autism · journey to recovery · mental health · mental health blogger · mental illness · personal journey · Uncategorized

Day 1: Survived Anxiety

Day 1 of placement is over – and I can finally breathe a little. I survived. Savannah survived. I usually back out on everything that gives me anxiety and I didn’t…and I did it. I actually did it. I am tired; I am drained; I am feeling anxious, but I did it and I feel happy. I know I have to face it all again tomorrow but feel slightly more relaxed now that I’ve done it once…

My anxiety has been so severe these past few weeks – but that’s expectant when you have both Generalised Anxiety Disorder and Social Anxiety Disorder, mixed with Avoidant Personality Disorder – right? It’s been so severe even standing up after being in bed gives me great anxiety, and it hasn’t been that bad in a really long time. So, I thought I’d share some insight into how I actually survived today…

Most of you know I’m religious, and I used this today to relax me. I put on my christian playlist on the bus which calmed me slightly. My tactic? Imagining Jesus sitting right next to me. Imagining him getting off the bus with me and walking into placement. Jesus walking right beside me every minute at placement. Feeling as though I wasn’t doing it alone – slightly helped.

The other thing – stimming. Stimming, stimming, stimming and more stimming. If you’re not sure what stimming is head over to my blog post on stimming. I pretty much stimmed when I got up until I got to placement. Then I tried my hardest to relax and be professional and be socially acceptable (because as much as I hate it – stimming is not seen as a positive). Then, as soon as I left the building; the stimming began again.

Anxiety is deliberating. It stops me from speaking; from asking questions; from expressing my thoughts. It stops me from having self confidence; from looking people in the eye; from getting involved in group conversations. It makes it harder to be alone; to work; to do things out of the ordinary routine. It gives me headaches; sickness; tummy problems; panic attacks; cold sweats.

It affects the way I think, feel and behave as well as sending lovely physical symptoms.

But anxiety isn’t going to win…

because Savannah survived today; and she’s going to survive tomorrow

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journey to recovery · mental health · mental health blogger · mental illness · personal journey · Uncategorized

Dear Younger Me…

Dear younger me, where do I start? If I could tell you everything that I have learned so far
then you could be one step ahead of all the painful memories that are still running through my head. I wonder how much different things would be now if you knew. I wouldn’t want to give you a speech about how to get the most out of this life. I’d want to talk to you about the choices you’ll make; the choices that made me – well me. Most of the time, this life is awesome, but I wish it were easier. Would a different choice have helped this situation? Dear younger me, if I knew then what I know now; everything would be different. The unknown would have no power over you. You’d be able to sleep without worry. The pain would eventually cease. If I knew then what I know now, it would’ve not been hard to figure out what I would’ve changed if I had known.

Dear younger me; remember it’s not your fault. You were never meant to carry this. Please stop living in the past – your past actions and other peoples past actions are not your fault. Stop thinking about them. Please stop looking into the future. What will be will be. You’ll be alive, you’ll be breathing, you’ll be stronger. You always have been. Live in the present. Appreciate the feel of wind on your face, or the blanket keeping you cosy and warm at night. Appreciate your senses – the smell of a hot chocolate. The sights of the outdoors. Be patient. Be loving. Be kind. Love others. Care for others.

When life throws pain at you, you’ll be angry. You’ll be scared. You’ll be lonely. But eventually you’ll see that every moment brings you closer to who you were meant to be. Please don’t look too close into appearances and weight. Please don’t use the internet as a source of information and trust…or let society change your views on yourself and the world. Please don’t exercise so much – relax and sleep all you need. Please eat – your body loves you for it. When depression and anxiety strikes, don’t curl up in a ball in a dark room. Reach out. Surround yourself with people; you’ll thank me for it later.

But most of all, younger me; believe in yourself. You are strong. You are powerful. You are beautiful. You are living. You are you and you’ll do a great job making me me…

[inspired by Mercy Me.]

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journey to recovery · mental health · mental health blogger · mental illness · personal journey · Uncategorized

10 Weeks Away – UPDATE

I feel like I haven’t wrote to you guys here in forever! Life has changed so much since I last posted in May.

In June, I flew across the other side of the world to work at a summer camp for children with special needs in the United States. I have been working with children since I was 15 and special needs children since I was 16 and have enjoyed every minute. These children make me feel complete – they give me purpose; they bring hope and positivity every single day.

Now, travelling across the world has its own challenges. Homesickness. Unfamiliarity. Loneliness…but the positives made everything so bearable. New friendships. Self-discovery. Passion. Feeling like you’re doing something good… Summer camp made me feel like I belonged. I discovered so much about myself and put all my love into those around me. I felt whole – like I was home. I have found my place.

