Battling The Need To Be In Control

My anxiety has manifested itself in many ways throughout my life. One of the ways in which my anxious brain has manipulated my actions is through ingraining in me that I need to be in control of every situation. For example:

1) To stay safe I need to know every detail about where I am going, what I am doing and how long I will be there.

2) I need to constantly know where my family are in case of an emergency.

3) To reassure myself I need to ask my loved ones what they are thinking all the time so that I can share their burdens. 

These impulses which I feel on a daily basis are all evidence of my need to be in control in every facet of my life so that I can pacify my anxiety. My brain tells me that if I am not in constant control then surely something bad will happen because of my negligence. I worry often about mine and other’s safety due to my desire to understand every possible variable which could result from any and all circumstances.

Not only is this undoubtedly annoying for the people I am around but it is also exhausting for me. My brain is constantly spinning as I try to battle the spiralling feeling of not having full control. When I get into this state, irrational thoughts rule my brain as I become convinced that something bad is certain to happen. This leads me towards tension headaches and panic attacks. Evidently, this is no way to live.

Over recent weeks, I have been taking active steps to reassure myself that not being in control is okay and that it is not my responsibility to constantly keep abreast of all the possibilities which my circumstances could generate. In fact, sometimes when you relinquish the iron grip of control, this is when unexpected things happen and good opportunities can arise from you being open to a situation rather than feeling threatened by it. I have allowed myself to believe that my anxious brain is tricking me into wasting energy on things which may never happen and worries which are illogical.

Now, I would much rather live in the moment and appreciate my surroundings than analyse them from a critical standpoint so that I can analyse potential threats. Being on high alert all day is much less rewarding than owning your actions and embracing the chance that things might not turn out how you want them to because these are the turn of events that you will learn from. Instead of being tense and apprehensive, remind yourself that you will feel so proud and accomplished if you relinquish control and do not base your actions on your anxieties.

The better way is possible. 

Here are some resources which go into more depth about the need to be in control and paranoid thoughts:

Paranoia – Mind, the mental health charity

Information from the NHS on Generalised Anxiety Disorder

Inspiration and What You Want

There are so many options in life. So many times where we face a crossroads; decisions which feel like they will define and shape the years which follow. We are presented with choices to be made on a daily basis and it is hard to know which route to take a lot of the time. How do we know whether a certain path will benefit us in the long-run? How can we be sure that we will not regret turning an opportunity down? Which choice would contribute best to our wellbeing and mental health?

Choices come with a lot of baggage and worry. We do not want to close-down our access to certain opportunities but often I have found that I am not fully certain on what I want to do in the future, where I want to be and how I wish to get there. Without clarity about your future as well as your present, decisions can feel like a huge weight to bare because you do not feel ready or prepared to tackle them.

“My philosophy is that worrying means you suffer twice.” – Newt Scamander

Recently, I have set the intention to let what inspires me guide me. Things which re-kindle my passion, things which set-off excitement within me and things which set my mind alight with possibilities are the things which I am going to take my cues from. It appears clear to me now that what inspires us sends us a direct message about what we are supposed to do in life because they show us what we want. The things which peak our curiosity and intellectual engagement do so because we have a natural leaning towards them which tells us that these are paths we are meant to follow and opportunities we are supposed to fulfil. Why else would they cause us to give such an emotive response to them?

When we are unclear about where we want to end-up in the future and what career or lifestyle path we should pursue, we should look to what inspires us. Within inspiration lies our real, true calling. Inspiration strips-back all of the external influences over our decisions, such as other people’s opinions, societal expectations and financial pre-occupation. By discarding all of these unhelpful layers which can cloud our minds when we make decisions, it is easier for us to understand what we truly want and what choices will be of the most benefit to us both in the long and short term.

“Hold fast to dreams,

For if dreams die

Life is a broken-winged bird, 

That cannot fly.”

Langston Hughes

 

What I Have Learnt From Living Alone

In the September of 2017, I took the step to start living on my own. Beforehand, I thought that this change was going to be a breeze, so I stepped into this new living arrangement  overly confident and was not prepared for the realities of what would come. Within hours of moving all of my stuff into my little flat, I completely crumbled and sat on my bed sobbing. I could hear the sounds of people nearby holding parties and people’s laughter outside my room seemed to torment me. I wondered why I was so different to everyone else. Why didn’t I enjoy parties and like having friends around? I questioned my motivation for deciding to live alone and worried about what I was actually planning to do with my life – everything seemed so intensely intimidating and up in the air all at the same time.

