Getting out of the comfort zone

Getting out of the comfort zone

It’s so easy in life to stay in your own comfort zone and not rock the boat too much. I did it for years and stayed in my bubble and let my anxiety fester into every aspect of my life, until I became so limited on what I could actually do. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) has been a huge help to me and I am finally getting out, enjoying life again and having plenty of new experiences.

This time last year I was just going back to work from maternity leave and I was feeling especially vulnerable and overwhelmed at the prospect. I was still in the middle of a battle with postnatal depression and anxiety had creeped into every aspect of my life. It was exhausting to constantly being in a state of fight or flight (usually always the latter) and I was becoming increasingly limited on what I could do in my day to day life. I was becoming a recluse and my enjoyment in life was dwindling away and it was feeding my depression. It was vicious cycle and I felt like I was fighting a losing battle.

Something had to change and that change would only come about if I changed. I needed to change my though processes first and CBT was a great stepping stone. CBT taught me so much and helped me question my thought process. I started off small just at first doing the food shop and then gradually built up. I faced my fears, proved my thoughts wrong and exposed myself to a new way to see things. I made sure once my CBT sessions stopped that I continued to read my book and put what I was taught into action when I felt anxiety creeping back in. It’s not always easy, but I have now been able to witness the benefits and I now have proof in my own mind that it works.

CBT has taught me how important it is to get out my comfort zone, not just to do the normal everyday things in life, but also giving me the courage to then try new and often scary things. The scariest thing I’ve done has been blogging as I’ve always been very self-conscious and aware of other people’s opinions of me. Blogging has left me exposed and it has really put myself out there. I’m not the best at spelling, grammar and am forever worrying that what I am writing is rubbish, but with support I feel I’ve found something I love, it gives back to me, helps me grow and it also gets me to try new things. I have found a passion, something that gives me so much and I also feel I am able to give back and hopefully help others.

The last 3 months I have really built myself up and got out my comfort zone on many occasions. Once you start the feeling can become quite addictive and I am forever accepting invitations to new and scary things I couldn’t imagine myself doing a few months ago. I am no longer scared and constricted by what I can and can’t do and it’s opened up a new world for me. Since I have started getting myself out my comfort zone everything else in my life has improved, my confidence, my depression, my anxiety and my overall wellbeing. I am getting new opportunities everyday and I love the feeling of excitement my life now brings.

Except new challenges and remember that you are the only person coming between making them a reality.

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my 11 top tips for getting happy

My 11 top tips for getting happy

I am not a therapist and definitely not a doctor, but I have found ways of getting happy again. I’ve been in a rotten place and I’ve been diagnosed with postnatal depression, anxiety and borderline personality disorder. I’ve had experience on how to change my life for the positive and I’ve worked extremely hard the last six months to dig myself out of a dark place. I’ve put together some of my tips which have worked for me.

