CBT: First session.

So it finally arrived, the day of my first CBT session, I was very excited, even though I slept in almost two hours later than what I did, luckily I planned to wake up too early. So then there I was, feeling anxious, waiting for the bus. I was in the town centre, a good 2 hours early, luckily there’s a town centre near my mental health clinic. I had a panic attack on the bus, a mild one compared to others, but luckily I texted my friend, who helped me take my mind off things.

Then it was 1pm. I was in the waiting room a massive 1 hour early, silly me. It didn’t take long for the hour to past, and then my name was called, I thought to my self “first part of my recovery now, you can do it”

I opened up about how much of a bad week I’ve had, in terms of feelings, anxiety and depression. It felt good to let it all out, I then filled out the usual PHQ-9 and GAD 7 forms.  sheet where you circle if you’ve felt what it says in the last two weeks, several days, every day etc. Anxiety stayed the same, I expected that. Depression was a lot higher, I expected that also, I’ve had one of the worst weeks in years.

Then we got right into the session, it was mainly another intro one she said, we talked about a lot of things, mainly my panic attacks, which I was very confused on as I thought we’d talk about anxiety first which causes them.

Fight or flight

We first talked about the fight or flight, it’s your body’s natural response to situations that you perceive to be a threat, basically when you have a panic attack, this is what happens. Social situations are my threat. There’s so many physical affects with the fight or flight mode your body automatically switches to in situations, which causes a panic attack. My therapist explained it, like my body getting ready to fight a tiger, but there’s no tiger, it’s just situations that cause the panic attacks, i.e social situations. All the symptoms I get in a panic attack (dry mouth, choking feeling at times, palpitations, breathing very heavily.

Cycle of Panic

She filled out this cycle for me, before I was in the session, I think she called it the 5 box cycle or something like that, its basically just a visualised cycle of panic with boxes saying “thoughts and images” “body/physical sensations” “moods/emotions” and then “behaviours” She filled the boxes in with the information I gave her last week, i.e in the thoughts and images, there’s information like, overthinking situations, catashropising events. She left the “situation” box blank, simply because all these sensations, emotions are caused by many situations.

Panic diary

My therapist then gave me a sheet to take home, with loads more information on anxiety and depression, the panic diary is just a table to fill in columns “situation” “Main body sensations” “negative thought” “answer to that thought” “behaviour & consequence” and “how long panic lasted” to give her more understanding on when I get panic attacks, but sometimes I just get them randomly, but she knows that, I think?

That’s all we went through this session, my sessions are only 30 mins, and I only have one a week, which I might talk to her about it next week if I feel up to it, we did go through some breathing exercises but she said we’d go into more detail next week.

I felt awful going out of it, I expected much more, but now I feel pretty confident it’s going to work.

As always, thanks for reading!

Liam

Well, hello 2019!

I can’t say I’m not happy to see you! 2018 has been one hell of a year full of relapses, grieving, and concerts. I can’t say I was expecting the year that I have had. It started off really badly, I had a major relapse, arguably the worst one I’ve ever had and I attempted suicide. I was in a dark, bottomless pit which I thought I was never going to get out. Weeks of crisis team appointments, a psychiatrist appointment, and more CBT, I slowly got out that bottomless pit with the help of new medication, my amazing group of friends and therapy.

I got my first ever tattoo, which meant a lot to me. It’s a semi-colon, which you probably know the meaning of, but if not you can read about the semi-colon project here. It’s a really beautiful idea and I truly love my tattoo, it hurt but it was so worth it. I also went to three concerts last year, arguably the best parts of the year! I met a group of people at my first concert last year who are amazing and have helped me so much, we always get barrier which is an added bonus! I saw Pale Waves twice and HAIM, they were both equally amazing live.

I turned 20 this year, I also hit the one year milestone of my current job which is great! I never thought I’d last that long, especially with how bad the start of the year was!

I also found my love for Greys Anatomy last year, which has impacted my mental health in a good way (very cliché, i know) but honestly, it is such a great TV show, it may have took me 3 to 4 months to catch up, but I thoroughly enjoyed every episode!

My mum was rushed into hospital towards the end of last year, she had a stroke. She wasn’t doing very well but the stroke was very sudden. This hit me so hard, I was doing well and this truly tested my relapse prevention. She fought all she could but she sadly passed away after a few weeks in hospital. I was so shocked, she was doing well but her body just couldn’t take no more. I miss her so much, but I am motivated to do her proud, to start writing again as she loved me doing what I truly loved.

