New Year, New Me!

Trigger warning: I’ll be talking about body image, diet and exercise in this blog so if this is something that affects you, please don’t read it ❤️

Hello and welcome back to my blog! 🙋🏼‍♀️

I hope that you are doing well and keeping motivated in 2021 because I certainly am not lol. We’re only on day 18 of 365 and I already cannot be bothered for this year. I’m not sure why I convinced myself that a new year would mean Miss Corona would’ve pissed off, but here we are.

Anyways, today I’m talking about the extremely fun topic of body image. I’m going to be completely honest here and say that I absolutely despise the way my body looks like at the moment. Before the pandemic, my anxiety had me at my slimmest and eating whatever I wanted without gaining any weight (I should’ve known that this would be too good to be true). Fast forward to 2021 and in the UK’s third lockdown, the weight has caught up with me, leaving me feeling as unsexy as ever.

So after a fortnight of whining about it, I’m finally deciding to do something. I literally realised that I have been working from home bed for almost a whole year, meaning that whatever exercise I was getting, either commuting to work or walking down Oxford Street has completely fizzled out into ✨nothing✨. No wonder I’m piling on the lbs and feeling mentally drained, I have the lifestyle of a sloth.

However, I’m not just doing this to get skinny, I’m doing this to improve my mental wellbeing too as exercise boosts Serotonin levels. Now if you’re someone on SSRI’s like me, the more Serotonin the better right? It’s okay if you’ve spent the entire year doing f*ck all like me though, we’re living through a global pandemic! But now is the time to start getting life back on track. So if you’re looking for a sign to get up off of your arse and start feeling better, then this is it. Queue Elle Woods when Warner dumped her motivation NOW.

To help me achieve my goals, I need structure. I need someone telling me what to do, otherwise, I procrastinate like crazy. So, my drill sergeant of choice is Cassey Ho from Blogilates. She is an award-winning fitness instructor, who has been motivating people on her YouTube channel for over a decade. Her channel is full of free workout videos ranging from HIIT workouts to Pop Pilates (working out to Taylor Swift? Yes please!)

To kick start the year, Cassey has launched her 21 Day Tone challenge, challenging her viewers to 21 minutes of exercise for 21 days. Sounds easy enough? I’m going to put it to the test. As I’m writing this, I’ve just completed day 1 and I literally cannot feel my legs. I don’t know about anyone else but lunges are literally the devil’s exercise. I’ll probably have nightmares about day 2 but I know that it’ll be so worth it in the long run.

To supplement all of the exercise that I’ll be doing, I’ll also be cutting out fizzy drinks 😭💔 and trying to eat as healthily as I can (living with two foodies, this will be the worst). So if you’d like to get fit and mentally healthier with me, then tag along as I’ll be checking back in once I’ve completed the 21 days to share my results, both mental and physical.

How I Keep My Anxiety Under Control (Most of the Time)

Welcome back to my thought bubble 🙋🏼‍♀️!

Following on from my other blogs about my experience with crappy mental health and taking Antidepressants, I thought I’d talk about how I cope with things. Despite my struggles, my life is pretty full whack and even though this condition can be debilitating sometimes, I still (somehow) manage to hold down a full-time job and a social life.

Like I discussed in my last blog, Antidepressants definitely play a key role in how I cope in my everyday life. However, I know that this option may not be for everyone,which is why I’ve come up with a list of (definitely laughable) things I like to do that also help me to cope. Everyone is different and not as immature as I am, so take with it what you will.

FYI, I’m not a Doctor nor am I claiming to be, so please don’t sue me! Thanks 😘 x

 

Having Distractions

Sometimes, being in your own head can get too much, which is why I use distractions everyday. They can be absolutely anything. For me, I probably play The Sims 4 an unhealthy amount but it works and I could play it for hours. Days even. Another way I like to take my mind off of things is watching TV shows and films. Shamefully, I’ll admit that I have every single subscription service there is (even WWE) and usually rewatch my favourite stuff over and over again. Stranger Things, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and Desperate Housewives are my personal faves.

When I’m travelling into work, it can be hard to distract myself on the busy trains as there are literally hundreds of people right up in my grill. An essential if you travel every day is a pair of noise-cancelling headphones. You literally cannot hear a thing and if you close your eyes, you could very much be safe at home. I should probably get nose plugs too if they’re a thing because the stench of sweat and bad breath on the Central Line is far from homely.

