Back to School

Anywhere from the middle of last week to the beginning of this, children in the UK now have to return to school. This means my children have gone back to school and I’m still not sure how I feel about it.

The first day, last Thursday for us, I lost three of my children on the same day. They have spent every day of the last six months with me and, although at time it has been tough not having a moments peace, it hit me harder than expected when they were not home with me any more. I found it much more anxiety inducing than I had anticipated for two reasons. Firstly, I now have to trust someone else to take care of my children again with the same level of commitment and attentiveness that I have for the last six months, this was never an issue before, I always took their safety at school for granted. Secondly, as I have spoken about before I get a huge amount of anxiety when leaving the house, having said this, the school drop off has never been an issue as it became so embedded as part of the daily routine that it occurred fairly naturally without causing any symptoms of anxiety. It seems that the long break from making this usually routine trip has changed this and it is now causing me symptoms, fairly mildly thankfully and I hope that, once it become routine once again this will subside.

I do wonder how ‘the new normal’ at school will impact the children and young people of today. Constant hand sanitizer, segregation from other age groups of children, face masks and distancing, all make for a very different school experience than the ‘pre-COVID’ one. I hope any impacts of this situation on the mental health of young people are minimal and that the old ‘normal’ does return some day. I suspect that the negative mental health issues caused by children staying home for long periods of time would be worse than those caused by a return to school, even in the current circumstances, so I am absolutely in favour of the return to school, it is just going to take some adjusting to, that’s all.

Thanks for reading.

Assertivness is an Issue

I know that set backs during my journey to beating anxiety are inevitable, I’m prepared for that and I’m ready to find ways through the set backs when the occur. I feel like I’ve just met my first one and it’s dealing with being more assertive with other people.

For such a long tkme I have allowed people to do and say what they like and never really challenged them. I’ve never expressed what I truly think, even at home with my own family, never mind with poeple I don’t know well. This has even been the case when I’ve been really hurt by something or someone has really upset me, I don’t express it, I squash it all squashed in with everything else, something else to ruminate over later.

Clearly, this has a negitive effect on myself and my own mental health. Keeping things bottle up and not dealing with issues is a sure fire way to have a negitive affect on yourself. My issues is parly down to a fear of confrontation. This is a fear I have always had since being a child, I never stood up for myself even back then. It seems to stem from another fear, one I’m already working on, I can’t bare the thought of poeple thinking bad of me. Now, in reality they probably don’t most of the time, also even if they do I know that’s their right and it shouldn’t affect me. Both these things my rational mind understands full well, but turning those ideas into heart felt beliefs is going to be the challangeing part. I’m hoping that building my own self confidence and self esteem will go a long way to addressing this.

Yes, this is part of my journey to self discovery and self improvement, but there is another reason this has been brought to the front of my mind at this time. I read a blog post recently on this subject, and the things that it pointed out to me really struck home. The main one being, ‘by not being assertive and expressing my self, my thoughts, beliefs, feelings etc. I am actually damaging others around me.’ Now, that is something I can’t bare the thought of, to be causing harm to my husband, my children? No, this needs to be addressed.

Thinking about this more I notice just home much I do this. I dont challenge things my husband says that I don’t like for fear of confrontation, I let my children get away with certain things so they don’t get upset, I don’t express myself clearly to anyone outside this small circle either, even other close family.

The thinking behind what the author of the blog was saying made a lot of sense to me. They said that if you truly care about and value another person, then you want the best for them, you want them to grow and better themselves as a person. Therefore, if you never point out something they are doing is upsetting you or causing harm to someone or something else then how will they ever be able to improve or stop that behaviour? By letting them continue without saying anything (in a caring and gentle way obviously) I am doing them a disservice. So, it is my duty to challenge others where necessary for their benefit instead of avoiding the situation for my own benefit. I now see that this was a selfish view point that I was taking.

This doesn’t mean I will never hurt their feelings in the very short term, but it is the bigger picture that is important here. If you truely care for someone, your child, partner, friend or family member, and you truely want what is best for them, it will sometimes mean saying things that are difficult. But this will only serve to make the other person a better human being and ultimately strengthen your relationship through honest, respectful communication.

Thank you for reading.

