Just do it!

I’m back! After the unbelievable response from my previous blog post I had so many people tell me to keep writing – and well, considering I’m still unemployed then why the heck not? Yes, I’m still taking the p*ss out of myself.

This time I don’t want to get AS deep and intense, but I do quickly want to thank everyone for their lovely messages and responses to my last piece. I said that if I could help just one person feel like they’re not alone then I would be happy. To my amazement, I had such a reaction from an unimaginable number of people. People you would never think had anything remotely wrong with their life. People who always seem so happy and have the world at their fingertips. These were the people relating to my story in different ways – from the anxious poops, panic attacks and the medication…although, not so much the Indian elephant. Anyway, I just want to acknowledge everyone I have spoken to and the people who aren’t quite ready for that yet – and that’s more than ok, you need to take it at your own pace!

So, a quick update of where I’m at. Currently feeling a lot more positive and settled but I’m searching for that dream career which is becoming increasingly difficult, especially living in Lincoln *insert Inbetweeners joke*. Don’t get me wrong I love Lincoln, whilst at university I used it as a sort of retreat from Newcastle when I needed a break…its small, rural and everyone pretty much knows of everyone! But I’m really starting to miss Newcastle and having that independence you don’t really get living at home. Plus, there really isn’t many opportunities unless you want to become a farmer (huge exaggeration but you get the gist). Having completed a business degree, I do want to carry on in this area but more specifically media events coordination, which is very limited in Lincoln. So, at present I’m looking at relocating to one of four areas; Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle or London. Any advice is very much welcome!

Now, back to business and slightly interlinked with my previous post is how I’ve used exercise as a focus and a coping mechanism. It is a known fact that exercise produces endorphins which reduce pain and calm the negative effects of stress, so I thought it would be worth a shot to incorporate it into my daily life. Initially I aimed on going to the gym 2/3 times a week – mainly attending classes to work myself up to getting in the gym! Classes are great, full of energy, a sense of achievement and especially everyone you get to meet and have a laugh with. You soon start seeing the same people each week and develop friendships outside of your daily life that you wouldn’t have had otherwise! From all ages and walks of life, for that hour or so you all share a common interest and come together to reach your individual goals.

I still try and get to 1/2 classes each week but I’ve become more focused on my personal goals. After my first body fat percentage measurement, it came in at around 28% which is about average for my age and height. By no means do I think I’m fat or dislike my body but my goal is to get to 20%. body-fat-percentage-examples-comparison1-e1443176156415For reference, I have inserted a rough chart to show what body fat percentages look like – but the way it is distributed differs from person to person so you may look completely different to those shown, for example most of mine is in the legs and glutes and isn’t representative of the pictures shown! (naturally women hold more fat than men).

One thing I’ve made sure I stick by is to ensure I don’t become obsessive and unhealthy in the ways in which I go about achieving my goals. I do my research and talk to as many people in the gym as possible about advice exercise and diet wise. The ultimate goal to reach 20% is by losing fat and gaining muscle gradually and safely. At the minute I’m going to the gym on average 5 times a week and eating between 1500-1700 calories depending on which days I train. Having said this my diet is definitely the area I struggle with! For example, I should be having roughly 135g protein, 125g carbs and 55g fat – but last night I ate 10 jaffa cakes in one sitting…it’s all about balance, right?

As you can see there’s plenty to focus on which definitely keeps the mind active as well as the body which is a great distraction and release from daily life. Sometimes I think, can I be bothered? But making the conscious decision to get up and go is the first step in reaching your goals – plus the feeling you get after a good workout is one of the best. A great way to get into the gym if you’re feeling nervous is to go with a friend. I’ve been going with Haigh for a few months now and its great for motivation, especially if one of you is struggling you can learn to encourage and push each other to keep going (as much as the other might hate you in that moment). I’ve seen such an improvement mentally and physically since I started in September and would encourage anyone to do the same!

And if none of that convinces you, well…

 

 

 

 

 

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My first blog post

I made a pact to myself at the end of 2017 that I would get my act together and grab life by the balls…metaphorically speaking. The result – a little black book with 12 goals and 12 fears to overcome by the end of 2018. I’ve never really set ‘New Years Resolutions’ before, other than to stop eating chocolate which tends to fail within the first hour – so this is all very new. My 12 fears are what have brought me to the point of writing my first blog post…and bare with me, it’s a little heavy for an initial post. Fear no.6 is to openly speak about mental health and my personal experiences, something I’ve only discussed with a handful of people. I’m rubbish at public speaking (which also happens to be no.5 of my fears to conquer) so I gathered that writing it down would be the best way to open up.