I like to change things up a bit so I usually switch between a good podcast and music. If you love Desperate Housewives then you should definitely check out the Desperate Housedykes podcast. I’m not a lesbian but these girls have me howling. Also, My Dad Wrote a Porno is one that my boyfriend and I are loving at the moment and I can honestly say, we’ve never laughed so much in our lives.

 

Make Sure You’re Eating

This one may seem pretty foolproof but as someone who lost over two stone from this illness, it definitely works. Now I’m not saying you should be healthy AF because I’m far from a “clean eater,” but by not eating, having low blood sugar levels actually makes your anxiety worse. You can read the science of it here and tbh it’s actually pretty interesting. 

As I had no appetite and was not eating at all, I started off by eating my favourite foods. This basically includes a lot of sweets and a LOT of carbs. By doing this, I slowly started to get my appetite back and am now back to eating regular meals. One thing I learned from this was to keep eating and fight the “sick to your stomach” feeling as once I’d eaten, the feeling was less intense and I rarely suffer with it anymore.

 

Caring for Something Other than Yourself

Now this one is down to your personal situation and I’m not telling you to go wild and buy a puppy, but caring for something other than myself has been really beneficial for me. In my case, I have two hamsters called Doris and Winston. Although caring for hamsters may seem trivial, there’s actually a lot more to their care that even I didn’t realise. For me, caring for these little fluff balls has been really therapeutic as I know that they’re counting on me to keep them alive.

Now I know everyone’s situation may be different, whether it be financial or your home circumstances, but even something as small as caring for a plant may help you as my hamsters have helped me.

 

Talking to Others About It

I believe really strongly in the saying that, “a problem shared is a problem halved.” Just by speaking to someone about what you’re going through can help to take the weight off of your shoulders for a bit. Through my GP, I was able to see a free therapist which I do think helped. Even though I only saw her once a week for eight weeks, it created a safe space for me to say how I really felt without being judged.

However, in my opinion, I do think it’s important to only use counselling as and when you need it, as becoming reliant on your therapist is not a stable way to deal with your problems (unless you’re absolutely minted and can pay privately for it). I used my sessions to learn how to deal and to cope with any problems that I had in the future. My last session was in April and as I know I have a really difficult time coming up, I will probably apply for another block of eight sessions for some much-needed extra support.

 

Keeping a Journal

Now I’m not telling you to go Bridget Jones style, but keeping a mood journal is really beneficial to understand your mental health and triggers. I used to keep my mood journal on my phone, as and when I needed it. So for example, if I was on a train and could feel a panic attack coming on, I would write down how I’m feeling and what could possibly be triggering it. This is also a very useful thing to do if you’re seeing a therapist as it’s easy to forget how you felt every day for a week.

 

Finally…

Just do it! I’m not sponsored by Nike and the only bit of merch I wear is a pair of battered Air Force Ones, but I generally deal with my anxiety by “just doing it.” For me, sometimes the anxiety about doing something can be worse than the thing itself. I don’t want to live in fear and miss out on some of the most important years of my life because I was scared.

If I just do it and I have a panic attack, then I can leave the situation. If I just do it and I’m sick, then so what, I’ve seen lots of people being sick in public before. I know what I’m saying is easier said than done, but when you push yourself, you can achieve something truly amazing.

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Taking Antidepressants Doesn’t Make You Weak

Trigger Warning: I discuss my experience with crappy mental health and I also talk about suicidal thoughts.

Hello, me again! 🙋🏼‍♀️

As if talking about mental health wasn’t fun enough last week; this week I’m talking about yet another taboo subject – antidepressants. When hearing that someone is taking antidepressants, the mind instantly jumps to Angelina Jolie in Girl Interrupted.

People suddenly think you’re crazy or you’re weak, which is f*cking hilarious to me. As someone who’s been taking antidepressants for almost two years now, I’d like to point out that I’m not weak and I’m only a little bit crazy. In fact, with 70.9 million people prescribed antidepressants in the UK in 2018, I think you’ll find that many people you know are taking them. So why is there this huge stigma around them?

When I was 12 years old, I was prescribed the contraceptive pill. Not because I was a massive whore but because my periods were extremely heavy and painful.

Sorry for the insight into my womb but I promise there’s a point here. Anyway, at 12 years old I was taking Rigevidon. The side effects of this pill include, fatal blood clots, kidney failure and my good old friend, depression. The fact that I was prescribed this pill and willingly carried on taking it until I was 19 years old BLOWS MY MIND. 

