Friday, 26 May 2017

Blog 5.1 : Toxic Friendships.

Note: Just a little note before I start to say that the term “bitchy” and possible variations of it appear in these next few posts. I’m aware that it is a derogatory term but it is not intended as such. Where I am from it’s a term for “nagging” others or being mean (any gender). I’m a woman and I’m not offended by this use of it but if you are then I’ll see you in a blog or two. There is no need to make me feel bad about using it and any negative comments shall be removed.

I did a vote over on Twitter about what you wanted to see in this post out of a list of things that have been on my mind since I started writing this blog. These things have, no doubt, contributed vastly to me being this big ball of anxious mess. Out of the three topics: bullying, toxic friendships and school, most of you wanted me to talk about toxic friendships.
I’ve had more than my fair share of them and they are a big part of why I have deep-rooted trust issues when making new friends. It’s not much fun always questioning whether or not someone wants to be your friend because they genuinely like you or if it’s some cruel joke or bet. I end up feeling like I have to over-compensate with proving myself to be the “best friend ever” and offering a unique friend service in order to make friends because growing up I was made to feel like I wasn’t good/worthy enough to deserve a real friend or one who stayed longer than a few weeks. They would get bored and leave because, let’s be honest, no one wants to be friends with the fat girl who likes to sit quietly in a corner reading unless I had the latest toy out of Argos (a kids tattoo maker had the kids swarming around me because they wanted the product and they wanted me to draw their “tattoos” for them which, for once, made me feel wanted and even included even if they only came to me every time they wanted one and never stuck around for the drawing part or after it was done) or they had been exiled from their clique for standing up to the ring leader and had no one else to play with.

These days I’m actually glad that I spent most of my childhood alone in my bedroom because I didn’t have to deal with fake friends or bitchy cliques. It has left me feeling rather lonely for the last five years or so, though, and I still feel like I have to prove my worth to others to get them to look past what is on the outside. Either people can’t see past the fact that I look different or they treat me like I’m invisible which is hilarious because I’m a bigger lady (a topic for another blog, maybe? Before I get comments about how it’s my fault when said commenters know nothing about my physical appearance other than I do have more fat than others) so physically I am more visible than some people. I don’t make much effort to be “presentable” etc as I don’t see the point to it – I’m talking about straightening my hair every time I want to go out or putting on makeup just to go to the shop and I think that’s what has set me apart from other females growing up. I’m get uncomfortable wearing makeup. I actually feel more self-conscious wearing it even if it is just concealer and clear mascara. I wasn’t into makeup or dance but I wasn’t a “tomboy” either. I liked music and would rather be at a concert than a party (not that I got invited to very many after the mandatory whole class invites subsided in primary school). I wasn’t going to compromise who I was for 5-minute-trends and a chance to be “cool” or “popular”.
I need to end this here as to get across just how toxic some of my friendships were I’m going to have to post 2 more blogs after this one. See you next time!



Friday, 19 May 2017

Blog 4.2: Treatment *Trigger warnings ahead*

Before I continue I just wanted to remind you that there is at least one trigger warning in this blog post. All trigger warnings will be in bold and underlined.
I mentioned before that I have been to see counsellors in the past and if I haven’t missed any of them out then that would total 4 to date in the nearly 15 years that I have been seeking help. Aside from them giving me a safe place to talk about my issues, I’m not sure if any of them were all that helpful in pinpointing what has made me turn out to be who I am today. Sure; I would talk about being bullied as it was happening at the same time but no one pushed for any details. It was basically a case of; “Oh; you’re being bullied? Just ignore them.” I remember my mum called the school when I was about 15 as by then I had stopped wanting to go in all together and would just call the school myself to tell them I was too ill to go in – which was true. Anxiety about even leaving the house left me physically ill to the point where I would be vomiting before I was supposed to leave (I wasn’t making myself be sick and I don’t condone it) and I was having panic attacks (although the term was unknown to me at the time) at night when I couldn’t sleep because I dreaded going in to yet more mental abuse. I was experiencing agoraphobia long before I even knew what it was. My mum was worried because her daughter was in her room crying all the time and was too scared to leave the house because not only had the bullying taken place at school (and even during classes where some teachers had turned a blind eye as these people were known troublemakers) but it was also being brought to the front door. Literally. Kids would come up to our letter box and shout abuse aimed at me, not caring if there was an adult home to hear it and they would even harass my parents in the street. My brother even once got jumped at the school gates because someone who he thought was a really good friend at the time had started saying insulting things about me to his face and he hadn’t wanted to fight the guy as my brother was a good foot taller than him and could’ve seriously done him some damage had even tried to defend himself. My brother came home with a bloody nose and bruises that day because he refused to fight back against this guy in the name of standing up for his older sister. We might not always have seen eye to eye but my brother has always been my protector from a very young age. *Trigger warning*. My mum was terrified that she was going to come home one day and find that I had committed suicide. I was then requested to have a meeting with one of the Deputy Head Teachers and the girl who was causing most of my in-school worries. He sat her down and told her my mother’s concerns and she actually seemed to listen and take on board what he was telling her; that her behaviour was making someone so miserable that they didn’t want to live anymore. *End of Trigger Warning*. That lasted all of 24 hours. 24 hours which I couldn’t relax or even attempt to enjoy because of other people still putting me through hell. “Counselling” continued at my request with my Head of Year before an outside counsellor started coming to my school and took over. I didn’t like her much or trust her so I barely requested time with her.

