Apps

Apps are a great resource for helping and managing your mental health, because there are so many available that you can find one which works individually for you.

Apps are great because they’re easily accessible from any device which means you can make use of them while out and about. However, this doesn’t mean that they’re a long term solution.

I have listed four of the best apps that I have tried – and loved – so you guys can hopefully check them out too. Comment below any other apps that you have used!

Symptoms

Anxiety can manifest in many ways, some more obvious then others. Anxiety is not ‘just a phase’ or any other kind of crap illiterate people tend to throw at us. Anxiety is a real mental illness that can and does destroy lives.

Anxiety can be described as that feeling when you’re walking down the stairs and you miss a step and your heart sinks. Only, the feeling doesn’t go away. Or, the feeling of being submerged under water and not being able to reach the surface while your lungs fill with water and you struggle for breath. Anxiety is an abusive partner latching onto your shoulder, criticising everything you do, tearing you down inch by inch until finally, you start analysing your every word and movement.

For a lot of people, when they hear the word ‘anxiety’ they associate it with feeling ‘a bit nervous’. I mean, how many times have you had somebody say to you “Oooh, we all get a bit nervous, you know for job interviews and things, it’s only natural.” Which is completely different to what anxiety really is. It’s not just a case of “cheer up” or “don’t let it get to you” because although you may feel like you’re sending us positive vibes, what you’re actually doing is belittling the severity of our condition. If it was as simple as just “cheering up”, the mental health rate would not be so high. We don’t choose to suffer.

There are so many forms that anxiety can take that sometimes it’s hard to establish a line between what’s normal emotion and what is apart of the anxiety disorder.

Anxiety can change your perception of the world and make you do things that other people wouldn’t. Things such as not wanting to walk into a store first, memorising conversations before actually having them, feeling that gut wrenching knot in your stomach when a friend leaves you on read and spending the next hour rattling your brain, trying to fathom what on earth you could have said to make them hate you. It’s avoiding social events and even cancelling important appointments, whether it be a counselling session or a dental appointment, because your mind tells you that something bad will happen.

Anxiety is needing constant reassurance from friends and family. It’s not being able to maintain relationships because you can’t stick to plans and they quickly become frustrated, thinking you’re unreliable. It’s apologising repeatedly for things you didn’t do, because your brain convinces you that it is your fault. Anxiety is not being able to leave your home and isolating yourself even further. It’s not being able to do everyday tasks like going to school or work or even going to the store for milk.

Anxiety is living in fear that everyone is judging you. It’s pretending to be on your phone when you’re in public so people don’t think you’re lonely and laugh at you.

Physical symptoms such as sweating, nausea, shaking, stammering, headaches, numbness, rapid heart rate and panic attacks are just some of the very few forms of anxiety that we face everyday. It’s having a disruptive sleeping pattern and having poor eating habits. It’s erratic mood swings and the inability to control your own thoughts. I think it’s also important to include memory loss, because it doesn’t get talked about enough. A Mental illness can have a huge impact on your memory, making you forget things more easily, meaning restoring new information can be tricky.

Not everybody will experience all of these symptoms, because everyone is affected by their illness differently. Some people might be able to hold down a job or attend college five days a week. Some might only be able to attend therapy once a week. Some people might be loud and confident, while others will be quiet and withdrawn. It’s easy to compare yourself to other people when you have a mental illness and social media plays a big part in triggering this feeling of failure and I will be writing a blog about this in upcoming weeks.

It’s important to remember that everybody is on their own journey and you are doing more than enough.

If you would like more information on your mental health or need someone to talk to, feel free to check out https://www.mind.org.uk

Teen years

Everyone has dreams when they’re little. Some want to be a pilot or an astronaut. Some want to be police officers with big scary uniforms or even a postman, handing out newspapers early every morning.

I didn’t really have any dreams, I’m more of a “whatever happens-happens” kind of girl. Sure, I dreamed about working alongside Charlie in the gigantic chocolate factory, with so much chocolate you could physically explode through the roof and whizz off into outta space. You know, nothing too drastic.

School was one of the best experiences for me (I know, shudder, gasp) because I loved to learn, though to tell you the truth, most of what I learned back then I can’t remember today. It was a place of stability where, even though I hated most of the lessons (I was never too good at rounders anyway) , it gave me a routine which is how I like things, in order. Parts of school were terrible of course, the horrific bullies in the corridor at lunch, waiting to lob their yoghurts at passerby’s, falling face first into my math teachers behind, colliding into a teacher during dodgeball (the best sport might I add) and sending her flying, and the endless amounts of falling outs with friends and ex-boyfriends, but I wasn’t bullied at school, aside from a few slimy comments, which I am grateful for, because I know just how cruel people can be.

During my final years of school, I started getting a really weird feeling during our weekly assemblies. Now, I know we all hated assemblies, sat on the cool hard floor listening to the headteacher drone on about correct uniform and could the boys please stop “setting off fart bombs in the boys changing rooms.” But this was a feeling I had never experienced before. It was a tight feeling in my chest, like somebody was grabbing me around the throat and I was struggling to breathe.

I would sit in the hall every week, my head bowed low, avoiding eye contact with everyone, and my back bent at an awkward angle. I would feel paralysed. I would sit in the same position for the full twenty minutes in agony, scared to move incase everyone laughed at me. Time seemed to stretch out for a lifetime.

