Happiness Project Part 2

After a good hard think about my happiness project as mentioned in a blog yesterday, I’ve decided to do mine a little differently.  Committing to a year of 12 months focusing on different areas of my life is still quite a large feat and thinking of an area of my life to improve in a years time seems irrelevant when the problems will probably be something completely different, not what I’m thinking now.

So, I’ve decided to break it down into quarters.  Looking just far enough forward that it doesn’t terrify me, but enough to challenge me and give me something to work towards.  New year, new start, new happiness project plan:

January – Personal Space; an important one for me at the moment and my priority in not only the road to mental health recovery but piecing my life back together after the shake-ups the end of 2014 has thrown my way.  Its really important for me to get my own space again where I can think, reflect, meditate, exercise, be in the comfort of my own belongings, pets and boyfriend without the pressure and lack of support from my parents breathing down my neck.

1) First of all going to make my living situation at my parents a lot more pleasant.  With a few more of my personal belongings from the old house, pictures and probably digging out an old tv, I’ll create my own little oasis of calm where I can get away from things and gather my thoughts.  Because lets face it, realistically I’m not going to be able to afford a flat overnight so I may as well make things as pleasant as I can for myself while I’m here

2) Focus on nothing but working, saving and getting this yearned for personal space.  Not only to relieve me from living with my parents and allowing me ‘head space’ it’ll be a step in the right direction piecing my life jigsaw back together and hopefully allow me to get my cats back and back living with the other half

3) Whether living with my parents or when i’m in my own place, I’m going to make sure I treat myself to some proper personal time each day.  Going for a walk on my own even just round the block to clear my head and think will definitely help me keep perspective, motivation and direction

February; Personal Happiness; over the past year I’ve been focused on other people’s happiness’s to much – always worried I’ve upset someone or pissed someone off and what I can do to help others who aren’t happy.  I’ve not thought about myself, my own happiness’s for a long time.  If I’m honest I’m not even sure WHAT DOES make me happy any more

1) think about what makes me happy and content in a work situation.  Different qualities within different jobs that I’ve enjoyed. Find something that encompasses as many of those as possible.  Follow my heart and do something I want to do, not what people think I should do or what might be the only option to take. I shouldn’t rush into making this decision.  Take my time and work out whats right for me

2) think about what makes me happy and keeps my head happy out of work.  I’ve noticed when I fill my life with lots of happy distractions then my anxiety is generally easily managed and kept to a minimum.  Making plans to see friends and actually doing them, baking, going to new places, going for walks, taking up dancing which I’ve been meaning to do for years.  Whatever I find that makes me happy.  Do it, and lots of it

3) make a plan for future happiness.  think about what’s going to keep me happy. everything’s always fun and seems rosy when you start something, but how will I keep that feeling going?  giving myself little goals to follow in work, my relationship, friendships will keep things exciting and keep me happy focused

March; eat good, look good, feel good.  Whilst I dont eat badly as such, my diet is a lot poorer whilst I live with my parents, so once I’ve realistically moved out and got myself settled I’m going to really focus on looking after myself both inside and out:

1) improve diet with a lot more freshly prepared fruit and vegetables, start making own juices at home. getting into a good habit with drinking more water (a big problem I always struggle with)

2) Exercise little and often.  Getting into a routine of doing a little something every day. I get impatient I don’t see results quick enough but if I change the focus to making it a routine and the results being mental not physical then I think this will be more successful

3) make an effort on the outside.  I’m not really very vain and I don’t pay close attention to fashion and making sure my nails are done and I’ll easily go to bed without taking my make up off.  I need to make a little more effort on the outside; looking after my skin, hair, nails and even on a bad day making an effort with how I look on the outside will make a difference to how I feel on the inside.

Once I get to the end of march, I’ll review everything I’ve done.  If it’s worked I’ll look to improving 3 more areas over the following few months.  If it doesn’t at least I’ve given it a go and it certainly won’t have done any damage

Fingers crossed for Jan 1st, lets be having you 2015!

