Sunday, 9 April 2017

The value of empathy

Today I thought I would blog about something which has become very important to me and that is the value of empathy. Many of people think empathy and understanding are the same thing, but in reality we cannot fully understand what it is like to live or experience something unless we are the person him/her. Empathy however, is the ability to put ourselves in someone else's shoes, see things from another perspective,  that of someone who has lived through the experience.

My boyfriend Matt calls me his wise owl, because I've had a wealth of experiences in life, I've gone through some quite difficult and challenging times, but hopefully tried to do something positive with them by helping others. If you've read my previous blogs I talk about day to day challenges  and the ups and downs in life dealing with dyspraxia and quite bad anxiety/social anxiety. I have also discussed issues such as bullying, social isolation and the impact they can have on someone: for me it meant I hit rock bottom and struggled with self harm. But do all I can do others don't have to go through that.

There are also private struggles which I've been through and experienced which never may make this blog, but all have shaped me as a person in some way. Although it's been tough, especially anxiety wise, they have also made me have a deep sense of empathy for others as well as making me stronger/more determined I hope in the long run. Through these blogs I write and the awareness work I do, I  hope something positive comes out of them and if they help one person writing them will always be worth while.

From a social anxiety perspective, it can take me a while to feel comfortable, to lift my protective walls and come out of my shell. It can take a while for me to be understood .
 Meeting new people and going into new places can be challenging. Then add into the mix my brain wiring and slower processing of information and the world around me due to dyspraxia/dyslexia. This makes me try to be as patient and reassuring as I can be with others who, for whatever reason, find social situations difficult.

When people take the time to get to know me, I try and give back in gratitude. When you to take a lot longer to be able to complete tasks or be able to face a fear, it makes you have a lot more patience and tolerance for others, as you know too well how frustrating it can be.

It can also make you more non judgmental and open minded, you never know what private battles or struggle people might be facing behind closed doors. Issues such as: mental health and difficulties/ disability should never be a competition, everyone has their unique journey and their own story in life and lived life differently. Everyone faces something in their life which shapes them. Everyone is different and deals with these differently. My boyfriend Matt for example: is a very private person and is  a closed book.

My self esteem and confidence has always been a struggle alongside my anxiety, both of them can be quite easily knocked. But, I also know too well how much the little things which people say and do can make you feel about yourself and give you a little boost and strength and to keep going, and help to build someone up.  Helping someone celebrate their little achievements is key as it can help give them the confidence to build on these. In my last blog I talked about how Mollie inspires me and her kind words help me. I was fortunate to meet her last week and her own empathetic nature gave me a little boost.

Empathy can also mean different things to different people.  what might be reassuring and encouraging to one person might not help someone else.  Which is why it's important to take a bit of time to get to know someone and listen and see what might help them. I've seen this Brene Brown video on empathy and it's well worth a watch.

 I will always be grateful to those in my life who have been supportive and encouraging especially,  over the last few months which have been quite challenging for me anxiety wise. I hope if you're reading this you know who you are, it's meant a lot to me:) The world would be a boring place if we were all the same!
Until next time...

Monday, 20 March 2017

Square peg, round hole

Hello everyone, sorry for the delay in blogging - had a few quite challenging weeks social anxiety/anxiety wise. But it has also prompted me to write this blog. A few years ago when I was going through a difficult time my dad gave me some advice, "You're like a square peg in a round hole Rosie, you might never fit in but that's ok!"

Since I was little I've always been a very unique person who has never been quite in step with people my own age. Due to being dyspraxic/dyslexic and having social anxiety/anxiety, how I live life might be slightly different. For a start, there needs to be a lot more planning involved in day to day life for tasks or outings. Every day is different when you have dyspraxia, you never know what might happen. Every day is also different when you have anxiety as sometimes you never know when you might have a bad day or a moment of anxiety. It can feel at times that you're 10 steps behind everyone else, and the world around you is so busy and fast paced and go, go, go that it can be really overwhelming. It can seem frustrating and hard at times when you see others seemingly just getting on with it, whilst you're struggling to keep up and get even simple tasks completed. Whenever I was studying it always took me a lot longer than my peers to finish my work.