Mindfulness – A Beginners Questions Answered

So, I’m really excited about this post as it is my first collaborative post. I chose the topic of mindfulness as it is something, I am already learning about myself and I’m fast becoming hooked. As I mentioned in a previous post I am currently doing an 8 week course in MBSR or Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, I am only half way through and I have already been able to apply the techniques and ideas I have learnt in my everyday life to great benefit.

Knowing I wanted to write more about mindfulness and it’s benefits I decided to find an expert on the subject who could share more information about it. I asked Matt Alfonso, an experienced mindfulness coach, to answer a few questions that I though many of those new to mindfulness may also be interested in having answered. Matt kindly agreed to share his wisdom and here are his thoughts.

If you are like me, before I learnt more about mindfulness, I thought it was only about meditating, this is not the full story as Matt explains.

“Mindfulness is living in the present. It is about seeing what is arising in this moment without judgement. We certainly want to be mindful during meditation but we also want to be mindful throughout our entire day. We want to be mindful when we are walking down the street by noticing our surroundings and what is arising. We want to be mindful when we are with others by giving people our full attention. We want to be mindful with our thoughts by noticing what they are and being able to change or reframe them at times.”

What is actually meant by “living in the present”?

“To live in the current moment. To be aware of what is arising in a non-judgmental way.“

You may be wondering if mindfulness is something you can learn on your own or whether it requires you to spend time with an expert teacher or coach.

“You can learn and develop mindfulness on your own by practicing meditation, focusing on the present moment and giving people your full attention. Having a coach or teacher is valuable in helping you stay on track, teach you skills and answering your questions. A teacher or coach can help you progress at a faster pace.“

Can mindfulness really help to reduce anxiety? And if so how?

“A lot of anxiety is caused by worrying about the future. Practicing mindfulness allows you to spend more of your time living in the present moment. Then when your mind does start to worry about the future it allows you to be aware of this quicker and then in a kind and loving way bring it back to the present.”

Can mindfulness help with other mental health issues such as depression or OCD?

“Yes, the science is very clear that mindfulness can reduce the risk of depression and OCD. There have been numerous studies from around the world that have shown mindfulness to improve happiness, reduce stress, increase concentration and memory, help with emotional intelligence, and many other benefits.”

Something I personally wated to ask Matt about is whether children can learn mindfulness techniques. There seems to be so much pressure on young people today that it is bound to take its toll on their mental health. Could mindfulness be a potential way to support youngsters who struggle in this area?

“Yes, absolutely! I believe that it is vital that we teach mindfulness in elementary school through high school. Students can learn the importance of being aware of their thoughts and then change their thoughts from negative to positive. This can greatly improve their self-esteem and capabilities. Students can also learn to respond more effectively to a certain trigger. For instance, when something upsetting happens, they can connect to the breath and gather themselves before responding. “

So, now you have learnt more about mindfulness, and you would like to give it a go yourself. But where should you begin?

“Through short meditations that focus on the breath or simple breathing exercises. Start small with 5 minutes or less. Starting with becoming aware of the breath and being able to work with the breath is a great foundation.” 

A big thank you to Matt for taking the time to answer these questions for this post. To find out more about his work you can visit his website at www.mattalfonso.com and follow him on Instagram, @mattalfonso1.

Thanks for reading.

Feeling Proud of Myself

As you can see, I haven’t put a post in for a little while.the reason was that I have been away for a few days, just me and the kids. We go to a very familiar place, but we hadn’t been since last October due to the oandrmic and I was very anxious about the trip. To throw myself in at the deepend even more, I booked 2 days out while we were away to attractions i the area, cue anxiety in red alert!

I was a little dubious with COVID still being around and seeing that so many people are acting as things were back to normal, not practicing social distancing and not wearing masks, but my children were going stir crazy and were missing out on months of their childhoids. So i decided to do this one trip, it will probably be the only one this year.

Overall the trip was great! We rode pedalos, dodgems, swings, slides, sledges, played on the beach, we went in a corn maze, met farm animals, played games (Frisbee golf was a new one on me!), arcade games, mini golf etc. Generally, did as many fun things as we could.