Keep smiling & stay safe

Fighting Fire with Fire

Christmas generally isn’t the easiest time for me, as it isn’t for most other people suffering from some form of mental illness.  For me, anxiety is a big downer on my festive spirit with a nice juicy dose before I’m due to go out anywhere, especially if its to be meeting groups of people I’m unfamiliar with.  This normally leaves me at home, on my own, feeling lonely, down, guilty with this generally spiraling into further anxiety and depression as I sit there feeling sorry for myself.

This year, as being at home has also given me strong feelings of anxiety, social awkwardness and generally not wanting to be around certain members for too long, I’ve found myself stuck between a rock and a hard place – anxiety coming head on with anxiety.

Every night or day I’ve been going out to see my other half’s friends and family, catching up with people I barely know and meeting a lot of others for the first time (who I probably won’t see for another year).  I’m so proud of myself for doing it and so pleased with the results.  If I hadn’t, Christmas being sat in my little box room at my parents would have been particularly grim.  It’s been tough and I may not have been the “normal happy jen” but I did it.  Unfortunately, one of the standard questions asked by people you rarely see or who don’t know you is something work related which I’ve had to tactfully steer around so as not to bore people with the complicated trials and tribulations of the past few weeks of my life, leaving them wishing they’d never asked. Pretty impressed at how I’ve handled things, throwing myself into situations that would normally have me a little on edge, being able to put recent events behind me and successfully enjoyed myself.

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the bits of time I have spent with my family.  Unnecessary sarcastic comments about work, money, living situation and how well my other siblings are doing sneaking in to normal conversation taking the wind out of my sails and putting me back to square one in feeling pretty shit about myself.  The big kicker was the massive elephant in the room (or lack of) on Christmas Day.  I woke to a text saying I wasn’t to expect any presents under the tree for me.  Low and behold while everyone else is tearing wrapping paper off lovely gifts there I am sat with a cup of tea.  I don’t mean for it to sound like I’m being a spoiled brat, throwing my dummy out of the pram.  But it’s a pretty cruel punishment for recent events and on the one day I wanted to try and put everything behind me and not be reminded of my situation, it couldn’t have been made more obvious.  Completely heartbreaking when even my younger brothers notice and ask what’s going on.

Whilst I may not have been rich in gifts this year, I have been rich in love and support from my other half and his family and friends.  It’s these amazing people that have got me through a ridiculous past month and hopefully will be there as I gather my life back together over the coming weeks.  I can also take away from this time how strong I’ve managed to be in a difficult and upsetting time; this I am really proud of and I feel like I can walk into the next chapter with confidence and my head held high.

Stay safe

J x

Happiness Project Part 1

The Happiness Project, by Calm Kitchen

Hope you’ve all had a lovely Christmas. A post about mine, my struggles and how I conquered them will follow soon.

Thanks to this fabulous blog from Hayley I’ve been inspired to right my own ‘happines project’ which will start in the new year. Hoping this will support me and guide me through 2015 and keep me on a happy, positive and motivated path after such a rocky 2014. Let’s face it, it won’t do any harm.

My monthly steps will be posted over the coming days

Stay safe
J

Swings

This morning was positive and productive. Throughout the day my anxiety has come from nowhere like a bullet train. It’s hit me hard. I couldn’t even eat (and it takes me a lot to be put off my food). I’ve spent the past hour crying, dozing and feeling really down. My brain wants to hibernate forever in its nest of duvets and blankets wallowing but at the same time just wants to grab all my things, fill my little car and drive as far as it will take me for a new adventure

Times like this that appear from nowhere are the toughest. They completely floor me. Made worse by noone at home I can speak to who actually understands or empathises or will even try. All I want is a hug, probably another cry and something really chocolatey

Feeling lost and hopeless

The anxiety link

The anxiety link

For as long as I can remember I’ve suffered with anxiety, but it was only about 18 months ago I actually discovered what it was – and what a revelation!  I wasn’t having a heart attack or going to die!

