Anxiety and the City

“When I die, Dublin will be written on my heart” -James Joyce.

I was born in Dublin 23 years ago. I’ve lived here my entire life. It’s a city with great character and bundles of  history. There are so many places around the county that hold a special place in my heart, from Dún Laoghaire to the Irish Museum of Modern Art, and from my Nanny’s house to Smock Alley Theatre.

Unfortunately, the city itself has turned into one of my least favourite places. My anxiety disorder makes trips to the Big Smoke a complete and utter nightmare. I hop on the bus full of hope for the adventure ahead, but by the time it pulls up on Dame Street I am flooded with waves of panic and overcome with a feeling of dread. Anxiety is defined as ‘a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome’. Symptoms range from difficulty concentrating to headaches, and from nausea to constantly feeling on edge.

I’ve learned to live with my disorder, but I still struggle in the city. However, I don’t want my anxiety to get in the way of me living my life, so I’ve found a few little tricks that help me when I’m feeling extremely anxious in the city centre, and hopefully they can help someone else who is struggling too.

Music

It’s simple but so effective. I know sticking on Spotify isn’t going to cure your anxiety disorder, but it can help a lot, so give it a chance. I find that listening to quiet, soothing sounds can help calm your heart rate and breathing. I listen to Ben Howard, Birdy and Tom Odell when I’m walking around Dublin. Focusing on the music also distracts you from worrying. Slow music can help reduce stress levels which will ease both your body and mind when your anxiety rears it’s ugly head.

Company

My friends have been an incredible help to me. They’ve supported me when I’ve had panic attacks, reassured me when I felt stressed and understood that sometimes the city can be too much for me. If you speak to your friends in an open and honest way about your anxiety disorder you will feel a lot better. They will take t into account when you’re making plans. Your friends will make sure that you’re okay and will always keep an eye on you. Talking about mental health is difficult, because a lot of people can be dismissive, but your friends will understand and do their very best to help in whatever way they can. Knowing you have your friends support will help make outings to the city easier, and ten times more enjoyable.

Organisation

This has been the most helpful trick for me so far. Planning your trip into the city will ease your mind and will help you stay focused. Pick out the cafe beforehand if you’re meeting a friend for coffee. Decide what shops you need to visit on your journey into town. Sticking to a schedule will keep your anxiety at bay because you will feel in control of the situation. Chanel your inner Monica Geller, but maybe leave your label maker at home if you’re heading out for cocktails with the girls.

Sincerely Yours,

Kat

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Moments

A few years ago, during the days when my mind was flooded with dark thoughts, I contemplated suicide. I was weighed down by an overbearing depression, which left me feeling hopeless. However, the waves of negative thoughts have started to calm down. They make an appearance every now and then, ebbing and flowing in and out of my mind. But I am getting better. The days are brighter and my thoughts are lighter.

The world can be a very dark and lonely place when you contemplate suicide. I found the strength to overcome this difficult time in my life. And now, I see the world differently and appreciate the little moments, more than ever before.

FullSizeRender (4)I am grateful for the days when the sky lies still and silent above our heads as we potter about.

I treasure the moments when I catch my Mam laughing at something silly my little cousin did.

I love seeing my Dad sing along to the radio when his favourite song is playing.

I can’t help but smile when our pet cat chases a crunchy leaf around the garden.

I adore the days when I curl up with a giant mug of tea as the rain trickles down the window pane.

I love the feeling of freedom when I walk by the sea and feel as light as the sand beneath my toes.

I feel so merry when my sisters come home from a concert and fill the room with their excitement and infectious energy.

I appreciate the stories my grandparents tell me, even though I’ve heard them many times before.

I love the moments when I freeze and think back to those dark days. I smile as I remind myself of my strength. I am here. I am still alive and I am getting better. And those moments when I remember how far I’ve come are the greatest moments of all.

Sincerely Yours,

Kat

Living with Anxiety

Hello.

I’ve wanted to blog about my anxiety disorder for such a long time, and today I’m finally ready to sit down and talk about it. I’ve spoken to the Journal about my mental health and shared my story over on SpunOut, but I felt like it was time to write about it here on Scribbles By Kat.

