O.C.Dear

For the past few weeks, I have been attending therapy on campus, every Friday at 14:00 after work with Winnie. I was very nervous before attending, as I have a fear that people won’t believe my mental illnesses, or take them seriously. I did what I usually do: obsessively research what to expect from your first therapy session every night until 3am, and talk aloud to myself for hours; planning what I am going to say.

I see this as being well-prepared, but others have pointed out that these actions are verging on the neurotic.

My first therapy session was better than I could ever had expected. Winnie is really nice, and asked me questions I had never even considered (which is probably good since I could not prepare, and so my answers were more spontaneous and authentic).

The sessions all compiled of mini breakthroughs, and Winnie pointing out several patterns in my thinking and behaviour. It’s nice to see that my mental health issues are not completely random, rather follow a common theme. It makes me feel less out of control and paranoid, and I can now better recognise when I may be in a situation where I may feel anxious.

The most interesting thing to come from my sessions is the alternative diagnosis that Winnie unofficially gave me.

Winnie thinks that I was misdiagnosed with General Anxiety Disorder (GAD), and instead suffer from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

I would be lying if I said that this diagnosis did not come as a surprise. I always thought of OCD suffers being people who are incessantly clean, particular, and washed their hands non-stop. My mum will be the first person to tell you that I have never been the tidiest person in the world; although I make a more conscious effort to keep things orderly.

It turns out that OCD is a little more complicated than hand-washing and turning the lights on and off 20 times.

DSM 5 classifies OCD as:

OCD is characterised by the presence of obsessions and/or compulsions. Obsessions are recurrent and persistent thoughts, urges, or images that are experienced as intrusive and unwanted, whereas compulsions are repetitive behaviors or mental acts that an individual feels driven to perform in response to an obsession or according to rules that must be applied rigidly.

The word “rule” sticks out to me because, as Winnie pointed out to me, I create my own bizarre rules. These rules give me comfort and a sense of order.

It would be hard to explain these rules to you, especially as a lot of them 1) barely make sense to me and 2) they work more in context. But a few include:

  • assigning particular items to particular people (ie. when making tea for people, I mentally assign mugs to each person, and get agitated if they do not adhere to which one they have been set)
  • clenching muscles equally on both sides of my body (if my right armpit twitches, I have to make my left armpit do the same or it feels uncomfortable)
  • stressing myself out because I am convinced I have to do a task or I will get in trouble (despite no one ever telling me to do these things or threatening me)

As you can see, my compulsions are fairly small and easy to miss, so this is why I appreciate being able to take advantage of the free therapy services that my university offers.

I don’y know much about OCD, and as I learn more about the disorder and more about myself then I will update you!

Love from Evie x

Testing Mindfulness Apps to Help My Anxiety – Spilling the Anxie-Tea

Calm:
Calm is an app I have heard about here and there. They often have ads on Facebook that pop up here and there. When you first open the app, you are met with this screen:

I liked this touch as it is simple yet immediately forces you to take a second to calm down. The blue colours they use are rather soothing, like water. On the home page, you are straight away greeted with various calming noises and a nice moving background. You can choose different sounds and backgrounds for example the sea, rain, a lake etc. I like the wide variety of choice you receive.

Calm has sweet little stories to help you sleep, one of them is read by Stephen Fry which I thought was a nice touch as he has a soft and familiar voice and is a mental health activist. They also have short audios that guide mindfulness and meditation which people may find helpful

Something I also noticed about Calm and I thought was a nice touch is that it hides your phone’s time and battery level. I felt this helped as you can really immerse yourself in the relaxation and not get distracted by how long you have been on the app.
A downside of Calm is that the audio and stories are rather limited, and if you want to get access to more you have to upgrade which costs £42.99 per year, which is quite dear.

Headspace:
The next app I tried was Headspace. Headspace have a lot of adverts on Youtube aimed at me so it was pretty unavoidable. Headspace is very similar to Calm as it has many audio guides for meditation and relaxation, as well as podcasts to aid sleep.

