Why forcing yourself to converse is so important…

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I’ll just come right out and say it; my natural instinct is to run and hide, turn completely inwards and build things up in my mind. I’m not a natural conversationalist by any means, in fact a comfortable silence with loved ones is something I really enjoy. If someone invites me to a social gathering, I usually worry about the fact I’ll have to engage in small chat with strangers, something I assume poking needles in your eyes would feel like. I’m expected to be courteous, charming and interested while pushing down the screaming introvert within, and sometimes it’s just easier to decline. But at what cost to my growth and development as a human?

I have a girlfriend who calls me nearly every day for a chat, and every single time the phone rings my gut instinct is to not pick it up. Why? What the hell is wrong with me? Even though 9 times out of 10 I’ll feel better after chatting to her, bouncing ideas around and venting about life, I just can’t seem to learn. It’s incredibly frustrating and something I’m acknowledging right here and now that I’m committing to working on. I don’t expect to become a public speaker or the next biggest socialite, but I do hope to stop associating conversations with an ingrained flight response.

I assume this preference of mine was developed over the years from being an only child until I was 10, and from living mostly with my grandparents who aren’t big talkers either. Dinner was usually a silent affair over the 6pm news so my Pop could hear the stories of the day, and discussing your issues in any great depth was something not really done. If anything scandalous happened within the family it was conveyed in hushed whispers, so I suppose I’ve developed an intuitive response to internalise my feelings, or turn to diary (and blog) writing. I don’t necessarily think there’s anything wrong with this, however if I should start a family of my own one day I’ll certainly be more conscious of these behaviours and encourage open discussion.

Would love to hear your thoughts or suggestions on how I can improve this tendency of mine… And hoping you have a great week 🙂

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Photo credits – rsa_mextures & yuugi83

Only you can fix your broken window.

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I’ve come to realise in the last few years that most people in life are far too busy worrying about their own problems, to try in any tangible way to help ‘fix’ yours. Yes we all offer words of support, throwing out lines of advice here and there, but in reality we are all too consumed with our own shit to spare any energy in helping others. The fire to change something in your life has got to come from within, otherwise you’ll never get there. Unless you are severely impaired by some form of mental or health related illness, you’ve just got to help yourself. People will be there to give you a kick up the ass and try to motivate you, but ultimately it comes down to lighting your own fire – and that usually takes a trip to rock bottom first.

We’ve all been in a situation where we feel helpless, alone, down and unmotivated. It might be after a break up, or looking for a new job, or home. It might be after a death or traumatic incident, or something little like a fight with a friend. Sometimes in life, you just feel glum – shit happens, and you can’t be bothered getting off the couch. Your family and friends will try and lift your spirits, suggesting outings and exercise. The endorphins will make you feel wonderful! Going outside is the last thing you feel like doing… until, one day, something inside you changes. Nobody is pestering you to cheer up, or asking you out for coffee, and suddenly you think – maybe I can do this. And that’s all it takes – that little spark of confidence, that little burst of positive thinking.

I know first hand what it’s like to go through this. I had loved ones telling me for months to quit my stressful job, and move away from a city I’d grown to despise. It honestly went in one ear and out the other, because I was SCARED. I felt completely trapped, stuck in a dark existence where every day depleted me of energy just trying to make it through. I was filled with ‘what if’ scenarios, bogged down by too many options and not enough courage, but ultimately just scared… 6 months later I look back to that period and wonder how I let it get so bad. Life is far too short to waste trapped in a mediocre job, missing your family and pretending to be okay. All it took was a firm decision, a step of courage and a moment of honesty. I-CANT-DO-THIS-ANYMORE. Let the chips fall where they may, but I was out of there – and haven’t looked back. Finally, I had done SOMETHING for myself. Something, anything was better than NOTHING.

And so I felt like a complete idiot this week when chatting to one of my close friends about how down he has been feeling. Here I was, offering out advice and suggesting things that had helped me – when I should have just listened. Nobody wants to hear what they should be doing – they’re not stupid. They know fully well what they should be doing to get out of their rut, but it takes time to come to that moment of clarity of your own free will – and that’s what makes all the difference 🙂

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Photo credits – aureta & thebest_windowsdoors

Why I changed my opinion on taking your own life.

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I grew up for years with the personal opinion that the act of suicide was the most selfish thing you could do. I used to think everything from ‘How could you do that to your family?’, ‘How could you leave your body in that state for someone else to find?’, and ‘How could you leave your loved ones with the burden of guilt, regret and never knowing why?’. These are just some of the things I wished I could ask people who were successful with their suicide attempts. Not necessarily why did they do it, but more a case of how could they? I simply couldn’t understand how someone could be in that dire of a state, and in that much darkness, that they could legitimately not see a way out.

