I need help

So tonight, as a sit awake at half 3, wired. I’ve had two herbal sleeping tablets, a few shots of gin and nothing. I’ve cried, unsure why anxiety isn’t letting me sleep.

I’ve decided I do need to go back on anxiety medication, just to get me started. I have a therapy session booked in with a CBT therapist in a couple of weeks and I’m doing a little CBT each day but I need help. I can no longer do this on my own.

The last week has been tough, the presentation made me realise how little I have dealt with this, passing it over to the side and I’ve been overwhelmed this last week.

I’m feeling pressurised by my job, I want to do well, I enjoy it. The people are lovely and I feel valued, for the first time in about 3 years I want to work hard and I want to acheive. But it does mean I’m adding an additional layer of stress to myself but regardless I enjoy it. Plus I’m busy, being idle is my enemy, I’m no good at it.

So back to now, I’ve not had a great week, I’m actually scared to go to bed. Scared of a bad nights sleep, scared to toss and turn. Why am I scared? Poor sleep equals poor performance, poor performance equals failure, failure equals disappointment and I don’t want to let anyone down. So slowly, after the last week, my sleep has got worse. I have plans in place to help my anxiety but unfortunately they require waiting. Doctors, therapists, even sleeping tablets and alcohol need time to work, I needed a now.

I rang the samaritans. To be honest, I felt like a fraud, I’m not suicidal. I have thought about it this week as the anxiety is so great I see it as my only way out, the only way it will end but I would never do it, not in my current state. I wouldn’t do it to those around me. But I needed to talk, I needed to say to someone I feel really, really shit, I can’t even do the basics. And he was great, I mean he has no idea what phone line he is answering, I was probably quite a nice one, I just needed a chat but I dread to think who was on the line after me. We spoke for about 40 minutes and he calmed me down, I started the call a crying mess and ended it still a mess, but a mess that can get through it all. I’ve got this far, I can do so much more. I need to remember eaeach day just how strong I am, OCD and anxiety doesn’t make me weak, it makes me so much stronger. I’m just having an incredibly tough time, he also said I needed to be kinder to myself. I give myself such a hard time, expecting nothing less than perfection which I cannot achieve. I need to stop striving for what everyone else has and focus on what is right for me. I’ve spent years focussing on what others expect of me I’ve neglected myself. I put a front on that everything is ok, it’s not, I’m not ok and that’s ok. I have terrible self esteem my weekly running mileage is creeping up because I’m desperate to be skinny as everything will be ok then but I eat shit because I feel bad about it all. I still enjoy the runs but there is so much pressure to do it that I can’t miss one. Still, we’ll get through it, we’ll go on medication and I’ll go on medication, I will get better.

I’m always happy to chat and you can drop me a message on the ‘Contact’ tab, however I am not a mental health professional and if you would like this support please see the ‘Support’ tab.

Sorry I’ve been quiet

It feels an age since I wrote anything here, to be honest I’ve been cheating on my blog. I’m speaking at a mental health get together thing this weekend so my mind has been focussed on writing my presentation for that. The presentation is now all written, just need to learn it! I don’t want it to sound like I’m repeating it parrot fashion however I also don’t want to stand there with no clue what to say, sweating as random strangers stare at me. Therefore I’m aiming for well rehearsed winging it.

How am I? Ok I think, I’ve been nice and anxious about several things. Started the new job and loved the herbal sleeping tablets which are a habit I need to kick, I’m at least not mixing them with alcohol so that’s a step. However my will power is weak at half 1 in the morning when I need to be up before 6 and the anxious sweats are not fun. I’ve also started dreaming about the wedding next year, so far it’s included the hotel not having my room and needing to bunk in with my mum and step-dad followed by my dad getting drunk with the chef and refusing to walk me down the aisle. If this is how it is a year out, I can just predict how bad I’ll be next year. Goes hand in hand with this, naturally I’m panicking about Gary, do I love him? How do I know? Can I put up with his bad habits forever? When will I cheat on him? Will we end up hating each other? I’m powering on regardless, trying to ignore the thoughts. I stayed away from home the other day at a sales conference and I was terrified of cheating on him. It’s not unheard of me to hook up with a colleague on a night out and so the evidence is there to say I have acted that way before, why wouldn’t I do it now? Do I love Gary enough? Who bloody knows.

I’m also feeling the pressure, the thought of children is suddenly becoming very real, this time next year I’ll be a wife and society immediately starts asking you when you’re going to have kids. I mean, my sister-in-law got married at the beginning of this month and I’ve already asked her when she will have my little niece or nephew. I don’t feel ready at all, I’m exercising a lot to try and burn off my little belly without reducing the amount I eat and I won’t be able to exercise as much with a child, will I hate the way I look? I don’t like my body now, it depresses me and I don’t feel attractive, will this only get worse?

