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Health. Fitness. Positivity. Lifestyle. Mental health. Self love.

Anxiety and finding ways to manage it

Throughout life, anxiety is something everyone will experience at some stage but in different forms. For example; feeling worried about an exam, nerves about a job interview or being apprehensive about meeting new people, all of which are perfectly normal. However, for some people the anxiety takes over their entire life.

Anxiety is defined as 'a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome.' 

 Anxiety about everyday small issues are not to be confused with generalised anxiety disorder, which is a long-term condition that causes a person to feel anxious about a wide range of situations and issues rather than one specific event. This condition can lead to symptoms such as panic attacks, heart palpitations, a heavy feeling in your chest and feelings of restlessness. The main difference which determines between normal anxiety and generalised is the impact anxiety has on a person on a daily basis.

Quite often anxiety can come hand in hand with other mental health conditions, as well as being a mental health condition in its own right. I believe one can impact the other, to give an example, depression can lead to anxiety due to low moods and low self-esteem just as anxiety can lead to depression due to the disrupt & stress it causes.

The truth is for some, anxiety can completely destroy a person's life and it's certainly not something which should be overlooked. For those suffering daily with anxiety, leaving the house is nearly impossible, holding down a job is a job in itself and trying to attend social events is unbearable. A lot of people will brush off anxiety as 'not a serious health condition' but I want to raise awareness to prove it most definitely shouldn't be. 

I personally only suffered occasionally with anxiety as part of my bipolar, due to my changeable moods. Often it will lead to overthinking and worrying about how I will feel in a certain situation, so I experience anxiety mostly before an event, when it never really turns out to be as bad as I thought. On the other hand, anxiety can also be for no reason what so ever. I often told people I was feeling anxious but when they ask why I have no explanation for it. Something which to someone whom has never experienced anxiety can be very difficult to understand, but sometimes it is just for no particular reason and completely unexplainable. 

I am lucky to be able to say I that I don't suffer to the extent I once did with anxiety and the reason why is because I've taught myself how to manage it. This is something that took time and a lot of practice, I have included the methods which I use on daily basis to manage anxiety. I believe this also comes from having peace and happiness within because when everything in my life feels settled, my anxiety does too. 

Methods to help manage anxiety:

Deep breathing: Deep breathing increases the supply of oxygen to your brain and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes a state of calmness.

Exercise: Research suggests that those who got regular exercise were 25 per cent less likely to develop depression or an anxiety disorder over the next five years, it also shows that exercise can work quickly to elevate the depressed mood in many people. Exercise may improve mental health by helping the brain cope better with stress and as little as a 10-minute walk can help. 

Getting outside into nature: Common symptoms of anxiety are feeling breathless and a racing heart so sometimes the best thing to do when you're feeling anxious is to distract yourself. Going for a walk, picnic or sitting in the garden can, therefore, be a great way to think about other things. 

Meditation: Meditation actually reprograms your brain to be less anxious as well as calming you in the moment by taking that time to sit and relax. Although it doesn't just temporarily help you relax, it also works on a deep level by changing the function and structure of your brain. 

Managing stress: Stress can be a big trigger for anxiety so it's important to keep it at bay. Stress can often come from feeling overwhelmed with too much to do so techniques like writing a list of your tasks that need to be done and working out how to will tackle them can help. When going through a particularly stressful period of time talking to people can ease anxiety.

Heartache that is trying to conceive

Trying to conceive in my opinion is the biggest rollercoaster ride a person can ever experience. Filled with hope and heartache all rolled into one. Each month is a cycle of excitement to try, happiness thinking you've conceived, mixed with dread and finally heartbreak when your period eventually arrives. I find this subject difficult to write about which I believe is down to the fact it's what i'm still living through.

The pain that trying to conceive brings is like nothing I can describe, which makes it difficult for others to understand, because the heart ache of not falling pregnant month in, month out isn't something that can be easily described. It's like an ache in your heart that you carry around with you every day which never goes away. There's so much that can be hidden behind a smile because people don't often express their feelings, in order to avoid the risk of being a burden. However there's normally an immense amount going through their mind which they will put to the back and carry on with daily life.