Despite the horrendous side effects, society tells women that “it’s normal” to take the contraceptive pill or that “it’s our responsibility” to so that we don’t get pregnant. So WHY is it such a taboo to take Antidepressants to treat mental illness?

Now the reason why I take Antidepressants is to treat Generalised Anxiety Disorder. In 2019, I was at a point in my life where the anxiety was too much to handle and I ultimately wanted to kill myself. Not because I wanted to die, but because I couldn’t cope with dealing with this disorder anymore. I remember when the doctor asked me if I was suicidal and I replied, “I love my life. I want to have an amazing career, a family and to experience everything I possibly can… but I can’t carry on living like this.” And so, I was prescribed my first box of Sertraline.

As is with everything, one size certainly doesn’t fit all. I know people who have tried lots of different Antidepressants and Sertraline didn’t work for them. But luckily for me, it did. For the first few weeks, I experienced a few side effects including fatigue, nausea and losing the ability to focus. As your body gets used to the medication, this is perfectly normal. You may have heard the phrase, “It may get worse before it gets better,” well this is definitely the case with Antidepressants.

After a few months of ups and downs, I eventually got to a place that before now, I could only dream of. The anxiety was manageable and I definitely didn’t want to die. In the end, despite the hardships with my mental health, 2019 was a brilliant year for me. In my working life, I passed my apprenticeship with the highest grades in my class, earned a promotion and now work at one of the biggest advertising specialists in the UK.

In my personal life, I was back to being the sarcastic, sassy friend who definitely drinks way too much and I was back to doing normal things like shopping and going on holiday to Ibiza. I know for a fact that none of this would have been possible without the help of Antidepressants. Despite this disorder that I will no doubt suffer with for the rest of my life, they have genuinely helped me to get my life back on track.

Now I know what you’re probably thinking, “Well that’s great but you can’t be on Antidepressants for the rest of your life” – which isn’t true. If you have Diabetes, you take Insulin. If you have Asthma, you receive treatment for it, the list goes on. Basically, what I’m trying to say is that our lungs and pancreas are organs and so is our BRAIN. The one organ that remembers so much information, yet we forget that it sometimes needs treatment too.

However long you decide to treat your brain with Antidepressants depends on you and your Doctor, not society’s opinions. For me personally, I was only meant to be taking them for around 6 months until I started therapy. However, life got in the way as it always does and two years on, I’m still taking them. The reason why I haven’t stopped taking them yet is very complicated and I can’t actually discuss it online yet (exclusive content coming soon guyz 😘 ✌🏻). I could be taking them for many years to come, but that doesn’t make me weak and any less of a person than people may judge me as.

I hope that this week’s rambling has helped you in some way. Whether you take Antidepressants or not, I wanted to remind you that suffering with crappy mental health is not a taboo and is nothing to be ashamed of. If you’re suffering with mental health issues and this is potentially an option for you, I hope that by being frank and honest about my experiences, I can help you through your recovery journey.

If pills aren’t your thing, then stay tuned for next week’s blog where I’ll be discussing how I’ve learned to deal with anxiety.

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My Personal Experience With Bad Mental Health

Trigger Warning: I discuss my experience with crappy mental health and I also mention weight loss and sickness in this blog.

Okay, so I know I’m a bit late for World Mental Health Day. You know, the one day each year where we tell everyone to “treat each other with kindness” and share some aesthetically pleasing posts on social media, before we forget and resume normal life until next year? Yeah, that one. Well, I’m posting this today because caring about mental health shouldn’t be treated as a novelty like World Biscuit Day.

Crappy mental health doesn’t come around once a year like Christmas, it happens every minute of every single day. I know this because it’s something that has affected me for almost two years now. So get ready for it… Yes, you guessed it. I’m yet another person talking about my struggles with anxiety on the internet.

The easiest way I can describe suffering with poor mental health, is like you’re constantly carrying a person on your back. Now unless you’re Hulk Hogan, you usually have to put that person down after a few minutes. But in this case, the person is holding onto you tight and you’re unable to put them down. No matter the amount of pain you’re experiencing carrying the weight of this person on your back, you’ll never put them down. The person on your back is a humanisation of poor mental health.