I felt the anxiety rising on several occasions. These included any trips taken in a car or taxi and (about 4 ir 5 times) and on a couple of random occasions while we were out and about. But it was my mind set that I have been working on changing that stopped the anxiety spoiling the trip as it has done in the past. Here are the thoughts I used to have and what I replaced them with this time:

“Anxiety is the worst, its going to spoil everything” with “my day will be as good as I make it, its as good as what actually happens its not as bad as my thoughts”

“I am going to feel so ill” with “its only anxiety, it really can’t hurt me”

“This is never going to go away” with “the adrenaline will run out soon, it won’t last forever”

“I will fail my children when I can’t do this for them” with “I always have and will do my best for m my children and my best us good enough”

“I feel like I can’t control the situation and its making me anxious” with “i can’t control everything and I’m absolutely OK with that”

“What if I faint?” with “what if’s are not facts, stay in the moment and only deal with the ‘now'”

While these things don’t stop anxiety arising, they helped me tremendously with managing it when it did arise. I took my attention into my body, settled my attention on my breath, experienced even the negitive feelings of anxiety and didn’t try to fight it or hide from it, i acknowledged it all but didn’t get caught up in it. I just kept telling myself the above when negitove thoughts entered my mind and the difference was amazing. It was as if, because I answered back the negitive feelings and thoughts with more logical ones, it render my anxiety speechless and it subsided much more quickly.

So, I feel immensely proud of myself for giving my choldren the opportunity to have the fun that they deserved. I also feel proud that I stood up to my anxiety and proved that it won’t win if I dont let it. It has given me a new confudence to go out and do things no matter how it feels as I know I can squash it down with more positive thoughts, and if it worked this week, why shouldn’t it work in any other situation? I’ve got this!

I hope that this post helps others to begin making small changes to their own mind set and see the difference it can make.

Thanks for reading.

Am I Doing the Right Thing?

In order to fight this axniety, I think more bravery is needed on my part. I need to have the view that “im going to do this thing no matter how it feels” in order to win this battle.

I started the exposure therpy yesterday and there isn’t anything expected of my over the next couple of weeks, apart from making a list of situations that make me anxious, then trying to rank them from most anxiety inducing to those that give me milder anxiety. But I’ve taken it upon myself to go further. Is that a good idea?

We’re away for a few days next week, me and the kids, we stay in our own caravan so it is very familiar, we do things very close by that are on the complex where we stay, or walk to the beach. We have done other things before but I find it really hard. This time however, I have enquired with local taxi firms about transport which would allow us to take trips out for the day. I am looking at going further afield twice next week. While I feel very daunted by this I also feel like it absolutely necessary and I’m ready for the fight.

I have also booked 2 appointments the following week as 2 of my choldren are due immunisations. One appointment is fairly local but the other one means attending a clinic on other side of town. Appointments are a source of high anxiety for me and so is traveling far from home so this will be hard on both counts. But again I’m ready for the fight.

I hope I am doing the right thing by making the conscious decision to try to live a normal life, regardless of the level of anxiety that will show its self. Naturally, I am worried that I will have truly awful experiences doing these things, then never want to try again if its too traumatic. But I can’t be ruled by that fear, even if one activity does go badly I need to accept it and more onto the next, I can’t give up. I won’t give up.

I do have the techniques and what I’ve learnt so far from my MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) course. I am now on week 2 (of 8). We have looked at techniques such as mindful breathing and body scan, which I plan to use to help me through any difficult times while I’m out doing these things.

Its a little frustrating as I just want to get out and do more and be more adventurous with what situations I’m using to overcome the anxiety. But on the other hand I feel I am still being held back by the pandemic to an extent. Whereas, in the past I could have thrown myself into many situations, at the moment some things just aren’t sensible. For example, I don’t want to travel by train, though this would inducehigh anxiety for me and its something I want to work on, I don’t feel like spending a lot of time on a busy train is the best thing to be doing at the moment. This just means that some things are going to take longer than others to work on, but I’m sure I can make progress non the less.

Is the only way to beat this, really, just to make myself so uncomfortable, disressed and physically ill over and over again until I win? Will I ever win? If it the only way then that’s what I will be doing, for however long it takes. Even though I have no idea if it is the right thing to do, I feel like I must try.

Thanks for reading.

Slow Progress, But Still Progress

So, seen as I haven’t posted in a few days I thought I’d just talk a little about my week and what I have been doing towards this project. I want to keep up momentum and keep posts coming so this blog stays alive and can begin to flourish.

