My First Panic Attack.

Dear Blog,

For most of my teenage life, I suffered from panic attacks. One was so bad that I ended up in A&E. While over the years, I have learnt how to manage and hide them, I always remember my very first, full-blown anxiety attack.

I was eleven, in my first year of high school and was overall in an OK place in my young life. While I had experience extreme moments of hysteria in the past, as my Emetophobia had been triggered the year before, they were nothing compared to what I was about to experience.

I was sat in my French class, the first class after lunch and my seat was towards the back of the room, next to my best friend. I remember it so clearly. Randomly, my best friend had a stick of string cheese in her blazer pocket and despite it being out of its packet and dry around the edges, we shared it. I don’t know why this sticks at such a prominent part of the story, perhaps I blamed the cheese when I was younger,
The class began and about 20 minutes in, I wasn’t feeling so well. I couldn’t explain it. My heart was racing and I getting increasingly anxious and fidgety, I could hear every tick of the second hand on our room clock.

As time went on, I tried to concentrate on the lesson but with little luck. The anxiety kept building and the walls felt like they were closing in. I was hot, sweaty and scared. I couldn’t take it no more. Not knowing what was happening, I got up out of my chair, walked to the front of the class to approach the teacher but before I could say anything, I burst into tears and became hyperventilating. In the confusion, several of my friends had gathered around me just as the school bell rang. Caught in the crowd of pupils heading to their next class, I ended up in the corridor, surrounded by people. I couldn’t breath and the more people who gathered around, the more overwhelmed I became. The corridor got more and more crowded and my outburst had drawn the attention of strangers I’d never met, wondering what had happened to create such a chaotic scene. My teacher was trying to talk to me but I couldn’t hear what she was saying, I was just so frightened.
I had alarmed my fellow students so much that I distinctly remember one of the girls who bullied me, trying to pull me into a hug to calm me down.

The next few moments are really blurry but amongst the confusion, I ended up in the school nurses office with the class teaching assistant. I had calmed down by this point though shock and shaking had taken over my body. I had no idea what had just happened. I’d never experienced anything like that without bring triggered by an event of some kind. Unfortunately, this wasn’t going to be my last panic attack and they plagued most of my teenage years and early 20’s. Particularly when I was ill.
Nowadays I am much better at controlling and hiding them. When I get particularly stressed, I can feel my body getting into the same state it had when I was in that french class. There have been times in the middle of this year where life seemed to overwhelm me but I had to be brave and breath in order to help those around me.

Panic attacks are scary. The whole sense of losing control, sometimes for no reason at all. They can take over your life, prevent you from going into certain situations, make you avoid any potential triggers. But you need to show them you are the boss. This is your body. You are in control.

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Bulimia: After The Recovery.

Dear Blog,

In 2014, I was sat in a doctor’s office, being officially diagnosed with an illness I knew I had: Bulimia. Despite my mental state, I distinctly remember asking him if  I would ever get rid of the illness, to which he simply replied: “Most people learn to control it but it will likely be there for the rest of your life”. Four years later and unfortunately those words ring true.

For me to develop Bulimia in the first place was quite a shock to anyone who knew me growing up. From the age of 10, I suffered from Emetophobia, the phobia of vomiting, triggered by my fathers drunken antics.
When I say phobia, I don’t mean general disgust and a slight adrenaline rush, I mean full-blown panic attacks, hysteria, sweats, anxiety… It is a huge contributor as to why I don’t drink alcohol or go out clubbing…
But when uni starter the september before, I found myself consumed by the devil itself.

Four years on and I am a happy, healthy ex-bulimic with every determination to stay this way for the rest of my life. However, I still have bad days. Day’s when I look in the mirror, horrified by what I see. Days where the voice in my head begs me to skip a meal or work longer shifts so I burn more calories.  I succeed in banishing that voice back to the dark pit from which it came but it always lingers. The best way to tackle it is to avoid any triggers or situations that involve dietary talk. Unfortunately that’s isn’t very easy when you work in a hospital full of sick and vomiting patients as well as a department with a huge population of ‘fad dieters’. Fad diets spread around my department as fast as the Pneumonic plague and when your trapped in the middle of a four-way dieting conversation, its suffocating.

Managing myself, my thoughts, has become the norm for me. As anyone who has experienced a mental health illness will tell you, you can’t run away from your own thoughts so with the support of those around you, you have to learn to shout louder than any other voice. I know for now how to control it. My worries come for the future, when I eventually find someone and have a baby. I don’t know how I’ll cope seeing my body change. I know I’ll be growing another human being and not getting fat but the issue with body dysmorphia is that you don’t see yourself as you are.
If I decide to eat a whole pizza in one sitting, the next day I will believe that I have gained permanent weight but I know that any bloating is temporary and in a day or two I’ll go back to feeling like my normal self.