All in all, the year wasn’t too bad apart from the start and the end haha! 2019 is my year, the year that I am going to take more time out for myself and hopefully write more!

I hope you all had a great Christmas and a great new year. May the year bring health, happiness and success for all. 

I AM IN RECOVERY

Recovery, recovery, recovery. I got told last week by my therapist that I am in recovery! I am so lucky to have a great support system including my best friend – who I found through the mental health community on twitter! Without the support I received, I would have never been able to get into recovery. Some things have been hard, some have been easy. I thought I’d write a post on this explaining what was hard, what was easy and what I am feeling at this moment about being in recovery and of course, the future!

I am being honest, I have been from the day I started this blog. It’s not been easy, this journey over the last few years has been hard, I’ve had CBT twice, got rushed to A&E and relapsed twice, but most importantly, I’ve learned a lot. Learning about relapse prevention, things to do when I am feeling like I did before I got rushed to A&E. I have also learned that it’s okay to feel low, it’s okay to have a bad day once in a while,  it’s just about managing those bad days, doing things you enjoy.  I’ve gotten back into reading and pursuing a new hobby which is drawing.  It’s turning out to be hard but very fun and relaxing to do!  The following things have been the most important and most significant things I have learned through my journey.

Self-care

This seems like a fairly obvious thing to do, but when you are in the lowest of lows, you truly forget what self-care is and how to actually do it. During my years of battling my mental health, I fell out of love with a lot of things that I used to do. Reading and writing were the two biggest things. I used to love doing both, they were a go-to thing for me to do every night. I have learned to take time out of every day to focus on self-care. I have also learned many other methods such as journaling and drawing. Self-care helps me so much, it’s the best thing I’ve learned.

I am not alone

I have always felt alone and I still do from time to time. I don’t know why I feel alone, maybe it’s my depression but I truly don’t know. I have learned that I am far from alone. I pushed people away at my lowest points and I am still feeling guilty for doing that. I lost a lot of friends. I found the mental health community on twitter about two years ago now. It has changed my life, I have made so many friends for life and have met amazing people through the community. It truly has saved my life.

You are not your illness

When I got told I have depression and anxiety when I first sought help. It truly scared me, I didn’t know what the true meaning of depression and anxiety was. I thought my life was over, I thought I couldn’t get better, but it was far from over and I could get better. I remember being told by my GP that “your diagnosis doesn’t define you, it doesn’t make you who you are, it’s just a word” I always try to remember that. I have it written on my phone in my notes so I can always access it. Since then, I have been diagnosed with BDD, social anxiety and panic disorder. However, I don’t believe I have social anxiety or panic disorder anymore.

 

I am so grateful of the help and support I have received the past few years, my journey still isn’t over but I am feeling very good about the future and what I have planned; concerts (obviously!!) and even more writing and reading. Thank you to all the people who have read my blog since I first started it. It means a lot and the comments have motivated me to get where I am today. Thank you.

3 Things Therapy Has Taught Me

I’ve spent more hours in therapy than I can ever remember, I have had low intensity and high-intensity CBT, it has been a long, hard battle and some days I absolutely hated therapy, but I also loved it at the same time. I learned so much from therapy, it still shocks me when I read through what I have all learned. I thought it would be a good idea to write about a few of the things I’ve learned from therapy, with it being #WorldMentalHealthDay, I thought it was the best post to write out of all the ideas and drafts I have!

I blogged about each session of my first lot of CBT, you can read them here

Know Your Triggers

This was one of the first things I learned and by far the most important thing I’ve taken from anything in my lifetime. I always saw myself as someone who never really got triggered by much but when I first spoke about it with a professional, I realised I do have triggers. Once I learned them, I avoided them with all costs and I actually seen an improvement in my mental health, especially my depression. I have words related to my triggers muted on my twitter and it’s made me love twitter more! I feel like it’s impossible to totally avoid your triggers, but you can put things in place to try to.