A feature of Headspace I really like is that you can allow them to send you up to 5 “mindfulness moments” a day, which are basically just notifications on your phone that say stuff like “It is not enough to merely think about our potential. We need to discover it, to live it, to make it a reality.” and other fortune-cookie-type proverbs. I like these as although they are a little cheesy, they do make you think and perhaps even ground you when feeling stressed.
Again, like Calm, Headspace offers more audio guides and features to paying customers. However, the price for Headspace is even more than Calm, and I am not 100% what exactly it is they offer. The most expensive one coming in at £400!

Breathe:
The final app I downloaded was Breathe, and I have to say it was my favourite. I had never seen Breathe being advertised at all but it was recommended to me when I downloaded the other two so I gave it a go. When you open Breathe, you are immediately met with the option to dim the screen for 10 seconds to help relax. I really like this touch

It then asks you a series of questions about how you are feeling emotionally and physically, before asking for you to select up to 5 emotions

Finally, based on your choices it offers you various audio guides that they believe will make you feel happier and more mindful

I really like this feature as it feels more personal and is catered to your needs at that time. There are a great deal of audio guides, even if they are short. You can pay for more content and more features if you so wish. Breathe claim to also donate 10% of their earnings to help less privileged kids learn mindfulness practice, which is admirable

I feel like all of these apps have some key benefits and when all three of them are downloaded there are a plethora of different features and methods to help you. Although I personally enjoy Breathe the most for the personalisation aspects, I still will use Calm’s bedtime stories and Headspace’s mindfulness moments to help manage my Anxiety disorder. I hope this article helped some of you guys to use apps as a new way of coping with Anxiety. It is so easy and practical to use for a quick pick-me-up.

Update: Prozac, Conzac – Spilling the Anxie-Tea

I was put onto Fluoxetine (Prozac, 40mg x 1 a day) about two months ago now and I thought it was about time to give you guys an update. You can view my original post here. I was prescribed Prozac to help my mild depression and moderate anxiety disorder, as in the months leading up to my prescription I had massively regressed. My attendance to Uni dropped, I stopped being social and I found it hard to find any energy at all. I cancelled my gym membership, ate a load of crap and gained hella fat. I was having regular panic attacks and could barely leave my bed some days.

Prozac takes around 6-8 weeks to fully kick in which is why I waited so long to give you guys an update. Basically- I am feeling a heck of a lot better! I have had only one mini panic attack during this time, my attendance is back up again and I have started going to the gym again (not as frequently as I like but certainly more than before). I feel generally happier and like a weight has been lifted off of me. I have been a lot more social, and have started being healthier. I don’t feel the need to binge on junk as much, and I find it easier to sleep!

Some cons are that ever since the day I started taking Prozac I have found that I have been rather drowsy 24/7. This does make sense I suppose as it is stopping my anxiety. I mentioned it to my GP and they said it was nothing to worry about and hopefully should pass. It is not as intense as the first month I was on Prozac, but I would say I am certainly feeling drowsy. Additionally, I had my first ever migraine. I am not sure if this is due to the Prozac, but I had never had one before and suddenly 2 weeks into taking Prozac I was awoken at 5am to the sensation that someone what gouging my eyes out and burning the sockets. I couldn’t open my eyes and despite having the curtains closed, lights off, under my covers with sunglasses on everything was still too bright for me. It eventually subsided and after a quick google search I found that this was fairly commonplace for people who have just started Prozac, and I have not had a migraine since.

Overall, I would say that being on Prozac has been a largely positive experience for me. My anxiety and depression have subsided (although they are of course not totally eradicated), and I am finding everyday life more manageable and enjoyable. Of course, this is my experience, and it may be different for everyone, so I would suggest talking to your doctor to see what path they think is best for you. It took me years to be prescribed Prozac, and I am so happy to now be nearly back to normal. I will give another update in a few months (or sooner if anything major happens!)