So there we have it, I haven’t been here but I’ve definitely been struggling. There’s a lot going on and I think writing the presentation has brought to the fore unresolved feelings that I haven’t wanted to face the feelings. If I put them down here I have to start processing them, see them for what they are, whereas leaving them in my head I can just brush them to the side.

So sorry I’ve been quiet, I’ll try to be more talkative going forward!

If you’d like to chat, feel free to reach out via the ‘Contact’ tab, however I am not a mental health professional and if you would like this support please see the ‘Support’ tab.

I don’t have to be beautiful like you…

It’s something I wrote a few months ago on an old blog but wanted to bring the words here, as think they’re becoming increasingly important in the world of filtered selfies and zealous over-sharing of only the good things in life.

“I’m beautiful like me.’

Words I read this morning.

I don’t plan what I’m going to write on these blogs, I wanted to write today but didn’t know what to write about. I like to wait until something inspires me or something happens. Something inspired me today. I was scrolling through Facebook, and there was the usual, cats, dogs, cakes, gin, someone went on holiday, someone got engaged, etc etc etc. Then a video of a larger set woman posing in a bikini in a changing room with her daughter in the corner also trying on a top when she asked her mother if she agreed that she looked beautiful. The video started explaining their trip to the shop that day, how the girl had been polite, kind and complimentary to everyone she met. Why? She was imitating her mother, her mum was kind, polite and complimentary to those she met, friends and strangers, the young girl had watched this and learnt that this was the way to treat people.

Her mum had also told her every day that she was beautiful, so the girl thought nothing else. She was beautiful. The mum was going to comment on her own appearance, say she felt fat and ugly, but bit her tongue, if the child would pick up on the positive behaviour she would almost certainly pick up on the negative behaviour. So she said she was beautiful, she felt fat, but said she was beautiful. She didn’t want her daughter thinking anything else, she was beautiful. The mother realised how important what she said and how she acted was on other people.

If she was mean, rude and offensive, her daughter would copy this, if she felt bad about herself and consistently said negative things about herself, her daughter would copy this. Then it’s only a case of falling down a rabbit warren of the thoughts becoming your own reality. True or not. The mother then realised she was beautiful, not in someone else’s definition, but for her own definition. She was kind, polite and had raised a child to be this also, she has confidence, self-esteem and empathy, she is beautiful.

I, naturally, related this to me. I have low self-esteem, my brain has a split personality of incredibly arrogant and pitifully low self-opinion. I want to be thinner, I won’t, my bones won’t allow it. I want to be kinder, more generous, more careful, thoughtful, less shallow and worried about what people think. I want to be beautiful like you, not beautiful like me. But I think the words have such power, 7 billion people in this world and only one Serena Moden. Actually is, I’ve checked, but even if there were more, I’m Serena 1.0, the only one, the one with OCD and from Ely, the one with a crazy family and a penchant for being witty, the one that likes gin and cries when someone else cries. I’m the only one and that in itself is beautiful. I will soon be beautiful like me, not beautiful like you.

You do you, you’re smashing it and I’ll do me.”

If you’s like to chat, feel free to reach out on the ‘Contact’ tab however I am not a mental health professional and if you’d like to speak to a professional, please see the ‘Support’ tab.

Control

Had a few days off blogging as been at the in-laws caravan by the coast and the signal is notoriously bad, but back today and suitably depressed in the colloquial form. Currently fed up of life. I’ll go into more detail later but currently, fed up.

Anyway, after my last post, I received messages from my running community about how they had all felt the same at some point, defeated and struggling, so I thought I’d help. I’ve recently seen Steve Bull at a conference and reached out to him for advice. If you don’t know Steve Bull, he’s a sports psychologist and author of ‘The Game Plan’. He’s worked with Olympians and sports teams like the England Cricket team keeping them focused when the anxiety bubbles. I wrote an article on a previous blog about Steve’s piece at the conference and how it had helped me, there were two main themes – attitude is a choice and controlling your controllables.

Essentially, if you’re stressed or having a bad day, it helps to strip things back to those two themes. Attitude is a choice first, I’ve always taken with a pinch of salt as someone with mental health issues as often, if I could change my attitude I would but it is grounded in rituals, avoidance behaviour and doubt but when, like today, I wake and immediately dread the day, it takes me a while but eventually I go, ‘pull yourself together, this day will only get better if you make it’. I don’t miraculously turn into a pillar of positivity but it does kick start me.

The second, control your controllables is misleading to an OCD sufferer. I’ve been taught through CBT that I am not in control of my thoughts and to try to control them is only going to make the situation worse, so when I heard this I did reject it. But as I listened to Steve, it began to make more sense, this isn’t about controlling everything, it’s controlling what you can control. He gave the example of an Olympic high jumper he worked with ahead of the gold medal test, eyes of the world on you and the pressure mounting. In that time, the Olympian is taught to focus on three things, and three things only. There is so much out of our control and this is often what causes anxiety, focussing on things we can do nothing about. As someone with an anxiety disorder, in the midst of a panic attack it’s difficult to remember this and harder to believe it but it’s true. The Olympian can’t control the weather, the other Olympians, the noise in the stadium or what people will say and think. He can control his legs, the motion in his arms and leaning back. So in the moments before his go, he is taught to focus on these three things only, high knees, pump arms, lean back. High knees, pump arms, lean back. Very simple.

