Living With Anxiety At University

It’s that time of year again and Freshers is rolling in and the lectures are starting. For some people this is the best kind of time and there is loads of excitement about starting uni/college or heading back again for another year. But for some people this isn’t all fun and games. With the lifestyle changes that come with going to uni/college, this can have it’s effects on your mental health and take it from me, it can be rough.

For me, starting uni causes me so much anxiety and changes in my mood in general. With the new sleep pattern of having to get up at half 6 rather than just whenever I wanted to and then not getting home until 6ish- it’s a lot for my little brain to deal with. For the first week I just felt shock to the system and just confused at where my brain was at but now I’m in the my third week, I just feel concentrated anxiety and have constant mood swings. Getting used to the student lifestyle takes a while for the brain to process the same way another change does. But for someone who has a mental illness, this can be so much harder and can take a while longer to adjust to cope with the change.

At the moment, I have had anxiety in almost every situation of uni- getting to uni and getting on a packed train, walking into lecture halls, taking notes, socialising with other students, working as a group in group work exercises… Literally everything. For me I know that this will pass and that my anxiety cannot hurt me. It is just something that is happening right now and that I have to deal with and then let it pass. How do I cope with it? Well, not very well haha! But, I do have some ways to help calm myself and the anxiety when I am really anxious. I have a playlist on my phone of mindfulness and meditation exercises that listen to and practise. So when I’m at my worst I will just sit down, put my earphones in and do a quick 5-10 minute meditation. I currently use meditations created by Alayna Fender (Miss Fenderr) as part of her Patreon scheme. Alayna is a trainer in Mindfulness and Self Compassion and has recorded mediations for her viewers and these are the best ones for me. Her voice is just the best for calming yourself during the meditations and she is just an amazing person and YouTuber all together. If you are interested in getting these mediations, click here to find out more info.

I am happy to say that I am actually partnering with a company called ReviewsBee in this blog to help bring you reviews and recommendations of the best earphones that you can use during these mediations. ReviewsBee got in touch with me a few months ago about writing this blog but it’s taken me a while to find the right time and topic to talk about! So thank you to them for giving me that inspiration to blog again.

Okay, back to the topic. For me, the thing to remember with anxiety is that it can’t harm you and anxiety is just a natural response to a situation. Yes, some people, like myself have more severe anxiety than a typical person would have but there are ways that this can be treated and managed. My advice for anyone who is trying to support someone with anxiety is to give them time and the extra space they may need and most importantly, listen to them. The power of listening is often undermined but is it probably the most essential thing when it comes to try to support someone. Listen to what they have to say and what they need you to do to support them.

I’m going to end this blog here and get back to the wonders of university and assignments! As I’ve said in the past, I am here if anyone ever needs a chat or advice through the About Me tab or through my social media accounts.

Caitlin 🙂

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It’s Hard Sometimes

I’ll probably end up deleting this when I am feeling better but right now this is how I am feeling.

I’m struggling. I’m not sure why but I am. That’s the thing about having a mental health condition, you can feel down without any reason to, not want to get out of bed despite having a good day ahead of you. It can just take over. Either slowly enough you don’t even notice or just hit you like a brick wall you can’t get past. For me, it usually just creeps in slowly and before I know it it’s a big bundle of feelings and weight on my shoulders that seems just too much. I don’t really know why I am writing this, I guess it’s to try and get people to understand that sometimes it doesn’t matter how much therapy you do or how much medication you take, it can just get too much sometimes and that’s okay. The fact I can sit here and admit I’m struggling and let the people around me know I’m struggling is what matters. I know that I’m not in the best place and now I can try and fix it. It might be hard but I will get there. Sometimes it’s hard constantly hearing people saying ‘be positive’ when it’s the one thing you just can’t seem to do or ‘you’ll be fine’ when you know that this isn’t going away, you have a mental health condition and you are always going to have to. Yes, you can have good times in your life but sometimes accepting that this is now a part of you forever can be scary and just shit. I’ve not written this to get attention for myself but I have written it to get attention of this reality of peoples’ lives. People go through shit phases in life and having a mental health condition can mean that these shit times can be pretty bad but all I ask is for people to take time to listen and give them space. For me, I just need some space, some time to think and get myself out this rut. Having constant attention and being told to ‘stay strong’ might not help much but just people accepting I might be a little quiet and need some time on my own and I’ll ask for help when I need it is all I need from people. That might be different for others but that’s why it’s important to listen, check in with what that person actually wants and needs. Sometimes my mind just gets in a jumble like this and I just need somewhere to get it all out.

