What It’s Like To Have Anxiety and Agoraphobia: An Anonymous Story

I’ve decided to compile a series of blog posts on different mental health conditions. As you all know, positive mental health is something that I support 110% and I play an active role in trying to destigmatise these illnesses and help people to understand them more. However, I can’t help but notice that although we’re all working hard to “destigmatise” mental health issues, that some of them are being left out. It seems that only the more popular and talked about illnesses such as depression and anxiety are being discussed, and I don’t like that. Sure, it’s great for me because I suffer from anxiety, but what about the people who suffer from schizophrenia, manic disorder, and all those other illnesses? I feel like people are still afraid of these illnesses, and that’s why I’m going to try my best to have them explained from the point of view of somebody who has experienced the illness themselves. This way it’s humanized, and will be easier for people to understand and in some ways relate to. I want to destigmatise mental health issues, and I want to do it the right way. There is no mental illness that deserves to be left out.

I decided to write this post for all the people like me and the people who fail to understand what it’s like for us. I live with the common illness known as ‘anxiety’. The medical term is known as an ‘anxiety disorder’ or ‘panic disorder’. However, not only do I suffer from this ‘disorder’ I was also cursed with agoraphobia.  To me, it was a label given to years’ worth of panic attacks and constant anxiousness. Agoraphobic is defined as a fear of large spaces or the outdoors, basically anywhere with a sizeable crowd.  Since I was a young girl, I was always the ‘crier’ at the parties. If I got lost in the playroom or if I went missing, I cried. It was my body’s reaction to the stress I felt but in the eyes of my peers and their parents I was a certified madam who felt the need to throw a hissy fit when I didn’t like something. I’m not saying I wasn’t dramatic as a child; I could have left Blair Waldorf standing there with my ways. The point was I was always a very emotional as a child and going to parties or events with my friends usually ended in tears for me. Sucks doesn’t it?

Push forward ten years to this day. I am now 17 years old sitting the ever so daunting Leaving Certificate exam in June. The fears of parties and events have since strengthen and grown to the point where I feel physically ill at the thoughts of going out on the tear with my friends. Typically I would push these thoughts to the side go out and have a laugh, allowing the destruction that will follow to subside a few hours. Once I could go out I would have my fun and eventually those thoughts I had previously resurfaced and were now looking for their revenge. So there I would be, in the bathroom of some dingy pub crying my eyes out, gasping for breath and praying my heart rate would slow down. Girls would walk by, ask was I okay? Or do you want water? I would say I am fine and they would move on, possibly on another quest for the shift or to seek another misfortune to do shots of tequila with them. I would be left to battle my demons by myself.

Normally my friends ditch me on a night out because I am too much of a burden to them. It was when my best friend admitted it to me I decided to give up on a social life. It was my Leaving Cert right? More study, less socialising. I decided to bury myself in the books and only resurface from my room for the necessities or when it was time to go to school. I gave up on having fun; it was too much hassle and a waste of makeup in my opinion. Although the lack of socialising boosted my studies, it ruined my relationships. My boyfriend has since given up trying to make me go places and I don’t get an invite to any outings from my friends. I know I wouldn’t go but the invite wouldn’t hurt?  It has deeply wounded my communication skills as I only see my family and friends and also my boyfriend when he is available. It has damaged my school life seeing as I am mainly the black sheep of the circle. I was labelled an outcast for something I could never understand.

Eventually I worked up the courage to tell my mother of my troubles and the next morning I was sitting across from my GP, wearing a tear stained t-shirt describing all of my fears and faults I have realised over the last few years. She politely told me I had anxiety but not only that, I suffered with agoraphobia but it was a mild form. Unsure of what it meant I did what anyone would do, I googled it and I was greeted with thousands upon thousands of pages of help and advice. Although I was overwhelmed I found comfort in knowing I was not alone and there was help out there. After several blood tests and meetings I was given some medication for my anxiety and redirected to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). So far it has been a success and I am slowly coming to terms with going out and having a life. I was lucky enough to deal with it before college.