It's odd because some days I won't think about it at all and other days it completely consumes my thoughts. The smallest thing can however trigger a derail of those thoughts, something on TV or social media.I think the situation just makes you overly sensitive to anything on that subject. It seems that everywhere you look there's pregnant women or babies and it's impossible to block them out. It's not that your angry with them though or want to take it away, you just wish that could be you too and it's just another reminder that you aren't.

Even though the things I've dealt with so far in my life have been challenging, this is by far the most painful thing I’ve experienced. What I find most difficult is not being able to have control over it. Of course there's treatments that can be explored, relaxation techniques and medical help but each month it's not something you can physically hand-pick the outcome and to me that's what I find most difficult. I'm a 'fixer' and this is something I can't just fix.

 It's challenging to explain how much pain this type of situation can bring because it comes with ups and down but every month when that period arrives it's like all your future plans and dreams are destroyed within a single moment. Something which you have to pick yourself up from every single month, even when you you've got nothing left.

What's incredibility important when going through this journey is to not let the situation take over your life, which is near enough impossible to avoid. Your life otherwise just becomes ovulation, trying, dates, symptoms and periods. For a while this was what our lives definitely ended up being centred around it, however getting to that point gave us the realization we needed to know that something had to change. In the last few months we've been doing our best to forget everything we've been through and live our lives as we did once before. It's something I’m quite proud to be able to say, as at one point it was a very different story. I can certainly say 100% happier for doing it.

The reason I decided to open up about this subject, after over a year of saying I wasn't going to until I conceived, is because I truly want to help people. To me it's a life goal to have a positive impact on others and help those who are feeling alone to feel more supported. Although in a sense I find it embarrassing to write about, if it helps any one  person then it’s completely worth it. 

Hopefully this blog post can give a better understanding to those who have never had this struggle and help them to provide support for loved ones who are going through this tough journey. I know in my experience I have felt a little misunderstood at times, mostly because I don't think others understand fully the impact it has on a persons life and the full extent of how consuming and unbearable it can be.

To anyone dealing with this, I would love to be a source of support and a person to relate to for anyone who may need it, so please reach out. Remember the things you use to enjoy about life before all of this and remind yourself of the reasons you have to keep battling on.

Supporting someone battling suicide

In the recent month's, suicide has become a lot more apparent, we had Avicii, Kate Spade, Anthony Bourdain and for Love Island viewers Sophie Gradon. All of these deaths have flooded my news feeds with messages for the families, messages of rest in peace and the ones I find most frustrating 'there's always someone you can talk to'. My reason for finding these messages frustrating is that I see it all as too little too late. People are quick to share their message of condolences but inevitably too slow to check in on a friend. 

We lose so many beautiful lives every year because people are too afraid to share how they're truly feeling, so many people are afraid to bring up suicide in fear they will be judged, but I struggle to understand why suicide is considered one of the most shameful things to feel. It's an incredibly sad world we live in when someone can feel as though they want to take their own life but not feel they can tell anyone about it.

I believe that our biggest problem is that whenever words like suicide or depression are used people run a mile. At the times where support is needed most its not there, people run because they are scared or they don't know how to act, but when it comes to suicide I don't believe any excuse is good enough. I count myself one of the lucky ones because I was and still am very blessed to have an incredibly supportive partner and mum, two people who were key parts of keeping me alive throughout my very dark years, however even though I had amazing support from them, I still felt very lonely and very isolated. Other family members and good friends just didn't get it and were not there for me in my time of need, which hurt a great deal to be let down by them. 

I am not trying to shame or accuse anyone of being a cause for someone to take their own life, but to make people think twice about whether or not they could be doing more. Due to the current times we live in, a lot of people think they are doing enough to support their loved ones but life is busier and more stressful than ever which means people are more selfish and don't consider the people around them anywhere as much as they should do. So many people don't even think about picking up the phone to check in with their friends or family anymore and don't take time to spend good quality, technology-free time with them. We have all these great social networking sites now but we have all become more anti-social because of it. No one really talks anymore and if they do it's never about the real-life, just about superficial rubbish. All of which I really genuinely believe has lead to people feeling more lonely than ever before.

