Living My Life Online: One Year Of Blogging

A year ago I finally caved to suggestion and set up this blog. I didn’t know what to expect and I didn’t really think anyone would be interested in what I had to say. I thought that my mum, boyfriend and a few of my closest friends would read it and eventually I’d get bored or distracted and stop writing. Little did I know that in my first month I’d get 1000 hits and that these weren’t just from people who knew me in real life and either cared about me or were being nosey, but would also be from complete strangers from around the world who were going through something similar to me.

When I created the blog I wasn’t really even sure where to start. I’ve learnt a huge amount since then and there are things that I would now change if I started all over again but you live and learn. Choosing a title for my ramblings was really hard and originally I wanted a quote about mental illness from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – my favourite book, but that was already taken so I went back to the drawing board. I wanted it to be obvious that it was about mental illness but I wanted to avoid stigmatising language like Crazy. Some of the titles that didn’t make the cut were: Cupcakes And Down Days, Don’t Call Me Crazy and Mental About Cupcakes. Finally, it ended up between two In The Midst Of Madness and Refusing To Be Invisible. My favourite was In The Midst Of Madness and luckily the few friends I consulted agreed and so In The Midst Of Madness was born! Next, what was I going to write about? What did I want to tell people? I wrote a list of things that I had experienced and things that I felt people needed to know and started creating titles for those posts so that while I was setting up I had a good list to choose from when the moment took my fancy to write something. As I’ve gone through the year, I’ve still not finished working my way through that list because new things have cropped up because of media coverage, fluctuations in my conditions, events and awareness days/weeks and the themes they’ve suggested sufferers should write about.

So what has blogging done for me? I won’t go as far as to say it’s been therapy for me but it’s certainly been cathartic. Being virtually housebound means that I often feel incredibly isolated and lonely. There are very few people who visit me or contact me and I often feel alone and misunderstood but having a blog which is mine, where I can write whatever I fancy, has been really helpful in allowing me to have a platform to reach a much wider audience. It means that I finally have a voice. Despite being stuck indoors, I can now be heard. I can help educate others, help explain what these conditions are like, help give a voice to those that aren’t able to communicate their thoughts and feelings and ultimately achieve my goal of helping raise awareness, increase understanding and reduce stigma.

Throughout my time as a blogger I’ve been contacted by numerous people who’ve thanked me for my words, who’ve offered support and encouragement and most of all people who have or are going through the same things as I am currently. I feel honoured each time someone contacts me and opens up or confides something in me, I feel honoured to be on this journey with some of the loveliest people around, most of whom I have never and will never meet. I’m not a believer that illness happens for a reason, I don’t believe that God only gives you what you can handle or that I had some life lesson to learn which involved being ill for two thirds of my life but I do believe that illness changes you and while so many of its effects are negative and life-altering in a truly terrible and devastating way, it also changes people in a couple of good ways. Chronically ill people are often the kindest and most understanding people you’ll ever meet, they’re much more grateful for the little things in life because they are painfully aware of how important they are and how quickly the big things can be taken away when taken for granted. They’re also some of the most sympathetic and caring people and I find that they often make the best friends. If you’re friends with someone who’s chronically ill then you should count yourself lucky and cherish that friend because chances are they’re ploughing their precious energy into a friendship with you because it means the world to them despite often tiring them out.

Blogging about my experiences of mental illness led me in a very unexpected direction at the end of April when the Adult Colouring craze hit the UK and then the world by storm. As most of you know, I was already on that bandwagon but was a secret colourer at the time and was elated when it became fashionable and so many of my friends started getting involved and I no longer had to colour in secret. However, with the release of so many books, how did I know which ones to get? I’m on a very strict budget because we’re living off just my boyfriend’s income (we receive no benefits despite what many people may assume or believe) so money is very tight and the last thing I wanted to do was waste it on a book I wouldn’t like. I scoured the internet for reviews to tell me what the paper quality was like and whether my beloved fineliner pens would bleed through but I found nothing that had enough detail for someone like me who couldn’t visit shops and flick through the books. I saw that other people were reviewing books and being sent copies by the publishers but that these reviews, whilst very well written, weren’t suitable for someone who was entirely reliant on them to make a decision about where their money would be spent and so my reviewing venture began. I contacted some publishers, not expecting to even get responses let alone have any of them be happy to send me books, but that’s what a few of them did and away I went. I set up a separate blog dedicated to all of these reviews which I named Colouring In The Midst Of Madness to allude to the fact that I was not only reviewing adult colouring books, but doing it from a mental health perspective and I wanted it to fit in with my “brand”. That blog has overtaken this one in terms of hits and visitors and last month I received a staggering 100,000 hits thanks to being the second person in the world to publish a review online for the long awaited release of Lost Ocean by Johanna Basford (Colouring Book Queen and worldwide bestselling illustrator). I’ve now reviewed over 70 books and products and have a huge waiting list of books piled up in my lounge all waiting to be coloured and reviewed. I’m slower than other reviewers but that’s because of the amount of detail in my reviews and the fact that I always colour a full page in each book. I also have bad mental health days where I have to take a day off and just deal with how overwhelmed I feel at being out of bed and awake, without the stress of analysing intricacy levels and paper quality and trying to colour within the lines.

