Lots and lots of reading

At the start of the year I set myself the challenge to read 50 books, so nearly 1 a week! I’ve been doing lots of reading, and have just finished book number 43. I really love reading and I think it has massive benefits for my mental health. I love being able to escape into a different world, and I always feel I learn so much from books, whether they are fiction or non-fiction. I also read on my Kobo e-reader before I go to sleep and have found this has really helped my sleep – I read until my eyes start to shut and then I can close the case and fall asleep. (Warning: this doesn’t work when reading a thriller – I have found myself still awake hours later because I just have to find out what happens!!)

So far this year, my favourite fiction books have been:

  • The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins
  • Me before you – JoJo Moyes
  • Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine – Gail Honeyman
  • Sweet little lies – Caz Frear
  • After the fire – Will Hill

And non-fiction:

  • Everything I know about love – Dolly Alderton
  • The life changing magic of not giving a fuck – Sarah Night

I am always looking for book recommendations, so let me know your favourites! I was also thinking about writing some book reviews, so let me know if that’s something you’d like to read!

Here is my current “to read” pile, and I also have “Get your shit together – Sarah Knight” waiting on my Kobo e-reader. Now the only decision is which to read next!

Love,

Ellie xx

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Make small changes

I found myself sitting there thinking as I have done so many times before “I’m sick and tired of being so tired!” And I think to myself, this can’t be all life is… Is my life really going to be me waking up, pushing myself to function like a normal human but feeling tired all the while, then going to bed and getting hours and hours of sleep which does nothing to energise or replenish? It’s a glass-half-empty view, but possibly an accurate one.

I am taking a long hard look at myself, at my life at the moment. I realised that in 50 years, I don’t want to look back at my life and only see anxiety and depression. I don’t want to be held back by it (or any other of my collection of health issues) anymore than necessary. My low mood and fatigue seem to be dominating my life, and that doesn’t seem fair.

But the thing is, life just carries on. Life will just pass me by if I don’t take an active part. I can spend my life hating myself and feeling sorry for myself that things aren’t how I want them to be. Or, I can start making small changes to help myself.

Obviously, I’m not saying I can just get rid of my anxiety and depression by trying harder, that’s not what I mean. I also do not want to say this so casually as though I don’t understand the devastating effects of mental ill health because I really do. I see it everyday in my job and I live it every day myself.

So I don’t have a choice in that bit, I realistically will always have at least a tendency towards depression and anxiety… it will always be there. But I can change my attitude. I can change the way I look at things, focus on what I can do instead of what I can’t. I can make small changes to make my life easier and potentially happier. It’s worth a shot at least.

The first thing I’m going to do is try to track my time for a couple of weeks. I want to find out where all my time goes because I really don’t know.

The second thing I really really want to achieve, is not snoozing my alarm. If I just got up when it went off instead of pressing snooze and going back to sleep, I know I’d have a better start to the day. I would be less drowsy, less rushed and less stressed. I’m going to make a really conscious effort with that this week – I’ll let you know how it goes.

If anyone has any tips on small changes to improve your life, let me know! I’d also love to hear any ideas about getting up in the morning – I’ve already got a sunrise clock so the room is bright when I wake up, and I’ve moved it across the room so that I have to get out of bed to turn it off, but I STILL SNOOZE IT AND GO BACK TO SLEEP!!

Love,

Ellie xx

Ramblings of a sad person

(Just to warn you, this is a long and rambling post with no particular point. I just needed to get this out)

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I try to remember how lucky I am to have the life I have. I have a great family, great friends, a safe and happy place to live, a job I like etc etc.

But when I get in a mood like I am today, none of that matters. In fact, that probably makes things worse because I feel so guilty, so ungrateful that I am unhappy when I have so much.

Today I feel very low, lost and lonely. I know that when I am over tired, I feel worse. I know that at the moment I am over tired.

