but it makes sense that a relaxing spa day would boost my mood, reduce stress etc. I am hoping to do a spa day with some friends sometime in the future, so I guess I’ll write a post about that when it happens. 

Wearing pyjamas and dressing gown. I will confess that I spend most of my time at home in my pjymamas and dressing gown, and if not pyjamas then dressing gown over clothes. I have one of those super soft fluffy dressing gowns and they are the best thing to comfort me. It is so comfortable and comforting to be wrapped up in snuggly pyjamas and a dressing gown, one of the few things I like about the weather getting colder is that I can get the fluffy pyjamas, slippers and dressing gown out without anyone thinking I’m strange! 

Writing this has put me in the mood for a bath and pyjamas now!

Love,

Ellie xx

Therapy 

I had a therapy session yesterday, the first one for about 4 weeks because I was away and then she was away. Since I last saw her, a lot has happened – I got diagnosed with fibromyalgia, I went sky diving, my anxiety has got worse, my depression has got worse etc etc. 

It was good to talk. It was good to be completely honest and open instead of wondering and worrying about how she would react, what she would think of me. I’m glad and I know I’m lucky that I have reached this feeling of trust with my therapist. I don’t filter my words and thoughts in that room. There’s no expectation. I told her I’m feeling rubbish. I feel low, lonely, angry, disappointed, hopeless…. all of this negativity. And she doesn’t tell me I should be grateful for what I have or tell me it’s going to be ok. She sits with me in the shit and she’s just there, listening, understanding. 

After last nights session, I had the best sleep I’ve had in probably about a month (coincidence, I think not!) I felt a sense of relief, an ability to breathe properly when I left. I needed to get things out. 

I cried and it was hard. And I named difficult things which I didn’t used to be able to do. I used to clam up and not be able to talk when things were hard, but now I can say them even if it’s through tears. 

Without a doubt I know therapy has helped me massively, and it still is. I can see that I have made a lot of progress, and even though my mood has done a nosedive since May and is showing no signs of improving, it helps to talk about it, and I’m not in the dark place I once was. 

I am currently en route to the middle of nowhere for my hike, so won’t be writing for a few days. When I get back I’m going to write a series of blog posts on things that help. (One of them will be on bullet journals, I imagine I’ll write one on therapy at some point.) I’ve already started writing the posts so I’m excited to share my experiences with you, and hoping maybe some of the ideas will help others too. 

Love,

Ellie xx

My hospital appointment 

After ages of trying to convince the GP there is something wrong, a couple of months waiting for a triage appointment and then months of waiting to see the specialist, I finally had my hospital appointment on Tuesday. 

I was anxious as hell. Didn’t sleep well the night before. I was a bundle of nerves. I was wondering what they would say. Would they give me the diagnosis I was expecting and dreading? Would they say oh there’s this test we haven’t done yet, followed by more waiting? Would they say “pull yourself together woman, there’s nothing wrong!”? (Ok I never thought they would say it like that but you know what I mean!) or would it be another red herring like the triage appointment, where I thought it was with the specialist and it turned out to be triage?

I went to the appointment and the doctor was actually very nice. He asked me a whole load of questions, I answered them. Some of them I had answered before at the triage appointment, some were new. Anyway, he listened and wrote down notes. Then he did a physical examination including some prodding which actually really hurt! And then he started talking about treatments, he said they have a CBT group for people with fibromyalgia. I stopped him there and said “so is that what you think it is?” Because he hadn’t said so at that point. 

He said yes, that’s what the diagnosis is. We can call it chronic fatigue syndrome or we can call it fibromyalgia but the treatments are the same for both and he is not too bothered about the diagnosis, more about the individual and the treatment. That was kind of nice to hear and it stopped me from overthinking the diagnosis at the time… I have fibromyalgia. 

So the next thing is to see the CBT therapist that specialises in chronic pain/fatigue conditions and see the physio for an exercise plan. He did not think a half marathon was a good idea, damn – I’m meant to be doing one in spring! 