I decided to write this for my own benefit but at the same time I wanted to write it for the people who feel the same as me. It sucks being terrified of going out and when I say going out I mean a basic trip to the shopping centre. Online shopping has become my safe haven recently but I am beginning to miss Penneys. I haven’t thrown myself into a full blown shopping spree just yet. I usually run in for 30 minutes and sprint back to the car where I’m met by my mother who has been very supportive. The constant fear of going out in a crowd has been a burden on my life but I am now trying to move on through the battle. I wrote this to highlight and to emphasise to people that if you have a friend who suffers with anxiety and in particular agoraphobia please support them. Be kind, be there and pick them up when they hit the bottom. I battled my problems on my own and I lost a lot along the way so I encourage you, the readers, to help and support your friends throughout their darkest of times. They will thank you for it someday!

If you feel you suffer from what I have please visit your local GP or seek advice from a trained professional, you will be grateful you did it.

What It’s Like To Have Manic Depression: An Anonymous Story

I’ve decided to compile a series of blog posts on different mental health conditions. As you all know, positive mental health is something that I support 110% and I play an active role in trying to destigmatise these illnesses and help people to understand them more. However, I can’t help but notice that although we’re all working hard to “destigmatise” mental health issues, that some of them are being left out. It seems that only the more popular and talked about illnesses such as depression and anxiety are being discussed, and I don’t like that. Sure, it’s great for me because I suffer from anxiety, but what about the people who suffer from schizophrenia, manic disorder, and all those other illnesses? I feel like people are still afraid of these illnesses, and that’s why I’m going to try my best to have them explained from the point of view of somebody who has experienced the illness themselves. This way it’s humanized, and will be easier for people to understand and in some ways relate to. I want to destigmatise mental health issues, and I want to do it the right way. There is no mental illness that deserves to be left out.

When Michaela suggested for people to write about their mental health conditions I jumped at the opportunity. I’m remaining anonymous on this post because I haven’t told my family or been open about this to my friends, and I’d hate for them to discover my mental health condition from social networks. I feel that mental health conditions are a bit of a taboo subject or that there’s an element of fear put into the idea of a mental health issue, which can make people who have it often block it out and deny it. I only discovered my mental health issue when I was turning nineteen years old because firstly I was too scared to admit I had a problem and secondly I was in a state of denial. I’ve now finally come to terms with my issue and hopefully I’ll have to courage to admit to my friends and family that I have this condition.

I have manic depression which is more popularly known as bipolar disorder. What I don’t like about bipolar disorder is the reputation it has. I feel people often have this mentality with bipolar disorder, thinking that the people who have it will go off one day and kill people but that’s really not the case at all! I want to be completely open about what it’s like to have manic depression/ bipolar disorder so that people can see that we’re not crazy. It’s just a bump in the road that you have to learn to overcome and this can take years to do.

I’ll tell you my story of what it’s like, but there may be other stories different to mine so don’t take this as a general one, everyone is different. With my manic depression I will go to sleep and not have a clue how I’ll feel in the morning, and depending on which stage I’m in I can either be incredibly nervous about it or indifferent. I have two stages – like it says on the label – I have my manic stage and my depressive stage. The best way I can describe how manic depression affects me is I feel different emotions to an extremity. This can be either unbelievable or incredibly scary.

I’ll talk about my manic stage first since that’s more positive and I am generally a very positive thinking person, or at least try to be. In my manic stage I am very hyperactive, I get excited easily and the feeling is prolonged so when everyone has calmed down I will still be beaming on the inside and nearly shaking. When I’m in my manic stage I am incredibly confident with an “I don’t give a fuck” attitude towards everything. I’ll wear more bright and daring clothes, and everything will be amazing. It’s like being on an insane high. The problem with my confidence is I tend to take on a lot of tasks, but because I’m on such a high it is incredibly difficult for me to sit down and complete them or do college work. This is because my mind in these stages works as if I’m flicking over a magazine, each page is different but the idea is only visible for a second before you think about something else. My mind is incredibly hyperactive that studying for the leaving certificate was a nightmare and impossible to concentrate for even though I understood the necessity to study for it. The problem with being on such a high is the crash from manic stage to depressive stage. It hits you like a tonne of bricks.

