An Explosion From a Lifetime of Being Manipulated

Spoken words are glaring and sticky,
With no canvas base for testing.
Emotions are not linear or following a pattern,
But a framed mess of jaunty angles;
Haywire, impossible, jostling,
All competing for human attention,
The room in my head not enough –
A dissatisfactory stage for their being.

 

 

Today I feel fragile and all my thoughts are tinged with guilt for letting myself feel so on edge and breakable. I am angry at myself for not being better, not being indestructible or able to rise above the white noise. Objectively, I know that I am setting my standards for myself way too high, almost like I want to have a reason to criticise and berate myself. Maybe this is what enduring a manipulative relationship leads to; the more time you spend being made to feel unworthy, the more you want to punish yourself for being so unlovable. In reality, I know these things, these judgements which are made about me are untrue and that I have pacified these waves of self-hatred which a toxic relationship has stirred-up before. I just need to find the courage to do so again. In the mean time, I will continue writing out my feelings to make sense of what I am going through and how I am growing as a person. I am sure that in the not too distant future, I will write more about this situation, to help educate others about the emotional torment of feeling trapped by a manipulative figure in your life. For now though, I will leave resources below for anyone who is being affected by this problem at the moment, as well as a promise to you that you are not alone.

NHS resources for cases of abuse

The Samaritans’ helpline and email address

Resources from Mind, the mental health charity

Are We Missing Something?

Through the eyes of my animals,
I see constellations, not flowers,
Vast fields of jewels in the sky,
Not an opaque glass ceiling,
My animals see beauty and life
Where before I just saw home.

Excitement is a life force in their eyes;
A sparkle betraying the fire of curiosity,
Underneath this lies the loving flutter
Of hearts set on adventure and discovery,
To them no walk is just a walk.

Love shines through them,
From the patter of their paws at a run,
To their heavy panting of anticipation,
Everyday is the beginning of a new story;
Opportunity in the enchantment of their world.

Scared of Rejection

My anxiety to be likeable –
It seems ironic to me –
I’m an fear-ridden introvert,
Yet I base my worth on praise
And people’s eye contact,
Whether they whisper about me
Or consider me favourably.

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

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.

Grounding Yourself to Beat Anxiety

Anxiety and panic attacks can rule their sufferers’ lives. For years I avoided certain situations because I worried about having a panic attack in public and not being able to calm myself down. When you are in the grips of a panic attack it feels like the terror is going to swallow you up and you will never be able to battle yourself out of that suffocating trap which anxiety puts you in. Anxiety thrives on making you feel powerless and stifling you so that you feel that you will not be able to regain control of yourself or your life.

Over the years, I have tried so many techniques in my attempt to fight back against my anxiety and panic attacks with varying success. One tool which I have found useful in loads of situations is grounding myself. I’m aware that ‘grounding yourself’ seems quite vague and appears like a very abstract process, so here I am going to list all of the reasons why you should consider growing your ability to ground yourself if you suffer with anxiety, stress or panic attacks.

1) It can help to stop the spiralling thoughts of catastrophic thinking

Personally, when my anxiety takes hold, I find that my mind accentuates my emotions and begins to imagine worse and worse scenarios which I could find myself in if I don’t escape from my surroundings immediately. This feeling of urgently needing to flee and my fear of the dramatic situations which my mind conjures has led to me turning down many opportunities over the years, as I have opted to avoid whatever triggers my anxiety rather than confront these issues. However, the process of grounding myself has helped me to re-centre when I have felt panic take hold in public because it reminds me of the realities of the situation. Rather than letting myself get carried away thinking that my surroundings are a threat to me and that I need to instantly escape, I look around and force myself to mentally list all of the little details which I can see around me. This brings me back to the present moment and stops my mind taking control of my body and plunging me into a panic attack.