Although you’ll carry this person on your back for the rest of your life, there are ways that you can make it easier. You can either get stronger and become Hulk Hogan, you can ease the pain by taking pain relief or you can share this weight with others. In my case, I did all three. 

Before I started to experience the symptoms, I want to point out that I was someone who used to think that someone having a panic attack was just them being over-dramatic and that you couldn’t possibly feel that distressed about a situation so small.

So I knew something was wrong back in March 2018. Working in London, getting trains and braving the Central Line had become a daily ritual that I did with ease. Until one day, I thought I was going to puke. The feeling completely overwhelmed me and the thought of throwing up all over the carriage terrified me. I can only describe this feeling as the way your body feels before you actually throw up. Hot, dizzy and nauseous. But anyway, I persevered and continued my usual journey into work.

Once I was in the office, the feeling didn’t disappear and things only got worse at the end of the day when I had to get back on the train again. The nauseating feeling followed me the whole way home.

So, long story short. This cycle continued and progressively got worse. I was completely dreading going to work, I was carrying Tesco carrier bags in my handbag in case I was sick and I was popping travel sickness tablets like there was no tomorrow. At lunchtimes, I would be completely repulsed by the thought of eating and gave it up all together. I’d convinced myself that food was making me sick and I’d be better off without it. As a result, I lost a lot of weight during this time. I didn’t tell anyone about what I was going through because I didn’t even know what I was going through.

The turning point, however, came when I went on a trip to Amsterdam that I’d been planning for months. I was buzzing and not just about trying the weed. I somehow managed to get through the train journey there through sheer excitement and a couple of sickness tablets. But once I got there and realised my dream hotel was in the middle of nowhere and I’d be faced with tram journeys everywhere, I completely lost it. 

This is how it went:

  1. The Sex Museum: I left this place in a complete mess and not just because I sat on the giant penis sculpture.
  2. The Ice Bar: This place was pretty crap but I love cocktails. However, we went for 10 minutes before I needed to go back to the hotel again.
  3. Canal Boat Ride: You can’t go to Amsterdam without a boat ride along the famous canals and somehow I managed to “sail through” this excursion.
  4. The Red Light District: I’m not even going to lie but this was the place I was the most looking forward to. However, it must’ve been insulting to the women looking like I was going to throw up at their door.
  5. The Anne Frank House: I really wanted to see this historic place but had to leave within ten minutes as I was crying my eyes out, feeling like I was going to puke on her poor bed.

So, yeah. Amsterdam went pretty well. (I thought I’d insert this little excerpt of my trip for some much needed humour).

Anyway, back to the story. Once I was home, there was ABSOLUTELY NO WAY I was getting back on the train to work again, so I called my boss and told her exactly what I’d been secretly going through for the last few months. Even though we have a strong relationship, I was still terrified about what she’d say and whether she’d believe me. But she did. Looking back now, I wish I’d just been honest as I’d have been able to overcome this much quicker.

Once I’d gotten her approval for a few days off, I went to an appointment with my GP. I know this is a scary place for anything that isn’t a physical illness but I needed help right away. So I just did it and I was diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety Disorder. Now, unless you’re a serious risk to yourself or others, there’s not a lot that they can do in this one appointment alone. Which is why I was referred for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and offered my first packet of antidepressants or “happy pills” as I like to call them.

Happy pills have a huge stigma around them, like they’re a weakness or something. But the way I see it is that you’d take insulin for Diabetes so why wouldn’t you take a drug designed to help your brain, which is also an organ? So I took them and after a few initial side effects, they gradually began to help me to live a normal life again.

(As this blog is hella long I’m going to be writing another all about my experience with antidepressants and tools I use to cope with anxiety so stay tuned.)

Almost two years later and through sharing my mental health problems with those close to me and as well as taking the happy pills and regular visits with my GP, I’m almost the person I was before. I say “almost” because I’m coming back to the metaphor in paragraph three about carrying a person on your back. 

Even after all this time has passed, I still carry the person on my back. But it’s a lot easier now. By sharing the weight with my friends and family and by taking pain relief, I sometimes forget they are there. Some days, it’s a struggle to carry the weight of them but I’m gradually getting stronger and stronger everyday. I’m practically Hulk Hogan now.

 

I hope that if you are reading this, you never have to experience what I have been through but if you do, that you follow my advice and seek help straight away as it can change your life. Stay strong and remember to treat others with kindness every day as you don’t have a clue what they’re going through.

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