Saturday, 2 September 2017

Not Quite a Girl Not Yet a Woman: Recovery and the Art of Getting Better


Lately, my most prominent topic of conversation among both my neurotypical friends and my ever growing group of less neurotypical friends has by far and away been recovery - and more specifically how we seem to be punished by the universe simply for getting better. The world can understand "irreparably ill" and "completely fine" but the in between stages of "far from bad but far from good" seems to send other people into an endless spiral of confusion, leading us to have to pick up the pieces for them.

I can understand why it's so hard to grasp the concept from an outside view. When I say I can walk to our local corner shop with no issues, and I can even do it with other people these days, I'm always met with praise and congratulations, but when I say I can't get in the car and drive there? Blank stares and confused eyebrows. Why can't I do that if I can do this? Boy if I knew, I'd be doing it all.


My best example is that on many occasions now, I've been able to drive with my boyfriend (shout out H ily) but other days I simply can't. No if's no buts, I'm just not doing it without an unfathomable panic attack. There's no rhyme or reason as to why it differs, it just does and everyone else needs to be on board with that. Nothing stays the same, okay?

There seems to be this notion that recovery should happen all at once and all together when it's more like taking a category at a time.
Walking - Check.
Into this one tiny shop alone - Check.
Being in a car with someone other than my parents - Nope.

Some might argue that going into a store is harder than just being in the car, but if that was the case I'd be able to eat soup instead of being able to sit in waiting rooms alone (A proud accomplishment if I do say so myself and I'm not sure why I fear soup).

Anxiety towards one issue is not comparable to the other - Just because one task seems easier than another, does not actually make it easier. It's individual and unaffected by our other accomplishments. Just as having learned to speak French won't make you any better at speaking Mandarin.

It is almost as if we're punished for being in this middle ground because the rest of the world doesn't understand how to deal with it. Privileges (and I use the term very loosely) are taken away when we begin to improve because it's suddenly expected that we've improved entirely. If you can do this, then you don't need any of that. If you don't have a cold anymore then we're taking away your tissues, even though your nose is still a bit runny. Reactions like this make recovering not only more laborious than it already has to be, but almost pointless. Recovering is firmly a middle ground, which still requires the same patience and care as being completely over taken by your illness. The frequency of good days, or good moments, may have increased, but ultimately there are still so many bad days and it's not right that we have to justify those to anyone who can't understand the idea that being "better" isn't set in stone.

The pressure grows so intensely when we start to show signs of having it together. My likelihood of saying yes to things I wouldn't even dream of before has increased tenfold, but that makes it near impossible to say no on the days when I feel beaten by my anxiety. It's a real life application of the "you've made your bed, now you have to lie in it" phrase. I've presented this image of a person with their life together. Someone who is, by all accounts, doing well, who can achieve almost anything now, give or take a little anxiety. Unfortunately, this isn't realistic in the slightest. As a result, I feel I have to apologise and explain myself in a way I never had to before. In the past, I'd fully embraced my own situation and unapologetically owned my anxieties. It was futile for anyone to ask anything of me, because I was always going to stick to my protective guns, guilt free. Now, I've opened the flood gates, I rarely take "me" days or say no. This has led to so very many days feeling overwhelmed and guilty.

I find myself regularly having to explain that I need some time because I can't keep up with my own rate of progression. I'm trying so hard, and I'm so proud of myself, but there's only so long you can keep up such intense hard work before beginning to crash. This would be an isolated problem of its own if only I didn't then have to explain myself as if I'd done something wrong, because I need to take few steps back. My actions affect others and I understand how it can be painful to allow their lives to be impacted by my own when my life is never stable. I'm more than appreciative of the people who continue to love me, to care for me, and want me in their lives despite all the baggage I come with, but I can't help but feel like I'm never quite enough now.

Every so often, I have some seriously good days, I can almost appear fully functional. In reality, I am simply a high-functioning bundle of anxiety. However, the good days are what everyone remembers, what everyone clings to. When I can't function quite as well, it's as I've told my loved ones that I'm converting to Satanism. I mean well, I always do, but sometimes I can't keep up. Unfortunately, this is often received as if I don't care, or don't want to be a part of the relationship.