2) It brings focus to your senses rather than what is triggering your anxiety

Your senses are what root you into the moment and they are your primal tools to help you assess a situation. When you feel the strangle hold of anxiety tightening around you, think about the things which you can see, hear, touch, taste and smell. For me, focusing on touch really helps me to ground myself back in reality, hence why I always pack fidget toys in my bag no matter where I go. Focusing on the texture of whatever I have in my hand diverts my attention from the thing which is triggering my anxiety and gives me a sense of peace and calm as my world narrows down to my own personal sphere which is contained by my senses.

3) It slows time down

Often when I am anxious everything seems immediate and every one of my emotions feels like it needs my urgent attention. However, reconnecting my mind and my body and mentally prioritising taking one moment at a time stops the rapidity of the moment. By putting time in perspective and slowing your reactions down, you can rationalise the situation because you allow yourself to be still and regain your composure. Grounding yourself roots your emotions back into symmetry with your body, meaning that you take away your anxiety’s power so that it can no longer manipulate you at will. 

If you want to learn more about grounding yourself, here are some sites which I have found personally useful whilst learning about the technique:

Helps for Grounding and Balancing Your Energies – this article lists specific methods of grounding yourself

What is Earthing or Grounding – this gives a medical review of the benefits of grounding yourself

6 Ways To Ground Yourself When You’re Feeling Anxious – this blog gives you a step by step guide in how to use grounding in order to combat your anxiety

5 Things To Do In London

For those of you who don’t know, I was born in London and have lived just outside the city for the majority of my life. I’m not a natural city-person though, crowds trigger my anxiety and I get easily stressed-out if there’s lots of noises around me. So, sufficed to say you might think that London would be an unbearable place for me but people overlook the areas of the city which aren’t filled to the brim with the hustle and bustle of thousands of people rushing past you. Apart from the most well-known tourist attractions, there are so many other places you can go without feeling like you are being suffocated by sensory overload. So, without further ado, here are 5 lovely things to do in London:

1) Go to Battersea Park

When you are walking around Battersea Park it is hard to believe that you are in one of the busiest cities in the world! It is an oasis of calm and nature within the hive of activity that is the city of London. The fields of green seem to stretch endlessly in front of you which is probably because the park spans a huge 200 acres! Just beyond the park is the scenic River Thames as the park lies on lively Southbank  Battersea Park has its fair share of history within it too as it was opened back in 1858 by Queen Victoria. 

bridge london

2) See a play at the Globe Theatre

Entering The Globe, it feels like you have stepped back in time. It looks nothing like the other theatres you can find in London, such as those in the West End. It is modelled on the theatre which William Shakespeare’s plays were performed back in the late 16th and early 17th century. It is an open-air theatre, so on sunny days it is a particularly glorious sight, especially as it is placed on the banks of the River Thames. Many of the audience members are extremely close to the stage, giving any play you see there an immensely intimate feeling within the magical atmosphere of the traditionally built structure. If Shakespeare plays are not your thing, the Globe also puts on lots of other plays by different playwrights. 

3) Go on the London Eye

My obsession with the River Thames continues apparently as the London Eye is also located next to the glorious river! The London Eye is essentially a giant ferris wheel which is designed to go very slowly so that the people in its pods can enjoy a spectacular view of London from the height of 443 feet. On a clear day you can see for about 25 miles when you are at the peak of the Eye’s cycle and this includes a bird’s eye view of the Houses of Parliament which lie just across the River and which hold an immense amount of history. I would definitely recommend booking your tickets in advance though, otherwise you might find yourself queueing for quite a long time before being able to board the Eye.

london eye

4) Have afternoon tea at the Intercontinental Hotel

This is a very luxurious treat but if you’re visiting the city why not feel like you are living the high life during your stay? Every facet of the hotel is exquisitely built and decorated, so much so that you feel like you are living someone else’s life whilst you are there! Each course of the afternoon tea is dainty, delicate and freshly made but by the end you will find to your surprise that you are completely full. Afternoon tea seems to me a very quaint English tradition or activity, so it is nice to indulge on the rare occasion when you can. Also, the hotel lies within a wonderful setting as it is surrounded by Hyde Park on one side and Green Park on the other.