  1. Have a therapy – Therapy for people can mean different things, I recommend having a councillor to talk over your worries before they become problems so you can make sense of them. If you think a more direct therapy may help then look into Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. For me CBT has really changed my behaviour and made anxiety easier. Read my blog post here.
  2. Have a creative outlet – For many years I neglected giving myself the time and space to have a creative outlet. Painting, drawing, colouring in can all be amazing to take your brain away from thinking to just letting it be. For me now my creative outlet is writing and it also doubles up as a great therapy. If you aren’t artistic then try gardening, baking, cooking, dancing and I’m sure you’ll find something you love. If in doubt think back to when you were a child and what you enjoyed doing.
  3. Practice mindfulness – Mindfulness without a doubt works in my mind. It has helped me to switch off, relax and take notice of my own body. It’s great for anxiety and lovely way to unwind before going to sleep.
  4. Get good sleep habits – I try (and sometimes fail) to stay off my phone an hour before bed every night and either practice mindfulness (breathing) or read a simple book (nothing that requires too much thinking).
  5. Make a weekly happiness list – When I was going through a really tough time I found this really helped me to see even on the worse weeks I still had moments of happiness.
  6. Do something you love and be selfish – Once a week if you can, do something just for you. Have your favourite dessert and watch a good film, a bath with you favourite bathbomb or a coffee with a friend. Make sure it happens and make the time for yourself.
  7. Walk – Get outside the house and walk, it’s good for you. If you need to layer up with lots of layers or wear a rain coat it doesn’t matter just get out. You’ll always feel happier  and see things from a different perspective outside your four walls and the exercise is good for you.
  8. Right off a bad day – Some days nothing will go right, right it off and start a fresh the next day. Every bad day we learn something new to move forward with and put it in the past. Being happy isn’t possible 100% of the time, we just need to learn to deal with the negative in a positive way.
  9. Read – I love reading, but again neglected it for a years. I now always have a few books on the go. Like TV shows I read what I’m in the mood for at the time, so sometimes it’s self-help/motivation and others its romantic book. I love nothing more than getting lost in a book I love.
  10. Positive Affirmations – I love a good affirmation and have a few written around the house that I read and repeat. It’s amazing how just saying something out loud can have such a positive effect on your mind.
  11. Get the family involved – Recently I have been trying to get my daughter involved, we’ve been practising different yoga moves, breathing and affirmations. It makes my daughter happy, I enjoy the company and I know how much good it is doing her.

In my experience the more you do something the easier it gets to make it part of your routine. I hope these tips to getting happy help and I would love to hear some tips from yourself.

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I think I just beat depression

Every day I have woken up, depression has been there, hiding in the background, like a dementor draining all happy thoughts away. The other day I woke up, just like any other and got out the bed, had a shower, which was interrupted by a half asleep Miss J needing a wee. I dried off and settled down to do my make up with my children sat in my bed, cuddling and the TV on with cartoons. I stared at myself in the mirror and something had changed, had shifted and I didn’t recognise my own reflection. We pass through life often not noticing the small changes until it adds up and becomes a big change. As I stared at my reflection I realised the woman staring back at me was happy, I was happy, I had changed and depression had left me.

I had been so busy with life and our routines that I hadn’t even noticed that my depression had finally gone. I wasn’t just having the few odd good days anymore I was having most days which were good. I was able to wake up in the morning, deal with everyday stresses without crumbling under pressure. I am taking care of my children, going out with them, enjoying them and enjoying life. Life is no longer this foggy, dark, monotonous and painful existence, but actually a fun, happy and worthwhile existence.

My hard work had finally paid off and I had ridden the storm out. The positive thinking, mindfulness, reading and therapy had finally given me that light bulb moment. I was in charge of my own life and own happiness and I needed to make the changes to let happiness in. I had accepted myself and my flaws, let go of guilt and finally got my life back and it feels amazing.

I know that I will still have challenging days and that my depression could even come back, but I now have proof in my own life that things can change and turn around. You can reach rock bottom and climb back up to the top. You can make plans again, you can smile, you can still be you again. I had become me again, but better, I was more aware, kind, understanding and appreciative. I can see things from both sides and have great empathy for everyone going through their own personal battles.

What has depression taught me in these last two years? It has shown me that I am far stronger than I ever realised and deep down I am a kind person with a big heart. It has shown me that I am a fantastic mother, because even when I was at my worse I felt immense guilt about my children. Even in midst of it all I still fed, washed and cuddled my children even when I couldn’t take care of myself. I still protected them and shielded them the best I could. When I was struggling most I was still trying to be selfless to protect them.

This is just my battle and you shouldn’t draw comparisons if you are going through something similar. Everyone’s battle with mental illness is unique and has many variables. I was lucky as I always had a supportive husband next to me, I was able to pay to go privately to get the therapy I needed and I finally found an antidepressant that works for me. I am forever grateful to my husband who has stood by me, supported and loved me when I couldn’t love myself. His patience is admirable and his heart is pure and without him I couldn’t be the woman and mother I am today. I still have problems just like anyone else but I am in a place where I can work on them and become better, but for now depression can fuck right off.