This particular issue does not single any person out, we all have or can be affected by suicide, it does not discriminate which is why I believe every single person needs to act more. It's as simple as telling someone how much you love and care for them for absolutely no reason. It's almost frowned upon these days to show your feelings but let's break that trend and start telling the people you love how valued and important they are to you. Don't always need a reason to share your feelings and make someone feel loved, because otherwise these things just never end up getting said.

Strategies to support someone you know who is suicidal:

1. Talk to them about their suicidal thoughts and plans. If you know about the things going through their head you will be better equipped to support them. Suicide is a difficult subject to discuss but by being more open about it you will be able to build up a better level of trust with that person. If they feel as though they can talk to you about suicide without being judged they will hopefully feel more inclined to tell you if they're actually thinking of taking action. Never shout or have a go at someone for feeling suicidal because all you will do is push them away and they will not bring it up again, which can potentially lead to them making a successful suicide attempt. 

2. Get them professional help, but in their own time. Make sure not to force a person to go to the doctors or get counselling, however, it is important they get some professional support. Sadly if a person has reached a point of suicide it's very likely the only way they're going to get better is with either medication or therapy, depending on their situation. As not all people suffering will be willing to see a doctor or psychiatrist it's a good idea to try and get them to a place where they want the help for themselves because if they feel forced into it they will probably feel like they can no longer trust you.

3. Check in with them more regularly, whether that's in person, over the phone or a quick text. Just some way of showing that you're there for them and support them can make a whole world of difference for someone. Just having someone show that they care can completely change a person's day and be the support they need to get through that day. The more support a person has the less alone they will feel and hopefully a quicker road to recovery.

4. Understand that a lot of the time a person never actually wants to die. This is a difficult thing to understand for someone who has never suffered from mental illness but it's an important thing to remember. I can't speak for everyone but I know a large majority of people who feel suicidal don't actually want their life to end but instead, they want the pain they are suffering to end. So it isn't that they don't love and appreciate you but that they can't see any other way out of the suffering. Please never be angry with a person for feeling suicidal because they never mean to hurt you, but they just feel as if there is no other way out.

5. Patience. When you know someone who is suffering from a mental illness it is so important that you have patience with them, remember as hard work as it is for you dealing with them it's just as hard for them to cope with it. Always do your best to keep your cool and never snap at the person, just try to remind yourself that it isn't their fault and they can't help it.

My message is that can we all start writing less 'rest in peace' notes and send more supportive text messages to each other. Start doing the things we intended to like catching up with a friend before it becomes too late. Stop saying things like 'i'll always be there for you' when you don't actually mean it. Most importantly can we all start showing each other we care, without it being stemmed from someone committing suicide.

Miscarriages and fertility struggles

This is a blog post I have been going back and forth between whether to post or not because it was always something I felt I wanted to share when, what I had been hoping for, finally came true. However, I have finally come to the realisation that I shouldn’t just be trying to help and influence others once I have recovered and moved on from things but whilst I’m actually living in it too.

Becoming a mum is something I have deeply desired since I was really young, but knew I always wanted to wait until I felt that I had achieved certain things for myself before I took that path. I wanted to travel, have my own home, run my own business and just generally enjoy life being young. My partner and I since the day we met always knew we couldn’t wait to have children together and at the start of 2017 we finally took that first, very exciting step and started trying.

After overcoming depression in my teenage years, I naively thought that would be the hardest thing I would ever have to overcome, but sadly little did I know that wasn't even going to be the half of it. Trying for a baby is the biggest rollercoaster ride I have ever experienced. It starts off very fun but quite quickly turns into stress of, working out dates, taking supplements, taking tests and having sex even when you don't feel like it. The thing I dreamt about most of my life and imagined to be the most magical experience quickly became the exact opposite.