It was my second night living on my own that I started this blog. I needed an outlet, something to pour my thoughts out into as well as a place where I could feel less lonely than I did in real life. Originally I called this site ‘Messed Up Mind’ because that was the statement I felt truly summarised the state I was in at the time. I felt trapped by the haunting presence of depression and anxiety which both limited me from living the life I had imagined for myself.

Eventually, I began to adapt though. I can’t lie, there were still many more tearful evenings to come but through the help of others as well as the self-confidence which writing on this blog gave me, I gained a new appreciation for life and found a new rhythm to live to. Once I re-embraced my creativity, I stopped feeling so terrible about myself for being different to other people; I realised that we are all individuals with our own journeys to navigate. Without further ado, here is a list of things I have learnt from living alone:

1) Living on the bottom floor of a block of flats has its downsides

Whilst you have less stairs to trudge up and down whilst moving in or struggling with heavy shopping, there are some disadvantages to being on the ground floor. Namely, I have found myself creeped-out by people who feel entitled to look into my flat whilst they walk past my window. Rationally I know that they probably mean no harm but it can be quite unsettling to have people staring into the place where you live. Also, I have woken-up multiple times to groups of drunk people singing The White Stripes just outside my bedroom window because there is a green space right next to me through which people stumble home. At times I could see the funny side of this but in other moments I wanted to scream in frustration that I was losing sleep because of people’s poor karaoke versions of ‘Seven Nation Army’.

2) You will deal with the unexpected as it arises and these instances will become lasting memories

From my block of flat’s fire alarm going off multiple times at 3 AM to a hole opening in my bathroom ceiling, a fair few things happened to me which I was not prepared for. If you had asked me a year ago whether I could have coped with some of these things I would have said ‘definitely not’. However, water falling through my ceiling did not leave me as the crumpled mess I would have expected. Instead, I ran out of bed and dealt with the situation whilst also being pretty self-conscious for the next few days because I couldn’t use my shower (oh, the glamour)! Essentially, when you are met with the unexpected, for the most part, you will surprise yourself and surpass your own expectations. The pride which this grows within you will hold you in good stead for whatever comes next.

3) Asking for help always turns out easier than your mind tells you it will be 

Just because you are living alone does not mean that you have to suffer in silence. You are not being a burden or a failure if you reach out for help, actually you are showing a huge amount of inner strength and resilience. Just because you are now in a living situation where you have to take full responsibility for yourself and be self-sustaining does not mean that you cannot look around for other people to help you out. Also, whilst your mind tells you that this will be a horrible experience, more often than not people are receptive when you ask for their help.

4) The feeling of defeat will pass

When I had to deal with rudeness, people giving me knock-backs and being treated poorly, it was a new experience not being able to immediately vent to another person I was living with and receive empathy in person. However, these feelings of being defeated and wanting to give-up trying to make a life for myself did not last forever and, now I look back on them, they don’t have the same effect on me as they used to, the pain is no longer raw. Experiencing these instances are horrible but they will not come to define you a couple months or a year after they occurred and you can be proud of that.

5) Do not feel embarrassed about feeling lonely or isolated

These feelings do not mean that you are over-sensitive or childish or weak, feeling lonely is not something to be ashamed of. Take these emotions seriously because their long-term effects and consequences can be painful if you do not tackle them head-on. Hiding your reality from others will not help, instead personal growth comes from learning about yourself and what makes you feel happy and content.

6) Eating cereal for every meal is not a good idea

You may not know this about me but cereal is my favourite food, so, of course, once I started living on my own I over-indulged and basically just ate cereal with the occasional piece of toast every once in a while. Whilst it is tempting to give-into that newfound feeling of freedom and give yourself whatever food you want, you probably won’t thank yourself in the long-run. Do not give yourself the licence to neglect your health just because there is no-one looking over your shoulder to tell you not to (says she who just had cereal for dinner!).

 

Information on loneliness by the mental health charity ‘Mind’ – here is a link if you are struggling with the feelings of loneliness which I mentioned above.

Ghosts

I made a mistake –

A wormhole of life’s misjudgements –

To succumb to the waylaid thinking;

That life is a waiting game

And I am in a room, remaining to be picked.

 

For the world’s sins

Humans anticipate their whole life

Only taking steps towards their heart – stopping,

We walk the path of slowest decay,

Then see how painful we can make it.