 

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Accepting the past and moving forward

Like many people do I do struggle with accepting the past, my mistakes and the whole what I could have done differently struggle in my head. It’s human nature for us to over analyse and wish that we could change things. I for one have a few things from my past I wish I could change, mistakes I wish I hadn’t made and people I wish I hadn’t hurt through my actions. I am very aware that I am not perfect, will never be perfect and will probably still make mistakes in my future. I am trying to learn to let go of anger and sadness that my past has caused me and move on with my life in a positive and happier way. I have a tendency to beat myself up and be very hard on myself, especially when it comes down to my parenting, but for me to be a better parent I need to learn to let go of these feelings.

Postnatal depression was a real kick in the teeth for me after years of working to be the best parent I could possibly be to my first born. I took the diagnoses as a criticism of my parenting and was incredibly hard on myself. The guilt manifested and made the problem much worse, but at the time I couldn’t see that. I know I haven’t been the best parent at times, but then I also know that I loved them dearly and did the best I could in the situation I was in at the time. We are our own worst enemies at times and often our worst critics. Anyone looking through my Facebook or Instagram at the time of my diagnosis would never have guessed anything was wrong and would have been led to believe I had a happy, perfect little family. Social media and our outside face is not a true depiction of reality and we need to remember that we are not alone in our struggles. Everyone I know closely in life has their own struggles, battles and issues daily, as does everyone in the world. We need to be more conscious and forgiving of this. Someone’s actions one day don’t always depict a true reflection on an individual. Usually when we feel attacked in any way we become defensive and push that onto someone else, we criticise others, compare ourselves to others and even try to out do each other.

I am gradually learning to let go of my past. I am no longer blaming myself for things I can no longer change. I am giving myself a blank slate and starting fresh in a happier, more stable and positive mind-set.  I am a great parent, a loving wife, a loyal sister and a wonderful friend. The people I surround myself with are people I love, they understand me and they do not judge me. I have learnt to let go of friendships that are one-sided and others that are toxic. I accept others for their flaws and work my best at understanding their flaws as I hope they do with me.

Accepting the past and moving forward

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How i'm learning to accept my personality disorder

How i’m learning to accept my personality disorder

Recently I’ve been asked how I’ve been able to be so accepting of my borderline personality disorder diagnosis. I’ve sat back and thought openly on why I have accepted it and why I haven’t let it destroy anymore of my life. The answer is I have accepted it as for me a diagnosis was almost a relief to know why I acted this way, why I was so emotional unstable and why I was so impulsive. I’m not saying I love this diagnosis or I am happy to be like this, but finally in my life I feel I’ve learnt to understand a big part of my personality.

Borderline personality disorder has ruled my life since I was a teenager, but like many people I was unaware, I just assumed I was just a really emotional person and even at times I was a bad person. The thing with borderline personality disorder it’s not always bad, I feel emotions really intensely the good and the bad. At times in my life I have felt such overpowering, wonderful emotions of happiness and love. I have at times cried happy tears and have felt so happy, I feel euphoric and like I can do anything I put my mind too. The other side is that at times I feel the lowest of the low and have intrusive and suicidal thoughts, but now I know that I have borderline personality disorder I do know that these mood instabilities are only temporary and they will even back out again.

Like most people with BPD I also deal with depression and anxiety. These disorders are all separate, but are strongly linked together and play a big part. Before I was diagnosed with postnatal depression after the birth of my second child my anxiety had already been causing massive issues for me throughout my pregnancy. Once my son was born it was quite apparent that the PND was making my borderline personality disorder worse. At the time I had no idea that I had borderline personality disorder, but looking back I was emotionally very unstable and would sit holding my son feeling a rush of love and crying with happiness to then feeling resentment towards him and complete detachment. It was an emotional rollercoaster and it all came to head this January when I tried to end my life. I have now started to recognise my triggers, which unfortunately I cannot avoid, but I  can understand a little better why my symptoms of BPD are getting worse at times.