Having this blog and becoming a reviewer has taught me that I can write. I’m not amazing at it but I’m good enough that people enjoy reading it and come back for more which is the biggest compliment I can get! I’m hoping to broaden my reviewing horizons and start reviewing other products and services from a mental health perspective and if anyone has any ideas on things they think I could review then please do let me know, I love hearing from you and ideas are always welcome! Mentally ill people are often overlooked and the difficulties we can have when using products are not often thought about but given that 25% of us every year are experiencing some sort of mental health problem, it seems like a pretty good group to review for, even if I do say so myself! Ultimately, I’m hoping that all of this hard work will pay off and that I’ll be able to land myself some sort of writing job, preferably that can be done from home while I’m recovering until I’m unleashed back on the outside world and can realise my full potential again. I don’t want to be a writer for the rest of my life – I have big, grand plans to try and take the mental health world by storm and get mental illness on the school curriculum, reducing stigma before it’s even become ingrained and ultimately change the way it’s viewed and treated in this country. But, in the meantime, I’d love to use my skills to write and reach a bigger audience than this blog currently does. I’ve never been one to do things by halves and despite being virtually housebound I have big plans and I push myself to my absolute limits. I’ve challenged myself and been interviewed live on radio twice and was interviewed for a couple of media articles one of which was published in Nautilus magazine and the other in The Guardian newspaper. I would certainly push myself to do those things again and would love to be on TV and reach an even larger audience (from my own home currently of course). If anyone out there would like to employ me to write then please do get in touch, I’d love to hear from you – click here if you would.

As you can see, the last year has been fairly eventful thanks to blogging and the opportunities it has created. I’ve not made an awful lot of progress healthwise but this post isn’t about that, it’s about what I’ve learnt, what’s helped and what I plan to do over the coming year and beyond both on my blog and generally with my future career. On top of all of this, I spent 8 months last year teaching myself to crochet and then setting up a business on Facebook selling my crocheted items which is currently on hold because I’m so busy reviewing but I am looking forward to getting back to it some time when I have a bit more free time and share my woolly creatures with the world again. The picture above on the left was everything I’d ever crocheted up until that point and was the cover photo of my first ever blog post so it seemed only fitting to show you what the same shelf in my flat looks like now after making well over 100 crocheted items that have been sent all over the world.

The last thing left for me to do is to thank you, each and every one of you for reading my blog, whether this is the first and last post you’ll ever read or whether you’re one of my true and avid fans who’ve read everything I’ve ever written (I salute the few of you that have done this, it’s no mean feat now I’m reviewing books constantly). Your support means the world and I read every single email and comment and I do always reply so do check back. I hope that my blog has helped each one of you in some small way, whether it be picking out the right pens or the perfect colouring book, or voicing the feelings you’ve never been able to express, or just helping you to realise that you’re not alone. I hope I’ve helped, because that’s all I really want in life, to help others and to make a difference so that when I’m gone, people will know I was here.

If you’d like to keep up with my blog posts then click follow at the top or bottom of the page to receive an email each time I post. You can also follow this blog on Facebook here, or my Colouring blog on Facebook here.

Keep Calm and Colour In

Having an anxiety disorder is tough and I struggle with it daily. Add to that the boredom and loneliness that come from not working for over a year and spending 50+ hours a week alone while your wonderful boyfriend is at work and it’s a challenge to find ways to occupy yourself. Daytime TV became pretty soul destroying after approximately 2 weeks of watching advert upon advert about constipation, thrush and plus-size clothing companies. This is where being creative comes in.