This week I began a course to lean to bring mindfulness into my own life to help reduce anxiety. The course is delivered online, via Zoom, but there us still a nice group feel with the other oeople who have joined and we’re all aiming for the same outcome, even though people have different reasons for joining. Its was just a general intro, a chance to talk in small groups of 3 and an activity wherever had to eat a raised ‘mindfully’, as in, noticing all of the senses involved in this simple act. It was really interesting to hears peoples thoughts on the activity. Homework is to practice a 30 minute body scan meditation each day during the week before the next session. My problem with that this week is staying awake! I’m feeling a bit sluggish and lethargic the last few days. After completing this personal course I’m looking at training to teach mindfilness to others. I’ve also read a little able teaching mindfulness to children, i think planting this seed young could be extremely valuable to many young people.

Last Sunday I enrolled on an accredited life coach training course! I will offer one to one life coaching sessions once qualified, but I want to use the skills to create online courses for people that have specific life goals in mind but are not in a position financially to pay for one to one sessions. These courses obviously won’t be as personalised to the individual but will be much more affordable and be available to many more people who need them. They will be as specific as I can make them whilst still catering for different individuals at the same time. I’d like to hear your thoughts on this idea?

I have also had a phone call to say I can begin exposure theyapy from next week as I’ve reached the top of the waiting list. I do want to do this to conquer my anxiety about leaving the house, however I am also worried that it might not be as effective in the current climate. There are places i can’t go and things i can’t do, at least not in the ususal way, due to the pandemic. Keeping myself and four children clean and safe in a busy place or on public transport presents a whole different set of problems to be anxious about. What have been your biggest challenges during the pandemic?

I’m about to start contacting some other blog owners who are writing about mental health or other related topics, to ask if we could collaborate on some posts. This will bring more valuable content to you and hopefully raise the profiles of both of our blogs as well. 🙂

I’m sorry this is a bit short and not as in depth, I just wanted to let you know where I’m at.

Tha dks for reading.

My Motivations for Conquering Anxiety

I believe if you are going to beat anxiety you have to have an underlying reason that is going to drive you, you have to really want it. I’m not suggesting some people don’t want overcome their troubles but that it is going to be extremely difficult to do if you don’t have a focused goal or reason in mind. You need something to keep you going when the inevitable set backs or ‘bad days’ happen. If you don’t, you are likely to slip back to where you were and lose any progress you’ve fought so hard to make. Sit down and think about your reasons for working on beating anxuety or depression, how will your life be improvesd? What will you be able to do that you can’t do now? Make a list if you need to.

You need something that will ensure you keep going even if things get a little rough. It could be your children, spouse, other family members or friends that will benefit from a better you. It could allow you to go for your dream job, go back to learning for a career change, learn a new skill or start a new hobby, do volunteer work, start your own business. Maybe you want to start dating, settle down and get married and have children. It doesn’t have to be a huge life decision (though it absolutely could be), no matter how small your motivation seems to others, as long as it keeps you going in the right direction, then keep focusing on it to get you through the ups and downs on your journey to recovery.

Here are my main motivations that keep me going.

My family is number one for me. I know if I can overcome my anxiety I can give them all better experiences in life and they can enjoy being around me. We can make memories together and become closer as a family. There are 2 main aims for me here. Firstly, if I can overcome my anxiety around leaving my home I can take my children out for the day and enjoy different activities with them. Secondly, i can go out and do things with my husband, just the 2 if us, which will strengthen our relationship too. We hzven’t done much together recently and I know he would appreciate it, I need to get to a point where I feel comfortsble and enjoy the time out together too.

My second main motivation is to build a career or business that I can be good at and proud of. If you read my first blog post, An Introduction, you will have seen that I’ve had plenty if ideas and started plenty of things but anxiety has got in the way of all of them. Even the thing I’d really wanted to do all of my life, be a teacher, was pushed away by my anxiety. I absolutely can’t let this happen any more. Now, even more than being a teacher, I want to dedicate my life to helping others overcome their mental health issues. My motivation here is so strong as I know what it’s like to be in a place where you almost just accept that this negitive state is where you will spend the rest if your days. I know now this isn’t true and I want to show others that there is a way out too.

Please let me know in the comments what your motivation is and how it is helping you to overcome your mental health issues.

Thank you for reading.

What I’m doing about my anxiety

So, you know who I am and you know that I’m an anxiety sufferer from my first 2 blog posts – have a read if you haven’t already. I also said, i think in both of my previous posts, that enough is enough. It’s time for me to end the suffering and live the life I really want to. But how do I go about doing this? It is a good question and I do feel the answer is perhaps slightly different for different people, meaning that different things work in different ways for different people, after all we’re all unique. Having said that there are certain strategies than can benefit us all.