Although at the time when I was living in it, it felt unbearable, when I now look back at the first 8 months I am grateful for the fact that we didn’t fall pregnant because that time allowed us to get engaged. Something which I had fantasized about ever since I met my Toby and I am really glad we got to enjoy that experience just the two of us because it made it even more special.

Amongst all that happiness some sadness was just around the corner for us again when we learnt our best friends who had just started trying, had fallen pregnant. This was something that brought such mixed emotions for the both of us because we were absolutely over the moon for them but at the same time, it brought us back to the realization that still after 8 months of trying, we were not any closer to being pregnant. By this point, I decided I wanted to get checked because I couldn’t wait around any longer not knowing what was going on. So I went to my doctors to have an ultrasound and blood tests to check my hormone levels, both of which came back as completely normal. Next, we had my partner checked which again everything came back as normal.

This left us both on a high knowing that everything was okay, it was just all about timing, but sadly on our ninth month, we had our first miscarriage. We were away at the time which I know massively helped and it protected me from the initial heartache of a miscarriage. My partner was very good at looking at it as a positive, a positive that we finally knew we could get pregnant but I couldn’t help see it as the simple fact the baby I had been longing for, for so long was gone. I felt completely broken and honestly, I just didn’t know what to do with myself. From the moment I knew I was pregnant, all the heartache of trying had just melted away and my dream had finally come true and then all of a sudden that was gone. There's a certain emptiness that miscarriages leave and an ache in your heart that can never be fixed.

I was and have always been lucky that in some respects, my miscarriage was early because it meant I hadn’t got to the stage of having a scan and seeing no heartbeat. With that being said in some ways it made my grieving harder because it meant that a lot of people thought I should ‘just get over it’ and because it was early it didn’t matter as much. 

After weeks of complete heartbreak we started trying again but sadly experienced another miscarriage, very similar to the first, but honestly still just as heartbreaking. Everyone kept telling me how it can be normal to have two miscarriages and that I shouldn't get worried till after three, and as much as I understand people were only trying to help, it didn’t make it hurt any less. 

I somehow managed to pick up and try again which sadly only lead me to my third miscarriage and by this point, I learnt I just couldn’t mourn anymore and managed to cope better third time around. I realised that all I was doing was hurting myself and this time I was going to try and put it out of my mind and not grieve in the same way. By this point though, I just knew in my heart that there was something wrong. So far I had put each miscarriage down to circumstance and thought I will definitely be third time lucky and when that didn’t happen I decided I had to seek help. 

We decided to pay privately to see a specialist because we couldn’t go through the heart ache anymore and I didn’t have the patience to wait for the NHS. At first, this specialist was great and really put my mind at ease that it would happen but it was just a matter of time. Due to a hereditary blood condition, we came up with the plan to supplement double the folic acid, take aspirin daily and to use hormone-based pessaries. I went into the next month feeling so hopeful and I was sure it was going to work, now I’d had the correct help. It didn’t and we experienced our fourth miscarriage in just a few short months. At this stage, I didn’t even know it was possible to feel as broken as I did and every day was a struggle. Everywhere I would look I would see pregnant people, every announcement I’d hear was pregnancy and it just felt like everyone around me either had children or was getting pregnant. That’s probably one of the most difficult things about this journey, is seeing others around you go through the exact thing you so desperately want and the more you hear of people getting pregnant or giving birth, the further away it makes you feel from ever reaching that.

By this point, I decided to see a new specialist, someone who has done specific research into recurrent miscarriages and he sent me to be tested for a thrombophilia screening. My results came back with three conditions, factor 5 Leiden, MTHFR and protein C resistance, all of which were things I had no idea I carried. I was prescribed a blood thinning medication and again very naively thought this was going to be the end of all our struggles and this was our answer but was sadly wrong and even with the medication we suffered a fifth miscarriage. Something which actually hurts for me to say because, never in a million years did I think I would have 5 miscarriages in my life.

At this point, the fifth miscarriage was the final straw and after being admitted to hospital I knew it was time to take a break. So this is where we are right now, trying to ‘not try’ whilst still kind of trying.

