milestones

Reaching A Mental Health Milestone

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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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milestones

A Change Of Heart

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I will always be a writer. No matter what my job title is or what I do during the day, writing is my passion and I wouldn’t be ‘me’ without it. However, recently I’ve started to feel less like a writer. Maybe that’s because I haven’t really been doing much ‘writing.’ You see, a few months ago I was feeling lost, I had no job, I was on the dole, still missed being at university and had no idea what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. Then, something good happened. I got a part-time job working for an online magazine and they were paying me, yes, finally, I thought!

Everything started to fall into place after that, or so I thought. I started to volunteer as a Creative Writing Workshop Mentor at a local hostel and I decided to start my own online feel good magazine called Zest For Life. I thought I was finally going down the right path, until I realised that something was missing. I was no longer writing. I was filling up my time with other projects and jobs that I no longer had the time nor the motivation to write fiction, which is a big part of who I am.

I love being the editor and founder of Zest For Life, it’s hard work and I’m not receiving the amount of help from my friends that I thought I would, but I created something from nothing, which is what I love to do. I decided to stop volunteering at the hostel because some weeks I would turn up and none of the residents wanted to take part, I was enthusiastic to inspire them but they didn’t want to be inspired.

I did however, have one really good session with them whilst I was volunteering there. I managed to inspire them to write, a member of staff told me that it was the first time she had seen some of them smile like that in weeks, I had a warm feeling in my chest as I left the hostel. I knew I had made a difference to someone’s day. That’s when it hit me. The epiphany, the impulse to help people, the day that I started to doubt my career choice.

I want to teach. I don’t know why I didn’t realise this before but it hit me and now the feeling won’t go away. Of course, my anxiety reminds me daily of everything that could go wrong if I decide to do it and I am still on the fence about what I really want. I thought I wanted the 9-5 office job, sitting at a computer all day, writing. Now, I’m not so sure. I get bored easily and I want a job that is different every single day. I also have this need to help and inspire people. I have always loved children (even though I am definitely not ready for my own). So why not take the plunge and train to be a primary school teacher?

I’m at a crossroads, I am so confused about what I really want and exactly who I want to be. One thing I know for definite is that I love to write, what ever that may be. I think my lack of writing fiction is due to having too much going on in my mind right now, once I sort through it, I’m sure the ideas will come and I will start writing again.

I was so sure that I wanted to go into publishing and magazines and a small part of me still wants to, but I would have to relocate to London and I’m not willing to do that. I have definitely had a change of heart, I just need to decide what to do with it. Do I ignore it and carry on knowing I’m not full happy with my career choice? Do I leave the world of publishing and magazines behind after all of my hard work and go into teaching?

What ever decision I make, it will change my life. I just have to picture the future version of myself in my mind and decide exactly what I want that picture to be.

milestones

The Need To Succeed

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Energy and persistence conquer all things – Benjamin Franklin

I may have lost my way for a while but I now feel back to my old self. My ambitious, hard-working and motivated self that wants to succeed. I have so many projects and exciting opportunities happening right now that I haven’t even had the time to blink and really think about how far I have come in the past month.

Persistence is something that comes naturally to me. Sure, I can give into the temptation of being lazy for a day and say that I will do something tomorrow but in the back of my mind, it all keeps on turning. Like an old grandfather clock, my mind never stops. The hand always goes round and round and even when I don’t think I’m thinking about everything I have to and want to do, it’s still there, encouraging me to keep going. I have this ongoing need to succeed.

I want to update this blog as much as I used to but there are not enough hours in the day to achieve everything I want to and I have to learn to prioritize. In the last few weeks I have managed to land myself a paid part-time freelance writing job, volunteer at a hostel as a mentor in Creative Writing, sign up to be a volunteer at The Manchester Literature Festival and start my own online magazine Zest For Life. It’s in the very early stages but please follow the Zest For Life Blog here.