Being creative allows you to express yourself, to make something from scratch, to prettify something and make it beautiful. I’ve been creative all my life and while I can’t draw or paint, I do make lovely greetings cards, crocheted items and embroidery. Many people struggle to come up with new and novel ideas of things to make, particularly without prompting, and adding a mental illness into the mix can certainly create further challenges in this process. Mentally ill people are often some of the most creative and artistic but some of us really struggle to focus our ideas and work out what to create and how. This can then induce more stress and leave you feeling unmotivated and lost.

Adult colouring books provide a solution to this and have taken the world by storm in recent weeks. Articles are being written about them in almost every national newspaper and the bestselling books have a lengthy wait for stock to replenish at all major retailers. Luckily, I was ahead of the game and when I was originally signed off sick for 2 weeks last year I went straight online and ordered the prettiest books I could find, splashed out on some snazzy fineliners and away I went. It’s been an absolute Godsend and remains one of the few things that keeps my anxiety somewhat under control.

I never grew out of colouring and have periodically returned to it during long periods of illness and whilst completing my degree when I needed a quick creative fix. I always used to have to use children’s books because adult ones didn’t really exist or just consisted of geometric patterns which were lovely but a little tedious given the lack of choice. When I was an inpatient in The Priory in 2008 we participated in Art Therapy and were often given colouring pages of mandalas or garden scenes which were wonderfully relaxing to add colour to. As a nursing assistant and activity co-ordinator in an NHS psychiatric unit, I regularly used colouring with my patients to promote calmness and use as a distraction technique when they were experiencing difficult feelings. One of my patients brought in an adult colouring book called “The Creative Colouring Book for Grown-Ups” which was unlike any colouring book I’d seen before and I went ahead and bought a copy and so my adult colouring journey truly began.

Colouring, and creativity in general, are beneficial to all people, but particularly those of us with mental illnesses. It gives us a focus, something to achieve and succeed at, a distraction, a goal. We don’t have to decide what to draw or paint and can just relax into adding colour to a beautiful image. Many colouring books have written hints and tips to give you ideas of what to add. Some come with coloured backgrounds or parts of the picture already coloured which makes choosing your colour scheme so much easier (something I love as I get very anxious about decision-making). One of the best parts about colouring is that you can’t go wrong. You can use realistic colour schemes, rainbows, monochrome, you can colour inside the lines, outside the lines, over the lines and even add your own. You can colour however you like using one medium or many and the sense of achievement you get when you’ve finished a page gives a huge boost to your self-esteem. I would thoroughly recommend getting into adult colouring if you haven’t already. I’d love to see photos of your completed pictures and I hope to write more about it soon. Always remember to Keep Calm and Colour In!

One Year On – One Year of Fear

This time 371 days ago I was interviewing for a job that I’d been trying to get for 9 months. It was a permanent role on the ward that I loved working on and meant that I would finally have job security, guaranteed hours, proper support and training.

370 days ago I was on top of the world after being offered the job. I was in work that day and the patients and staff were all thrilled for me and very excited that I was officially joining the team. I was filled with pride and excitement that I’d finally got to where I wanted to be and was one step closer to my dream career of Clinical Psychologist.

369 days ago and things weren’t as rosy. I felt strange all day. I was worrying a lot and felt a lot less confident in my ability to do my job and keep my patients safe. I started to doubt myself a lot and felt very insecure. In the evening I went out for a meal with my boyfriend to celebrate my new job and I deteriorated over the course of the meal. I couldn’t stop worrying and felt really on edge. I didn’t want to walk anywhere, even to the loo, because I felt like I was going to collapse and like everyone was watching me. On our journey home I was clinging to him and when a drunk sat opposite us on the train I could barely hold it together. I just couldn’t deal with it all. I burst into tears the minute we got through our front door and struggled to sleep that night because of all the worries going through my head.

The next day, 368 days ago, I got up for work and just felt paralysed by fear. I tried to work through it and make myself go in knowing that I’m obviously good at my job if I’d just been offered a permanent role but the fear took over and I had the first panic attack of what would soon be many and had to phone in sick.