If I may, I'd like to clear this up once and for all. Yesterday is not today, last week is not now. I am doing my best every single day no matter what. Just because my best today doesn't look like yesterday's best, doesn't mean I'm not working equally as hard. Sometimes, I back out of things at the last minute. That is because I cant possibly carry on with how I feel and I need to escape, but I left it as late as possible because I wanted to try. Be pleased that I tried, that I even considered whatever it was. Don't blame me, or take offense, I tried. Know that I will have always tried my best. A year ago, I probably wouldn't have even attempted such things. I never want to cause any upset when my anxiety affects someone else's day, it's just that at this moment it seems like my options are going through with the plans or death. We'd all choose the same, given the same circumstances.

When it comes to recovery, the vast majority of us are living in this Phantom Zone. Where we are doesn't exist inside the usual space/time continuum, only to us in it. Please just give us time, let us call our own shots and try to take life with us as it comes. We're moving one step at a time and so should you. I know you have plans and hopes that include us, and we are more grateful for that than you'll know, but please, let us decide what is and isn't realistic.

We'll get there, I promise.

I hadn't sat on this field in 4 years - seriously.



Sunday, 25 June 2017

Retrospect Is 20/20 (get it?)


I can't be the only person who counts years from birthday to birthday, not January to December. For 4 years now I've been counting my life in birthdays because, for some cruel and unusual reason, my birthday has always been at the very centre of a great change in my life.

2013: Anxiety: The dawn of an era
2014: Anxiety II: Woops more anxiety
2015: Anxiety III: You have no qualifications but here is some depression
2016: Anxiety IV: Hey, maybe it isn't all bad.

When June rolls around, and I begin the 29-day countdown, I can't help but become nostalgic for the very recent past, and this year feels even more important because I finally close the "childhood" chapter on my life and apparently become an adult.

This last year, starting from my 19th birthday, of course, has been a wild ride if ever there was one. Admitting it is hard, but the truth is, I never believed I'd make it to 20. In fact, I believed it so little I even wrote it down. Looking back now, I'm so glad I chose to keep an official record because it serves as a constant reminder of how far I've come. This year has been one of massive change, my family life and my social life, and therefore my own personal life, has been flipped upside-down.

New meds, new therapist, new me.

It's not that I give full credit to these things for the improvement in my mental health, but I can't deny the huge help they've been or the fact that they appeared shortly after my last birthday. This time last year I was seeing a perfectly reasonable therapist - a good one in fact. I truly owe him for dragging me out of the gutter I was in back in 2015 (And recommending that I should date my now boyfriend). That said, 18 months is a long time to spend with one therapist and once I'd reached a certain level, his help was no longer making much of a difference. I moved on, found someone new with a different approach and began to make strides again. I've achieved things in the last year that I thought I'd never get to do again.

At the very same time, I'd decided to change my medication. I'm proud of being on medication to control my mental health, it's no different to antibiotics or pain killers. I'd hit a ceiling with my current medication, I had been taking a subtherapeutic dosage for 6 months and couldn't stand the side effects which came with trying to increase that level - so I packed it all in and anxiously started something new. So far so good is all I can really say on the matter.

It's no secret that the last few years haven't been easy for me, and if they were a 10 on the "boy this sucks" scale, then this past
year has been a 6 (okay sometimes 5, sometimes 7). I'm a little too superstitious to admit it, so I say cautiously, that this year definitely feels like a whole new life.

I'd also like to take a moment to get mushy about the people (and animals) in my life who pushed me further towards this new beginning.

I'd never imagined that anyone would be able to truly be on side with how my life works and the irrational ways I feel, and yet, despite all the odds, one year ago, my best friend of the last decade officially became my other half. While I wouldn't credit another person for fixing me, I will credit him for being there every step of the way while I fixed myself. So many of the new experiences I've had this year have been because of him. Not because he made me, or even that it was his idea, but because he let me do the irrational things I needed doing in order to step out of my comfort zone and being right there with me. I wouldn't have managed half the things I have this year if it weren't for what we have, thank you for letting me be me. (gross, I'm done now)

MORE IMPORTANTLY, this year brought the newest edition to my family, the Moo. Mia is, and always will be credited for the biggest improvement in my health. Never could I have imagined that one tiny being would be enough to push me to put their needs above my own anxiety, but here she is, convincing me every day that some things are just worth the risk. Because of her, I have broken down walls I thought would stay up forever. Because of her, this year, I have reached a place where I can just about pass off as a functional human.