Adding to that I have a novel that is still stuck on 4,000 words because I haven’t had the time to focus on it. I am still writing short stories and poetry for collections that I will put together one day in the future. I still contribute articles for two online magazines and I also have this blog. If that wasn’t enough, I’m also signing up for a night class once a week, the class is being taught by a successful author who will be teaching the different ways to publish your writing.

I know I have a lot of things going on in my life right now but I like to be busy. The days were so long when I had nothing to do and no motivation to start anything new. Now, I feel my old self again. I am ready to take on anything life throws at me. I still think about the future but I am really in love with my life right now.

There’s a burning passion inside of me for words. I want to write. I want to be a successful writer. One day I want to be a successful author. I want an amazing career. I want to complete all of the projects that I have set for myself. I want to take every opportunity that comes my way. I want to succeed and I’ve decided to start enjoying every second of my life.

Opinion

Colour Me Calm: The Adult Colouring Book Craze

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We all remember the joy that colouring books brought to us when we were small, our parents would give us a colouring book and some crayons and we would stay quiet for hours, focusing on staying in the lines, with our tongues sticking out and wrinkles on our forehead.

Unfortunately, as we turn into adults we close the doors on our childhood, we forget everything we used to enjoy and focus on making a living, worrying about money and what we think we should be doing with our lives. We tell ourselves that everything we did when we were children should be left in the past and we should just be adults, responsible adults who have lots of important decisions to make.

I’ve always loved colouring, as a child I would entertain myself for hours, scribbling and drawing and using felt tips to colour in blank silhouettes of cartoon characters and princesses. This is why I stopped. There were no colouring books suitable for adults, until now. It might be the latest craze that will fade into obscurity in a few months time but I think it’s an excellent idea to get adults in touch with their inner child. Instead of getting caught up in the anxieties of modern life, why not sit down, switch off your brain for a little while and colour? Brilliant.

Studies have shown that colouring is a great way to relax and turn off the world. We’re so animated all of the time, whether it is scrolling down our Facebook news feeds to see what our friends are up to, working in a busy office nine hours a day or travelling on trains and buses, we find it difficult to just stop and focus on one thing. Psychologists say that colouring stimulates areas of the brain that are related to motor skills, the senses and creativity and when we enter that creative state of mind, naturally our worries melt away, it’s the perfect relaxation technique.

Some adults will shake their heads in dismay at grown-ups sitting down with a box of crayons and a book of patterns to colour in on a Friday night but if it transports them to a place where they feel calmer, happier, even nostalgic then what’s the harm? I have always found colouring to be therapeutic and since buying my ‘adult’ colouring book, I have found a new hobby that enhances my creativity, makes me feel calmer and keeps me entertained when boredom hits. The first day I opened my new colouring book, I left my laptop screen and coloured for nearly three hours. I think that’s the longest I have been away from a screen for a while.

If you feel like you need an escape from your every day life and want to reconnect with your childhood innocence then pick up an adult colouring book from your local book shop, try it, you might be pleasantly surprised.

milestones

Twenty Two

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Tomorrow is my 22nd birthday.

I was re-reading my post Twenty that I wrote two years ago today. I remember writing it like it was yesterday. I am still the same person that I was when I wrote that blog post, I still have the same dreams and I still believe that turning twenty was a defining moment in my life. Since then I have graduated from university, I have visited Dublin with my boyfriend, I have started an internship at VIVA magazine and I have started to make plans for my future.

Honestly, it has been a hard two years, there have been a lot of struggles but everything I go through is making me a stronger person. I’m trying to live my life day by day instead of year by year but my mind always wanders to the future. I’m a dreamer, I always have been and always will be.

Another birthday is passing by and I might not be where I want to be but I have to be patient, I have time. I have years to accomplish everything I want to do. I am enjoying my life right now. I might not have a job or enough money to buy the things I want to buy and go to places I really want to go to but I am surrounded by love. I have to believe that my future will be bright. I have to believe that things will get better and I have to believe in myself.