In one way it was a relief. I have suspected for some time that I might have fibromyalgia but now I have a diagnosis. I am sad that he couldn’t say “oo actually you’re deficient in vitamin X, take this and all your symptoms will go away”, but that was never going to happen. Now I know that there’s a name for what I am experiencing and it is a real condition, this is not just me, and it’s not just in my head. That validates me a little. 

And there’s the other side.. being diagnosed with a condition that I know there is currently no cure for. A chronic health condition which may or may not get worse over time. I need to be careful not to use it as an excuse not to do things, and also be aware of my limits… a fine balance. 

Anyway I am off to sleep now. I’m sure I’ll write on this topic again pretty soon, but wanted to write an update and get it all out of my head. 

Love,

Ellie xxx

Feeling alive! 

I haven’t written in a little while. I was in two minds about which post to publish today. It has been an interesting couple of days. I have decided to go with the shorter and more positive post today so I have more time to get the other one how I want it. 

So today I jumped out of a plane! It was my first sky dive. I was worried about getting panicky once we were in the plane or not being able to do it but I did it and it was amazing. It’s hard to put into words the feeling, but I really felt alive and that was a great feeling! I felt real and alive and connected and in awe of the beautiful views and the fact that I was thousands of feet up in the air essentially dangling from a parachute. It was so cool, and the nice thing is that S (my boyfriend) skydived too, he went just before me but we were in the same plane. It was a great experience to share, and we both decided a hot drink was needed afterwards from all the adrenaline!

Obviously it was a tandem jump so the instructor did everything, so really there was no jumping involved. I just got told to adopt a specific position (head back, hands on the shoulder straps, feet tucked behind) and suddenly, woosh, we are in free fall!

It was an amazing experience and I’m so glad I decided to do it, definitely one to tick off my bucket list! I feel proud that I did it and I didn’t let anxiety stop me! 

After today it’s made me realise there are loads of things like that that I would love to do one day, so tomorrow (I have booked another day off work to relax – proud of myself!) I am going to write a bucket list 😊

Have you ever skydived? What’s on your bucket list? I might share mine once I’ve written it!

Love,

Ellie xx

Stress

Feeling very stressed and like I’m not coping at the moment. This is not how you are meant to feel after a holiday… 

I can tell I am not very well mentally at the moment because I am struggling to manage my stress, even at work. Usually at work I can separate it from everything and just do my job and worry about everything else later. This week I felt like I got in a flap about things I would normally deal with fine. 

My anxiety is pretty high and my sleep isn’t good (a crying doggo with a poorly tummy at 4am doesn’t help! – not that it’s his fault!) 

I want to be positive but right now it’s hard. I have a few plans over the weekend and that is stressing me out. I wanted a weekend to do nothing but I have too much to do. All nice things but somehow it doesn’t feel nice, it feels like pressure. 

Off to bed, TGIF tomorrow!

Love, Ellie xx

Worry

Worry

Worry about worrying 

Worry about migraines 

Worry about having forgotten something. 

I am currently on my way to Scotland to go camping with the scouts for a week and it is likely that this anxiety will continue until I arrive and have set up my tent. 10ish hours to go…

Anxiety is irrational, I know that. Trying to explain it to someone that doesn’t understand is impossible, they don’t get it. They say it doesn’t matter, if you forget something they do have shops in Scotland. But it’s not really about that. It’s just constant worrying about anything and everything. I guess that’s why it’s called generalised anxiety disorder.

On a more positive note, I am hoping being in nature will be good for me, a week to chill and not think about work. And bonus, I get my own tent this year! 

I love the sound of rain on the tent (as long as it stays outside the tent!) and it’s Scotland, so rain is inevitable. I will be doing my mindfulness there too, already done some on the coach (trying to drown out the shouting/singing of lots of teenagers!)

Love,

Ellie xx

Why is it so hard to talk about?

Why is it so hard to talk about the “difficult things”?

