What Comes First, Poor Mental Health or Poor Self Care?

Before writing this post I went to the polls (would have been topical if I’d written this post on time) and had a bit of a debate with a couple of people regarding the question do you think that your mental health slips first or your self care. 

For me it’s a no-brainer, my mental health goes down the pan and then I don’t have the energy, motivation or inclination to do the most basic of self care tasks however it was interesting that someone stated categorically that for them they thought that their self care slipped first.  When they elaborated they explained that if you don’t treat yourself with care because you feel worthless etc then your mental health will worsen. Maybe I’m lucky in that when I’m well I have a good relationship with my self and so if I’m not looking after myself it’s because my mental health has already worsened. To me that feeling of worthlessness that was described is part of poor mental health.

That being said, I have noticed that when I’m sort of on the up and making a conscious effort with self care I do feel slightly better. I recently set myself some self care goals and for the first few days I was managing with them, staying hydrated, eating and making some effort to stay on top of housework. Sleep was still a struggle but I was doing all I could. Yet as within a week I was feeling awful and my self care had gone back to being non-existent. That’s what led me to this question. Did I feel worse because I wasn’t doing it or was I not doing it because I felt worse? 

I guess it’s impossible to say for sure. Some days when I’m not feeling great if I force myself to do even the most basic of self care like drinking enough water or cooking, I get really dark moods so as far as possible I try to just listen to myself. If I’m not in the mood to do it or today is not that day then I just don’t. Simple as that. Maybe it’s not the healthiest approach but at the moment all I can do is do the best I can each day and some days will be better than other.

Here are the goals I set myself in this post. 

  1. Drink 2l (or there about) of water a day. – For the first few days this was easy enough if not the most exciting but as soon as I got bored/maybe when I had a few bad mental health days, this slipped by the wayside and I haven’t really been doing it since. 
  2. Eat 3 meals a day. – I’ve kind of being doing this but my eating habits have been all over the place, letting myself get ridiculously hungry, skipping breakfast and not having anything until mid to late morning, cereal for dinner etc. The usual fails that have now triggered my IBS. Hopefully being in pain will be a reminder to eat this week. 
  3. Get in to a bed time routine. – I think I sort of have one and I’m trying out a new sleeping supplement and pillow spray that seem to be helping. Watch this space. 
  4. Spend an hour every evening doing something not related to internet/blogging. – Since I stopped daily blogging I’ve had over a week off at the time of writing this and it’s been great. 🙂 BUT I probably still don’t spend an hour a night not online. 
  5. Do a 30 minute clean every day – This definitely didn’t happen. Doing a big clean over the weekend so I can just try to maintain a reasonable level over the next week. 

 We are very quick to berate ourselves for the things we haven’t done rather than celebrating the things we have so instead of dwelling on what I haven’t achieved here are some things that I have achieved since that post. 

  • I’ve attended work everyday no matter how tired or ill I felt. 
  • I’ve looked after Misty, my furry friend, managed to take her to the vet and have started tackling knotted fur, much to her displeasure. 
  • I’ve managed a few really good gym sessions but also rested for a full week when I wasn’t up to it. 
  • I’ve written a few blog posts and had a few really open and difficult conversations about why I don’t want help for my emetophobia. 

It’s so disappointing that I’m finding things so hard at what is traditionally an easy time of year for me but I will keep plodding along and hopefully you guys will keep me accountable. 

Do you have any personal goals that you are working on at the moment? Let me know in the comments. 

V ❤ 

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Thoughts on Getting Help For Emetophobia

TW/CW – emetophobia, anxiety, panic attacks

Recently I’ve been looking in to treating my emetophobia. My generalised anxiety/stress has reached a point where the only solution is likely to be medication that I won’t take due to my phobia. As a result the only logical solution is to deal with the phobia. If only things were straightforward. I wrote previously that I’d had public panic attacks and they were due to the stress of contemplating getting help for my phobia. I feel stuck between a rock and a hard place and I want to elaborate on why.