I reached out to Steve for advice for those with specific mental health issues, he responded naturally with a disclaimer, same as I put at the bottom of most posts, that he is not a mental health professional but could offer some words. He’s said that controlling your controllables has proved effective when he has worked with those with mental health issues. Choosing things very specific and achievable to focus on create an air of confidence and mean you are less likely to get distracted but also, keep it simple. Plus, it may help to create small goals each day that as you achieve them will help to build confidence.

I have found his work very helpful, for example, if I’m struggling, just remembering to breathe is enough, control your breathing, deep and slow it down. My goal each day is to drink 2.5 litres of water and to make my bed. Small, but the first ensures I’m looking after the body and mind, the second means no matter what, I have accomplished something each day. Small, specific and achievable.

Ultimately, having a mental health problem is like being the Olympian. We are both facing what appears to be an insurmountable challenge, we could spend our time worrying about what everyone else thinks, pressure building, worrying about the many different outcomes there could be, focussing on failing. Or, we can boil it down to something simple, three things we can do and do our best.

If you want to chat, feel free to reach out using the ‘Contact’ tab, however, I am not a mental health professional and if you’re looking for support then please see the information available on the ‘Support’ tab.

Mental Health and Running

I have several great loves of my life but one as a child I never thought I would have because I hated it, is running. I’ve mentioned it before, I run to keep myself skinny but I actually love it.

I started properly a few years ago when I hit 25 and all of a sudden jeans that fit easily were getting tight, hangovers got a lot worse and stairs became even more difficult. I tried zumba and cycling but it never stuck so I thought I’d give running a go. I downloaded the Couch to 5k app, went out with my old trainers, cotton t-shirt and shorts, ran for 30 seconds and honestly thought I would die. Over 10 weeks, my fitness slowly increased and at the end, like the app promised, I was able to run 5k without stopping, not very fast or at all well, but I could do it. Then, the addiction starts, I can run 5k, let’s try 10k and slowly but surely you are regularly running and begin to build up your wardobe so you own more exercise clothes than normal clothes.

As normal, I got bored of running by myself and sought out my local running club. I joined with arrogance thinking I could definitely run better than most. Turns out I was distinctly average however, there were now people like me, I was trying new routes, meeting new people and happily paying for something I can do for free. Three years later, I plan my life around running, regularly participate in races and my running friends are some of my best friends, plus the online running community are some of the most supportive people I’ve come across.

However, there is another reason I run, when I was in and out of the doctors for panic attacks about sleep aged 19, looking back it was OCD, but they ‘prescribed’ exercise. Again when I was going back on medication they recommended exercise and a few weeks later I was running.

Exercise is ‘prescribed’ for many reasons, the main one being endorphins, after a run, regardless of how it went, I’m always glad I went. Even if it’s just to get outside. It forces me to remember that there are good things in the world, it might be as simple as seeing an owl early evening or watching a lightening storm as you run in the rain. It’s beautiful. Secondly, it tires the body so that when we rest we are not restless and to knacker the body forces the mind to rest. Finally, it’s just generally good for you, as you force yourself to look after your body, the rest follows, I eat better and drink less to make sure the work I’m putting in is maintained.

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Looking happy with the world at Cambridge Town and Gown 10km

However, it’s difficult. My mind is constantly telling me I’m not good enough, can’t do things and should give up. This is also the antithesis of my naturally competitive nature. Sometimes when I’m in a good place, I can run happily for miles, I am the most dogged determined person so I will get a good run done. Other times when I’m feeling low, be it due to anxiety, an OCD breakdown or just a standard bad day then I’ll struggle, really struggle. I’ll stop, walk, beat myself up, even to the point when I’m crying because I can’t do it, shouldn’t do it, feel stupid for wanting to do something I am no good at. I run with a watch and my times/distances get uploaded and I’m stupid worried about people laughing and judging me for how slow I’m going or little I’m doing, so I go faster, longer, harder, then get injured and can do nothing! But on the other side, I also cannot give up, I’ve never been a quitter, never been able to give up which usually is a great trait but it means I don’t give myself a rest.

Running is about listening to your body and mind, mine so frequently tells me if I don’t go I’ll get fat and no one will like me, tells me if I don’t go, my running friends would lose interest in me, if I don’t go then I’ll get laughed at for not even being able to run, meaning if I’m struggling, I don’t listen, don’t give myself a break.

It’s ultimately a great love of mine, but something I struggle with like most things in life. Also, remember there may be many other runners and exercise addicts out there that also struggle and it’s something to be mindful of.

If you would like to chat, feel free to reach out in the ‘Contact’ tab, however, I am not a mental health professional and if you would like professional help, please see the ‘Support’ tab.