When you struggle to conceive all anyone will say to you is ‘you just need to relax and if you relax it will happen’ or ‘you will get pregnant’. Another thing which you know people are trying to be kind but it’s the last thing when you're struggling to conceive you want to hear. Something even more frustrating is having people say that it’s all in your head and all you need to do to get pregnant it just relax and not think about getting pregnant. When all you deeply desire is having a baby, how are you supposed to relax and not think about it?! I have learned, going through what I have I’ve learned that a lot of people really don’t know how to deal or how to help someone struggling to conceive, which inevitably makes the process 10x harder for that individual.

So where are we at now? Well after a couple of months of being very unwell mentally and physically, I finally feel that I’m coming out the other side, I still have days which I find difficult but as a whole things are a lot better. I’m trying to look forward to summer and even though it’s one of the most challenging things to do, stop actively trying. Something which I hate, but know in my heart I know it’s the right thing. The stress of all the miscarriages really affected my bipolar and I just know my body and mind need to rest. Even though every fibre in my body wants to check ovulation dates and monitor symptoms, I know to get what I want; I have to take a break. Over the last 6 or so months my body has been to hell and back, I have experienced pain like never before and exhaustion like never before and it’s been near enough impossible to carry on with my daily life and I just couldn’t carry on that way.

I always had in my mind that I would write this post to share my story and help others once I had fallen pregnant and found out everything was okay, but I am now realising that I can’t only post about my struggles once I am through them. Life isn’t perfect and the plan I have in my head for things will never end up being the way it actually works out, so I need to be okay with that. I want to share my story and my current situation to help anyone who may be going through a similar thing, who is also suffering in silence but to also help myself heal. As much as no one wants to scream and shout about the fact they’re having fertility problems, living with these problems in silence are only ever making them harder to deal with. So I’m sharing my story for all those other people who don’t feel like they can, in the hope that they know that it’s nothing to be embarrassed about and you’re not on your own.

My miscarriages and my fertility struggles definitely nearly broke me, but I am still here, I’m still standing and just muddling my way through life. I honestly wouldn’t wish the journey I have had on my worst enemy, it’s a pain like I’ve never felt before, and an ache in my heart that never goes away. I really don't know what the future will bring which is scary, but going forward I'm trying to stop overthinking and just let fate take its course. What I do I know is that I have to find that last little bit of strength I have within me to keep on fighting.

Mental health awareness week

The 14th - 20th of May marks 'mental health awareness week'. A week where people share their own struggles with mental health and bring awareness which is exactly what our society needs, however the only problem is that these conditions affect people all year round and not for just one week. So my worry regarding this, is that its great we're all talking but once it's over, the talk stops and those suffering go back to feeling alone again. So we have to remember to think about and talk to the people who suffer with their mental health every day of the year.

In my opinion the most important message to get across for this week is that, everyone we meet may be fighting a battle we know nothing about, so it's incredibly important to always be kind. Mental health illnesses are invisible which means they're very easy to disguise and even though a certain person may always be smiling it doesn't mean there can't be something deeper within. We should always keep in the back of our minds that someone could have more going on than what meets the eye and not to just assume that because they look like their happy that they actually are. 

Stop just assuming loved ones are always okay and check up on them every now & again. There might be something they're holding in and waiting for the right person to talk to about and by you simply saying 'are you okay' or 'how are things with you' might help them to have the courage to share something they're going through.

The fact that mental illnesses cannot be seen makes it very difficult for people to understand. I believe that as a society, if we can have a greater understanding of mental health it will help to remove the stigma it carries, and a lot of the reason it carries a stigma is due to the fact people cannot see it. We have no problem with physical conditions because we're able to see a person in pain or see their injury, so I believe if there's a better understanding of the invisible conditions, there will be the same level of respect.

For me I think mental health awareness week should be the start of a year long conversation, where we discuss these conditions all year round and not just for one week. To talk about your struggles with mental health always and share how you got through them. Be kinder to one another because you never know the battle people are facing on a daily basis, and to remember to call or text your friends and family to just check their okay, because for someone who is having a hard time, it can mean everything.

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