 

Sorry this isn’t my usual motivational/inspirational type posts, but this is really what it’s like for me just now I just need to try and deal it.

 

Caitlin:)

What 2016 Has Taught Me

2016 was definitely full of ups and downs for me and it certainly pushed me to my limits. Dealing with stresses and just generally struggling with things, my mental health suffered for it and I reached breaking point in July, which was the worst experience of my life. I’ve always felt like I’ve managed to get by but at that point I was completely broken, I was just a mess. I lost any fight I had left in me and couldn’t even deal with just living never mind doing anything else. However, I managed with support from those closest to me to get myself back up and actually see value in my life again. I’m not saying for a minute that it was easy because it was far from it. It took me over a week to even think about leaving the house myself and then I had to think about going back to work and trying to feel ‘normal’ again. It felt like it took a lifetime and I still have some struggles now. In a way I am glad that I reached that point, because it wasn’t until that happened that anyone from the mental health team even bothered to see me and within days of being at that point, I had seen a psychiatrist and had an actual diagnosis for what my mental health. Reaching that point has made me more determined to never be in that placed again and hopefully with have the right support in place now it never will. Yeah, that might mean having to go for therapy all the time and being on medication but it helps, so why wouldn’t I?

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Last year I set myself a challenge to write down all the good memories of 2016 and put them in a jar and open them at the end of the year and I managed it! In total I have 164 memories I have written down which I feel is quite a lot, especially with the setbacks I faced throughout the year. After reading through them all, it’s lifted my mood so much, reading about the good days I’d forgotten about and laughing at the stupid things I done last year like trying roller derby and ended up in A&E within half an hour, drunken antics, getting another tattoo.. and the list goes on! It’s helped me see some positives in 2016 after it being one of the most difficult years for me.

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These memories are the ones that stick out for me, the things that have really made my 2016 along with many more. Going to gigs to see my favourite bands has been amazing, going back to uni and meeting loads of new people and making even better friends, getting to go down to Cardiff again to see the girls, having my story in the paper 3 times, being on the radio AND live TV has just been surreal, becoming a trainer in SMHFA- these are just some of the amazing things that have happened to me in 2016 and I’m so grateful for them all! It just goes to show that sometimes we focus too much on the negatives and don’t appreciate the positives enough. Despite having some dark times this year, I’ve managed to achieve so much and I’m proud of what I’ve done. This was my favourite message in my jar, one my Dad put in without me knowing.

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This just made my heart melt and makes me so grateful for the support I have around me. If it wasn’t for certain people in my life I don’t think I would’ve been able to pick myself up from that breaking point so I feel I owe them so much for helping me get better and believing in me when I couldn’t.

2016, you were a wild one and certainly pushed me to my limits but you made me a stronger, better person so thank you. You helped me realise how strong I really am and how amazing the support I have is around me. You taught me that I can do anything I set my mind to, no matter how long it takes me. You taught me that it’s okay to have shit days and that I can pick myself up from them. You taught me that I can have a mental health condition and still live life to the full.

If anyone is considering making a memory jar, I’d highly recommend it! It’s been a great thing to work on throughout the year and then to read everything now. It might be hard to keep on track but even if it’s just writing something good in it once a week, it’s something that will build up and is so rewarding at the end.

Caitlin:)

It’s Okay To..

On Monday, 21st November, See Me launched their new campaign for young people, ‘It’s Okay To’. I was on the radio and live TV that day talking about the campaign and my story and think it’s only right to write a blog about it all.

The first question I get asked is usually about the first time I experienced mental health problems. Well for me, the first time I felt I was struggling with my mental health was in first year at secondary school. I was getting bullied and my whole sense on self was crushed by it. While the bullying was taking place, I became so isolated and blamed myself for everything that was happening to me. When I tried to seek help I got told I was getting bullied because I was ‘too sensitive’ which basically made me feel like it was all my own fault. The bullying lasted about 2/3 years and the school did nothing, I was just left to deal with it and the consequences of that left me broken. I had no self-esteem, was very shy and fragile and felt like no one cared about me or what happened to me.  The effects of the bullying still stand with me now, although I feel like I’ve accepted and dealt with it all and is a distant memory now, some of the things I went through have stayed lodged in my head and I don’t think they’ll ever leave. At the time, I felt like I couldn’t talk about my mental health, purely because no one would listen. I got sent to the school counsellor but I barely ever got to see them and when I did, I would lie to people where I was going because I didn’t want anyone thinking I was crazy. So I kept it all inside like it was a dirty little secret no one could ever find out about although all I wanted to do was scream for help.