Most people also assume like I once did that BPD was for life and that you could never be treated for it. Only twenty odd years ago BPD was thought to be a lifelong condition with no treatment. BPD sufferers have a high suicide rate, around 1 in 10 people and for someone who suffers with it I can see why that number is so high. The most effective treatment for BPD is dialectic behavioural therapy (DBT) which was created in the late 1980’s. DBT works in a similar way to cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) which works well for anxiety and depression. DBT in a nutshell is about accepting yourself as you are and making positive changes in your life. I won’t go into much more detail because if I am honest I really don’t know enough about it yet, as I am yet to start sessions. Knowing that there is a form of treatment does give me hope.

BPD has been a large contributing factor in me sabotaging goals in my life and that is why I have to write about it, as it is such an important therapy for me. Not only does it help me deal with my feelings, it potentially helps someone else, raises awareness and also keeps me focussed on a goal. So yes, I am accepting BPD as I have hope that one day I can say that I no longer have it and that I have overcome it.

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The little lost girl and finding herself through postnatal depression

The little lost girl and finding herself through postnatal depression

I have grown up always feeling like the little girl lost. I sometimes wonder if it’s through the way I’ve grown up, my personality or is it because of my borderline personality disorder. I spent my teenage years constantly trying to fit in and be some body I wasn’t, which I think is normal, even if it doesn’t feel it at the time, but as an adult I thought one day I would wake up and know what I was supposed to do. All minds are complex as our emotions, but my own mind I have struggled to understand and my emotions have always be chaotic and sometimes just unpredictable. Some days I have woken up not knowing what personality I will be that day.

I have bobed along for so long and done what I thought was expected of me. I have been happy, sad, excited and suicidal. I have loved life and hated life. I have had my heart-broken and I have loved with all my soul. I have understood the meaning of unconditional love and felt the pain of losing someone too young. I have lived, sometimes just surviving and I have been so lost of who I really am. Any dream I had ever imagined had always been crushed and I eventually learnt it was best not to dream.

I have always been good at seeing both sides of the story and can empathise with people whole heartedly. But at times I still feel like I should just follow the path that’s expected of me and not push past into the unknown. Since Mr T was born and having postnatal depression it has made me see my life in a new light. Going through hell and back I have questioned many things about life, my beliefs, my values and have worked hard at self-improvement. I don’t want to be the person I was programmed to me and want to be able to give more and get more out of life.

I am blessed to have met a husband who understands me and accepts me for all my flaws. He makes me stronger as I make him stronger, we are so different, but have the same ideas about life. He has opened my eyes and made me see things through a different perspective. He is the only man in my life who I have complete respect for as I know he has always had my best interests at heart.

Growing up I feel I haven’t been able to channel my energy well which left me as a teenager rebelling badly. I wasn’t just a naughty teenager I was off the rails for a few years. Into my adult life I continued to be reckless and often put myself in dangerous situations. I was just lost in life and didn’t know what to do with myself or what I wanted out of it. I was always desperate for a family, but besides that I had never looked at what would happen after that.

Getting pregnant with Miss J was the moment it all changed for me. I had always wanted the family life, the husband, the house, the children and the cat. I got it, I had what I had always wanted, but with the birth of my second and my tendency to self-sabotage anything that goes well, things started to become testing and I lost myself for a while. Postnatal-depression made me reevaluate my life and eventually figure out who I needed to become.

Mr T is almost 2 years old and I have now learnt how to be the mother of two children, have a work/life balance and let go of the expectations of me. I have learned to appreciate my children, not stress about the small stuff and to always have a dream. My dreams and goals may have changed a little over the years, but they still involve the same people and I am now certain that I can make these dreams come true.

I was lost for so long and now I am found. My story has many chapters left and I dream endlessly about the outcome. Postnatal depression sent me to hell and back, almost killed me, but it also woke me up to life, taught me to appreciate how precious every moment is and how we should not just exist and waste time. Everyday is a new day to grow and learn and I am thankful for that, I am thankful for life.

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borderline personality disorder

Is my personality broken?