Looking back, generally the times I’ve had anxiety have been fairly normal; stress at work, stress at my living situation, money worries, the common causes that I think the majority of people will experience at some point in their life.

Over the past year, while I’ve been struggling with my mental health I’ve noticed an abnormality in my anxiety pop up, which seems to be the most common trigger for my anxiety now.  After speaking with a therapist during my earlier sessions of CBT this year it started to make sense.  It stems from times in my life (turns out from as early as 7) when I’ve felt alone, abandoned, excluded, lonely I’ve felt depression and each of these times have been a significantly dark time in my life.  Ranging from a parent losing their job when I was starting high school and not feeling like I belonged in a private school when neither of my parents were working (or had a huge house with a swimming pool, a 4×4 and a pony) to then being bullied for the above, a horrific controlling relationship and more.  My head has always associated this feeling of being on my own with desperation, the need for company and the need for my feelings to be heard and understood.  As such I now really struggle with spending any kind of prolonged period of time on my own company – scared of my own thoughts and what will happen if I’m left in this vulnerable state.

This time round, the only “bad thing” in my life is the depression and that alone has excluded me from jobs, friends and has made me cut myself out of situations.  It left me unemployed and house bound for 3 months whilst my other half worked every hour under the sun to enable us to keep our flat.  As a result, this left me spending a lot of time on my own with the ‘black dog’, ruminating over every possible dark and depressing thought that my tiny little head could possibly think of.  I would focus on the time I would no longer be on my own (normally the other half coming home from work) as a tremendous time of relief – like I’d be saved from myself, I’d be safe and no longer have to battle on my own.  This rapidly became extremely unhealthy – I’d fixate on this time, obsess, with my anxiety escalating the closer I got to this time of ‘relief’.  If even a minute longer would pass and I was still on my own, my head would rapidly spiral out of control.  Increased anxiety would be followed by panic attacks, getting so worked up and upset I’d make myself ill, self harm punishing myself for him not wanting to come home (when that obviously wasn’t the case, he’s allowed a drink).  On a few occasions I very scarily and uncharacteristically became violent.  Not at anyone, just throwing things; breaking bowls and glasses of water in anger and frustration – a side to me I’ve never seen before and was the turning point in me wanting/needed to make a big change.

For nearly a year, this is how my life has been.  To say it’s been tough has been an understatement.  Its embarrassing, scary, shameful and intimidating that my anxiety gets so out of control so quickly that this is how I react when I spend time on my own.  It’s even worse when people who don’t know the situation and don’t understand have judged me for it.  Presuming that I’m putting it on to control my boyfriend and stop him having fun, because ‘it only ever happens when he goes out for drinks’…..well yes that’s true, because that’s when I’ve been on my own for a long time and I’ve been at my most vulnerable.  I’d wonder on occasions that no wonder he’d want to go out for a drink on his way home, who’d want to come to such a mess?!  It eventually got to a point where it sometimes felt like he was spending time with me out of obligation rather than actually wanting to be there.  My anxiety had smothered and extinguished the passion, desire and love we had for each other.

Finally, things are starting to sink in and take shape to put an end to this.  With the possibility of my other half moving to London for work and I’m looking to move back to Manchester and live on my own, I’ve got to be able to stand on my own two feet and put an end to this once and for all.  I can’t dote on him being the remedy to my crazies any more.  I’ve not only got to learn to manage such an extreme problem, find happy distractions so I don’t feel like I’m alone, but I’ve got to learn to be comfortable in my own skin again and actually enjoy my own company.