With every new counsellor brought the same old, tired phrases like the classics; “just put yourself out there” and “try to get up earlier” (when I was finding it difficult to get out of bed because of depression) without any real advice on how to do any of it and I think my parents at the time, as loving and supportive as they are, were just in denial that something so serious (mental illness) was happening to their child who had been an over-achiever since birth and was still managing to get As in most subjects. I didn’t want them to think they were at fault (which my mother has confirmed was a thought that had crossed her mind since) or to worry about me and end up missing work to make sure that I got an education. 
I soon got bored of going to counsellors and seeing no results. I wasn’t any happier and school wasn’t any safer despite teachers allowing me out of classes 5 minutes early to avoid other students and them allowing me to go home at least ten minutes early to avoid them at home time as well. One of my favourite (note the sarcasm) phrases was being told that it’s “all in your (my) head”. Of course it is, Barbara. It’s almost as if I’m dealing with mental illnesses. Not that anyone actually pointed that out to me or voiced that to my parents who thought I was just being rebellious or difficult because “all teenagers hate school” which is hilarious if you actually know me. I’m quiet and don’t have a rebellious bone in my body. *Trigger warning*: Sure; most teenagers may hate school but not all of them are terrified to go there because of what other students can and will do to them including telling them to “kill yourself” and throwing broken glass at you. *End of Trigger Warning*.

With mental illnesses our brains fall into patterns and it is very hard to undo all the bad ones unless you have continued support and advice from professionals who are taught how to help you do so. I think this is where counsellors failed me; they weren’t specifically trained to deal with panic attacks or the ins and outs of what goes on in your head when you can’t get out of bed in the morning, when you can’t sleep at night or spotting the signs of mental illnesses. Now that you’ve read all of the above (and hopefully the first post on this) I should mention that I can’t pinpoint exactly where bullying and depression overlap - if I was already predisposed to having depression because it’s a mental illness and bullying made it worse/more noticeable or if bullying made me depressed and it’s just been a way of life for me since. I really hope that made sense. I remember feeling depressed from as young as 9 years old and being bullied at the same time but I do not remember when my anxiety was first triggered as I’ve had it for as long as I can remember. I’ve always been fearful of everything every single second of the day – even when there’s nothing to be afraid of and overthink far too often for my liking. How can I help myself if I don’t know how to or feel like my issues are being ignored?  As knowledgeable as I am about the causes of my illnesses and what triggers them (from self-reflection over the last few years; I’m not being big-headed), I’m not a psychiatrist, psychologist or even a doctor. I don’t know how to retrain my brain to not be fearful all of the time – even subconsciously; anxiety nightmares are the best. *Again; note the sarcasm*. Of course through all these methods of treatment that I have been through I have picked up some skills and tools along the way but when you are in a constant state of panic (no matter how calm I appear to be physically; I’ve learned to hide that extremely well for fear of drawing attention to myself in situations where the spotlight was already on me (when people would call me names or throw things at me or if I was called on to answer questions in class when I hadn’t even raised my hand)), the teachings go out the window and it leaves no room for me to even think about practicing these skills.
For now I can only keep doing all that I can to feel better but it’s difficult given that I can feel extremely different an hour later or not feel anything at all (disconnected from myself like people explain an “out-of-body” experience to be like). How do you simply “write over” or rearrange the bad thought patterns when it’s all that you know?

I may not know how to re-programme my brain but I do believe it is what is in there that needs to be explored and to be questioned; the painful memories of what my peers did to me during incidents at school and at home. It is easy enough to tell someone “they were probably just jealous of you” – it is something I’ve heard countless times over the year - but was that really the case? I don’t believe it was – maybe on some level they were because I did really well in school or because I didn’t follow the crowd nor wanted to conform to what they thought was “cool” in order to be accepted. I had my own mind and didn’t rely on what others thought to make my own decisions – but I guess that is something that I will probably never know the answer to. Some people are just jerks and some are just impressionable kids and teenagers who put you through what they have experienced (usually at home) because they think it’s normal to treat people that way. It’s not and these people need to be re-programmed to see that. After all; why should it just be the victims who are told that they have to retrain their brains just because other people told them day in and day out that they were “worthless” and “useless” and their internal wires have ended up frayed and scrambled up? Recovery is difficult and painful even when you are willing to get better and it shouldn’t only be left down to the victims. Bullies need re-wiring too as do those who tell sufferers that it’s “all in the head” and to “get over it”.
I’d better finish up here before this ends up as a novel. I left my next blog topic up to you guys over on Twitter ( so I best get writing!



Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Blog 4.1 Treatment *Trigger Warnings Ahead*

Hi everyone!