Like a lot of sufferers I feel like my phobia keeps me safe – and in a lot of ways it does. I live my life in certain ways to avoid getting sick. It affects my diet, the ways I choose to travel, places I’m willing to visit etc. Yes, some people would say it’s restrictive but that’s the price I’m willing to pay to not get sick. A huge part of the battle is the fact that my phobia also means that my body fights the urge to be sick. It’s not a pleasant experience – I go to a primal place in my brain and my whole body shuts down – but it stops the urge to vomit. I’m terrified that if I no longer have the phobia I won’t be able to stop it and then if I let it happen once it’ll keep happening. My phobia at this point is a finally tuned system to prevent me being sick and I don’t want to ficker with it.

The logical counter-argument to this is if I didn’t have the phobia anymore then I wouldn’t have to worry about being kept safe because I wouldn’t be afraid to be sick. This is where my irrational thoughts take over. For someone who would rather die than be sick it’s hard to imagine a point in time where they would ever be ok with being sick. I know it’s possible because I know of people who have recovered, I also know that emetophobia has one of the lowest rates of success when it comes to treatment as it’s one of the phobias with the most powerful emotive response. The fear is also based on your own bodily function and through life is something that may be impossible to fully avoid and so it’s an ever present fear that you can never get away from.

The idea of whatever the therapy itself may involve is also, quite frankly, terrifying. I’ve read horror stories of exposure therapy that in all seriousness could lead to me developing PTSD on top of everything else. It may be useful to have something like hypnotherapy again to help me learn a bit about why I have the phobia but even that is very daunting.

It’s almost a self fulfilling prophecy because as long as the phobia has a grip on me I won’t get help for it and then the cycle continues. At my last GP appointment she referred me to psychiatry in order to discuss options. I’m trying to keep an open mind even though all of the thoughts above keep whirring around in my brain telling me not to do it.

Have you had professional help for a phobia or anxiety disorder before? Did it work for you? Leave me a comment and let me know.

V ❤

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Goodbye May, Hello Summer

The last day of May has arrived and here in Aberdeen it is feeling particularly summery. It’s been a funny old month for me personally, professionally and in my blogging life. I feel like I’ve packed a year’s worth of ups and downs into one month and I will be glad to see the back of it in a lot if ways.

Looking forward to June there are a few things that are happening for me and the world in general that I want to share some thoughts on.

June is my birthday month, on the 7th I’ll turn 26. In my current mental state my birthday is filling me with dread rather than excitement, not least of all because I have no plans to do anything to mark the occasion having accepted the fact that everyone will be too busy etc and it’ll just be a massive flop. I know part of this is my mental health but also partly from my experience of trying to organise any kind of party or social gathering over the past couple of years.

Next week Britain goes to the polls again. This time it’s a General Election and hopefully we will be saying goodbye to May in another sense. I know it’s a really slim chance but we have to hope that people will actually show up and make it known that we’re not happy with the status quo. The big concern is that many Scots won’t see the bigger picture and continue to vote SNP in this election which will hamper Labour’s chances of any kind of majority. Watch this space.

The most important event in June is Orange Is The New Black Day which this year falls on the 9th. If like me you have already booked the day off work to binge watch prepare to be shook. I’ve read some of the media relating to it and I’m unsure about the way they have planned this season – it sounds like we will definitely be left wanting more ASAP – but it will also be a binge watch dream.

On my blog in June you can expect lots of body positive content, a couple of period positive posts and I have a fitness post planned. I won’t be posting daily. Hallelujah! I haven’t quite figured out my schedule yet but I know I won’t be posting again until the 4th.

Leave me a comment and let me know what you are most looking forward to in June.

V ❤ 

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It’s OK To Need A Break

I’m writing this post as a reminder to everyone who is struggling at the moment – It’s ok give up. It’s ok to fail. It’s ok to admit that you are overwhelmed and need a break. 

The irony  that I’m posting this so I don’t fail in the challenge I set myself to blog every day this month is not lost on me.  Life is hard. This month has been particularly difficult for me and tonight I feel at my lowest for a long time.

I met up with one of my closest friends tonight and it was lovely to see her and chat but I still felt very on edge and under pressure. On the walk home the dark cloud descended and I genuinely didn’t think I’d be getting this post up tonight. To add insult to injury my cat is ill and had been sick and had a “toilet accident” on my bed. Today was a terrible day.

