Reaching A Mental Health Milestone

beating butterflies

During the past few years, I have struggled with my mental health. I have General Anxiety Disorder (GAD), which means I constantly worry about everything and experience high amounts of anxiety for no reason at all. It took me a long time to accept that my anxiety was part of me, something that I couldn’t erase, something that couldn’t be ‘cured’ with a prescription of pills from the doctor.

A few months ago, when I reached a dark place with my anxiety and depression, I finally admitted to myself that I needed help. I would go days without leaving the house, I would sometimes sit and stare into space, pondering on the bad things that have happened in my life or bad things that ‘could’ happen in the future. I felt like I was trapped by my own mind, it’s a horrible feeling and I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone.

Having an anxiety disorder is unpredictable. You may go through periods of time without any anxiety at all and then all of a sudden, it’s back and suffocating your thoughts like a dark cloud. I thought I was strong enough to battle my mental health issue on my own and convinced myself that I was ‘in control’ and my anxiety would get better over time, but it didn’t.

I had tried all of the ‘self-help’ options and nothing worked. I was crippled by anxiety, always worrying about the future or feeling sad about the past. I reached a dark place, where I thought medication was the only option for me to proceed. Then, a shining light appeared and everything changed for me. I found the strength to ask for professional help. It was a waiting game but I finally got on the list for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).

I have to be honest, I was sceptical at first. I had convinced myself that my natural way of thinking, the negative way I approach life and every situation couldn’t be reversed. After a few weeks of therapy sessions, I started to notice a change. I had unconsciously started to think more about my ‘unhelpful thinking style’ and started to rationalise with the voice in my head when negativity surfaced. The great thing about CBT is that it strips back to the bare bones of how you think, how this effects your behaviour and how you can change this in the future.

David, my therapist was amazing. He was honest, critical and helpful in our sessions. Always sending me home with ‘homework’ to do, such as thought diaries and weekly schedules, he discovered what my triggers were and how to remove them from my life. For me it was during my alone time that I experienced more anxiety and more depressive thoughts. The answer for me was to always keep myself busy and distract myself by colouring, reading, doing yoga or simply doing some meditation.

Ever since I started CBT, I managed to pull myself out of the depressive state that I found myself in for months, started to fight against my negative thoughts and made small changes in my life that were going to improve my overall wellbeing. I am going to do yoga as often as I can, learn how to meditate, practice mindfulness and make sure I find time to relax each day. I’m going to still have bad days and now I realise that it’s okay to feel sad sometimes and it’s normal to worry, as long as it doesn’t take over your life.

I feel like I am reaching a mental health milestone. I have learnt in the past few months that anxiety cannot be ‘cured’ it can only be ‘managed.’ I have discovered that if I give attention to my anxiety and say to myself that I am mentally ill or there is something wrong with me, it only fuels my negativity and it will probably erase any progress that I have made.

I feel like I have reached a pinnacle of understanding. I accepted my anxiety was a problem, I asked for help and now I no longer feel alone on this journey to achieve a positive mindset. I have a long way to go but I finally feel like I can see the light at the end of a dark tunnel of worry, insecurity, anxiety and doubt. Like a butterfly, I feel free to go anywhere I want to go and do anything I want to do. I want to believe in hope instead of fear. I want to see the glass as half full instead of half empty. My anxiety will never ‘go away’ but I’m confident that I’m now in control of how I think, how I feel and how I behave.

 

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Lost At Sea

I feel like I’m lost at sea and I am barely keeping my head above the water. I kick my legs to stay alive and I can see the sun on the horizon but no matter how hard I try to swim towards it, the waves take me in a different direction. Some days, I feel the warm sun on my face and I believe that I will make it, to where I want to be and other days I feel like I can no longer stay afloat.

Clear blue water, I can see everything around me, the past, the present and the future and the images blur in my mind. I try to look forward, to stay in the moment and forget the past. Why does it feel so difficult to think of it all? My legs are tired and my heart is beating quickly in my chest. What’s the point of all of this? I try and nothing happens. I want to swim straight. I know where I am going but I don’t know how to get there. The waves are taking me away from the control I thought I had. The sun is disappearing and soon it will be just me and the night sky.

