Thursday, 10 August 2017

Online Friendships and Communities

Whilst it's important to be mindful of the internet and what goes on it, I  thought I would write about online friendships and the value they can have in your life.

When you have never found making friends easy, are different for whatever reason and don't quite fit in with your peers, or face difficulties or challenges in your day to day life, the internet can help you connect with others either with similar interests, values or challenges you might be going through.

When people see I've met others through the internet it can often puzzle them  as to how the internet can bring people together.  If my boyfriend and I are asked how we met and we say, "the internet," people assume internet dating, and when we say "through shared music," therefore it can often bring some  interesting looks. It's scary to think without the internet I would never have met my boyfriend or some of my closest friends.

For many the internet can be a lifeline, it can offer peer support including concerning mental health. Online chats and blog sharing can be helpful learning of others experiences. I'm grateful for the chats I've had from people from the mental health community, thank you for being supportive. Charities such as: Mind and Time to Change do amazing work.

The Dyspraxia Foundation offers a youth Facebook group and other online communities for those with the condition. Although awareness is on the rise, it is still poorly understood and many people still don't know others who are dyspraxic in their day to day lives. It gives people the chance to share  experiences with others who understand in a safe place.

Then there can be online communities for music,  for people to connect with others with similar passions and find a sense of escapism. As my boyfriend once said, "pop bands don't last forever, but the memories, and friendships pull through." Music and the people I've met through it have helped me a lot in life.

I can come across as quiet due to my social anxiety, until I feel comfortable with someone or a situation and feel relaxed enough to bring my protective walls down. I'm grateful the internet has given me the chance to find some people who have taken the time to get to know me.

From a social anxiety perspective I can find it hard in social situations to relaxed enough to let myself go. I know for many with anxiety we can struggle to relax and live in the moment, which I discussed in my last blog. Friend and fellow blogger Anxiwarrior has written this great blog about laughter. I hope in time that side of me comes out more. Grateful for those who try and help that side of me come out.

The little words of encouragement or a listening ear and people believing in meu when I have been struggling with my anxiety or going through difficult times in life have meant a lot to me. Thanks for understanding also if I take a while to reply sometimes. Being able to talk to people who don't judge means more than I can put into words.

The internet isn't always easy, it's important to be careful and stay safe. It only gives a snapshot of who people are in their daily lives. But it can also offer a platform for raising awareness of important  and help make a difference to them. Being able to make a difference to causes close to my heart and helping others has helped me give back.

Going through what I have has made me appreciate the people in it and the little things and grow as a person  I hope you know who you are and how much you mean to me.

Having people you connect with who live a long way from you, can be difficult, can make saying goodbye even more so, but the time spent together cherished.

Until next time....

Friday, 28 July 2017

Anxiety, overthinking and worrying

A big part of my anxiety and my social anxiety is overthinking and worrying. I've been told some overthinking is normal in our day to day life but my mind can overthink like runaway train with no off switch. When you have anxiety your brain can constantly question or overthink everything you might do or have done, or what's happening in yours or your loved ones lives.
 As with all of my blogs no two people are the same, and everyone's experiences are different.

Those of  you familiar with having anxiety, you'll be aware of the physical symptoms which  many people can accompany the overthinking and worrying. I'm planning a separate blog about anxiety/panic attacks so I'll talk about these more in depth there.

I have a very vivid imagination and a very visual thinking brain, which is great when I want to be creative or write a story, but when it comes to anxiety it can make it difficult. As with dyspraxia, not every dyspraxic will also have anxiety nor be a worrier or overthinker. But given the nature of the condition  and the unpredictable world we live in it's understandable why some do. But for this blog I want to focus on my anxiety/overthinking in general.

Anxiety can make you think the worst will happen in a situation, analyse all the "what ifs" whilst constantly question and doubt yourself. I recently read a blog which describes this really well. Anxiety can make simple tasks seem challenging. It can be caring far too much about what other people think and self- doubting your achievements, when rationally you know how hard you've worked for them It's worrying about health, the health of people you care about and thinking bad things might happen to those you care about.

It's overthinking things you might have said in social situations from years gone by, or things which might have happened before, maybe something like an anxiety attack. It's taking ages to actually formulate and write a message to someone or make a post on social media or approaching someone especially someone you've never met. It's worrying about offending someone or  your quietness being misunderstood as rudeness or boredom. It can be having a fear of judgment or embarrassing yourself and struggling with confidence/self esteem.