Terrible days happen. My originally planned post was things that nobody tells you about being an adult, that’s definitely one of them. Even on the worst days no one is going to handle business for you. Today I spoke to a friend who is also ill at the moment and I told him to do just one productive thing. Just one. And it made me realise how well I’m doing. Yes my house is a disgusting mess again and I had cereal for dinner but I’m adulting in other ways. I’m holding down a full time job and whatever this side hustle is.

Let’s celebrate these victories on days when it’s all just too much. I’m sure no matter what, you’ve done something this week you can be proud of.

V ❤

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Progress Not Perfection – Self Care Goals

Today I did a scary thing, tomorrow’s blog post will be all about it, but having that hanging over me for a while among other things has made this month a bit of a write-off. I know what you’re thinking, I’ve blogged every day, held down my job, looked after my crazy elderly kitty and you’re right. But that doesn’t mean that other areas of my life haven’t suffered as a result.

I’ve been terrible at self care in the most basic sense like eating healthily, drinking enough water and getting enough good sleep. I’ve missed three of my closest friends’ birthdays – Tamzin, Cat and Kirsty if you read this I’m really sorry – and if you’ve been waiting on a reply from me on Facebook messenger you’re still waiting but as I’ve done the scary thing now and going forward it’s just a waiting game I figured now is as good a time as any to create an action plan for the next week/month.

  1. Drink 2l (or there about) of water a day. This one should be achievable especially now the weather is getting warmer but sometimes I forget to drink anything until lunchtime when I’m exhausted/anxious.
  2. Eat 3 meals a day. Usually I’ve still been managing this but for example today I didn’t eat anything from breakfast until 4.30pm and then squeezed in my 3rd meal at 8.30pm.
  3. Get in to a bed time routine. It’s not very exciting or sexy but tossing and turning then eventually falling asleep to Seth MacFarlane and co’s dulcet tones at 1am is not conducive to a productive day.
  4. Spend an hour every evening doing something not related to internet/blogging. This one may be a challenge especially as I’m at work all day so my evening is full of writing blog posts, reading and commenting on others’ posts, tweeting, scheduling tweets etc etc BUT I think it’s really important to have some genuine downtime.
  5. Do a 30 minute clean every day. Like most people when my mental health is rubbish my flat becomes an absolute disgrace. I found a really great “quick clean guide” on YouTube by chance that I will be sharing on the blog within the next few days and it’s really motivated me to be proactive.

I will do an update next month on how I am getting on. The most important ones but probably the most difficult will be the sleep and relaxation. Fingers crossed I will have good news.

Do you have any self care goals at the moment? If not, would you consider setting some? Let me know in the comments.

V ❤

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Never Miss A Monday

So the original post that was here was 35 words because I was not in a good place on Monday so today I’m re-writing this and turning it in to the post I wanted to write in the first place.

I want to talk about basic self care. Online there is so much information on self care and things we can do to help ourselves relax or feel better when our mental or physical health isn’t so good. Often these tips include things like have a nice relaxing bath, going for a walk, painting your nails, meeting up with a friend etc. All these things are great but sometimes we are not able to make that kind of an effort.

The things that when we are well we take for granted become self care when we are really struggling. Things like brushing your teeth, washing your face, cooking a meal, drinking water and cleaning up are all valid self care. So is sleep!

The reason this post originally was so short was because as soon as I got home from work I went to bed. I dozed and watched Netflix and I couldn’t bring myself to do anything. Being anxious a lot, working full time and trying to find time to do all the other normal grown up stuff that we are expected to do as functioning members of society is exhausting. Every day tasks feel overwhelming and then the longer you leave them the bigger the to do list gets and it just feel insurmountable. It’s for this reason I’ve created a little self care action plan for myself that includes spending some time every day on basic tasks like cleaning. My flat is not going to be pristine any time soon but by doing a little each day keeps on top of things and it’s also something that you can tick off as having achieved.

Lately some easy every day tasks that I carry out at work have been giving me ridiculous anxiety and one of them is listening to voicemail messages. I have no idea why but when I sit down to do it my palms get all clammy and my heart raises – thinking about it now I have a horrible butterfly sensation so it’s self care for me to get that task out of the way as soon as I get to the office and as soon as I come back from lunch in order to avoid getting worked up about it.

What I’m trying to say, in the most rambling and disjointed way possible, is that self care isn’t all face masks and brunch dates. It can be washing dishes or food shopping or any number of mundane grown up tasks. I’m challenging you all to do some self care and leave a comment to tell me what you did.