It felt as though all the students and members of staff were burning holes in the back of my head, whispering about me. I would have these thoughts rushing through my mind, “oh god why are they giggling, am I sitting funny? Does my hair look messy? Do I smell? Please hurry up and finish.”

I felt as though everyone was judging me, when of course they wasn’t. They were just wishing they could be back outside on the field instead of listening to another lecture.

The thought of sitting in those rows with the other pupils in my year group still haunts me to this day. I could never focus on anything the headteacher was saying, it was all just a blur. It felt as though I was on a different planet to everyone else.

God help me if a teacher called me to the front of the room for something. The pure horror of having a teacher call out your name, beckoning you to the front. That heart sinking feeling as you carefully step over your classmates as though you’re walking a tightrope and then unintentionally stepping on somebody’s foot and hearing a loud shriek. With your head bowed, face flushed and your legs like jelly, you make your way to the front, only to be greeted by a hundred pair of piercing eyes, burning straight into your skin. Oh how you wish aliens would finally make a visit and snatch you up from this living nightmare. You hear the popular crowd roar in laughter as the headteacher offers you his hand to shake and you accidentally miss and hit him straight in the stomach. What may feel like a casual evening stroll for the rest of your classmates, you feel as though you’ve just stumbled into dragons den, where the judges lay waiting. Thank god I never have to endure another one of those tribulations.

Although it wasn’t until I started college that my anxiety started to get progressively worse, there were times at school that I knew that there was something wrong. During my final year, I had an English speaking exam, where each individual within their designated group was to prepare a speech that was to be read out in front of the whole class. I have always been a shy and timid person and I remember the feeling of nausea going around my stomach the night before the presentation. I was worried that I would mess up and I didn’t sleep that night, my mind felt heavy, going over and over my speech until the words turned to mush.

The next morning as I headed to school, I tried to think of anything but my presentation but it was hard to block it out. As my group and I awaited our turn to perform, my breathing suddenly became unsteady and I felt dizzy. I knew I had to focus, I couldn’t afford to make any mistakes. English was my favourite lesson and I wanted to do well in that particular subject.

Our teacher suddenly called us up and as I stood, my legs suddenly felt numb, like I was engulfed in quicksand. My group had already made their way to the front, so with everything that I had I forced my body forward to join them. The paper I held shook violently as my body trembled and I could see that everyone was looking at me although I wasn’t the only one stood before them. The room was silent for a moment and then we took turns saying our parts. Once it was over, I fell into my seat, deflated. I wasn’t at all shocked therefore when I received the news a few weeks later that I had in fact failed. I felt angry at myself for stumbling upon my words that I had learned so thoroughly, angry at myself for letting my team down. Looking back now, I know that had I been given the choice to perform privately in front of a smaller group, I would have received the grade that I had worked so hard for. I would hope that schools now allow students to do so, for the sake of their mental health, not just their education.

AnxietyCouch

Some people ( read : people that have never experienced anxiety) , believe that those of us that suffer from a mental illness are attention seekers, which of course isn’t true. In fact, the last thing we want is for the attention to be on us.

“What do you mean you can’t (insert activity most people do daily without a seconds hesitation) ?” They would boom, shortly followed by the ever so ineffective, “Stop letting it get to you, if you didn’t think about it you wouldn’t be in this mess.” Oh you’ve heard this too? What’s the deal with that? No matter how hard you try you just can’t explain the chaos that roams around your head like a toddler throwing a tantrum. There’s no logic in it whatsoever, so we just suffer in silence, wanting to scream at the sky. I mean, how can we possibly begin to explain something that we can’t even understand ourselves?

I’ve tried my hardest to confide in family and friends about my illness but the second they hear the word “anxiety” I’m usually overcome by eyerolls and have even had a family member say to me in annoyance, “anxiety doesn’t make you throw up, are you sure you just don’t have something else.” Like yes thank you Doctor, I’m quite aware of my own body. (UGH!)

It’s incredibly isolating and at times I wish those I have chosen to talk to about my mental health wouldn’t just brush it off as though I’m just telling them some make believe story and that I’m just ‘overreacting’.

I find it sad that people care more about those around them when they have the flu then when they have a mental illness.

“You have a cold? My goodness wrap yourself up immediately, drink plenty of fluids and get some good rest.” “You have a mental illness? Well who doesn’t? Go and take a walk in the fresh air and you’ll feel a hundred times better.”

It’s not entirely their fault, they just don’t understand these things as much as those of us who have experienced it for ourselves, but a simple, “How are you today? Is there anything I can help you with? I’m here if you need me, take some time for yourself.” Is sometimes all that is needed, just to feel like there’s somebody that cares.

Having anxiety can feel very lonely at times and can also feel a little embarrassing, which is why I think for a lot of people, saying “I’m fine” is a lot easier then opening up and feeling judged. Maybe you’re reading this and know somebody who is suffering from a mental illness, but don’t quite understand how to help them and that’s okay. You don’t have to have a degree in psychology, you just need to listen. We know you won’t be able to fix us. We know you won’t be able to cure us of this heavy cloud that threatens our own existence. But your understanding can make a huge difference. If you feel unsure on how to assist someone, speak to your doctor or even a quick search on the internet will soon advise you on the best way to help them through it, and it will also give you a better understanding because believe it or not, we’re just like you. Our mental health does not change who we are as individuals.