Having never been personally affected by a loved one taking their own life, and having never felt suicidal myself, I feel somewhat inadequate to even write about this – but mental health is something I do feel incredibly passionate about. I recently watched an eye-opening documentary on ABC titled ‘You Can’t Ask That’, where a range of suicide survivors were interviewed on all the questions people secretly want to ask. For example – how did you do it, did you feel guilty, who saved you… etc etc. For me the question of guilt was something I was extremely interested in, but in fact none of the people interviewed said they felt any guilt at all. They were in such a cloud of despair, that they honestly thought removing themselves from life was going to make their loved ones happier, and obviously rid themselves of their own pain.

Hearing survivors talk about their experience first hand was something that made me do a complete 180 on my opinion. Admittedly, I was on the path to changing how I felt about it from my own experiences with anxiety – whilst I’ve never even been close to having suicidal thoughts, I’ve had some really bad days with overwhelming anxiety where I’ve desperately wanted those feelings to stop. So I can now see how someone could fall deeper and deeper into that well of hopelessness, and can’t see a way out. Yes – everyone always says the help is there… they just had to ask. But hindsight is a bitch isn’t it?

I’ve also been reading a lot about postpartum depression, and have tonight just watched a documentary on it titled ‘When the Bough Breaks‘ – a really raw, honest view on something that affects a lot of women. I guess I have been interested in this condition as part of recovering from my issues with anxiety, and as a woman I have a natural fear that this is perhaps something I will go through should I have a child one day. The hormonal and emotional experience of childbirth coupled with sleep deprivation, existing mental health issues and lack of support are all red flags for postpartum depression, and I think the mothers who have spoken up to discuss their journeys are incredibly brave.

Hoping this post hasn’t offended anyone, I am merely discussing my own thoughts and feelings – feel free to comment 🙂

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Photo credits – dullbluelight & maxfromtax

2am thoughts should never be disregarded… 

I’ve been thinking lately about those poignant thoughts you have in the dead of night – the ones that not only wake you up, but also make you want to take immediate action. You’re laying there in a shroud of darkness with all your neurons firing, worried that if you drift back to sleep you’ll lose these seemingly life changing thoughts, but at the same time just enjoying this moment of clarity. 

This week I had one of those moments. I woke up to a message from a friend overseas, asking if I was enjoying being home. I read the message and put the phone back down, willing myself to get back to sleep – but I simply couldn’t. I was frustrated at the simplicity of the question – was I enjoying myself? I’ve been home for nearly 6 months now on what I’ve decided is my ‘gap year’, recovering from extreme anxiety and stress brought on from work, and it’s been H.A.R.D. Harder than anything I’ve ever gone through. To reduce the last 6 months to something simple as the word ‘enjoyment’ would be a complete joke, when I’ve worked very hard to overcome personal challenges and come out smiling. Yes, I might post pictures on social media of pretty things, adventures, time at the beach and snuggles with my animals – but social media isn’t reality. It’s how we like to frame ourselves to the world and often ourselves, and certainly doesn’t tell the story of all the difficult times between those happy memories.

Since moving home I’ve had messages from numerous friends saying how jealous they are of all my pictures, and how happy I look. And while I can’t disagree with them – I’m a THOUSAND times happier than I was a year ago, I’ve still got a while to go. I suppose it’s my fault as well, for perhaps not divulging all my deepest darkest fears and worries to certain friends – sometimes we just want to keep a small portion of ourselves private. I’m so grateful for growing up as a teenager without the influences of social media, where reality is staged and happiness only looks attainable to the rich and famous. Our social media accounts are not our lives – they are a colourful way to document things and express ourselves, but they definitely only represent a small part of the whole. 

I’m sure that most of you will agree with me that we should all strive to live in the present a little more, and worry a little less about what we see online. Ask your friends how they are – don’t make an assumption based on their Instagram or Facebook account, because more often than not they’re craving that human connection. And while you’re at it, grab a journal for those 2am thoughts – you never know what might need jotting down in the dead of night 🙂 

Photo credits – jetmour & moodyports

When you stop running, doors start opening.

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I’m writing this post tonight as I reflect on the people I’ve met recently through work, who’ve opened up to me rather quickly about their own personal battles. I don’t know if it’s because A) They feel like they can trust me or B) They just want someone to talk to. It’s probably a mixture of both, and don’t get me wrong – I’m more than happy to listen and engage in deep conversation early on into meeting people. None of this small chat about the weather! Let’s get right down to the nitty gritty. But I can’t help but feel a little guilty for initially trying to appear as someone I’m not. You see after the awful year I had in 2016, I wanted this job to be a fresh start where I could leave all my past behind. I wanted to be cool, calm and collected. I wanted to leave my personal life at home and be the ultimate professional on the job. But after my recent conversations with these colleagues, I’ve realised how much humans crave that connection – and how important it really is.