This is when my depressive stage comes in and I hate this stage. There’s a lot to talk about and if you find some of this incredibly scary please just try your best to understand. This is mainly because when I have it, it’s there for weeks and each passing day gets so much worse than the previous one. When I grew up with manic depression (which I didn’t know at the time) I always thought when you were upset that you’d have to justify why you were sad. It’s incredible now that I’m only discovering at nineteen years of age that you never need to justify why you feel a certain way. Sometimes we wake up feeling like shit and there’s nothing you can do about it except sit it out and try and get through the day. When I was growing up I would tell my parents that I was being bullied at school and that’s why I was upset, the problem was, this feeling was becoming so frequent and for long periods that my parents went to the school to give out to the children about behaving that way. That’s when I kind of thought to myself, “this isn’t what most kids feel like, this is different.”
This stage is called my depressive stage because when I feel crap, there is virtually no way out of it. The only thing I can do is try my best to participate in my classes (Which often lead me to a panic attack and I have to leave the room) even when it is impossible to concentrate. Basically on either end of my condition it is damn near impossible to concentrate. I always get really scared in my depressive stages because I can have them for as long as six weeks at a time and each day it gets worse. In fact after about two weeks I feel completely numb and I am desperate to feel something again. Back in my ‘dark stage’ when I was depressed for a solid two years before I went manic again I would cut myself to feel something, even if it was pain. The hell you go through when you’re physically numb with depression is excruciating. In fact I thought and still think about suicide at times. I am aware though that this is never the answer, because I think people have this mentality that those with mental health issues are completely out of control. I feel that although I don’t get to decide how I feel, I am completely in control about how to go through with them and I know what’s right and what’s wrong. When I’m in my depressive stage I go through a complete denial phase, over the years I’ve been seriously tested by life with shit happening to me which I have no control over and when I’m in my depressive stage I actually cannot think about them. If I do, my entire being goes into shut down, I completely panic and over think (perks of having anxiety with manic depression), I have to crawl into a ball, I want to get out of my own skin (which I’ll have to describe once I’ve finished the list), I can’t breathe and hyperventilate, if I’m not outside I feel like I’m suffocating, I try to tear my hair out and I usually can’t sleep. Yeah, it sounds like an absolute nightmare doesn’t it? It’s because it’s genuinely the worst thing I’ve ever experienced, I wouldn’t wish it upon my worst enemy, that’s how bad it is. When I say wanting to get out of my own skin it means I scratch. This is usually the first sign my friends can see when I’m starting to have a panic attack. I start scratching my wrists, hands and neck desperate to ‘get out’. I don’t really understand why I do it but it’s kind of like I just want to be someone else for a minute and not have the life I live or be in the moment I am currently in and maybe I’m just trying to scratch myself out. I don’t know, I know even when I’m describing it, it sounds absolutely psychotic. Sorry!

The problem with thinking about something upsetting is even when I’m in my manic stage it’s very easy for me to be pulled down to depressive stage and this can happen halfway through the day. This is when it gets kind of scary because I haven’t mentally prepared myself for my mood change. This is when I usually push people away and need to be alone but I can’t always do that since I’m a college student and sometimes have to be around people and try and do work.

This whole condition for me is a learning progress but I feel confident now that despite whichever phase I’m in that I know how to control it. I’m glad I got to open up about this stuff because I don’t think people understand bipolar disorder and it’s only something people just mock about like “what’s wrong with you today? You’re so fucking bipolar” because I think especially in the depressive stage that bipolar disorder really does affect people’s lives and if everyone could be more respective and understanding towards it I think people like me would feel much more assured.

Thanks for reading.

What Guys REALLY Look For In a Girl

I bet a lot of you read that and the first thing that entered your mind was “Girls shouldn’t care about what a guy is looking for in them! Girls should just be happy in themselves!” and this is true. But the reason that many girls say this is because we’re preoccupied with the idea of “the perfect body”, so we think that boys are thinking the same thing. Many of us are self-conscious, and whether we like it or not we do worry about what the boys think of us. A lot of the time, girls get caught up in an obsession with being skinny, having big boobs and of course a massive bum. Because that’s what’s desirable, right? Apparently, not always. I did a little experiment on Tinder and found the results shocking, but in a really good way.