I am even more muddled than I had previously thought and after being under the care of the crisis team AGAIN I got to see a psychiatric doctor for the first time. After pouring all my problems out and leaving myself feeling pretty vulnerable and bare I was asked what seemed like a million questions, I could tell she was getting at something when each thing she asked got me to open up more and I could see she had figured me out, which is a first for anyone. Last week I was diagnosed with something new, not only have I got postnatal depression and anxiety I know have a new diagnosis of borderline personality disorder.

The words echoed around the room and I wasn’t sure what they even meant. Was my personality broken? Was I neurotic? Was I an attention seeker? My only ever experience of knowing anything about this disorder was from watching girl interrupted as a teenager, which I don’t believe was a particularly accurate depiction of the disorder.

It’s taken a few days to settle in and a fair bit of googling to understand what it really means. As always I have ordered way too many books on my kindle and spent every evening devouring the information so I can understand this disorder as best as possible. The more I have learnt the more I have been able to see that this diagnosis fits me well and is something I have struggled with for a number of years. In a way it’s been a huge relief that I finally know what is actually wrong with me and why I am so impulsive, why I throw things in without much thought or consideration, why I am so self-critical and why I feel my emotions so intensely.

With the diagnoses of borderline personality disorder I’ve had the worry of if I should tell anyone, would I be cast out and judged or could I do what my personality does so well and be impulsive with it and just say fuck it. So here I am borderline personality disorder and all. I plan to get to know and understand this new part of me and break the stigma as well as I can. Now mental illness is such a big part of my life I feel helpless to really blog about much else, seeming as it impacts every aspect of my life.

My personality is not broken, it loves so deeply, feels pain so ferociously, acts impulsively and punishes itself so vengefully. Just like anything else in this world it will make me stronger and I will do it justice in being honest with how it really is.

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Making Christmas special through postnatal depression

Something I can now find overwhelming, is when there is some big event coming up that I should be enjoying. I find there is so much pressure to enjoy Christmas day and after lasts year when I was deep in my postnatal depression I was a little worried how it would be. Last year Mr T was 7 months old and I had started antidepressants a couple of months earlier, I was extremely anxious and feeling pretty disconnected from the whole thing. I painted a smile on my face, some make-up and drank a fair amount of baileys in the hope it would improve my spirit. Looking back through pictures I just feel sadness that I wasn’t able to enjoy my baby sons first Christmas, so this year I felt I wanted to make up for it.

This year, even  though I was determined to make it a great Christmas, I wasn’t very organised and brought my last present on Christmas Eve. I would usually be frantically shopping around for Black Friday deals, but instead I was relaxing in the sun in Fuerteventura. I was kind to myself this Christmas, I wrapped a few presents each night, whilst watching Christmas films, didn’t spend a fortune on my children as I knew they would be spoilt by family, I made sure that I got a present I really wanted (Canon 1300D DSLR camera) and I made sure I took the time running up to Christmas enjoying my family and embrace Christmas. I even managed to get a night out with my girlfriends and have a great night in a new local prosecco bar. I think being back at work this year helped me get in the mood, as not only was it Christmas it was also a break away from work for just over a week. If I can I always try to be thoughtful of other, but after this last year I felt I had taken more from the world than given back so I decided to set myself a task of doing something thoughtful every for 11 days before Christmas, I am happy to say that I completed all these little tasks, which made me feel fulfilled before Christmas.

Christmas day this year really was lovely besides waking up to Mr T, covered in poo, half way up his back. The children woke at respectable 8am and Miss J patiently waited upstairs, whilst her brother was bathed. It really was magical watching the children open their presents and watch the excitement in their faces. After presents we went around to my parents house for the second round of presents with my sister and her husband. We had a lazy morning, opening and putting together multiple children’s toys and I even managed to have a play with my camera. My mum put on the most fantastic Christmas lunch and after collapsing into a meat coma for a couple of hours we headed to my mother in laws house for round three of presents.