Before we start I just wanted to say that this is a bit of a long blog so I've split it into two parts - one for today and one for the next time I post. Also; there are trigger warnings throughout which will be in bold and underlined so that I don't get in trouble with writing about sensitive subjects and it will mention what the triggering subject is. If you are easily triggered then these next two posts may not be for you (it's up to you but I encourage you to know what your limits are so you don't put yourself through possible unnecessary harm). The blog starts now:

I know that some people read my social media posts (particularly on my bad days) and think “why don’t you just go get treatment?” The answer to that is: I have been receiving treatment of different variations from around the age of 11.
Between the ages of 11 and 17 it was counselling through school and going to doctors who were against giving me medication and instead blamed it on “teenage hormones”. At 19 it was being prescribed my first lot of anti-depressants which I didn’t end up taking as I didn’t want to become reliant on drugs to make me feel better and I was well aware that it wasn’t just a simple case of “leveling” me out. No amount of serotonin was going to undo all of the psychological damage that years of bullying had done.
My college also provided me with an off-campus counsellor once a week until I left (she practiced at another campus that was a branch of the one I went to) and they paid for my taxi fares from my home and to college one the days that I saw her so ensure that I still had a way of attending without it taking two hours to get there. I was also referred to programme called “Beating the Blues” the summer after where I went to a new clinic to sit at a computer to answer questions each week (on a scale of 1 to 10; how depressed have you felt this week? One a scale of 1 to 10 how would you say your mood was this week?), and was given homework via said computer which no health professional ever saw.

*Skip ahead  to “End of Trigger Warning” if you’re easily triggered by reading other people’s accounts of feeling suicidal*
At 21 it was back to counselling and reluctantly taking medication because I was so genuinely afraid that I was going to end up harming myself. I had noticed that whilst I may not have been suicidal in the “I’m going to take my own life” way, I was when it came to things like crossing the road without looking and not caring if, say, I was involved in some kind of accident. *End of Trigger Warning*. I had just gone from only volunteering a maximum of 8 hours a week to having a 40+ hour job where I was getting up 3 hours beforehand just to travel to. I was leaving home when it was dark and coming home when it was dark 5 days a week because it was the start of winter. My depression gets even worse during the winter season.

Counselling stopped when I was about 22 as my counsellor had retired and no one had bothered to tell me even though I had been on the phone asking to reschedule an appointment with him about a week before he left. Year 23 for me brought me being referred to an outpatient clinic at my local hospital. That was scary as that that section used to be a particular ward that had a reputation for people with severe mental illnesses going in and not being able to leave because they were a danger to themselves and others. Basically it was what people refer to as a “nut house” or a UK equivalent of Radley for those of you who watch “Pretty Little Liars”. You didn’t want to be seen going there because of the stigma. Thankfully, these days it’s not like that at all and, to be honest, I don’t think it ever was as daunting as people would make it out to be – like embellishing a horror story to frighten young children. This clinic assigned me a key worker who along with their panel of staff gave me a referral for new medication and set me up with group sessions for things like anxiety management and mindfulness. I found them to very useful in getting to know why I feel the way that I do symptom-wise.
I’ve always been aware of what the root causes of my anxiety and depression are; bullying, no self-confidence or self-esteem, struggles with weight and paranoia from all three. These group sessions and meetings with my key worker got me out of the house on a regular basis; something that I hadn’t been doing for at least a year and a half after leaving my job. I hadn’t even been back to the kids club that I was a leader at or back to the charity shop where I had been volunteering up until my job started. I’d even given up going to my writing group that I loved and stopped singing because it no longer brought me any kind of joy. For 3 hours a week it gave me structure and a sense of purpose. I was finally on my way to feeling better with a chance of recovery for the most part.
After so many years of struggling I was finally getting to learn how to deal with being mentally ill all the time. When that ended I was promised a referral to another group for those with mental illnesses (mainly depression and anxiety) and that a letter would go out to request an appointment with a psychiatrist – something I’ve learned hasn’t happened nearly 7 months later due to an error somewhere. This new group is wonderful. I won’t mention what we do there as that’s a matter of confidentiality but I feel very welcome there and people understand what I’m going through there. I may not make it even once a week but it is still there for me to attend when I can either get myself out of bed or work up the courage to attend as despite it being a place where I feel safe, it’s the getting there that still triggers panic attacks.

You might wonder why I’m telling you all of this and the long and short of it is; I don’t you to go away thinking that I am not doing everything in my power to get better to a point where I can work even if it is only for a couple of hours a week. 

Depression and anxiety are always going to be a part of me but I am trying my hardest; I’m sick and tired of being, well, sick and tired and I finally feel like I deserve to get better.

I’ve also split this blog into two parts so keep checking back for the next installment! 



Monday, 1 May 2017

What Should I Write About?

I already have a few more blogs written under my belt but I would very much like to know what you would like me to write about so I have posted a poll over to the right (before my twitter feed) as well as on Twitter.

Keep your eyes peeled for a new blog at some point in the next week!



Get To Know Me Part 2

Hi everyone! Here is part 2 of the "Get To Know Me" post that I did last Friday to celebrate one year of being with Blogger. If ...

Anxiously, Me