Summer camp has been the best experience of my life. I have grown in so many ways, met so many different types of people as well as cultures…and discovered that even the people you expect to have it all together find it difficult too…

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In the terms of updating you guys on my journey – its been nearly 8 months since I came off medication for mental health. To me, that number is incredible! After being on medication for 18 months…not relying on any is a big deal (even though its a struggle).

My anxiety has its ups and down. I don’t think there’ll ever be a day where I will be completely anxiety free (well at least not in the near future) and I am completely okay with that. Anxiety has become a part of me. Anxiety has been with every single memory I have – I know no different. Although anxiety can be a negative thing in so many aspects…I pondered on it for a while recently and realised that my anxiety shapes my personality and brings some positives.

My anxiety makes me overthink – which allows me to be prepared for everything that could happen (but usually never does)

My anxiety sends me into panic and stops me feeling safe – which allows me to avoid danger (a lot of the time) due to being over-safe and checking everything (such as making sure doors are locked and being ultra-aware of my surroundings)

My anxiety makes me hypersensitive to everything around me – which allows me to be sensitive towards others and notice when things just aren’t quite right.

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I have missed each and every single one of you. You think I don’t notice you but I do – every like, every favourite, every comment, every blog share, every follow.

I love you guys so much and pray everyday that you choose recovery.

You deserve it.

I’ll post soon – I promise.

  • – Sav x
journey to recovery · mental health · mental health blogger · mental illness · personal journey · Uncategorized

Why I Became ‘Open’…

I haven’t blogged much this month and there’s a reason for that, but I am always so grateful to have the opportunity to encourage and inspire others who are struggling and to take up so many opportunities to change society. That is why I want to talk about the reason I first became ‘open’ about my mental health problems.

In 2015, I began working with the charity Fixers. Previous to this, I was completely closed up and private about my mental health problems. Around 2005 I started experiences more anxiety that affected my daily life. I became more withdrawn from friends, took comfort in being by myself and avoided anything that made me anxious. For years I kept my feelings and my thoughts hidden in fear that there was something wrong with me or that people would think I was ‘crazy’. It wasn’t until 2009 that my family found out there was something wrong when my self harm became apparent. However, that was only the icing on the cake and the majority of my thoughts and feelings continued to  be kept guarded. A few weeks of therapy and everything was done and dusted.

So why did I decide to open up about my mental health?

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I was forced. Now the word ‘forced’ doesn’t necessary need to be seen as bad. Yes, I was forced to open up about my problems because I had no other choice but opening up did bring some good things. As most people know, in 2013 I developed Anorexia Nervosa that was discovered in late August/early September of 2014 when I was unable to function or even exercise, and refused to eat or drink. As each year went on, my mental health problems got worse and more and more problems developed. It became increasingly difficult to keep everything hidden. Self harm intensified, my body image worsened, my Depression began to turn suicidal, and my Anxiety increased so much I was having panic attacks everyday that were hours in length. It was impossible to hide the fact that I wasn’t okay. In 2014, I began treatment for Anxiety and Depression and was referred to CAMHS after a diagnosis of Anorexia Nervosa. Like a lot of young people in Wales, I was failed by the NHS’s mental health service.

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In 2015, I found fixers and met with my YPC Jenny who was amazing from day 1. I had a mission to prevent other young people going through what I had gone through. I wanted society to change. I wanted educational settings like colleges (who failed to help me or spot the signs) to become more aware of mental health and mental illness and I wanted the government to listen. I wanted the stigma to end. I began a journey of self-discovery and eventually made my film ‘Anxiety & Me’ which has been shown in schools and educational settings as well as being featured in the South Wales Argus and on ITV Wales. From there, I began talking about mental health disorders in order to help others struggling and to spread awareness and understanding to those who were oblivious.

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Opening up about your mental illness is said to be the first step in acceptable and recovery. Talking about mental health problems not only makes you feel a lot less stressed and relaxed but also encourages others to talk about mental health which in turn reduces the stigma.

Life is not easy, and God forbid it never will be, but being open in relation to my mental health problems did bring a lot of good, despite the bad.

journey to recovery · mental health · mental health blogger · mental illness · personal journey · Uncategorized

I am socially anxious…

Anxiety has no discrimination. It can affect anyone from any background, any ethnic group, any age, any gender, any religion – anyone. Anxiety affects all aspects of a person’s life every single day of the year. It cannot be cured – it is a long term condition – but it can be managed.

Having anxiety means…

You worry that something you say or do will make someone else unhappy,

You can’t meet new people or talk to strangers,

It’s hard to make friends, or keep old ones,

Leaving the house makes you feel anxious,

Sometimes talking at home makes you feel uneasy,

It’s impossible to answer the phone or work up the courage to ring someone,

You count money over and over when waiting at a till because you’re scared you haven’t got enough money.