5) Visit the Harry Potter Studio Tour

The Warner Brothers Studios are in Watford, so they on the edge of Northwest London but are easily reachable within 50 minutes from Central London. At the risk of sounding cliche, the Studios are a mind-blowing and magical experience…honestly there is no other way to describe the feeling of walking through the creative masterpieces which make-up the world of Harry Potter. Even people I know who are not Harry Potter fans (which I thoroughly disapprove of) really enjoyed the Studios, simply for the rich, immersive experience. Often the Studios have different features on where they showcase particular features of the world of Harry Potter but my favourite part of the tour will always have to be seeing and boarding the Hogwarts Express for a myriad of reasons. I cannot put into the words the feeling which comes over me when I see the train, I would just urge everyone to go visit and see for themselves.

 

Summertime Sadness

Here in England the seasons are changing around us. Winter was been longer than usual this year with snow coming in March and cold, rainy weather lingering well into April. Everyone around me was begrudging winter its long stay in the spotlight, wishing for spring to grow into itself and stake its claim to the months it was rightfully owed. However, I love winter. Colder weather makes me feel safe and comfortable, from the layers of clothes I can pull on each morning to the moments when I can sit at my window writing and watch as the rain drums down on the cars outside.

Summer is fast approaching now though. The grass and the trees are a luscious green colour and the sun casts our garden in golden light from early in the morning until late at night. People start conversations with their eyes aglow as they revel in describing the glorious warm weather. They say that seeing the sun in the morning brings a smile to their face and they start the day off happy knowing that it will be warm and light. However, for me I always struggle during the summer months.

Warm weather makes me feel instantly uncomfortable. I am so reluctant to give-up my baggy jogging bottoms and thick jumpers so, in the initial weeks of summer, I sweat day in and day out whilst clinging onto my layered clothing with my hoodie pulled tight against the rest of the world. An irrational fear grips me whenever I reach to pull-on a pair of shorts let alone a skirt. I obsess about how everyone else is going to see me in my ‘summer clothes’; what will people think, will they murmur something under their breath about me to their friends next to them? The next moment though, I struggle with the guilt of having these incredibly self-obsessed thoughts; what right do I have to be worrying about showing my legs when there are so many more serious things to worry about in the world? But the self-doubt lingers all the same and I begin to enter a vicious cycle of negative thoughts concerning my appearance. Before long I will be longing that I could stay in my room all summer, curled-up in a ball and not allowing anyone to see me (not that I’m melodramatic or anything…)

In addition, my temperament is still reminiscent of that you would expect from an ill-tempered toddler! Whenever I try to do anything in the sun, I quickly begin feeling all hot and bothered, making me irritable and a general menace to be around. At the first sign of sweat forming on my body, every part of me screams that I must retreat and run into a cold shower at once. Generally in the summer I lose my appetite as well, no food is appealing to me and if I so much as think about consuming a hot meal I can feel myself starting to gag. This also has a knock-on effect when it comes to how much water I consume because I start to drink significantly less if I am not eating at regular mealtimes. Therefore, I get dehydrated and have frequent headaches, making me more irritable and quick to snap at people than before! Honestly, I become a bit of a monster in the summer time.

Anyway, this long and rambly post was just meant to be a quick update to say that I am still adjusting to the weather and I am still in the phase of being a moody idiot at the moment, so bear with me on the content-front, more posts will be coming soon. Also I am so embarrassed to be publishing this post. Honestly, reading this back I realise that I sound like a petulant child, moaning and complaining about such ridiculous and petty things. I’m trying to get better, I promise…

“One benefit of summer was that each day we had more light to read by.” – Jeanette Walls

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