Over the weekend I deteriorated further. I needed to do a food shop and simply couldn’t face doing it on the Saturday. I don’t remember the exact thought processes but I just felt unable to cope and unable to deal with that many people and pressures and how busy the supermarket would be. On Sunday I felt that if I didn’t go that day then I’d end up stuck indoors and frightened to leave. I don’t know why I thought that but it was a very strong feeling and I knew I had to try. It was awful, the train ride there despite only being 6 minutes felt like a lifetime and the shop was really busy. I got the bare minimum that we needed and more than once I almost abandoned my basket because I felt so anxious. The only thing that stopped me was the worry of what people would think if I just left it. I cried the whole way home and got stared at a lot by other passengers on the train who couldn’t understand why I was sobbing surrounded by shopping bags.

365 days ago I went to the doctors. It’s a 2 minute walk around the corner from where I live and I had to force myself to go because being outside was now terrifying. The noise, the brightness, the people. Everything was just overwhelming. I cried as soon as I started talking and was immediately prescribed medication and signed off sick for 2 weeks while I waited for the worst of the side effects to wear off and for the drugs to kick in. I haven’t returned to work since. The drugs didn’t work, the side effects never wore off. Neither did the following two medications.

I’ve been medication-free for just over a month and am still no closer to returning to work and my level of functioning has barely changed. I’m less physically ill now I’m finally drug-free but the anxiety is not shifting. I now realise that a huge amount of why I was feeling so bad was because of the side effects of the medications I was on rather than the condition itself. This has been very difficult to come to terms with – to know that for 11 of the last 12 months I’ve been made worse by the very thing that was supposed to be making me better. I still don’t have a diagnosis, I haven’t had a new psychiatrist allocated since mine left in October and I’m still not receiving any psychological therapy on the NHS. I’ve just been left to deal with this condition that has no name on my own.

Now my reality is that everyday mundane tasks are completely terrifying. I think back over things I’ve done in the past, things that were huge achievements like my degree, getting the job, moving into university miles away from home and it feels like a completely different person did those things. I think back to all of the small things I used to think nothing of doing like popping to the shops, going on the train to Brighton for the day, visiting my mum on the Isle of Wight, taking the bins out. Now, just thinking about those things makes me feel sick and tense. I can’t fathom how I was able to do them when I’m so frightened of everything now.

My existence is almost solely contained within the walls of my flat and my world has shrunk to be unimaginably small. The person I once was is (I hope) hiding, but it feels like she’s gone. All of the things I’ve done in the past, the small things right up to the huge things don’t seem to count towards my confidence because I can no longer associate with them because they no longer feel like something I did. I’m now the girl who’s scared of her own thoughts, who’s surrounded by wool and spends her days watching tv, crocheting and cleaning. I don’t even recognise the girl with the psychology degree who was going to change the world.

So here I am, one year on. One year and a week ago the world was my oyster and I felt excited about the future, my career, the lives I would try to help change. Now my world mostly consists of fear and distraction from fear. I’m not excited about the future, I’m fearful of it, I don’t know what my future will hold and it’s currently unknown whether I’ll get better, stay like this, or get worse. The biggest thing I have going for me though is that I’m determined, more determined than most and I fight, despite feeling weaker than I thought it possible to feel. I don’t give up and I carry on hoping. I try not to set time-limited goals because I fear failing and feeling even worse, so instead, I hope and I aim for things without setting a time limit. My hope is that my future will be normal, quite uneventful and that I’ll be able to recover, not relapse, and be able to help others because I truly believe that’s what I was put on this planet for. My aim is to get better and to stay well, to decrease stigma, to increase awareness and understanding of mental illness and most of all, to no longer be afraid to go outside and do normal things. Here’s hoping that one year on from now this will all just feel like a bad dream and I’ll be well, working and helping people, if that’s not doable then I just hope that I’ll be better than I am now and I’ll be able to look back and see the improvement. One whole year of fear has been exhausting and this has been one of the longest years of my life. I’m not sure I can face another year like this but at least I’m facing it medication-free and with a few really supportive people around me who cheer me on no matter how small the victory and cheer me up when the condition gets the better of me. Maybe this coming year can be One Year of a Little Less Fear!