The Wisdom of Rubeus Hagrid

Hagrid is an often overlooked character in the Harry Potter series. Readers may chuckle fondly at him and his clumsiness or his many ambitious schemes to conceal or train magical creatures, however Hagrid is not given enough credit for the virtues he displays or the hardships he has to face. So, to give Hagrid the attention he deserves, here are three lessons which the Hogwarts Keeper of Keys and Care of Magical Creatures Professor taught us throughout the Harry Potter books.

1. Our differences gives us a unique insight rather than being a burden to hamper us

Hagrid lives his life on the fringes of the magical community as a half-giant. He was lumbered with the weight of the many stereotypes which wizards and witches attributed to giants; that they must all be stupid, without compassion and undeserving of the same privileges which the wizarding community could enjoy. However, Hagrid proceeded to show all of these stereotypes to be wrong; he had the highest understanding of anyone about the workings of magical creatures, as well as showing the most love and empathy to both them and his pupils. His experience of being consistently undermined, persecuted and insulted by wizards and witches alike gave him the insight to understand how other marginalised communities felt. For example, when Hermione was first called a ‘mudblood’ by Draco Malfoy, it was Hagrid who could comfort her the most because he knew what it was like to be ridiculed for being different. Also, he had unique sympathy for the cruelty Harry experienced when living with the Dursleys because he knew what it was like to be treated as an inferior and frequently criticised.

2. Love and loyalty breeds the strongest relationships

Hagrid was the first person to show the 11 year old Harry proper love and almost paternal affection. Hagrid never doubted Harry for one moment throughout all of the years when he was being ridiculed by the Ministry and The Daily Prophet and, in return, Harry counted him as one of his closest friends and allies, as shown when they stopped to hug each other even when the Battle of Hogwarts was raging around them. The loyalty Hagrid showed Dumbledore when he obliged any request which the Headmaster gave him was also met with loyalty in return as Dumbledore would not hear a bad word about the Keeper of Keys and protected him in his job when most members of the wizarding community would not have given the position to the half-giant in the first place because of their own prejudice.

3. Hard work and dedication can overcome the obstacles others place in your path

Hagrid was denied the education that was rightfully his as a young Tom Riddle took advantage of the many stereotypes which people attributed to giants and used them to frame Hagrid as the pupil who had opened the Chamber of Secrets. Therefore, Hagrid’s learning was cut short and he was burdened with the label of being a particularly dangerous member of the magical community. Through this he was stripped of his right to ever use magic again and had his wand snapped (although he did find ways around this with his pink umbrella!). However, Hagrid did not let any of these things stop him as his love of magical creatures continued to flourish and he found himself back at one of the most prestigious magical schools in the world within an official staff role. Later on, when Hagrid was again convicted of opening the Chamber of Secrets in Harry’s second year, he eventually returned to the school with his name cleared and without a hint that he would ever take a step back from his role in the magical community even though he was aware of how easy it was for his peers to suspect him of terrible and violent crimes. Whatever hardships and barriers were placed in Hagrid’s way, he found methods to navigate them whilst never showing any shame for who he was and continued to show love and compassion to his beloved magical creatures.

“I am what I am, an’ I’m not ashamed. ‘Never be ashamed,’ my ol’ dad used ter say, ‘there’s some who’ll hold it against you, but they’re not worth botherin’ with.” – Rubeus Hagrid

My Bucket List

Focusing on long-term goals can make your present feel a bit brighter, like there is something to look forward to or a milestone that you are working towards. Making my bucket list gave me a real insight into who I am and what I want from life, from the smaller things to the bigger desires on my list.

  • To become a published author
  • To live abroad
  • To get a tattoo of a phoenix
  • To live in a caravan for a period of time
  • To visit Vancouver Island
  • To learn Danish
  • To be self-employed, at least for a while
  • To visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando
  • To do yoga outside as the sun sets in a foreign country
  • To lie outside as the sun rises in a foreign country
  • To do a charity swimathon
  • To adopt a greyhound
  • To hike the Appalachian Trail

Creating my bucket list has been a really fun experience. Please share in the comments what dreams you have for the future!

‘Dreams are the touchstones of our characters’ – Henry David Thoreau

Intuition…

I am an over-thinker. I worry obsessively about upcoming events weeks in advance and I agonise over my inability to control every situation I am in. My social anxiety tells me that any number of wild possibilities could happen if I leave the house or that seemingly innocuous activities could bring me into danger. Everyday my brain whirs with a string of imagined scenarios, all created with the hope that I will keep myself nestled in bed where I will be safe rather than risk pushing my boundaries and challenging myself.

