Trying to understand people is impossible.

 

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If you, like me, have wasted countless hours of your life trying to understand why someone has acted in the way that they have, then you aren’t alone. I’ve spent days analysing situations, messages, emails, behaviours – you name it. Simply trying to understand why someone has said this or done that, drives me absolutely insane. It’s something that I’ve really struggled with my whole life, just trying to connect all the dots and make sense of peoples decisions. The truth is though – nobody can ever really understand how people think, or someone’s entire life of experiences that add up to them choosing to act one way instead of another.

There are hundreds of variables influencing people at every moment of the day, each of them firing away at rapid speed without us even being aware. From little decisions like choosing what to have for lunch, to big decisions like applying for jobs and moving house, we all come to our conclusions after a series of elements like past experiences, friends and families opinions, media influences, emotions and a million other things come into play. How could we ever possibly aim to understand people if this is the case? We can’t, and that’s something I need to accept before I waste any more time trying.

One of my big ones was people who are always late. ALWAYS late. WHYYYY ? I just couldn’t understand why they couldn’t just plan their day around the time they KNEW they had to be somewhere, to ensure they had enough time to get there etc etc. Didn’t they feel guilty for making other people wait? I know I feel absolutely panicked and sick when I (rarely) keep someone waiting, and apologise profusely for doing so. But nope, some people just breeze on in at any time they like without seeming to care. I still don’t understand it, but it doesn’t bother me as much anymore. I have a little more life experience to appreciate that everyone is different, and that I don’t know all the in’s and out’s of their day. They’ll get there when they get there, and I can be a little more forgiving (as long as it’s not something super important like a wedding – though this one remains to be seen).

Assuming that people will want to do certain activities with you, or that they are free at the same times as you is also a big mood-killer. SO many times in my life I’ve planned things in my head with certain people, to be left disappointed and lonely when they’ve low and behold got other plans or simply don’t feel like doing the same thing as me. This one is something I still struggle with, and it’s completely self-induced. Nobody is a mind reader – the other person in my planned scenario will usually have no idea that I’ve connected A, B and C to mean that because I’m free on Sunday morning then we can both go out for breakfast followed by a morning stroll. Assuming things about people or how events will unfold is the worst thing you can do, because it is always a recipe for disaster – or at the very least leaves you feeling like a sad control freak.

So take a step back, and check yourself before you wreck yourself.

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Photo credits – depthobsessed & maxfromtax.

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

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

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

When stress subsides, the other senses soar…

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Last year – my year from hell, I got into the habit of eating frozen bought chicken kiev’s with mashed potato nearly every week night. Bland, carb loaded and devoid of many nutrients, but it was easy. Lazy – yes, but easy. And at that stage in my life I had pretty much stopped caring about a lot of things, one of those being my interest in cooking and eating healthy. You see when stress takes over every inch of your body, you simply become focused on making it through the day. You don’t care about whether your dinner that night is going to be interesting, delicious or challenging to make. In fact I was shovelling my dinner down so quickly that I didn’t even register what I was doing, all so I could shower and get back into bed. As I slowly unwind this year I’ve found myself becoming interested in cooking again, and I’m really excited.

They say that your gut is your second mind and I wouldn’t have believed them until last year, when I experienced just how intrinsically linked the stomach and your mind really are. I was completely burnt out from my job, stressed to the max and experiencing daily stomach cramps, headaches and bloating. I would get home and need to lay down for hours just to let the pain in my stomach subside, and I had no idea what was wrong with me at that point. I got blood tests, scans, urine samples… the lot. I finally decided to try a gluten free diet, which I have been doing for about a year now. I can honestly say this helped a lot at the time, however I would notice that after particularly stressful days I would still be doubled over in pain. After much reading and investigation, I realised that when the body is stressed and in that ‘fight or flight’ mode, your digestive system basically switches off. This is because the body is literally panicking and preparing for action, in situations where it most definitely doesn’t need to be worried. So when I was fuelling my body with wheat products which are already difficult to digest, coupled with my inactive and stressed out digestive system, it was simply a recipe for disaster.

HOWEVER, after quitting this job in November and moving home to a caring, supportive environment I can honestly say that 5 months later my gut is making a comeback! I’ve dabbled with probiotics and expensive vitamins, cut out alcohol and caffeine, reduced my sugar intake and gone for bowen therapy and regular massages. Trust me, I’ve tried everything to get my body back on the mend. Over the last few weeks I’ve slowly been re-introducing regular old bread into the mix, pasta, biscuits, muffins and pancakes. Not because I want to eat these types of foods all the time, but because I believe balance is key – and I certainly don’t want to make myself completely intolerant to these food groups!

A few months ago I wasn’t even interested in going grocery shopping, I was content just eating whatever was in the cupboard. I was focused solely on getting through the day without feeling overwhelmed with anxiety, and this took all of my energy. Now I’m excited to start cooking again, experimenting with flavours and enjoying the kitchen. I’ve just made a lovely pesto filled with basil, pine nuts, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and parmesan cheese. Delish!

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Photo credits – chefmattmoran & ihavethisthingwithpink

Breaking down the tendency towards avoidance.

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As I’ve been working through some issues lately, I’ve homed in on some uncomfortable truths about how I live my life – specifically my tendency to avoid difficult situations or memories. We all do it from time to time. Nobody likes confronting their fears or regrets, or reflecting on things they did wrong, or things that happened to them. It brings up all kinds of feelings and physical symptoms as well. But knowing that you’ve been avoiding dealing with something can make the issue grow and grow, until the thought of tackling this problem becomes an almost impossible task (in your mind at least).

I’m guilty of doing this in a few areas of my life, particularly with tasks at work. You know those emails that sit in your inbox for a couple of days, or even weeks? The ones that glare at you every time you open your emails, reminding you of some unfinished job or deadline, heightening your anxiety and growing into these huge monsters in your head… Those are the jobs we should be getting over and done with first thing in the morning, so they don’t sit there taunting and terrorising us throughout the day. Of course these things are easier said than done, and I’m the first to admit I need to work on this avoidance technique to make my life better.

As you might have read in earlier blog posts, I suffered a pretty traumatic panic attack about 10 months ago while driving. I remember every minute of the whole event with vivid clarity, so much detail that it seems to have gone on for an hour when it was probably only 15 minutes in total from start to finish. But whilst I have gone over that day over and over again, recounting every second and remembering how I felt in each moment, it doesn’t mean I have actually been dealing with how I felt and the effect it has had on my life. I’ve written about it in my blog, and told close friends and family the basics, but actually speaking about it out loud and recounting the story is something that still makes me feel sick and start to sweat. It’s like I have divided my life into who I was before it happened, and who I’ve become since it happened. And to be honest, now that it’s been nearly a year since it happened, I can honestly say that I’m grateful for what I’ve been through because it’s set me on a path that I finally feel is right for me. If I hadn’t of had that panic attack and the subsequent battles with anxiety, I might still be working in a job I didn’t like and feeling stuck in my life, in a city that had lost all its colour to me.

I could go on about the usual things people avoid in life – washing the dishes, or their clothes, or their hair… but at the end of the day, I think the things you avoid in your mind are more important than the humdrum of daily life. Tackling those mental barriers head on is the only way to come out with a brighter perspective, and although it takes patience, perseverance and positivity – it’s so worth it.

There are no constraints on the human mind, no walls around the human spirit, no barriers to our progress except those we ourselves erect.

Ronald Reagan. 

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Photo credits – taxcollection & vzcomacro