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
Rosie 
xxx




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 http://www.time-to-change.org.uk/blog/why-i-decided-share-my-experiences-anxiety

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: https://www.amazon.co.uk/d/Books/Were-Here-Nonsense-Guide-Living-Social-Anxiety/1785920820

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Christmas Socialising

It's the time of year filled with busyness, tinsel and sparkles but not everyone finds this time of the year easy. Many people find social situations more challenging in day to day life for a whole range of reasons. It can often be something which people are self conscious to admit to, something many take for granted and simply something which isn't talked about. Last year I blogged about Christmas being chaotic in general but this year I wanted to focus on the more social side of things which I've always been more self conscious talking about. As with all of my blogs, everyone with anxiety or dyspraxia is different so not everyone will find everything I talk about challenging.



This time of year can mean the thought of more social situations such as: family get togethers, meals with friends or works Christmas do's. I thought I would give an insight into some situations those with anxiety and dyspraxia can go through in the hope it might help some of you or your loved ones understand what might be going on and how you can help a little. If you've read my blogs previously you will know my anxiety makes me a huge worrier, over thinker. The amount of social situations I've been in where I've worried everyone will look at me due to social anxiety, worry I'll make a complete idiot out of myself or worry about all the little things which I could have said or done. I can assume everyone will think I'm bothering them and they think badly of me. I've been known to go into hiding or run out of situations when feeling anxious as it can take me a while to feel settled, less on edge or get my bearings.

What I've found helps me is telling a friend I find situations difficult beforehand can be helpful and taking a few minutes out to do some breathing exercises if it all gets too much. It's also important to remember so much of what you worry about never happens or is never true. Anxiety is a pretty challenging disorder to understand it can take a long time to get your head round it and I know for me it's going to take time. But if you're struggling don't be scared to speak out, there are people who will understand.

At this time of year places are a lot busier than normal, bars, restaurants, transport. Crowds can be overwhelming at the best of times if you struggle with anxiety. The physical side of anxiety can be challenging to understand. I find crowds and being in groups of people a real challenge, I think I'm going to get trapped and become unwell/have panic attacks. Then everyone will be looking at me.  My brain is always planning an escape route.  But I think it's important to set your challenges at your own pace and you're more capable than you think you are. Fellow blogger Anxiety Warrior has written an insightful but very real blog about tackling anxiety challenges one step at a time.

                                                       


Alongside anxiety, the dyspraxic side of me means I struggle with sensory sensitivity issues such as: blocking out background music and trying to follow conversations when there's more than one going on, reading body language and making eye contact. It can be quite exhausting doing all these at once and I need time by myself and my own space for a bit, this meme describes it quite well. I've previously written a blog about the social side of dyspraxia where I go into more detail. Self care is especially important at this time of year.


Social media is everywhere these days, but I think it's important to see the bigger picture, for some people who may have anxiety or dyspraxia a lot may have gone on previously before anything gets uploaded onto social media. My boyfriend Matt and I, before any social outings can happen and that's just for us never mind involving any other people, there has to be a lot of planning involved for my anxiety. From planning where to go, where to sit when we go, how to get there and how long we spend there. Every day is different when you have anxiety and dyspraxia. We both find social situations more challenging in both similar and different ways.

 A lot of people with difficulties and differences do struggle with confidence and self confidence issues so try to build people up whatever time of year it is. I've always found celebrating myself hard. Having anxiety is like having a bully inside your head constantly belittling you and making  you doubt yourself and second guess everything. I can be the hardest person on myself and it's something I need to work on. Would we speak to loved ones or people we care about like ourselves? I think we all can be more self compassionate towards ourselves.


For a long time I had no idea what I was experiencing was anxiety or social anxiety. I just thought it was simply being me. I also had no idea dyspraxia had so much to it or knew any dyspraxics. But since seeking help (cbt) I'm starting to understand my anxiety more, and hopefully as time goes on I'll be able to manage it better. I promise it's not just you being you and there are others who understand and there is help out there.

 Life is a journey not a race. Take your challenges at your own time and speed and as hard as it is try not to compare yourself to others. My experiences have made me have so much more empathy and understanding for others, giving others reassurance that it's not just them makes it feel worthwhile. I hope the festive period is kind to you, thank you so much for all the kindness I receive from these blogs it means a lot to me. Never loose hope.







Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Dyspraxia, anxiety and perseverance

Throughout my life there's a lot which has never come naturally easy to me, whether it be movement, tasks or adapting to change and the environment or being in social situations. Being dyspraxic means my brain takes longer than most for the wires to process information and carry out tasks that many people simply take for granted. It takes me a lot more attempts, with more energy and often done in a completely different way. Dyslexia also makes getting ideas down onto paper, take more time reading tasks and proof read any writing I do.

Alongside that comes quite bad anxiety which can be really challenging for me. It can  take me longer than others to feel settled in situations, struggle with social anxiety , get my bearings in environments and take me longer to face my fears. Even saying hello to new people is quite a big deal to me.

As a result of this  has come frustration both at myself and my body and also comparing myself to others. Comparing myself to others who may seem more confident socially than me, seem more relaxed or be able to do tasks with less time and less mistakes. I can be pretty hard on myself and beat myself up when anxiety stops me going somewhere, I struggle to speak to people or I see a lot of mess around me or my body and brain don't want to co-operate. It's made me struggle with my confidence in myself a lot.