However, recently I have come to realisation; that we all have intuition for a reason. That gut feeling which appears when you are presented with a crossroads in life is not something to be disregarded. Rather than always let your brain take over and over-analyse situations until you end-up missing out on endless opportunities, listen to your natural instincts. Our intuition is an innate feature of being human and can tell us when we are actually in danger or whether we should take an opportunity or not. Best of all, it does not wait around or dither about decisions, it is a natural physical reaction which happens in the moment and can help guide us if we are in two-minds over a decision or situation.

In many ways, humans have come so far away from listening to our guts and trusting in our natural instincts that the norm is now to live on the ultra-cautious side to save ourselves from any potential difficulties in the future. But what if, by doing this, we are actually just stopping ourselves from actually experiencing anything fulfilling or different? After all, if we always live in our bubble, surely we will become claustrophobic and regret all of our missed opportunities and chances? Often we disregard our intuition to save ourselves from any potential embarrassment or failure but this blocks us off from the experiences which will enhance our personal growth and allow us to feel more confident in trusting ourselves.

Our intuition is not something to be viewed with wary scepticism or suspicion. It is a natural part of us that should be embraced rather than curbed by fear or over-caution.

“Belief consists in accepting the affirmations of the soul; unbelief, in denying them.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

RECOVERY

QUESTION: is the idea of ‘recovery’ helpful?

I have mixed feelings about recovery. Whether it is a help or a hindrance when so many people present it as an ideal which feels distant and unattainable to people who are in the midst of any type of illness. Sometimes when people reference recovery or being recovered, it just makes me feel more lost and hopeless than I was before. However, other times it can inspire me and give me the courage to keep moving forward with the comfort that others have weathered similar storms.

What is probably most frustrating to me about the idea of recovery is that it is so vague by virtue that it is subjective and hard to pin down in what it means to each of us individually. There is no specific route or journey that will lead you straight to recovery, the same steps and challenges do not work for anyone. Recovery does not look the same for everyone either, leaving me in the strange position of never being entirely certain of what I am aiming or working towards, meaning that my motivation begins to dwindle behind my uncertain mind.

Whenever counsellors or therapists have mentioned recovery to me I have felt myself recoil into my seat. Even the word seems so intimidating and far off in the distance. Also, I find the use of the term frustrating because who has the right or the knowledge to determine exactly what recovery is, what it looks like and what the time period for recovery should be? However much I want there to be a finish line I also do not know who I am without mental illness because I have let my mental health define me for so long. How do I separate myself from the characteristics of my illnesses and how will I know when this process is complete and I have recovered?

This post is a mess of rhetorical questions and abstract thoughts but what I have learnt from it is that I need to narrow down the specifics of what I am striving towards and what progress I will be satisfied with so that I could call myself recovered. Abstract and vague goals only lead to more frustration and motivation leaving me like a deflated balloon.

“I wanted to tell her that I was getting better, because that was supposed to be the narrative of illness: It was a hurdle you jumped over, or a battle you won. Illness is a story told in the past tense.” – ‘Turtles All The Way Down’ by John Green

5 Steps to Minimalism

Minimalism. The word can conjure intimidating thoughts of incredibly stylish people living in ultra-airy, sleek apartments or an all-or-nothing lifestyle in which you reject absolutely everything that is socially mainstream. For me, I see minimalism as an art. Also, I see minimalism as an art which can be adopted to varying degrees depending on different people’s lifestyles, interests and needs. For example, I strive to be a minimalist but I still have a book collection which spans two bookcases and a good portion of a wardrobe, even though I sincerely doubt that I will ever read many of those books again. However, I don’t believe that this fact should stop me from aligning myself with the minimalist lifestyle because it is my choice which sections of my life I adopt this art form in most.

Here are five important beginners steps towards adopting minimalism which hopefully will seem neither intimidating nor wildly unrealistic:

1. Stop viewing clothes sentimentally

This has been a great stumbling block for me in the past. I have kept clothes and shoes which I had long since grown-out of or were essentially falling apart at the seams simply because I attach particular memories to them. However, this is not a sustainable approach. If I had kept keeping every item of clothing which I linked back to wearing at a particular time in a certain memory I would have had an ever expanding collection of clothing which I would have to haul around with me for the rest of my life and devote a considerable amount of space to, even though I would never have the intention of wearing them again. Also, donating the clothes which you have grown-out of is so much more satisfying then seeing them gather dust in the long abandoned corner of your wardrobe, by giving them away to someone else you are given those items a new lease of life as well as letting someone else enjoy them much more than you were.