If there is one thing that changes every year on my birthday, it’s my perspective. Whenever my birthday approaches, I look at life in a different way. I look back on the year that has passed and what I have achieved in that time. Life is a journey and sometimes we don’t appreciate moments until they are memories. I’m going to start enjoying the present. I’m going to be patient and grateful, I am going to smile even when I feel like I can’t and I’m going to keep hoping and dreaming that I will make it to my next birthday and I will be one step closer to my dreams and one step closer to the person I want to be.

Blog Updates

I’ve Been Nominated For The Sunshine Blogger Award!

I am so happy to accept the Sunshine Award Nomination from an amazing blogger – AimingForScorpion. Thank you so much! Check out her blog here.

So as for the award, here are the rules:

Thank the person who nominated you.
Answer the questions from the person who nominated you.
Nominate a few other bloggers.
Write the same amount of questions for the bloggers you nominated.
Notify the bloggers on their blog.
Put the award button on your blog.

Questions

WHAT IS YOUR DEFINITION OF HAPPINESS?

Happiness often feels like an unreachable goal to me, but being truly happy is quite simply, a choice. A choice that only you can make. You have to wake up every morning and choose to be happy, no matter what life throws at you. You have to fight the sad, angry, jealous and toxic feelings that overcome you and be happy with your life. Finding happiness is a journey that I am on right now. I have days when I am incredibly happy but others when I feel like I want the ground to swallow me up. I’m trying to find a balance. I’m trying hard to see past everything that is holding me back and see the light. That’s what happiness is to me, it’s light. We live in a cruel, negative and dark world at times and happiness is a ray of sunshine, a light that won’t burn out. One day I will choose to be happy and I will stop letting negativity overshadow my life but I’m not ready yet, I have many lessons to learn, not just about how to be happy and content with my life but about overcoming the obstacles that I face and learning to deal with my emotions.

IS IT WORSE TO FAIL AT SOMETHING OR NEVER ATTEMPT IT IN THE FIRST PLACE?

JK Rowling said that ‘It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all.’ I agree with every single word of this. Life is difficult and messy and sometimes you’re not going to achieve what you want to right away. The path to success is paved with disappointment. I am getting closer to my goals but I know that I will encounter more failure along the way. I think if you really want something, if you feel it deep down in your gut that it’s what you need to be doing then no amount of failure will be able to stop you.

IF YOU COULD CHOOSE JUST ONE THING TO CHANGE ABOUT THE WORLD, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

It’s hard to choose just one but if I could I would erase negativity from the world. It’s hard to stay positive and live a happy life when you live in a world that’s constantly trying to pull you down, telling you who you should love, what you should do with your life, how you should look and who you should be.

DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN THREE WORDS.

Different. Ambitious. Creative.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE QUOTE?

I have so many favourite quotes because I am in love with words, especially wise ones from people who have lived influential lives. One of my all time favourite quotes is ‘Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain.’ It’s a true phrase of how we should all live our lives. I want to follow this philosophy, I want to dance in the rain even when the sun doesn’t shine, it’s easy to just say it but actually doing it, well, that’s another thing entirely.

IF YOU COULD GIVE YOUR YOUNGER SELF ONE PIECE OF ADVICE, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

Embrace all of the things about yourself that make you different. Don’t worry too much about what path you will go down, who you will meet and what your purpose in life is because you already know, you have always known. You are a writer. You live and breathe words and no matter what the future holds, just know that words will get you through anything.

WHEN YOU DAYDREAM, WHERE DOES YOUR MIND WANDER?

I’m a future thinker. It’s not always a good thing because thinking too much about the future or the past can cause a lot of anxiety. It’s something I struggle with. My mind is constantly wandering, wondering and wishing.

I nominate: Kayla’s Only Heart, House of Heart, Send Sunshine & Forgotten Meadows.

Here are your questions.

What one thing in your life would you change?

Why do you blog?

What inspires you?

Describe your life in three words.

