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....

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Breaking things down

Hello everyone, this blog is about something really important to me, which people often come
 to me for advice about. Due to my anxiety disorder, the thought of having to face or do a lot at once, whether it was uni work, work or general day to day life, has always been really overwhelming for me. I need to build up to face challenges and break them down into smaller manageable
steps. Given the overwhelming nature of anxiety and the irrational thoughts and worries which come with it, to break things down in the moment can be tricky. It can be hard explaining  to others situations you might find the little things more challenging, and that you need to do things more slowly. But everyone is different, and it takes time to find out what works or helps you.

Alongside anxiety I am dyspraxic/dyslexic, whilst not every dyspraxic has mental health issues alongside their difficulties many have processing difficultie, and my brain processes information slower: this could be taking it in, completing day to day tasks, following instructions, reading, writing or processing the world around me. Which means to learn a new task, complete a piece of work or face something more challenging, it means my brain has to work that bit harder and needs more time to be able to do this. Organising myself in time, distance and space has never come easy for me either.

I've always struggled a lot with confidence and self esteem  alongside anxiety. It can be easy to doubt yourself and compare yourself to others.
 I hope in time this improves for me through therapy. Be patient that someone might need need to do something at a slower pace. It's so easy to assume they aren't trying hard enough or being slow and lazy.

Next week I am honoured to have been invited to Parliament to talk about my experiences of having dyspraxia and an anxiety disorder in the workplace. It's going to be a real  challenge for me social anxiety wise but I hope it might help to inform employers what things might help those with a difficulty or mental health condition at work. I also hope to turn my experiences into a positive one by helping others.

For those who may relate to this blog:  you are never alone and I hope by reading this blog I hope it makes you feel it's not just you being you.
Your hard work, effort and perseverance will pay off, keep going.
You're stronger than you think.

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...

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. Fr...