This illness has made me a very jumpy person. What once was a fear of vomiting has developed into an immense fear of ever becoming bulimic again. It is my biggest fear, and out of all the crap I have been though in my life, having my thoughts controlled and dominated was by far the worst. I get panicky whenever someone close to me loses weight. Whenever someone simply mentions the word ‘Diet’, but especially when someone comments on the way I look. I absolutely hate it.

I am lucky that I have gained a huge support network. My family and friends are all there when I need them and know what to look out for should I ever fall back into my old habits. I have always been open with people about my past because I know all too well how easy it is to hide and get consumed.

 


I wrote this in honor of National Mental Health Day. It is ok to not be ok and no one should feel like they have to go through it alone. If you are struggling, please tell those closest to you. We will get through this together. 

Wake Up!

The doctors, they said it,
An illness? You claimed it.
Like a badge of honor, you wear these labels,
Consumed by the reactions, you act unstable.
You’d think no-one else had ever experienced,
The hardships you claim, You’re delirious.
Everyday is different:
You’re angry,
You’re happy,
You’re depressed and snappy,
One minute you’re suicidal,
The next you’re shagging every man,
You’re in such denial.
Am I coming?
Or going?
Do you want me?
I’m tiptoeing.
Wake up,
Your reality is a lie.
Come off social media,
Detoxify.
It’s not hard to just be genuine.
Life’s not great,
But you’re on the road to ruin,
Everything you’ve built the past 4 years.
You know where I am,
I can lend an ear.
But only if you take a sec to remember,
How lost you were that special November…

Rebuild: It Takes Time.

Play me in the background.

Dear Blog,

When I was down, I used to spring back up. I used to put on my imaginary armor, fists clenched and flight. Blow after blow and I would continue, feeding off the adrenaline as tears streamed down my face. I would be hanging, broken and bruised but still asking for more. I never won, I never felt victorious.
Post fight and I would skulk away, shed my protection and be isolated. Alone. And ultimately, confused. I thought I was being strong. I thought I was protecting myself. I must not let anyone hurt me. Not again.
Inside, I was fractured. Things were coming apart, loose connections flailed in the voids. Thoughts and instructions couldn’t complete their journeys. The lights were going out.
So I would panic. And when I panic, I fight. The cycle repeats.

I spend my entire youth like this. subconscious self sabotage. Things continued until all the lights were out, my eyes were glazed over and I was nothing more than a shell, walking the earth with fragments of my soul rattling in my shoes. As my shell trekked the country, it unknowingly passed hundreds of similar beings; Broken.

Heres the thing about being broken, it takes an effort to fix it. Over the years, with the help of pills, councillors, therapists, the pieces in my toes began to slowly rebuild. Brick by brick. At first things were held together with tape. A quick fix. Sometimes I faces challenges and before I could think about my reaction, I would fight. And break. Crumbled. Again the peices began to rebuild. Slightly stronger tape was used. As time went on, the challanges seemed less relevent. I didn’t have the energy to flight. Instead, I would shrug and walk on by. I couldn’t collapse again.
The distance gave the pieces time to fuse together, slowly climbing up my body, giving me back feeling in my hands, in my heart, in my brain. I wasn’t trying to be strong, I was strong. It repaired the connections that were once lost. The idea’s came back and so did the imagination. And when it was time to turn on the lights:

I was ready to face the world as a new person. I have crumbled for the last time.

 

 

 

 

I Absorb Personalities.

Dear Blog,

At the moment, life isn’t as easy as I would like it to be but it has given me a lot to think about such as, me as a person and where my issues lie. Then I had a thought, an epiphany if you will: I have a personality draining demon.

As I have grown up, especially in the last 4 years, I have gone through a huge personality shift. Things I thought were important, things I’d dreamed off for years, faded into the background and I learnt life didn’t have to be linear, we aren’t in the 1950’s. I am free to go, do, be anything I want to be.

In 2014, I dyed my hair bright blue, straying away from my long, natural blonde hair. I saw a youtuber who had the same shade who seemed to have a pretty decent life at the age of 26 and I was inspired. So I changed my appearance to embrace this new-found youth. I have not been my natural hair colour since.  Now I know back then, I was more copying her rather than being motivated by her but I do still believe it triggered a change in me. From that moment, I have been absorbing different parts of people’s personalities.