Fighting for Small Victories

Yesterday was a really good day and showed me just how strong I can be sometimes. Despite living just 3 minutes’ walk away from my local shops, I’ve only been able to go into one 5 times in the last 6 months. I can only go in when I’m having a particularly good day and really managing to keep a lid on my anxiety and even then I really struggle and have always left without being able to buy anything. It’s hard to explain to someone that doesn’t have an anxiety disorder what it feels like but to me, leaving my flat feels like I imagine being forced to skydive would feel – completely life-threateningly terrifying. I’m not just a bit scared or nervous, I’m full-on terrified and so most days I simply can’t step outside my front door. On the days that I do manage to cross the threshold I usually have to have a task like taking the rubbish out so that I’m occupied for the first part of being outside.

Once I’m outside, things don’t get easier like many people assume they will. I don’t suddenly realise that I’m outside and I’m coping and can therefore go on coping, I have to take control and keep it so that I don’t get overtaken by a panic attack and this takes all of my focus. If a panic attack starts coming on then I usually feel like I’m going to collapse and my vision goes very blurred which then makes me more anxious because I don’t feel like I can safely get home and people often stare at me because I’m hyperventilating and crying. This is the point at which I’ll try to phone someone to calm me down, which is great if they answer, but I don’t have that many people I can call and they all work so often I just have to rush home as fast as possible and deal with it alone. Sometimes I get too far into the panic attack to be able to do that and then I have to sit on the pavement and wait til the panic attack goes. This majorly increases my anxiety each time it happens because I can’t bear making a scene and people looking at me.

The few times I’ve managed to be brave enough to go into a shop the anxiety has ramped up a notch. I feel trapped really quickly and feel like everyone is staring at me. My anxiety is centred around people having expectations of me and the possibility of me letting them down or failing in some way so the more people I encounter, the worse my anxiety gets. I often get paranoid and feel like I can hear their thoughts even though I know they’re almost certainly focusing on what loaf of bread they want rather than judging me but those thoughts are enough to make me want to disappear and escape. The further into the shop I go the more trapped I feel and I stop being able to focus and start to panic about how I can get out when there are people blocking the way. This is what has always stopped me buying something – I simply can’t face standing in a queue and not being able to just leave because I’ve got to get rid of the items I’ve picked up first.

This brings us to yesterday which I originally described as a small victory but the more I’m thinking about it the more huge I’m realising it was. Yesterday, I was itching to get outside having not been out at all for 15 days. The last time I went out was not a success because I managed to get into Co-op and then felt really trapped and had to leave and was so panicky that I had to be calmed down by my mum on the phone so that I could continue getting home without having a pavement incident. I took some rubbish downstairs and felt quite in control of the anxiety so started walking towards the shops. I decided not to go to Co-op because I find it so overwhelming so instead I walked straight ahead to the charity shop that I know sells wool. Luckily, it was empty and just had the two members of staff in so I went in to the back of the shop and started looking at the wool. I tried to really focus on the colours and picked up the two that I needed more of and then looked at the other colours just to keep myself occupied and not let the anxiety drag me out of the shop instantly. I picked up some other colours and took the wool to the counter and the shop assistant commented on how much I was buying and asked what I do with it so I decided to be brave and tell her that I make crocheted animals. She was really interested and instead of listening to the anxiety which was telling me to escape I focused on being normal and friendly and told her about it all and answered her questions. I left the shop and could feel my breathing getting faster and my vision started to blur but I put all of my focus into getting home safely and not having a panic attack – I wasn’t going to be that brave and push that many boundaries and then have it ruined by a panic attack. I went into Co-op and decided to not buy anything but have a look around just so that I could have a good experience. It was really challenging but I was able to walk around half of the shop before I decided to leave and not push it too far. I managed to get home without a panic attack and just couldn’t stop smiling at what I’d achieved. It’s such a small thing to normal people but for me it’s something that’s been impossible for 6 months.

The other small victory which again, seems larger the more I think of it, was telling people. In the past when I’ve told people that I’ve achieved something that I wasn’t able to do before they’ve often jumped on it and assumed that I’ve done it once and can therefore do it again and that it’ll be easy. I wish this was the case but alas it’s not. I’ve not suddenly improved and won’t be able to do this every time I run out of milk or need more wool. But I do hope that I’ll be able to do it more often and build it up to being able to buy things when I need to! I often keep these things quiet so that people don’t think I’ve improved when I actually haven’t because to me that’s a huge amount of pressure to keep performing and my anxiety is really triggered by pressure and perceived pressure from others. Whenever I feel like I have to do something, it’s much harder for me to do than if it were just up to me because I often feel like I’ll let people down or disappoint them. This means that usually I just tell them months later when that thing is no longer an issue and has become second nature to me again but that means that I miss out on the encouragement and support.