When the sky is dark, my feelings are too. Everywhere I turn I see nothing but black water, it swallows me up and I feel so small and insignificant. The moon is high in the sky, it seems so far away. I know that there are people in the world struggling to survive and I should feel happy that there is breath in my body and life in my eyes but sometimes I lose that spark, I lose my light and I give into the temptation of negativity. Wouldn’t it just be easier to not care? To bob along in the waves of life and see where the wind takes me? Why can’t I be free from restrictions? Why can’t I close my eyes, picture a place and be there? The answer is simple. Life is unpredictable like the sea, the waves can pull me in various directions but as long as I keep looking at the horizon, I will be okay.

The waves carry me into morning and the light from the sun gives me hope again, I smile, all I can do is hope that the day will bring me some happiness.

Walking Stardust

dreamcatcher1


Walking Stardust

Breathing in the warmth of your skin,
your eyelashes flutter like petals, sleeping.

I stare into the dusty black room.
Light creeps through the blinds.
Hitting the wall with its luminous glow.

A romantic feeling pulses through the layers of my skin.

I am optimistic that no other being will
make me feel the way you do.

We are walking stardust,
bound together by emotion.

A dream catcher hangs at the end of our bed.
An origin that negativity can be captured
and rays of light can be bestowed upon
a sleeping mind.

It watches, protects, believes
in us.

The infinity of our love,
our connection.
our worth.
our dreams.

This is one of the poems from my final poetry portfolio at university. The poem is in its early stages, we are learning about innovative forms and how poetry can be presented in a different way this year and my idea with this poem, is to write the different stanzas on small pieces of paper, hole punch them and attach them to a dream catcher with string. I will post a photograph in a few months of the final piece but for now… this is the first draft of my poem Walking Stardust.

Treacherous

treacherous

A beacon of light saved me.  July 15th was the day that everything changed. It was an ordinary morning, the sun was shining but sadness clouded my mind, I was on the edge of destruction, praying for salvation. Darkness had snatched away the hope that I would one day be completely happy. I had no positive thoughts left to keep me going, I was living a pitiless life on the streets and I didn’t want to carry on. It never crossed my mind that a single moment could change the direction of your life. I thought that my miserable life was all that the fates would allow for me. But now I realise that life is a treacherous journey, you never know what will happen day by day. Life is a stream of  moments. A collection of photographs. Before I met James, my photographs were black and white. My life had no purpose. But now my life is colourful. I have to keep the shadows of my past locked away to enjoy the lease of life I have been gifted. If James ever discovered the ghosts of my childhood or the insidious struggles of my young adult life, he would leave me. Just like everybody else does.

   ———————

  One night I slept in the ginnels behind The Slug & The Toad pub on Western Avenue. I was lucky to find somewhere cosy for the night but I knew I couldn’t stay there for too long, I needed to keep moving. It was roughly day seven on the streets. I was past the point of desperation now, I managed to get by like most homeless people do but I was hoping that luck would reach me soon. I was twenty two years old and I had never had a place that I could call home. The second the hand on the clock reached twelve on my eighteenth birthday I left the children’s home. They wouldn’t come after me; I was able to do what I wanted to do. I stayed in a few hostels but I never spent long in each one. I was at my fifth hostel when things spiralled out of control. I had been in the hostel for a week or two and one night there was a new girl who was about the same age as me, or she may have been a tiny bit older. She sat in the corner, withdrawn and lifeless. She had extremely shallow cheekbones and her ratty blonde hair was tied in a messy ponytail, I noticed that the skin around her right eye was bruising silver. Her eyes were pale green, she hardly blinked in the few moments that I watched her. I never usually introduced myself to the other girls in the hostel but pity took over my natural instinct that night, I walked over to introduce myself.

I tapped her on the shoulder.

‘Hi, I’m Erin. What’s your name?’ I waited for a response.

‘I know it seems scary in this place but it isn’t that bad once you get used to it, are you okay?’

Her eyes darted in my direction. She stepped towards me and before I had time to even process her actions, she had punched me in the face. Sharp blows continuously imprinted my cheek and she didn’t stop until someone had to pull her off me. Stunned, I walked away in silence and all of the other people in the room quickly ignored the existence of the fight. I assumed that it was something that happened  frequently in hostels , but I wasn’t prepared to stick around and find out. The next morning I left. I decided that I had to go it alone, no more hostels. Ever since I have been living on the streets. I still don’t understand why that girl lashed out at me, something terrible must have happened to her before entering the hostel, not that it gives her any dignified excuse to attack me. I tried to forget about her but her troubled eyes have been carved into my memory ever since.

