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

 

How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful

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I wrote this short story over a year ago and decided to share it. I studied creative writing for a year and it’s one of my biggest passions. This piece is about letting go of the past and healing hearts.

I’m not sure what made me realise that today was the day. I knew it was time to let go. It was time to breathe again. All I knew was that I needed to get out and breathe. I needed to breathe in the crisp Spring air. Just breathe.

Today was the day, the special day. The day I washed the past away. I couldn’t wait to be standing on the cool sand at Flagstown Beach. Being cooked up in my navy blue Plymouth Valiant on a dull, dreary motorway was not what I needed. A wave of serenity washed over me as the wheels of my car turned off the harsh concrete of the motorway and onto the soft, dirt track towards Flagstown.

I parked in the car park of an old, abandoned chapel. As I walked through the church grounds I noticed small flowers growing along the walls; bursts of red, yellow and lilac popped out against the old, crumbling walls. I stepped on delicate daisies as I walked through the overgrown grass in my tattered burgundy boots. I smiled as I made my way to the gate. How sweet it is to know that those flowers still blossom and bloom even though their home stands alone and abandoned.

I left the chapel grounds and strolled down passed the red brick bungalows to the beach. It was the middle of the afternoon but there wasn’t a single soul in sight. There was an eerie yet calming feeling in the air. They say it’s the town where people come when they retire, a place where they come to live the rest of their days. They say it’s one of the most tranquil towns in the South and that’s why the elderly flock down here like birds that migrate to Africa before the winter chill takes over.

I felt my lungs fill up with fresh, soothing air as I stepped onto the pale sand. I untied the laces of my boots and placed them on a pile of rocks. I took the small glass bottle that I had been carrying around in my old navy rucksack for the past six months with me. A piece of faded white paper was rolled up inside the bottle; it’s edges were bent and battered. That piece of paper was the final piece of my past that I was ready to let go of. I poured my heart onto that piece of paper one late night in April of 2015; the year my heart was broken beyond repair. It holds so many memories, emotions, feelings and is stained with a tear or two. As I walked towards the waves I watched them ebb and flow. I watched the water dance slowly against the shore. I held the glass bottle in my hand, my message in a bottle. I was ready. It was time to let go. I stepped into the cool water and let it soak the ends of my jeans. I dropped the bottle out of my hand and into the sea. I watched the bottle float away taking my past and my heartache with it; slowly becoming smaller and smaller until I could see nothing but the grand, blue sea. I smiled out at the ocean; how big, how blue, how beautiful it was.

 

From Gloomy Mornings to Bright Mornings

I miss seeing the bright, blue sky in the morning whilst I wait for my toast to pop and for the kettle to boil. I hate the eerily cold feeling in my bedroom as I stumble about looking for my snuggly lilac sweater. I stand at the bus stop bundled up in my long grey coat and bright red scarf craving a warm, cup of coffee. January mornings are harsh, icy and bitter, but I’ve figured out a few little tips to help make these mornings a lot bubblier and brighter.

Music

I had a 9am class on Monday morning which meant I had to wake up just before 7am. Waking up so early was not easy, especially after the Christmas break where I spent most mornings snuggled up in bed until 11am. One thing that gave me a happiness boost was listening to my favourite songs. I’d highly suggest making a kick ass playlist that’ll have you dancing around the bathroom as you brush your teeth. Every morning I’ll be strutting down my road to I’m Every Woman by Chaka Khan just like Bridget Jones.

Hot Drinks

These winter mornings are so cool and crisp which is the perfect excuse to treat yourself to a hot chocolate, a herbal tea or a cup of coffee from your local coffee shop. Leave your house a little bit early than usual so you can pick up a cup of your favourite hot drink to keep you all warm and snug at the bus stop.