You hate using public transport,

You have panic attacks for no reason at all,

Any time a group of people laugh in a room, you think they’re laughing at you,

You hate walking into a room full of people because you feel they are judging you,

You replay conversations in your head for hours,

Your life is structured around what other people think,

You want everything to be perfect,

You feel like people are always watching you,

It’s hard to ask people for help,

You feel like everything you do looks silly,

You know what you have to do to be social but you just can’t do it,

You know the fear is irrational but nothing you do gets rid of it….

Anxiety is damaging. Anxiety is misunderstood. Anxiety is not rude, anti-social, shy, a lack of confidence…it is a mental health condition…

Let’s end the stigma.

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journey to recovery · mental health · mental health blogger · mental illness · personal journey · Uncategorized

The REAL reality of Anxiety

I think a lot of people underestimate the true effects of anxiety on a person’s life. Having an anxiety disorder is not worrying about going to the dentist or worrying about passing your upcoming exam. Having an anxiety disorder can become pathological and maladaptive. They can cause distress that interferes with your ability to lead a normal life. Anxiety can be a serious mental illness. Suffering with an anxiety disorder means having a constant and overwhelming worry and fear which can be crippling.

Anxiety has prevented me from doing so much. It has stolen my childhood. It is so difficult to do normal everyday things when the anxiety inside you is so loud you can’t ignore it. It’s so devastating, but people underestimate it. If you tell someone you suffer with an anxiety disorder they just say, “oh, so you’re feeling anxious? why don’t you just stop worrying?”. How can I just stop worrying? My fears are irrational, they are constant. They do not stop. Not ever. I am not just anxious. I am not just feeling anxious. I am mentally ill. I am suffering with a severe mental illness that prevents me from living every single day.

I can always tell when my anxiety is worse some weeks than others. Over the past couple of weeks my anxiety has been quite high, probably an nearing a 10 out of 10. My anxiety presents me with physical symptoms – inability to make eye contact, inability to remain still, sweating, movement and clapping of the hands, heart palpitations, dizziness, difficulty breathing, cyanosis to the nails and nose and panic attacks. Sometimes it prevents me from sleeping, leaving the house, or interacting.

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The above picture was taken in November 2014 – a month filled with severe mental illness, suicidal thoughts and behaviours, 4 hour long panic attacks and the inability to remain at college. I took the picture to show the true effects of what anxiety does to you – cyanosis in the finger nails due to lack of oxygen. Having an anxiety disorder is not attention-seeking nor is it over-exaggerated or simply an emotion. An Anxiety disorder causes very REAL physical symptoms.

I wanted to highlight the true effects of having an anxiety disorder in this post because I feel like suffering with anxiety can often be misunderstood and looked over. Anxiety can be a severe and life-threatening mental health illness that can prevent function in daily life and lead to self-harming behaviours and suicide.

Please be disorder aware and be mindful of those suffering with poor mental health

Watch my short film on Anxiety

journey to recovery · mental health · mental health blogger · mental illness · personal journey · Uncategorized

5 Anxiety Myths

  1. Anxiety is not an illness – Some feelings of anxiety can be normal and often arise due to stress or a scary event such as public speaking, but an anxiety disorder is an extreme form of anxiety that can cause impairment and disruption of daily activities, and is a very real mental illness.
  2. Having an anxiety disorder means the person just worries too much and can’t be treated – There is a suggested link between anxiety and genetic components but effective treatment such as medication and therapy can help anxiety stay under control. According to a research published in Current Pharmaceutical Design, as many as 2/3 of anxiety disorders are genetic. The most effective approach of treating anxiety is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.
  3. Anxiety disorders aren’t common – While 2.6% of the population in the UK experience depression and 4.7% have anxiety problems, as many as 9.7% suffer mixed depression and anxiety, making it the most prevalent mental health problem in the population as a whole. Nearly 1 out of 5 Americans experience some type of anxiety disorder in any given year. Most people believe that anxiety disorders are rare due to their isolating behaviour. You may never encounter someone with an anxiety disorder as they are often avoiding social situations, conversations and events.
  4. Anxiety gets better if you leave it alone – Anxiety does not get better if left alone. In fact, it gets worse. The average person with a diagnosable anxiety disorder tends to wait around 10 years before seeking or receiving help. Most people with an anxiety disorder who are able to partly function everyday often delay getting help in hopes that the anxiety will go away but this rarely happens. Furthermore, around 60% of people with anxiety disorders often develop some degree of diagnosable depression which also requires treatment.
  5. Anxiety is easy to just snap out of and people don’t really have a problem with it – Anxiety disorders are very difficult to overcome without any professional guidance and help. Meeting new people, seeing spiders, being in closed spaces or avoiding germs can seem stupid to many people who do not have anxiety disorders so it can be easy for them to think that a person can just get over their anxiety. However, many people who suffer with an anxiety disorder suffer periods of anxiety that may not relate to any specific fear. Fear and worry often lead to avoidance which increases the fear and worry. This is hard to break and often needs help.

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