I try to steer well clear of setting goals and expectations because they only give me more stress and anxiety, so as far as the next year goes I'm keeping an open mind. One day at a time is all I'm really concerned about. So far, that's paid off pretty well. I entered this year with the lowest of expectations and purely negative ideas of how life would be. I never would have dreamed that things would end up the way they have, and I will never stop thanking my lucky stars, and whatever other spirit is watching out for me, for getting me to where I am now.

I may be miles from the finishing line, but at least I'm back in the race. 



Friday, 5 May 2017

Not Quite Twenty Things To Do Before Turning Twenty: Forgiveness

I have approximately 8 weeks until I turn 20. The big two-oh. Third Decade. I don't understand why we celebrate 21 more than 20, it doesn't mean a thing in the UK. Sure, in America it makes you of legal drinking age, but here, absolutely nothing is any different to turning 20. The jump from 19 to 20 though, that feels like a much bigger deal. 20 marks the beginning of real adulthood, to me, that feels like a far more important birthday. Unfortunately, being so convinced of it's importance has made me a little nervous to actually reach that age. (though, what doesn't make me nervous?)

I don't exactly feel ready to be an adult. I haven't reached those milestones we're supposed to have completed as a teenager. I can't drive, I have no higher education and I don't have a job, I am entiely dependent on my family and I go to bed at 10:30pm and that's not even the half of it. Being 20 doesn't exactly match where I am in my life. 80, sure, but 20? Not exactly. That said, I still have 8 weeks to try to feel a little more functional. It's not that I think I can cure myself in 8 weeks, infact it doesn't have much to do with my anxiety at all. I just think that maybe I should get my brain a little more in order before I leave my teenage years. Decluttering, learning to be a little less like a creature of habit and finally getting round to appointments I've been putting off for months all feel like a pretty good step in the right direction.

First things first, I figure before I can do any kind of moving forward I need to forgive the past and accept the present. One of the more emotional checks on my bucketlist, it seems like a necessary step to take first. Really embracing where my life is and who I am is something I've been putting off since day one. I go through phases, sometimes I truely do feel powerful in my situtation and I learn to put self-care above all else - but some days, I feel more guilt that I could ever explain for something I can't control. Despite what it may seem, what happens in my head isn't voluntary, I can't make it stop and I can't make it better. Some days I need to listen to voice in my mind - I know it's never right, but it's not always possible to defy it.


Self-care should be a staple in every persons life, mental illness or not. Putting ourselves first sometimes is what has to be done in order to stay afloat. Some require more than others. I require more than most and most days I feel incredibly guilty for that, especially when it effects the people around me. Self-care isn't selfish and I shouldn't have to feel guilty, but after a few years living the way I do, you begin to question if maybe you are doing something wrong after all. Over time, I got used to disappointing people, to  hopelessly explaining that my absense wasnt personal, to feeling like a the worst person because I couldn't override the voice in my head. An important part of being an adult to me, is accepting who I am and not feeling guilty because someone else can't accept it. As a teenager, we all experience social insecurity, worrying what others think of us - I'd really like to shake off that whole idea now, it's not healthy and it's not necessary.

It's not that I don't understand why people feel this way when my illness effects them. When my illness gets bad, it influences every aspect of my life and that mostly involves my social life. This means cancelling on my friends and withdrawing entirely, it can be months before I bring myself to socialise again and I understand that it can be really diffuclt on the people at the other end of that stick. I dread having to tell the truth, I'd like to lie and say that I'm busy - unfortunately anyone who knows me well enough to see me knows I'm never that busy. I very intensely fear the reaction I'll get if I'm honest and admit that I'm not feeling well enough to do something, because I'm used to the reaction being less than friendly.