And now I give the conversation to you guys. Have any of you been put on Prozac, and if so then how was your experience? What non-medicinal methods/treatments do your recommend to me or anyone else suffering with chronic Anxiety and Depression? Let me know your thoughts down below in the comments!

 

Love from Evie x

On being a Literature Student with Dyslexia

One of my teachers sheepishly approached me in class and asked if I would stay behind for a few minutes after. I, of course, suddenly started imagining the worst possible reasons why. Was I failing the class? Was I going to be kicked out of Sixth Form? Did my entire family perish in a terrible fire while I was at school but she wanted me to focus on completing the textbook tasks before I was told their fate? The bell rang. “Remember to finish the work on page 22 for next class- I will be checking!” my teacher called to her class, who were hurriedly rushing to their lunch. My teacher then looked at me, “Gosh, you don’t have to look so nervous. Basically, a few of your teachers have suspected that you may be Dyslexic, and so we are calling in an Educational Psychologist to screen you next week. Do you mind if I keep a hold of your writing book for evidence?”

I can’t remember the Educational Psychologist’s name but she was nice and spoke very slowly. She told me not to worry and that we just have a few simple exercises to do. I had 20 minutes to write about what ever I wanted, just as long as I kept writing. I believe they wanted to test my sentence structure, grammar, spelling, and speed of writing. I then was given a series of letters and was asked to read them aloud as quickly as I could, followed by a series of words, followed by a series of numbers. I then had to go onto a computer and each screen had around 15 alternate spellings for the same word, I then had to quickly click the correct spelling before the screen moved on and showed me 15 more alternate spellings for another word. I was given some example sentences and asked to identify what was wrong with them, or if there was anything wrong at all. This all felt a little silly, considering I was 17, however the results came back that I was in fact Dyslexic and that I would receive 25% extra time in my exams.

There is a whole spectrum of Dyslexia and fortunately mine is rather mild, which is why it took me 17 years before I learnt I had a problem. I was told that my form of Dyslexia was less to do with spelling and grammar, as is most common, rather to do with information processing. They said, for example, most people would be asked a question and instinctively answer it “A-B-C”, whereas I would answer it more like “A-M-X-J-E”. I would show strong knowledge, but it was not immediately as obvious to me as other people what I am being asked to answer. I was told that people with Dyslexia, especially my kind, tended to be creative and think outside of the box more. However, they can struggle with higher education as mark schemes are rigid and favour conventional answers over creative ones. This is why I was awarded extra time, as it meant I could think more about what the question is asking of me, and how they were asking me to answer.

I was rather nervous starting an English Literature degree giving that I knew I had a learning difficulty typically related to Literature as a subject, and I was not even fully aware of how my Dyslexia impacted me. It is simple enough being told “you have something that makes your thought pattern different to normal people”, but what did this mean? I could not identify it in myself, I could not see when I was thinking differently to others, if that makes sense. I genuinely believe when I am writing an essay that this is what they want me to write about. It can be very difficult.

I notice it in class when we are asked to share our ideas about a text and my answer varies a great deal from other people’s. I notice it in personal life when my friends joke I always misunderstand things. I noticed it in work when it took me a little longer than everyone else to learn the complicated order on how to do tasks, when another method seemed to make more sense to me. The older I get, the more I notice that I approach things differently to other people. Some things that are instinctual to others I have to learn, because I am unlearning the way that is instinctual to me.

On the plus side, I do tend to get marked highly for creativity and thinking outside the box in my coursework. I have been awarded extra days on all of my deadlines to complete my work which gives me more time to really develop my ideas. I do feel anxious as I have an important exam next week, and I know the mark schemes are more rigid than with coursework, and so I will try hard to truly use my extra time wisely and think about how a normal person would answer this.

