Only you can fix your broken window.

IMG_4185

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 🙂

IMG_4308

Photo credits – aureta & thebest_windowsdoors

Why I changed my opinion on taking your own life.

IMG_4187

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 🙂

IMG_4180

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.

IMG_4016

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.

IMG_3450

Photo credits – maison.chloeyeur & hautepunchmag

When stress subsides, the other senses soar…

IMG_3983

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!

img_2982

Photo credits – chefmattmoran & ihavethisthingwithpink

Mental health: Baby steps, not a race.

IMG_3796

As you might know I’ve written about mental health before, and my struggles with anxiety and panic attacks. I felt drawn to write this blog tonight after talking to one of my close friends today, who has also been going through their own set of challenges. In fact when I think about it, 9 out of 10 people I know – be it close friends or family, have all opened up about their struggles with mental health. From anxiety, depression, stress, avoidance tendencies, loneliness, low self-esteem and health issues, almost everyone I know has been or is going through their own mental barriers to happiness and good health. So what’s the catch? Has today’s modern society simply become too difficult for us to manage? Or are we just more open about what’s going on inside our complex, crazy minds?

I think it’s a mixture of both. Yes, the modern world is now full of new stressors that human evolution is yet to catch up with. From technology overload, family breakdowns, threats of terrorism, nuclear war, increasingly extreme weather patterns and many more modern stressors, our bodies are subject to a wide variety of anxiety-inducing events than ever before. I personally believe that our mind’s are still only equipped to deal with the basic, ingrained worries that have served us for millions of years – worries over seeking food and shelter for our families, and threats from animals and the elements. Basic, caveman worries. Today we are faced with constant, varying levels of stress in everything we do from the moment we wake up, and I’ve noticed a definite increase in my loved ones simply not being able to handle it.

BUT, on the flip side – mental health stigma’s have definitely taken a big hit in recent years, with many celebrities and public figures opening up about their own challenges. This increasingly open dialogue about the range of issues created in our minds, has paved the way for people to express how they feel and seek help where possible. Yes, it is still hard to open up because it’s scary to admit to ourselves that we might need some guidance, let alone admit it to our family and friends. The workplace culture of long hours, eating lunch at your desk and unrealistic deadlines that I came from last year was a massive contributor to my anxiety issues, and I know many people feel the same but are scared to admit it. We don’t want to look weak, or get hauled into HR to discuss our performance, or worse – get fired. But we can’t keep working ourselves into the ground either – at some point, your health has got to come first and I’m so glad I finally accepted that. As I found in my case, acceptance is one of the most important steps to managing your issues. Yes there are days where I’m angry, sad or frustrated and think WHY ME? But the days where I simply acknowledge my anxiety is there, sitting on my shoulder not hurting anyone, are the days where it is so much more manageable. Learning to love yourself for who you are, instead of beating yourself up over it is very important in the healing process.

To all of my family, friends and readers I want you to know that you are not in this alone. More people than you realise are going through their own set of mental challenges – the trouble is that their ‘issues’ are usually invisible and well masked. We all learn ways of coping, hiding and avoiding but sooner or later the wall crumbles and we’re forced to pick up the pieces. Start the healing process now I say! Talk to someone, open up to whoever you feel safe with, practice meditation, exercise, eat healthy, get out into nature, light a candle and write in a journal – DO WHATEVER YOU NEED TO DO. I’ve tried it all, and can honestly say a good balance of all these activities and a positive attitude makes a hell of a difference. Just remember it’s not a race – there will be setbacks and days where you feel like shit, but just persevere with baby steps.

A positive attitude causes a chain reaction of positive thoughts, events and outcomes. It is a catalyst and it sparks extraordinary results. (Wade Boggs).

image

Photo credits – inkandarte & ourmoodydays

Letting the leaves float away…

img_2714

Having been meddling in the practice of mindfulness for the past few months in an attempt to reduce anxiety and stressors, I’ve come across some nice little exercises that with (regular) practice actually do help. I’m particularly enjoying one I was shown this week, which uses mental visualisation to help move anxious feelings and thoughts along;

You’re standing by a stream, watching the water flow by.  On the surface of the water are many leaves, floating down the stream.  No one leaf has any particular significance–they all just float by.  The leaves represent the many random thoughts that flow through your mind in a day.  Now visualise that your intrusive thought, or worry, is one of these leaves–watch it float past and disappear.  There’s no need to focus on that one leaf–just let it float on by, out of your sight and out of your awareness….

And so it goes on – as you assign a leaf to any thought or feeling that is worrying you and simply imagine it floating down the stream, you can definitely notice the tension leaving your body. I like to do any of these meditation or mindfulness practices in a quiet, secure place where I can completely relax – laying on the cool floor under a fan is particularly tranquil. It’s about your own journey though, so you need to find the right space and energy that works for you – whether it’s sitting on the beach at sunrise or a balcony at dusk. Find your peaceful place and zone out, even if it’s for a couple of minutes every day – there’s no excuse for not making time for yourself.

“If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.” ~Amit Ray

IMG_3207

Photo credits – zeebachi & templeofleaves