I Am Not My Mental Illness

When I first got diagnosed with depression and anxiety, I was in the worst place of my life, I thought I was “crazy”. I was positive I would never be the same again, people wouldn’t see me in the same way. It took me a few weeks and a few therapy sessions to finally figure out that my diagnosis doesn’t define me, I am not crazy, I am just struggling, and that’s okay. It’s an illness, it’s not me. It’s depression, anxiety, body dysmorphic disorder but it is not me.

Recovery Isn’t Linear

I was in a mind-set that when I finish therapy, I will be fully in control of my mental health, not having to suffer ever again. How wrong could I be? I had no education or real knowledge about mental health so I was obviously going to think that. My recovery since that has been anything but linear, relapses, ending up in A&E, having to go to the crisis team and having to have more therapy, but that is okay. I have learnt that recovery is never easy, it is never just a straight line. I will always have bad days, I may relapse again but I have the information, the numbers for the crisis team, the knowledge on how to notice my relapses, what to do when I relapse and such.

 

I’m sorry for the short post, I’ve been so busy in work and thought I should write something for today!

A little update

I haven’t blogged since April 22nd. The last few months have been tough, to say the least. There have been some good parts though!

Since that post, I have finished my group therapy, coming to the end of my low-intensity CBT, saw HAIM and Pale Waves live and relapsed twice.

The HAIM concert blew me away. I had waited years to see them live. I went by myself (cya later social anxiety!) and I had the best time of my life! They were amazing and also sounded incredible! I have just got tickets to see the 1975 again in January! I went to see Pale Waves for the second time last week, it was one of the best nights of my life. All the best people were there and we had a great time! Booking things like concert, makes me not want to give up, it is such a big thing for me to have things to look forward to in the future.

Throughout these months, I have tried so hard to get back into blogging, but it just wasn’t happening. I truly love blogging with all my heart, I spent so many hours perfecting this website and it annoys me that my stupid brain has made me stop enjoying writing.

In the last few sessions in therapy, we have gone over behavioural activation to treat my severe depression and also I have learnt to use weekly planners again. My therapist wants me to do things that I need to do, such as doing the laundry, going shopping and stuff that would give me pleasure in the past, such as reading, writing. I have learnt that with my low mood, it makes me avoid stuff which I used to love doing. Before last week, I hadn’t properly read in months… I know, right?! I have also been taught how to be more positive, at the end of every day I have to write three positive things about the day and it’s actually really helping, I love doing it!

I am so sorry to people who follow my blog, I really want to blog. I have tons of ideas but I just can’t start writing? This post has been a week in the making… just for a life update post?!

All in all, after my relapses, I am doing pretty well at the moment. I feel low, but that is just the usual for me now. I am back into reading, loving work again and hopefully getting back into blogging, so expect more posts from me in the coming weeks!

Loving My Body More

For years, i have struggled with my body image. Last year I got diagnosed with body dysmorphic disorder. As I’m writing this, it’s been a bad day body image wise and the beautiful weather the last few days doesn’t help! Even though I’ve learned to love my body throughout my time in therapy, I still have the odd bad day, but that is totally okay! With it being a bad day, I had an idea to write a post about this topic, as when I first got diagnosed what I did first was google and read many articles, websites and watch many youtube videos on how to love your body, so I thought this would be a good post to write and it may help others which would be amazing.

I remember first struggling with my body image in my school years. I have always seen myself as ugly, weirdly shaped and just not attractive at all. This manifested in many self-damaging behaviors, including self-harm. I had CBT last year, throughout that I learned a fair few things about BDD and my relationship with my body. I learned that how I view my body wasn’t correct and was a distorted view.

In all honesty, when I got told I had BDD, I felt low, it got me feeling so low I had more horrible, intrusive thoughts than ever. But I spoke about it with my doctor and my therapist, after I got a better understanding of it, I was feeling a lot better about it and was confident that CBT would help it – it’s one of the best things for BDD, that and medication, which at the time, I was on both… talk about great timing, eh?! I knew it was going to be a long long road to recovery, and to this day I am still on that road.

The first thing I did on this road to learning to love my body more is to try and limit myself to how many times I can look in the mirror and how long for each time. I was going to completely stop but that wouldn’t be helpful I thought because stopping something I have done for a long time can have negative effects, which I could do without! Atidepressants also kick started me in beating BDD. I heard it was the best thing for me to do, medication and therapy, it helped me in terms of giving me that push in the right direction and is also helping me manage my mental illness’.