I’ve been battling with anxiety for over two years now. There have been many difficult moments during this ongoing battle, from extreme panic attacks to isolating myself from friends and family and from difficult GP visits to emotional counselling sessions. It hasn’t been easy, but as time goes by I’ve learned how to live with my anxiety.

Back in 2015 my anxiety was extremely bad. There were days when I couldn’t leave the house or get on bus or speak to anyone or visit the city centre. I was crippled with an intense fear and waves of worry flooded my mind. There were days when I cancelled plans with my dearest friends, because I was too anxious to get out of my bed. There were days when I stood at my bus stop and let dozens of buses pass me by, because I was too anxious to move and go into the city. There were nights where I had to leave bars because I just couldn’t deal with the crowds. There have been days when I’d leave to go to college and then turn back home, because I couldn’t handle the bus journey or being with my classmates or delivering a presentation. There have been sleepless nights and panic attacks and constant tears.

Anxiety isn’t cute or trendy. It’s not about being shy or bashful. I can’t just ‘get over it’ or ‘be more confident’. It’s not about being too sensitive or too nervous. It’s a serious mental illness that many people fail to treat with respect or care.

I am learning to live with my anxiety disorder. I still have my bad days, but this year there have been more good days than bad. I still have panic attacks, I still suffer from sleep paralysis triggered by my anxiety, I still struggle to go into the city centre, I still find it hard to breathe, I still get intense heart palpitations. I still have days when my mind is full of worry and dread and unbearable negative thoughts.

There are so many people that dismiss anxiety. There are so many people who don’t take it seriously. There are so many people who believe it doesn’t matter. There are so many people who don’t treat it like a real illness.

“You’re just a bit shy.”

“You need to go out in the fresh air more.”

“There’s nothing wrong with you, you’re just being silly.”

“Stop looking for attention.”

“You’re just over-reacting.”

However, there are people who are making a difference by opening up and talking about mental health. When writing about depression in Reasons To Stay Alive, Matt Haig says “Depression is also smaller than you. Always, it is smaller than you, even when it feels vast. It operates within you, you do not operate within it. It may be a dark cloud passing across the sky, but- if that is the metaphor- you are the sky.

You were there before it. And the cloud can’t exist without the sky, but the sky can exist without the cloud.”

I remind myself of his words every single day. My anxiety isn’t in control of my life. My anxiety isn’t bigger than me. My anxiety isn’t more powerful. My anxiety isn’t going to win.

People will dismiss anxiety. People will mock you and belittle you and disrespect you when you speak about anxiety. People will tell you to ‘get over yourself’ or to ‘shake it off’. People will tell you that you’re being over the top or attention seeking, but you’re not.

This is my anxiety story and I will continue to fight against my disorder, and I will continue to talk about it, no matter how many people knock me down. Living with anxiety is an ongoing battle. It is a real disorder that needs to be taken seriously. We may live in a country where many people dismiss mental health, however, together we can change things by talking about anxiety in an open and honest way.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

-Margaret Mead

Sincerely Yours,

Kat

 

My First Tattoo

Hello!
A very Happy New Year to you. One of my 2016 Goals was to get a tattoo. It was definitely one of the biggest goals I had on my list so I wasn’t 100% sure if I would achieve it or not. However, during a lovely trip to town with my college pals I decided to pop into a few places and get the tattoo I wanted priced.

The first place I called into was The Ink Factory on Wellington Quay. I had previously read some brilliant reviews about The Ink Factory online so I felt really good about the place. There was a brilliant and lively vibe in The Ink Factory; which is also a piercing shop, a barbers and coffee shop, too cool, right? I got my tattoo priced and pottered back out to my friends. After a little bit of deliberating and a lot of jumping about I decided to just jump at the chance and be spontaneous so I headed back into the shop and luckily enough there was a space open for me to get the tattoo done.

I was very lucky to have my two college pals with me because I was ridiculously nervous. However, it was also brilliant to share all the excitement with two great friends. My tattoo artist Sandor was an absolute sweetheart which was a relief (I felt extremely intimidated by how cool the place was).