2. Identify all of the objects which weigh you down

This is where honesty is crucial. If you want to live a lifestyle which is spontaneous and easy to adapt to new living situations then it is easier in the long-run to pick out which items you own which just are not you anymore. This is not just limited to clothing, it corresponds to all possessions which you do not relate to or identify with anymore and which simply tie you down. It may seem difficult to discard items which you may have been gifted at Christmas a long time ago for instance but it is very likely that such objects were bought for the person you were back then and since you have developed after receiving the gift, it no longer feels personal or relevant to you anymore. Do not let objects or possessions weigh you down!

3. Which objects actually add to your quality of life?

It is a brutal fact that some possessions we have are simply overkill. The majority of us do not need or utilise all of the possessions we have yet we surround ourselves with things which are only marginally useful to us. After a while all of these unnecessary objects can get cumbersome and you will have no space to store things which actually add to your quality of life. In that case, get rid of those things which do not have a positive impact on you or actively help you live and enjoy your life.

4. Which products, if you disposed of them, would make your life simpler?

Taking the example of clothing, if I compare how long it used to take me to get dressed in the morning when I had drawers and a wardrobe overflowing with piles of garments to how long it takes me now when I have condensed my wardrobe, the time I save in the morning is invaluable. I used to agonise endlessly over what to wear, analyse what impression my clothes would give and try to work-out what others might approve of me wearing. However, I am not passionate in any way about fashion. This does not make me better or worse than other people, it’s just a fact, so I chose to simplify my life in this area. I now have a core amount of clothes which I am happy with and comfortable in and rotate them accordingly which saves me time and space, as well as lifting the burden of owning so many clothes which I did not particularly like in the first place but that other people encouraged me to buy so that I would follow trends.

5. What is clutter?

I did not realise how much clutter I owned until I really committed myself to downsizing the amount of possessions I had. I must have owned over a hundred different hairbands and hair accessories in a variety of different colours and shapes from when I had long hair but considering my hair is so short that I couldn’t even tie it up now if I wanted to, that is completely ridiculous! I had kept little toys and figurines which I bought for 50p at car boot sales when I was a kid as well as CDs and DVDs which I had no intention of ever listening to or watching again. Removing all of these superfluous possessions meant that I had room to actually breathe rather than look at my space and sigh in exasperation because it looked like it had been ransacked by a considerably erratic thief!

I’M MOVING ON…

Recently, I had become weighed down by the routine and responsibilities of life. This sounds like the most stereotypical millennial thing to say but why should that stop me? It’s true. The transition into University life has been difficult; the constant pressing down of academia on any and all of my spare time and the looming dread of deadlines and exams have been a burden. At Uni there is a constant pressure to be many people all at the same time; the ambitious person with a five-year plan, the social butterfly, the student who juggles five extra-curriculars, the party animal and the person who can survive on four hours sleep a night and powers themselves on a constant stream of the bitterest black coffee. Why do we do this to ourselves? Honestly, I have no idea. We are so caught-up in trying to copy everyone else that we forget how to be ourselves and do what we came here to do; to develop as a person.

Cynicism seems to be the most popular currency at Uni. I know that the world can be a very dark place but constantly working to seek out and analyse those dark spaces can be exhausting. I feel like in my first term I forgot to give myself a relief from all the critical arguments and debates which I felt that I had to constantly keep pace with in my classes. My course demanded that I immerse myself completely in other people’s pain or become just generally distrustful of everyone and everything in the world. That was not sustainable or healthy.

Now I have made it my mission to remind myself to actually breathe. To not weigh myself down so heavily with the cynicism of academic theory and the pressure to be a hundred people all at once. For me, I do this by looking around me and seeing what is actually happening, taking in the moment rather than constantly burying myself in articles which are telling me that the world as we know it is coming to an end or that we are falling into our inevitable doom as a species. Instead, I am focusing on issues that I am passionate about and that I can have an actual effect on, especially the environment. Living a more sustainable and eco-friendly life makes me feel productive and like I am giving energy back into the world rather than parasitically sucking it out. I am organising things that I can look forward to and enjoy, rather than scheduling work experience placements to bulk-out my CV.

I am so privileged that I can take a breath and think about what is best for me and my health. I am not having to constantly struggle to provide a living for myself or work a 9-5 job and I should take advantage of that because who knows what my life will be like in the future and what it will demand of me? For now at least, positive choices are ones which work towards bettering my mental health rather than my grades. If that means taking a path which I was not initially planning on, then so be it…