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Do What You Love

Take some time each morning to focus on something you love whether that’s reading, writing, meditation or singing. Doing something you love in the morning will boost your mood and leave you feeling motivated and inspired. I try to take time to read either a chapter of a book or a few blog posts in the morning to get my brain working. It’s a short but effective way to set you up for the day ahead.

Here’s to feeling chirpy and content on these chilly, crisp mornings.

Sincerely Yours,

Kat

2017 is the year of self care

Happy New Year! I am so glad that 2017 is finally here. I’ve made a tonne of goals for 2017, but my main mission for this year is to focus on self care which I’ve failed to do over the last few weeks.

When you’re feeling low it is important to acknowledge your feelings. I am currently suffering from seasonal affective disorder which is a certain type of depression that is related to the changes in seasons. Some of the symptoms include tiredness, lack of energy, weight gain and oversleeping. Personally, I tend to suffer from the disorder after the excitement and huge build up to Christmas dies down. I tend to wallow in self pity like a grumpy little gremlin and find it extremely difficult to make myself feel better. I let the disorder take over and mope about all day. However, I am determined to take better care of myself thanks to a video by Lucy Moon and Rosianna Halse Rojas where they discuss self care and share their tips on how to make yourself feel better during these darker times.

The video reminded me of how great I felt during last summer when I was really invested in looking after myself. One of the main things I did was taught myself to enjoy my own company. I think it’s extremely important to be comfortable with who you are and to feel content by yourself. Some of my happiest days were days I spent alone, for example my solo day trip to Galway or the day I spent in a local cafe reading. So I’ve set myself a few self care goals for the month of January and will continue to do so because 2017 is the year I take care of myself. It’s the year I put myself on a pedestal.

1: Go to the cinema by yourself

2: Get a haircut

3: Spend more time outdoors

4: Drink more water

5: Go on a solo day trip

Have you got any self care tips that you swear by? Share them in the comment section or tweet me @katkatkatt

Sincerely  Yours

Kat.

 

An Open Letter to 2016

Dear 2016,

I felt like writing to you as our time together is about to end. You were such a strange year, 2016. You took away so many of the worlds heroes from Bowie to Alan Rickman and from Carrie Fisher to Gene Wilder. You were a cruel one, 2016. You were the bully at the back of the school bus, the office co-worker that drinks the last of the coffee, the bus driver that doesn’t wait as you frantically run to the bus stop. You weren’t nice, not very nice at all. The world is ready to say goodbye to you 2016, and I so am I, but I just wanted to write to you in these final few hours, even though I cannot wait to meet 2017.

I’m not one to focus my energy on the negatives, 2016. I’m all about embracing the positive vibes so I thought I’d mention a few happy moments. I love to make lists so here’s one for you, 2016. Here are a few things that made me smile like the Cheshire Cat over the past 365 days.

  1. Getting my first tattoo to represent my battle with anxiety and depression. I got a semicolon just below my right wrist that symbolizes my strength and hope for my future.
  2. Having my own work published in The West Cork People and on SpunOut.ie.
  3. Running the VHI Women’s Mini Marathon by myself for the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre.
  4. Having the courage to go back to college and becoming features editor of our college newspaper The Student Chronicle.
  5. Reading so many articles and books and poems and blog posts. I’ve gone back to my bookworm days and I am so happy I found that passion 12 year old Kat once had.
  6. Learning to embrace my own company and being independent.
  7. Travelling around Ireland and to Scotland and Amsterdam.
  8. My cat Poppy. The greatest and cutest creature ever.
  9. Being able to go to concerts and seeing some of my favourite bands live.
  10. Feeling positive emotions again like love and happiness and joy and gratitude.

You were so dark and gloomy, 2016, but you had your bright and sunny moments too. I grew as a person, I met some of the most incredible people, I traveled to beautiful cities, I discovered new music and watched new movies and read so many books and I spent time with my friends and family, who are all happy and healthy which is all I could ever wish for.

It’s time to say goodbye, 2016, I won’t miss you, but I certainly won’t forget about you. It’s time for you to step out of the spotlight and let us welcome 2017 with warm and open arms.