When I first moved to London nearly 2 and half years ago with my boyfriend Matt, I couldn't travel anywhere in London independently. Everything about London simply terrified me and my anxiety imagined every worse case scenario possible. The tube was simply a no no, too many people, the thought of the tube door closing on me and getting lost.

But then I got the opportunity to have a job helping students all with a variety of needs. My passion for helping other who struggle kicked in. On the first day of my travel I had a huge panic attack and texted my boyfriend that I would never be able to do it and I came back home.  In short my travel has been a nightmare and definitely not in my comfort zone and caused me quite a few panic attacks. But breaking it down step by step I've managed to survive doing the length of the Northern Line.

The same could be applied when I was studying for my degree it took me so much longer than my friends to study, to read all the reading for my courses, finish assignments and proof read my work. Then there's the little things  many take for granted like tasks requiring fine motor skills, being able to speak in a group of people or facing anxiety to make a phone call. It might take me weeks, months sometimes even years to be able to face some fears or be able to complete a task with confidence.  I'm learning that sometimes anxiety can lie to you and make you feel not good enough and that the storm will never pass and be filled with negative thoughts.

But with time, practice, access to help for my anxiety and reassurance from others I persevere and  keep going. It can be very difficult at times especially when you're struggling but hopefully in time I will learn more strategies to help manage my anxiety.  I'm very grateful to the patience and encouragement from my boyfriend, family and friends especially in difficult times. I can appreciate it can be frustrating at times, but that reassurance has meant a lot to me and my anxious chaotic brain.

As things have taken me a lot longer to get there than other people, it's made me appreciate the little things and appreciate the little achievements in others. Throughout my life I've been called stupid, lazy, careless and that I wouldn't be able to get very far or achieve very much. It shaped my own values and has given me patience for those who struggle.

You never know what struggles people might be facing in life, always be kind. I may have a way to go to manage my anxiety, but I'm taking my own time little steps at a time and that gives me a sense of pride and achievement. I hope this blog might help someone out there, keep going and never be embarrassed to do things your own way, there is no such thing as normal!









Sunday, 6 November 2016

TfL hidden disability badge trial review

In the summer holidays I signed up for a new TfL scheme trial- Please offer me a seat. The scheme followed passenger feedback from TfLresearch that found that those with hidden disabilities and conditions can find it difficult getting a seat especially if the need isn't obvious.

As someone who has always found travelling more of a challenge because of dyspraxia and anxiety but never been the most socially confident or assertive about my needs I thought it might help with that a bit so worth a try. Although I can stand and have developed coping strategies from when I was first diagnosed aged 4. I still find managing to stand whilst on moving transport for a long time whilst trying to get my balance and co-ordination challenging.  I also find standing for long amount of time can be quite painful on my feet and I shuffle from one to the other. Then there's spatial awareness of being aware of where I am and my belongings are in relation to other people, alongside anxiety from being around lots of people and new and unknown places and I've always hated the feeling of being trapped in a lot of people, causing an anxiety attack so always try and get a seat as close to an exit as I can.

I find London travel to be that little bit more jerkier than public transport back home up North and bus drivers like to speed off before you're sat in your seat which can make you loose your balance easier. In the past I've found I've not had the most positive experiences with travel. People thought I was bumping into them on purpose, or holding them up to annoying or wondering why I needed to sit in a priority seat as my need wasn't that obvious.

Two years ago I got the opportunity to write a blog for Scope about travel challenges those with dyspraxia and anxiety can encounter. I've never been someone who has liked any fuss or attention drawn to me, due to to social anxiety and always thought that there were others who had a need more significant to mine. There still is quite a long way to go raising awareness of invisible disabilities, differences and conditions and getting people to understand what dyspraxia is. But as someone passionate about raising awareness of issues invisible to the eye and who has always been willing to  learn and find new ways of trying to help myself I thought I'd give it a try.

In honestly I've been very pleasantly surprised, on quite a few occasions I've been offered a seat and I even had one lady appologise that she hadn't seen my badge soon enough. I did encounter a difficult experience where I was mid panic attack and quite tearful and panicky and a lady asked some other people if I could have their seat and got completely ignored. There has been a few instances like that and I have experienced the odd unhelpful stare. But in general it has made me feel that little bit more hopeful that there are people who want to help, who understand that helping someone doesn't mean a lot of fuss and that there slowly is getting more awareness getting out there, but we still have a long way to go.

It's made me have that little bit more confidence to speak up and assert others about my needs. With the energy I'm saving by having a seat, I can use it in a more positive way to help my students in my job. There are still quite a few other travel issues which I've encountered which will be discussed in a later blog and I've found my travel very challenging anxiety wise. But I'm very grateful to those who have offered me a seat and I hope it gives others who might experience similar difficulties a little bit of reassurance.

 If you see someone who might be struggling on public transport you never know what difficulties they might have, you  also never know how much they might value you offering them that seat. In my last blog I talked about the value of reassurance.  A little bit of kindness can go a long way in life and make such a difference to someone.