Later that year, I got into an unhealthy relationship. I hold my hands up and admit I was 75% the cause and thankfully it didn’t last long. However, I met this person and listened to their stories, their families stories and was again inspired (can you see a trend?). This person was a keen guitarist and singer and although I have been playing guitar since I was 16, I am nowhere near pro (and unfortunately it is a skill I have completely given up now), I was starstruck. His favourite band soon became mine, I started taking my guitar more seriously and would often bug him so let me play on his until it became such a focus of mine, a obsession, that I soon overtook him and his passion until he couldn’t keep up. He went back into his shell like a freshly dried raisin. Then things ended.

So now we are in 2015/16 and I am this blue haired, semi-rock chic with guitar chords pumping through my veins. What would be the next thing I’d add to my arsenal? How about traveling.

In 2016, I met my current partner. When we met, I was hung up on the idea of getting married and having children. That was my goal in life. But when we met, I heard stories about living in Australia and Vietnam. Going from country to country on your own. This was like giving sugar to a bee. I adored that idea. I craved that idea. I stole that idea… Over the course of 2 years, children were out of the picture, replaced with plan after plan of going on holidays, month-long breaks and even moving to New Zealand. Everything sounded so exciting and was feeding this demon.
Cycling was another trait I adopted from my partner. Before I knew it, I was entering sportives left, right and center. I bought a bike worth hundreds of pounds, cycled everywhere and invested so much of my spare time watching cycling videos on YouTube. Weekends were filled with the urge to cycle more, further, faster. It was a sport my partner had partaken in since he was 8 years old and here I was, going crazy, addicted. I wanted it all but I couldn’t see that I was draining him. I was literally sucking the life right out of him and he became just another shell of who he had been. Because of me. So much inspiration that I adored but instead of cherishing his traits and talents, I wanted them for my own.

Here, in 2018, I am an energised, motivated, inspired ball of raging energy, yet I am alone. I took what I loved and I killed it.

I hope that I have found who I am ment to be and will stop this destruction otherwise I will end up with nothing to show but a list of failures and broken hearts. In a world with so much opportunity, where it is normal to go against the norm, how will I find my balance? Or am I still a naive 25 year old?

The Dysmorphia Demon.

*Please be warned that this post talks about body dysmorphia and issues relating to body image and eating disorders. Please do not continue if you are fighting your own ED battle, however do get support. You got this.*

Dear Blog,

Like a lot of people in this day and age, I have fallen victim to some unhealthy habits that will forever change the way I see food and myself. 4 years on and I am virtually back to my normal ways and that nightmare is locked in a box on my mental, metaphorical shelf. The one thing that I have accepted that I will always have is Body Dysmorphia.

Back in January, I said to myself that I would healthily and sensibly trim down and look after myself by exercising more and eating less brownies. I’m quite proud of how well I have stuck to this. Though, gyms are an odd place for someone with a history like mine and the one thing I absolutely hate is the mirror walls. I don’t currently own a full length mirror so I rarely see my whole body however, when I ‘m at the gym, bright red and covered in sweat, my whole body is the absolute last thing anyone would want to see yet there is no avoiding it. I see my body differently to how I image it and it is not at all an attractive sight. I swear they put fun house mirrors in the gym just to trick us.

I do find it strange (and oddly fascinating) how our minds work and perceive things such as body image. I have definitely noticed a change in my body since joining the gym, I’m sure I have, yet my jeans aren’t any loser and the scales haven’t really moved… Then, I catch myself in the mirror and everything looks 30kg heavier than I remembered. It’s the same with clothes. How can this dress look great, trim and sexy yet as soon as I zip it up, I turn into Mrs Doubtfire?

Is that just me?

When I’m working, I’ll go days without looking in the mirror or weighting myself  and those are the times when I feel most confident. Now, I know I could easily live a life without a full length mirror and scales but I then worry that I’m viewing my body in a unatual way. When I was ill, I saw myself as being big when in reality I was anything but. Now the tables have turned and I see myself in a healthier manner but how do I know that I’m still not just trapped in an illusion that my head has created? When I see how toned my carves have gotten, I feel proud. I might even have a chocolate bar as a reward. What if my toned carfs are part of the illusion and I’m just adding chocolate to an already lumpy podge. In all fairness, this is exactly how I (and many other) gained weight in the first place. The good ol’ “one more slice wont hurt” chestnut until BOOM! It did hurt.

Maybe life is just one giant fun house and I’m currently trapped in the mirror maze.