Just as you wouldn't step out infront of a train to please a friend, I shouldn't have to feel bad for letting someone down by not doing something which I percieve to be as dangerous as stepping onto that railway. I always make it clear that my choices have nothing to do with the individual person and does not in anyway impact my love and care for that person. That should be enough. Being in my life means being okay with that, and part of accepting who I am is also accepting that some people don't get to be in my life if they don't understand. Just because the last experience was positive, will  never ever automatically mean that I'll be anxiety free the next time. Sometimes, it's even going to be worse, and that should just be accepted by the people who wish to be close to me. I've made it clear enough by now. As an adult, I refuse to feel ashamed or guilty for my illness. I'm doing my best to be everything I'm supposed to be for everyone else, but sometimes I can't keep that up, and I'm going to be okay with that.

I am also going to be okay with the route that led me here. A part of almost every mental illness is the regret that stagnates for years. I find myself regretting everything I did in the years leading up to my anxiety finally manifesting itself. After years of therapy I have yet to find a reason why this happened to me, and I'm not so sure I ever will, so instead I lay blame on everything, from the small day to day activities to the major life events which shaped who I became. The truth is, I don't know what the cause of my illness was no matter how hard I try to find one, so it doesn't seem fair to pick out parts of my life which almost certainly have nothing to do with who I am now.

We've all had bad people and bad experiences which have permanently impacted our future and the people we became, and it's hard not to hold grudges against them no matter how many years have passed. For me, it's hard not to place blame on every bad experience and person I came across in my teenage years - but the truth is there's just no way that something so simple caused me to develop the way I did. Somedays it's just easiest to wish that very certain things had been different, rather than allow myself to spin out wondering what I did wrong to end up this way.

I may aswell just let sleeping dogs lie. What happened happened and I can't change a thing. So here's to forgiving myself, the people I harbour painful memories for, and the bad experiences I learnt to regret. Carrying around that weight is something I don't need, I don't think it'll ever be healthy. I will be starting my next chapter with an open heart and a clean slate with no bad feelings towards myself, or the life I've lived up until today. For better or worse, I am who I am and I refuse to hold any ill feeling towards the life I live now or the life I lived until this day. Despite everything, I'm happy right now, there's no need to dwell on what brought me here or the hard parts of being who I am,












Friday, 31 March 2017

"If You're Not Living, You're Just Surviving" And Other Unspirational Instagram Quotes

We live in a generation of excitement. The opportunities on offer to us are far bigger than our previous generations could have ever imagined. World travel, wild holidays and the nights out we've come to accept as part of our culture are a fairly modern invention. All this with the added influence of social media makes it all the more essential that our lives contain some serious excitement - movie magic level excitement.

That said, even as far back Oscar Wilde's era, the concept of "living not just existing" was influencing lives. Personally, I kind of hate that. In fact, I really hate that. There is nothing I think is quite as misleading and sometimes harmful, than that very idea. I do not, in any way, agree with the notion that we have to lead exciting lives in order to be living.



It seems to me that the general message is to do what makes you happy, and that is truly living. Even that doesn't quite sit right with me, but even worse is how incorrectly that message has been interpreted over the years.

There is so much pressure to "live free" and be wild while we're young and I get it, I do, but I think it's unnecessary. While I have absolutely nothing bad to say or any judgment about those who chose to spend their time in more adventurous ways - be it wild nights out or traveling the globe, I don't understand how it has ever become okay to say that those who chose not to, are simply existing, not living.

The core matter comes down to what we consider to be boring, and "boring" is one of my least favourite words. Absolutely nothing is legitimately boring, it always comes down to opinion alone. Which is why telling someone that they're boring, that their lives are only surviving not living, is not okay by me. Why do we consider people to be lower in the food chain than ourselves simply because we don't think their day to day lives are fun enough. To go out of your way to tell another person that their life isn't fun or even enough to be considered living because they don't enjoy the same things that most others do is an insanely harmful thing to do.

