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

Massive Sensory Overload

Today’s just one of those days. Way too anxious, way too tired. Sensory overload came over me this morning in full swing. Even the power of headphones did not stop all the different senses getting too much. I’m putting it down to lack of sleep, alcohol and medication.

I was supposed to go shopping. I was supposed to buy food for the week ahead, buy some envelopes and post a letter. I forgot to get off my stop on the bus not once but three times…so I decided to get off in town. I forgot completely about what I needed to do. I made it to tesco (a 5 minute walk that consisted of too many voices, too many cars, too many tapping feet on the pavement, construction guys throwing tools around and my own breathing) but my shopping list consisted of just mushrooms because I forgot all that I needed. I wandered around the shop for a bit before realising I had to pay. I then caught the bus back…

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The entire time I couldn’t breathe. The minute I left my flat this morning I felt like a boa constrictor was perched on my throat. My chest was so weak and hollow, my breaths were fast. All I could focus on was every single noise, every single image and person. Everything but my mind. It was like walking through a dream. I completely forgot the reason why I was going out in the first place. However, I made it to a to b and eventually back to a…but my goodness. What a morning.

Sensory overloads are horrendous. Sensory overloads or meltdowns occur when one or more of the body’s senses experiences over-stimulation from the environment. Examples include; crowded places, noise, people, too much information, visual overload.


Oversensitive Sensitivities

Sound

  •  Noise can be magnified and sounds become distorted and muddled.
  • May be able to hear conversations in the distance.
  • Inability to cut out sounds – notably background noise, leading to difficulties concentrating.

Touch

  • Touch can be painful and uncomfortable – people may not like to be touched and this can affect their relationships with others.
  • Dislikes having anything on hands or feet.

Sight

  • Distorted vision – objects and bright lights can appear to jump around.
  • Images may fragment.
  • Easier and more pleasurable to focus on a detail rather than the whole object.

Helping someone in Sensory Overload

If someone is having a meltdown, or not responding, don’t judge them. There are things that you can do to help. This can make a world of difference.

Often, small changes to the environment can make a difference. Creating a sensory profile may help you to work out what changes are needed. Three points to remember are:

  • be aware. Look at the environment to see if it is creating difficulties. Can you change anything?. Watch the person closely – changes in behaviour or indicators of distress may be small. Watch breathing patterns, especially.
  • be creative. Think of some positive sensory experiences.
  • be prepared. Tell the person about possible sensory stimuli they may experience in different environments.
  • be calm. People in sensory overload are feeling very distressed and anxious so staying calm may help them relax. Offer comfort if the person wants it (touch or words) and move away from the area that is causing distress. Be patient and wait for the sensory overload to finish.
mental health · mental health blogger · mental illness · personal journey · Uncategorized

Anxiety

I’ve suffered with anxiety for years, but every now and again I get severe bouts that really prevent me from doing anything. Over the last few days, my anxiety levels have soared. The minute I get out of bed – anxiety. The minute I get dressed – anxiety. The minute I do absolutely anything – anxiety.

I can’t breathe without feeling intense anxiety and a sense of hopelessness. Dropping a pencil is bringing me to tears. I’m not stressed…I’m anxious. I’m anxious about nothing, nothing at all but at the same time anxious about every single thing.

Breathing. Eating. Walking. Inside. Outside. People. Clothes. Cars. Planes. Internet. Myself.

Everything…

The sad reality is anxiety gives you such negative emotions. I’m irritable. I’m tired. I’m teary. My anxiety triggers my depressive episodes. I have panic attacks. I have meltdowns.

I. can’t. breathe.

When you tell someone you have anxiety they think you’re just momentarily worried because you have an exam or you’re going to be late for work…but an anxiety disorder is absolutely crippling. It’s a 24 hour constant disorder  – not emotion – that threatens to destroy you.