People find it ironic that I am an English Literature student and I run a blog even though I have a learning difficulty which says I should do otherwise. Some days I agree and question why I make life hard for myself. However, most days, I just give them a smile and explain that in a way Dyslexia is a gift. I cherish creativity and I wouldn’t  have it any other way.

Let me know in the comments below if you have Dyslexia or any other learning difficulty. I would love to find out your tips for coping as I am always willing to learn. Also let me know if you would like me to do a little guide of things I do to help my Dyslexia!

Love from Evie x

How to cope with post-Christmas blues

I always fall into a depressive episode after Christmas is over, and it can last until about March! The lead up to Christmas is the best time of year for me as from about November onwards there is something to look forward to. I love the routine of watching christmas movie, banging out christmas songs, baking festive cakes and decorating my house! I genuinely feel really super sad when I have to take the decorations off the tree and go back to the mundaness of life for another long year. January and February are just the very worst months of the year as nothing is going on and it is cold and dark and there are exams and ugh! Fortunately, I have devised a plan for getting through this post-Christmas episode and remain fairly happy during this period.

  1. It may seem fairly obvious but not everything around Christmas is strictly Christmassy. For example, some decorations are not necessarily Christmassy, but maybe generally Wintery? And therefore they are allowed to stay up for a bit longer. Same goes for baking and certain christmas films. I say if they are not innately Christmassy, then why not keep enjoying them through winter? It makes you feel gleefully cheeky as you have found a loophole into enjoying Christmas year-long
  2. Make plans, especially for New Years. Do I actually care about New Years Eve? No. Time is a man-mad concept and I get tired of people saying “New Year, New Me!” as they begin the annual tradition of dieting and going to the gym until about January 12th and then fall back into their regular routine of eating too much and cancelling their gym membership. But I think this is why people seem to care so much about New Years: it is all we have after Christmas! Try and make plans to see your friends and have a banging night all dressed up and full of drinking! Try and make plans for the New Year to do plenty of stuff with your mates, so even though Christmas is over you can still look forward to ___.
  3. Now Christmas is over, it can be time to start getting into fitness. I know it is cliche, but now is probably the best time to get into fitness and dieting as you’ve more likely than not gained some weight over the holidays, and it will help kick the blues’s butt if you developed some abs or buns of steel. It is also a good way to distract yourself as you’ll be too busy counting calories burned to remember that there are over 300 days until next Christmas 😥
  4. Remember that, if you’re like me, Christmas celebrations start in about October. I’m not a big halloween person and we don’t have Thanksgiving in England, so I start secretly planning Christmas and get hyped about it early. I also feel a bit of glee when it’s technically “too early” to start thinking about Christmas, so you get to do it in secret. Instead of a whole year until Christmas, it is only about 9-10 months which isn’t as bad once you think about it!
  5. Get excited for the Summer! It is always good to have something to plan and look forward to. Plan a cool trip/holiday with your friends/partner during the Summer so you can spend the next few months obsessively planning it and looking forward to it. Time will fly and you will be on a nice hot sunbed in Barcelona or Skiing in the Alps before you know it!
  6. Get excited for Autumn! Autumn baking is frankly the best of all. I love Pumpkin-Spiced anything! When it reaches September try to really throw yourself into Autumnal activities such as long walks through the crunchy falling leaves, Pumpkin picking and hot chocolates while cosied up reading a book! You can find magic and whimsy in any time of year if you really try.

There are just a few tips I am hoping to use to get myself through this period. I know it may not seem necessary or perhaps even obsessive to someone who doesn’t appreciate Christmas time as much as I do, but if you are like me then you will understand the struggle. Comment below your tips on getting through post-Christmas blues!

 

Love from Evie x

Prozac, conzac – Spilling the Anxie-Tea

This term at University has been undeniably difficult and taken its toll on my anxiety. Not only am I now in second year so the modules are more challenging and require a great deal more reading and studying, but health issues concerning members of my family and my friends have caused it to go a bit haywire. Panic attacks on the daily, poor sleep, weight gain- you name it, ya girl had it. I felt like a snowglobe that had been shaken up, and even once the initial events resolved themselves, all my glittery bits of snow hadn’t quite settled yet.