Reviews

‘Wild’ Film Review

A inspirational montage of hallucinations, beauty and heart. Wild captures the struggle of addiction, grief and loneliness and still manages to uplift, reminding you that no matter what happens, you have to keep moving forward, one foot at a time.

Based on Cheryl Strayed’s best selling memoir Wild: A Journey From Lost To Found, Wild is a great comeback for talented actress Reese Witherspoon. Far away from the blonde bombshell of Legally Blonde, Witherspoon shows her vulnerable side and shows the world that she is anything but a one trick pony.

The film deals with sex, drugs, addiction, grief and learning from past mistakes but the dark themes are juxtaposed with inspiring moments of faith, freedom and enlightenment. Cheryl Strayed is a flawed character but that only makes her more relatable.

When the film begins, we learn about Cheryl and how her mother’s premature death has sent her into a downward spiral of self-destruction. Cheryl is determined to find herself again so she decides to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, alone with her thoughts, she works through everything she was previously trying to forget.

The film incorporates Cheryl’s backstory by using hallucinatory memories, poetry and songs. The narrative is honest, the acting is superb and the message is crystal clear. Wild is a terrific film that brings to life the real story of one woman’s journey that helped her find herself again.

Rating – 5/5

Opinion

Lost At Sea

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Photo by Asad Photo Maldives on Pexels.com

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.

milestones

2014: A Reflection Of 365 Days

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2015  is fast approaching and when the clock strikes at midnight tomorrow and the celebrations begin, I will do just that with a smile on my face because I really have had an amazing  year. 365 days ago I was a different person, I was in a different situation and I had a different perspective. Now, I am one step closer to being the person that I want to be. There have been many moments in 2014 that I have felt proud, happy, grateful and optimistic and unfortunately, there have been hard times when I have felt like giving up. However, I’m starting to discover the way that life works and although 2014 had its challenging times, the amazing moments still shine for me. It’s the little things that make me smile when I reflect on the year I have had, walking hand in hand with the one I love alongside the River Liffey bridge in Dublin on our first holiday together, shaking the chancellor’s hand as I completed my university journey and was awarded with my degree and the feeling of wanting to dance all night as I celebrated with my best friends at our graduation ball.

I don’t like to make new years resolutions because I no longer feel like I need to resolve anything in my life. I can always change however, every morning when I wake up I have the choice to change my life or my attitude, I don’t want to give anything up or set myself unrealistic goals. What I want to do instead is carry on growing as a person and learn to be happy. I have discovered this year that happiness isn’t something that is guaranteed. It’s so easy to slip in and out of happiness and despair, there is no secret to happiness, it must come from within. I need to learn to be happy with how my life is now, rather than think about the future or the past. Only then will I be truly happy.

This year I have started to believe in myself and my abilities. I wrote a 50,000 word novel in just 30 days. Before November, I didn’t believe that I could do it but I did. I graduated university with a 2.1, the three years of hard work and determination finally paid off and wearing my cap and gown was one of the best days of my life so far. I want to do my masters one day and hopefully I will get there because I want to keep going. I have started to learn sign language this year and I have really enjoyed it and I am going to carry on with it in January. I have had many voluntary writing positions this year, I am getting my articles out there and making a name for myself. I am slowly getting to where I want to be and although I can often be impatient, I am proud of what I have achieved so far.

I like to think of a new year as a new book, with empty pages and I can paint them with words and memories. I need to think of the future but also need to stay in the present, enjoy every moment and seize every opportunity. I have learnt many lessons this year and I’m sure there will be many more to come in 2015. My biggest problem is I like to plan things, I like everything to be perfect and I like to control everything in my life but I need to try and let go and let life happen. I’m starting to realise that I can’t control everything in my life and the future will write itself and I will never have control over what happens to me and the people that I love. 2014 has been a year of growth, a year of learning new things and a year of new adventures. That’s exactly what I see beyond the horizon of January the 1st, 2015 is a new adventure and I can’t wait to see what happens next.