I spent all my energy last year trying to cover up the fact that I simply was not okay. I wasn’t okay going into those meetings, or making those cold calls. I wasn’t okay with that workload, or with that pressure, and I most certainly wasn’t okay with pretending I cared about such meaningless tasks. So this year I told myself that I would focus on me, and what I really wanted. I would take a less stressful job where I didn’t know anyone, and they wouldn’t know how close I’d come to rock bottom. I didn’t have to disclose the battles I’d come through, and I intended on staying that way. I’d come from a workplace culture of keeping your mouth shut and carrying on – you were a cog in the wheel and every cog was replaceable. So I tried, for as long as I could to keep my cool – but as many of you will know that became impossible.

Since meeting the staff in my new job and having them open up to me about their own battles (be it sexual identity issues, domestic violence or mental health problems), I’ve realised that it’s OKAY to be honest with people straight up. We don’t have to wear this mask we create for ourselves, and we don’t have to be ashamed of whatever we’ve gone through. We should feel empowered to be transparent, be trusting, and lean on each other. After all we are in this job together, and how can we really perform to the best of our abilities if we don’t know each others triggers and weak spots?

From now on I intend to be completely honest with my colleagues, both current and future. I’m done with pretending to be someone I’m not, and you can either take it or leave it. We’re all unique individuals with our own stories of perseverance, and we should lift each other up – not bring each other down.

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Photo credits – maison.chloeyeur & hautepunchmag

When you’re in the throws of it…

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Anyone who has suffered from anxiety issues will tell you what a bitch it is when you’re in the full swing of a bad day, or even a bad hour. Everything feels surreal, like you’re watching your life on a stage and observing yourself going through the actions of appearing normal, calm and in control. Meanwhile in your head there’s a full theatre of chaos and panic going on, thoughts coming at you a million miles an hour with no apparent reason or excuse. All you want to do is lay in a dark, quiet room and breathe. Simply breathe.

That’s how I feel today, and though it is happening less and less through a range of coping techniques, when it does happen you inevitably feel the sadness of setback. Anger and disappointment at yourself – why aren’t I better yet? Guilt at the family or friends you’ve let down – Can I call you back tomorrow? Everything will be better tomorrow. That’s what you keep telling yourself, as you try to get through each minute without going crazy (or appearing to). It’s a delicate and difficult balancing act. They don’t tell you how hard it will be, simply taking control of the thoughts in your head before they manifest into physical symptoms – racing heart, shaky limbs, feeling dizzy and disoriented, not focusing on things… the list goes on.

I know I’m not the only person feeling like this because of how much reading I have done in the past year, trying to arm myself with all the facts. In fact millions of people all around the world suffer from anxiety and panic attacks every single day. You wouldn’t always guess who and it doesn’t discriminate. Your hairdresser, your bus driver, the woman who sells you fresh buns at the bakery. Your boss, your colleague, the cleaner at work. Odds are that at least 4 of these 6 people have suffered or are currently suffering from some kind of mental health challenge, but are carrying on with their everyday jobs – because that’s what we have to do. You cannot let it take control of your life so much that you can’t get out of bed, or start avoiding simple things like grocery shopping or coffee dates with friends. When it gets to the point that your normal routines are severely affected – seek help. Yes, it’s terrifying. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and through re-training your brain and constant practise – you can make steps towards a healthy life.

Wishing you all the best, and for myself I’m hoping that a hot shower and good nights sleep will be just the trick 🙂

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Photo credits – maison.chloeyeur & totalynoturbae

Family… That crazy, chaotic carnival ride. 

When I think about family, I think about what a wild ride it is that we’re thrown on, with no choice in the matter and no escape in sight. By sheer luck (or in many cases, misfortune), we’re lumped together with this random assortment of people, of clashing personalities and mood swings. The majority of us are genetically linked in some way, but then there’s the half siblings, step siblings, step parents and so on. It’s a melting pot of diversity, choices, journeys and above all – love. 

It breaks my heart when I think of a close friend of mine, whose recently had a falling out with her family. She has her own reasons and nobody can fully understand that but her and those involved, but I do hope they can work it out and rebuild some kind of relationship. You see, there’s only 3 of them in the ‘immediate’ family which I think is what scares me the most – there’s no backup. Sometimes I think I’ve taken my large family for granted. If one were to suddenly pass away, I’d feel secure in the knowledge that we would all get each other through it. But family isn’t a numbers game. Every individual person matters and contributes something, whether that be small or large. The dynamics exist because of our interwoven stories, and those dynamics are constantly changing. Someone leaves, someone is introduced. The story goes on no matter who is left filling the chapters, and the memories last even longer. 

After my family road trip this weekend I’m feeling very blessed. We’re a tight bunch, and while there might be times of tension and times of laughter, I can sleep soundly at night knowing that no matter what – they’ll be there for me through thick and thin. There’s just some things you can’t rely on your friends for, or perhaps don’t want to involve them in. For this reason I think we should all express our gratitude on a daily basis, and make sure our loved ones know it. These are the people who see you at your worst, but don’t think any worse of you. They know you inside out even if you don’t believe it, and hold a little piece of your heart in theirs. 

So take a moment to count your blessings today, and tell your family how much they mean to you 🙂 

Photo credits – winterwillneverend & hannahargyle