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

 

Hopes and Dreams for April

Happy April! Is it just me or is 2017 flying by at the speed of light? I’ve been spending the vast majority of my time working on my final year assignments, however April is my last month in college… forever, so it’s time to wave goodbye to Harvard Referencing and essay writing, and focus on myself this month.

So here are a few things that I’d like to do in April

1: Go on a solo theatre trip

I’ve been dreaming about visiting Smock Alley Theatre, which is one of my favourite places in Dublin. This month I’m going to pluck up the courage and go on a solo theatre trip during my Easter midterm. I fell in love with Smock Alley when I went to see Spring Awakening there in 2015, so another visit is well overdue.

2: Read more

I’ve handed up most of my assignments, which means I can finally read for fun again. I’ve set myself a target to read four books in April. I’m currently swooning over Rainbow Rowell’s novel Eleanor and Park, which is a set in the 1980’s. She sure knows the way to my heart.

3: Marathon Training

I’ll be taking part in the VHI Women’s Mini Marathon on behalf of the Make A Wish Foundation in June. The marathon is such an empowering and moving day and I cannot wait to take part again this year. However, I need to start training again and now that the evenings are brighter I can finally go on some sassy power walks. If you’d like to support the Make A Wish Foundation you can make a donation over on Kat’s Fundraising Page

4: Take Care of Myself

I took part in a mindfulness workshop in college and it made me realise that I haven’t been taking care of myself or my mind lately. The stress of my final year has had a bad impact on my mental health so I’m going to focus on taking better care of myself this month. I’m going to meditate a few times a week and possibly purchase one of those dreamy adult colouring books to help me unwind in the evenings.

Have you set any goals for this month? Tweet me @katkatkatt

Here’s to a month full of happy days and new adventures.

Sincerely Yours,

Kat

6 Things That Made Me Smile This Week

I was lucky enough to take part in a mindfulness workshop in college on Wednesday. One thing that helps boost mindfulness is gratitude, so I’ve decided to start a positivity journal. I’m toying with the idea of visiting Paperchase and splashing out on a new notebook *swoons*, but today I’m going to scribble here on my blog and share a few things that made me smile like the Cheshire Cat this week.

1: My Mam minds my little cousin Molly three days a week. She brightens my mornings and never fails to make me laugh. She’s such a placid kid and is a joy to have around the house. This week she ran around the house doing dinosaur impressions, which made me laugh so much.

2: I handed up my special subject assignment, which has been stressing me out for months. It’s one of the biggest college projects I’ve ever worked on so I was over the moon when I handed it up on Tuesday afternoon.

3: Riverdale is back. I am crazy about this show so that two week break was a true struggle. Oh it’s so great to see Jughead back on my screen. I’ve got the biggest crush on Cole Sprouse.

4: Twist and Shout by The Beatles played on the radio as I drove to college with my Dad. That song always makes me smile because it reminds me of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

5: I bought new denim shorts that make me feel really body confident. I struggle to find shorts that fit well because I’ve got huge hips and a slim waist, but finally I found a pair that make me feel super sassy.

6: My skin is clearing up. Bon voyage spots! I’ve been drinking more water, eating more fruit and using the L’oréal Fine Flowers Gel-Cream Wash and it seems to be working on my angry red blemishes. It feels good to have clear skin again.

What made you smile this week?

Sincerely Yours

Kat

Happier

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I have a love/hate relationship with the On This Day feature on Facebook. It reminds me of my secondary school days where I was free and the only thing I had to worry about was passing my geography class test, or having enough money to go see the latest Twilight movie with my friends. However, it also reminds me of my progress. It shows me photos of my past self. I was young, naive and sheltered. I had not yet discovered who I was, the real me, my true self. But today, as I write this post on a train to Galway, I’ve realised that I am happier than the girl in those photos, and that I have changed a lot.

I no longer watch Twilight movies. I finished school and passed my Leaving Cert. I got that B2 in English that I worked hard for. I have new friends. My skin has cleared up. My mousy brown hair is now copper. I’ve developed stretch marks and scars and cellulite. I’ve ran marathons. I’ve studied both creative writing and journalism. I’ve had work published in newspapers and on websites. I’ve read tonnes of books and watched many new movies. I’ve drank tea with my grandparents and pina coladas with my best friend. I’ve danced at concerts and cried at concerts. I’ve hopped on planes, trains and buses to new cities. I fell in love and I’ve had my heart broken. I’ve battled with anxiety and depression and I won. I discovered an unknown love for coffee and The Clash and Hygge. I wear red lipstick and often buy clothes because they remind me of The Bratpack. I daydream about living in Canada, Cork and Copenhagen. I worry about my grades and my family and my friends. I sing along to Radio Nova with my Dad in the car. I call handsome actors dishy just like my Mam does. I adopted a cat. I’ve had one tooth taken out. I have fallen in love with the simplicity of spending time by myself. I’ve fallen head over heels in love with John Hughes movies. I’ve sent a message in a bottle and heard back from the person that found it. I’ve fallen both in and out of love with my life. I’ve experienced euphoric highs and heartbreaking lows over the past twenty two years.

But most importantly, I am happier and stronger and wiser than the girl in those photographs from the past.

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)

mer-8

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

Dear July

Last year I was inspired by Emily Diana Ruth’s ‘Letters To July’ series so much that I wrote my very own letter to July. It’s one of my favourite pieces of work and I couldn’t help but write another this year. So here is my second letter to July.

 

Dear July,

It’s hard to believe it’s been an entire year since we last spoke. At this moment in time I feel okay; not great, not good, but not bad either. I’ve said the phrase ‘I’m fine’ a lot this month, July. Unfortunately I’ve been having one too many bad brain days lately. I feel like I’ve taken a step back progress wise, but I am hopeful that I will get better. There’s something different about me this year, July. I am a lot stronger and a lot more determined. When we last spoke I was just discovering who I truly was, but now 365 days later I finally know who I am and what I want from life.

It hasn’t been all bad. I’ve had work published, I’ve traveled, I’ve made new friends, I got a part time job, I started volunteering, I’ve started studying at a new college and I’ve become a happier and braver person. I love who I am, I just wish my brain felt the same way. The bad brain days have gotten severe, so I’ve decided to start seeing a counselor- a terrifying, but wise decision.

One thing you’ve taught me, July, is that no matter what things will always improve, even if you struggle to see a light at the end of the tunnel. On the 31st I went to Galway for a solo adventure. When I was sitting on the train travelling back to Dublin I felt content for the first time in over three weeks. You showed me that there is so much hope and potential out there, July, but you need to get out to find it. I discovered that sitting at home alone is no use. Going out on a walk, catching up with an old school friend, volunteering at my local charity shop or hopping on a train to another county is what I need to do to get myself out of this rut.

I know I will get better and the happy days will come back, the bad brain days will decrease and my mind will be clear again. Thank you for reassuring me, July. We had our tough days where I cried and where my heart ached, but we also had our happy days full of content moments and Cheshire cat smiles.

Thank you for showing me that the best is yet to come, July. I’ll see you again next year.

 

With Love,

Kat.