 It's important to remember, and I need to remind myself this too,  firstly to breathe, then that life isn't a race, go at your own pace, and live it in your own way. If you need to break down things like facing fears or completing tasks, if it's easier for you to process information or if you're having a particularly anxious day, then do it. I also get tired quite easily so it's important to factor that into the balance too.

It also means structure and routine are two things which are very important to me, it can take a while for my anxiety to feel settled in situations especially social situations, and I find lots of changes the thought of having to sit for a long length of time, overwhelming and stressful for me anxiety wise- I need things more broken down. Alongside living day to day life differently, there has always been a difference in interests to my peer groups. From a young age music has had a huge impact on my life, growing up being the only S Club 7 and Steps fan I knew. In a class full of students with pole different interests made me stand out. I'm someone who's always been quite passionate which has lead to me being misunderstood as people never understood how into my interests I could be. But music has helped me so much in life.  I will always say that whenever I've seen Mollie King in concert either solo or as part of The Saturdays, the moment she gets on stage it's like all my anxieties melt away. She with her reassuring, understanding and empathetic nature alongside the other groups I've liked have helped me through difficult times.(in previous blogs I've gone into more detail.)  This may not be something typical of someone approaching 30 in a few weeks, when a lot of my peers may be married or have children, but it's me.

But, having confidence in myself is something which I've always struggled with, growing up and in the workplace I experienced a lot of bullying for being different and was left out and felt misunderstood and isolated and I hit rock bottom and struggled with self harm.
  It's made making and maintaining friends more difficult for me. A lot of my social anxiety is a fear of criticism and judgement from people and a fear of making mistakes and embarrassing myself infront of others in a lot of social situations. I probably care too much about what others might think of me at times, doubt myself too much and worry I might have unintentionally upset someone. This is something which can make me go into my shell and take a while to trust others and come out of it alongside the physical elements of anxiety. My social anxiety/anxiety has had quite an impact on my life and has been quite crippling at times, living with anxiety is really hard at times.  I know I need to grow through these experiences and I'm currently having CBT and on the journey which I hope will help with my confidence and my anxiety. I'm grateful to the people in my life who allow me to open up in my own time, simply listen and accept me for who I am which helps me feel more socially relaxed around them in time. My mum is always telling me I need to believe in myself  a  bit more and remember my own advice. I'm trying my best, I never stop trying, always trying to learn and it's made me a lot more determined.

 I think as a society as a whole we need to remember that everyone is different and lives their lives differently. We all have our own unique tastes and the world would be a boring place if we were all the same. If you see someone might live their life differently please don't judge them, take the time to get to know them and find out more you never know what you might learn or find out.

My own experiences have made me be an inclusive person, as I've spent a lot of my life feeling like an outsider and hate the thought of someone being left out. They've made me more empathetic and compassionate too. It's also helped me see the bigger picture. I've also been able to use my passion in platforms such as: awareness work and this blog and be determined to help others. For all you square pegs in  round holes, whether through difference, disability or mental health, it's not just you, you're not alone. I really hope this blog might help some of you and maybe be of comfort. The right people in life will love you for you. You're stronger than you think  you are!
Until next time....

Saturday, 11 February 2017

A blog of gratitude

When you have any kind of need, difficulty, mental health condition or disability the focus is usually  on the person with the diagnosis. In this blog I wanted to say a thank you to those in my life who have supported and helped me through.

Making and maintaining friends is something which I've always struggled with. I'm someone you have to spend time with and get to know, so I can come out of my shell. My interests have always been slightly different to my peer group and I'm a unique soul.

If you know nothing about dyspraxia, it can seem pretty difficult to understand with its many different things challenging aspects. As with having an anxiety disorder/social anxiety, unless you have it yourself or know someone with it, it can seem really difficult to understand. Growing up and into adulthood my difficulties made me very socially misunderstood: I was left out, I went through bullying and  I was always the person nobody wanted to be friends with. I've experienced loneliness, feeling isolated and detached from others.
Having social anxiety and being a naturally shy person can mean that sometimes I'm misinterpreted as being rude or disinterested. I can also be quite softly spoken. But also creative and I'm able to think outside of the box.