In short, my brain and body struggle to relax, calm down, switch off,  self esteem struggles and be in the here and now (not the Steps song!)  For such a long time I thought all of this was me being me, and this is why I wanted to write this blog to help others feel not alone in their struggles with social anxiety/anxiety.  In time with therapy I will be able to manage this better and balance my thoughts. I find blogging helps.
If you are feeling anxious or down, talking to someone you trust can help get out of your head.

 If you know someone who is a big overthinker, don't tell them to simply "stop overthinking/worrying." You can actually make them feel more anxious, rather than helping.  Please be mindful that a little bit of reassurance, encouragement and a listening ear can mean a lot. Hang in there, keep going, you're a lot stronger than you think you are.

Until next time.....

Thursday, 29 June 2017

How to blog (step by step)

Hello lovely people I hope you are well?

Last weekend I was asked to give a short presentation about blogging, it was really nerve wracking  as social situations aren't something I find easy and it was a challenge but I  pushed through the anxiety. After taking a few days to recover (anxiety can be exhausting)  and the conferences themselves are always in general quite a full on day, very  informative and helpful but tiring too. I thought afterwards, that I would write a blog with the main points of my presentation for anyone interested writing a blog. Especially for those like myself who may have social anxiety or just simply find social situations/confidence difficult. I would also like to thank everyone who attended the Dyspraxia Foundation conference youth conference last weekend. I'm grateful for your patience and understanding it meant a lot to me, and hope what I said might help others in some way. Talking about my experiences will never come easy as I've lived through quite a bit in life and by speaking about some of those life experiences, anxiety/ mental health and also dyspraxia it might stop others going through what I have and help others not feel alone. Hopefully in time social situations/anxiety and confidence will become easier for me, but finding them difficult has made me have empathy for others. Blogging has given me a voice which I'm always grateful for.

1. So how do you blog?
  • There's no set way to blog, everyone is different with their own story and life experiences.
2. Why blog?
  • It can help give you a voice especially if you have social anxiety
  • It can help raise awareness and understanding
  • It can help you connect with others
  • It can be therapeutic and get thoughts out of your head
  • Making a difference and helping others feel less alone
3. What to blog about?
  • Awareness
  • Day to day life, the ups, downs and everything in between 
  • What people may not know about the difficulties you might face
  • Passions/interests
  • What it's like living life differently/not how society expects you to - I have always been 10 steps behind people my own age.
  • What empowers you
  • What floats your boat
  • Important not to sugarcoat
4. What website to set up a blog?
  • BlogSpot
  • Wordpress
5. Then what?
  • There are options where you can change the design you want
  • Create a title
  • Photos or images can break up a blog
6. What if getting ideas down is hard?
  • Assistive technology such as Read Write Gold can be helpful
7.  What I feel anxious/lack confidence in sharing?
  • Share as much as you feel comfortable with
  • Share with people who you know understand you
  • Remember internet safety and be careful who you share with
  • I experienced a not very nice catfishing experience which I wouldn't want others to go through 
8.  What I keep looking at other people's blogs and then lack confidence?
  • It's easy to compare yourself to others we all do it (it's something I've found difficult.)
  • We are all different and on our own journey in life and face our own challenges and focus on being the best version of you. 
  • I'm sure there's lots of lovely things about you! It's easy to be too hard on yourself, I know self esteem is something I've always struggled with.
  • Follow your own advice ( I need to remind myself of too!)
  • But remind yourself why you blog and enjoy it!
Until next time.....

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Spreading Kindness

My lovely friend Claire has written a beautiful blog, in the aftermath of all which has been happening in the world about spreading love. This has prompted me to do one of my own about spreading kindness.

Recently the world has been full of horrible things going on. The attack which happened in Manchester where so many innocent lives were lost and leaving so many people injured. Also left people feeling emotional, or numb and their hearts breaking for those involved.

Ariana Grande selflessly put on a show #onelovemanchester where some of the biggest acts in the world of music performed. Her strength, inspiring hope into many and gaining huge respect around the world. The main message being that love wins over hate. Whether people were a fan of Ariana or her music, she gained so much respect and when she came on stage for One Last Time the emotions were pouring out all over social media. The number of selfless people who have come forward and got involved in the recent few weeks has been incredible, each in their own way paying tribute and helping as best they can.

We can all do a little bit in our day to day lives to spread a little bit of kindness, love or happiness into someone's life. A smile can change their day around and a few words of hope and encouragement can empower them to keep going. If we all spread kindness the world would be a much happier place. You don't even have to know the person to spread kindness: it could be a stranger. But we can all do our bit to help and make a difference, you don't know the impact the kindness could have on someone's life.