Sincerely Yours,

Kat.

 

The Winter Blues

Now that Christmas has passed I’m suffering from a major case of the blues. The week between Christmas and New Years is a strange one isn’t it? I feel very lost and down this week. However instead of letting the negativity take over I have given myself a kick up the arse (and my wonderful friends have sent me the most encouraging messages too) and I’m determined to beat this case of the winter blues.

Something that has always helped me is escaping into the magical world of movies. There’s nothing better than snuggling up on the sofa and watching a timeless classic like  Jurassic Park or The Breakfast Club. If you can spare a few bob I’d highly suggest going to the cinema for a bit of escapism and most importantly butter popcorn.

Another thing that helps is dancing; and don’t worry you don’t need to be as talented as the professional dancers on Strictly Come Dancing. One of the greatest things Grey’s Anatomy taught me was to “dance it out.” Whenever I’m feeling down I channel my inner Meredith and Cristina and dance around my room. It is goofy and you may feel silly as you prance about the place, but it will make you feel full of spirit (and slightly sweaty)

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Finally, another thing I plan on doing a lot to beat this horrid case of the blues is embracing my creative side. Being creative helps me feel very fulfilled so I’ll definitely be working on a few little projects over the next couple days, whether that’s redecorating my bedroom or writing a short story. You can be creative in whatever way tickles your fancy. For me, writing a short story gives me a huge burst of happiness that I want to store away in a jar and hold onto for these dreary days. You could channel your inner baker and make some cupcakes (and then bring some over to my house) or you could pick up one of those snazzy adult colouring books from Easons and doodle to your hearts content.

The most important thing to remember is that this case of the blues will eventually bugger off and will leave you with a calm and clear mind again. It takes a lot of patience, but you’ll feel better again in no time.

Sincerely Yours,

Kat

An Open Letter to the Villains

In life we come across both kind and nasty people. I tend to focus on the positive people; the people that make you laugh until your stomach hurts, the people that make you grin from ear to ear, the people that make you feel wanted and loved. They’re the good guys, they’re the heroes of the everyday world. But just like in fairytales with every hero comes a villain. We encounter villain’s throughout our time on earth, unfortunately it’s part of life.

I have anxiety and depression. They’re two illnesses I’ve been dealing with for a fair few years now and I’m not alone in that. It is estimated that 1 in 9 people will suffer from an anxiety disorder during their lifetime. Depression affects over 450’000 people in Ireland at any one time, that’s 1 in 10 people. We are not alone in this. There are so many of us with these illnesses. Unfortunately there are still some people that disrespect us, hate on us, mock us and dismiss our illnesses.

As I write this on October 30th 2016 I have just been called a “psycho with fake illnesses”, does that mean all those other people across the country are the same? Are we all just making it up? Is it all just attention seeking? No, no it’s not. Mental illness is real. Just because you can’t physically see it doesn’t mean it isn’t real. You wouldn’t pick on someone with a broken leg, you wouldn’t mock someone with a chest infection and you wouldn’t ever dare tell someone with cancer that they’re just seeking attention, would you? Then why do the same with mental illnesses. In 2015 there were 451 recorded suicides around Ireland. Those 451 people weren’t selfish or looking for attention, they were suffering, just like the hundreds of people dealing with mental health problems in Ireland today.

It’s time for you villains, you haters, you disrespected and ill educated people to open your eyes and cop on. Mental illness is a real thing. You people that think it’s okay to diss it are horrific. Your cruel words and horrific opinions will never win.

We will stand up to these people. We will stick together and show them that their cruel words will never win. We will support one another during the times when the trolls strike. We will push their cruel words away. And in the wise words of the late David Bowie “we can be heroes.”