5 years ago I came into what is now a long term relationship, with a man who will openly admit he didn't know much about anxiety and didn't have a clue about dyspraxia. A man who has his own social anxieties and difficulties and can take a while for him to feel relaxed in social situations and come out of his shell. But also a complete technical whizz. That man is my boyfriend Matt. Over the last few years there have  been ups and downs. Living with someone with anxiety is not the easiest at times and it has been quite challenging for both of us, with all of the irrational thoughts and physical symptoms. I feel like the word anxiety is freely used a lot in society these days. But he has always seen Rosie, and accepted me for me. We don't have a "typical" relationship of people our age, we're probably both 10 steps behind everyone else and we very much do things in our own unique ways. Most importantly he has tried to build me up when I don't believe in myself and been patient when anxiety has tried to push him away. He knows I will always need that bit more time, patience and understanding, as will he.  He has supported me through so much, been my rock and never gives up on me and motivates me to help myself and sees my strengths.

The same could go for the people in life I'm lucky to call friends,  people who I've met through awareness work, and people who have taken that little bit more time to find out more and get to know me and allow me to come out of my shell.  I still find social situations challenging and making friends.  Sometimes anxiety might mean I can go quiet for a while, or I've had to make other plans or leave early.   To those who see Rosie and  listen to my waffle! (I can imagine that line has provoked a laugh from a few of you!) I'm very grateful to  you and to my parents who had to fight difficult battles to get me a diagnosis growing up. I don't find accepting compliments or being centre of attention easy at all due to my social anxiety and find it a lot easier to make others centre of attention and found it easier to talk about and advocate for others a lot easier than talking about me. Alongside my confidence this is something to work on.

6 years ago I was lucky to meet a lovely lady who I look up to, if you've read my blogs previously you'll know who it is. I will be always be grateful for the empathy and understanding she has. Mollie, always seems to see the bigger picture and takes her time to listen to what fans have going on in their lives and give a few reassuring words or a hug.

Lastly , thank you for reading this blog, it will always mean so much to me. Going through what I have has made me appreciate the people in it and the little things. It's made me see the bigger picture and not judge others and give people a chance.
The world would be a boring place if we were all the same.

Until next time...

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Time To Talk Day 2017- Conversations Change Lives

Today is Time To Talk Day which arranged by the mental health charity  Time To Change. The theme this year is: Conversations Change Lives. For me, raising awareness of issues invisible to the eye is something which I will always be  passionate about. You cannot tell by looking at someone they have a mental health condition or any other invisible difference or disability. It is possible a friend, family member or loved one could be struggling with their mental health but by looking at them you would no idea.

Last year Time To Change very kindly posted my blog about anxiety for Time To Talk Day. For me, this year's theme is quite close to my heart as someone who has always found  conversations and social situations harder. Having social anxiety can make opening up and having the confidence to confide in people difficult. I can find it hard to let people get close to me and it can take a while for me to have the confidence come out of my shell and it's been something I've always been quite self concious about. If you're someone who I lower my defenses to  and let in, you are blessed with something which makes me feel safe. From keeping so much close to my heart and being too socially anxious to speak it has lead to me being socially misunderstood and I knew then I had to be brave and do something about it.

For  a long time I thought all the crippling worrying, physical symptoms and thoughts were just me being me,  but I known now  my anxiety was there from a  young age.  Part of my anxiety has always been worrying something bad might happen to people I love and care about. Alongside a fear of being trapped in situations I can't get out of easily, e.g a crowd of people.

I struggled in silence and it took me to being an adult to finally know I had anxiety/social anxiety.  I would hate for other people to wait for so long like I did and struggle so long by themselves. There is help out there if any of this blog resonates with you. I've found the people who work at Anxiety UK to be lovely.

I'm grateful to the people in my life who I've felt comfortable to confine in who have encouraged me seek help for my anxiety.  The last few years have been quite challenging at times but special thanks to  my boyfriend Matt  for all his support, forward planning and reassurance when I'm  going through a difficult time, I'm anxious or have a panic attack. It's going to be a long journey but I'm going to keep persisting and working at it through the cbt I'm receiving.