But I have this pent up energy inside me – a negative energy, that I don’t know how to release. I feel so angry, so much pain and a lot of sadness. I feel frustrated about small things that don’t matter, but most of all I am angry with myself. I hate myself for not being ok. I hate myself for being depressed when I have such a good life. I hate myself and feel embarrassed that 9 months after the break up I’m still sitting on my bedroom floor crying tonight.

I don’t want to need him. I don’t want to need anyone but I feel so stuck. I know I need to learn to be happy in myself. I know that there are actually times when I feel quite good. I know this will pass.

I know all of this but none of it helps.

I know that what I really need is a good nights sleep and to wake up refreshed tomorrow. I also know that when I feel like this, the chance of that happening is slim to none.

I am trying to distract myself. I did a mindfulness meditation, it actually helped a bit but now the crying has started and there’s no end in sight!

The people I usually talk to when I’m feeling really down are on holiday at the moment, and I don’t want to bother them while they’re away.

I wrote in my journal which helped a bit but I don’t know how to stop. So here I am typing away on my phone. Writing a post of rambling that I don’t know if I’ll post.

Sometimes letting it all out helps. Maybe I needed a cry. Maybe things have been bubbling for too long and the pressure has built up and needed to be released.

I have also had 3 or 4 weeks without a therapy session. My next one is Wednesday, so not long to go.

I want to be ok. I want to have my shit together. I want to be over the break up. I want to be positive, look forward to the future and appreciate all the good.

Tomorrow is new week, a new day. Let’s hope for a good one!

Love,

Ellie xx

My mindfulness journey

I lost my mindfulness streak on the app I use. Part of me is so angry, i was at 309 days… so close to a year!

But it doesn’t matter. At first my mindfulness was a goal, a desire not to lose my streak of days in a row on the app. But now it’s part of my life, and almost every morning and often in the evenings, I sit and take a few minutes to do a mindfulness meditation on my Stop, Breathe and Think app.

I am away at the moment, half way across the world, it’s a scout thing which means practically no time to myself for nearly 3 weeks. I’ve managed to do my mindfulness most days, but I’ve missed a couple (hence the end of my days in a row streak!)

But I’m ok with that. Now meditation is not a chore to be done, but a tool I can use, and that I know helps me. The realisation that the streak doesn’t matter is a freeing one, and it has made me smile.

I have been staying in some beautiful places, up in the mountains with views for miles and miles, and I’ve spent ages just taking it all in. At night, I’ve sat and looked at the beautiful star filled sky, and taken time to be present. That is mindfulness.

I’m really pleased that mindfulness has become a genuine part of my life, and I intend to spend much more time taking in the simple, natural beauties in life, and just being instead of constantly running like a hamster in a wheel.

Love,

Ellie xxx

Beautiful mountains

Trying to learn to love myself

I am meant to be learning to love myself. I really don’t, but I am trying to learn.

My self confidence is poor. The problem is I get sucked into it very easily, as it’s my default. For example, I emailed my manager about some training, did some research on options and sent it on to her. She responded asking if I think it’s what we need as she’s not sure (because she’s not the one working on this topic). I read this as “you are wrong” and start doubting myself. I have since spent a lot of time doing more research of different options and spoken to other colleagues who agreed that the training would be useful. And yet it took me absolutely ages to type up this email explaining why it would be useful to send back to my manager.

My self-confidence is so fragile that the tiniest thing can shatter it. I’ve got it in my head at the moment that I am seen as the least capable staff member in my team. I don’t know if that’s true. I don’t know if anyone thinks that. I am scared that my manager thinks I’m crap.

I really struggle to be positive about myself even though I know I have reasons to be sometimes. I am constantly comparing myself to others or wondering (and assuming) what others think of me. I am not assertive and I really struggle to stand up for myself. The slightest perceived rejection and I back right down.

This is something I need to work on! In my Bullet journal I added a new section for this week – learn to love yourself. I’m making a conscious effort as my therapist suggested that I start writing something about myself that I like every day. It’s really hard. I find myself writing things like “I like my dress” but actually, that’s not about me because I like the dress rather than how I look in it.