I’ve always worn oversized, long clothes to hide my body, so this was the second thing I was aiming to do. Luckily, as I was in therapy and at the time we were focusing on my body views and such, I was getting ready to jet off to sunny, beautiful Tenerife for a week! What a perfect opportunity to fight my safety blanket of covering my body with clothes, because obviously wearing clothes that are big obviously isn’t the best in blistering weather. It went well, I think it was easier because everybody was wearing the same sort of clothes, so my brain thought nobody would notice me, which it was right.. For once. When I landed back onto beautiful british soil, it was sunny (surprisingly) so I carried on what I was doing and looking back, I think this was the thing that had the most impact on me. I can now wear shorts without feeling that anxious (as i am writing this, it’s snowing so no shorts for a while…)

CBT has proved vital in my quest to improve my body image, and obviously there are going to be bad days but with the techniques, i’ve learnt, hopefully, it wont get as bad as it did before CBT, but it’s looking likely that I am going back to 1 to 1 therapy so maybe I will go over the techniques!  If you are reading this and struggle with your body image, please don’t forget that it can and will get better. It may seem like it is never going to happen but just hang in there and keep trying to fight it. There is loads of support out there, such as the bdd foundation (https://bddfoundation.org/) which has tons of resources for people who struggle or for people who want to help other people.

 

 

(so sorry for my recent absence from blogging, I’m working so much in my job and I’ve just had no time to blog, same with reading, hoping to get more posts out in the upcoming weeks x)

Going Back To Therapy

I honestly thought I would never be going back to therapy. When I first found out I was going back to therapy, I felt like a failure, in all honesty. I cried when I went home after that appointment with crisis team where they told me to go back to therapy. All the thoughts in my head were amplified so much after the appointment, I couldn’t stop thinking that I was a failure. I felt like I let everyone down. I was doing so well before this stupid relapse (i have written a post on the relapse, you can read it here). I actually had hope and I had plans for the future. Well, hasn’t it gone to shit?

That’s made me very iffy about starting CBT again, I hope it helps, I really do. I am clutching at straws trying to find something that helps, things are really hard at the moment, I’ve decided that I well and truly hate my brain. My first appointment is on Thursday and I’m not sure if it’s an assessment or an actual therapy session. It just says you have an therapy appointment on the letter. I don’t know why but I need to know what kind of appointment I’m going into or my anxiety goes crazy, it happens all the time like I plan ahead every time I go out so I know what I am doing, it makes me feel such at ease.

After a week of thinking about it, I got a letter for my first appointment. The psych said he was going to put in an urgent referral so I guess he did.. with it being so fast. I started to think better and feel better about going to therapy. Healing is not linear, relapse does not erase your success and your speed doesn’t matter, forward is forward. I am being a bit hypocritical now, because I do this all the time but, don’t compare yourself to others; everyone’s recovery is different, some people may recover faster or slower. It doesn’t matter, what matters is you and your recovery.

I have read over my CBT posts, every single one and it’s helped calm my nerves. I don’t think I am going to write about each session as I guess it’s going to be simillar to my other sessions so there would be no point of writing about the sessions. I may do a monthly update though.

 

How I Am Managing My Mental Health In Work

In 2016, I finished training to be a chef and went into my first ever job, at first I absolutely adored it but slowly after that, I was doing more and more hours and it was ruining my mental health.

After having numerous breakdowns, towards the end of the year, I had to quit. This was heartbreaking for me, quitting my first ever job in an industry that I dreamed to work in. It just wasn’t meant to be, my mental health went to the lowest it had ever been whilst working. I just couldn’t handle it.

After quitting, I reached out for help from my GP for my mental health. I then waited and went through low and high-intensity CBT. I have learnt how to manage my mental health more and

Fast-forward to now, 2018 (it still feels weird writing 2018). I am working in a job that I absolutely love. It may not be my childhood dreams but it’s a job and I am forever grateful to have one that I like.

Through my time in CBT and time off from working, I have learnt several ways to manage my mental health in work.

Taking time out for myself.
I learnt that this is so important to do, everyone should aim to do this at least every week. I set one day which I am off work that week to dedicate to myself, to do whatever I love, may it be writing, sleeping, blogging, going out.

It gives me time to just think and that’s what I missed when I worked as a chef. I didn’t get the time to just think, whenever I was off work I was just catching up on sleep.