As mentioned in a previous post, my family aren’t the most emotionally supportive of folk, so whilst I’m living at my parents I’m taking this as an opportunity to almost test the water whilst I’m spending a lot of time on my own in my room to keep out of their way.  Whilst the move back to Manchester is going to be hard on my own and living on my own is going to be a milestone challenge, I do have the advantage of a lot of emotional support in the form of friends on my doorstep over there.  With friends working normal jobs and crazy hospitality hours I know that IF i do get out of control and IF i am struggling to see light at the end of the anxiety tunnel myself, it’s really reassuring knowing I’ll have people that I can rely on at most times of day

Until then, I’m keeping my head down and keeping busy working and earning as much money as possible to move out as quickly as possible.  I’m also taking myself through a fantastic online CBT course which is really helping and keeping me on the straight and narrow until my real CBT starts in the new year.  I’m also trying my best to keep a diary of my anxiety levels on a day to day basis so I can better understand not only the triggers but the things that prevent it.  Hopefully with all of these steps and manning up a little, being more resilient I’ll be back to the Jen I know and love who I’ve not seen for a little while

Stay safe

J x

The importance of emotional support

My parents have never been the particularly supportive, talkative, emotional types. No hugs and kisses as we left the door for school, no catching up on each others days over the dinner table (because we didn’t have one), no i love yous.

Each time I have a set back, it’s instinctive to go to my parents, as it is with most people – they’re the people who made you and are there for you regardless.  Each time I’m left frustrated and feeling worse about myself than before, almost punishing myself for their emotional unavailability.

If I had any other illness or disease, I’m sure they would have spent hours trawling the internet and chatting to their friends seeking advice on understanding the illness and how best to support their child.  A mental illness should surely be the same thing.  Unfortunately, my family just don’t understand.  They think I’m simply “a bit down” and “I need to pull myself together”.

Yesterday, I came back from a routine doctors appointment with 2 new words to ponder over – bi polar.  My doctors are looking to test for it and think it could be a strong contender for another form of the condition I suffer from.  When I came home, naturally I spoke to my parents about what had been said.  Dead pan reaction from one (genuinely no reaction at all, despite the waterfall of tears down my face) and the other “well, at least we know what it is now”, as if depression wasn’t IT, completely unaware this is something different.  Ignorance and lack of understanding is one thing, but a complete lack of trying to understand or support is another.

As frustrating as this all is (the amount of tears I cried yesterday will probably be testament to that) I’m trying to approach things in a new positive light today.  Yes my parents aren’t great with emotion and support and I know this, so I shouldn’t expect it from them.  Its tough, as that’s what parents are for.  But if it’s not something they’re capable of or accustomed to then why would they suddenly change now?  So, I’ve decided to almost play the tough love card on myself.  Don’t expect and seek the support I need from my family.  Instead lean on the other amazing people I have around me; partner, friends, those on twitter and the rest of the internet I’ve connected to through this horrid illness.

It’s certainly not easy, as I currently live with my parents and friends aren’t ALWAYS available.  But learning to not beat myself up for my parents not doing something they’ve never done is a huge thing and a massive weight off my mind.  Instead I’ve got an army of amazing people behind me with tissues, duvet forts, harry potter films and inspirational quotes to keep me going.

This new level of thinking and approach to my source for emotional support is my main drive and motivation for accomplishing my little goals.  Moving out, getting my independence and cats back, getting on with my life.  Whilst its appreciated not having to pay bills, you can’t put a price on the value of your own space and being within a few minutes walking distance of a friend which isn’t a luxury I currently have.  Without proper emotional support for the good days and the bad, I’m going to find it significantly harder and a lot more lengthy process getting back to the me I recognise.

Today I went for an interview, just part time waiting work but its another few pennies in the jar and it’ll all help my recovery.  Just being able to accomplish that (and get the job) was a lovely little boost to my confidence and a little tick in the list of positive things i’ve done today.  Normally interviews (especially one for just a waitress job) wouldn’t bother me.  But today I was riddled with anxiety.  Impressively I held it together with a few deep breaths whilst parking my car and now I can look back and see what can be achieved with just a little self management.  This whole situation wouldn’t have been possible at all without the emotional support I’ve had from my friends over the past 24 hours and also from the strength I’ve had to ignore the negative comments coming back from my family.

Happy positive steps, no matter how small are all a step closer to getting where I want to be.  It really is amazing how much difference the right support, and the right kick up the arse can help.  Look how much I’ve achieved today.  I’m already excited to see what steps forwards I’m going to be making tomorrow

Keep smiling and stay safe

J