When I was about 16, I had another bad stage in my mental health and was really struggling to cope. I had no energy, motivation or any will to stay alive. Eventually I went to a GP who referred me to CAMHS. After waiting around 9 months for an appointment, I was then refused help because I wasn’t a ‘serious enough case for them to deal with’. This absolutely crushed me. The one place I felt might be able to understand and help me said I wasn’t good enough for them. This was one of the darkest stages I’ve experienced in my life and it was awful. I didn’t want to tell my friends incase they didn’t talk to me anymore and whenever I spoke to teachers I basically got told to suck it up and that “I’ll get over it soon”.  Because I was just constantly getting dismissed by teachers, I gave up trying to get people to listen to me and I think it was due to this lack of understanding and support regarding my mental health that made me think of giving up. Having it all a ‘secret’ was probably one of the hardest things I have ever done. The strain and even more damaging effect it was having on my mental health was horrendous. I can honestly say if it wasn’t for having a supportive Mum and Dad, I don’t know if I would’ve gotten through it. Thankfully I managed to pick myself up eventually and move on.

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I just can’t thank my parents enough for being there for me and actually getting me through it and still being there for me still today. I feel it just shows how important it is that young people have at least one person they can speak to and for them to listen. For me that was at home which was great, but for some young people they don’t have that luxury. I have heard from so many teachers and adults that they don’t know how to help and don’t know what to say. But that’s the thing, you don’t have to say anything, you just have to listen. Just having someone to actually listen to what you have to say and let you rant to them could be all a person needs. They don’t expect you to ‘fix’ everything and make it all go away but just listening to them and validating what they are saying can go a long way! And this is really what the campaign is really about.

Links to the campaign video and website can be found below.

It’s Okay To campaign video

Campaign website

It is so important that young people feel they can talk about mental health and get help early to stop things getting worse. For this to happen mental health needs to become the topic of conversation and for people to be able to have open and honest conversations about their mental health, whether it be good or bad experiences and for people to listen to these experiences. Listening is a skill I feel is highly undermined because it’s so simple but it is crucial in trying to support someone who is struggling with their mental health. For me, if I had just one teacher or person in school to tell me “it’s okay to feel this way” or “I’m here for you” and actually acknowledge what I was going through, I would’ve been in a much better place. It’s all about making sure that person feels valued and validated and that they know they aren’t on their own in this.

I’ve been that person that has been terrified to talk about my mental health and bottled it all up and struggled to cope, but I’m still here. Once I realised that it’s okay to have a mental health condition, it’s okay to have shit days, it’s okay to talk about how I feel, everything will be okay. I was only once I knew these things that I started to feel comfortable talking about my mental health and actually starting to feel a lot better about myself. For me, this only happened around a year and a half ago. Before then I never spoke about my mental health and apart from my parents, no one knew. And look at me now, I’m writing this blog talking about being on live TV and radio talking about mental health and raising awareness. I would’ve never thought I would get to this place and if it hadn’t been for having supportive people around me telling me it’s okay to talk about it and that it’s okay to have a mental health condition, I wouldn’t be the person I am now.

So for me, that’s why it’s so important to talk about mental health and raise awareness. I’ve been in that place and I don’t want anyone else to have to go through it. Yeah, it’s taken me a while to get to this place but it still happened. If we create a society where mental health is openly spoken about, people wouldn’t feel the need to bottle everything up and get help as early as possible. So to anyone reading this, your mental health matters and people do care, sometimes it’s just finding the right person to speak to and even if you haven’t found that person yet, you will find that person eventually.

It’s okay not to be okay

Caitlin:)

World Mental Health Day

It’s World Mental Health today so I thought I’d write a blog about it. Struggling with my mental health is something I have to deal with daily. Someone said to me last week ‘Caitlin, you’re always saying you’re tired’ and that’s just it, I AM always tired. Everything can feel like such an effort and overwhelming. Since starting uni again I feel I haven’t had a minute to breathe with keeping up with all my notes, lab reports and going to uni 9-5 four days a week. My mental health really has suffered for it. The constant anxiety being around crowds all the time, the lack on concentration when I’m constantly studying, the early starts and late finishes exhausting me, the lab reports and studying taking over any time I need to rest. This is the reality of it all. I love being back at uni and it has been amazing meeting new friends and being given something to work towards again but it has all come at a price.

Having a mental health condition isn’t just feeling sad or just having a bad day, it’s feeling emotionally drained every day, not wanting to get up in the morning because you just can’t face having to do anything. It can feel like there is no happiness left in your life, making a simple smile feel like a massive effort. You lose interest in everything, even the things you love the most. You can feel trapped in darkness and can’t see any light, like it’s eating you up inside, taking a part of you everyday. Constantly fighting the negative thoughts in your mind that make you feel worthless and drag your down further and further. Having to deal with this everyday and trying to lead a ‘normal’ life can be exhausting and seem like too much to deal with, like there’s no point in living.