The strength a person needs to simply cope with such anxiety is tremendous and i’m tired…

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

What ‘I’m Tired’ Means to Someone with Mental Illness

Many people use the expression “I’m tired” when they’ve had a lack of sleep or when they feel like they need a nap. When you’ve got mental health problems, sometimes “I’m tired” can also simply mean you’re lacking sleep, but often it means so much more.

When I say I’m tired, I’m usually not just physically tired. I’m emotionally tired. I’m holistically tired. I’m tired even when I’ve spent the entire night sleeping in bed. I’m tired even when I don’t move all day. It’s not just tired eyes and achy muscles. It’s not just a yawn and just one more hour in bed. It’s getting up and getting dressed in a blur. Brushing your teeth and brushing your hair, and then leaving the house. All whilst tired. Emotionally tired. Numb. Drained. Completely out of it. Lost. But you move on with the day anyway, because there seems to be little acceptance of what mental illness can do to your body.

Not many people ask me if I’m OK, but when they do my answer is always the same. “I’m fine, just tired” — and people seem to accept that reply. Tiredness is an accepted feeling — everyone gets it. A long day at work or sitting through a boring lecture. That’s tiredness for many can relate to. But that tiredness isn’t lying in bed all day and still feeling like you could sleep for a thousand years. For me, though, that’s what tiredness is. Tiredness accompanies my depression and my anxiety. It means lying in bed completely exhausted from life without even falling asleep. It means being spaced out and lost in thought most of the day, because it’s tiring trying to keep up with people. It means achy eyes and yawns even after 12 hours of sleep. It means not just feeling physically tired, but feeling oh-so much more.

When someone tells you they’re tired, sometimes you need to look beyond their answer. Are they tired? Are they physically tired and need some sleep? Or do they in fact need you. Do they need somebody to look them in the eyes and tell them they’re not fine but that you’re there for them? Do they need someone to realise they’re not OK and to offer them a hug? Because I know when I say I’m tired, that’s what I need.

I don’t need sleep or a nap. I need people. I need love. I need understanding.

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

Sensory Overload

Sometimes, things get a bit too much. Noises are everywhere. A pencil moving. A person breathing. A stereo. Then there’s lights; flashing lights, coloured lights, a quick flash, a constant light. There’s textures, tastes, smells, sights and sounds consistently – all of the time. All of these merge together and create a jumbled blurred mess of colours and sounds. This is sensory overload…

A sensory overload occurs when one or more of the body’s senses experiences over-stimulation from the environment. I am over sensitive to sounds, sights and tastes. I can’t hear you very well when you’re talking next to me, but if you’re on the other side of the room its not a problem. I can hear a door close on the other side of the house. I can hear someone sigh a mile away or turn a page in their book. Lights and objects jump around; and little details stand out more than the whole object or situation.  In terms of touch, I am under sensitive. I have a high tolerance to pain, and I need deep pressure from others when I feel completely overwhelmed.

Imagine a sensory overload. A complete rush of sounds, sights, smells, textures and tastes. A complete blur of people, noises, the environment, cars, the street, even your own mind.

A noise in your head that rumbles and screeches. People, lots of people. Heat. Too much touch. No time to think. Too many flashing lights and sign posts. Too much visible information. Too much sound. People talking. People typing on laptops. A page of a book. A pencil hitting the floor. People laughing. Music. Not enough touch. Trapped. Cold. Heavy breathing. Sweating. Tired….a sensory overload.

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How do you spot a sensory overload?

Signs of a sensory overload or meltdown include:

  • Irritability
  • “Shuts down”, or refuses to participate in activities and/or interact with others
  • Avoids being touched or reaches out for touch
  • Gets agitated or upset
  • Covers eyes around bright lights
  • Makes poor eye contact
  • Covers ears to close out sounds or voices
  • Complains about noises that do not affect others
  • Has difficulty focusing
  • Over-sensitivity to touch, movement, sights, and/or sounds
  • Has trouble with social interactions
  • Extremely high or extremely low activity levels
  • Muscle tension
  • Stimming – repetitive behaviours such as rocking, hand flapping and skin picking
  • Fidgeting and restlessness
  • Panic attacks
  • Angry outbursts
  • Sleeplessness/fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating

Helping somebody with sensory overload

The quickest way to calm somebody down during a sensory overload is to remove that person from the environment in which the overload occurred.