What am I doing and is it working?

Firdtly, I’ve started to change my diet. Now I have to say I haven’t yet completely irradicated all processed food from my diet but I am working towards that stage. It will take some time as I think I have, what is bordering on, an addiction for biscuits! (Cookies for friends in the US). I find comfort in earing biscuits dipped in my cup of tea, it’s like an emotional crutch I use to feel safe and secure. I read a really good book called The Anti-Anxiety Diet which is excellent. Not only does it give easy to understand explanations about why certain foods are beneficial in our diets but it also gives a helpful guide about how to get started with diet changes, such as creating shopping lists and meal plans. I have been using this book as a guide to get me started. There are certain foods such as spinach, avocado, certain nuts and seeds and oily fish which are great for increasing the feel good chemical being released from the brain and these should be included in your diet, especially if you have mental health issues. I’m planning to create content in the future which goes into detail about specific foods and why they benefit the anxious mind.

The next thing I’ve already started doing is taking a herbal supplement called Ashwagandha. It comes from ancient Indian medicine and is derived from a plant so is entirely natural. If you search the Internet there are a few studies on its benefits and lots of people who have had very positive experiences taking it. The small amount of evidence there is does suggest positive effects on anxiety levels. There is caution about taking it long term however, as there is not enough scientific evidence yet to rule out side effects from long term use, so taking for only 3 months continuously is recommended.

I have also started to drink a cup of green tea every morning. It has an anti oxidant in it called L-theamene which aids brain function and improves mood.

I have started to regularly meditate and listen to positive affirmations in an attempt to irradicate negitive thoughts and improve my own self esteem and self confidence, which are very low. After listening for 20-30 minutes I feel physically and mentally calmer every time I use this strategy, I want to build this into my daily routine in a more structured way. I also want to include yoga into my daily routine. I have done some yoga but it has been very intermittent and I believe the most benefit can be reaped from these activities if they are practeice daily.

I have read a lot of books lately about building self-confidence and self-esteem and conquering anxiety. It has all helped me build a plan for changing my mindset and improving my mental health. I have (only yesterday) started reading Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Nnow (I was delighted to discover it was on Audible). Im not even half way through and I already think it ‘s going to be utterly life changing! I would highly recommend it.

Lastly, I’m drinking more water. Very simple and something that most people know they shoild probably do but actually making sure it happens isn’t as simple as it sounds. I now try to take a water bottle with me everywhere and drink to through the day. Thus way it doesnt feel like such a pressure and I get it down no problem.

The reason I can’t really say if things are working well for me or not is because of the current pandemic. Most of the time my anxiety is triggered by going out places or thinking about having to go out places. Obviously, in recent time this hasn’t really happened, I’ve hardly been anywhere. All appointments have been over the phone and there’s been no school, no clubs or activities, no outings with the kids and so on. This means my anxiety has been hugely decreased anyway. The test will come next time I do need to go anywhere out of my comfort zone. I will have to keep you posted about how this goes when the opportunity arises.

My next step, as well as the ones mentioned above, is to start an 8 week mindfulness training course in MBSR (mindfulness based stress reliefe). It starts this Monday and I’m very excited to get going with it. I will keep you posted with what that is like too. I am also looking at the idea of teaching mindfulness to others as I really feel it can bring great benefit to everyone. I would like to link this into a life coaching practice that specifically aims to help those who face mental health challenges. But that’s all for the future and something I will need to build over time.

Please let me know in the comments if there are strategies you find work well for reducing your anxiety.

Thank you for reading.

How Anxuety Affects Me

Everyone becomes anxious or worried, it’s a natural response to a situation where we are under threat. You have probably read about fight or flight etc. so I won’t go into that here. The reason it becomes a problem is when our minds and bodies go into this state doing day to day activities when there is no real threat at all. It can be very inhibiting and stop us from living the full life we want to.