We all have a responsibility to talk about mental health, not just on Time To Talk Day, but every day. Some people might be scared of talking to someone as they are scared they will make mistakes or accidentally offend, but like everything in life it take time and practice. The more conversations generated the less isolated and alone people can feel. It's the same with invisible difficulties and disabilities: the more we talk about them the more awareness is generated. Also something which I talk about in my blogs is that everyone is different, no two people are the same. So my experiences of anxiety might be completely different to someone else's.

Alongside mental health conditions or any other difficulty may come issues with confidence. Confidence is something which I've always struggled with especially socially, but a little bit of encouragement and reassurance can go a long way.

You don't have to do a lot to help or be there for someone. It could be as simple as: taking the time to find out more, giving someone a listening ear, and then asking, "how are you?"

Until next time...

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Dyspraxia, anxiety and blogging

Hello everyone, I hope you're well and this year is kind to you.

Everybody thinks and processes the world differently: some people think in words, others in pictures or  a combination of both. For me, I've always thought in pictures, I have a vivid imagination and I've always loved being creative (hence the name chosen for this blog.)  From a young age my dad and I were coming up with our own adventures and stories. But I've never found writing easy, either handwritten or the process of getting my ideas down onto paper due to dyspraxia/dyslexia. Although I would still say I find it a lot easier expressing myself in writing than socially due to social anxiety, as I discussed in the blog I wrote a few months ago.

 Before I continue, it's important to remember that no two people are the same and that everyone may have different experiences.

 A few weeks ago blog reached 200,000 views, something which I could never believe or dream of happening to me. I was in shock when I saw the figure. I always get told by loved ones that I need to have more confidence in my writing, that it can touch people and something which I should persue further. It's something I've always had to work really hard at so it's a real achievement to me.

The technological inventions have been such a blessing to me. From a very young age I have struggled with the fine motor skills required in simply holding a pencil, writing on the line through to  making the letters make sense. Using computers has been a life line for me learning to express myself

Organisation, as it has never been my forte in life in many ways, getting my ideas down onto paper, and structuring them to make sense has always been tricky. I can often use a lot more words than needed, and struggle sometimes with spelling. If you know me well the phrase, "I'm waffling on" and then going off on a tangent will be very familiar to you. I'm very lucky that my mum gives my blogs a read and a double check over for me before they're posted for any bits of proof reading I've missed out. This is something I'm practicing over time.

For me one of my biggest issues has always been my confidence and believing in my own abilities, which goes alongside having anxiety and comparing myself to others. It can be quite difficult blogging when I feel anxious as there's lots of thoughts going around make it difficult to concentrate. Being such a visual thinker can mean I can visually think of worst case scenario and everything which could happen, which can be really exhausting.  My anxiety will often tell me I'm writing a load of rubbish and that I will fail at it and nobody will relate to it. The lovely comments I receive are reassuring to me, give me a little boost and encourage me to keep going.

Growing up I had a lot of negative assumptions made about me: that I was stupid, lazy, needed to speed up and simply plain careless.When in reality it was taking my brain ten times longer to complete my work or come out of my shell. It made me feel so self conscious and  I've had to persevere for my voice to be heard.  I hope from the reassuring tone which I aim to set for my blogs, that I come across as someone who cares very much and has a lot of empathy for others.

 Blogging about anxiety and dyspraxia will always be important to me: using my visual way of thinking to be a story teller for others to hear my stories, ups and down in life, and to help others feel less alone.  I hope this might encourage others to maybe tell their story. Take care of yourselves, until next time...

Saturday, 31 December 2016

2016 in review- Moving Forward

Hello everyone, it has come to the time of year where I do my year in review blog. It doesn't seem like two minutes since I posted last year's. There have been some awful things happening in the world in 2016, from politics to respected public figures sadly passing away. This year has also been a very tough year for one of the charities I support Dyspraxia Foundation. I was very emotional when I found out that the charity was facing hard times, as it had done a lot both for me and my family over the years. Dyspraxia is still a very misunderstood condition, something which doesn't get as much media attention, but this doesn't lessen the reality  of the journey for all involved.

On a personal level it's been a very mixed year for me I've had ups and downs. I've had quite a challenging year with my anxiety and finding the right help for it. But  hopefully I've found a lovely lady who has taken the time to understand me, my anxiety and have a little knowledge about dyspraxia. Even though all my anxiety isn't  dyspraxia based, I've found there to be a real lack of awareness and understanding about dyspraxia in the mental health services and how it can all interlink.