Not being fun enough is the bane of my life these days, not because I want more for myself, but because I find myself having to justify my choices when the people around me assume I'm just an incredibly boring person. The truth is, despite the anxiety, I am genuinely happy with the ways I choose to spend my time. I'm a homebody, I don't have any concerns about spending my nights with my family, I don't drink, I don't feel the need to travel the world and I'm perfectly happy being alone. To some, according to the quotes, I'd be considered to be barely existing.

The truth is, I don't remember the last time I was bored. I can entertain myself all day every day and I don't think much about craving human interaction.To be honest, I consider this to be a serious talent. In a world where we crave excitement, I'm extremely good at blocking it all out and living exactly the way I want to. That's all that's important in the end, doing only things that will make you happy (within reason okay). There shouldn't be any judgement towards anything a person chooses to do with their own lives. If it'll make you happy to spend all night out partying, drinking and mingling, then you do that until your heart is content and don't let anyone stop you. But if you want to spend your nights in, wearing pajamas and watching re-runs of sitcoms alone, then you should never ever have to feel like that's not okay either. In the end, you run your own life. and the only way to waste it is by doing things that don't make you happy because you want to be a part of a culture you don't care for.

The same goes for our futures too. There is a lot of judgement towards different career paths. Some are considered to be lower than most because of the pay or their "boring" nature. You career is going to be a part of the largest chunk of your life, never ever do anything that wont make you happy because you've been told it'll be boring, or you wont earn enough. If you dream of being a high powered lawyer or an astronaut for all I care, then do it. If you want to be a librarian or a receptionist or one of those people who count how many cars pass through a certain area, then by God you do it and you never stop.

When everything is stripped bare, when there is nothing left to question, you'll be left with the notion that you either used your time on earth to be as happy as you could be, or that you wish you'd done more things which made you happy. Conforming to what other people want, because of the fear that they'll think you're boring, is never going to be worth it. The people in your lives who truly matter will always see the excitement and the happiness in whatever you choose to do, because they'll see the affect that it'll have on you, and you alone.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Everything Is Always Bad, Apart From When It Isn't


I get it, I really do, mental illnesses make absolutely no sense to anyone who hasn't lived that experience themselves. We can say we understand the struggles of others, but the harsh reality is that it's just too confusing to understand. There is no conclusive test, nothing's coming out, nothing's going in and there isn't really any medication which will fix it. I'm always team meds for mental illness but at best they dull the feelings - they don't cure anything.

If you can't see the illness, and you can't prove that it actually exists, then how are you supposed to care for someone who has one? How are you supposed to sympathize when you have absolutely no idea what's going on inside the head of someone else?

For the most part, the few people closest to me can understand what I feel and what I need. The extra talented ones can usually predict in advance what's about to make me anxious. But in the end, even they don't know the half of what I go through, of what I feel on a day to day basis.

On my 18th birthday I had a panic attack in a restaurant,
 it's still one of the best birthdays I could have had.
On the whole, things are bad. That sounds sadder than it is, but in general, bad is the default. It's sort of hard to express how things can be so bad, and yet still have some really good days. My constant underlying state is anxious and that is bad. I am always anxious and it doesn't matter what I'm doing. It's a weird world when I'm jealous of someone else's anxiety, because I'd give anything to only be anxious in certain situations - as opposed to literally every waking moment (and most of my sleeping ones too). Despite all that, it's not to say it's always bad. Maybe I've just gotten good at it now, but it's perfectly possibly for me to be terrified and happy all at the same time.



Maybe that's why it's so difficult to get our heads around it, because it doesn't look the way you'd expect. If I'm anxious, I shouldn't look okay and if I'm okay, I shouldn't be anxious.

As a community, we're doing better at being honest about what we experience with our mental illnesses, but it's usually only the big bits. What we don't talk about is the less notable parts of the day which genuinely explain what it's like to live with a disorder like this. I can be just as anxious sitting quietly at home as I am outside the house, but it doesn't get quite as much attention as the rest does because it doesn't effect my life in quite the same way

From the start of my day, I am anxious. Quite literally from the moment I wake up I have anxiety. I open my eyes and my heart is pounding and I can't breathe right, that's just what it's like. Sometimes it's better, sometimes it's worse, but it's always there. Those feeling were key to my diagnosis in fact so I suppose I'm kind of grateful - but damn they're a bummer.