So yesterday, still feeling brave after venturing into the shop, I decided to post about it on my Facebook profile and was completely overwhelmed by how many people liked and commented and to my surprise, not one of them mentioned improvement and all of them were just happy for me and excited that I’d managed to do it. Getting that encouragement and support and hearing how proud of me and excited for me they all were was such a huge thing for me. I often feel very alone because I spend so much of my time trapped in my flat on my own but knowing that I’ve got a whole heap of people cheering me on and being brought to tears by this tiny thing I’ve done is just wonderful and I know it’ll spur me on to keep fighting for the small victories on the days when I’m feeling particularly brave and able. I promise to let you all know the first time I’m able to buy milk when I need it instead of going without tea because that will be a day to have a party (a small one that’s indoors and quiet, with no pressure, but nevertheless a party)! To those of you who have supported me in whatever way, thank you, you’ll never know how much it helps me to Fight for Small Victories!

A New Year, A New Start? Not Bloody Likely!

For me, New Year embodies an awful lot of what is wrong with the world. For a start, everyone has the expectation that it has to be “The best New Year’s Eve EVER” and in reality, it’s a flop for almost all of us, almost every year. I’m of the opinion that in a lifetime you’ll have fewer than 10 decent NYE’s and my current count is 2 in 24 years. I can guarantee that today will not be increasing that number. NYE also seems to incentivise people to decide to make utterly unrealistic changes to themselves or their lives under the guise that everything will be different in the New Year. Why is this the case? Why would a date change affect this in any way? Last I heard, it wasn’t the fact that the date was 2014 that made you fat, it was your insistence on eating all of the chocolate biscuits and having takeaways three nights a week. 2015 will not make those things go away, nor will it decide that you “deserve” to be thin and therefore none of the extra calories you consume will count. New Year’s Resolutions are also a completely ridiculous idea because they add pressure but also give you a get-out clause because everyone knows that almost no one keeps to their resolution for more than a month. If you really want to change your life then start today, don’t wait for the first of January when you’re the fattest you’ve ever been after eating your own body weight in Christmas food, smoking like a chimney due to the added stress from family arguments or vulnerable to deals at your local gym that are only actually deals if you ever turn up to the classes that deep down you already know you have no intention of attending. Obviously, you may be reading this on the 1st of January and thinking that I’ve gone mad and am completely contradicting myself but I’m actually writing this on the 30th of December and really mean it for any other day of the year.

I certainly won’t be making any New Year’s Resolutions and will have no one to kiss at midnight because my boyfriend of 3 years will be at work. I will be quietly toasting in the New Year with some form of soft drink (no alcohol allowed whilst on meds) and feeling very flat about the non-event that I should apparently be celebrating. New Year seems to bring with it a time for contemplation of where we are now and where we’ve been in years gone by. I mentioned a lot of this in my last post but am still thinking about where my life has taken me and where I may still get to go. I’m very thankful that I don’t buy into the idea of New Year – New Start or that how your year starts will dictate the rest of it. Last year I toasted in the New Year with two ear infections and a perforated ear drum but I was pretty much the happiest I’ve ever been. I’d been living with my boyfriend for 4 months, work was going really well and I was loving it, I had interviews lined up for a permanent job there, my family life had settled down and I was able to do all of the things I wanted and had an active social life. Little did I know that 3 months later I’d be struck down with an anxiety disorder that has totally crippled my life and turned it upside down. My social circle has become extremely limited ; my life is pretty much restricted to my two bedroom flat and occasionally visiting my dad and my grandparents because their homes are very familiar places to me; and I’ve not worked in over 9 months. This year I will be starting 2015 with an anxiety disorder. But I will also be starting it with a few, very close and supportive members of my family and friends, a blog that had over 1000 hits in the first month and a successful small business that I set up selling items made with a skill I only taught myself in May (if you’re interested I sell crocheted items and greetings cards at Lucy Locket Crafts on Facebook). I simply intend to keep challenging the anxiety where I can and to learn as many new skills as possible while I’ve got the chance.