V ❤

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But You Don’t Look Ill?!

It’s no secret that I’m not well at the moment and there are a few different things going on. Living in a body/mind that’s ill but outwardly appears to be relatively healthy is tricky because people are quick to make assumptions based on appearance.

Take today, for example, my friend took me out to the garden centre where we had cake and bought plants then off to The Range where we bought a heap of junk and went on a little adventure. (All documented on my instagram story, link at the bottom). I didn’t look ill. I was laughing and joking, pushing a heavy trolley around, lifting a 40l bag of compost [or soil as I kept calling it] and having a good time with my friend. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t anxious and dizzy in the shop or that I’m not suffering with a mental illness.

I haven’t taken time off from my current job as a direct result of mental ill health but with the way things are at the moment and it’s got me thinking. I know that if my colleagues had seen me out and about today and I was signed off there’d be gossip going around the office tomorrow about how I don’t look ill. Do you have to monitor your behaviour to appear ill at all times?

Growing up, like a lot of parents, my mum set the rule that if you were too ill to go to school you were too ill to go out and play after the other kids got home and I think in a way I still apply that rule to myself as an adult. If I was off work I would struggle to justify myself going out and having fun with friends even thought that is exactly the kind of thing that can help when you are suffering from anxiety/stress/depression.

When Naomi messaged me on Friday asking if I wanted to go and get Pick n Mix today I was really looking forward to having a chat and a laugh and getting sweets. I don’t think either of us knew what we would end up getting up to but it was something to look forward to. On a Monday and Thursday night I go to the gym with my friend Megan and she’s suggested some dates for going out for pizza/having a Netflix and pizza evening and again, it’s a nice distraction. Plus this Friday I saw my friend Andie (and she brought me chocolate ❤ ), our weekly cinema trips keep me busy on a Friday evening. [I’ve only just realised that all my friends are feeders :’) ]

It’s a sad state of affairs to think that if I took the time off that I may need in order to get better I would feel guilty about doing all these things. I would probably even feel guilty about working on this blog. There would be a little voice in the back of my mind telling me that if I’m well enough to write blog posts I’m well enough to be in the office despite the fact that everything and everyone seems to be telling me the opposite at the moment.

Do you think there is a certain obligation for people to act or live in a certain way if they’re ill? Let me know in the comments.

V ❤

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Public Panic Attacks – What To Do When They Strike

Yesterday I had a bad panic attack complete with sobbing and inability to breathe at the gym. It was so bad that I didn’t have a chance to consider my surroundings or the reactions of other people but public panic attacks can be particularly difficult, especially if they feed off concerns about what people think. That in turn leads to panicking about panicking. We’ve all been there. Here are some tips, tricks, snippets of advice on things that have worked for me in the past.

Rule number 1 is to focus on you. Yesterday I lay down on the floor, before I fell down and I let my body do its thing. In that moment I felt like I couldn’t breathe but in reality I was gulping in oxygen so hard I got a tingling in my extremities and couldn’t move them. Meanwhile I was still overcome by emotion and an absolute snotty mess but at no point did I exacerbate the situation by worrying about other people. There were a few people around before it happened so maybe they were staring but it doesn’t concern them so I owe them nothing. If you feel yourself starting to panic about what others are thinking, close your eyes and focus on all the sensations you can feel, or focus on your breathing, or even picture yourself in a comfy armchair.

If you’re out in public on your own and you feel panic starting to build try to find yourself somewhere a little quieter, and give yourself time to let it pass because it will always pass. If you have a particular distraction technique that works for you at home like reading a book, colouring in or drawing, it’s a good idea to carry something with you that you can use if panic strikes.

It’s ok to talk to someone. Stranger danger is real, of course, but there have been a few times where strangers have really helped me out in the event of panic when I was out on my own. Very recently and older lady saw me panicking at the Dr surgery and asked if I was alright then we talked for a bit to take my mind off it until I was called for my appointment. There are a lot of lovely people in the world who are happy to help others. Even if you are in a shop/cafe you could strike up a conversation with a member of staff to give you something else to focus on.