I feel like a lot of the time, guys are put down for no good reason. After a break-up, us girls can be heard sobbing “They’re all the same!” from the nightclub cubicle for a good twenty yards. For some reason, we have it in our heads that what a boy wants is somebody who’s unrealistically beautiful, and many of us feel like we can never live up to this expectation. It can put a downer on us, and make us feel like we’re not good enough. So that’s why I decided to do this little experiment, to see if we’re right and whether or not guys are really so obsessed with perfect physical features.

I asked all of my Tinder matches “What’s the quality that you look for most in a girl?” and drumroll please…054

053Not ONE of them mentioned a stereotypical physical feature. Out of everyone I asked, 36% of the lads said that what they liked the most is somebody that’s funny, and 18% said that the most important thing was being able to maintain a strong conversation. Other qualities that they said they looked for was a girl who was loyal, a girl who has a great smile or just somebody with confidence055

So see girls, they’re not all that bad. By the looks of things, it’s time to sto052p spending so much time in the gym and maybe invest in a joke book instead. I hope this little post helps you fabulous girls realise that (1) Guys don’t just want you for your body and (2) Not all guys are assholes.

And with that I leave you with this video about the cute things us girls do, and also with the message that left me a little eh, lost for words. But then I remembered it was Tinder that I was conducting this experiment on. I’ll leave it to your imagination to figure out the word that I blanked.

056

10 People You Should Follow on Instagram

Usually my blog posts are either personal or serious (sometimes both) so I decided to change it up a little bit. Instagram is something that’s become very popular in the last two years, and I’ve gotten just a little bit addicted. I find myself checking certain accounts on a daily basis, just to see if they’ve posted anything new. So I thought I’d share my top 10 people that you should follow 027on Instagram with you guys.

  1. michelleruddy_

Okay so maybe I’m being a little biased here seeing as Michelle is my best friend, but I have to say that her Instagram is fabulous and I will be forever jealous. She posts mainly about fashion and her eternally flawless makeup, but I have to say there’s quite a lot of pictures of pizza there too. If you want to follow somebody whose style is always on point, Michelle is the girl to follow.

http://www.instagram.com/michelleruddy_

2. eleanormorley

I don’t know Eleanor personally, but her Instagr028am is amazing and to be honest I want to be her. Judging by appearance she seems to be a lot like me in the pale skin and dark hair sense, and she’s also a lover of tattoos and piercings. I’m particularly fascinated by a Captain Spaulding tattoo she has on her leg. It’s beautifully done, and really makes me want to get some more tattoos done.

http://www.instagram.com/eleanormorley

  1. Amythen00b

Amy is another girl that I follow mainly because of her alternative style and love for tattoos. Her posts are always interesting and whether I’m always intrigued to see what new tattoos she’s gotten. Oh God, this is going to turn into a “people that I follow on Instagram who have tattoos” post. Oops.

http://www.instagram.com/amythen00b029

  1. Raeganedwardsxx

This is a girl that I follow mainly because I’m in awe over her beauty. Her makeup is always perfect and her white-blonde hair is to die for, I’m extremely je030alous if I’m honest. I’d describe her Instagram as being very “light and fluffy” – it’s all just really cute and innocent. She has a cat that I’m pretty much in love with too.

http://www.instagram.com/raeganedwardsxx

  1. Jessicamayclarke

031Another girl who’s beauty I am stunned by, Jessica always manages to look amazing. She posts a lot of scenery pictures which I love, and is a really active user. She also likes my photos quite a bit, which makes Michaela a happy girl.

http://www.instagram.com/jessicamayclarke

  1. Graceeecareyyy032

Grace is somebody who I’ve talked to a little on Twitter as well as following her on Instagram, and I have to say she’s a lovely girl. Her Instagram really makes me want to get my shit together, she has such a variety of photographs. Where my Instagram is all “look how lazy I always am”, Grace posts about lots of different things. Going out, exercising, studying… Lets just say I wish I was like her.