I know that some people simply don’t understand mental health and can’t comprehend how it could possibly compare to physical health. I was one of those people before it affected my life and I will admit that I didn’t take it seriously enough. The thing with mental health is that it can happen to absolutely anyone for absolutely no reason at all. I want to open up about my personal experiences with mental health on how it changed my life and how I’m coping with it still. This isn’t just for myself either, even if one person reads this and it helps them to realise they’re not alone then I will be happy.

Like many people, my mental health crept up on me for no clear reason – potentially the most annoying part as there’s no trigger to work on. I first noticed it when I was in Nice in France, just starting out on my year abroad during university. Initially we made it into a family holiday for a week prior to starting uni, so I could settle in and get to know the surroundings (a great idea in theory). In hindsight I probably should have gone straight into uni. Towards the end of the holiday every time I thought about the prospect of being alone I would feel faint, my heart would start racing and I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I just passed it off as nerves and tried to get on with things the best I could – after all living abroad was something I had been looking forward to since school.

14088416_1791639834382643_8680187595040819407_nFrom the photos I posted at the time, no one on the outside would have known how much I was struggling to battle with my own mind. Like many people, I hid pain with a smile. 3 weeks passed of living in France, I was barely eating because as many people with anxiety will know – as soon as you feel incredibly anxious, you’re going to get the shits (delightful I know) and yes, GIRLS DO POO! So, becoming increasingly exhausted and on the verge of an emotional breakdown every 5 minutes I was struggling to see how it could get much worse…ALAS, it got worse. Within two weeks a friend from uni (hi Lily) and myself were kicked out of our apartment for an experience I could write a whole other post about. Just note, it was not our fault! (we got all of our money back however, so a free three week stay in France woo – you’ve got to focus on the positives). Shoutout to Northumbria for putting us up in a fab hotel for two nights. By this point I was almost certain I had to leave for my own sanity but I didn’t want to make any decisions I would later regret. Another shoutout to Nicole for putting me up in her apartment for a week whilst I tried to make the best out of a bad situation (I was essentially homeless for a week, living out of a suitcase).

As many of you know, I returned to England after 4 weeks – slightly embarrassed, disappointed and quite frankly an emotional wreck, but it had to be done. Do I regret it now? Absolutely not. I did however think that at least being home would improve my anxiety and I could get back to normal. It could not have been further than reality. I went back to uni to start final year, ultimately living in an extortionate studio (I’m talking £170 a week) on my own with very little support at that time. I have never felt as lonely in my entire life as I did then.

Confused and stressed as to why I was still feeling this way, it peaked when one afternoon I took a shower and could feel my heart rate increasing, head blacking out and I genuinely felt like I was going to die – this was my first real panic attack. I made the decision to go to the doctors and explain everything to see what could be done. They recommended I see the uni councillor which is exactly what I did. For 6 weeks I went trying to get to the route of things to which we had no success and she recommended I carry on sessions with the NHS which I also did, but to no avail.

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Being in my final year I was also managing copious amounts of coursework and dissertation with a tutor who…well the less said the better. Somehow I managed to graduate with a high 2:1 which seemed like a distant dream for a while. Once I had all of this in hand I went back to the doctors to explain I couldn’t keep coping with things the way they were.  My anxiety worsened rapidly and so did my bowel movements ha ha (to this day I’m popping Imodium on the reg). If anyone wants a hilarious story about me doing my business in the middle of an Indian rainforest, whilst an elephant whom had previously killed 4 people approached – contact Rhiannon, she’ll be happy to oblige. The point of this is, SHIT HAPPENS. Literally.

In May last year I was put on antidepressants – something I had refused since my first appointment 8 months before, out of a fear of failure. Around this time I met the male (hi hun) and didn’t mention any of this until later in the year as I didn’t want him treating me differently. I should have known I had absolutely nothing to worry about as he is one of the most supportive people I’ve ever met and made a good point that you would take medicine for a broken arm, so why not for a broken mind? It’s nothing to be ashamed of and everyone copes in different ways, so you just have to find what works for you. I’m hoping to gradually start coming off the antidepressants this year and get back to my normal self without them.

More than anything I need to thank my close group of friends for the support they have given and shown me, even though some of them have been battling their own demons. It just shows that you really don’t have any idea what people might be going through, even those closest to you – so just stop and be nice to people, even a smile might make their day!

I hope this resonates in some way with anyone struggling with their own mental health. You don’t have to put on a brave face every day. We need to break the stigma on mental health and open up to each other – you’re never alone and there is ALWAYS light at the end of the tunnel.