Sometimes being out and about when anxious is just too much. In those cases it’s totally ok to give up and go home. Yesterday my day was a write off. I was anxious and couldn’t concentrate at work and I wanted to go to the gym and smash it but after the panic attack my heart just wasn’t in it so we left. I got home and practised some self care and rested up ready to face another day.

Do you have any other tips I’ve missed in this post? If so, leave them in the comments.

V ❤ 

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It Still Counts

TW: Emetophobia, Anxiety, public panic attacks

A blog post about why there’s not a blog post today definitely still counts as part of my daily blogging challenge in May.

Things have certainly been difficult since I wrote my last post. I’ve had three what I can only describe as panic crying fits, one very publicly at the gym. I got up and we tried to finish the workout but my heart just wasn’t in it. Today has been a write off although all was not lost as I got coleslaw and a reduced papaya to cheer me up.

All this was triggered by a rash decision that in order to get better from all my other mental health issues I have to get over my phobia so I can consent to a medical approach (SSRI medication). Unfortunately I hadn’t taken the time to consider in it’s entirety what that would involve and as that realisation sunk in I was a mess. Like a lot of people with a phobia or anxiety I hold on to the misguided belief that my phobia keeps me safe but to a certain degree it does. I live my life in such a way that at every possibly opportunity I minimise my risk of vomiting. To have that and the so-called control my phobia gives me away taken away is too much for me to deal with at the moment.

Needless to say following all that anxiety plus the fact I’m already suffering from stress I’m not up for writing a great deal so I gave you a little confessional instead.

Roll on the weekend!

V ❤

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Why I Still Struggle In Recovery

TW: Eating disorders, weight loss

Recovering from disordered eating is very complex. There’s the physical aspect of it, your body readjusting, but the really daunting part is the mental and emotional side. For me, I don’t think it will ever fully leave me and I think that tends to be the consensus among most people who have struggled with these issues. I wrote earlier this month about what recovery means to be but I thought I’d be brave and be honest about what I still struggle with.

The biggest thing that really affects me regularly is diet talk and body shaming. This ranges in severity from people moralising food, which is irritating but not the most unsettling, through to people shaming themselves and berating themselves and pledging to “make up” for what they’ve eaten. The worst bit about it is the fact that it’s totally normalised. No one bats an eyelid at someone calling themselves fat (and using it as a negative) or broadcasting to anyone who’ll listen, that they have to be “good” and not have certain foods. And they do so without any thought for the people around them. The quote that always sticks with me is that every time we shame our own bodies publicly children (and all other people really) are listening and learning. Maybe it’s too late for my generation and possibly even for the next one growing up now but you have to hope that things will start to change.

Along the same lines is people commenting on what I’m eating. This is rife at my work and it’s so infuriating. It’s a difficult thing to confront people on because it’s so ingrained in our culture. The majority of people probably just consider it making conversation, or at worst mild teasing when in reality it can make things very difficult for those of us who are just trying to eat without comment or judgement.

Anyone who’s been reading my blog for a while will know where I stand on before and after pictures. They are troubling on a purely theoretical level but for someone who is in recovery or recovering from an eating disorder they are so hard to deal with. Even when I wasn’t well the last time and was talking about my weight loss a lot I never posted a “transformation’ picture. I’d like to think that no matter how sucked in to that world I got I never would. Selling the idea that one body is better than another because it’s smaller is messed up. It’s not the images themselves that are the problem necessarily, in a lot of cases it’s the caption. “Can’t believe I ever let myself get like that” “I’m disgusted looking at the picture on the left” are examples of the kind of thing that’s heartbreaking and deeply disturbing to read.

Although, in the moment, when these things crop up, I can be very unsettled and anxious I don’t blame the individuals. Diet culture permeates every form of media, it enters the classroom and the doctor’s office, it’s no wonder that so many people buy in and don’t even question. They don’t question the system that they are supporting whether directly or indirectly and in most cases they don’t question, or have no idea, about how they are affecting others, across society in and in their direct social circle. It’s estimated that as many as 1 in 10 American college women suffer from a clinical or near clinical eating disorder, statistics on that don’t exist for the UK but it would be hard to imagine they would much better. Due to the fact that eating disorders are massively undiagnosed the chances are there are people around you who have suffered or will in the future. That’s worth thinking about.

V ❤

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