http://www.instagram.com/graceeecareyyy

  1. Misskate_xo

033Let me just start off by saying that I am seriously jealous of this girls Mac lipstick collection, it’s seriously impressive. Although a lot of her posts are about this, she also posts quotes and other girly things like shoes/bath bombs/pets, and has a girly account that I’m very fond of.

http://www.instagram.com/misskate_xo034

  1. Alisha_mylesjay

Alisha is somebody who is a serious inspiration. She got pregnant when she was very young and is now being the best Mum possible to her little boy, Myles. I’ve followed her since I started on Instagram and it’s been lovely to see pictures of her and Myles as he grows up. It just goes to show that parenting can be done effectively, no matter what age you are.

http://www.instagram.com/alisha_mylesjay

  1. Longhairandlashes

035This account belongs to the gorgeous Gracey O’Connell who’s a beauty blogger. Her posts focus primarily on makeup (obviously), but I’m also gone passed obsessed with her lilac hair at the moment. She’s beyond talented with makeup and I’d encourage all of you to check out her page, as well as her blog longhairandlashes.blogspot.ie IT IS FABULOUS. PS she also likes cats.

http://www.instagram.com/longhairandlashes

  1. This one’s up to you guys!

Leave a comment below with your favourite Instagram users (or even your own username) and I’ll make sure I check it out. Whether it’s just somebody pretty for me to wish I looked like or a tattoo and piercing lover, let me know and I’ll have a look at their account.

And of course, give me a follow on Instagram too while you’re at it!

http://www.instagram.com/mel0nballs

An Alcohol-Free Student Life: The Beginning of an Experiment

This is going to seem like a really strange post for an 18-year-old college student to be writing, especially because right now I should be in bed nursing a hangover, not writing a blog post with a clear head. But the title is pretty straight forward: I’m going to stop drinking alcohol. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not exactly a big drinker to start with. Being in college I drink once a week, maybe twice at the maximum, and when I’m at home I don’t drink at all. It’s pretty much average and normal for somebody in their first year of college in my opinion. But what’s not normal and average for me is my reaction to alcohol, and quite frankly I got sick of it.

Drinking has never really been something that I “enjoyed” doing, which made me feel a little odd because I should probably enjoy going out and getting drunk like most other people my age. But I don’t, it just doesn’t agree with me and I don’t like the effect that it has on me. After a night of drinking I’m always tired, feel sick and just want to lounge around and eat junk food. Pretty normal, right? It is, but when you mix it with anxiety it’s just an even more lousy experience.

The morning after a night out I usually wake up in a panic. Whether I’ve had one drink the night before or 21 (okay that never ever happens, but you get my drift), I’m always in a state from the moment I wake up and the first thing I do is frantically search my bag. I have to make sure that I have my purse, my phone, my keys. And of course I always do, but God forbid if I ever lost any of my things I’d probably have a panic attack for a day straight. Once that’s over and done with, I start to retrace my steps from the night before and over-analyse them. This is where the real frustration begins.

I’m always convinced that I’ve made an idiot out of myself, or that I’ve done something stupid. I start to think, “Oh God, what’s everyone going to think of me?” and sometimes this is so bad that I avoid everyone I went out with for a few days until I’m sure they’ll have forgotten about these embarrassing things that I’ve done. Keep it in mind that these embarrassing things are probably as simple as me tripping over in my six inch heels, something that happens to everyone. But for me it feels like the end of the world, and I completely blow it out of proportion.

Even if nothing that’s potentially reputation crushing has happened on the night, I’ll convince myself that it has and I’ve just forgotten about it. Sometimes I think this is even worse, because it then becomes a struggle to walk downstairs to the shop or go to a lecture for fear of seeing somebody who seen me the night before. What’s even worse is when this happens after a Tuesday night, because I then have to spend the rest of the week in this state.

blue3So I decided to make a change. Yes I enjoy my nights out with the girls, but the amount of anxiety that it brings the day after just isn’t worth it. This week I decided that the alcohol needed to go, my happiness and well-being on a daily basis is much more important to me than having fun for a night. I don’t know why I didn’t decide to do this sooner, because I’m perfectly capable of having fun without alcohol. I’ve just finally accepted that this is making my anxiety worse, and I want to stop it.