It’s much easier for me to write a list of things I hate about myself. I wish I wasn’t so negative about myself. I think this self-criticism is so natural to me that I sort of assumed everyone was like that… I sort of thought “normal” people are self deprecating and see themselves negatively… apparently that’s not true. Apparently there are people that can see the positives as well as the negatives, (there are obviously those people who only see their positives, but that’s a whole other topic on narcissism which I’m not going into today!) and who might actually see themselves as worthy people. Who knew?!

Love,

Ellie xx

Good start to the day

I think what I eat plays a massive part in how I feel. I know that when I feel low or tired (or both), I go on a sugar binge. I struggle to eat sweet things in moderation, and tend to eat lots which then makes me feel even worse.

I have started eating healthy lunches and breakfasts, especially on weekdays as I take my food to work. That way, even if when I eat a load of biscuits etc from our table of treats, at least I’ve eaten lots of fruit and veg too.

For breakfast I usually have fruit, yoghurt and a handful of bran flakes or granola. It’s delicious and healthy, and I think it’s more filling than just a bowl of cereal.

Strawberries, banana, cherry yoghurt and bran flakes

Strawberries, banana, cherry yoghurt and bran flakes – starting the day right

What do you have for breakfast?

Love,

Ellie xx

Memories in a jar

At the beginning of the year, I wrote that I was going to write a happy memory each day and put them all in a jar.

If I am being honest, I did not really think I would stick to it, but I have. I have barely missed a day, and have even taken squares of paper when I have been away from home so I can still write down a memory each day.

Sometimes it’s bloody hard to find something. Sometimes it’s really easy. There have been good days and bad days.

I filled up my first jar. Managed to cram in memories from January until June. I’ve bought another jar the same for the second half of the year. One jar is full of memories, another is empty – full of possibilities.

Love,

Ellie xx

Reading challenge: the halfway mark

I set myself the challenge to read 50 books this year. It’s a lot, but I read a lot so thought it would be doable! I am currently reading my 28th book of the year – I am just over half way through my reading challenge, and just over half way through the year… right on target!

I am taking book recommendations and trying to read things which I might not naturally pick up. I joined an online book club, so generally try to read the books they set, and then every time I hear a book recommendation I write it down, add it to my list of ‘to read’

I have a page in my bullet journal where I write down the book title and author, which month I read it in, and a star rating out of 5. I don’t think I’m a great reviewer though, as the vast majority have received 4 stars! (A few have 3 or less, and so far only 2 have got my 5 star rating!)

I wanted to make a list of some of my favourite books so far this year, and also to ask for any recommendations!

* * * * * * * *

My favourites so far (which I gave a 5 star review) are:

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Obviously I’m not going to give any plot spoilers, but this was a beautifully written book with good pace. I could not stop myself reading it. I haven’t seen the film, so I didn’t know the story.

The way she builds the characters is incredible, leading you to form judgements and then throwing in a curveball that changes your mind here and there through the book.

I am looking forward to reading more of Paula Hawkins’ writing, she brought out a book called Into the Water in 2017. It’s going on my list!

* * * * * * * *

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

I am gutted that this is Gail Honeyman’s debut book because I am desperate to read more of her writing. It really draws you in, I laughed and I cried and felt all the feels.

I have recommended this book so many times already (only read it in May), and started recommending it when I was only half way through, which to me is the sign of a pretty exceptional book.

When asked what the book is about, it’s hard to explain – it’s just about a woman and her life, but it is written so well, the character feels so real and it’s all so vivid. It’s the kind of book where you are completely immersed in the story, it becomes real, and then suddenly you come back to reality and realise you are sat on the tube and missed your stop!

There is a particular plot twist which I got to one night, I was almost falling asleep before I read it… AND THEN SUDDENLY I HAVE NEVER BEEN SO AWAKE IN MY LIFE! At this point I decided I would have to finish the book, as there was no way I’d be getting back to sleep any time soon.

