Anniversaries are funny things, aren’t they.

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I’ve had some one year anniversaries lately, in fact I usually do around this time of year. November and December always seem to be a huge period of change, whether that be moving house (or city), relationships ending or drifting apart, and career moves. In exactly one week it will be my 28th birthday, and I can’t think of a worse birthday I’ve had than last year. I know it sounds stupid, it’s just another day right? It doesn’t actually mean anything in the grand scheme of things. BUT… we’re conditioned to think we’re meant to be HAPPY on our birthdays. Grateful! Excited! The life of the party! Well, shit happens. Last year I’d just quit my job, just been dumped, and was facing daily battles with crippling anxiety (I’m talking panic attacks, chest pains, digestion problems and a huge fear of crowds, driving, bridges…. you name it). It was absolutely awful, and I spent the day trying to hold back tears and resist the urge to crawl into bed and hide in the dark. I remember laying on my balcony on the night of my 27th birthday, watching a thunderstorm and just feeling really sorry for myself. Woe is me…

How things change in a year! Had someone told me to keep my head up and stay positive, that this year I’d be spending my birthday in the beautiful Whitsundays with my boyfriend, sipping on cocktails in the tropical sun, I would not have believed them. Now I don’t want to jinx myself here as the birthday itself isn’t until next week, and plenty of things could happen between now and then, but that’s beside the point. My whole life has been flipped in a year and I could not be more grateful for the support I’ve had, and more proud of myself for soldiering through. I even spent 4 hours in a shopping centre with my sister this week! Had you have known me a year ago, this simple activity was near impossible. I remember my sister begging me to go Christmas shopping with her in December a year ago, and I lasted about 5 minutes in the centre before basically needing to run outside. The intense fear, crippling anxiety and struggle to breathe or think straight was completely overwhelming, not to mention feeling like a complete failure. This week alone I’ve been shopping multiple times (I absolutely love buying gifts for my family), and I’ve been completely fine with it. In my mind this is such a huge achievement, because a year ago I was honestly at a point where I didn’t think I could ever step foot in a shopping mall again.

So what I can say is this. If you are struggling through some tough times at the moment, hold onto the knowledge that things are more than likely going to change for the better, and sooner than you think. As one door closes, others really do open – you just have to have the courage to step through, and the strength to ask for help when you need it.

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Photo credits – arthurlitau & bryanadamc

The bitter taste of disappointment.

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Sitting here on a Friday night, the mellow beats of Radiohead in the background matching my somber mood… nothing sucks more than the disappointment of a shattered hope. I put myself on the line. I dreamed a dream. And with one swift phone call, that dream was lost. A kick in the stomach, a sinking feeling of rejection. You blame yourself, and pick apart every minute of the process. What if I’d done this, or said that? Who knows. Life is one door opening after another closes, and that’s the truth. Feel the feelings, take the time to be down about it. Then get back up slowly, one step at a time. 

I’ve come to realise lately that you’ve really got to have your own back. Yes, family and friends will always be there for you, but in reality everyone is just trying to keep their own heads above water. You can shout and scream all you like and not make a dent, or you can quietly resolve to be better tomorrow. Set your own personal goals and take however long you need to get there. One thing it’s taken me years to stop doing was apologising and explaining myself. So what if I don’t feel like doing this, or going there? You do you and let me worry about me. I’m not saying a nudge in the back isn’t called for now and then – we all need some gentle encouragement in rough times. But by and large we need to pick our own selves up from the floor and persevere, for any positive changes to last the distance.

We all have those songs we listen to on repeat when we’re feeling down. I’ve lost track of how many situations this song has healed me through… his echoing, haunting voice gives me shivers every time.

Forget about your house of cards, and I’ll do mine… 

Anyway I hope you have a great weekend, doing whatever it is that makes you feel alive. Try not to let little disappointments rule your happiness. Take a moment to process your reality, and then move on. That’s all we can really do 🙂

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Photo credits – hvmansouls & lafemmesauvage_

When you can (finally) see the light

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If you’ve been through some difficult times but are finally starting to see a reprieve from the storm, then congratulations. It takes a great deal of mental strength, patience, time and setbacks to see a way forward from whatever you’ve been dealing with (in my case, managing what has sometimes been overwhelming anxiety). My personal storm has lasted about a year, but was probably building and building for many years prior before unleashing with a furious intensity. I can now finally say that I’m starting to see the light at the end of this tunnel, and learning ways to manage the thoughts that can rapidly descend into full blown panic.