This year I feel like I've learnt a lot about myself, from going to conferences and events, to reading blogs from those with similar experiences, to simply having a chat with others. For many years I simply thought it was just Rosie being Rosie. I had no idea why I did so much the way I did or struggled. I had no idea why I was so much of a worrier. I spent much of my life growing up feeling isolated, confused and misunderstood and coping in very negative ways.

 From learning about myself it has helped me learn about others, and empowered me to make sure others don't go through what I have or felt what I have. When I hit rock bottom a I felt hopeless, I thought nobody would ever understand me and that I didn't have anything to offer the world or any real purpose. But in those dark moments I found a glimmer of hope in helping others. I had found my purpose in life. To help those who have been seen as outsiders, misunderstood, different to their peers.

 A lot of ignorance and stigma stems from lack of awareness. It's very important to me that education happens surrounding invisible illnesses, differences and disabilities.
This year I was invited to go on the Victoria Derbyshire show to talk about dyslexia/dyspraxia bullying in the workplace. Sharing my story was terrifying I didn't sleep beforehand and was very anxious the night before, for someone who struggles with social anxiety this was completely out of my comfort zone. But it was important to me that these issues get media attention.

This year I also completed walking the British 10k alongside fellow blogger Natalie. The experience was eye opening seeing so many people from so many walks of life wearing t-shirts with charities close to their hearts. Beforehand my anxiety made me think every worse case scenario possible, but I  got there at the end.

Next year I hope to manage my anxiety/low mood better, to be able to try a lot of new things and experiences in my day to day life, to understand anxiety better and to hopefully learn to be kinder to myself and improve my confidence. I hope to live in the moment more not worry as much and start to enjoy life.

  I'm ending this year on 200,000 views which has been such an achievement to me, thank you so much if you've taken the time to read my blogs it means a lot to me.  I blogged earlier in the year about how blogging has helped me find my voice. It's also opened my eyes to how much these are real issues and how much work still needs to be done.

Thank you to all those who have been there for me this last year. I hope 2017 is kind to you. Never loose hope.

All my love

Friday, 30 December 2016

We're All Mad Here Book Review

This is a bit delayed in posting, but it's something which I knew I needed to take my time on as I really wanted to give the book justice.

Over the last year or so I have been in contact with a lovely fellow blogger called Claire Eastman, who blogs about her own experiences of social anxiety and anxiety. She recently got the chance to have a book published about these experiences, to help others not feel so alone like she once did.

Throughout reading the book I could relate to my own anxiety and social anxiety experiences, and found myself thinking in my head "me too." When you struggle with anxiety it can be very difficult to understand it, to understand why you might be struggling with physical symptoms or having lots of worries. It can be easy to keep it to yourself, and think it’s just you being you. 

For many years I had no idea what I was struggling was anxiety nor social anxiety and kept it hidden for many years whilst being struggling so badly with it. I talked about this more in the blog which I wrote for Time To Change Time To Talk Day earlier in the year

As well as the book being relatable it also gives advice on how to get help if you're struggling with anxiety and the different options of help which are out there, all in a very easy to read format. It helped me understand my anxiety a bit more and feel less alone. It empowers you to want to help yourself as Claire gives you hope from her own experiences that although a continuous journey, there is help out there and strategies to help manage anxiety. Which left me feeling hopeful and something to use alongside the help I'm receiving that one day I'll be able to manage mine too.

On Saturday 19th November I attended the book launch where I got to meet the lovely Claire herself and some of the other Talk Mental Health bloggers. Naturally I felt quite anxious beforehand but was put at ease by how lovely and understanding everyone was. It was also lovely to talk about the links between anxiety and dyspraxia and help get some awareness and understanding out there. 

This book has a reassuring theme of "you'll be ok"  throughout it and to "keep going", whilst not taking away the honesty of a very real disorder. Thank you Claire and this book is something I really recommend if you or a loved one struggles with anxiety.  For more information about the book:

The value of empathy

Today I thought I would blog about something which has become very important to me and that is the value of empathy. Many of people think em...