Forgetting about work when I finish.

Seems fairly obvious to forget but I always used to worry about work even when I finished, constant thoughts of “did I take the right amount of cake out the freezer?” “is everything ready for breakfast tomorrow?” My brain never seemed to switch off.

This was a hard one to learn, I feel like everyone who works does this sometimes, people must worry about work at home, but when it is constant every single day then it gets a big problem.

I have to admit I still tend to do this from time to time, but not half as much as I did in my previous job. I think a part of it was down to how busy my previous job was and how short staffed we were.

Telling your manager/boss about your mental health.

This was extremely hard for me, I waited months to tell my new boss as I had to make sure he was trustworthy but it turns out he was!

It’s helped so much telling my boss about my mental health, I am open to all the people I work with now (we’re a small tight team) and they are so supportive and can actually notice when I am panicking or overly anxious.

 

Learning to do all of this has been a struggle, to say the least. However, now I am working and managing my mental health a lot better it seems like I am slowly but surely getting my life back on track – I don’t want to stay in this job for the rest of my life but I am currently planning a career change which is very exciting!

 

 

 

My goals for 2018.

I thought it’d only make sense for my first post of the new year to be based on my goals for the new year.

2017 was a year full of change, I started and finished CBT, started antidepressants which have changed my life. I made so many friends within the MH blogger community which I feel like will be my friends for all my life.

2018 is the year I am going to thrive in every single way possible. My aim is to make 2018 the best year I’ve ever had. I will keep learning how to manage my mental health better and put me first.

So, as the title says.. here are my goals for 2018.

1) GO TO LONDON! It was a goal from therapy to go to London last year but couldn’t go last year, so I am 100% going next year to explore and meet with a few blogging friends who I have been dying to meet since talking to them on twitter!

2) SELF CARE! I know I blab on about self care and how important it is, but truthfully since getting my new job I haven’t done much self care, which has affected me a lot, especially my moods. I am dedicating at least four days a week to do a hour or more of self care each day!

3) BLOGGING! I haven’t blogged in months, I truly let my old blog go down the train, down to the reason of having absolute no time to think about it, I have been working so much overtime the past few months I’ve not even had time to tweet as much as usual! (which is very surprising, I tweet LOADS!)

4) CAMPAIGNING! I have always wanted to do this but haven’t had the confidence up until now. I love the work people in this community do with campaigning, like Jodie and Andrea (they are both AMAZING!) I would love to do the same work as they do, as you guys probably know I am a media volunteer for Time To Change so this will obviously help me with campaigning. With struggling with my mental health for a long time, it’s made me more passionate to de-stigmatize mental health as I truly know how it feels to be stigmatized.. it took me years to seek help, and I don’t want that to happen to others.

I am feeling confident that I will complete at least half of these goals!

I hope you all had a great Christmas and new years and I hope you all have a fab 2018!

Lets make 2018, our year.

Why I started blogging #MHAW17

I talked a bit about this in my post this week, social media & mental health. I thought it’d be a good topic to make a stand-alone post for, I’ve wanted to do one for a few weeks, but silly me hasn’t got around to doing it! Pro procrastinator over here.

I started blogging early January this year if I remember correctly, it is the same week I started CBT for the first time. My first post was my introduction to CBT. I started blogging because my therapist mentioned that I should have something where I can just vent, and just write whatever I want. A friend of mine mentioned blogging, I thought it was too late at first because there are many bloggers out there. I then realised I don’t do it for views or whatever I get, I do it for a place to vent, I still do.

I remember spending ages writing my first post and putting it out. It was scary, but it was a good feeling actually writing stuff. It got such a good and lovely response I was honestly shocked. I didn’t expect people to read my posts – I’m not the best writer at all…

I got into blogging real quick, I was doing a post every two days, I had so many things to write about and get off my chest, it really did my mental health good to start blogging and join the community of mental health bloggers. I was writing personal posts just because I wanted to, it was scary, posting about your life on a blog where anyone in the world could see, but it was good to do so, as I said before, it felt good.

I’ve not stopped blogging since I started, and I always tweet, like way too much. I’m so happy I started blogging, if I didn’t, I wouldn’t have made so many supportive friends in this community, it really has made me a better person. The community is so positive and supportive and that’s why I love blogging so much, I am happy my friend mentioned blogging to me.