Everyone is dealing with their own set of issues, and more often than not issues that cannot be seen on the surface. Sometimes I think that more obvious and visual issues would be easier to deal with, but then I remember that we are all on our own journey and have our own challenges to overcome. For too long I was hiding what I was really going through, pretending I was okay but barely functioning. On the inside I was in turmoil just trying to get through a day at work without freaking out and running to the bathroom, where I could at least be alone if a panic attack came on. I don’t think my colleagues had any idea of the extent of my anxiety, and how it was making simple tasks seem like huge hurdles in my mind. I’d go to bed thinking about work, dream about it, wake up in the middle of the night gasping for air and dread the next morning where I’d have to face it all again. I knew I was rapidly spiralling out of control, but I couldn’t see a way out from this hell. It was only when I nearly fainted at my desk one day from the overwhelming panic running through my body, and dizzily made my way outside for fresh air that I knew something needed to be done. And so I quit my job, somewhere I’d been for four years after doing a degree just to get there. I quit my life as I knew it, and silently moved home without really telling anyone the truth.

I expected things to get better from Day 1 of freedom, but I was a fool. It’s now been 4 months and I’m only finally starting to feel better, after going through some really stormy days where simply getting out of bed was a challenge. I’ve recently started working again, something that in my eyes seemed like a huge hurdle to overcome. I couldn’t imagine going back into a workplace, meeting new people, learning new systems and maintaining my cool, but I’ve done it and I’m proud. Of course, some days are still really hard and sometimes anxiety descends on me with no warning or apparent reason. This is what’s so frustrating about it – not having any obvious trigger can make simple tasks like going grocery shopping or driving seem like a trap. You live in constant fear of feeling anxious, wondering when it will hit you. Will you have an easy escape? Will you be in front of people? It’s not easy changing your mindset, working on different thinking patterns and focusing on your breathing to bring you back to ground, but it IS possible.

I’ve read everything there is to read about anxiety issues and armed myself with the facts. Panic attacks can’t kill you – yes, the physical symptoms may seem life threatening (tight chest, tingling hands and feet, racing heart, dizziness), but they are just the body going into flight or fight mode when it senses danger. For people suffering from anxiety though, the body is constantly going into this flight or fight mode for no reason – and this is the crux of the issue. For anyone reading this and feeling the same, I would say try everything you can. Meditation, exercise, cutting out caffeine, talking to somebody, slow breathing practise.. the list goes on and I’ve tried them all. I think a combination of healing techniques, mindfulness and motivation has slowly led to a change in my thinking. I know there is still a long road ahead but at least I can say I’m committed and I’m going to get through this, and so will you 🙂

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Photo credit – rose_and_heart

I could run. Or, I could stay.

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We’ve all been there before – a new situation, experience, job or activity that kicks in our fight or flight response. We want to run back to the comfort of familiarity, things we know, smells we like. We try to smile genuinely, to appear engaged… when all we really want to do is run back home, snuggle under the blankets and curse ourselves for trying new things. But pushing ourselves through this first period of discomfort is essential for growth. Stepping into the unknown makes us stronger, more resilient, and ultimately better prepared for the next challenge.

As I embark on my new challenge I’ll try to remember these things in the face of obstacles, where my instinct to run is sometimes overwhelming. Nobody likes learning through mistakes and being the ‘young apprentice’. My brain is overloaded with new procedures, unfamiliar systems and practices. But I need to take a step back, realise that learning takes time, and patience is key. Putting too much pressure on myself to know everything at once is just stupid, and we should all cut ourselves some slack.

So, with tired eyes, I’ll push myself up and try again today. I’ll lean on my family and friends for support and words of encouragement, but ultimately will find the strength within to persevere. That’s all I can really ask for today, and that’s totally fine 🙂

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Photo credits – circleofpines & airpixels