Although it can all feel like too much and like nothing will ever get better, it does. Yeah at the moment I’m having my struggles, but there’s been times where things have been good and I know that can happen again. It sounds so cliché but things do get better. Recovery isn’t a straight line, it has its ups and downs but things will gradually improve!

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Today is all about raising awareness and for people to feel comfortable enough to speak out and get the support they need. Speaking out for that first time can be the most terrifying thought but it has the biggest reward. Having that weight lifted off your shoulders and knowing you aren’t alone and someone is there is honestly the best feeling. Your mental health is important and your feelings are valid. It doesn’t matter how big or small you feel the issue is, it’s important.

If you are struggling right now with a mental health condition, I’m sorry you have to go through it all but I hope that things improve for you soon, recovery is possible.

If you know someone with a mental health condition, all it takes is a simple ‘are you okay?’ to start the conversation and to help someone. I don’t ask that you then become their personal counsellor but just to listen to them is the key. People don’t want you to fix them or tell them to ‘cheer up’, just to be there, listen and accept that they are struggling.

It’s okay not to be okay

 

Caitlin:)

 

#MyUnfilteredLife

So recently, See Me have launched the #MyUnfilteredLife campaign in which they want people to post their ‘unfiltered’ photos on social media.

When we’re online we all love to show off our good times and the things that make us smile, and that’s great, there is nothing wrong in sharing what makes us happy.

However we really think that showing the mundane or less perfect side to life can be good too. Only seeing how great other people’s lives are on social media can make us feel worse about our own life. 

Seeing that it is okay to share how you really feel and that speaking about mental health is a good thing, could make a huge difference to someone struggling alone.

Life isn’t perfect, we all have ups and downs and it’s okay not to be okay.

This is from one of See Me’s Facebook posts about the campaign.

I’ve posted a few photos for the campaign already but here’s one for today.

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#myunfilteredlife My anxiety levels are really high and stress levels are through the roof. Currently on my second train of three travelling down to Cardiff by myself. I’ve been stressing worrying if I’m going to get on the right trains at the right times, whether I’ve packed everything I need, whether I’ll have enough spending money, whether I’ve remembered to bring my meds with me- all sorts are going through my mind but I know that I’m just overthinking everything. I am going down to Cardiff to see some of my friends that I met through social media over four years ago now. And before anyone says it, yes, I know what I’m doing and have already been down to see them before. Staying in this really nice hostel I stayed in the last time and I’m just looking forward to be with the girls and enjoy myself! My meds got increased on Friday so I’m just hoping that I don’t have any more side effects and can actually have a good time. Also have a lot of nerves about going back to uni on Monday after not being there for over a year! So yeah, a lot of stress and anxiety today but I’ll get through it

 

Seeing people get involved in the campaign and sharing their stories, it has made me think a lot more about social media and the way we use it. Social media has become a major part of peoples’ lives nowadays. We document our whole lives on social media; when we get a job, get into a relationship, or even just simple things about how crap the weather is or about what you are watching on the TV. And if we aren’t tweeting about our own lives we are reading about everyone else’s! We have gotten into this habit where we feel we have to tell the world when something happens and expect to ‘like’ the posts to show that they’ve seen it and are happy for you. Not that I’m saying anything is wrong with that, it’s important to share the milestones in our lives and for people to be happy for you, but it’s good to talk about when things aren’t great.

Social media accounts can be a false perception of what our lives are like. For example, I recently posted about being in the papers talking about mental health and it being a whole two page spread and people were congratulating me and telling me how amazing it was  but actually around that time I had just started new medication and felt awful. I would feel really dizzy and as if I was drunk all the time. That same day the pictures got taken for the papers, I felt completely dissociated from myself and felt really quite ill. Personally I feel there is this expectation for people to think your life is perfect and any flaw is seen as a weakness. That day I felt that a lot, I had to act like I was fine because that’s the way I wanted people to perceive me, like I was coping and that I was at my best. But really being in media and being called a ‘mental health campaigner’ and also being someone who suffers from a mental health condition and has a lot of struggles in the past few months are two very different perceptions of my life but both deserve the equal amount of recognition.