Imagine for a moment that every day you experience the kind of anxiety we all naturally feel before an important event - an interview. a first date, a first day. Imagine you feel that every time you go to leave the house. That's what it's like to have an anxiety disorder that persists like Agoraphobia. It is that very same feeling, but 10 times stronger. The physical symptoms are so intense. We all know that feeling of sickness when you're particularly nervous - I don't remember a day when I haven't felt just a little sick.

Anxiety disorders are so physical and I don't think that's spoken about enough. Anxiety wreaks havoc on your body. At it's least disturbing, I get hiccups at least once a week and they last all day. Hiccups are caused by a change in your breathing, and let me tell you, people trapped underwater have an easier time breathing than I do some days. At it's worst I can't stand up because I'm too dizzy. I can't see straight because my vision is blurred. I've got an alien scar on my stomach from holding a hot water bottle too often, but it's the only thing that helps me feel less sick. I won't even start on panic attacks, but a feeling similar to dying is the only way to describe it.

The issue with panic disorder and agoraphobia is that it makes you terrified to leave your "safe place" or "safe person" in case one of those disturbing symptoms occur, let alone cause a full panic attack. Unfortunately, it's all just one big cycle, though. I'll be afraid to leave in case I feel the symptoms, but the fear of leaving will cause them anyway. My fear feels valid because I already have the symptoms, so I won't leave the house. Not leaving the house makes it harder to leave next time, because I'm sure I'll have the symptoms.

All of this is stressful enough, but feeling it when I'm only supposed to be heading to Tesco with my Mum is even more stressful. I am not proud of the way my brain works. It is never not upsetting when I find myself gripped with panic when I'm only planning a simple task. Every day is filled with menial tasks which need to be done, and for the average human, this is easy, if not boring. For me, these tiny tasks can cause huge reactions. It's a really good day if I can make it through the whole 24 hours without assuming today is the day I'm going to die.

When leaving the house isn't enough to break me, on some days I even manage to fly completely off the handle while I'm supposed to be at peace at home. I even have a pattern. Around 11am, panic. Around 4pm, panic. Around 6pm, panic. One of my very worst panic attacks occurred in my own kitchen surrounded by my family - triggered by an apple cake which went horribly wrong. It's been almost 2 years, I'm still convinced baking with apples will cause me a panic attack, so I don't do it. I'll do anything to avoid cutting apples now, Other fruit, fine. Apples, never.

At 19, I've only just overcome my
fear of wearing jeans.
That's the humorous part I suppose, the irrational fears I've developed along the way. I try to look at them as funny, because if I think about them in a negative light I'll lose my marbles. I could list for hours things I consider to be a danger because of an experience I've had previously. It's just that easy to ruin something permanently. There are things I hold sacred and I'm very careful about how I approach them, because the last thing I need is for my anxiety to swallow them whole.

My life is series of decisions made based on fear, and that's definitely not how anyone is supposed to live. I live in a rigid routine which I have convinced myself I need in order to be okay. Writing that, I can hear that it doesn't make sense. I'm already ill, my routine isn't saving me. Somehow I believe that if I lost the lifestyle which is barely keeping me together, then I would be even less okay - and I'm at my wit's end as it is.

Life is bad. It just is. That doesn't mean I'm not happy, or that it can't be good. The dark gray cloud I carry around with me is heavy and it comes everywhere I go, but sometimes it doesn't seem so strong. In some lucky moments, I even forget that it's there. I've accepted the fact that it'll probably be with me for my entire life now, that's just how mental illnesses work, but that doesn't mean I don't have days where I can understand how I will learn to live with it beside me, to work with it like a teammate. Everything is always bad, except sometimes when it's not. I hope one day in my future that everything will always be good, except for sometimes when it's not. That's what life is when it comes down to it, it's a balance.