Fortunately, I managed to get help from my University. They have given me an extra week to complete my essays from now until the end of my degree, allowed me to have extra time in my exams and get to do them in a small private room rather than a large exam hall, and have let all of my tutors know what is going on. All I had to do was submit a letter from my doctor as proof that I have been suffering with Anxiety for over a year (of course, most people suffer with spouts of anxiety, especially while at uni. They want to make sure that only the people suffering with the long-term condition are granted this extra help). It really has taken such a weight off of my shoulders and given me more confidence with my degree.

About 2 weeks ago I started on Prozac (Fluoxetine in the UK). I was hoping to start it sooner however my doctor warned that some people can react badly to it initially and get even more anxious so he suggested waiting until I got home to start it. I am on 20mg and I simply take one a day. My anxiety has been low since then but this may only be because it coincided with Christmas which is my favourite time of year. Prozac, different from my previous medication which only deals to alleviate symptoms of anxiety, is more of a mood stabiliser. On my other medication which I have been on for years it may stop my body from being physically anxious (high heart rate, sweating, shaking), whereas hopefully this will stop me from feeling so anxious in the first place!

There are meant to be some side effect to Prozac (hence the very clever pun in the title- thank you). It can be addictive, cause weight gain/loss, make you nauseous, increase anxiety in the first few weeks, suicidal thoughts, dizziness, etc. But I was so tired of being scared all of the time that I had to try it! Plus, the two women on the podcast I listen to (Adult Sh1t- give it a go, it is very funny and informative) are both on it and claim it is the best thing that has happened for them. The GP I had was very good and I have an appointment to see him again in a few days as he wants to check up on me before we continue with the medication, so I will give you all an update. Prozac is mean to take 6-8 weeks to fully get into your system and feel the full effects, so when I do notice anything I will let you know!

I just wanted to update you all on my little journey, and also explain why I was not able to write as much as I wanted to. If you have any questions or comments or advice for me then please do let me know! I would love to hear your experiences.

Lots of Love, Evie x

‘The Psychopath Test’ – Book of the Week

I came across Jon Ronson about two years ago when I happened to click on a Ted Talk of his entitled ‘Strange answers to the psychopath test’. I have always had an interest in psychology, made stronger when I studied it at A-Level, and so in intrigued I clicked on it. Psychopathy, it turns out, is something I thought I knew more about than I did. It turns out that Psychopaths aren’t all violent serial killers or crazed sex offenders, and there is an estimated 1 in 100 (or 1 in 25 if you believe the psychologist in Shane Dawson’s latest YouTube series- which I highly recommend). They blend into society and could be you or me. In Ronson’s book, he explores the realm of psychopathy but also various other mental illnesses. He looks at the child psychology crisis; about how children are being diagnosed with ADHD and Austism at an alarming rate. He looks at anxiety and how on can not possibly be both a Psychopath and also suffer from GAD. Ronson talks to diagnosed psychopaths, psychologists, neurologists, journalists, sceptics and a variety of others to present a well-rounded exploration of the topic.

Now, you’re probably asking yourself, what is ‘The Psychopath Test’? Well, the name of the book is in reference to the Hare Psychopathy Test which is the formal test which is being currently used to define if people are Psychopaths or not. There are 20 items on the checklist, and with each item you will be awarded either 0, 1, or 2 points. At the end you count up the points and if you score 30 or above you are considered a Psychopath. Of course, this system carries many flaws (as Ronson explores) and should be carried out by a trained professional, but I will add the checklist below as I know you are dying to find out if you are a Psychopath:

  1. Glibness/ Superficial charm
  2. Grandiose sense of self-worth
  3. need for stimulation/ prone to boredom
  4. Pathological lying
  5. conning/ manipulative
  6. lack of remorse or guilt
  7. shallow affect
  8. callous/ lack of empathy
  9. parasitic lifestyle
  10. poor behavioural controls
  11. promiscuous sexual behaviour
  12. early behaviour problems
  13. lack of realistic, long-term goals
  14. impulsivity
  15. irresponsibility
  16. failure to accept responsibility for own actions
  17. many short-term marital relationships
  18. juvenile delinquency
  19. revocation of conditional release
  20. criminal verstility

I do absolutely recomend this book if you are as interested by Psychology as I am. It packs in so much information and knowledge, while also maintaining an investigative and engrossing style. Below I will add the original YouTube video I watched. This video has one of the many stories in the book in it, so if you find it intriguing then there is a lot more where that came from.

Let me know down below your score from the test! And also mention in the comments if there are any books you recommend.

Lots of love, Evie x

Ski you later! – Spilling the Anxie-Tea

I was diagnosed years ago with General Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and more recently with moderate Depression, and I believe I will be posting a great deal about these on this blog as I have adopted the belief that being open about it is the best policy. With that in mind, I will jump right into my first Mental Health post.

I used to go skiing every February half term with my family, including my cousins and grandparents. It became a tradition for all 12 of us to take over a chalet and have a great time. The kids would spend the morning going to Ski School following an instructor and then the afternoon with the family skiing. I loved it. The fresh air, the amazing views and the thrilling sensation of whizzing down a black run and making it out alive in one piece at the bottom! However, this happiness when skiing was only around when I was in Ski School. The second I was out of the safe hands of an instructor and into the hands of my family I felt very differently about skiing. I remember being around 14 or 15 and genuinely crying to myself while going down the run as I was suddenly so terrified. Over the edges of the ski run was just a giant drop, and I felt so scared about accidentally slipping over the edge. People would push past me and make me feel like I was on the motorway on a bicycle: slower and more vulnerable than the other skiers. I would absolutely dread when it came around to our skiing week and could not wait to get home safe.

One particularly terrifying day that still haunts my dreams was when we went up to Eagle Rock and there was a whiteout. What this means is that everything around you is white: the sky, the snow, everything. I could not see even a meter in front of my face. It was a red run, which means it is challenging and steep even with good visibility. We had no choice but to ski down as it was not possible to walk. I could not keep my heart rate under control as I struggled to keep close to my granddad so I would not go off course. Knowing there is a steep and sudden edge without being able to see where it is terrified me. I felt my body seize up and refused to move properly. My breathing was so fast yet shallow, and the lack of oxygen made me feel dizzy. I could not understand why people would voluntarily pay hundreds of pounds to do this.

My family did not understand why I did not like skiing. I recall my dad on several occasions calling me “lazy” and “unfit” because I refused to go down certain runs with them. I overheard various family members joke about how perhaps I was just embarrassed because  I was a bad skier. This made me feel pretty rubbish as I did attempt to explain that actually I am a good skier when I am with the Ski School, and that it was incontrollable and unfathomable fear that stopped me skiing with them.

I finally plucked up the courage last year to tell my family that I will not be able to go skiing with them as my Anxiety has gotten just too bad. They fortunately agreed and brought on a different family member to take my place. I was so relieved as I genuinely thought they would try and force me to go, or accuse me of being spoilt for not going. The thing is, I do like skiing and I would want to go again, just never with my family. I love my family, but I think I just feel way too pressured when skiing with them, and it triggers my anxiety. My cousins are a lot more talented and confident at skiing than myself and my brothers are as they have gone a lot more than us, and this does not exactly help as they do not understand that I need a little more time to do this.

Anyway, as I have said, this is my first mental health post and so I would adore feedback. Is it too long? Too short? Not informative enough? What would you like me to talk about in the future?

Thank you for reading, and have a wonderful day!

Lots of love, Evie x