I think it’s about time that people can post about when they have a shit day and people feel okay about doing it and others are supportive it too. If this false perception of peoples’ lives is broken away and the real life begins to flourish people could begin to feel so much better within themselves. Being able to rant when things aren’t going right and getting it all out and then getting support and guidance from the people you know can be really comforting and could get the issue out your system instead of every shit day getting bottled up inside you and things getting worse. I know that from people in articles and some of my blog posts that the support I’ve gotten from people has been amazing. Especially when it’s from people you don’t expect. Although I do have the odd rant or two, it’s about time that I become more comfortable talking about the bad days too. Breaking the habit can be hard but I know that in the long run, it might actually make me feel so much more positive.

So if there’s one thing you should take from that blog is to be more honest with how life is. Whether it be things are going great or you feel you are in a bit of a rut, you can talk about it. It’s okay not to be okay.

Caitlin:)

 

The Reality of Having a Mental Health Condition

Although I haven’t blogged in a while about mental health, I have been thinking a lot lately about mental health and how people perceive others with mental health conditions. Being a victim of stigma against my mental health and seeing others being stigmatised seems to be a common occurrence and it saddens me that this stigma still exists. Being made to feel like a lesser being or ‘insane’ on a regular basis can be exhausting and tiresome, constantly having to try to validate yourself and your health to others.

The past week or two has been a difficult time for me in regards to my mental health. My mood just seemed to be getting worse and worse and everything became a lot to handle. I knew that things were slipping and that I needed to go to my GP. Before I even had the chance to, I hit rock bottom. I had a breakdown and was in a crisis with my mental health. To be honest, I have never felt so scared and vulnerable in all my life. I felt like a young child again, depending on my parents and those around me to look after me because I was in no fit state to look after myself. I had to receive help from the mental health crisis team, who had to come out and access my situation, keep in touch with me through phone calls and visits and helped me get the professional help I needed. I am still currently in touch with the crisis team as things aren’t over yet. Only just today did I manage to go down town by myself without having any sort of anxiety attack or fear. It has taken me a week to be able to do this and was still quite an ordeal to make sure I could manage myself while out and about. It was only 3 days ago I could even leave the house myself never mind go anywhere. My mental health had taken over my life and I felt like I had lost control of myself and everything around me. I was completely debilitated by it and felt trapped inside my own head. Although I have gained some control back, I am still trying to get back to my ‘normal’ self. This will probably still take a while but I am just glad to have some sense of normality back in my life.

Having a mental health condition is probably the most difficult thing I’ve had to deal with in my life and it has never been an easy thing to deal with. It can be so unpredictable, one minute I can be happy and the next minute I could be in tears. One small comment could knock me off for weeks. I can have difficulty sleeping, either too much or too little which then affects my concentration. I can all of a sudden feel angry with no reason explanation as to why I feel that way. Every day can be a battle and one that can be a lot harder than others from day-to-day. Having to deal with all of this can be exhausting, having to put up with your own thoughts everyday and having to try to lead a ‘normal’ life at the same time. Putting a smile on your face and having to act like you are okay when sometimes all you want to do is burst into tears. That is the reality of a mental health condition. That is what people have to put up with day in day out. Can you imagine dealing with all that then having to deal with the stigma attached to it as well?

I now know that I will have a mental health condition for the rest of my life, which is a hard thing to swallow but something that I will learn to come to terms with. However, it is not something I am ashamed of nor should anyone be. People can have long-term and short-term physical health conditions and it’s the same with mental health. I understand that the knowledge given to people during school/college etc. on mental health is generally quite poor, but I don’t think that is an excuse for people to stigmatise others for having mental health conditions. At the end of the day, EVERYONE has mental health, whether it be good or bad so why is it acceptable that people can be judged for having poor mental health? People would never think about saying that someone in a wheelchair should ‘just try to walk’ so why should people with mental health conditions continually be told to ‘just think positive’. If it was that simple, mental health conditions wouldn’t exist and neither would general bad days either! I do not expect anyone to have in-depth knowledge about mental health and to be politically correct all the time when talking about mental health but all I ask is for people to try and understand how mental health effects people and to respect and validate mental health as something with equal importance to physical health. As you will have guessed, I am quite open about my mental health and I am willing to answer peoples’ questions if they have any because I feel it’s important the people ask those questions to get a better understanding and more knowledge about mental health.

I wrote this blog not to scare people or to try to make people feel sorry for me but to show people that this is what is actually like to have a mental health condition. People can have ups and downs and sometimes those downs can be very serious. It can be hard enough having to deal with the condition itself without having to deal with constant comments like it’s just an excuse to be lazy or get attention when it’s far from it. I just ask for people to be more mindful with it comes to mental health and try to not stigmatise against it.

Just because someone has poor mental health, it doesn’t make them any less of a person.

Caitlin 🙂