I will not be making any resolutions because in my opinion they just set you up to fail. I have no specific goals for the year and I have no idea what the future holds so instead I’ll share with you my life’s goal. If I do nothing else with my life but this then I’ll die happy. I want to make a difference to others. When I’m gone I want everyone to say that I made a difference, that I helped change a life, that I was there when no one else was. I want to help those who are like me, who suffer from mental illness, who aren’t listened to, treated, cared for, or understood. I want to get programs set up in school so that we can stop the next generation from developing as many conditions as we see now. I want to help teach children coping strategies so that they’re equipped to deal with stress and change instead of crumbling under pressure like I, and so many others around me do. I want to make people aware of mental illness, of the signs, the symptoms, the help and treatment available, the struggles and the shame. I want to make people understand what it’s like, how they make it worse and how they can help make it better. I want to reduce stigma so that in the future, those with mental illnesses only have to fight the symptoms, not society’s ignorance and judgement. I want to make life different for the mentally ill. That’s way too big to be a resolution, it’s far too important to fail at after a month and it can’t possibly be achieved within a year. In my opinion, the notion that the “slate” is wiped clean at the beginning and end of every year is just nonsensical and you don’t get to “turn over a new leaf” just because the year has changed. Make goals and work towards them, if you go wrong, get yourself back on the right path. Everything I do at the moment is working towards getting myself better so that I can finally go out and help others like me. I will not be miraculously cured as the clock strikes midnight tonight, I won’t suddenly have the motivation I need to shift the extra 3st of weight I’m carrying and I won’t have a personality transplant that stops me from swearing ever again. I will simply continue to work towards my goals, clambering over the obstacles in my path and making sure that I carry on doing everything I can to make a difference to others. A New Year, A New Start? Not Bloody Likely!!!!!

6 Snippets Of Me

I’ve really struggled to know where to start because this Blog has been in my head for a while. I thought the best place would be at the beginning with a bit about me so you know who I am and what I’m about before you start reading my ramblings. Originally this was going to be 10 things about me but I could only come up with 6 so here are my snippets.

  1. My name is Lucy. I’m nearly 24. I live in Worthing, West Sussex with my boyfriend Joe. I drink copious amounts of tea (always PG Tips) and my favourite food is cake. I have a degree in Psychology from Anglia Ruskin University where I graduated in 2013 and during my time there I met some amazing people who will be friends for life. I’m very enthusiastic, strong-willed and determined, I’m extremely talkative but can listen well too and am very caring towards others. I’m currently mostly housebound with anxiety.
  2. I LOVE cupcakes. Not just the cakes, I do really love those, but I love ALL things cupcake-y. I’ve got fridge magnets, socks, pyjamas, calendars, coasters, cake tins, aprons, bags and so much more, all covered in cupcake pictures. I even learnt to crochet so that I could make cute and cuddly cupcakes (see photo above).
  3. I also love Lego. This is entirely down to my dad who started buying packets of Lego Minifigures a few years ago and gave me his duplicates. I then started buying them occasionally and 3 years on I’m hooked, as is Joe and we now collect them and have well over 100 different figures.
  4. I also love to bake and have sort of ended up collecting baking recipe books. At the last count I had 33 and I’ve asked for a couple more for Christmas. My favourite recipes at the moment are Fresh Strawberry Cupcakes with Whipped Cream and Chocolate and Chilli Muffins. Both are divine and it’s making me hungry just thinking about it! I’ve definitely put on weight since becoming housebound!
  5. I have lots of health problems and the list seems to grow every few years. None of the conditions are life threatening but all have been life changing and I’ll write about this here in the future.
  6. Finally, the reason I’m here writing and you’re there reading – I have depression and more recently developed an anxiety disorder. This Blog will mostly be about my experiences both past and present. I’m aiming to reduce stigma, dispel some of the myths and misconceptions, put a face to mental illness and highlight positive and negative stories in the media, as and when they arise. I’ve always been loud and open and I’ve never been one to suffer in silence so this is where I plan to vent, educate, advise, offer support and generally enlighten others about mental illness.

Welcome to my Blog where you’ll be In The Midst Of Madness!

Lucy x