So to the person that called me a “psycho with fake illnesses” today, thank you. Your foolish words and nasty opinion inspired me to write this post and to fight back. And by the way I’m a daughter, a best friend, a journalism student, a charity worker, a freelance journalist and a features editor, as well as many other things, fighting a very brave battle against two mental illnesses and winning.

Sincerely Yours,

Kat.

To Autumn, With Love

There’s something so special about this time of year.

The air is crisp, a blanket of red, orange and yellow leaves covers the ground, the sun sets earlier as each day passes. 

I wear snuggly scarves and comfy coats. There’s a calmness around and a sense of tranquility in the air. There’s more time to read, to sip coffee from my big red mug and to fill each room with berry scented candles.

I get to switch on my fairy lights each night and curl up into bed with a book in hand and a smile on my face.

Autumn makes me feel content. It’s my season, the one where I strive and feel my happiest.

“Every leaf speaks bliss to me, fluttering from the autumn tree”

-Emily Bronte

Sincerely Yours,

Kat

I am a Multipotentialite

I’ve been back in college for about one month now and it’s safe to say the final year of my HND in Journalism has been overwhelming and draining so far, seriously, I’ve never napped so much before. On Thursday one of our tutors showed us a Ted Talk by Emilie Wapnick, where she spoke about why some of us don’t have one true calling in life and how it’s perfectly normal . She mentioned the term ‘multipotentialite’ which is a person that has a variety of interests and careers throughout their time on our little planet.

I am a proud multipotentialite! Emilie’s talk reassured me so much more than I expected it to. I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I always found it easy to answer the ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’ question as a child. I knew I wanted to see my books on the shelves in Easons, but now there are twenty other careers I want to tackle. I want to write YA novels. I also want to write advice pieces for women’s magazines. I want to work for a mental health charity. I want to work for a greeting card company (yes just like in 500 Days of Summer.) I want to work in a quaint country cafe. I want to be a librarian and a book seller and an English teacher and a script writer and a receptionist. And that’s all okay, it’s normal.

There is nothing wrong with being a multipotentialite. Embrace who you are and your 101 different interests. Don’t let society pigeon hole you into sticking with one career. You can be the head of a marketing company and a skiing instructor if you want to. You can be a trained ballerina and work for a gardening magazine if you want to. You can be captain of a roller derby team, a part-time nurse and a barista if you want to.

“Embrace your inner wiring whatever that may be.”- Emilie Wapnick.

Sincerely Yours,

Kat

Stop Judging and Start Encouraging

Imagine a stranger walking up to you in the street and saying how ugly you look or how unflattering your dress is. It would hurt wouldn’t it? So, what on earth gave us the notion that it’s okay or socially acceptable to criticise someone’s appearance? I’ve spotted school girls snigger at their classmate because they’re wearing different shoes, I’ve heard my mam complain about what the RTÉ weather woman is wearing, the Daily Mail published tonnes of articles slating everyone from Beyoncé to Kate Middleton. I’ve been guilty of judging people in the past about their appearance, I think we are all guilty of that, but we have the power to change it.

It’s okay if somebody wants to wear a bright yellow polka dot dress.

It’s okay if somebody wants to wear their hair in pigtails.

It’s okay if somebody wants to wear a short body con dress.

It’s okay if somebody wants to wear over-sized multicoloured sweaters.

It’s okay if somebody wants to dye their hair green. rupi

What matters most is that we feel content and comfortable with our appearance. We all come in different shapes and sizes, some of us are a size 10 and some of us are a size 20, some of us are black and some of us are white, some of us have blue eyes and some of us have brown eyes, some of us have small boobs and some of us have big boobs, some of us have short, curly hair and some of us have long, blonde hair; but one thing we do have in common is that we’re all beautiful and we need to remind each other of that every single day. Let’s join together and push the negativite and judgemental people away by encouraging, empowering and loving one another. We need to spread love and not hate. The world will be a better place when we stop mocking each other and start cheering each other on.

 

Be empowering.

Be encouraging.

Sincerely Yours,

Kat.