Monday, 16 January 2017

My Origin Story

God knows I talk (or write) about my experiences with mental illness like 25/8, and while I've managed to explain some of my beginnings, I don't think I've ever really put it in terms that make sense. Boy do I wish that back then I'd known that what was happening to me was just anxiety - honestly I was approximately 99% sure I was dying. I suppose that's why I feel so strongly about talking about it now, because I hate to think there are other people out there, still thinking that something is horrendously wrong with them. Anxiety is a mess, but it's not as dangerous as it feels. The only thing that made a difference to me when I felt like I was alone was learning that I wasn't the only one who gets hiccups at least once a week because they can't breathe properly (among other weird as heck symptoms). If I could make some small difference to someone, then it's all worth getting way too personal on the internet. 

June 2013 (thats right, it's been almost 4 god awful years) 

Most of my pictures were taken backwards,
because my hip bones were now so sharp
they looked like concealed weapons.
Out of the dang blue, my GCSE's made me horrendously ill. The stress of exams I suppose and of starting a new school, but whatever it was I was losing it. Couldn't eat and couldn't function well enough to revise, I was physically sick at school the morning before my last exam. Then it just kind of didn't get better, turns out it wasn't just exam dependent. I stopped eating entirely, I lost about a stone in a matter of weeks. It was a real bummer that I'd bought my prom dress back in March, the prettiest thing I've ever owned and it didn't fit anymore. I can't tell you how many times someone made a comment on my weight that night, they were definitely convinced that I had either intentionally dieted or had developed an eating disorder. So that was fun. 

That summer definitely didn't get any better. I was sick at every single party I attended (sorry guys) and I was the only one who didn't drink. It should have been obvious at the time really, given the pattern of my illness, that I was never physically ill. I was unwell every time I left the house, at least until I was distracted, and then not so bad once I was settled at home. It never really occurred to me that my issues could be mental, given how physical it felt - turns out anxiety is an extremely physical illness. I saw three doctors, had several tests, and not once did anyone suggest it could possibly all be because of emotional stress. 

Following what we have now dubbed "The Summer of Hell 2013" (had to be numbered because it wasn't the last..) I started college in September and honestly survived a good few months feeling fairly normal. I felt sick-ish every day, but I got used to it and wrote it off as normal. Those few months of college were honestly the happiest I remember being, and I'm grateful that I got a short while of peace before, of course, shit hit the fan. (sorry mum)

March 2014 

On one specific Thursday in March, which I can't for the life of me remember the date of, I was super ill with nothing but the common cold. It was a heavy one, but it wasn't a big deal. I'd lucked out with my timetable that year, on Thursdays I had one lesson, in for 2pm and out by 4pm - easy. I wasn't raised in a "take a day of school because you have a cold" kind of family, so I had to drag my germ riddled body into college, 30 minutes on the train. I sat through my one lesson, teeth chattering, 100% sure I was about to be sick. Nonetheless, I made it through the hours and headed back to the train - which happened to be pretty late that day. It finally arrived and a best friend and I climbed on, having to stand because, well,  have you ever seen a train out of London at rush hour? I wasn't well, I was desperate to get home. 

Suddenly my hearing went and everything sounded like I was underwater. 

The ticket collector came by, at which time I'd fully dissociated. I couldn't have told you my name if you'd asked, I was gone. He had to prompt me several times before I registered what he was saying, in a busy panic I found my ticket and he was on his way. 

Then my vision went - it's hard to describe this one - in some ways it's just straight up blurry, in others I could see just fine, but it was as if my brain wasn't registering the information. I could see, but I felt blind. 

These feelings obviously cause huge fear, I got dizzy, I looked over to my friend and I told her "I can't hear". I was white as a sheet and also somehow green. Finally we shuffled over to a seat where she sat me down and looked at me almost as scared as I was (thank you for looking after me girl). The main issues settled quickly but I didn't feel well for the entire rest of the journey. After an excruciating half hour, I got back into the car with my Mother, who was also very concerned by how green I am. We put it down to the cold and I took the Friday off college. 

If I'd known then that what happened to me was a panic attack, maybe I wouldn't be where I am now. The truth is, I just started to avoid situations where that might happen again, and being terrified of feeling ill. Those feelings are all too familiar to me now, every panic attack feels the same and yet they never get easier.  

I suppose I never really recovered after that one, at some point my daily sickness turned into dizziness. I was dizzy, I couldn't breathe and my heart was permanently thumping through my chest. 