My mother in law loves nothing more than Christmas and never fails to disappointment in making it a lovely day for the children. My two children got to spend the afternoon playing with their four other cousins, running around and playing games. My mother in law does a separate Christmas tree covered in prizes for the children, they pick a raffle ticket and get to find there present on the tree, which the children love.

All six cousins together

The whole day was beautiful, filled with laughter, love and far too much food. I’m so glad I was able to fully embrace Christmas day and appreciate the time spent with our family.

My parents cat really got into the Christmas spirit

 

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Hiding behind the smiles and postnatal depression

The day is warm and the sun is shining bright, whilst a mother and her children walk along a country path. She smiles away, pushing her baby in his pram whilst her angelic three year old skips along side her. She has her make up on and a pretty summer dress and to the outside world she looks happy and content. She smiles when she walks past people and lovingly strokes her baby’s cheek as yet another old lady stops her to coo over this beautiful baby. Her life is complete as she has one of each and they are the most beautiful children she could have ever imagined, but why does she feel like this.

Behind the smile she is dying inside with pain. She wants to scream and shout, but she doesn’t think anyone can hear her. Maybe she could run away, but would the pain still follow her or maybe it’s best to end it now, so she doesn’t have to feel this pain anymore. She is consumed with guilt, anger and pain and she knows she is failing, but that make-up is hiding the bags under her eyes and is her mask to the outside world that she is doing ok. When people ask how she is, she always smiles and replies that she is fine, as she is too scared to tell them the truth. No one wants to know that she can’t cope and that everyday is a battle. Why would anyone feel the way she does with two beautiful children.

Her pain is invisible to the naked eye and she blends in like any other mum taking their little family out. She is isolated and alone and feels like she is battling this pain all on her own. No one knows that this is the first time she has left her home for a week or that she feels like a prisoner trapped in her own mind. She’s afraid and anxious that she will never feel happiness again. The anxiety has been building up inside her to force herself out and to not spend another day in that prison that used to be her home.

She finally gets to the shop and buys what she needs and heads back to her home. She made it out today, she kept the children alive, she survived and she continued to fight. Today she made progress and tomorrow she will be strong enough to ask for help.

 

 

 

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Mental illness

Breaking the stigma around mental illness

Yesterday I did something completely liberating and I feel like a huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders. I took a massive step and admitted on my Facebook that I am recovering from a mental breakdown. Some people may see that writing a status admitting this as attention seeking or even over sharing, but for me I think it’s so important to lift the stigma around mental illness. Anyone who reads my blog knows what I have been dealing with, but putting a status on Facebook is as subtle as standing in a crowded room and shouting it for everyone to hear.

The reasons why I have taken this bold move was because I can’t stand uncomfortable silences, they make me anxious and make me talk crap to fill them. I’m going to have to face going back to work on Friday after nearly a month off and would prefer knowing that everyone knows what has happened and they can either say nothing or if they want they can talk to me. By being honest and open I am telling people I am not scared of this and also this illness has not defined me. I am still Michelle, wife, mother of two sprogs, Technical Assistant and part-time blogger. Nothing has changed besides me going mental, recognising it and seeking help. Why should I hide that? Why should I be ashamed?

By being honest I have had so much from support and love from people who I really think has been key to my recovery. The more we talk about mental illness, the more people become comfortable and the more normalised it becomes. The more I’ve read into mental illnesses the more I’ve come to understand and appreciate it. The human mind is so much more complex than we know and they still don’t understand it completely.

1 in 4 people experience a mental health problem each year in the UK so for anyone to think now with the knowledge we have on this subject that it doesn’t exist or you can just get over it is just ignorant. I can’t just brush it under the carpet and pretend it is not there. It is part of my life and I am trying my best to overcome it and if I can help some people along the way, then that is even better.

Today I have been discharged from the CRISIS team at hospital and will be now having support through the community mental health team. I take medication every day and cannot see myself coming off these anytime soon and will be starting counselling in December. I have things in place to get better and I have support. I am confident that I can and will get better. Read steps to get help with postnatal depression

Finding happiness again

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