Everyone one who sufferers from anxiety has a slightly different experience. Some people suffer insomnia, lying awake for hours on end with a million thought going round in their heads. Some experience heart palpitation, shortness of breath, chest pains, derealisation or depersonalisation (which is a feeling of being outside your own body), stomach problems, blured vision, feeling dizzy or faint, red or blotchy skin, headaches and I’m sure many others that you could share. The point here is that many people believe that anxiety is something we only experience in the mind, this is simply not true. It affects every fiber of our being and often the physical symptoms can be even more distressing than the psychological ones. Of course, the psychological symptoms are real too, the fear, worry, dread, panic, feeling inadequate, embarrassment, helplessness etc. I’m sure you could all add to this list too. These symptoms vary from person to person too.

For me, anxiety hits my stomach first. I get cramps and an urgent need to head for the toilet. It can the progress into feelin dizzy and faint, panicy, blured vision and depersonalisation. I have an overwhelming urge to escape and get away from whatever situation I’m in. However, I’m so self contious and have such low self esteem that I dare not do anything that will draw any attention to myself, like getting up and leaving a room. So, i internalise absolutely everything. There’s no wonder that I just sit quiet in a corner in social occasions.

I will take you though an example situation that happened to me exactly a year ago from now.

My daughter plays in a brass band and they had the opportunity to play with them in public. There performance was on a bandstand in the middle of a lake in a park, at a popular tourist town by the sea. This involved a 20 minute bus ride, a 3 hour train journey and then a taxi ride to get there. I felt pretty ropey during the initial bus ride, with stomach ache and mild dizziness, but I held it together, hoping that it would improve. This stayed the same until the train arrived. We boarded the train, as we found a seat, I could feel those awful sensations building (I can literally feel it now as I type) my symptoms intensified, I felt like I wasn’t in my own body, I started shaking and fidgeting, I started panicking badly. I then broke and headed for the train door (the train was still idling in the station). I grabbed my daughter and her instrument, I desperately wanted to get off that train but the doors had just closed. I hit the button anyway, the door opened about an inch and stopped, the signalman blew his whistle, the door closed again and we began to move out of the station. My daught was trying to reassure me, we stayed in the vestibule for a few minutes before going to sit down. I gradually calmed to a milder state of anxiety but felt utterly drained from the experience. We traveled 2 or 3 stations into the journey and I kept telling myself, its OK, you can get off at the next stop if you need to, you can get a train back home if you need to. After the 3rd station we got off. We could have caught our connecting train there to continue or we could catch the train home. I couldn’t do it, we caught the train home. My daughter was very understanding, but I still felt immense guilt that I’d taken such a wonderful opportunity away from her, I still have guilt about this situation even now. This is the kind if situation that is driving me to conquer my anxiety and help other do do it too.

If you would like to share your story I will feature it in a future blog post. You can email me at info@wellindsbyerica.com and you can be credited with your story or I can post it anonymously, its entirely up to you. I just think its important that we share experiences so that others can relate to them and not feel alone or feel ashamed to talk about mental health any more.

Thank you for reading.

An Introduction

I thought the most logical first blog post would be an introduction to myself, to my plans for Well Minds and to talk about what has led me to starting this adventure. I apologies if I repeat anything you have already read on my web page but I’ll gloss over the boring bits as quick as I can.

Who am I?

Well, that’s a question I am still trying to answer myself at the age of 36! But in the more literal sense, I am Erica, I live in the UK, I’ve lived in the same city my whole life. I lived with my Mum and Dad growing up, it was just the three of us, I have no siblings. I lived in a small house rented from the local authority until I was 11 and during my younger days played with other children who lived on the same street and attended the same local school. There was a nice community spirit back then, neighbours all looked out for each other and would pop to each other’s houses for a coffee, it was warm and friendly – with a few acceptations. When I was 11, we moved to a different area as my Mum and Dad bought a house, the area was very different, it was very busy and multi-cultural, it had a very different feel. For me the big difference was not having friends nearby to pop round and play with.

There was one day at school, I must have been about 10 years old, I remember the other kids playing a game and giving me the worst part in the game because I was the quiet one who wouldn’t argue back. But this day I told them all, it wasn’t fair, they weren’t being good friends and I wasn’t playing with them anymore, and I didn’t. I sat through the next entire year of school on my own at break time and lunch times. I decided, at the time, that it was a matter of principle. I wasn’t going to play with other kids that weren’t nice to me. In reality, I think what was really happening was the beginnings of social anxiety. I didn’t want to play their games because I wasn’t confident enough and didn’t fit in. I tell that story because on reflection I can now see this was the beginning of a downward spiral.