I can write about them sometimes. I can plan what I’m going to say, I have the words in my mind but they don’t come to my lips. I can’t say them.

I’ve been having a lot of nightmares recently. Screaming in my sleep again while Footballer was staying. A week or two ago, S said I kept asking where I was, saying I want to be at home (in my sleep.)

A lot of the time I don’t remember the nightmares. Sometimes I wake up scared and don’t know why. Sometimes I just know I had a nightmare, and sometimes they are so vivid. I feel like I’m being haunted by these images. But it’s all too hard to talk about, the words just don’t come out.

The nightmares that week involved the ex. Raping me. And it all felt so vivid.

I was really really scared and anxious for days. I started writing this post not long after the nightmares but I couldn’t find the words time. I eventually managed to tell S that the nightmare involved the ex “making me do stuff.” But that’s as much as I could say, and even that took a long time.

So why can’t I say these difficult things? Like when I’m feeling suicidal, I can’t tell anyone, I just say “I feel low” or “I feel shit.” When in my head I’m screaming “I just want to die!” And when I’m talking about the ex, I can never explain what it was like. I can say he wasn’t nice to me, or that he treated me badly but it’s difficult for me to say more… it’s like I’m ashamed that I let it happen… How messed up is that? He treats me horribly and abuses me, and I’m the one that feels guilty and ashamed?

I try to tell S these difficult things sometimes. Often I just can’t say it, and he doesn’t understand why I’m crying or on edge or scared in the night. Sometimes I end up texting things because I couldn’t say it on the phone. The words stick in my throat and it’s like someone presses mute and I can’t speak anymore.

But I don’t want to be muted.

I have depression and anxiety and it’s hard. Most of the time I don’t look like anything is wrong with me but there is. I am very jumpy and I get scared and upset easily. And it’s not my fault. It is an illness and I don’t want to feel ashamed anymore. These things are just labels and they don’t make me who I am, but they do affect who I am and sometimes I can’t deal with everything that a “normal” person can. I think more needs to be done to raise awareness about mental illness because people don’t understand it – they can’t see it so they think it’s not there.

Since I’ve been writing this blog I have come across a lot of mental health bloggers, all telling their different stories. Sometimes they are difficult to read because people have suffered so greatly, but they are all strong people and we all have things in common so we can support one another. And all of this makes me even more sure that I want to work in mental health. I want to make a difference.

Disclosing mental illnesses

Despite the fact that now it is a lot more “acceptable” to talk about mental illness, there is still a stigma. Even though there are laws to say that employers can’t use your mental illnesses as a reason not to give you a job etc., it doesn’t mean that isn’t sometimes a reason (it could even happen implicitly.)

I have been quite open about my issues… when I was first diagnosed, I told my work. At uni, I told my tutor, my departments etc. Close friends know (at least part of) what is going on/has happened. Most of these people don’t know the full story but they know I suffer from depression and anxiety.

I am off to Germany in 2 weeks, to a place where no one knows anything about me.

They don’t know that I have depression or anxiety, they don’t know any of it at all. And now I have to decide who needs to know and who doesn’t.

For example, I’m staying with a family for at least the first month… do they need to know? At first I thought not. And then I realised I probably should warn them about me screaming in the night sometimes (as it has happened a few times recently.) But how would I explain that? 

And what about the school I’m going to be working in? Or the university I’ll be enrolling at? Or the friends I make there?

Who needs to know? Or maybe the better question is, who do I want to know?

I would love to not tell any of them, and for everything to run smoothly, without my depression and anxiety affecting me in a major way… but is that realistic? Probably not.

I know that if I start struggling I need to reach out for help and support straight away, not wait until I literally have had enough and have booked myself on the next flight home. But what if I tell them and they judge me? What if I tell them and then I’m fine – I’ll look like I’m lying. What if I don’t tell them and then I need help?

Too many questions. And I don’t know the right answer to any of them. I don’t know how understanding/supportive they would/will be. I just don’t know!