I couldn't not visit St Anne's square last Saturday with my boyfriend Matt, when we paid a visit to the city. I was humbled by the number of people paying their respects and got a huge sense of a city coming together with unity and strength.

In these times we must draw comfort in that tiny bit of hope.

The JustGiving fund page for One Love is linked here if you should wish to be involved.
I send all of my love to anyone affected or knows anyone affected, I also send love to anyone struggling for whatever reason in life.
Take care of yourselves,

Until next time.....

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Guest blog by Matt: Why I run for anxiety and dyspraxia

Following on from Matt's blog post last year he wanted to write a follow on blog and maybe a little bit more in depth about himself and why he's decided to take up running 4 challenges this year for charities close to our hearts. Even though writing is hard for me it's even harder for Matt, so his writing still will be different to mine. I best stop writing and hand you over to Matt.

Due to my quiet nature, and keeping myself to myself, people don't get get to know a lot about me and my anxiety, confidence issues, or the background to why Rosie and I choose to do what we do. Although taking on a single 10k event in a year is a lot of anyone, I decided to take up four in 2017.

Last year, I decided to challenge myself, I signed up to do four 10k events. The London 10k, British 10k, Great Newham Run and Parallel London 10k. Again with very little work, just the odd gym trip when I could be bothered, I did the London 10k, it didn't really go to plan, although I finished I finished with an awful pain in my right knee, I had never experienced it before, Rosie was going to meet me after the event for some food, but due to my pain I managed to hobble back from the finish to Victoria and back home, we had some food closer to home, and when I got back I was unable to move for several days. A little over 5 weeks later, I ran the British 10k, after 5k my knee went again, I did manage to finish the race, very slowly, but looking back I probably put myself under too much pressure to finish, it was a charity event, but no-one would have minded if I pulled out, and I really should have done. I pulled out of the Newham 10k which was the following week, and didn't run again until late 2016. I did walk the Parallel event in September, but dropped down to 5k.

Mentally this was my tipping point, and talking with Rosie, it was clear that I was running for others rather than myself, obviously trying to raise money and awareness for charity, but by raising this I was putting myself at risk, which isn't really the point, as what awareness are you creating if you are hurting yourself in the process. It isn't fair on yourself, both mentally and physically, changes had to be made.

 I decided to stop the gym and join the ParkRun setup. I decided to make Crystal Palace Parkrun as my local run, which I have since found out is one of the most hilly and difficult Parkruns in London, and often take part in the Burnley Parkrun (which is a lot flatter!) when visiting Rosie's parents. But I've kept persevering and finished the Manchester 10k with a sense of achievement. But I will always help others.

Both myself and Rosie find being centre of attention and putting all eyes on us especially socially and in social situations. Before I met Rosie I was already aware of  her love of Mollie King, her quirkyness and the anxiety/social anxiety struggles she had faced growing up she had no idea she had anxiety until adulthood which is one of the reasons why  we wanted to do this challenge. In Rosie's previous blogs she has discussed about her life growing up and some of the challenges her and her parents faced but there are also some more difficult and private experiences which never have made the blog. She was always a wise soul and a had worked very hard at uni to achieve her degree and then masters when. She took on a role as mother hen to some of the younger people we know not wanting them to go through what she had. A few years ago after Rosie's mental health hit rock bottom due to workplace bullying what happened will stay private between us for now she decided after she needed professional help she didn't want others to feel or go through what she had alone.

Awareness work, both mental health and dyspraxia, and helping others gave both of us a purpose in life and alongside therapy probably saved her life. Anxiety  and social anxiety and her confidence/self esteem are still a struggle and it's an on going journey for both of us but through seeking therapy it will hopefully help her in her own time in her own way.  It's also made her a listener, social anxiety makes bringing her walls down, and being with new people and social situations hard but also sending/writing messages to people. But it's made her determined and one of the strongest people I know and have a lot more empathy and understanding for others.

This determination has inspired me and which is why I am running 4 events this year, and Rosie is joining me in a couple too, to importantly raise awareness for mental health conditions by running for AnxietyUK. A charity both me and Rosie have connections with and have helped Rosie with her mental health issues  and the Dyspraxia Foundation whom I am lucky enough to be a trustee for and have supported Rosie and her parents for many, many years too! Getting more people to understand what dyspraxia is and raising awareness of difficulties and disabilities invisible to the eye.