* * * * * * * *

I have been reading a few mental health/wellbeing related books too this year, as I have an interest both personally and professionally in mental health. I like to read them so I can recommend books to my clients that I have actually read rather than just off reviews!

I am always looking for new suggestions of books to add to my list, so please let me know what you’ve been reading and can recommend!

Love,

Ellie xx

Fatigue 1, Ellie 0

Can’t concentrate at work today. I feel tired and anxious. Pain is bad too so I came in late.

I don’t know what has brought this on. I feel the need to eat a load of crap. Last night I ate a load of chocolate. Then I always feel sick and hate myself more. I don’t know why I do it.

I have lots of ideas for blog posts but for some reason I’m struggling to get them written. I have nearly finished a post about my book challenge so far, as we have just passed the half way point of 2018! Actually, I have lots of ideas in general and things I need to get done, but I’m finding myself procrastinating instead.

The fatigue is hard today. My body feels heavy, tired and achy. I just want to crawl into bed. Only 3 hours left at work then I can go home to pyjamas, dinner and a pre-football nap!

Love,

Ellie

When you least expect it

I was on training today at work. It was based on Compassion Focused Therapy, and I found it really interesting. I can really identify with the model and I want to learn more about it.

I knew that a lot of it resonates with me, but I didn’t expect what happened. At work I have my shit together (most of the time anyway), and I don’t like to bring my issues to work, particularly in front of a group of colleagues.

We were doing a visualisation about the compassionate other. We had to imagine the “ideal” compassionate other – the characteristics they would have, it could be a real person we know or imagined. Obviously this threw up some stuff for me. The description of strong, caring and committed reminded me of S, of what S used to be to me.

He was my compassionate other, he made up for my lack of self-compassion, and obviously I don’t have him anymore. At one point I realised I had tears streaming down my face. I was getting panicky, I half ran out of the room, to the toilets. By that point I was hyperventilating, full panic attack and I couldn’t stop crying.

I kept telling myself I need to stop because I’m at work. I managed to slow my breathing eventually. Tried to get the tears under control. But the voice in my head, the self-critic, was so loud. It spiralled:

You’re pathetic

You are a failure. You can’t even get through training at work, how can you do your job?

You’re a hypocrite. You want to help others but you’re a mess yourself

You are alone and always will be.

You messed up your chance at happiness

You don’t deserve to be happy, you don’t deserve to be loved

No one will ever fill that space.

How can you be a therapist when you can’t even manage your own shit? You should give up.

Others must think you are incompetent, broken, a mess.

I hate you

You are a failure. You are not good enough. You are unlovable.

It was pretty intense. Some of my colleagues came to see if I was ok, I felt very embarrassed. I am absolutely mortified that this happened at work.

My brain took me straight to some difficult places. I thought about hurting myself. My self-talk was so negative, so critical, so angry – I know I would never speak to anyone else like that. It made me doubt myself in so many ways – professionally, as a person, as a friend, the list goes on.

I don’t know if I’ve written about this on my blog, but in September I am due to start training as a CBT therapist. Today I genuinely considered emailing them and saying i won’t be taking my place on the course. I’m terrified. If a 2 day introduction to compassion focused therapy training can do this to me, how will I cope with training as a therapist? Maybe I can’t do it, maybe I’m not doing as well as i thought I was.

I was not very self-compassionate today, which was ironic given the topic of the training.

I didn’t expect a response like that at all. I knew it might press a few buttons, but this was a physical response. I had no control of my tears and no control of my breathing. I got pins and needles in my hands and felt dizzy. It had been several months since my last panic attack, and I had almost forgotten how horrible they are.

This was nicely followed up with a migraine this evening. I feel exhausted mentally and physically. I’m trying to be kind to myself now… I am having a quiet evening, reading my book, had a sleep to try to get rid of the migraine. I have texted my therapist to tell her what happened, I want to talk about it in our next session: I clearly have issues around compassion, around attachments and around S (duh!!) which need to be dealt with.

Love,

Ellie xx