So this week, I started my drink-free college life, and guess what? I loved it. Usually by Friday I’m dying to go home and feel exhausted and crappy from the night before, but this morning I feel happy and refreshed. I went to all my lectures with a clear head, and even that improved my anxiety by showing myself that I was learning new things and actually taking them in. I spent my money for going out on an appointment with a psychic medium, and the amount of positivity and happiness that I got out of it was worth every penny.

But just because I wasn’t drinking doesn’t mean that I couldn’t go out and have fun. On Thursday I went to a house party with one of the girls, and left before they headed off to the nightclub because I had an early start the next day and was wrecked. I had a good time, and I didn’t need alcohol to do that. By not wasting my money on alcohol, I was a happier person this week. I may be a little quieter and maybe a little more boring without alcohol in my system, but who cares? I feel one hundred times better, and that’s all that matters.Learn-To-Surf-Quote

Some people are probably wondering, why the hell is she blogging about this? Well, because I think it’s a positive move. It’s something that I’m sure a lot of anxiety sufferers hate dealing with, and I want to show them that it’s a much better scenario when you keep away from alcohol. I want to show people that you can enjoy college life without drinking, and that it’s not a necessity. And I think posting this online and keeping it updated will motivate me to keep doing the student life alcohol-free.

It’s kind of more of a social experiment if anything, I want to see how much my anxiety improves without alcohol interfering. Even after just a week, I feel a lot better. And it’s made me want to keep going and see how much of alcohol really does contribute to my anxiety.

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but nobody thinks of changing himself.”

Change – there’s been a lot of it going on in my life these past few months. Some positive, some negative, yet change all the same. A lot of this has been uncontrollable, so I decided to make a drastic change to something that I could control. I switched up my hair colour, going from bright, bouncy blonde to deep, dark brown. Now this might not seem like a massive thing to you guys, but something as simple as this motivated me to change some more things in my life, and believe me they badly needed changing.

In my first semester of college I went up two dress sizes, and although I once owned a pair of size 6 jeans I’m now pretty sure that I couldn’t even squeeze them up my arm. This is something that I struggled to deal with, I was used to being all scrawny and fragile looking and wasn’t used to all these “curves” and what not. But making a change to my hair gave me a little bit of my confidence back, and I stopped thinking so negatively of my new figure.

So what if my ankles don’t look like they’re about to snap anymore? So what if my belly isn’t as flat as an ironing board? I spent so long focusing on the parts of my body that I hated, and forgot about the parts that I liked. But why focus on the one or two things you dislike? It’s not like somebody is going to look at you and think “Ah, her legs are quite big… I think I’ll stay away from her.” No, people look at the fuller picture. They look at your face, get to know your personality, and notice all the great things that make you, you.

I was so pre-occupied with looking like everyone else and being as skinny as possible, that it took me a long time to realise that I wasn’t being true to myself anymore. What happened to that girl that was obsessed with piercings and purple lipstick? She seemed to be lost and what was left was her shell. But not anymore. One day I said screw it, I got out of my pyjamas for once and threw on a flowery dress and my doc martens. I put on my makeup, purple lipstick included of course, and I looked at myself in the mirror. I realised that this was the first time in about five months that I actually felt pretty, that I felt like me.

Something as simple as changing the colour of my hair encouraged me to stop focusing on losing weight, and on being society’s idea of beautiful. It encouraged me to love myself the way I am and stop being so negative and punishing myself for not being “perfect”. Finally, I feel like myself again, and although I’ve changed quite a bit physically since the last time I felt like this, I’m back to being true to myself on the inside.

So here’s my lesson for today kids, don’t be afraid to make a small change. It might just pave the way for some bigger and better ones. I stopped trying to change the world, and instead I decided to change myself.

“Life is a journey and it’s about growing and changing and coming to terms with who and what you are, and loving who and what you are.” – Kelly McGillis