If other symptoms alongside a sensory overload occur, work on these also. Panic attacks include heavy breathing, disorientation, low body temperature and severe panic. Once a person recovers from this, their senses may calm down also. Anger should be dealt with alongside an overload if it occurs.

Deep pressure against the skin combined with individual input often calms the nervous system in places such as the legs or the hands. Constantly reassuring and pressure to the person’s body allows them to know you’re there whilst keeping them with reality.

Reducing sensory input such as eliminating distressing sounds and lowering the lights can help. Calming, focusing music works for some.

Talking or repeating the person’s name may help them establish their surroundings, the people they are with and what they are currently going through. This may encourage the person to calm themselves down, or reaching out to somebody to help.

Stimming or self-soothing behaviours should not be stopped unless they pose risk to the person suffering the sensory overload. These behaviours often allow the person to calm down and come out of an overload.

If a quick break or intervention does not relieve the problem, an extended rest is advised. It is important in situations of sensory overload to calm oneself and return to a normal level.

Sensory Overload Virtual Reality Video

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

May is Mental Health Awareness Month

I’ve been staring at this blank blog post for a while now, wondering how I can express myself in order to raise awareness and understanding for Mental Health issues, considering it is May. May is Mental Health Awareness Month. It is also the month of my birthday.

Mental Illness is difficult. Some days are better than others. Some days take you right down to your core and you feel like you can’t fight anymore, but you get back up anyway. Mental Illness is misunderstood. We’re not crazy, we’re just ill. And we need support, we need help. Mental Illness has too much stigma. It’s nothing to be ashamed of – we didn’t decide to become mentally ill, just like people don’t decide to break their leg or get cancer. We’re just ill.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, so let me tell you to be aware… (taken from May 2015)

  • Be aware that sometimes I want you to notice me but I can’t ask for your help
  • Be aware that my medication sometimes makes me tired. Sometimes it makes my Mental Illness worse – it worsens my panic attacks, my self harm and my suicidal feelings.
  • Be aware that I have feelings too. I’m not crazy, I’m just not very well at the moment. I don’t want you to isolate me and treat me like I’m a freak.
  • Be aware that I didn’t choice this Mental Illness. It chose me. My brain is not doing so good at the moment, this is not my fault.
  • Be aware that I put up a front and pretend to be happy because I don’t want to hurt everyone around me. Because I feel ashamed that I’m ill.
  • Be aware that the things you take for granted, such as catching the bus, talking to others, walking into a room of people, are very challenging and difficult for me.
  • Be aware that I attach myself to people that make me feel less alone and not invisible, which always leaves me hurt. I’m sorry if my obsession scares you.
  • Be aware that when I say “I’m okay” when you ask me if i’m alright, I’m probably not. It’s just an automatic response and saying you’re fine is much less complicated than trying to explain why I feel this way.
  • Be aware that when I have suicidal thoughts, its not because I don’t want to live. It’s the illness trying to tell me I’m better off dead. I don’t want to die – I want the pain to stop.
  • Be aware that I do have self-harm scars, and yes I see you staring. I accept them, so I’d like you to as well. They are my battle wounds, from when I fought with myself.
  • Be aware that when you get to know me, I am a good friend. I like to talk to people, I like going places, I can have fun and I can have friends. It’s just my mental illness means it’s difficult to do that.
  • Be aware that being mentally ill is not easy, especially when the people around you don’t understand. And it’s even worse, when the people around you don’t want to understand it. Please understand it is not my fault I am ill. Please me aware that Mental Health Stigma hurts. I’m human too. I’m just not well.

 Please be more aware this month than others, and just notice how the people are doing around you. Never be afraid to reach out to those who seem to be struggling – they may appreciate your kindness and interest.

Have a blessed May – be mindful, be observant, be caring, ask questions, and love.

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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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