To be continued.

Delicate Flower

delicateflower
Delicate, white flower.
Untouched by fear.

Lost in paradise.
The sky is clear.

Floating on the
surface of blue.

Delicate flower
absorbs the view.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Rain is declining
from misty grey.

Darkness steals
the light of day.

Delicate flower
trapped in storm.

The tide is turning
changing form.

White fades,
no longer pure.

Delicate flower
has to endure.

Fear, loss
tears and pain.

Delicate flower
soaked by rain.

————————

Limp, lifeless
almost dead.

Delicate flower
lifts its head.

Peeping through
the clouded grey.

Is a small beam
of light to guide the way.

Atoms Of Light

eiffeltower

Alive with existence.
I can feel the wind on my face.
The atmosphere carries love – like a bird in flight.
Monumental buildings scattered,
tourists alert. Camera’s ready.

The sky, welcoming the darkness.

The tower packed.
Excitement builds up in my stomach – pit.
Eyes absorb the beauty.
Atoms of light emerge.

Like a giant, I peer over the cast of lights.

Sickly taste on my tongue,
heights never usually faze me.

High. Look. Down. Below.
Long way down…

Time in heaven, comes to an end.

Return to, ground.
Feet, safe and happy.

Enough excitement for one day.

The City That Never Sleeps

Overcast sky,
luminous lights.

Kinetic energy,
Silhouette heights.

Livestock rushing,
around in the heat.

Camera’s clicking,
rushing to Wall street.

Broadway symphony,
TV colours explode.

A Yellow blur of taxis,
fight for the road.

Skyscrapers standing,
proud, side by side.

No sense of direction,
only intuition as my guide.

(Part of my poetry portfolio – first draft)

Change

Everyone in life is a victim of change. Some changes are good and some are bad but we all face them one way or another. I was once afraid of change, I have to admit. I liked the way my life was and I didn’t want change in my life, I was worried that it might jeopardise my happiness. I’m the typical negative thinker when it comes to any drastic changes and I know that there is other people out there that do the same. Whenever we have to make any decision we think about the positive and negative outcomes naturally but some people favour one outcome. I am ashamed to say that I favour the negative and I hate this about myself.

Whether it be starting a university, a new course with new people, scared and living alone for the first time or losing a friend that you thought would be there for you always. Whatever the change is in your life, it’s the way you deal with it reflects you as a person. If there is one thing I could change about the way my mind works it would simply be this, stop thinking negative thoughts. The first thought that came into my head when I moved away from home was – how am I going to cope? Not very positive considering it’s the biggest change that has took place in my life, so far. I have tried to change the way I look at things in life but I just can’t seem to silence the negative voice in my head. It niggles away at my self confidence, stops me from believing in myself and most importantly it doesn’t open my eyes to the opportunities that could arise in my life.

If I have any advice for anyone who is reading this or is feeling the same way I feel about change then simply think positive! It sounds difficult and trust me, it is. I wish that I could think positively rather than negatively, I would be a much better person and I strongly believe that. There are no bad choices in life, if you go down the wrong path or make a decision you shouldn’t have made, you will learn from it and use that lesson in the future. I don’t regret any of my decisions in my life so far because they have made me who I am today. I’m on a thoughtful day today. I was reliving in my head all that I have achieved in the last, lets call it a year of my life.

I’m no longer afraid of change, but the negative thoughts still swim around my mind when I think about the future. I know I have a full life ahead of me, new people to meet, new places to discover and a whole world to learn from. I have a clear picture in my mind of my future and what frightens me the most is what if the visions I imagine don’t happen? I hope that one day I can let go of the demons that pull me down, the negative way I approach decisions and changes and most of all I hope that one day, when I’m faced with a bigger change than I have faced already, I deal with it in a positive light.

In the words of James Allen.
Change your thoughts, change your life.”

 

Stay Strong

womancrying

Masking the desolation
you face every day,
Your happiness eclipsed with
the ease of just a smile.

Strong enough to hold back
your silver tears,
Unfair, the path that
leads you is painted with
black most days.

Light will shine for you
one day, I promise you
this, stay strong. Be faithful.
Stay beautiful, mother.