Everyone is different in life and has their own story and deals with their life experiences differently there's no right or wrong way. On Sunday I got to observe Manchester coming together in what had been a horrific time for the city. Being part of 30,000+ runners in Manchester was a magnificent moment, and something I was proud to have taken part in! If you want to keep up-to-date with our 2017 challenge please check out 

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Anxiety and concerts

Ever since I was 14 and went to my first pop concert,  S club 7 I got got a buzz for seeing groups and artists I enjoy supporting,  live. From a young age I have  been passionate about music and the artists I like.  I can be quite randomly knowledgeable about them and their music. This helps me through difficult and more challenging times in life and has lifted my mood. 6 years ago my love of music brought my boyfriend Matt and I together through The Saturdays and I've made some special friends through them and other groups over the years. Despite all the loyalty,  support and passion I have for the artists I love, many of you will be aware of my anxiety and social anxiety struggles as well
as my confidence, one trigger involving crowds or big groups including concerts. Also the thought of getting  trapped in my seat and unable to leave quickly, and noise. 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. In person she's always been really understanding towards my anxieties in these situations.

For me this can escalate into bad  panic attacks, which when you also have social anxiety and the thought of an arena full of people looking at you, with all of the worries and thoughts doesn't help things. Not everyone with anxiety will find crowds or being in big groups of people challenging.   For those of you who are dyspraxic and read my blogs some dyspraxics may have anxiety disorder struggles some may not, some may also find they are also sensory sensitive to noise, lights and smells, some may not. I find as well as my anxiety I can be quite noise sensitive.

I wasn't able to go to many concerts at all for a while due to my anxiety and a bad panic attack experience, but this year with help from CBT and the reassurance of my boyfriend it's something which we both want to get back into and manage better in little gradual steps. As music has always been an escape from reality for me, with two concerts looming, I thought I would blog about some  tips which I hope will help me, help with my confidence and maybe help others in a similar position. I will always say my experiences have made me have have  a lot of empathy and understanding for others. If you see someone looking anxious or overwhelmed at a concert give them space and a little bit of empathy. It will mean a lot to them.

  • My boyfriend always tries to get seats on the end of rows so if we need to get out we can if I feel overwhelmed or panicky
  • Go at your own pace and in your own time, don't try and do too much at once break it down.
  • Take something to fidget with like a tangle or fidget cube
  • Ear plugs if you find you're noise sensitive
  • Don't be scared to take time out if you need to and plan time afterwards, I really struggle with fatigue and energy levels the day after a concert from all of the adrenaline and energy  and need time out. 
  • CBT and other strategies to help with breathing, panic attacks and thought challenging, which is something I'm still working on.
  • Most importantly you're not alone, it can often feel like it's just you experiencing anxiety and finding situations hard 
  • Anxiety UK have a lot of information on their website.
  • Choose artists who's music or aura you connect with or will empower you, I love this quote I've found!

Monday, 8 May 2017

Mental Health Awareness Week 2017

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week. I always think awareness weeks should be more than just a week and awareness should be carried out all the time. Mental health is often overlooked and stigmatised, yet there's a high chance that you reading this blog, someone you love or care about or know of will have been affected by mental illness at some point in your lifetime.

Recently in the press Everton footballer player Aaron Lennon was in the press after being admitted to hospital. There was a huge outcry on social media and questions asked, such as, "How can someone in the public eye have a mental health condition?" When just like physical health, it does not discrimate who can be affected it doesn't matter who you are, what job you have or lifestyle you lead  Mental Health can affect anyone at anytime in their life time.

Quite a while ago a mental health therapist told me that I didn't look like an anxious person and I couldn't have the mental health struggles I did as I have Matt my boyfriend and a few friends who I will be forever grateful for. Mental health doesn't have a look, and affects people differently at different times in their lives. Whilst there may be a criteria for diagnosis, everyone is different, what might be a trigger for one person might be completely different for someone else.

Whilst awareness is crucial, it's also important that change happens and with so many cuts happening left right and centre for mental health , that people get access to the right help and support they need and deserve to manage their struggles more easily.

Finally, to those who have experienced mental health difficulties: keep going, keep persevering. Never loose hope, tomorrow is a new day.  You deserve as much kindness and compassion as you willingly give to others. You're a lot stronger than you think you are and if nobody has told you this today I'm proud of you.

It's important we keep the conversations going about mental health, you never know when or how you might be affected by it. Alongside dyspraxia/invisible difficulties awareness it will always be something important  to me and I'll be passionate about. Until next time....

Online Friendships and Communities

Whilst it's important to be mindful of the internet and what goes on it, I  thought I would write about online friendships and the value...