June 2014

You're telling me that this gave me a better chance of getting
into university? 
Those darn AS levels, and hey, guess who was sick again? On the very first day this time, so that's different. I got painfully ill again, and failed miserably. A very sad birthday passed and the school year ended. I'd volunteered to help at taster days for the week after the end of the term, because at the time university seemed like a good idea, I'd never done extra-curricular activities in my life and apparently you need those first. 


July 9th, I turned up at college early in the morning to help. There was a very small group of us, and it was about to get smaller. We waited in the cafeteria for a while, and within the first few minutes sitting there, it happened again. It was lighter this time, I was dissociating and a little dizzy but I suppose I couldn't call it a panic attack. I said I felt ill and I had to leave, and by no surprise in retrospect, I felt better as soon as I got outside. 

Nonetheless it was terrifying and I went to see a doctor the very next day. I got a blood test, and then I got even more ill, because life is fair like that. I was so dizzy for the entire summer that I could barely stand until the end of August. Summer of Hell 2014. It was then that a doctor turned to me and said "do you think this could be anxiety?" and there it was. The only words that needed to be said, that no one ever thought to say for an entire year. All my tests came back clear and that was it. We took a look at the pattern, and as time went on it became more and more clear that it was the only solution, despite my objections I had to learn to accept it. 

We discussed by leaving college  over the summer months, but by the time September came around it seemed like I would make it once I got back into the routine of it all. Wrong again. Oops.


December 2014

I'd pulled through the first term like a freaking champ, though towards the second half I started missing days at a time. My attendance dropped to a very respectable 60% by the end of the term, which in my defense is pretty good given that I was utterly terrified to even leave the house. For a large number of evenings I'd had full breakdowns because I was terrified to go back in the morning, and then again when the morning came, and usually when my train arrived. I couldn't tell you how many mornings I got to college, panicked, turned around and came straight back home in tears. 

Christmas 2014 was not my favourite holiday, branded the "Christmas From Hell 2014" (numbered because, you guessed it, it wasn't the last). Christmas is tough for the mentally unwell. It's overwhelming and there's way too many people around. This, coupled with the notion that as soon as it was over I'd have to go back to college, I suffered a total breakdown on Christmas Day no less. I declared that I could not go back to college in January, it was my life or my education. That was that, I officially dropped out and it was the best decision I've ever made. I got a therapist learnt that I was way more unwell than I would have imagined. 



Summer 2015 

Naively, I thought I could finish my A levels at home immediately after a full meltdown and gosh was I wrong. Around April it became clear that it just wasn't going to happen, so I didn't do it - simple as that. I have no A levels and I couldn't care less. I turned 18, then hit an extremely low phase. The summer depression was real, I cried almost every day and rarely went out. I didn't see anyone all summer. It was my third (and hopefully final) Summer of Hell. I haven't felt sadness like that since and I hope I never do again. 

It got so bad that I was taken to see a psychiatrist to discuss medicating me. He seemed extremely concerned and gave me a full report on what he thought was wrong with me, accompanied with suggestions of medication I could be put on. I got my medication at the end of the summer, and of course, I didn't take it. I went entirely unmedicated despite the recommendations by not one, not two, but three medical professionals. 

Christmas 2015

Here we go, Christmas of Hell 2015. Short and sweet - it sucked. It was exactly the same as the year before, except this time I couldn't sleep either, like at all. I was in full meltdown for what seemed like no reason and then on Christmas Day my poor Mother had to use the phrase "you're no longer able to make your own sound decisions" and urged me to take the medication. I was furious at the time but her intervention saved me from myself. I'm only lucky that sectioning an Agoraphobic is sort of counter productive. 

Come 2016 everything changed. I took one single exam, I have one quarter of an A level and I've never been prouder or more certain that that is as far as I go. I learnt to drive, then swiftly stopped learning to drive. I brought back my social life from the brink of extinction I learnt that outside isn't all bad I changed my meds and I changed my therapist. My summer was the best I've had in a long time and Christmas was just the same - turns out it does get better. 




So I suppose that's where I'm at now, give or take a few panic attacks. 2017, give me your worst.