Me and the two Laura’s (they should start a band) headed down to Sandor’s work station and he drew up the design for my tattoo, popped the stencil on my wrist and then it was TATTOO TIME. I don’t have a fear of needles, but I was still pretty nervous. The tattooing process took about five minutes, if even! I felt no pain whatsoever, it was more so like an irritating itch I couldn’t scratch. My tattoo cost €60 and the overall process took under a half hour. The atmosphere and music playing in The Ink Factory made the entire experience so much better. It really made me feel so relaxed and there’s nothing better than hearing Fleetwood Mac playing on the speakers!

I am over the moon with how my tattoo came out. I got a semicolon on my right wrist. I love how dainty it looks. The meaning behind my tattoo is so special. “A semicolon is used when an author could’ve chosen to end their sentence, but chose not to. The author is you and the sentence is your life”. The semicolon represents my strength and reminds me that my story isn’t over. My tattoo raises mental health awareness and it’s also a really quirky way to represent me as a writer. Writing is one of the biggest parts of my life so I love having something to represent it that is with my forever. 13695110_1129138440462928_1727164043_n

I am beyond happy with how it looks and I still can’t believe I have a tattoo. It was such a spontaneous decision to get it done, but as my cousin Emma says “spontaneous decisions leave us with the best memories.”

Check out The Ink Factory online www.theinkfactory.ie I highly recommend them- such a brilliant, lively and professional place.

Kat

Get Lonely With Me

 

Hello!
The inspiration for this weeks blog post came from the quote “I think it’s very healthy to spend time alone. You need to know how to be alone and not be defined by another person.” I came across this quote months ago when I was scrolling through my Instagram feed. We’re all aware that Instagram is always full of motivational and sometimes cheesy quotes. I’ve been guilty of uploading the odd inspirational quote to Instagram, however none of them ever made such a big impact on me like this one about spending time alone did.

I never thought being alone was a good thing. I always felt this pressure to be surrounded by friends or family. This pressure came from school, a place full of cliques. you know the stereotypical cliques you see in teen movies? Our school had a popular girl, the stereotypical popular girl like Claire in The Breakfast Club or Regina George in Mean Girls. The stereotypes made me feel like I was less important than others because I wasn’t one of the ‘popular’ girls. I wasn’t unpopular or isolated, I had a wonderful group of witty and unique pals in secondary school, some of whom are still my best friends. However, there was always this pressure to get the most likes on a status, or to have over one hundred Facebook friends. I remember 16 year old Kat worrying over nonsense like why only six of her friends liked her new photos from her Gaeltacht trip. These ridiculous standards set by society stopped me from enjoying my own company.

I was relying on other people to make myself happy, which is so unhealthy. At the start of this year I changed my ways after I lost someone who was once the most important person in my life. Over the past few years I have lost people who I thought would always be part of my life. I felt lost and clueless without their company. I spent way too long walking on someone else’s path, I was living life through their eyes, but I eventually got back on my own path and started living life for me.

Relying purely on other people to make you happy isn’t healthy, because they’re not always going to be there. However, you’re always going to be with you. You’re stuck with you forever, so learning to accept yourself and being happy with your own company is beyond important. It’s one of the most important things you can do to improve your life.

It’s certainly one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I feel comfortable with who I am. I love who I am. I love my crazy love for John Hughes’ work and my bad dancing. I enjoy spending time alone because I am finally happy with who I am. Some of my favourite days of 2015 have been the ones where I was by myself. From evening walks on the beach in Devon to John Hughes movie marathons, sipping on tea in newly discovered cafe’s to quiet days at the library with my Brat Pack book. I love looking back on these days because the person that made me feel so happy and so good was me, Kat.

Spend some time alone. Find a new cafe. Go on a morning stroll in your local park. Visit the cinema or go to an art gallery. Enjoy being with you & enjoy your own company.

Kat

(and yes I did use a George Ezra song title as this blogs title, I couldn’t help it hehe)