My time at secondary school was a little better in certain ways. This was because I attended a mainstream school but the school also had a separate provision for visually impaired pupils. This meant I met other kids who had bad eyesight, or no eyesight, just like me (I do have some sight). To find other kids who were like me was great. We also attended a residential building where we got independence lessons, but mainly just got to hang out together. Obviously, like all teenagers, we had out ups and downs but it was the only time I felt like I really belonged somewhere. I made a few fully sighted friends but only ones that were brought into our group by someone else, I didn’t make the friends, they were found for me. Though my latter teenage years was spent with those new friends. At that time, I certainly was very shy and reserved and had some social anxiety but it was very manageable and didn’t stop me doing things. Unfortunately, as I had children pretty young and they didn’t we drifted apart as we went into our 20’s.

Since leaving school, I’ve flitted from one interest to another, I’ve never found anything that I’ve stuck at for long enough to be a success at it. Here are some examples:

I went to college to study Travel and Tourism, I left ¾ of the way though.

I worked at the factory where my Mum worked, I stayed 3 months.

I worked at Burger King, I stayed 3 months.

I worked for a large bank, I stayed about 14 months.

I worked in a call center, I stayed about 4 or 5 months. (That’s the last paid job I had in 2005)

I twice got places at the local college to study different thing (childcare and accounting) but never ended up going.

I trained to be a massage therapist; I did complete the course but didn’t do anything with it after.

In 2011, I embarked on a journey to become a primary school teacher, which is the thing I always legitimately wanted to do. It took four years and though I did come out of it with a degree, I was unable to complete the second-year teaching placement as I become so overwhelmed by anxiety, I did not end up as a qualified teacher but did graduate.

Last year I begin another degree, this time in Data Science, the reason was I can do the course and perhaps the job from home so I could stay at home all of the time and not go out into the scary world which fuels my anxiety. Its interesting but I know my hearts not really in it like it was with the teaching.

I would always have an excuse for leaving or not continuing but in reality it all came back down to anxiety, the fear which would build up to a point I could take it no more and I would feel too overwhelmed and just stop. Instead of facing the problem head on and finding a solution I would just run away. I have had 4 children during this time so I have hardly been sitting idly, as most will know that is a full-time job in itself!

It is over the last 2 or 3 years that my anxiety is now preventing me from doing pretty much anything that involves leaving the house. If one of my children gets a hospital appointment, I will take them, but it is an awful experience. Appointments are pretty much the only reason I leave my comfort zone of my house, the school run and the local shops. I did things for a long time feeling physically ill without telling anyone but it has become gradually less and less. This helps the physical symptoms certainly but it is like putting tape over a leak, the hole is still there under that tape. The anxiety is still there and will pop up at the least convenient time.

My plans for the future.

I’ve now reached a point where I’ve had enough, this needs to change. I cannot continue not living the life I want, not giving my children and husband the wife and mother they deserve. So, I’ve stared to make a few small changes, I’ve started to eat better, take a herbal supplement, started meditation and learning mindfulness techniques. I’m trying to be more active as I know physical activity is key to lifting mood but I’m still trying to fit that into my routine properly. I’m no longer feeling guilty for spending time on myself as I was before, I’m beginning to see that improving myself will benefit those around me too.

Starting this project seems like a natural progression in my journey to getting my life back. I know that there are so many people going through the same thing so I thought, if I could share my experiences and learn new things to benefit myself, I can then share with other people, like you, it could greatly benefit me but also many others too.

Though I’m beginning by talking to you about my own experiences I will work hard to bring you useful information verified by experts and content that I’ll create from what I learn. I will not share anything with you that I don’t personally believe in. Some of the resources will be available for free, such as blog posts, YouTube videos, written guides etc. But further down the line I hope to create items such as MP3 and PDF downloads for purchase. I’m even toying with the idea of training as a life coach and/or mindfulness and meditation teacher so I can bring even more benefit to people who are suffering from mental health difficulties.

Now, more than ever, we need to support people with mental health issues and help them return to the lives that they want and deserve. So, this is a call to action, please like and share my content to benefit others and join in discussions and comment on these posts and social media. Together we can create a supportive community where we can all benefit and support each other on our own unique journeys.

Thanks for reading.

Let me know in the comments any particular topics you would like to see information on, what would benefit you or someone you know?